Paris13 things to do and see in Paris and 3 not to do
To describe the French capital in an exhaustive way would require not one, but hundreds of articles. Among the data supporting this thesis, perhaps the most emblematic is that of the museums: there are over 150 and each deserves a visit. Therefore, in the impossibility of seeing everything at once (unless you have enormous resources of time and money), a choice must be made. Choice which in turn is good to take into account the unique mix of culture, art, history, entertainment and gastronomy that the city offers in large quantities. Below is our personal list of things to do and see in Paris. Happy reading.
1 Eiffel Tower
The story can only start from Tour Eiffel, the most famous symbol of Paris. Inaugurated in 1889, on the occasion of the X Universal Exposition (and in the centenary of the French Revolution), this gigantic tower, in the original project, should have been dismantled twenty years after its construction. And instead, not only did it go through the whole of the 900s, but in the XNUMXst century, thanks above all to the enormous potential of the network, it was definitively consecrated as planetary icon, capable of attracting millions of visitors every year. And to think that at the beginning the project was strongly opposed by the Parisian public opinion. There were even those who called it "a threat to French history". Today, on the contrary, those wishing to climb to the top, without settling for the classic photo on the Champs de Mars esplanade, must book well in advance. For more information, see the Official site: www.toureiffel.paris/it. Not far from the Eiffel Tower, moreover, there is the Hotel des Invalides which, in addition to being the largest architectural complex built during the reign of Louis XIV ("Sun King"), houses the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. To be seen!
2 Arc de Triomphe
After the Eiffel Tower it is the turn ofArc de Triomphe, another undisputed symbol of the Parisian identity. It is located in Place Charles De Gaulle, formerly Place d'Étoile, at the western end of the legendary Champs Élysées, which we will discuss more fully in the next point. The Arch was strongly desired by Napoleon Bonaparte who entrusted its construction to the architect Jean Chalgrin. The latter, however, died in 1811, five years after the start of the work, which was inaugurated only in 1836, thirty years after the first stone was laid. Inspirational reason the Arch of Titus in Rome, even if the Arch of Triumph, emblem of the grandeur of the Napoleonic empire, exceeds by almost three times the monument of the Flavian era. In 1921 at the base of the Parisian Arch the The Unknown Soldier in memory of the dead from beyond the Alps of the First World War. Since then, the Arc de Triomphe has become the starting point for all the most important state parades. Above all that of July 14, commemoration of the Storming of the Bastille. The Arc de Triomphe is located at the confluence of 12 boulevards. We are therefore talking about one of the busiest areas of the capital by far. Therefore, thinking of getting there simply by crossing the street is very dangerous. An underground passage near the Place Charles De Gaulle Metro Station leads to the entrance of the monument from which, in turn, you go up to the panoramic terrace with one of the most spectacular views of Paris. Here too, given the huge turnout throughout the year, it is preferable to book the entrance in advance. More information on the official website: www.paris-arc-de-triomphe.fr.
3 Champs Élysées
According to many it is the most beautiful street in the world even if, it must be said, for years it has been more popular and frequented by tourists than by Parisians. The latter flock to Avenue des Champs Élysées especially on the occasion of official holidays (above all the parade on July 14) and for sports celebrations that affect the city and / or the nation. The road, almost 2 kilometers long, runs from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. Queen Maria de 'Medici wanted it to be built at the beginning of the 600th century, intending to make it a continuation of the beautiful Jardin Des Tuileres (see next point). The tourist and commercial fortunes of the area began in the second half of the 800th century. The upper part of the avenue - the one, to be clear, which has the Arc de Triomphe as its top apex - is now a temple of luxury shopping: Versace, Dior, Luois Vitton, Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier and many others (including Nike and Adidas) have a shop window around here. The lower part, on the other hand, retains some of the XNUMXth century Belle Époque atmosphere. Not far from the Elysee Palace (55 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré) official residence of the President of the French Republic, e La Madeleine, one of the most beautiful and famous churches in Paris.
4 Tuileries Garden
Unmissable stop on a visit to Paris, the Jardin des Tuileries has several “arrows” in its bow. First of all it is a beautiful place, born in the sixteenth century from a "whim" of Caterina de 'Medici who, after the construction of the homonymous palace, wanted a place of entertainment for ceremonies and banquets. This at the beginning, since later - and we come to the second point in favor -, the garden was opened to all social strata of the city and equipped with cafes, kiosks, sunbeds and public hygiene services. Finally, the strategic location: located between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, this garden represents a real meeting point between two nerve centers of the city, in order to allow the thousands of visitors who daily frequent this part of Paris the right relaxation after the "obligatory" tours of museums and monuments. Confirming the centrality of the site, its countless awards. Two above all: National Historic Monument since 1914 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not to be missed!
