22 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Paris
Gracing the banks of the Seine River, Paris has a way of romancing visitors with its elegant beauty and magical ambience. This incomparable city is filled with grandiose monuments like the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and the Champs-Elysées Boulevard. Yet the charm of Paris lies in the small details: the quaint cobblestone streets, prettily trimmed trees, perfectly puffed pastries, dainty tea salons, Belle Epoque brasseries, and avant-garde art galleries. Like a veritable open-air museum, the city's buildings are works of art, and the Parisians' everyday fashion is worthy of a magazine spread.
From stylish boutiques to exquisite cuisine, Paris is synonymous with the finer things in life. The city celebrates its cultural heritage by assiduously maintaining its historic landmarks, formal French gardens, and world-class art collections. Visit the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay to see the Mona Lisa and Monet's masterpieces. Wander the distinctive quartiers (neighborhoods) to discover the medieval Latin Quarter, the legendary café scene in Saint-Germain-de-Prés, and the Bohemian atmosphere of Montmartre. In every hidden corner and at all the famous sites, Paris casts a spell of enchantment. One visit may inspire a lifelong love affair.
See also: Where to Stay in Paris
1 Eiffel Tower
This may be the most famous monument in the world and is certainly the most emblematic of Paris. It's hard to believe that the structure was dismissed as a monstrosity when it was first unveiled. The Eiffel Tower was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel and built for the Paris Exhibition of 1889, which marked the centenary of the French Revolution. The tower consists of 15,000 steel sections held together by 2.5 million rivets. This innovative structure is now considered a masterful architectural feat and is one of the top tourist attractions in Paris. From the Jardins du Trocadéro and the lawns of the Champs de Mars, there is just the right distance from the Eiffel Tower for a great photo. The tower stands 307 meters tall. It was the world's tallest building until the Empire State Building was erected. Visitors can take an elevator or walk up the 360 steps to arrive at the first level (at 57 meters) and 344 more steps to the second level (at 115 meters). To reach the top level, at the dizzying elevation of 276 meters, take the exhilarating elevator ride from the second level. At the top, views of the Paris cityscape are truly stunning. For those interested in a gourmet meal, the Restaurant le Jules Vernes is on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. This Michelin-starred restaurant features expansive windows that allow diners to enjoy the amazing views.
If you want to save time while visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Skip the Line: Eiffel Tower Tickets and Small-Group Tour is an excellent option. Not only will you avoid standing in long lines when you arrive at this famous icon, you'll also hear stories about its history and architecture from an expert guide.
2 Louvre Museum
A sumptuous palace that was once the home of France's Kings, the Louvre is now a marvelous museum of fine art. Visitors enter the museum in the courtyard of the palace at the glass pyramid (designed by Ieoh Ming Pei in 1917). This Louvre Museum possesses more than 30,000 works of art, from antiquities to medieval art and European painting of the 15th to 19th centuries. It is impossible to see it all in one visit, but tourists can focus on one particular gallery such as classical sculpture, Italian Renaissance art, or 17th-century French paintings; or take a tour of the highlights. The museum's most famous piece is the Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (in French La Joconde) painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1503-1505. Other exceptional masterpieces are the ancient Venus de Milo sculpture, the monumental Victory of Samothrace of the Hellenistic period, the immense Wedding Feast at Cana painting by Veronese (1563), and Botticelli's frescoes. Also a must-see is Liberty Leading the People (1831) by Eugène Delacroix, which depicts the violence of the Revolution of 1830.
A great way to see the Louvre and learn about its collections is to sign up for a Skip the Line: Louvre Museum Walking Tour including Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa. This three-hour tour gives you fast access to the galleries and spotlights some of the museum's most famous works, with an informative commentary from a knowledgeable guide.
The Louvre is surrounded on one side by the elegant Jardin des Tuileries, one of the largest and loveliest parks in Paris. The famous French landscape architect André Le Nôtre (who also designed the park at Versailles) created the Tuileries Gardens in classic formal French style. The gardens feature perfectly manicured trees, decorative pools, and park benches. There is also a pleasant café restaurant with outdoor seating.
