City Guide to Paris, Part 2: Exploring and Must See Attractions

City Guide to Paris, Part 2: Exploring and Must See Attractions

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We set our sights on Paris! It was a city on our bucket list, one we really hoped we’d be able to see on our European travel adventure. It’s the city everyone knows about and so many people dream of visiting. When you think of Europe, one of the places you probably picture is Paris. So, you better believe we were thrilled beyond belief to be offered an opportunity to house sit in Paris. It wasn’t city center, but, like our London house sit, it was within a 20-30 minute train ride, which was good enough for us. We packed our backpacks and said goodbye to Cairo. No time to look back, we were going to Paris!

As we prefer it, the flight to Paris was thankfully uneventful. We landed at Charles de Gaulle Aiport (CDG) and made our way through customs. Schengen is great, because it allows easy travel between Schengen member countries. It also means you’re not having to go through passport control. That’s a good thing, except it means no entry stamp in our passport. It’s silly, but it’s so cool to have a book with official stamps from everywhere we’ve visited. At least we got a stamp on the way out!

House Sitting in Paris

Usually, when we land in a new place, we’re immediately immersed into the city through the public transportation system. In Paris, the homeowners, Daniel and Nicole, were gracious enough to pick us up at the airport. We spotted them immediately, and we greeted them with hugs. They were just as kind in person as they’d been on Skype and in email. This house sit plans had unfolded a bit different from others. The original listing was to care for the home and two cats, Pepita and Sandy. What was new to us, was that the Daniel and Nicole would be coming back home each day to give insulin to Sandy, so as you can imagine, their vacation spot was close by. It was a new dynamic, but we appreciated the additional time to get to know Daniel and Nicole better. We’d committed to the house sit several weeks in advance and as we got closer to the commencement date, we got some fun news. Daniel and Nicole had adopted a stray, pregnant cat and she’d given birth to five adorable kittens! They were just a couple of weeks old when we arrived, but by the time we left, we witnessed the quiet, sleepy, dependent kittens turn into a group of five rambunctious and curious little guys. In the beginning, a pillow could block their way, but by the time we left, nothing seemed to stand in their way. On our last morning, they even started eating solid food. We had such a great time with all three cats and the kittens!

On our first night in Paris Daniel and Nicole were gracious enough to share a meal with us. During dinner they introduced us to French cheese, something we quickly learned was traditionally a must at the end of every meal. We learned about their daughters, their lives, and we made a genuine connection with them both. They showed us around their town, which was just what you’d expect of a suburb of Paris. They opened their doors to us and made us feel right at home. We knew we’d meet amazing people on our journey, but never realized the geniune connections we’d make along the way.

 

Clockwise (from the top): Homeowners and friends - Daniel and Nicole, the curious kittens in their bed, Shannon with the kittens and their mama as they ate their first solid food, one of the adventurous kittens who climbed on the bed, the solid black kitten just like its mama.

 

Exploring Paris

Clockwise (from the top): Paris is beautiful down to the street lamps - this was in Place de la Concorde (Concord Square), the chapel in the Palais National des Invalides, the dome on the Museum of Contemporary History, the courtyard of Le Palais Royal, view of  Musée d'Orsay from the Pont Royal.

At six-months into our year of traveling through Europe, we’ve visited several major cities. We knew we’d likely enjoy Paris, but probably no more than we did London, Edinburgh, Istanbul, or Amsterdam. However, we were genuinely surprised at how much we liked Paris. Dare we say it was our favorite city so far? (Although, we must stick to our previous statements that we’ve most enjoyed the natural wonders on our journey. So, green hills, steep cliffs, and beaches in Ireland, still hold the top place for us). The suburbs in Paris were quaint and had a charm to them that only a French town could offer. We were able to walk everywhere and enjoy the beautiful weather and bright blue skies. As we walked throughout the city traffic didn’t seem overwhelming or unmanageable, in our opinion. On the other hand, we didn’t drive since public transportation and walking were great at getting us comfortably to everywhere we wanted to go. Paris is full of beautiful, ornate architecture, and cafes and shops that line the busy streets. The city is full of people, but we didn’t experience the anxious hustle and bustle of London, New York, or Los Angeles. People seemed to be more calm and relaxed as they went about their daily commute and business. This was evident by the parks that dotted the city; not only were they absolutely beautiful, but they were full of people relaxing, exercising, and enjoying the day. While the French have a reputation for being rude, we didn’t experience that at all, we found people to be generally helpful and kind. Perhaps it was because we made an effort to speak a few words of French, like ‘bonjour’ (hello) and ‘merci’ (thank you)?