5 Louvre Museum
Giotto, Beato Angelico, Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Parmigianino and many others. The Italian art collection would be enough to qualify the Louvre as the most beautiful museum in the world. But it is not over because there are also exhibitions dedicated to oriental, Egyptian and Greco-Roman art. In short, painting, sculpture and archeology make the Muséè du Louvre an unmissable stop on a visit to Paris. Millions of visitors each year venture into this building containing about 30.000 works of art (the estimate is underestimated). It has been calculated that to see everything it would take 100 days, provided, however, to dedicate a few seconds to each room. And instead, from Leonardo's "Mona Lisa", to the Nike of Samothrace, to the Museum dedicated to Eugene Delacroix that can be visited with a single ticket (as long as the visit takes place on the same day) the cultural stimuli that the Louvre is able to offer are really many. Given the impossibility of seeing everything, the advice is to plan the visit in detail with the help of the information on the official website of the structure (www.louvre.fr). Not to be missed!
In the photo, the Louvre entrance pyramid designed by architect Ieoh Ming Pei
6 Musée d'Orsay
From a former royal house (Louvre) to a former railway station (d'Orsay) or, if you prefer, from Leonardo, Michelangelo and Titian to Van Gogh, Gaughin and Cezanne. And yes, why the Musée d'Orsay offers one of the most comprehensive overviews in the world of impressionism and post-impressionism. Not only. Urban planning, architecture, design and cinema are the other topics covered in this one former railway station converted into a museum in 1986 on a project by the Italian architect Gae Aulenti. For the rest, what has already been said for the Louvre applies. Given the turnout, we recommend booking in advance. More information on the museum's official website: www.musee-orsay.fr (Spanish version available). To be seen!
7 Pompidou Center
After the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay it is the turn of the Center Pompidou. If the first two, in fact, shed light on the French and European artistic, historical and cultural past, the museum space wanted by the President of the Republic Georges Jean Raymond Pompidou instead illuminates the present and the future of the transalpine nation. Built in the 70s, this museum has deeply revived Parisian cultural life. Not only for the many works on display (among others, Matisse, Kandinsky, Mirò, Picasso) but precisely because the building as a whole was designed and built as an element of break with the architecture that had accompanied the urban development of the city. Among other things, and it is an aspect that must also be taken into account, the Center Pompidou is located halfway between the Marais and Les Halle. The former is perhaps the only district where the Parisian medieval imprint still survives. Once inhabited mainly by Jews, today it is a bohemian area devoted to multiculturalism. Les Halle, on the other hand, is the largest shopping center in the city and is located where the general markets once were. For more information consult the place: www.centrepompidou.fr (English version available).
8 Latin Quarter
Beating heart of the Parisian '68, The Quartier Latin extends between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth arrondissements of the city. So, despite the name, it is not a real neighborhood, but a larger area with specific peculiarities. The first, of a historical nature, refers to the fact that there was a time when academics and students of the Sorbonne (see photo) actually spoke Latin to each other (hence the name). The second is the presence of the Pantheon, the monument wanted by Louis XV in honor of Santa Genoveffa (Sainte Geneviève, patroness of Paris). Within this monument several prominent personalities are buried: among others, Jean Jacques Rosseau, Emile Zola and Victor Hugo. From the dome, moreover, you can see a wonderful panorama, which repays the effort necessary to get to the top. It's not over, because besides the Sorbonne and the Pantheon, there are several other things to see: the churches of Saint Etienne du Mont and St. Severine, the Institute of the Arab World e Place St. Michel, full of cafes, bookstores and clubs frequented mainly by young people and students. To be seen!
9 Notre Dame
Together with the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral is the most visited monument in Paris. A majestic church dating back to 1163, the year in which the then bishop Maurice De Sully gave the order to build a building that also symbolized the status of capital of the city on a religious level. The invitation was accepted over time (for the completion of the church it took, in fact, about 2 centuries) by thousands of carpenters, blacksmiths, farriers and artists able to build a a masterpiece of gothic art that still, after hundreds of years, fascinates even those who are completely lacking in art history. It must be said that the church has undergone several alterations over the centuries, the most serious of which certainly during the tumultuous years of the French Revolution. Only in the nineteenth century, specifically after the literary fortunes of Victor Hugo's novel of the same name ("Notre Dame de Paris"), did the desire to put an end to the decay that had taken hold of this majestic temple overlooking Ile de la Cité for years , one of the two river islands of the Seine (the other is Ile de Saint Louise). It goes without saying, the church has hosted several events that have marked the history of France and Europe. Among others: the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as emperor and speech with which General Charles De Gaulle greeted the liberation of France during the Second World War. For more information on the history and visiting hours of Notre Dame Cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991) consult the website: www.notredamedeparis.fr.