3 Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
A triumph of Gothic architecture, the Notre-Dame stands in the heart of Paris on the Ile de la Cité (an island in the Seine River) near the Latin Quarter. An island in the Seine River, the Ile de la Cité is the historical and geographical center of Paris. On this small plot of land, the Romans built the Gallo-Roman city of Lutetia, and from the 6th century to the 14th century the Kings of France resided here. The Notre-Dame Cathedral was founded in 1163 by King Louis IX (Saint Louis) and Bishop Maurice de Sully, and the construction took more than 150 years. The cathedral was first created in Early Gothic style, while later additions (the west front and the nave) show the transition to High Gothic style. Tourists are immediately struck by the ornamental design of the facade, with its profusion of sculptures, flying buttresses, and gargoyles. Look out for the 21 figures in the Gallery of Kings who lost their heads during the Revolution. (The heads are now on display in the Musée de Cluny.)
After admiring the decorative doorway, enter the sanctuary to take in the grandeur of this immense vaulted space. The sanctuary seems almost endless and beckons visitors with the light of flickering candles. The interior features magnificent stained-glass windows, in particular the rose window in the north transept. This stunning work of art features 80 Old Testament scenes centered around the Virgin. Every Saturday and Sunday at 9:15pm, the cathedral offers a special audiovisual show designed to inspire visitors. The show projects images onto a 100-square-meter screen of tulle for a magical effect. Entrance is free.
4 Avenue des Champs-Élysées
The most monumental boulevard in Paris used to be a desolate field of marshland until the 16th century, when it was landscaped by Le Nôtre. The Champs-Elysées is divided into two parts with the Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées as its intersection. The lower part of the Champs-Elysées, bordering the Place du Concorde, includes a spacious park, the Jardin des Champs-Élysées, and the Petit Palais fine arts museum. The upper part, extending to the Arc de Triomphe, is lined by luxury shops, hotels, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, and theaters. This bustling area draws many tourists and is a gathering place for Parisians.
The Champs-Elysées is famous for its prestigious establishments such as Maison Ladurée (75 Avenue des Champs-Elysées), a patisserie shop renowned for its opulent 18th-century tea salon and exquisite pastries (their specialty is "macarons"), and upscale designer boutiques like Tiffany & Co. (62 Avenue des Champs-Élysées), Louis-Vuitton boutique (101 Avenue des Champs-Elysées), and Cartier (154 Avenue des Champs-Élysées). For fine dining, the top choices are the legendary "brasserie du luxe" restaurant Le Fouquet's and the swanky gastronomic restaurant L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (133 Avenue des Champs-Élysées) that boasts two Michelin stars. Although the Champs-Élysées has an image of elegance, there are many places that cater to tourists in a hurry and students on a budget, such as Starbucks, H&M, Quick, and McDonald's.
Address: Address: Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris (Métro: Champs-Élysées Clemenceau station to visit the Jardin des Champs-Élysées and Petit Palais; Franklin d. Roosevelt station for Laduree; George V station for the main shopping area)
5 Musee d'Orsay
This renowned collection of Impressionist art is one of Paris' top attractions. The museum is housed in an expansive space (formerly the Belle Epoque-era Gare d'Orsay railway station) and the collection represents the work of all the masters of Impressionism. The artists range from classic Impressionist masters Degas, Manet, Monet, and Renoir to Post-Impressionist artists such as Bonnard, Cézanne, and Van Gogh; the Pointillists (Seurat, Signac); and Bohemian artists like Toulouse Lautrec. Some of the museum's most memorable pieces include Claude Monet's The Magpie, Gare Saint-Lazare, and Luncheon on the Grass and Renoir's Ball at Moulin de la Galette, which was painted in Montmartre. The Orsay Museum is the best place in Paris to get an overview of Impressionist art history-from the gentle brush strokes of Monet to the wild, colorful scenes of Gauguin. The museum also features exhibits of decorative objects and photography as well as two cafés and an upscale restaurant that is worth the splurge. The restaurant was the former restaurant of the Hôtel d'Orsay and is a listed historic monument with gilded ceilings and sparkling chandeliers.
