While Paris is wonderful for a short break there’s so much to see and do in City of Lights you’ll soon be planning a return trip.
- SEINE RIVER SIGHTSEEING CRUISE
As there is so much to see in Paris it’s good to start a visit with a Seine river cruise. You could book to enjoy a romantic meal along the way or take a picnic to enjoy on the banks of the Seine.
These guided boat tours pass by some of Paris’ most famous monuments and attractions including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre-Dame Cathedral and several ornate bridges.
The Seine river divides the city into the left and right banks and once you get this overview you can plan your time better in the capital.
If you have more time do consider a peaceful cruise along the Canal Saint-Martin too. It’s a good way to wind down after a busy few days and the area is full of charm. The route passes through locks and swing bridges and while it can be quite slow it is relaxing.
- THE LOUVRE
Musée du Louvre is so much more than one painting. In fact, there are over 35,000 artworks on display. Everyone wants to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa but that does mean you are likely to only see it from the edge of a crowd of visitors.
The other big draws are Venus de Milo – a sculpture of the Grecian goddess Aphrodite dating to around 100 BC. And the Winged Victory – a massive headless sculpture of the Greek goddess of Victory (Nike) standing on a base resembling a ship.
The museum houses western works of art dating from the Middle Ages to 1848, in addition to collections of ancient oriental, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman civilisations, as well as graphic and Islamic arts. To make the most of a visit you can book a guided tour (available in English) as an introduction to the museum’s most iconic works.
While there is free admission on the first Sunday of the month do expect the visitor numbers to rise accordingly. Do note the museum is closed on Tuesdays but has evening opening on Wednesdays and Fridays.
- NOTRE-DAME CATHEDRAL
Notre-Dame is a marvel of medieval gothic architecture dating to the 12th century. Considered one of the most stunning cathedrals in Europe, this catholic church has dramatic twin towers and humorous gargoyles.
The cathedral is open every day and you can visit the main interiors for no charge (and free guided tours are available too).
You can also visit the archaeological crypt under the square in front of Notre-Dame de Paris. And, most excitingly, you can climb the north tower to see Paris from the hunchback Quasimodo’s vantage point.
You may not know but Notre-Dame is actually on an island. The Île de la Cité is one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris. Notre-Dame is at the far end of the Île de la Cité so do allow time to wander around this medieval Paris neighbourhood.
- CENTRE POMPIDOU
Loved by Parisians and visitors alike, Centre Pompidou is a modern art museum and non-elitist cultural centre. Opened in 1977 to honour president Georges Pompidou, The Centre Pompidou is considered by many to be the cultural heart of modern-day Paris.
Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, its exterior escalators and coloured pipes have made it a 20th century architectural landmark.
You can visit the lobby and mezzanine café areas for free or take one the plastic-tube escalators up to the sixth floor for the stunning panoramic views.
The Modern Art Museum is on the 4th floor and features 20th and 21st century masterpieces from the likes of Kandinsky, Matisse, Modigliani and Andy Warhol.
The Centre Pompidou is in the area known locally as ‘Beaubourg’ and many will use that name when referring to the centre too.
- EIFFEL TOWER
It would be hard to imagine Paris without the 324m high Eiffel Tower. Open until at least 11pm every day, you really do want to see the exceptional 360° views from the 3rd floor.
The biggest mistake visitors make is not booking ahead as lift tickets can sell out around two months in advance. This leaves you with a long wait in line behind those who can ‘jump the queue’ with their pre-booked timed tickets. If you do need to try on the day then aim for later in the evening as it can be less crowded after 9pm.
At 58 metres, the 1st floor has shops, glass-floored observation platforms, and the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant. And at 125 metres from ground level, the 2nd floor has the Jules Verne restaurant. Dining there is another way to avoid the queues but do make reservations well in advance.
Stair tickets can’t be booked in advance but walking up will save on waiting time. It’s 704 steps to the 2nd floor and you can buy a lift ticket to take you up to the 3rd floor (most people do). Or it’s 1,665 steps to reach the 3rd floor viewing area. At least you’ll get to admire the structure along the way!
- MUSÉE D’ORSAY
Just across the bridge from the Louvre is Musée d’Orsay on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay – a grand Beaux-Arts railway station built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900.
Musée d’Orsay displays Western artworks from 1848 to 1914, including the world’s most important collection of impressionist and post-impressionist painting. Masterpieces by the likes of Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas and many others can be found with the artworks ranging from painting to architecture, as well as sculpture, the decorative arts and photography.