Must See Sights in Paris

Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris) should be on your Paris itinerary. It's a steep walk to the top (take the frunicular if you prefer), but well worth it. The view over the city, the unique architecture, and the stunning artwork inside the basilica will definitely make your photo album! 

We spent a couple of days sightseeing in Paris. When we weren’t playing with the kittens or doing work, we were likely in city center exploring the city. Before we arrived in France, we did our research and made a list of everything we wanted to see, do, and visit. While we didn’t have enough time to explore each of the 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods) thoroughly (we'll be back Paris!), we did cover a lot of ground!

So, to possibly make your research on sightseeing in Paris (and other destinations) easier, we’ve kept our maps with all of the information we gathered (accurate at the time of our sightseeing). Finding hours, prices, and general information can sometimes be challenging, so we’ve tried to include these details on our maps and provide appropriate links below. And finally, not every attraction is suitable for every visitor, but the copywriters and marketing departments for the destinations sure make it sound like it. How many times have you read “Great for kids and adults alike” and shown up to wonder why anyone over 20 years-old without kids would go out of their way to be there? Below we’ve included our itinerary with tips, impressions, and our takeaways on each place that, when combined with the official attraction information and website, may help you decide if it’s a destination for your travel adventure or not.

 

NOTE: We used this sightseeing map for our personal sightseeing adventures, because of that some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated. Information on this map was valid at the time of creation. All prices are shown in US dollars but are actually Euros (local currency). That being said, feel free to save it to your Google account and use it as a starting point (or modify it accordingly) for planning out your personalized itinerary in Paris. 

The map above is inclusive of everything we saw and did in Paris. However, we want to highlight some of our favorites. We’ve included the most famous attractions, that you’ll find in every ‘must-see’ list of attractions, but primarily we’ve included the hidden gems and the destinations that you don’t come across in every blog and article about Paris. Hopefully, you’ll love them as much as we did!

 

Clockwise (top to bottom): A view of Sainte Chapelle from across the street, a golden sculpture in front of the Grand Palais, the exterior of the Patheon, Pont Alexandre III, the exterior of Moulin Rouge.

 

Without further ado, here are some of our favorite sights in Paris.

Walk the City

By far, just like most other places we visit, our favorite thing to do while sightseeing was walk around the city. Going from destination to destination, walking is the best way to see the town in a way you never would be able to on a train, in a car, or even on a bus. When we’re walking we can take a detour down the interesting street we pass, or walk through a park that wasn’t on our map. We get a feel for the locals and how they live. So our absolute, number one tip to sightseeing in Paris, is to walk around!

When you need more than just walking, we recommend using public transportation. Don't miss City Guide to Paris: Public Transportation

Eiffel Tower

Clockwise (from the top): View of the Eiffel Tower from the popular Esplanade du Trocadéro, us at Parc du Champ de Mars, a panoramic view from Pont de Bir-Hakeim.

