A Casual Stroll Through Two Centuries
Paris is a city steeped in more than two thousand years of history dating back to Caesar’s invasion of Gaul (ancient France). With such history comes historical buildings, places and people which Paris has in abundance. A day in Paris can be spent merely wandering the streets and seeing the major attraction that has drawn people from all over the world for countless years.
From the Eiffel Tower to the Latin Quarter
A good first stop on the tour is one of the most iconic structures in all of France and all of Europe, the Eiffel tower. The tower stands tall in contrast to the small park that surrounds it. Built around the turn of the 20th century, the tower invites people to climb or ride an elevator to the top to see a breath taking view of the Parisian skyline. From here one can plan a walking tour by observing from a birds eye perspective which allows a wide panorama from the Bois de Boulogne in the west to the Latin Quarter to the east. Many well-known structures pop out on this real 3D touring map. Over the river to the north is the Arc de Triomphe. The eye can follow the Champs Elysees to the east to its end at the Place De La Concorde and the Louvre beyond. A little farther east, the Isle de la Cite, the Isle St. Louis and Notre Dame stand out. To get to this perch on the Tower, climbing the stairs is the cheapest method but also the most daunting while riding an elevator will cost a fair amount. The only way to reach the very top is to ride the elevator for an additional fee. The tower contains a restaurant and a gift shop on the first stage with the best viewing area being on the 2nd stage. Eiffel Tower website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/eiffel-tower.
A short walk from the tower is the Arc De Triomphe which stands in the middle of a roundabout at one end of the world renowned Champs Elysees. Access to the actual monument is best made through a tunnel located on the side of the Champs Elysees. Attempting to cross traffic to get to the Arc is extremely dangerous. The Arc was constructed in honor of the victories of Napoleon Bonaparte in the 1800’s with construction taking much longer than expected. Like the Eiffel Tower, the arch provides a vantage point of the nearby area on its top accessed through stairs on either side of the arch. Unlike the tower, the number of stairs is quiet low. Arc de Triomphe website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/arc-de-triomphe.
Running from the Arc to the Place de la Concord near the Tuileries Gardens the Champs Elysees is the most famous shopping street in Paris. The lengthy stretch of road is known for the stores such as Cartier and Dior which are known throughout the world and for being the venue for events hosted by both local and international celebrities. If one was so inclined, an entire day can be spent going up and down either side of the street window shopping and gaining a glimpse on how the other half shops. The street terminates at the Place de la Concorde near a famous obelisk taken from Egypt during France’s Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign in the early 1800s. Champs Elysees website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/champs-elysees.
Beyond the Place de La Concorde is the Tuileries Gardens. This pleasant oasis of green merits a summer afternoon all by itself to enjoy the sun and to watch Paris stroll. Although the amazing collection of Impressionist Art that resided in the Jeu de Paume museum has been relocated for some time to the Musee d’Orsay, the Jeu still hosts important exhibitions. While the author was there an amazing presentation of Monet’s Water Lilies was presented along with a host of lesser known turn of the 2oth century artists. Jardin des Tuileries website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/tuileries-garden; Jeu de Paume website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/jeu-paume.
Three more destinations on this portion of a walking tour of old Paris are the Louvre, the Concierge and Notre Dame. A visit to the Louvre is described in more detail below. The Concierge is a must visit stop for anyone interested in the French Revolution. Here Marie Antoinette spent the last few months of her life in a small cell which has been recreated for the visitor. There are also a number of exhibits on the Revolution and information on other famous prisoners which included a number of the revolutionary leaders that ordered Marie’s death. Concierge Website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/conciergerie.
Notre Dame is one of the best known and beloved sites in Paris. Famous for its architecture, including the fantastic gargoyles, Notre Dame offers a walk through history as one competes the rectangular walking tour of the main cathedral. For additional charges one can see the Cathedral treasures in the archaeological crypt and climb the bell tower to get a different aerial perspective of Paris. Cathedral Website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/cathedral-notre-dame-paris; Towers Website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/towers-notre-dame-cathedral-paris.
If one has time (or an evening) to continue exploring in this direction, one can cross the bridge across the Seine after visiting Notre Dame and begin exploring the famous Latin Quarter. Near the bridge exit onto the Left Bank, small and twisting streets run off to the left away from the bridge. Walking through this area can give one a sense of what Medieval Paris looked like. This is also a great area to find some of the less expensive but still delicious fare of Paris. Latin Quarter Website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/latin-quarter-paris. An extended walk south from this area will lead to the Pantheon, final resting place of many of France’s most renowned literary and historical figures. Pantheon Website: http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/pantheon-2.
From Arc de Triomphe to the North and East
If one were to strike out north east from the Arc then one will find the famous Opera, the fictional home of the Phantom of the Opera. Here is the grand opera house of France with its highly decorated façade and centuries of history. While the tickets to the opera may be pricy, one can view for free what the city of Paris has sunk millions of dollars through the ages into constructing their house of culture. Tours are available of the opera house during certain times only so check before buying tickets. Opera Garnier Website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/paris-opera-garnier-palace.
If one continues uphill to the northeast from the Opera, one will eventually come to the Moulin Rouge with its windmill façade and spinning arms. The Moulin Rouge is well known for being the haunt of Impressionist Painters such as Toulouse La Trec and a fixture of the Belle Époque (1890s Paris). Despite being past its prime this famous cabaret continues to attract people (read mostly tourists) from all over the world. The Moulin Rouge hosts nightly performances with tickets starting around 150 or so dollars. As with the opera, looking is free so go ahead and marvel at the more risqué side of Paris life. Le Moulin Rouge Website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/moulin-rouge%C2%AE-largest-cabaret-world.
If one is athletically inclined, one can go further east (and uphill) to Montmartre. Sites on interest here are the cathedral of the Sacre Coeur at the top of Montmartre. This incredibly beautiful church also offers sweeping views of Paris to the south. Sacre Coeur Website: http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/sacred-heart-sacre-coeur. Montmartre is also the home of the famous cemetery Pere Lachaise were a great number of historic and artistic persons have a final resting place. Cemetery Website:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/discover/pere-lachaise-cemetery.
South from the Eiffel Tower
Louis XIV initiated the project by an order dated 24 November 1670, as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers. Later the hospital became home to the body of Napoleon Bonaparte among other distinguished French military leaders. Les Invalides has now been converted to a public museum made up differing parts like arms and armor, special exhibits and a building solely dedicated to Napoleon.
The entire complex is decorated in a very regal manner with marble floors in the tomb with the casket being composed of entirely of it. The front entrance is very much akin to Versailles with a small grassy area with a fountain. The entire complex is very expansive with large squares big enough to house tanks and army vehicles from the 2nd world war.
The tomb itself is the most highly decorated building with the front doors measuring 30 or so feet and being made of marble. The inside matches the grandness of the outside with high ceilings, arched walls and stain glass windows. The tomb building has two levels with the entrance floor being a church of sorts to sanctify the tomb. The lower floor contains the actual casket of Napoleon along with some of his relatives and French soldiers. The casket stands at an impressive height overshadowing everything else in the complex so much so that the only way to properly view the entirety is from the top floor. As with most other Paris attractions, the tomb and the rest of the complex are self-guided with audio tours costing a surcharge on top of admission.