Let’s go to Paris

Paris, often said to be the most romantic city in the world, is the capital of France located at the northern part of France near the Seine River. Paris was founded during the last part of the third century BC by a Celtic Gaul tribe called Parisii. In 508 A.D. King Clovis I made Paris the capital of his kingdom, named after the tribe Parisii. With its scenic beauties and breathtaking structures not to mention thousands of years of history and culture, Paris is now one of the leading destinations and tourist spots in the whole world. The mere mention of Paris brings to mind French cuisine, picturesque sunsets and the Eiffel Tower.

Paris is also known as ‘the City of Light’ or La Ville-lumière both because it first adopted street lighting and because it has become a center of education and culture. Other than its historic and political attractions, Paris also offers a number of tourist spots that represents its rich culture and tradition. If you are planning to visit Paris but are having doubts where to go, then this article is definitely for you.

When one mentions Paris the instant picture that comes to mind is the beautiful Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower has been said to be the symbol of Paris and probably the most photographed and well-known monument in the world. The Eiffel Tower was first constructed on January 23, 1887 by the engineer Gustave Eiffel. It was finished on March, 1889 and it consisted of 15, 000 metal parts symbolizing the World’s Fair that happened on the Champs de Mars. Up until 1930, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world measuring 310 meters top and 7, 000 tons. Currently it is 325 meters and is the tallest building in Paris and the fifth tallest structure in France. More than 200,000,000 people have paid a visit to the Eiffel Tower since its construction making it the world’s most visited paid monument. I’m pretty sure that anyone who wishes to see Paris must and will see the Eiffel Tower.

Another spot often visited by tourists is the Basilique du Sacre Coeur which literally translates ‘Basilica of the Sacred Heart.’ The Basilica was built between 1876 and 1912. It is of Byzantine design and is situated in Montmartre, one of Paris’ most beautiful districts. The Basilica offers a magnificent view of the district, the Place du Tertre and Northern suburbs.

Notre Dame de Paris, more commonly known as Notre Dame, is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris and is a Roman Catholic cathedral. It is of Gothic design located in the eastern portion of the Île de la Cité in Paris. Built around 1163 and finished around 1345, the Notre Dame means ‘Our Lady’ and is considered as one of the finest and most beautiful French Gothic structures. It is one of the first structures that utilized the flying buttress. Naturalism influenced its design with the result that stained glass and sculptures were used giving it a more secular look.

Who would not know the Louvre? Famous for being one of the largest museum of fine art in the world and lately has been made more famous by a certain literary novel, the Louvre contains more than 75,000 paintings including Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Madonna of the Rocks and The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People not to mention Jacques Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii among others. It is situated in the 1st arrondissement on the Right Bank between Rue de Rivoli and Seine River. The Louvre was actually intended to be a palace when it was first erected on 1190 but through a series of historical and political events it was re-built and changed into what we see today. Who would’ve thought a museum could hold such history. Visit Louvre and see for yourself.

The Arc de Triomphe is unmistakably one of the well-known monuments in Paris. Emperor Napoleon I commissioned it in 1810 following his victory at Austerlitz. It was completed in 1836. The Arc de Triomphe was designed by Jean Chalgrin with the design inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. It stands at 49.5 meters or 165 feet in height, 45 metres or 148 feet wide, and 22 meters or 72 feet deep. It is said to be the biggest triumphal arch that existed. The Arch symbolizes the honour that is shown to those who defended France, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. Above the sculptures frieze of soldiers lies 30 engraved shields with the names of the major Napoleonic military and Revolutionary victories. The inner walls of the structure enumerates around 558 names of the French generals. Also lying underneath the Arc is the the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that fought during World War I. The Arc de Triomphe is located in the famous Champs-ElysÈes.

