As the capital city of France, Paris has endured as an important city for more than 2,000 years. Often called by nicknames like the “city of love” and “city of lights,” Paris is today one of the world’s leading centres for business, fashion, entertainment, art and culture. Just the mere mention of Paris conjures up images of the city’s world-famous landmarks, museums and cathedrals.
Also called the Capital of Fashion, Paris is home to some of the world’s finest designer names including Yves Saint-Laurent, Lancôme, L’Oréal and Christian Dior. The city’s shopping scene ranges from shopping centers to open-air markets, boutiques and flea markets. Here’s giving out an overview of the top tourist attractions in Paris:
Place des Vosges
The Place des Vosges, formerly called Place Royale, was the prototype for all residential squares in Europe. All houses were built using the same design: red brick with steep pitched blue slate roofs. Not only is it shaped like a true square, it is the first city square that was planned by a monarch (Henry IV in the early 17th century). Third, it turned the Marais into a fashionable spot for French nobility in the decades before the French Revolution.
The year 1889 is known as the year when France’s most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower, was constructed. It’s also the year the Moulin Rouge opened its doors as an entertainment venue. When it opened, it catered to the rich who wanted to “slum” it. Courtesans worked there and were responsible for inventing the can-can, a dance considered racy for the era. The Moulin Rouge is still considered Paris’s premier entertainment venue and has been the subject of numerous films.
The Conciergerie was built in the 10th century to be the main palace for French kings who, over the centuries, enlarged it. Its Great Hall was one of the largest in Europe; another hall was where the palace’s 2,000 workers ate. Some buildings were converted into a prison in the 14th century. The palace later became a revolutionary tribunal and prison during the Reign of Terror, with famous prisoners including Marie Antoinette and Madame du Barry. Today the Conciergerie is a popular tourist attraction in Paris but also still serves as courts.
The Pantheon is where famous French citizens are buried. Modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, it was originally a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, and her relics. The church was rebuilt in the neoclassical style by King Louis XV to thank God for his recovery from serious illness. It was changed to a mausoleum during the French Revolution to honor revolutionary martyrs. Famous people buried here include Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery
The world’s most visited cemetery, Pere Lachaise became a municipal cemetery in 1804 under Napoleon. It is the final resting place for many famous people, including the Doors’ Jim Morrison, author Oscar Wilde and chanteuse Edith Piaf. The cemetery contains many sculptures, as each family of the deceased tried to out-do the monuments placed by the other wealthy families. The result is many spectacular works of art that are equally as interesting as the various gravesites of famous individuals.
When Europeans can’t get to Los Angeles to see the original Disneyland, they head to Disneyland Paris, the most visited theme park in Europe. Just like its namesake, Disneyland Paris is more than just a theme park with spectacular rides. It’s a resort with hotels, shopping and golf among its varied activities. In 1992, it became the second Disney park to open outside of the United States. It’s located about 30 km (20 miles) from central Paris. A companion park, Walt Disney Studios Park, opened in 2002.
Musee de l’Orangerie
Travelers who appreciate impressionist and post-impressionist art need to check out the Musee de l’Orangerie. The museum, located in a corner of the Tuilries Garden, is home to eight Water Lilies murals by Claude Monet; these murals are considered the museum’s centerpiece. It also contains works by other impressionist artists, including Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse and Modigliani. The orangerie was originally built in 1852 to protect the Tuileries Palace’s orange trees.
Architect Charles Garnier spared no ornate detail when he designed the Palais Garnier in the 19th century. Perhaps this is why the building was the most expensive of its era. Seating nearly 2,000 people, the Palais Garnier is home to the National Opera of Paris. It is the star of the novel and subsequent films, Phantom of the Opera. The Palais Garnier is still in use today though mainly for ballet and also is home to the opera library museum.
Les Invalides is a complex of buildings that honors the French military. It was built in 1670 as a hospital and retirement home for vets. It still serves that function today as well as many more. Les Invalides is home to military museums and a church that is the burial site of its war heroes, including Napoleon Bonaparte. Les Invalides is where rioters obtained the cannons and muskets they used later that day to storm the Bastille, thus kicking off the French Revolution.
The River Seine runs nearly 800 km (500 miles) through France on its way to the English Channel. Cruising the river as it winds through Paris is one of the most romantic things visitors can do. Seine cruises pass under numerous bridges in Paris, going by such sights as the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. A Seine cruise lasts about an hour, but what a magic hour it is! A Seine cruise also is a good way to experience Paris at night.
Travelers who’ve seen copies of the famous sculpture The Thinker can visit the real thing when they’re in Paris. The statue was sculpted by Auguste Rodin, a famous early 20th century French artist. The Thinker as well as 6,600 other sculptures can be found at the Musee Rodin, established in 1919 in his former studio, the Hotel Biron in central Paris. Many of his famous sculptures can be found in gardens that surround the museum.
In contrast with the City of Lights, Les Catacombes represents the dark side of Paris. Just under a mile long beneath the streets of Paris, this tourist attraction presents a gruesome side: the remains of millions of Parisians who were moved there when old cemeteries started closing years ago. Bones are arranged artistically; poems and other passages can be found throughout. Some bodies, such as those killed in the French Revolution, came directly here, bypassing the cemeteries.
The tree-lined Avenue des Champs-Elysees is Paris’s most famous street and has even been described as the most beautiful avenue in the world. Just over a mile long, the boulevard connects the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. Life in Paris centers around the Champs-Elysees. It’s an avenue lined with restaurants, upscale boutiques, museums and night clubs. It’s home to the Bastille Day military parade and the end of the Tour de France.
Topping the list of the world’s most visited museums, the Louvre Museum is located in the Louvre Palace with its signature glass pyramid marking its entrance. Housing a collection of more than 1 million objects, the Louvre boasts some of the world’s most famous art works such as Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” Michelangelo’s “Dying Slave” and the Greek statue, “Venus of Milo.” Other popular exhibits include the extravagant apartments of Napoleon III, the ancient Code of Hammurabi, Egyptian antiquities and paintings by masters like Rembrandt and Rubens.
Visiting the iconic symbol of Paris usually ranks as the number one thing to do for most tourists. Towering more than 1,000 feet (300 meters) high in the Champ de Mars park, this iron structure was constructed for the 1889 World Exposition. One of the world’s most photographed tourist attractions, the Eiffel Tower presents an excellent photography opportunity for both day and night times. Visitors can ride the elevator to see incredible views of the city or dine in one of the two fine restaurants that are situated within the tower.