Some know it as the City of Love, others call it the City of Lights. No matter how you refer to Paris, you have to call it beautiful. As its nation's capital, Paris sits on the Seine River in the heart of France. Covering an area of area of 460 square miles, it is not only a popular tourist destination, but also a very important European business and cultural center.
Paris began on the little island of Ile de la Cite. Boat-like in shape, the island floats in the River Seine and was once just a primitive village. The name Paris originates from the Parisii tribe that made this island its home. It later became the center of political power and the home of church and law. Although no longer the seat of such power, it still encompasses some of remains of the city’s first buildings.
The Seine River is a very important point of reference to the city. Distances are measured from it and it also divides the city into two distinct areas. These are the Right Bank on the North Side and The Left Bank on the South Side. It's been said that practically every
building of importance is either along the river or within a stones throw. Due to this, the heart of Paris can be seen by walking along these banks so filled with history and beautiful architecture.
The perfect place to start exploring is the Eiffel Tower. Designed by engineer Gustave Eiffel and built in 1889 for the World Fair, it was once viewed as ugly and was only supposed to be a temporary addition to the city's skyline. However, it remained and is now and has long been a world renowned symbol of Paris. The world's tallest building until 1931, it stands at 1,063 feet high and has three viewing areas reached by elevators. Lines for these elevators can get very long so try to arrive early. The first level can also be reached by 360 steps so if you're up for some exercise, climb up to the first level and then take an elevator to the top. The lines are much shorter from this level. Also be sure to visit the Tower at night. It’s fascinating light show is one of the most spectacular sights you can enjoy in Paris. It sparkles each hour on the hour for
ten minutes, from dusk until 2 am (1 am in winter).
Heading east along the left bank of the river, you'll see Paris' most decorative bridge, the Pont Alexandre III, and the majestic Dome Church which marks the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte. You'll then pass by the popular Musee d' Orsay before arriving at the Ile de la Cite. It's here where you'll see the twin towers of the very famous Church of Notre Dame. Make your way up the 387 steps of the North Tower to find the popular gargoyles statues as well as an incredible view of Paris.
If you then cross the Pont d' Arcole to the Right Bank (North Side) of the river and head west back toward the Eiffel Tower, you'll find the world's most acclaimed museum, the Musee d' Lourve. It was once Europe's largest Royal Palace and now contains one of the most important art collections, including Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa."
Next to the Lourve is the Jardin des Tuileries. These formal gardens which encompass two fountains are ideal for taking a quiet stroll. With its chalk white sand, it's a great place to
sit and relax and is often frequented by both people and birds.
You'll soon reach the Grand Palais before making your way back to the Palais de Chaillot. Located across the river from the Eiffel Tower, it offers some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower and makes for some great photo opportunities.
If you then head north, you'll hit the Avenue Des Champs-Elysees. This is the place to see and be seen in Paris. Lined with Five-Star hotels, fine restaurants, and upscale shops, it's a great place to people watch and enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Looking west you'll see the historic Arc de Triomphe. The battle of Austerlitz was Napoleon's greatest victory and afterwards he promised his men, "You shall go home beneath Triumphal arches." The following year the first stone of the arch was laid.
There are many churches in Paris worth visiting. Besides the Dome Church and Notre Dame, the Pantheon is nice to see. The facade which resembles that of the Capital Building in Washington has 22 Corinthian Columns. Completing construction in 1790, it was once a location for the tombs of France's good
and great. It was made a civic building in 1885.
Just east of the city center, set on a wooded hill is Paris' most prestigious cemetery, the Cimetiere de Pere Lachaise. So popular that it expanded six times, it's the final resting spot of a number of celebrities. Some of which include: Frederic Chopin, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Sarah Bernhardt, and Oscar Wilde. The cemetery's striking funerary sculptures make it a pleasant place to stroll.
Another site worth checking out is the Moulin Rouge, made popular by the movie. Built in 1885, it became a dance hall as early as 1900. Today it offers Las Vegas style shows which include dancers, computerized lights, and displays of magic.
If planning a vacation, Paris is a wonderful city to consider. Its many popular sights and tasty cuisine will keep both your days and stomach filled. If you have time, be sure to take the train down to Versailles. Its grand palace and gardens make it a great location to spend an afternoon. Whether traveling alone or with that special someone, you will be very pleased with the atmosphere of this favorite European destination.
Travel Tips When to go Spring offers some of the best weather to visitors. Like most of Europe, the summer months of June - August are also great times to visit.
What to see Top Ten Sights
- Eiffel Tower
- Notre Dame
- Arc de Triomphe
- Musee du Lourve
- Palace of Versailles
- Moulin Rouge
- Musee d' Orsay
- Jardin du Luxembourg
- Bois de Boulogne What to buy Anything to do with fashion is great in Paris. Clothing, bags, perfume, and cosmetics are always popular. If you're looking for a gift for a friend or just something to take back home, a nice bottle of French wine or champagne is an excellent choice. What to Eat Good cuisine is a national passion for the French. They put much thought into their ingredients and dishes are often bathed with a rich butter or cream. Escargots is a classic French dish worth a taste. If you need a
boost of energy while out walking, stop by a street stand for a baguette or crepe. Getting Around Since central Paris is so compact, walking is the best way to get around. If making your way across the city, both the metro and bus service is cheap and easy. Try to avoid taxi cabs, as they can be very expensive. Language French Currency Euro Tipping Most resturaunts add a service charge of 15% to the total bill. However, it is still customary to round up to the nearest Euro.
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