It’s really difficult to describe Paris in a post, for its greatness and history, so many are its monuments. Paris, in fact, is a fashionable tourist destination , an evergreen that also lends itself to forms of “modular” tourism. The visit of the city, in fact, can require, if you want to visit it in a more or less complete way, at least 7-10 days. However, even with shorter stays you can take a trip that is really interesting and full of commitments, cultural and historical, or just fun. Paris is a city that lends itself for a nice romantic trip or a quick weekend, for a visit to a museum or just to discover it little by little with long walks along its large boulevards.
Paris (but generally France), in recent years it has also been a city marked by tragic events, very violent terrorist acts and dangerous city demonstrations that have slowed tourists down a bit. Recently the terrible fire that struck the cathedral of Notre Dame, a true Christian symbol of Paris and the whole of France, has done nothing more than sadden the city even more, a true European tourist capital.
The city tour
Paris is so large and full of tourist attractions that it is even difficult to plan a possible city tour that will suit all tastes. We try. However, I tell you that for the most important monuments there will be a focus which can be accessed simply with a click in which to find other useful information (photos, web references, suggestions for the visit and so on). I invite you to deepen it.
A possible starting point may be the Louvre Square (photo 1). Although the center of Paris is not uniquely definable (it can be called a multicentric city), the Louvre Square certainly represents an important crossroads for the whole city.
In the square, very large and always full of people, stands the great crystal pyramid, inaugurated – not without controversy – in 1989. It now represents the main entrance to the Museum and, from a strongly criticized work, today represents one of the main attractions of the city.
The Louvre museum is one of the largest in the world and contends with others (the Hermitage, the National Gallery, the Prado, the Uffizi) the prize of the most important museum in the world. It has more than 300,000 artwork including paintings, sculptures and ancient works. Among these is included the most famous pictorial work in the world, the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci, Italian pride praised worldwide as the most famous of rock stars. Very interesting (though often ignored) are the apartments of Napoleon III, with splendid furniture and precious ornaments, worthy of the most important European palaces. Clich here for the focus about Louvre.
Not far from Louvre (about 1 km) there is the Cathedral of Notre Dame (photo 2), a true icon of European Christianity, which has always been at the center of numerous literary and cinematographic works (“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “Notre Dame de Paris” among others).
Unfortunately on the Cathedral, at least in this post, no focus is available. It was not in fact possible to visit the interior of the church because it was recently affected by a devastating fire that caused the collapse of the spire and the damage to significant parts of the structure. The whole area today is cordoned off and not accessible by tourists. We are all waiting for a quick solution and above all a well-done restructuring that allows tourists from all over the world to regain possession of this fundamental Gothic work and to be able to visit it again as soon as possible.
You have to visit the amazing Sainte Chapelle (photo 3), a few steps from the Cathedral, on the Ile de la Cité, incorporated into the Parisian Courthouse.
The chapel was built by King Louis IX as a place destined to house some relics of the Passion (the crown of thorns, a fragment of the Cross) and is 33-meter-high; it is a triumph of imposing and spectacular stained-glass windows, which depict above all scenes of the old Testament.
The visit to the Palace of Justice can be completed with the Conciergerie (photo 4), an austere style palace where prisoners have been tried and imprisoned for centuries.
During the French Revolution more than 4,000 prisoners were imprisoned, including Marie Antoinette who, according to tradition, never historically confirmed, referring to the hungry people, stated “If they have no bread left, let them eat croissants“. Clich here for the focus about Sacre Chapelle.
Walking along the Seine river, in the opposite direction from Notre Dame, you reach the Musée d’Orsay (photo 5), one of the most interesting and fascinating cultural sites in Paris. Inaugurated in 1986, the Museum occupies the space that once was that of a railway station, an aspect that emerges immediately by observing both the external part of the structure, where an imposing clock still stands today, and by visiting the internal pavilions.
The collection of the museum, smaller than Louvre, is of great interest, especially for the enormous exhibition of Impressionist paintings by famous painters such as Monet, Manet, Delacroix, Degas and many others, with paintings of great impact that we have for so many years seen in school books and that, finding them in front of them, arouse an unquestionable emotion. Click here to focus on the Musée d’Orsay.
Another kilometer of riverside and you reach the Eiffel Tower (photo 6), a true Parisian icon of the nineteenth century. His story is well known. Installed in 1889 on the occasion of the Universal Exposition, the Tower was designed as a temporary work, destined for dismantling at the end of the event. Fortunately this was not the case and today the Tower is the most visited monument of Paris and of all France. 300 meters high and weighing over 10 thousand tons, the Tower is also and above all a privileged point to enjoy the wonderful Parisian panorama. On the other side of the Seine, right at the foot of the tower, is the Trocadero, a splendid monumental area with beautiful green areas, gardens, fountains. Clich here for the focus about Eiffel Tower.