Les Invalides is a series of complicated buildings on the 7th arrondisement that showcases monuments and museums that depict the military past of France. It also includes a retirement home and hospital for war veterans. It serves as the burial place of some of the Freanch war heroes. It is notable to include that the tomb of none other than Napoleon Bonaparte and his family lie at Les Invalides. If the magnificent architecture isn’t enough for you to visit Les Invalides, I recommend you see it because of Napoleon’s tomb.

Considered as a masterpiece in architecture during its time, one cannot help but stare in awe at the beautiful Palais Garnier. It is also known as Opéra Garnier or Opéra de Paris or Grand Opera House. More commonly known as the Paris Opera, it houses 2,200 seat and was designed by Charles Garnier using Neo-baroque style. Considered as a magnificent landmark, the Palais Garnier was inaugurated in 1875 with the official name of Académie Nationale de Musique – Théâtre de l’Opér. It was renamed in 1978 to be the Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris. In 1989 the opera company chose Opera Bastille as its primary theater and also chose to re-name it as the present Palais Garnier. In 1896 the counter-weight for a chandellier in the Opera fell killing one person. This incident together with the underground lake and the Opera itself inspired Gaston Leroux to write his timeless classic The Phantom of the Opera. Truly, Palais Garnier is a site to behold and a certified must-see in Paris.

Another frequently visited place in Paris is the Grand Palais which means ‘Grand Palace’. It is an exhibition hall made of large glass which is situated in the Ville arrondissement of Paris. Its exterior is a combination of the Art Nouveau ironwork and the Classical sont façade. It was initially built for the purpose of a Paris Exhibition in 1900. The Grand Palace houses in its basement a police station to serve as protection for its exhibits particulary the Salon d’Automne, Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux Arts, and Salon “Comparaisons”. Personally, I think its rather odd that a police station is underneath an art place.

Now that you know the most exciting places to visit in Paris, you may be wondering what possible ways you can get there taking into account your alloted budget, time spent and comfort needed. Well, wonder no more as I give you some of the ways you can get into Paris and the rest of Europe. The most common mode of transportation, especially if you’re from another continent, is through plane. The largest international airport in Paris is the Aéroport Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport which isnlocated 17 miles or 27 kilometers north of Paris. From this airport you have a number of choices to transport yourself to the City of Lights and in fact to other parts of France. You can ride the TGV or the ‘train à grande vitesse’ which is a high-speed train service that gets you to your destination in no time. You can also choose from the available buses, taxis and shuttles. The second main airport is the Aéroport d’Orly located 10 miles or 16 kilometers south of central Paris. From there you can ride a bus that runs in between the Charles de Gaulle airport and the d’Orly.

If you are not from another part of the world and lives nearby you may want to check out the train service particularly the Eurostar that pases through the Channel Tunnel or Chunnel. It is by far the most luxurious way to get into Paris. The TGV is also available for you which connects you to Brussels and Amsterdam. There are other six train stations in Paris with a local rail network that can take you to the rest of Paris. Once you’re in Paris you may also take the bus, a car through the Eurotunnel, or a Ferry to maneuver your way to other parts of the France and Europe.

So you get yourself into Paris, but how will you go from one tourist destination to another and visit all the places that I have described? You may be thinking of renting a car but I highly advise against it. Unless you have lots of time to kill, walking may be the best way to enjoy Paris. Plus, its good exercise. I also advise against bicycling as they are frowned upon by the locals. Buses generally go everywhere but their hours are unusual. You are better off trying the world class, super efficient and very charming Métropolitain. This is an underground massive rail network. I suggest you choose your travel passes carefully to prevent spending too much money on transportation. A weekly or monthly Carte Orange travel pass may prove to be more convenient for you.

If you are trying to get somewhere and also have time to spare then I suggest you take the Seine river shuttle. It’s a good way to appreciate Parisian beauty and reach your destination leisurely. However, the river shuttle is not exactly the fastest way to get to your destination. Now that you know what to do, try Paris and fall in love in the most romantic city on the world.

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