My Must-See’s for Paris “The City of Lights”
Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.
I’ve been terrible at maintaining my travel portion of this blog, so allow me to catch up! Months ago, I posted about a journey through London, England. Today, I pick up where that post left off.
You can take the train from London to Paris easily with 18 different departure times available throughout the day. The trip takes between 2 and 2.5 hours and is quite affordable. If you know what day you will want to travel, it is best to book in advance to save money. The trip through the Channel Tunnel (aka. the Chunnel) is much like any other train you’ve been on, except perhaps darker. You won’t even notice you are travelling under the sea! But if you are claustrophobic, perhaps it will be best not to think too much about that!
Upon arriving in Paris, it was easy to take the metro to Hotel Clarisse, where I’d made a reservation a couple of days earlier. It is located about equal distance between the Porte de Vanves stop (of line 13) and the Porte de Versailles stop (of line 12). You are looking at about a 5 minute walk either way to get to the metro. The hotel itself is quite small and quaint. The staff are friendly and helpful with thick French accents. But given my lack of depth when it comes to the French language, they did very well and we were able to communicate just fine.
The very basic, least expensive room has a double bed, a closet, small TV and a private bath. It is everything you need from a basic room while you are out and about seeing the city. Note though that the elevator is very small…I mean so small that only one person can fit in there at a time with their pack. So if you are travelling heavy, this will be a bit of a pain the butt.
Once on the metro, it will only take you about 20 minutes to any sight you want to see, whether it be the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe or the Notre-Dame Cathedral. (click the below map for a larger view)
First stop was the Eiffel Tower…of course. Why start anywhere else? Built in 1889, the Eiffel Tower attracts people from all over the world. When erected it was the tallest man-made structure in the world, but it only held that title until 1930 before it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building in NYC. The Eiffel Tower is to this day, one of the most famous and most recognizable structures in the world. It currently receives more paid visits than any other monument worldwide.
You will have no problem finding your way to the Eiffel Tower, simply follow the hordes of people from the metro station. If you go in peak season (July-August), prepare for crowds as you shuffle along the crowded sidewalks alongside the small cafes. As you get closer and closer, you will start seeing it between buildings, disappearing and reappearing as you go. Until BAM! There she is!
Once you are up close, you really realize how large and impressive she is. It is hard to believe that at time of design there was much criticism. Some thought it to be a slight against French tastes, a useless monstrosity even.
Made up of three levels, you can choose to walk up as high as the second level, but the third level is only accessible by lift.
I enjoyed the views from the second level best, it is completely open. Unlike the third and final level where there is a metal grate.
As lovely as the Eiffel Tower is by day, it is worth a second visit to see it by night. It is lit up every evening, with a small light show. I’ve seen different colours in people’s pictures, but I’m not sure how frequent they change it. The light show however is about 10 minutes and starts at sunset. So find a small patch of grass to claim as your own and enjoy!
The Notre-Dame de Paris (Lady of Paris) is another must-see for anyone’s trip to Paris. This cathedral took 180 years to complete and started construction in 1163 and is to this day among the most well-known churches ever built. Entrance is free during their regular operating hours.
There will be a line along Rue du Cloitre Notre Dame for access to the towers. The entry fee is 8.5 Euros per adult. I recommend getting there early to avoid the line during the heat of the day. It is 387 steps to the top though, so be prepared for a bit of a trek. The view is lovely though and you can even see the Eiffel Tower from there.
Make sure you head through to the Eastern side as well, there is a beautiful garden. And the Notre Dame Cathedral is most beautifully photographed (in my opinion) from the Southeast, along the water.
Not far from the Notre Dame de Paris you will find the Musee du Louvre. The Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world, making Paris a very popular tourist destination. The museum itself is housed inside the Louvre Palace which began as a fortress in the late 12th century but currently houses the museum and various government departments.
The entrance is actually through the large pyramid on the left in the picture above. If you are interested in only the permanent collection, it will be a 11 Euro entry fee, if you also want access to the current exhibition, you are looking at 12 Euro per adult.
You are permitted to take pictures inside the Louvre, but they ask you refrain from the use of flash photography.
The Mona Lisa is very well protected and the area surrounding it seemed like the busiest place in all of Paris! It will take you several minutes to wiggle your way to the front. There is a large roped off radius with security guards nearby and it is housed in its very own special glass wall encasement.
Depending how long you have in Paris, you may want to sneak in a visit to the Arc de Triomphe. Just getting there can be exciting. They have tunnels underground for pedestrian traffic because above ground it is chaos. Charles de Gaulle Place is an intersection in Paris where 12 straight avenues meet and standing in the centre is the Arc de Triomphe. Best depicted in this aerial picture from Wikipedia:
Construction on the Arc itself began in 1806 and took 30 years to complete. Today, it stands in honour of the French who died during the French Revolution.
If you are planning an upcoming trip to Paris and need more things to see, your options are endless. You can start here, at Paris’ official tourism website.
But remember, there are countless parks and places to relax and just take in the atmosphere. Don’t forget to slow down and enjoy your time. Grab some fresh bread and find yourself a quiet place to enjoy this beautiful city!
Have you been to Paris? I’d love to hear about your “must-see” list!