6 Palais Garnier Opera House & the Bibliotèchque-Musée de l'Opera
The Palais Garnier Opera House is a sensational Neo-Baroque theater designed as a venue for opera and ballet performances. The building was created by Charles Garnier in lavish "Napoleon III" style and was built between 1862 and 1875. The facade features classical columns and eight sculptures representing allegorical figures: Poetry, Music, Idyll, Recitation, Song, Drama, and Dance. The loggia depicts busts of composers Halévy, Meyerbeer, Rossini, Auber, Spontini, Beethoven, and Mozart. At the very top of the building are four exquisite gilded groups glorifying Poetry and Fame. Garnier's sensational floor plan of 11,000 square meters dazzles the eye but only offers seating for 2,200 people. Most of the building's space is dedicated to the grand foyer with its incredible marble entrance staircase and opulently gilded lamps. The plush red and gold auditorium is adorned with a ceiling painting by Chagall. The salons are beautifully decorated with gilded moldings and ceiling frescoes.
For a deeper understanding of Paris opera and its rich cultural heritage, visit the Bibliotèchque-Musée de l'Opera (Library-Museum of the Opera House) located inside the building. The library and museum contains three centuries of archives as well as exhibits dedicated to the art of opera. The museum's permanent collection features drawings of costumes and scenery, scale models, and paintings of the Opera House. Throughout the year, the museum hosts temporary thematic exhibits, for example a presentation of the Ballets Suédois' (Swedish Ballet) avant-garde dance in the 1920s and a tribute to the Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet) celebrating the centenary of Serge Diaghilev's company.
Attending an opera or ballet performance at the Palais Garnier is a favorite tourist experience. The Opéra Garnier hosts performances by companies of the highest caliber. The Opera House also has a bookstore-boutique and a stylish restaurant that serves classic French cuisine.
Address: Address: Place de l'Opéra, 8 Rue Scribe (at Auber) 75009 Paris (Métro: Opéra)
7 Place de la Concorde
Created between 1755 and 1775 by the architect of King Louis XV, this impressive octagonal square is at the heart of 18th-century Paris. With its majestic dimensions, the Place de la Concorde is one of the most beautiful squares in the city. It was the scene of several key historical events, including the execution of King Louis XVI, and it was part of Napoleon's triumphal route. The square offers sensational views of the triumphal route towards the Arc de Triomphe and the Défense, and towards the Louvre as well as to the Madeleine and the Palais-Bourbon. At the center is an Egyptian obelisk that was presented to Charles X by the Viceroy of Egypt. During summer, there is a Ferris wheel here. The Place de la Concorde is a busy intersection with heavy traffic, circulating at high speeds. French drivers don't always pay attention to pedestrians, so make sure to get out of the way. To arrive at the Place de la Concorde, walk from the Louvre through the Jardin du Tuileries or the Rue du Rivoli, or follow the Quai along the Seine River. Alternatively take the Métro to Concorde station.
8 Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is dedicated to the victorious French armies of the Revolution and the First Empire. Napoleon ordered the building of this mighty structure in 1806 but did not live to see its completion in 1836. Designed by JF Chalgrin, the arch features reliefs with larger-than-life-size figures, which depict the departure, victories, and glorious return of the French armies. Particularly noteworthy is the relief by François Rude on the Champs-Elysées front, Departure of the Volunteers of 1792, also known as The Marseillaise, illustrating the troops setting out, led by the winged spirit of Liberty. On the inner surface of the arch are the names of more than 660 generals and more than a hundred battles. From the viewing platform, there are panoramic views of the 12 avenues, which radiate from the Place de l'Etoile, including the route from the Champs-Elysées to Place de la Concorde and the Louvre. It's possible to see all the way to La Défense, Montmartre, and the Eiffel Tower. At the foot of the Arc de Triomphe is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated in 1921 as a memorial to the dead of World War I. Every evening at 6:30pm, a small delegation of soldiers rekindle the flame at the tomb, and every year on November 11, the anniversary of the Armistice of 1918, there are ceremonies commemorating those who perished in both world wars.