Built out of wrought iron and named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, the Eiffel tower was built as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. It measures 1,063 feet tall and was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 40 years. It's now home to dozens of radio and television antennae. It’s said to be the most visited paid monument in the world, so be prepared for crowds. The Eiffel Tower has three levels open to visitors:

  • Level One (bottom) – There’s a restaurant, buffet, souvenir shop, restrooms, and a place to purchase tickets on the first level. Here you can view a section of the original spiral stair case, as well as visit the observatory for understanding the movement of the tower due to wind.
  • Level Two – This level offers panoramic views of Paris. There’s a restaurant, souvenir shop, and a place to purchase entrance tickets.
  • Level Three (top) – This level offers panoramic views of Paris from the open-air deck. Restrooms are available on this level. There’s a Champagne bar and an exhibit on the history of the Eiffel Tower.

You can save time by purchasing tickets in advance online. You’ll need to choose a date and time that you’d like to visit (slots are in 30 minute increments). You can print the tickets or show the digital tickets on your device. Dates fill up quickly, so if the time you want to visit isn’t available online, you can still show up and queue in line to purchase tickets for immediate use.

We recommend downloading the PDF Eiffel Tower Tour Guide.

We found some of the best places to view the tower from afar to be the Parc du Champ de Mars, the observation deck of the Arc de Triomphe, and from the Bir-Hakeim bridge. The view point from the park is popular with tourists, but nowhere near as crowded as the Esplanade du Trocadéro. The bridge was the real hidden gem, as we had a unique view of the tower and were virtually the only tourists there; unfortunately, the graffiti on the wall took away from the experience a bit.

 

The Eiffel Tower is synonymous with Paris. Taking pictures from all over Paris was a must!

 

Parks and Gardens in Paris

Paris is said to have more than 420 municipal parks and gardens in the cit that cover over 7,000 acres and are home to well over 250,000 trees. Statistics aside, one of the things we were most impressed about with Paris, was it’s parks. They are beautifully maintained with lush green spaces and many types of water ways, with rivers and fairy tale bridge crossings, and ponds where you can float remote controlled sailboats in. We found parks here to be utilized by locals and tourists so much more than we’ve seen in any other country so far. We saw people playing Ping-Pong, chess, and tennis. Families gathered, kids played, and friends met up for a meal in the sun.

Clockwise (from the top): A garden at Le Palais Royal, the view from Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris) and the garden below, our shadows in one of the many Paris parks.

We intentionally went to some parks and gardens, and others we just stumbled upon while exploring the city. Some are small and some are huge. Most have lines of dense trees providing shade for those who need a rest from the sun but still want the fresh air. Overall, we were thoroughly impressed with the green spaces and could spend quite a bit more time in Paris just exploring and spending time in its parks and gardens.

Here’s a roundup of our favorite parks and gardens (so far!)….

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Although set a bit outside of the center of Paris, this was by far our favorite park. It was once a gypsum and limestone quarry, but now is a park of wonder. There are many paths to choose from in this park, but we were drawn to the path that would take us to the top of the peak in the center of the park. We crossed the water on a suspension bridge and wound our way to the top, where we found the temple to Sibylle and panoramic views over the city of Paris. Wander the paths to find grottoes, waterfalls, and the tracks of the abandoned Petite Ceinture railway line.

 

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont was our favorite park that we visited in Paris!

 

Tuileries Garden

Tuileries Garden is located between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde. There are plenty of green lounge chairs to sit back and relax in around the fountain. We saw people taking a nap, hanging out with friends, people watching, and having a snack. Beyond the center fountain and pathway, you can enjoy the greens of the garden.

 

Two panorama views of Tuileries Garden.

 

Parc Monceau

This 18th century park is known for its beauty and has inspired many famous paintings. We suggest experiencing the elegance of this park by entering through the wrought iron and gold gates that can be found at the intersection of Rue de Phalsbourg and Boulevard de Courcelles.

 

Take the time to explore Parc Monceau and you'll find treasures throughout the park!

 

Place des Vosges

This is the oldest planned square in Paris and was originally called Place Royale when it was built between 1605 and 1612. It was a place for nobility to meet and today in the center of the 17th and 18th century homes that line the square, is a lovely garden. 

