Paris is inundated with art galleries and museums; I don’t even know where to start on counting and cataloguing them. Every time I go to Paris I discover another different and/or quirky gallery I never knew existed, such as the Musée National du Moyen Age which I came across on my last trip. Whether you’re into 17th century paintings, 19th century sculpture, 20th century Impressionism or modern day 21st century art, I can guarantee there’s a gallery that’ll be right up your street. And if you’re a keen culture vulture like me, who keeps an eye on “what’s on”, the temporary exhibitions will make you book that flight without even realising it.
This is what happened to me this year. I’ve been to Paris twice: the first time I was drawn in by the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne back in February; then while I was walking around Paris that same trip, I saw the advertising banner at the Musée d’Orsay for the upcoming Henri Rousseau exhibition, (La Douanier Rousseau) and within a week of being back home – I’d booked my next flight back again! I can’t get enough of the Parisian art scene.
You’ve seen them in photos, or on the TV and in films, and you just want to see them for yourself .
They are too numerous to count, but your list will probably look a touch like this: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Notre-Dame, Sacré-Coeur, Paris Opera House, Champs-Elysées, the Panthéon, the Moulin Rouge, La Défense, the Louvre and the Dome des Invalides. I could add about 60 more to my list and I can guarantee you’ll want to keep coming back till you’ve done all the ones on yours. I finally got to do the Opéra Garnier tour on my last trip, something I’ve been longing to do for ages and it was all I dreamed it would be and more.
Now after doing the open top bus tour, I’ve had a glimpse of Paris’s many train stations and realised how beautiful and elegant they are, so next time I’m in Paris, I want to go round all of those. I don’t think I’ll ever be done with Paris!
Everybody loves coming upon a viewpoint whether you’re in a beautiful landscape or a city centre – the more spectacular a view the better, and to see the Paris cityscape is mesmerising, particularly from above. There are many places you can go to get a superb view of Paris.
You can head up the Eiffel Tower of course, but it’s expensive, crowded and you usually have humungous queues to get in. Why not check out the Montparnasse Tower – its €15 to go up, but for an extra €5, you can go back the same day in darkness so you get to see the amazing panorama in both daylight and the dark. There is very little queuing involved if any, and the observation deck is spacious as it fills the entire rooftop, with amazingly comfortable red seats to chill out in and get lost in the view. There are also exhibits telling the story of the Montparnasse Tower and a great little shop. And the best bit – your view of Paris has the Eiffel Tower in it; now you won’t get that if you’d have gone up the Eiffel instead.
A relatively new view of Paris can be had from the big Ferris wheel at the Place de la Concorde. Having previously only been associated with festive celebrations in Paris, it has now been there since November 2015 and offers spectacular views of the city from a brilliant central vantage point.
Of course, we all like free views and there’s none better than from the steps of the Sacré-Coeur. You’ll be amongst a gazillion people with their selfie sticks, plus the guys trying to sell you the selfie sticks, but just ignore the street sellers and concentrate on that view. It’s glorious…and free!
Many say the Seine is not just at the heart of the city, but IS the heart of the city. It’s a fabulous river to wander along and forget your worries, to go for a morning run along or to indulge in a lunchtime picnic. With many sections on both sides available to walk along at water level away from the traffic, it’s the number 1 place in Paris for a romantic stroll, all the while drinking in the great riverside architecture and the beautiful views up and down its length. This activity never gets old no matter how many trips you take to the French capital. The banks of the Seine are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are numerous companies offering cruises along the Seine too, an attraction high up on many Parisian bucket lists. These offer excellent informative commentaries of all the buildings along the Seine and their place in Parisian history.
Some of the city’s best architecture is reflected in its churches and chapels and Paris has literally hundreds of them in a variety of styles reflecting the different periods of architecture of the last thousand years.
Finest medieval Gothic creations include the famous Notre-Dame and Sainte-Chapelle, but lesser known is the oldest surviving abbey church in Paris of St-Germain-des-Prés. St-Etienne-du-Mont is a great example of the Renaissance; Baroque Classical examples include Chapelle de la Sorbonne and the Dome des Invalides; the Panthéon and Eglise St-Sulpice are Neo-Classical and then there’s the modern Sacré-Coeur and Mosquée de Paris.