Address: Address: Place Charles-de-Gaulle, 75008 Paris (Métro: Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile)
In the Palais de Justice on the Ile de la Cité, Sainte-Chapelle is considered a rare jewel of the Middle Ages. This masterpiece of High Gothic architecture was built from 1242 to 1248 for King Louis IX (Saint Louis) to house the precious Christian relics, which he had acquired from the Byzantine Emperor. The altar displays a relic of the Crown of Thorns. The chapel is renowned for its exquisite stained-glass windows, which give the sanctuary an iridescent glow and serene aura. The colors and light symbolize divinity and the Heavenly Jerusalem. Sainte-Chapelle is rarely used for mass but often serves as a venue for concerts. Listening to classical music in this space is truly an inspiring spiritual experience. To find the chapel, enter the iron gate of the Palais de Justice and walk through the inner courtyard.
Address: Address: 4 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris (Métro: Notre-Dame-des-Champs or Vavin station)
10 Luxembourg Gardens
The Luxembourg Gardens are the best known park in Paris after the Tuileries. The gardens were laid out in the 17th century when the Palais du Luxembourg was built, but they were given their present form in the 19th century by the architect J.F. Chalgrin. The central feature of the park is the large octagonal pond with a fountain, flanked by two elegant terraces lined with statues. This part of the park is laid out in the French classical style, with many chairs spread about for visitors to use. The park is very popular with Parisians for relaxing and picnicking especially the students of the Latin Quarter. Another key feature is the picturesque Fontaine de Médicis, hidden under trees opposite the east front of the palace. The 17th-century fountain basin has a Renaissance monument featuring the river gods of the Rhône and the Seine and is a reminder of the former owner, Marie de Médicis. The large pond is popular with small children who use it to sail miniature boats (the boats can be hired at a kiosk by the pond), while other children enjoy the Grand Guignol, a traditional marionette show. In the southwest of the park near the tennis courts, the Théâtre du Luxembourg seats 275 and presents charming puppet shows in French.
Address: Address: 19 Rue de Vaugirard (and Rue de Médicis) 75006 Paris (Métro: Luxembourg or Odeon)
11 Sacré-Coeur and Quartier Montmartre
Sitting at the highest point in Paris like an ornamental decoration, the Basilique Sacré-Coeur has a special aura. Its alabaster facade blends Romanesque and Byzantine styles, and from far away, it looks like a wedding cake (which is its nickname). Inside the Basilica, the striking mosaic of Christ with a flaming heart gives the sanctuary an emotional and spiritual intensity, fitting for a church that was created as a symbol of hope after the Franco-Prussian War. The sanctuary is illuminated with many candles, which provide a contrast to the dark, somber ambience. Visitors can spend time on the terrace admiring the lovely views of Paris or climb the tower for an even higher perspective. The Esplanade that leads up to the church is a popular area for people to hang out and is often animated by street musicians. While visiting the Sacré-Coeur, it's worth spending time exploring Montmartre. Once a little medieval village in the country, Montmartre has an old-fashioned charm with an avant-garde edge. During the Belle Epoque, the village of Montmartre began to attract famous artists such as Toulouse Lautrec and Edgar Degas. The Bohemian spirit of Montmartre is still found in its charming squares and cobblestone streets, especially around the Place du Tertre and the Carré Roland Dorgelès. There are also many excellent art museums including the Musée du Montmartre and the Espace Dali.
Address: Address: Basilique Sacré-Coeur, 35 Rue du Chevalier-de-la-Barre, 75018 Paris (Métro: Abbesses)
Originally built as a church, the Panthéon is the national memorial and burial-place of France's great men. In 1756, King Louis XV commissioned the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot (1713-80) to build a new church on the site of the ruined abbey of Sainte-Geneviève, and the church was completed in 1790. The architecture of the Panthéon marks a clear break from the playful Rococo of the Louis XV style and instead presents a more somber Neoclassical style. The Panthéon was the first building in Paris that sought to return to the architectural simplicity of classical antiquity. This monumental building set the standard for the period before and after Napoleon, and inspired the creation of other massive structures such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Madeleine, and the Bourse. The philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau and the writers Victor Hugo and Emile Zola are buried here.
Address: Address: 19 Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris (Métro: Luxembourg station)
13 Place de Vosges
In the charming Marais district, the Place des Vosges is Paris' oldest public square, spaciously laid out in harmoniously uniform style. This elegant square provided a model for other squares such as Place Vendôme and Place de la Concorde. The Place de Vosges was constructed between 1605 and 1612 and was originally called Place Royale because it was filled with aristocratic residences. Typical of Renaissance architecture, the square has a pleasing symmetrical form with uniform houses of red brick, stone detailing, and pitched slate roofs.