The appeal of a trip to Paris cannot miss the Palace of Versailles. There is perhaps no building in the world capable of evoking the idea of power in such an eloquent way without, however, losing harmony and grace. It is enough to consider two aspects to better focus what we are talking about: first of all, the fact that the area where Louis XIV (1638-1715) wanted to build the palace was swampy and surrounded by woods. Not surprisingly, Louis XIII, father of the "Sun King", used it as a hunting reserve. The second aspect to keep in mind is the overcrowding that characterized the palace for several years. Louis XIV demanded that the court move almost entirely to Versailles, further sharpening that sense of power and domination we mentioned at the beginning. There are so many things to see that it would take days to get a complete overview. From the Royal Chapel, to the Opera House, passing through the two annexes (Grand and Petit Trianon), refuge, respectively, of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette (consort of Louis XVI), there is really to be breathless in the presence of so many magnificence. Absolutely unmissable Gallery of Mirrors, a 73-meter long room (see photo) famous, among other things, for being the place where the First World War ended with the signature of the famous Treaty of Versailles. For more information on the history, opening hours and how to reach the palace which, let us remember, is about twenty kilometers from Paris, consult the Official site: www.chateauversailles.fr.
Montmartre is another must see on a visit to Paris. District with a strong bohemian soul, it has long been the refuge of the artistic avant-gardes passing through the city. Not just artists, in truth: the political struggle, combined with a strong intellectual fervor, has always marked the days of this hilly area from which - we remember - the revolt of the Paris Commune started in 1871. For some time now, commerce and tourism have replaced artistic experimentation and political passion even if the fascination of sui generis localities, of a real "city within a city", has survived in its inhabitants. Several things to see: Place du Tertre, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (see photo), the cemetery of the same name (Montmartre), obviously not forgetting the Moulin Rouge and Pigalle. The latter is the libertine district par excellence with several red light clubs. It goes without saying that some caution is needed at night.
12 Boat trip on the Seine
Millions of visitors sail through the Seine canals every year. On board the characteristic Bateaux Mouches (fully glazed, partly open and partly closed boats) Paris looks even more beautiful than it normally already is. What makes the difference is not only the unusual perspective from the river, but also the time of day when the excursion takes place and, even more, the chosen formula, since the companies that carry out the service provide different alternatives : from lunch, to an aperitif at sunset, to dinner (the latter particularly romantic). For more information click here.
13 Disneyland Paris
In a list of things to do and see in Paris, it cannot be missing Disneyland Paris, the largest amusement park in Europe (among the top 10 in the world) which since 1992 has attracted millions of visitors a year to the city. To be more precise, a substantial part of these lodges in the hotels belonging to the structure; another part, on the other hand, combines a visit to the French capital with one or more days dedicated to the park. Park which, despite being in Marne la Vallée, 32 kilometers from the city, is very well connected by underground, bus and shuttle service. Obviously the attractions are many, just think that the thematic areas there are two with independent entrances and schedules. The first, Disneyland Park, is dedicated to Disney characters and fairy tales; the second, instead, Walt Disney Studios Park, is dedicated to cinema, animation and special effects. In short, brief hints that already give the idea of how engaging a day at Disneyland Paris can be. It is therefore advisable to plan everything well, relying on the news and advice of the Official site: www.disneylandparis.com.
1 Beware of pickpockets
Do not walk with your wallet in plain sight in the back pocket of your trousers, nor feel too safe in keeping it thrown in bulk in the backpack (or bag). The pickpockets in Paris are numerous and therefore normal precautions are recommended in these cases. In addition to those already mentioned, we can add those of do not wear bracelets, watches, chains and earrings of particular value, and do not circulate late at night in the suburbs of the city.
2 Pay attention to the closing day of the museums
At the beginning we mentioned the huge number of museums in Paris. Here, however, we point out another aspect: pay attention to the closing day. For example, remember that Louvre and Center Pompidou are closed on Tuesdays, while Musée d'Orsay and Palace of Versailles are closed on Mondays. In general, therefore, it is preferable to consult in advance the opening / closing times and days of the museum you intend to visit. The simplest thing is to find out from the official website of each facility. Warn!
3 Don't (necessarily) go up the Eiffel Tower
Agree the Eiffel Tower is among the must-see things in Paris. And, as we said, those who are not satisfied with the visit from below, by purchasing the ticket (first), can climb to the top to enjoy a spectacular view of Paris from 300 meters high. It must be said, however, that there are several alternatives: one is there Sacré Couer Basilica of Montmartre. It's free and the view is just as spectacular. Find out more by visiting the Official site: www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com (Spanish version available).