 

Clockwise (from the top): Around the corner from Place des Vosges we discovered the garden at Hotel de Sully, the archway between the garden and the homes surrounding the square, a panorama of the garden that shows the corner fountains and the row of trees that provide shade, the beautiful 17th and 18th century homes that surround the square.

 

Luxembourg Gardens

This garden is set in front of the Luxembourg palace and was created by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV. The garden is expansive and it was full of visitors on the sunny afternoon we visited. You can even rent remote controlled sailboats to float in the fountains.

 

Clockwise (from the top): A panorama of the garden looking towards the palace, a sculpture in the garden is part of the greenery, the pond in the garden with the Luxembourg Palace in the background.

 

Parc de la Villette

As the third largest park in Paris, this one makes our list because it’s home to many attractions. Come here to visit the City of Science and Industry and see the sky reflected in the enormous mirrored sphere (La Géode) that houses the IMAX theater. See a show at the Philharmonie de Paris, a theatrical performance at the Théâtre Paris-Villette, or a concert at Le Zénith or Le Trabendo. If the park isn’t enough, you can visit one of the ten themed gardens, like Garden of the Dragon, the Trellis Garden, or the bamboo Garden. Check visiting information, available attractions, and activity information on the La Villette website.

 

Clockwise (from the top): The large open grass area in the park, the Philharmonie de Paris that's in Parc de la Villette, La Géode - the mirrored sphere in front of the City of Science and Industry, our reflection in Philharmonie de Paris' mirrored exterior.

 

The Louvre Museum

The Louvre is a large building - if you're in the courtyard where the main entrance with the glass pyramids are, don't miss the rest of the palace by passing through the east archway to another courtyard and fountain. The top two images are of the Louvre Palace. The bottom image is of the well perserved fortress walls.

The Louvre isn’t only one of the most famous museums in the world, it’s also the largest. And we don’t mean it’s big, we mean it’s huge, it’s enormous, it’s gigantic! It’s a total of 652,300 square feet (almost 15 acres!) and has over 35,000 pieces of art on display (380,000 pieces total, including those not on exhibit). It was originally built in 1190 CE as a fortress to prevent invasions from the north. Like any good fortress, it had a 98 foot tall tower and a moat surrounding it. Surprisingly, very well preserved remains of the fortress can still be seen in the museum. The fortress fell into disuse and was rebuilt as a palace in 1527, and was largely expanded with new wings and galleries being added throughout the next century. In 1682 the royal residence was moved to the newly completed Palace of Versailles and the Louvre was left unused. It wasn’t until 1793 that it was opened as a museum, with 537 paintings. The museum, during Napoleon’s reign was renamed Musée Napoleon, and while its collection was expanded by 5,000 pieces, the art was ultimately returned to their original owners after Napoleon’s fall in 1814. Then, during World War II, the museum was emptied of the most valuable and movable pieces of work before Paris was occupied by Germany. The Nazis used the Louvre as a clearing house for stolen items from wealthy French families. In recent history, the Louvre underwent renovation in 1983 and the glass pyramid that is synonymous with the Louvre was unveiled in 1988.

There are eight departments to see in the Louvre: Near Eastern Antiquities; Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculptures; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

Mistakes we made:

All images of the glass pyramids and fountains in the courtyard at the Louvre. The main entrance to the Louvre is inside the larger pyramid.

  • We went unprepared. We thought it would be like other museums we’d visited and that we’d walk in, walk through, and leave seeing most of what we wanted to see. In the end, we were there for a few hours and saw a very small percentage of the museum. Instead, what we should have done was familiarize ourselves with what there’s to see in the museum and then review the interactive Louvre Museum map ahead of time. Then, we’d have had a clear game plan, including what order we wanted to see everything in.
  • We arrived at opening time, a few minutes before 9 am, and there was already a 100 person, or so, line. On top of that, because we weren’t part of a tour and hadn’t purchased tickets in advance, the line we were in, for those needing to purchase tickets at the door, was the last line to enter the museum. Once we got in, there were already significant crowds and queues. If we had more flexibility in our schedule while in Paris and could do it all over again we’d arrive later in the day, after 3 pm, or choose to visit on either Wednesday or Friday after 6 pm, when the museum is said to be less busy.
  • We entered through the main entrance. There’s something to be said about entering through the iconic pyramid and going down the escalators into the center of the main lobby. However, the other entrances are less utilized and therefore have shorter queues.