The Place de Vosges offered a splendid setting for festive occasions in the 17th century, such as tournaments, state receptions, and court weddings. It was also a favorite spot for duels, in spite of Cardinal Richelieu's ban on dueling. The celebrated courtesan of Louis XIII's reign lived at number 11, and the future Madame de Sévigné was born in 1626 at number 1 on the square. The Place de Vosges lies in the atmospheric Marais Quarter, a historic area with medieval and Renaissance palaces. The stunning Picasso Museum is housed in the Hôtel Salé, a graceful 17th-century mansion. The Marais has become a trendy quarter and has a significant Jewish community. For a luxurious experience, stop at the Mariage Frères (30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg). This exquisite tea salon serves its aromatic tea with savory and sweet delicacies; its adjoining shop sells a wide selection of the finest teas in Paris. Many tourists also enjoy the falafel shop, L'As du Falafel (34 Rue des Rosiers), but prepare to wait in line. Also worth noting: The Marais is one of the few areas of Paris where most shops and boutiques are open on Sundays.
Address: Address: Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris (Métro: Saint-Paul or Bastille station)
14 Place Vendome
This graceful square was laid out by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, one of the leading architects of the "Grand Siècle" under King Louis XIV. Originally, the square was called Place Louis le Grand. The facades of the houses were built between 1686 and 1701. The original intention was that the royal academies, the Mint, the Royal Library, and a hotel for foreign envoys would be installed in the square; but due to financial difficulties, the King was forced to sell the buildings to nobles and wealthy citizens. The new owners built beautiful mansions with courtyards and gardens. The charm of the Place Vendôme is that it has retained the consistency of the overall design, which combines regal ostentation with civic simplicity. Following careful restoration in the early 90s, it has been restored in all its splendor. The square is known for its upscale jewelry shops including Boucheron, Chanel, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Cartier. Another luxury establishment here is the Ritz Hotel, which was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. At the center of the square, the 44-meter high bronze column, Colonne de la Grande Armée, recalls the glorious deeds of the French army.
Address: Address: Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris (Métro: Tuileries or Opéra station)
15 Centre Pompidou
Between the Halles district and the Marais in Paris is the Centre Pompidou, an art and cultural center. In contrast to the historic buildings of the quarter, the Centre Pompidou features shocking modern architecture, sometimes described as an "inside out" design because the architectural details of staircases and elevators appear on the exterior. The main attraction of the Centre Pompidou is the National Museum of Modern Art, which displays an extensive collection of contemporary art, beginning with the Fauves (Derain, Dufy, Matisse, and Bonnard) continuing with Cubism (Picasso, Braque, and Léger), then Expressionism, Constructivism (Klee and Mondrian), Dadaism and Surrealism (Dalí, Ernst, Magritte, and Masson), Abstract Expressionism (de Staël, Hartung, Poliakoff, Estère, and Dubuffet), New Realism, and Pop Art (Warhol, Oldenburg). The sculpture collection is also noteworthy.
16 Les Invalides
The Hôtel des Invalides was founded as a home for disabled soldiers. Before the time of Louis XIV disabled soldiers received medical care, if at all, in hospitals or monasteries, but were usually reduced to begging. With the Hôtel des Invalides the "Sun King" founded the first home for men that became disabled while serving in his armies. The building was created from 1671 to 1676 under the direction of the architect Libéral Bruant and centered on the Eglise Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, which was later redesigned by the great architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1706. The church became known as the Eglise du Dôme des Invalides and is an outstanding ecclesiastical building of the French classical period. The Eglise du Dôme des Invalides is most famous for being the site of Napoleon's Tomb, installed here in 1840. Les Invalides has an Army Museum, founded in 1794 as the Artillery Museum, which occupies the wings around the courtyard. The museum displays a large collection of military equipment and uniforms, weapons, prints, and curiosities from many countries. There are also mementos and relics of Napoleon and well-known generals as well as plans of the French campaigns.