I’ve covered those iconic buildings; I’ve covered the varied churches, but what about all those buildings you come across just ambling down the street – the Boulevard St-Germain or the Rue de Rivoli? Extensive Neo-Classical arcading and apartments turn the humble apartment block into a work of art. Mansions built in the late Renaissance style are 10 a penny, and the elegant belle-époque style covers large areas of Paris. It would seem that around every corner is an architectural surprise.
On my last trip I was walking down the Rue St Antoine from the Bastille and as I looked to the right down the Rue de Birague, my curiosity was piqued by the building at the end of the road which featured an impressive arched entrance, but to where? It seemed too grand for there to be nothing of consequence on the other side, so I went to investigate – and I found the Place des Vosges, a stunning architectural gem and a square of perfect symmetry: 9 houses on each side in red brick and pale stone with deep grey slate roofs and dormer windows. It was beautiful and very peaceful with perfectly manicured grassy gardens and cropped tree lines. I had no idea it was there and was glad I had investigated! You’ll never get bored wandering around Paris.
Paris has so many parks and gardens though they are overlooked by most in favour of those iconic buildings and experiences.
I know my very first trip to Paris did not feature any gardens and my second trip only the Jardin des Tuileries as I walked from the Louvre to Place de la Concorde, and from recollection this wasn’t the most inspiring of spaces; however once I’d discovered the Jardin du Luxembourg; the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont and the Jardin des Plantes over my last few trips, I was addicted! There are so many beautiful parks and at least one should feature on any trip to Paris – the Bois de Vincennes to the East of Paris and the Bois de Boulogne to the West are on my checklist for next time.
Check out this link here to see Time Out’s Top 10 Parks and Gardens – you may be pleasantly surprised and want to add one to your Paris itinerary!
There is no denying that Paris and food have a chequered history: the food is good, but it has a reputation for being expensive with not a lot served up on the plate. However contrary to popular belief, you can eat out in Paris without breaking the bank and it’s excellent.
Yes, if you choose to eat alongside the river or in the major tourist hotspots, it’s likely to be dear; but a stone’s throw from Notre-Dame on the left bank in the 5th Arr, you will find literally hundreds of restaurants, all next to each other with 2 course dinners for €12 – 16 or 3 courses from €15. You’ll find your traditional steak-frites on the menu as well as moules-frites, duck in orange, beef bourguignon, venison and rabbit dishes, risottos and pasta. I ate at one of these places every night I was in Paris and all were fabulous meals, with unlimited French bread or olives to start. I could also indulge in my favourite dessert every night – Crème Brûlée. Oooo, my mouth is watering just writing about it!
If you choose to eat in a pricier more upmarket area, check out online reviews and choose well so you have a great experience and aren’t left with a…. bitter taste in your mouth. I can recommend the Musée d’Orsay’s restaurant – there is only a small à la carte menu to choose from but its superb quality and you get to dine in palatial surroundings.
Marne-la-Vallée, a town to the East of Paris is home to Disneyland Paris and is the most visited theme park in all of Europe. The original Disneyland Park opened in 1992, followed by Walt Disney Studios Park in 2002 and now has numerous Disney hotels on site too. With a direct rail link to the city centre via the RER A line, it’s so easy and quick to get out to Disneyland from the city centre that the two are happily linked in a twin centre stay. The draw of Disneyland brings a whole other group of tourists to Paris and many make annual trips to this fabulous theme park.
Every year for the last 14 years, a beach comes to Paris. Every summer the road on the right bank of the river is closed for 4 weeks and BAM – instant beach! Well, once the ingredients of 5,500 tons of sand, 250 blue umbrellas, 800 chairs, 350 deck chairs, 250 sun-loungers, 200 tables, 4 ice-cream sellers and 8 cafes magically appear; not to mention 250 people to build the beach and 450 people to work there. This urban beach resort is pretty cool and quite something to see. And it brings people back to Paris, year after year after year!
How many times have you been to Paris? What are your “must sees”? And what makes you return to Paris?