As the capital of the world’s most popular tourist destination in the world, Paris is a perennial favourite with travellers everywhere. As well as being regarded as the ultimate destination for a romantic city break, Paris is filled with museums, galleries and famous sights that speak to the extraordinary history and culture of this incredible city. But what exactly are the must-sees that keep people coming back to this incredible city?
The Eiffel Tower
OK, this one’s obvious, and you’ll definitely see it at some point during your trip. It’s just as big as you think it’ll be, and it oozes that classic Parisian charm. The locals will pretend to be all nonchalant about it, but the truth is they love it, and although its presence was protested by quite a number of people after the World’s Fair of 1889 for which it was erected, today it’s as much a part of Paris as the Champs Elysees… which is our next vital attraction!
The Champs Elysees
This well-known road is to Paris what Regent Street is to London – and you’ll find many of the same boutiques and high-end stores here too. But of course there are some quintessentially Parisian touches too. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, be sure to stop in at Laduree, a true Parisian institution, and the place to go if you want the city’s best macaroons.
The Arc de Triomphe
This famous landmark honours all those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, making it a symbol of commemoration for French soldiers from all ages. It became a rallying point for French troops on parade after successful military campaigns – though parades no longer pass through the arch itself out of respect for the Unknown Soldier’s tomb. It’s a true symbol of Paris, so make sure you see it!
This is one of the world’s most famous museums, holding some of the most famous artworks you’re ever likely to see. Here you’ll find works like the Venus de Milo, dating back to 100BC, the ‘Frieze of Archers’ (from Iran, dating back to 510BC), ‘The Marly Horses’, ‘Liberty Leading the People’, the famous portrait of Louis XIV, and of course, the Mona Lisa. You could easily spend an entire day here, so restrict yourself to a few hours so you have energy for Paris’ other attractions!
The Palace of Versailles
As the centre of political power in France from 1682 until the French Revolution in 1789, the Chateau de Versailles remains as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy that existed in France up that point. It’s one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th Century French Art, and well worth a visit. Key attractions include The Hall of Mirrors, where the king put on his most stunning display of royal power in order to impress visitors. Tracing milestones of French history up until the early 20th Century, the palace is another of Paris’ finest attractions.
Notre-Dame de Paris
Also simply known as Notre-Dame Cathedral (or just Notre-Dame) this incredible cathedral, completed in 1345, is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic Architecture in the world – as well as one of the world’s best known churches. The cathedral treasury reportedly contains some of Catholicism’s most important relics in the reliquary, including The Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and even one of the Holy Nails. Take a look at the incredible detail of the walls, including countless gargoyles and other figures typical of buildings built during this period.
Well worth a visit if you haven’t yet had your fill of Museums, the Centre Pompidou houses the Musée National d’Art Moderne, the largest modern art museum in all of Europe. Even if you’re not much of a gallery visitor, the architecture of this famous building will certainly impress. Designed in the Postmodern / High-Tech style, it bears the distinct stamp of Richard Rogers, who designed the building along with Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini. With its exposed skeleton of colour-coded pipes and functional structural elements, we’re sure you’ll find yourself staring at it for quite a while!
Basilica of the Sacre Coeur, Montmartre
Located in Montmartre, the highest point in Paris, the Sacre Coeur is a popular landmark. Finished in 1914 and consecrated after World War I, the view from the top of the stairs leading to the basilica is an impressive one. It’s also in the 18tharrondissement, one of Paris’ most famous neighbourhoods, known for its artists, cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and charming cobbled streets. Famous artists who lived and worked here include Salvador Dali, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. Stroll the streets and be inspired!
Whether you’re young or young at heart, Disneyland Paris is a must-see. The most visited attraction in all of France and Europe, the resort encompasses two theme parks, hotels, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex and a golf course for those of you hoping to get a quick round in. It’s the ideal way to spend your free day in Paris!
The Catacombs of Paris
Here’s something slightly different. If you’re looking for something a little more creepy, head for the catacombs. An underground ossuary, the catacombs contain the remains of around 6 million people, their bones filling a renovated section of caverns and tunnels that made up Paris’ stone mines. But why is it here? Having run out of space to bury their dead in the city’s parish cemeteries, the church began to bury those not wealthy enough to afford a proper burial in a mass central burial ground. But when the ground became saturated with human remains and began to have adverse effects on the city’s water supply, the authorities began to look for alternatives. Eventually, they found long abandoned stone quarries on the outskirts of the capital, and in 1786 the transfer of Paris’ dead to the underground sepulchre began. The walls of carefully arranged bones are sometimes almost artistic in nature, including heart-shaped arrangements formed with skulls and tibias. The walls are also covered in graffiti from the 18th century onwards, and Victor Hugo even used his knowledge of the tunnels in the famous Les Miserables.