The City of Light. The City of Love. Paris - just the name conjures up images of romance and beauty. Paris has long been one of the most desired cities in all of Europe to visit and you too are likely to fall in love with her. The Louvre Museum, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral and the avenue des Champs-Elysees are all just a small part of what makes Paris the most beautiful city in the world.
Imagine sipping a cafe au lait and nibbling a croissant whilst watching the world go by from your perfectly positioned sidewalk cafe. Or lunching on baguettes or crepes in one of the cafes in the beautiful Tuileries garden or along the banks of the Seine.
Paris offers so much for the visitor to see and do - no matter how long you stay or how often you visit this magical city, you'll still find plenty to do and something new to visit. I've been lucky enough to visit Paris a few times and I've barely touched the surface. Of course there are the iconic attractions that seem to be included in every visit - and these are just some of the reasons that Paris is famous.
Even if you're not a true-blooded art lover, you're sure to find something to please you in one of Paris' many museums. Thousands and thousands flock to the Louvre each year to see the Mona Lisa and the many other fabulous works of world class art on display - even the controversial glass pyramid outside the Louvre brings in the tourists. It's a huge museum and you could easily spend all day there but if large museums are a bit overwhelming for you, try the Orsay or Picasso museums. The Orsay is housed in one of Paris' former railway stations and is home to many impressionist paintings including works by Cezanne, Van Gogh and Matisse. I loved the fact that it was smaller and had far fewer visitors than the Louvre.
As its name suggests, the Picasso Museum houses a collection of works by the famous artist. It's also home to Picasso's own collection of art - he collected paintings by fellow artists Braque, Cezanne, Degus and Matisse. You'll find the Musee Picasso in the Marais arrondissement.
Before I arrive in Paris, I always buy a Paris Musuem Pass in advance to save money and save queueing. The Pass is valid at over 60 musuems and monuments including those mentioned above, as well as other Paris attractions like the Arc de Triomphe, the tower of Notre Dame Cathedral and even the Palace of Versailles.
Shopping is a favourite pastime of many Parisians. With famous shopping centres such as Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, and some of Paris' fanciest boutiques located along ave Montaigne and rue du Faubourg St Honore, there is plenty of opportunity to get out the credit card or window shop. Most visitors to Paris will stroll along the Champs Elysees and peak in the windows of the famous designer stores that line each side. As well as its mega range of goods for sale, Galeries Lafayette has a great buffet restaurant on the top floor, and the views over Paris are well worth a look.
The most famous views to be had are from those two Parisian icons - the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. No visit to Paris is complete without a photo of Paris from above. For someone who hates heights, it took great courage for me to ascend the Eiffel Tower (admittedly I only went to the first floor), but I was so glad I did. The Tower feels very secure (it's been standing for over 100 years so of course it's secure!!) and the views were superb. On my second visit, I even had dinner at 58 Le Tour Eiffel restaurant, which was a meal to remember.
The Arc de Triomphe offers a view of the Tower itself and the busy intersection/roundabout where 12 (yes, 12!) roads meet. Looking at it from the ground, it was hard to believe it is almost the same height as the Eiffel Tower's first level (the Arc is 50 metres high), but after climbing the 284 steps to reach the top, I was in no doubt. Fantastic views down the Champs Elysees were a great reward.
Churches are everywhere in Paris and many of them are popular tourist attractions. Probably most famous is the Notre Dame Cathedral which sits on the Ile de la Cite, one of two small islands in the middle of the Seine. This Gothic masterpiece took 200 years to build - its gargoyles, chimeras and rose stained windows are the highlights. If you're feeling energetic, the 387-step climb to the top of the tower provides amazing views.
Nearby is Sainte-Chapelle, a less well-known church that's worth a visit just to look at its magnificent stained glass windows. Regarded by some as Paris' most beautiful church, I admit to not being familiar with it before my visit but was so glad I took the time to visit.
In Paris' north east, in the Montmartre district, is the Sacre Coeur. Built as a memorial to the 58,000 French soldiers killed during the Franco-Prussian war, it sits high on a hill and offers great views of the city. Viewed from afar, its white domes are a photographers delight.
Paris' markets are a tradition that dates back to the 5th century. There are around 69 open-air and 13 covered markets that sell everything from fruit and vegetables to meat and flowers, artworks, second hand clothing and everything in between. One of the biggest and oldest markets is Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen, an antique market that opens from Saturday to Monday.
After shopping, climbing towers and visiting art galleries you might be in need of a rest and Paris has no shortage of beautiful parks and gardens in which to sit down and catch your breath. Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens are popular choices and I also love sitting in the square in the middle of Place des Vosges and watching the world go by.
When visiting Paris I try to walk as much as possible to really get a feel for the city, but the metro and Batobus (hop on hop off boat) are also great options. First-time visitors might find L'Open Tour (the hop on hop off bus) a good way to get their bearings and there are numerous routes available that stop at Paris' major attractions.
Paris is certainly one of the world's most visited cities and for most people, one visit is never enough. I can't wait to return!
Have you visited Paris? What's your favourite way to spend your time in the City of Light?
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