At every corner we turned in the Louvre we encountered beautiful masterpieces. Even the architecture of the museum was worth a picture.

  • We went in an orderly manner, starting at the main entrance and working our way through. Not only is it impossible to see the entire museum in a day, but if we’d tried, chances are we’d have been exhausted and unmotivated to sightsee the rest of the day. While we arrived first thing in the morning, we should’ve gone straight to the most famous art pieces, therefore missing the crowds and tours that crowd around these popular areas. 
  • We only planned a few hours for our visit to the Louvre, but in reality, there’s no way that a few hours is enough time. People spend the entire day here and barely scratch the surface. What we should've done was allocat at least half the day to exploring the Louvre. If you have a huge place in your heart for art and want to explore even more, plan a full day. If you have the luxury, go over several days and see a wing at a time.

The Most Famous Pieces of Art on Display

The most famous pieces of art at the Louvre, are the ones, if you want to see them, you should go to straight away. Otherwise, you’ll be enjoying them with crowds of other people. And, with 15,000 visitors a day, by crowds we mean hoards. Take it from us, you may find yourself being pushed out of the way, or have cameras shoved in your face while you try to admire them. The Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory are the three most popular pieces and should be seen first.

  • The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci – It’s small, 21 by 30 inches, covered in bullet proof glass and has barriers keeping visitors several feet back. Find this treasure in room six.
  • Venus de Milo – A sculpture known as the armless beauty. Created between 130 and 100 BCE, this is one of the most well-known ancient Greek Sculptures and is thought to depict the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite.
  • Winged Victory of Samothrace – Also known as Nike of Samothrace, it's a sculpture of a winged goddess that was created in approximately 190 BCE. Officially, the sculptor is unknown, although some attribute credit to Pythokritos of Lindos.
  • Code of Hammurabi – Dating to 1754 BCE, the code of the Ancient Babylonian King Hammurabi is one of the oldest written texts in the world. It’s written law that includes the phrase “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.
  • Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, by Antonio Canova – An 18th century Neoclassical sculpture, famed for the emotion shown between Cupid and the awakening Psyche.
  • Dying Slave, by Michelangelo – This 16th century sculpture depicts a slave in agony, standing in contrapposto.
  • Liberty Leading the People, by Eugene Delacroix – The Famous French Revolution painting where the goddess Liberty leads the charge in the battlefield.
  • Great Sphinx of Tains – This is one of the largest sphinx outside of Egypt, which dates back to the Old Kingdom, 2600 BCE. It was excavated in 1825 from the Temple of Amun at Tanis.
  • Winged Bulls – Two larger than life sculptures from 700 BCE Mesopotamia that have the head of a man, a body of a bull, and the wings of a bird.
 

Left to right: Venus de Milo, The Mona Lisa in it's case taken from as close as visitors can get, a larger image of The Mona LisaWinged Victory of Samothrace.

 

Still not sure where to start or what to see? The Louvre offers Visitor Trails. They’re thematic trails, or routes through the museum. View and print them off online.

Additional Tips

  • Admission and entrance information.
  • There are three entrances (download the PDF Louvre Map):
    • The main entrance is in the center of the courtyard and through the glass pyramid. It’s the busiest entrance, and you may want to avoid it.
    • The Carrousel du Louvre is the underground shopping mall attached to the Louvre. Enter here for shorter security lines, as well as access to several Louvre ticket machines. Find an entrance on either side of the Arc du Carrousel, go down the stairs and through the double doors. There’s also an entrance that's wheel chair accessible in the North Wing, across the street from the Palais-Royal/Musée de Louvre metro station.
    • The least known entrance is the Porte des Lions Entrance, in the south wing. Reach it by going through the courtyard, past the pyramids towards the Seine River, and turn right (west) to follow the building into the Tuileries garden. The entrance is flanked by two large lions and unlike the other doors, the doorway doesn’t have a large glass door. Recently, it’s been closed due to increased security and is only available for groups. However, if you find it open it’s the entrance closest to the Mona Lisa, if you want to make a dash straight there.
 