Address: Esplanade des Invalides, Avenue de Tourville, 75007 Paris
This majestic building opposite the Louvre Museum is another example of royal architecture. The Palais-Royal was created as a Cardinal's Palace during the reign of King Louis XIII and later became a royal place; it was a seat of power for four centuries. Exemplifying classical French architecture, the building features a lovely central courtyard. This quiet enclosed tree-lined courtyard has the feeling of being a village in the city. Inside the courtyard is an unusual modern sculpture installation of small striped columns, which vary in height. The sculptures arouse a sense of surprise and curiosity.
Address: Address: 6 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris (Métro: Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre or Pyramides station)
Now, only the name of this square is a reminder that the notorious state prison known as the Bastille, the much-hated symbol of absolutist power, once stood here. After the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, the prison was completely demolished. In the center of Place de la Bastille is the 51-meter-high Colonne de Juillet, topped by a graceful gilded figure of Liberty. The monument commemorates the July Revolution of 1830, which overthrew King Charles X and brought Louis-Philippe to power. Four Gallic cocks and a lion relief on the base of the column symbolize the free people of France. A spiral staircase of 283 steps inside the column leads to a viewing platform, which offers an excellent view of the new Opéra-Bastille. On the site of the Bastille prison is the new Opera House that was officially opened by President Mitterrand on July 13, 1989. This immense modern theater has seating for 2,745 people. The view of the stage from the auditorium and the acoustics are both excellent. The Opéra-Bastille has a year-round calendar of events with performances by the National Opera and National Ballet companies.
Address: Address: Place de la Bastille, 75012 Paris (Métro: Bastille)
19 Place du Châtelet & Tour Saint-Jacques
The Place du Châtelet stands at the very center of Paris in the 1st arrondissement, overlooking the Seine River. Gracing this expansive square are two celebrated Parisian theaters. The elegant 19th-century Théâtre du Châtelet presents operas and classical music concerts. The Théâtre de la Ville is a listed historic monument that was once named after Sarah Bernhardt who directed shows here; this theater stages contemporary dance performances as well as a wide range of music concerts.
The area around Place du Châtelet is also worth exploring. Continue towards the Rue de Rivoli past the Boulevard de Sébastopol and wander through the small park to find the Tour Saint-Jacques. Built between 1508 and 1522 in the Late Gothic style, this tower is all that remains of the Eglise Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie (the patron saint of butchers), the town's old parish church. During the Middle Ages, this church was the meeting point for pilgrims setting out on the "Way of Saint James" pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela, one of the three great pilgrimage destinations of medieval Christendom (the others being Jerusalem and Rome). The Saint-Jacques Tower is also famous as the place where Blaise Pascal conducted one of his barometric experiments, which showed the effect of altitude on the height of a column of mercury.
20 La Conciergerie
Never mind the inviting name, this medieval fortress is the infamous prison of the French Revolution. Here, prisoners including Marie-Antoinette and Robespierre were kept in dank cells while awaiting their fate. The Conciergerie was originally part of the medieval palace of the Capetian kings and is now a museum. The Salle des Girondins displays relics of the bloody days of the Terror, including a guillotine blade, prison regulations, and a copy of Marie-Antoinette's last letter. The Salle des Gens d'Armes is a vaulted Gothic hall of awesome proportions. In this forbidding room the condemned prisoners were handed over to the executioner. For an exceptional view of the building's Neo-Gothic facade, stand on the opposite side of the Seine River on the Quai de la Mégisserie. From this distance, the fortress' three round towers and the Tour de l'Horloge (Clock Tower) resemble a fairy-tale castle rather than a penitentiary.
21 Grand Arche of La Défense
In the west of Paris at the end of Avenue Charles-de-Gaulle is a complex of high-rise buildings developed since the mid 1960s. The quarter is named La Défense, which recalls the bitter resistance by French forces in this area during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. Nowadays, this neighborhood is seen as heralding Paris' entry into the 21st century. Designed by Johan Otto von Spreckelsen, the Grande Arche makes a striking impression. This huge 110-meter-high rectangular triumphal arch is faced with white Carrara marble. The monument was inaugurated in 1989 on the bicentenary of the French Revolution and is considered a contemporary symbol of fraternity.