From Trocadero and along Avenue Kleber, you can reach the Arc de Triomphe (photo 7) in just over twenty minutes, at the end of the Champs Elysée.
The Arch was conceived by Napoleon in the early 1800s as a symbol of its military power, but only Louis-Philippe brought the work to an end in 1836. It is a symbolic point of the city, the nerve center of the most important French commemorative during celebrations and, more recently, for manifestations of the protest movement baptized as “yellow vests”.
From the summit of the Arch, 50 meters high, it is possible to admire the complex Parisian road network following the large avenues that radiate from the Arc. From here you can also walk the Champs Elysée in their entirety.
The Champs Elysée is a significant point for city shopping. Infact, there are the most important fashion brands and the luxurious “La Fayette” shopping center. There are also bars and clubs where you can take a break while sipping a coffee or a hot chocolate while observing the exclusive walk of the Parisians (photo 8).
At the end (or at the beginning, it depends on where you start the path) of the long Parisian avenue you come to the Tuileries Gardens (photo 9), a wonderful park in French style, square and geometric, built in the seventeenth century, one of the most visited places in the city. The garden is small but richly decorated with allegorical statues of great interest.
Few subway stops and it is possible to reach the Pompidou Museum (photo 10), site of an important museum exhibition, with a curious and futuristic aspect. It is a cultural center with a highly controversial architectural profile, home to contemporary art exhibitions and a permanent exhibition.
The Palace of Versalles (photo 11) is a few kilometers from Paris and is probably the most emblematic symbol of French greatness. Commissioned by Louis XIV, the Sun King, as a place to enclose the royal residence, the seat of government and of aristocracy, the Royal Palace, among the largest in the world, houses the State Apartments, the small Apartments, the Trianon, the beautiful and immense gardens. A special mention for the famous “Hall of Mirrors“. Click here for a focus about Versailles.
It is the business district of Paris, modern and strongly vertical, with a strong stylistic discontinuity with respect to the most historic and traditional part of Paris.
The most significant point of the neighborhood is certainly La Grande Arche (photo 12), a modern version of the great triumphal arches. Created in 1989 for the bicentenary of the French Revolution, it is currently home to offices. Click here for the focus about La Defense.
It is the artists’ quarter where you can take beautiful walks among the characteristic cafés observing the artists while they draw the faces of the tourists. The neighborhood, dominated by the beautiful Church of the Sacred Heart (photo 13), is a privileged point of the city. In neo-Romanesque-Byzantine style, completed in 1914, it attracts crowds of tourists who arrive through the long and tiring staircase. Lazy people can also use the comfortable funicular.
Not far from Montmartre, you can try a nice walk in Pigalle, the quaint red-light district where the historic Moulin Rouge venue (photo 14) is located, made famous by the painter Henri de Toulouse Lautrec. It is the place where the can-can is born.
Where to sleep
It is not easy to find hotel accommodation in Paris that meets the three main needs of every tourist, cleanliness, location and price. You can take a hotel a step away from the Louvre at very high prices or hotels at good prices but of dubious repute.
My choice fell on the Hotel Maison du Prè. It is a short walk from the Church of the Sacred Heart, the Montmartre district, the Poissonnière metro station (metro line 7) and the large Gare du Nord station. It is simple, unpretentious but clean and with a competitive price. Click here for my review on Tripadvisor.
Where (and above all what) to eat
It’s very hard to choose the food in Paris, especially in the tourist areas of the city center where you eat poorly on the average but, on the other hand (!), you pay a lot.
It’s difficult to give advice, also because a lot depends on the place where you take the hotel. Difficult to suggest a restaurant in Montmartre if the hotel is near the Eiffel Tower.
As far as I’m concerned, among the sea of restaurants (many visas and few tested), I want to suggest, for those who choose the Montmartre district, the “Le Paname” restaurant. Unpretentious but with excellent service, good food and fair prices (a rarity in Paris). Click here for my full review on Tripadvisor.
What to eat? I suggest the classic entrecôte with potatoes, la soupe à l’oignon gratinée (onion soup, a Parisian specialty), escargot (snails, for lovers of the genus). The best of Parisian food are cheeses (there are really good ones) and excellent baguettes, stuffed to taste. Click here for my review on Tripadvisor.