Paris is known as the city of lights and the city of love! Paris was one city in France that I was dying to visit on my first trip to Europe! After learning the French language for two years in high school and continuing with it since, I was also really keen to practice my French language skills. Check out my post 25 Basic French Phrases To Survive Your First Visit To France for some cool French phrases you can use!
Unfortunately due to being on a tour, I only got to spend one full day exploring Paris so I decided to pack in as much as I could of Paris into one day, and here are the Top 10 sights that I highly recommend you see!
1. The Sacré Coeur Basilica
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, or the Sacré Coeur for short is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Located at the summit of the butte Montmarte, it is the highest point in all of Paris, and you can get stunning views from the top!
2. Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge is a famous cabaret in Paris, marked by the famous red windmill on its roof! It was co-founded in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller. Moulin Rouge is also close to Montmarte and was another feature on our Paris driving tour.
Moulin Rouge was the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can can dance! Today, Moulin Rouge is well-known in all of Paris for providing musical dance entertainment for many visitors all around the world! With the Moulin Rouge being such a popular tourist destination around the world, if you are planning a visit for one evening, be warned because it is very very expensive! Moulin Rouge has also been featured in a number of blockbuster films, with the most well-known version of Moulin Rouge! (2001) directed by Baz Luhrman featuring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman.
3. The Eiffel Tower
The one you’ve all been waiting for! Seeing and going up to the Eiffel Tower had been a dream of mine for a very long time. With my practice in the French language and learning all I could about Paris, La Tour Eiffel was something that could not be missed!
7 Facts about the Eiffel Tower
1. An iron, lattice tower located in the Champ de Mars in Paris.
2. Named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel whose company designed and built the tower.
3. The Eiffel Tower was originally designed as an entrance arc to the 1889 World Fair. At the end of the fair, the Eiffel Tower was planned to be teared down; there were many criticisms of the construction and design of the tower and many people thought it would never make any economic profit. Obviously, the Eiffel Tower still stands today, being the most visited paid monument in the world, with millions of visitors from all over the world each year.
4. In 2010, the Eiffel Tower celebrated its 250 millionth visitor.
5. One of the most recognisable structures in the world.
6. At 324m (1,063 ft) high (the same height as an 81 storey building), the Eiffel tower surpassed the Washington Monument as the tallest man-made structure in the world. The Eiffel tower held this record for 41 years until 1930 when the Chrysler Building in New York City was built. The aerial atop was built on the Eiffel Tower in 1957 and it is now 5.2 metres higher than the Chrysler Building.
7. The Eiffel tower is the tallest structure in Paris, and was the first man-made structure in the world higher than 1,000 feet.
The Eiffel Tower by day
Eiffel Tower Tip: Arrive early! How long you have to wait in line depends on the day, the season and the time. I visited France at the end of May (beginning of Summer season) and I arrived between 9-9:30am in the morning. When I arrived there were already a lot of people waiting, but I was lucky enough to get on the beginning of a new line-up on the other side and only had to wait 20 minutes! I had to wait a lot longer in line coming back down! If you decide to go later in the day to the Eiffel Tower then you may have to wait up to an hour and a half to get to the top.
Spectacular views from the top!
There are three levels on the Eiffel Tower:
Ground to the first level: You have the option of the lift or 300 stairs.
First level to the second level: You have the same options of the lift or another 300 stairs.
Second level to the third level: There are stairs but they are closed to the public, so it is only accessible by lift.
The Eiffel Tower by night
Seeing the Eiffel Tower at night was the final stop on our Paris driving tour (and the first time I laid eyes on the Eiffel Tower); I remember getting a little bit teary at the sight of the Eiffel Tower and I had one those “can’t believe I’m here!” moments (I had a lot of those on this trip!).
4. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe, also known as the Arc of Triumph of the Star is one of the most famous monuments in Paris!
5 Facts about the Arc de Triomphe
1. It is located in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle.
2. Built in 1806.
3. The Arc de Triomphe was built to honour those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic War, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on it! Check it out!
5. The Arc de Triomphe is the largest traffic roundabout in the world! There are a total of eight unmarked lanes of traffic and it is famously treacherous and insane! Our Topdeck bus driver decided it would be a good idea to be brave and drive on it! Suffice it to say, we made it, all in one piece! Due to the danger that eight lanes of traffic might impose to tourists, all you need to do to get under the famous arc is to walk a bit further down the street and take a tunnel under the circle.
Here is a video from YouTube of the ridiculousness of the roundabout!
Views from the top of the Arc de Triomphe
Views from the Arc de Triomphe are spectacular! I highly recommend it! You get spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower plus the Champs Elysées! To get to the top you have the option of over 280 steps, no lift. Well, there is a lift but it is reserved for disabled visitors or visitors with strollers, and after that they still need to climb up a few more stairs to get to the top! For me it was all worth it climbing the stairs to get to these views!