Address: Address: 1 Parvis de la Défense, 92040 Paris (Métro: La Défense)
22 Bustling Boulevards & Legendary Cafés
To discover the legendary Paris cafés, the best place to start is the Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 6th arrondissement. This broad tree-lined boulevard is lined with upscale shops, prestigious cafés, and classic brasseries. The most celebrated are the Café de Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain), which was the meeting place of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and the Café des Deux Magots (6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés), the haunt of James Joyce, Picasso, Hemingway, and other creative types. At both cafés, tourists are treated to a classic Parisian café experience, complete with waiters wearing bow ties (although the waiters have a reputation for their brusque service).
The brasseries of Boulevard Montparnasse were also frequented by famous artists and writers. Le Dôme in Montparnasse is a Paris institution (108 Boulevard du Montparnasse). In its gorgeous Art Deco dining room, the restaurant serves gourmet cuisine focused on seafood. La Coupole (102 Boulevard Montparnasse) is another classic French brasserie with a mythical past; since the 1920s it was visited by famous artists such as Derain, Léger, Man Ray, and Picasso. La Coupole also boasts having served Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Chagall. Le Rotonde (105 Boulevard Montparnasse) was a gathering place for painters and Surrealistic artists in the 1920s and still attracts cinematographers and artists today.
Where to Stay in Paris for Sightseeing
The most popular Paris neighborhoods to stay in are the fashionable 8th Arrondissement boulevards near the Louvre and Champs-Elysées, the lively Rive Gauche (Left Bank), and bohemian Montmartre. Whichever you choose, the Metro is easy to use and well connected to all the tourist attractions. Here are some highly-rated hotels in these areas of Paris:
- Luxury Hotels: What the 8th Arrondissement lacks in character, it makes up for in style. None personifies this better than legendary Le Bristol Paris, with its spa, rooftop pool, and impeccable service. La Reserve Paris Hotel and Spa is another class act, combining palatial surroundings and antique room furnishings with hi-tech amenities and excellent service. Smaller and with a superb location beside Tuileries gardens, steps from the Louvre, Hotel La Tamise offers personal service in boutique surroundings.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Rive Gauche, the traditional Left Bank student quarter, is possibly Paris's best location, loaded with charm and an easy walk from Notre Dame, the Louvre, and other top attractions. Mid-range hotels congregate near Boul. St. Germain. Family-owned Hotel Signature St. Germain des Pres offers boutique hospitality in rooms that are individually decorated. Nearby, impeccably maintained Hotel Residence Henri 4 oozes Parisian charm, with balconies overlooking an atmospheric side street; rooms have kitchenettes. Don't mistake the small, elegant Best Western Left Bank Saint Germain for a cookie-cutter chain hotel.
- Budget Hotels: Between the heart of Rive Gauche and Montparnasse, near Luxembourg Gardens, Legend Hotel by Elegancia has smallish rooms but warm service in a prime location. Nearby, the family-run Hotel Diana has rooms overlooking a courtyard or a classic Parisian street. While Montmartre might not be central, its narrow, winding streets may be Paris's most atmospheric neighborhood, and comfortable Le Relais Montmartre is only a few steps from the Metro.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Paris
- Sightseeing Tours: The two-hour Paris City Segway Tour takes you to the city's top sights without tiring out your feet. See the Eiffel Tower, Napoleon's Tomb, the Louvre and Orsay museums, Les Invalides, and more, as you zoom along the city streets with an expert guide. If you prefer to explore at your own pace, the Paris L'Open Tour Hop-On-Hop-Off excursion is a great choice. It gives you the flexibility to spend as long as you like at the city's most popular attractions, hopping on and off the open-air double decker bus at your leisure over a one- or two-day period. The onboard commentary provides interesting tidbits about the city as you travel.
- Day Trips: History lovers can absorb the stories of World War II and visit the famous battlefields on the Normandy D-Day Battlefields and Beaches Day Trip. Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, this 14-hour tour visits Omaha, Juno, and Gold Beaches; the American Cemetery; and the Caen Memorial. Another popular outing from Paris is the Versailles and Giverny Day Trip. This full-day adventure explores both Louis XIV's opulent palace as well as the beautiful gardens made famous by Monet in many of his paintings.