Clockwise (from the top): Taken from the Palais-Royal/Musée de Louvre metro station - the large archway leads to the courtyard where the main entrance is - but the smaller doorway to the right is an alternate entrance to 'Le Carrrousel', looking into the pyramid where you can see the escalator that takes visitors down to the main lobby, the main lobby of The Louvre under the glass pyramid, the stairway on the side of the Arc du Carrousel that leads to the lesser known entrance, a map of the Le Carrousel.

 
  • Don’t buy your tickets online. Yes, you read that correctly, it’s not worth it. You have to choose a time slot (in half-hour increments), which means you can’t show up when you’re ready to visit. Instead, you can purchase your tickets at the automated ticket machines in the underground Carrousel du Louvre shopping center, or purchase your tickets at the Civette du Carrousel tobacconist shop on level 0.
  • Are you traveling with a child? Rent a stroller for free at the information desk below the main pyramid. While you're at it, don’t forget to pick up the free museum ‘hunts’ for kids.
  • Arrive Late. We know, we usually recommend arriving early. However, everyone seems to do that at the Louvre, especially the tours. Instead, it’s recommended to show up after 3 pm, or even later on Wednesday or Friday when they are open until 9:45 pm.
  • Get in for free on the last Sunday of the month, October through March. However, if you want to avoid crowds, we recommend paying the entrance fee and skipping these extremely popular days.
  • Tickets are good for the entire day. Feel free to exit for a break, to get some sunshine, and eat a snack in the gardens.
  • Get in for free! If you're under 18 of any nationality, or between 18 and 25 years old and a resident of the European Economic Area, you get in for free. Plus, on Friday evenings, after 6 pm, every visitor under the age of 26 gets in for free.
  • Navigating the museum is a challenge in and of itself, so be sure to get a paper map. Better yet, how about an app for your smartphone!? The building is ‘U’ shaped and has three wings, Denon, Sully, and Richelieu. Additionally, there’s four floors: lower, ground, first, and second. Be sure to make use of the elevators and wear comfortable shoes!
  • If you want to read the signs about the art pieces, you’ll need to know French. Alternatively, you can get an audio guide (also available in the app mentioned above).
 

Greek sculptures in the Louvre and the Apollo Gallery (bottom left).

 

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Clockwise (from the top): The magnificent archways and stained glass in Notre-Dame Cathedral that left us looking up as we moved through the church, the front exterior of the cathedral, the rear of the cathedral taken from Square Jean XXIII.

Notre-Dame Cathedral is a prime example of Gothic architecture. Its construction began in 1163 CE and took 170 years to complete. Historically significant dates of the cathedral include Napoleon Bonaparte's coronation as Emperor in 1804 and the publishing of Victor Hugo’s, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in 1831. Visiting the cathedral isn’t something you want to rush. While there, take a moment to look up and admire the intricate detail on the exterior of the cathedral. You’ll notice the gargoyles; not only do they scare off 'evil spirits', but they protect the exterior of the building by draining water from the gutters. Also, if you look all the way up you’ll notice the 12 apostles represented in statues on the main spire.

The cathedral is free to enter, but crowds line up early, with the line getting longer as the day goes on. We arrived about 10 minutes before the opening at 8 am and only had a couple of people in line ahead of us. Once we got inside, our attention was immediately drawn to the stained glass windows, as well as the spectacular pillars and archways. After taking everything in, we understood why it’s such a famous church, it was simply stunning. We recommend taking special notice of both the North Rose Window, dedicated to the Old Testament, and the South Rose Window, dedicated to the New Testament. There are also three organs in the cathedral, but most impressive is the Great Organ, as it’s the largest organ in France and has 8,000 pipes and five keyboards.