5. The Champs Elysées
The Champs Elysées, French for Elysian Fields is located in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. Running between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, the Champs Elysées 1.9 kilometres long. It is famous for its theatres, cafés, luxury shops and each year on the 14th July the military parade known as Bastille Day takes place.
6. Jardin des Tuileries
The Tuileries Garden is a beautiful public garden located between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. In the 19th and 20th century, the park was a popular place for Parisians to meet up, promenade, celebrate and relax. I actually stumbled upon this park, and it was lovely to take a stroll and enjoy the surroundings!
The Louvre is one of the world’s famous and largest art museums in the world. It is a central landmark of Paris and also a historic monument. For most visitors to the museum, they come to see the famous Mona Lisa painted by the very talented Leonardo da Vinci.
6 Facts about the Louvre Museum
1. The Louvre museum started out as a fortress.
2. The Louvre is over 200 years old.
3. The Louvre is one of the most visited museums in the world; annually the Louvre receives over 8.8 million visitors. In 2012, the museum attracted 9.7 million visitors!
4. It takes over 2,000 employees to maintain the museum and the artwork.
5. There are over 70,000 pieces of at spread across more than 650,000 square feet of gallery space.
6. The Louvre became a clearinghouse for artwork stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The Nazis took a section of the Louvre and used it to catalogue, package and ship art and personal items taken from wealthy French (primarily Jewish) families back to Germany.
Why I bypassed the Louvre on my first trip to Paris
Although the Louvre is a famous landmark and a top attraction in Paris to see, I did not visit the Louvre on this trip. Why? Being on a tour we only had one full day to spend in Paris, and if I had walked into the Louvre for a visit, I might not have come out and may have spent the rest of the day exploring inside. With limited time at my disposal in Paris, I decided to leave it for my next trip back, where I could spend a half day exploring more than just the Mona Lisa.
8. Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier is the National Opera House of Paris and was built from 1861-1875 for the Paris Opera. Named after Charles Garnier, the Palais Garnier (also known as the Opéra Garnier) is located on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris and is probably one of the most famous opera houses in the world. The Paris Opera house became Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, The Phantom of the Opera and also in subsequent films and most famously in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, The Phantom of the Opera. Check out my post “Bec’s Reviews: 4 Broadway Shows you need to see!” for more on Phantom of the Opera! With 1,979 seats, the opera house is well-known in Paris for hosting the opera and ballet.
The Palais Garnier is a must see in Paris for another important reason: It is SO BEAUTIFUL!
Palais Garnier Tip: Make sure you visit outside, the views are lovely!
9. Notre Dame
Notre Dame or Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris in English) is one of the most famous catholic churches in all of Paris, and in my opinion, one of the most recognisable in all of France. The Notre Dame is a beautiful church inside and out, with two gorgeous twin towers that go as high as 69 metres, a stunning interior with awe-inspiring stained glass windows, and with five of the most famous bells in all of Europe. Visiting Notre Dame is a free attraction to visit in Paris, and you can also venture to the top of the church to capture beautiful views! Due to limited time left of my day in Paris, I thought to leave the views from the top for the next visit! They say the best time to visit Notre Dame is in the early morning Tuesday-Friday.
Notre Dame Fact: In 1939, during World War II stained glass windows just like this were removed from Notre Dame and hidden as the French were afraid the Germans would bomb Notre Dame. The stained glass windows plus other important and historical pieces from Notre Dame were protected and later re-installed in the famous church after the war.
10. Pont des Arts
Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge in Paris which crosses over the River Seine, and one of the most popular places for couples to show their commitment to each other, by attaching a padlock (love lock) to the bridge. This tourist attraction is also commonly known as the “Lovelock bridge”. This romantic gesture has blossomed all over Europe, with lovelocks being placed on bridges everywhere!
As of February 2014, there were over 700,000 lovelocks on the bridge. The concern that Parisians and the mayor have with this romantic gesture, is the bridge can no longer withstand the weight of the lovelocks, and inevitably collapse. In June 2014, part of the parapet on the bridge collapsed under the weight of the lovelocks, and a few months later more than 50% of the panels had to be boarded over with plywood. The mayor is now encouraging tourists to set them free by declaring their love with a selfie at the bridge with the social media hashtag #lovewithoutlocks
The “Paris take two” bucketlist
After my wonderful one day spent exploring Paris, I decided to write a Paris bucketlist for my second visit. For me, one day exploring Paris was just too short, I think next time I would need between five and seven days! Here are some things I would love to do when I visit Paris again:
1. Eiffel Tower (again): Wanting to go up to the top (summit) both day and night.
2. The Louvre: Spend a half day exploring and see the famous Mona Lisa!
3. Musée d’Orsay: A well-known museum in Paris.
4. Go to the top of Notre Dame
5. Saint-Chapelle: A royal medieval Gothic chapel
6. Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens)
7. Euro Disney (also known as Disneyland Paris): Spend at least two days there!
8. Spend a full day at the Palace of Versailles
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