Once you start to explore this effervescent city, you will feel the vibrant energy and magic in the air as you’re swept away by its people, culture, cuisine, history and architecture.
Around the world, individuals dream about visiting France – the land of gastronomy, artistic masterpieces, unparalleled fashion, award-winning vineyards, historical sights, and iconic landmarks. And the first stop in most people’s minds is none other than the magnificent capital city of Paris! Over the last several years, France has held the title as the “most visited country in the world” and in 2017, Paris hosted over 40 million tourists – a record breaking number – according to the Paris Convention and Tourism Bureau. Heralded as the “City of Light,” Paris is located in northern central France in “a north-bending arc of the Seine River whose crest includes two islands, the Île Saint-Louis and the larger Île de la Cité, which form the oldest part of the city.”
Paris is architecturally beautiful and its cityscape is marked by wide boulevards and signature street lights with the River Seine as a backdrop. As you travel throughout the city, you will catch glimpses of iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Coeur Basilica dotting the city’s skyline. Once you start to explore this effervescent city, you will feel the vibrant energy and magic in the air as you’re swept away by its people, culture, cuisine, history and architecture. Even if you’re not a romantic, Paris will make you see the world in a different way, almost with a dreamy, nostalgic lens. I’ve had the pleasure of travelling to Paris, both in the summer and winter months, and it’s doesn’t matter what time of year you head to this incredible destination, there is always so much to see, experience and indulge in!
The Eiffel Tower
One of the most famous landmarks in the world, the Eiffel Tower will be at the top of your list for things to see and experience in Paris. Standing at 324 metres tall (same height as an 81-storey building), this wrought-iron lattice tower was built by civil engineer Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Exposition Universelle to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the French Revolution. Spend a few hours exploring the grounds around the tower and its esplanade area – there are so many angles to take pictures of the tower from.
You can travel up the tower to different levels: the first floor features glass floors and railings offering a feeling of “floating in the tower;” the second floor offers panoramic views of Paris monuments like the Louvre, Grand Palais and more, plus is home to Michelin-starred restaurant, the Jules Verne; or travel 276 metres up to the top floor where you can explore Gustave’s office, restored to its original condition, or sip on champagne as you take in the incredible views. There are numerous restaurants and cafes around the Eiffel Tower, where you could spend a leisurely afternoon sipping on wine and sampling French delicacies while taking in this unforgettable view of the Eiffel Tower.
Museums – Louvre and Musée d’Orsay
The land of art, sculpture and the Mona Lisa! Paris is home to 130 museums but a trip to this historical city would be incomplete without a visit to the incredible entity that is the Louvre, and another favourite of mine, the Musée d’Orsay.
Housed in a spectacular palace, the Louvre is the world’s largest art museum. You could spend days exploring the Louvre as there is so much to see from ancient civilizations to the Middle Ages and Western art. If you only have a day to explore the Louvre, make sure you see the following masterpieces: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa; the Venus de Milo; the Winged Victory of Samothrace; Liberty Leading the People; The Coronation of Napoleon; Hammurabi’s Code; and I.M. Pei’s Pyramid – this modernist steel and glass pyramid was added to the Louvre’s structure in 1984 – think of Tom Hanks in front of this iconic pyramid in The Da Vinci Code.
The Musée d’Orsay is located in a former railway station built in the late 1800s – a stunning setting to showcase the “great diversity of artistic creation in the Western world between 1848 to 1914.” From paintings by Monet, Cézanne, Degas and Van Gogh to sculptures by Rodin, Barrias and Rosso, there is much to see and appreciate in the museum’s diverse collections.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
Over 850 years old, Notre-Dame Cathedral is considered to be “one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.” Walking up to this medieval Catholic cathedral, you are in awe of its splendour, striking façade and signature trademarks from flying buttresses to gargoyles. Notre-Dame was built over a 200-year period, and is not only celebrated for its intricate and innovative gothic-style design but for “its aesthetic grandeur and harmony.”
Make sure you go inside Notre-Dame, as its gorgeous interior will not disappoint from its vaulted ceilings, long halls and breathtaking stained glass windows, including its renowned circular stained-glass rose windows. Throughout the centuries, the cathedral has hosted events from the crowning of England’s Henry VI in 1431 to Napoleon saving the Cathedral from demolition and crowning himself Emperor in 1804.
Palace of Versailles
The Hall of Mirrors, the Grand Apartments and the opulent Gardens! If you have time, venture 45 minutes out of Paris and travel to the Palace of Versailles – the extravagant royal residence of King Louis XIV and centre of government under his reign. Spreading over 800 hectares, you could easily spend a day exploring the palace, museum, gardens and other Versailles sights.
Sacré-Coeur Basilica and the Montmartre neighbourhood
My favourite neighbourhood in Paris is Montmartre – this large hill, standing at 130 metres, is home to Sacré-Coeur Basilica and boasts sweeping views of the city from different vantage points. This former artist’s village, once inhabited by Picasso and Dali, still maintains that artistic vibe and is a great place to buy an authentic piece of art from a local painter. Montmartre is also home to the celebrated Moulin Rouge cabaret, where you can catch dinner and an entertaining show distinct to Paris.
There is something magical and serene about Sacré-Coeur Basilica, a Roman Catholic Church constructed in Romano-Byzantine style. Perched atop Montmartre, you can see this famous landmark from around the city and while you’re here, you are greeted with awe-inspiring views of the city below. When you venture inside the basilica, the interior is illuminated with ethereal light and its exquisite architectural details were designed to create an “atmosphere of harmony and peace.” After visiting Sacré-Coeur, check out the charming Italian-themed carousel located in a tiny plaza at the foot of the basilica.
Arc de Triomphe & Champs d’Élysées
I’ve always loved the Arc de Triomphe and as a result, I have visited this monument, which honours those who fought for France, on both of my Parisian trips. Commissioned by Napoleon, the Arc is located within a 12-sided polygon configuration as 12 avenues lead up to it. Walk up any of these avenues to take in the glory of the arc, and then cross the street to get an up-close-and-personal view of its impressive artistic details.
One of the world’s most famous streets/avenues is the Champs d’Elysees, which stretches from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. The Champs d’Elysees is not only picturesque but is a shopping Mecca with retailers like Zara and H&M to high-end luxury boutiques like Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
The Champs is also home to an abundance of restaurants, cafes and bars – the perfect place to people watch and take in sights of historical monuments dotted along the avenue.