Clockwise (from the top): Near the front of the church - looking up at the North Rose Window, Notre-Dame Cathedral from the Seine River, looking towards the altar, a close-up of the altar in the cathedral.

If you choose, you can also climb the 387 stairs to the top of the towers for the popular picture with the gargoyle in the foreground and the Eiffel tower in the background. Don't forget, before you get to the viewpoint, take notice of the tenor bell, Emmanuel, which weighs over 1,100 pounds! Tickets for the towers are €10 and the entrance can be found at the North tower, around the left side of the cathedral (when facing it). The towers open a couple of hours after the cathedral does, but lines start early and get long quickly, since the number of people allowed in the towers at once is limited. Before visiting, be sure to check for updated visitor information.

Before you leave, don’t forget to go around back and see the church from the gardens of Square Jean XXIII. It’s like seeing a completely different church than the one you saw from the front of the cathedral. We were in the garden around 8:30 am and were able to enjoy the square without any other visitors around. We took a few moments to take in the grandeur of the cathedral while we were in front of the Fountain of the Virgin and surrounded by cherry and lime trees.

Finally, don't overlook the crypt and the treasury, they both require separate tickets but are integral parts of the Cathedral's history. Remember to check out the Notre-Dame Cathedral webpage for visiting information, cathedral news, and more.

 

Left to right: The exterior of Notre-Dame Cathedral, the West Rose Window behind the organ, the South Rose Window.

 

Arc de Triomphe

When we walked out of the metro and crossed the street to stand in front of the Arc de Triomphe, we realized we were standing in front of the arch that so many of the other cities we’d been to had attempted to recreate. They’d all done fine work and had beautiful arches, however, nothing comes close to the Arc de Triomphe, the world’s largest arch (until 1982). Although, it’s worth noting the arch is said to be modeled off the Arch of Titus in Rome, we'll let you know how it compares when we get to Rome! We viewed the famous monument from across the street first and then made our way down the stairs to cross under the street and come back up in the center of the roundabout, where the Arc de Triomphe stands. For your own safety don’t try crossing the street at surface level, the traffic is very dense and there are no crosswalks.

Clockwise (from the top): Looking down the passageway below Place Charles de Gualle that leads to the center of the roundabout and the Arc de Triomphe, looking down Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe, the Arc de Triomphe, looking up at the center archway.

Walking up the stairs, into the center of the roundabout, with the 164 foot archway towering above us, and the traffic joining from 12 streets and buzzing in circles around us, was an experience in and of itself. We admired the detail and sculptures from every angle and side of the archway, it was amazing! The arch was first commissioned by Napoleon, in 1806, as a ceremonial entrance to Paris and to commemorate the accomplishments of the French army. You can see the list of the 660 generals in the French army during Napoleons reign inscribed on the arch (an underline indicates their death during battle). The many reliefs and sculptures on the arch are to commemorate Napoleon’s battles and other French victories. You'll also notice that on the ground in front of the arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it commemorates all of the unknown French soldiers who gave their lives during World War I with an eternal flame. Arrive at 6:30 pm and you'll see the daily ceremony to rekindle the flame. The Arc de Triomphe was completed in 1836 and has since been the meeting point for victory marches, including the march of allied troops in 1944 led by Charles de Gaulle.

The observation deck atop the arch can be reached by climbing 234 steps. It’s worth a visit for one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower. We considered going to the observation deck of the Montparnasse (skyscraper) for a view of the Skyline with the Eiffel Tower, but ultimately, concluded that the view from the Arc de Triomphe was better, as it’s closer to the Eiffel Tower. You’ll have great views of arguably one of the world’s most famous streets, the tree-lined Champs-Elysées, which connects the Arc de Triomphe with the Place de la Concorde. Before visiting, check the Arc de Triomphe's website for the most up-to-date visitor information.