The museum has excellent cafés and the former restaurant of the Hôtel d’Orsay, on the first floor of the museum, is still as magnificent as it was when it opened in 1900. The dining room is listed as a Historic Monument and the menu is well-priced.
Musée d’Orsay stays open late on Thursdays and the museum shop is fantastic for art books and gifts.
- LATIN QUARTER
An absolute delight for strolling through the narrow streets, the Latin Quarter is famous for its literary and cultural history.
The area’s name comes from the theology students at the Sorbonne (mostly monks and other religious figures, who occupied the then-Christian institution and worked exclusively in Latin). One of Europe’s oldest colleges – the Sorbonne opened in 1257 as part of the medieval Université de Paris. It is still a working university so visitors are not allowed but it is worth a look from outside.
A major highlight of the neighbourhood is the neo-classicism of the Panthéon with its distinctive off-white dome and a façade modelled on the Pantheon in Rome. Originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve in the 18th century, it is now a secular mausoleum housing the remains of distinguished French citizens from Victor Hugo to Rousseau, Voltaire and Marie Curie.
The Panthéon is atop the Montagne St-Genevieve so is worth a visit. Join a tour to climb up (200+ steps but not all in one go) for the spectacular views across Paris.
While there are plenty of bookshops in the Latin Quarter, including the booksellers along the Seine, the Shakespeare & Company Bookshop is a real treat. Situated just across the river from Notre-Dame, the store opened in 1951 and is still a family business.
And a lovely spot that’s free to visit is Arènes de Lutece. The site takes its name from Lutetia (Lutèce in French), the Gallo-Roman city that preceded present-day Paris.
This is the ruins of a 1st century AD Roman arena and is the French capital’s most important intact Gallo-Roman site. The area has been preserved as a public park and it’s a great place to watch the locals playing the popular French game pétanque.
The winding cobblestone paths and backstreets give Montmartre the feel of a village. It’s a charming area with colourful houses, old-fashioned cafés and cabarets – the most famous being Moulin Rouge (see below).
Situated in the hilly heights to the north of the capital, it’s worth the walk up for those impressive panoramic views. (Or take the funicular up with a metro ticket.)
Once there, it’s a great district for shopping from independent stores and, of course, to visit the Sacré Coeur. Instantly recognisable with its white dome, the Sacré Coeur sits at the highest point of Paris on Butte Montmartre, 130 metres above ground.
In a Roman-Byzantine style, the Sacré Coeur ceiling is decorated with the largest mosaic in France measuring about 480 m². Visitors can explore the crypt too but most want to access the dome for those sweeping views.
- MOULIN ROUGE
Possibly the most famous cabaret in the world, The Moulin Rouge opened in 1889. The venue is sumptuously decorated with red velvet as this is so much more than just ‘dinner and a show’.
The famous ‘Féerie’ show is on twice each evening and has a troupe of 80 artists with 60 Dorriss Dancers from across the world. There are four acts with plenty of feathers, rhinestones and sequins to be expected. And the finale is the famous fast-paced French Cancan.
Toulouse-Lautrec painted ‘At the Moulin Rouge’ in the 1890s and he is still remembered with a special evening option named after him.
It’s an iconic venue and somewhere romantics visiting the city of lights shouldn’t miss.
- THE GRAND PALAIS
Close to the Champs-Elysées, The Grand Palais (The Grand Palace) has been listed as a Historic Monument since 2000. It was built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle and is technically not a palace at all. But it is a Beaux-Arts architectural treat with ornately decorated stone facades and a glass roof.
The building was fully restored in 2001-2008 and is now three venues in one: the Nave, the National Galleries and the Palais de la Découverte.
The Nave is used as an exhibition and conference hall, and the National Galleries have incredibly popular, large-scale art exhibitions so it’s worth booking ahead.
The Palais de la Découverte (Palace of Discovery) is a museum and cultural centre dedicated to science and natural history. It’s loved by families as you can learn while having fun.
Planning a trip to the romantic city of Paris this year? Fraser Suites Harmonie Paris La Défense and Fraser Suites Le Claridge Champs-Elysees are located where you want to be! Within easy access to shopping, historical sights and high-end dining. These should all be a part of your experience in this wonderful city where culture thrives and there’s always something to discover around the next corner! Whether you’ve got museums and galleries on your to-do list or shopping is more your speed, there’s so many options and neighbourhoods in the City of Light you’ll never get bored during your stay. Reminder: bring comfortable shoes!
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