Ahhh, the City of Love. Many people think of Europe and at the top of their list is one if its most popular – and most magical – cities: Paris. I have been to this amazing city a couple of times, and each time brings a sense of fashion, sophistication, romance, and gastronomy. There are of course, some must-sees. But I’ll also provide a list of lesser-known or often forgotten sites that are worth a visit. Sometimes the best place is that little coffee shop around the corner, or an antique book store on a side street. So, allow this guide to help plan your travels, but always leave room for a little spontaneity and exploration once you’re there. You may be swept away.
1. The Eiffel Tower
You knew this was coming. There is just no way you can go to Paris without seeing the spectacle of the Eiffel Tower. At the bare minimum, see it during the day. But you should really aim to watch the sparkling lights after the sun goes down. The first time I saw the Eiffel Tower light up, I almost cried at the sight (which was only made more magical by a beautiful violinist playing softly nearby). Make this experience even better by grabbing a crepe from one of the vendor stalls nearby. And if you’re really going all out, go up to the top! I didn’t do this my first trip in Paris, but I went up when I visited the second time, and it was very worth it.
2. Notre Dame
Even if you’re not religious, this cathedral is so beautiful it is worth the visit. Ever heard of the Bells of Notre Dame? Hear them in person. The Hunchback? He could be up there too. There are usually long lines to get inside, but the line tends to move pretty quickly as people make a circuit around the inside of the church. Once inside, you’ll see what all of the hype is about. The stained glass windows seem to stretch forever upward towards the incredibly high ceilings. And the Gothic style of the building gives it a medieval magnificence. If you give a small donation to support the upkeep of the church, you can light a candle facing the altar. Be sure you don’t miss all of the statues, paintings, and murals around the perimeter of the walls. And if you’re spiritual, take a seat in the hall and say a prayer. There is probably no place more surreal to say a prayer.
3. The Louvre Museum
One of the most renowned museums in the world, the Louvre is full of history, sculptures, and beautiful paintings. Of the most famous pieces – Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. Definitely buy tickets ahead of time, which will give you a time slot in which to enter, because tourists flock this destination and the lines can be insane. This museum is so vast that it can take an entire day, or more, to see the whole thing. As much as you may want to see every exhibit, you’ll just have to admit to yourself that it simply can’t be done. To avoid exhaustion and disappointment, make a game plan ahead of time of the top things you’d like to see, then get out before you get lost in a maze of artifacts and marble steps.
4. The Love Lock Bridge
Many romantic movie scenes have featured the all-famous Love Lock Bridge. But you should know, the original bridge is no longer covered in locks. They had to be taken down, after it was decided the locks were too heavy to stay on the bridge safely. Luckily, the city understood the importance of this tradition, so there is now a “New” Love Lock Bridge, just a short walk from the original. Here, the locks are monitored more closely, so when one section of the bridge gets filled up, they put a glass pane in front of it to avoid the same situation as last time. This way, people can be sure their locks will be able to stay.
5. Views from Arc de Triomph
The views of the Paris skyline are arguably the best from the top of Arc de Triomph. Even if you go to the top of the Eiffel Tower – the view does not include the most iconic Paris symbol – the Eiffel Tower itself! The Arc de Triomph provides 360 degree views of Paris and it’s city streets, featuring the Eiffel Tower as the crown jewel. Although it was pretty misty on the day we went, it only added to the mystic feeling of these views.
1. Sacre Coeur
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, or Sacre Coeur, is located in Montmartre, and must less visited than Notre Dame. There are no pictures allowed inside, but it was truly one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. I shed a tear when I walked in the front door. It is located at the top of a hill, and you have to walk up a lot of stairs to reach it, but that makes the views from the top even more magnificent.
2. Shop the Hidden Passages
When we checked into our Airbnb, our host was kind enough to give us plenty of suggestions. One of which, were the hidden passages of Paris. These covered galleries contain shops, cafes, and restaurants, and connect to each other to form passageways throughout the city. If you do your research and know where to look for one of the entrances, you could feel like a local and shop or dine away from the tourists.
3. Sainte-Chapelle, Kingdom of Light
Some argue that this cathedral is even more beautiful than Notre Dame. While it doesn’t have as many sculptures and coves as the more famous cathedral, Sainte-Chapelle has some of the most beautiful stained glass work that I’ve ever seen. It’s no question why they call this the Kingdom of Light – light comes in from all angles and illuminates the gorgeous glass work covering every side of the building.
Wherever you decide to go in Paris, you will see beautiful sights, eat beautiful food, and meet beautiful people. Hit the must-sees, but then take some time to figure out what else you’d like to see and explore. Paris has endless things to do and see, so make the most of what you can do with however long you’re there. It’s sure to leave you with that magical feeling it brings to many visitors from around the world.