 

Clockwise (from the top): Us in front of the Arc de Triomphe, the center of the archway, one of the sculptures on the arch, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and eternal flame.

 

Rue des Martyrs

On our way from seeing Moulin Rouge and walking towards Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris), we made our way down Rue des Martyrs. It’s an old market street that has been a neighborhood market for over 200 years. As we made our way closer to Sacré-Cœur, we found a lot of ‘touristy’ stores, but before that we passed an array of shops that ranged from produce and fish to boutiques, chocolate shops, and cabarets. This is a busy but charming shopping street that shouldn’t be missed for a true Parisian experience.

 

Clockwise (from the top): Paris skyline looking towards Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris), the Protestant Church of the Oratory of the Louvre, the view from view from Pont Alexandre III.

 

Free Museums and Monuments

For budget conscious travelers, Paris has a multitude of museums and monuments that are free, you just have to show up on the right day. Word of warning though, both locals and tourists come out to enjoy these amazing attractions and the low budget price of free. So, be prepared to be one with the crowds. Check out all of the Free Museums and Monuments!

So Much More to Explore, But for Now We’re Off To…

We spent several days sightseeing in Paris and loved almost every minute of it. We can’t even begin to cover everything we saw and did while visiting. As always, please use our map as a starting place for your itinerary and ideas of what you want to see while in Paris. We hope you enjoy Paris as much as we did!

Leaving is always the tough part. After a week of house sitting, we'd cared for three cats and five kittens that we became very close to. Even tougher, was leaving two new and dear friends, Nicole and Daniel. The great thing about traveling is getting to meet new people, but the catch is that there's always a goodbye around the corner. Thankfully, it's never goodbye forever, and just an "Until next time". 

With a heavy heart we packed our bags and waved goodbye as we made our way to the train station. As we boarded the train and began the trip to Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), we closed the Paris chapter of our adventures. The train ride was quiet between the two of us as we both watched Paris pass us by. Surely, both our minds were filled with the memories we'd made in Paris.  

All images were taken at the Star Alliance Lounge at the Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). Clockwise (from the top): View into the lounge patio area, view of the lounge and various seating, array of food - including hot dishes, snack and bar area, drink and dessert area.

We safely arrived at the airport and made our way through the security checkpoint and passport control where we received our cherished Paris passport stamp (remember, we didn't get one when we arrived). We waited for our flight in the Star Alliance Lounge, thanks to the Priority Pass benefit we receive from our Citi Prestige credit card. It wasn't just a place for us to relax and get a bite to eat before departure, but also a quiet place to work. The lounge was fantastic and one of the top lounges we've been to so far. We're always in search of a place to work side-by-side with our laptops and have access to A/C power. This lounge didn't disappoint, offering us a place in the corner, away from the bustle of the other patrons. The seats were comfortable, the decor was modern, and they even had a few hot food options. We appreciated the kind and attentive employees, as well as separate bathrooms (from the rest of the airport), showers, and a patio seating area. The quality of lounges varies from place to place, but just as Paris impressed us, so did the lounge. We were definitely a bit spoiled, especially for being budget minded travelers!

Our flight was called and we packed up our laptops and boarded the plane. As we took off, we looked out the window and took a final look at the beautiful city. Instead of goodbye, we both said "Until next time!"

Clockwise (from the top): The entrance to the Rodin exhibit at the Grand Palais, inside the shopping gallery Passage du Grand Cerf, looking out over the Seine from Pont au Change, the view from Pont d'Arcole - on our way to the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Clockwise (from the top): Looking out across the Paris train station Gare du Nord, the Fontaine des Fleuves at Place de la Concorde, the courtyard at the Rodin Museum, looking at the Petit Palais across the street from the Grand Palais.

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City Guide to Paris, Part 1: Public Transportation

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