Within the 41 square miles of Paris, France there are over 60 main attractions for visitors to discover ranging from Museums, Churches, Monuments and Squares as well as examples of contemporary and traditional architecture. This is far too many sites for the average tourist to attempt to visit during a short stay in the city of lights. Thus a list of the five most famous and must see attractions is in order.
Before setting out there are three vital purchases that each traveler should consider. The first is a chest wallet. This is a cloth and zipper device you hide under your shirt. In it you carry your cash, credit cards, passport and driver’s license. Pick pockets have become an epidemic in nearly every major European city and while it is a bit of a bother having to retrieve this wallet from under your shirt for every purchase it is far less a hassle than replacing your credit cards and passport while traveling.
The second and third items go hand in hand. The first is the Paris Pass Card that when purchased allows free entry to over 65 attractions with front of the line privileges. You also receive a Paris guide book, a Metro Pass with map (good on any regular Paris Metro bus or underground trains), vouchers for special offers at various locations, shops and restaurants as well as a one day L’Open Tour Hop On Hop Off Tour Bus Ticket. You can purchase additional Hop On Hop Off Tour Bus Day Tickets online as well. All items are shipped or sent as printable e-mails prior to your departure from home.
If you arrive in Paris via the bullet train at the Gare du Nord (North Station) you can catch the Red Classic Route of the L’Open Tour which intersects with the Blue Montmartre Route. Between the two routes you will get the opportunity to visit all the top sites in Paris including the top five listed below.
The Eiffel Tower
This most famous of all Paris attractions cannot begin to be fully appreciated until you have stood underneath it. It is a true marvel. You can choose to climb the stairs to the second floor or take the lift from ground level or the second floor up to the top. There are two restaurants located in the tower (Le 58 tour Eiffel and Le Jules Verne) as well as a Champagne Bar at the top. Prices for ascending the tower range from 3 to 11€ depending on a variety of factors (see their website for details). The top observation deck gives you an amazing view of Paris that you will never forget. Located in the west side of Paris next to the Seine River (tour boats stop here as well as the tour busses). Hours are 9 a.m. to midnight mid-June to early September and 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. the rest of the year.
This grandest of all museums is home to over 380,000 objects and displays in seventeen exhibitions housed in eight galleries that cover 652,000 square feet. This is far more than the casual visitor will have time to see. Highlights are De Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Antonio Canova’s The Kiss of Cupid and Psyche (located in the exceptional 1500 to 1850 AD sculptures area) and the huge masterpiece by Jacques-Louis David The Coronation of Empress Josephine to name just a few. For fans of Dan Brown, the brass Arago disc is easy to find on the main courtyard behind the big pyramid.
Be sure to stop by for an amazing sandwich in the wonderful Le Comptoir du Louvre located beneath the main pyramid. Hours for the museum are Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Wednesday and Fridays 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. and closed on Tuesdays. Free admission is available with no ticket for children under age 18, disabled with care giver or recipients of minimum social benefits. Tickets for all other admissions to the various galleries are $15€.
Located in the Place Charles de Gaulle (originally Place de l’Etoile) this immense (164 feet tall) monument honors all who fought and died for France during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It also houses The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. A lift will take you almost to the top to an attic that contains a small museum. From there it is a mere 46 steps up to the top for a panoramic view of Paris. Hours are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. from April 1 to September 30, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. from October 1 through March 31. Admission is Adults 8€, Students 5€, Groups 6,20 € and free for children and students up to age 17.
Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
Not to be confused with its exact duplicate in Montreal, Canada the name means “Our Lady of Paris” and is a medieval Catholic cathedral located on the Ile de la Cite and is next to the Seine River. Recognized as one of the finest examples of French Gothic Church architecture in the world, millions of visitors stop by to admire the many statues, stained glass and high vaulted ceilings within. Admission to the cathedral is free and hours are Mon through Fri 8 a.m. – 6:45 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. – 7:15 p.m.
The grand boulevard in the heart of Paris runs between Le Place de la Concorde where many of the executions took place during the French Revolution (including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette) and the Arc de Triomphe at Place Charles de Gaulle. Measuring 1.2 miles long and 230 feet wide it is named for the Elysian Fields which is the paradise for dead Greek mythology heroes. The French refer to this world famous boulevard as “la plus belle avenue du monde” (“the world’s most beautiful avenue”). A stroll down the boulevard will bring you to the entrances of various theaters, cafes and luxury shops. It is also the site for the annual Bastille Day Military Parade as well as the finish for the Tour de France bicycle race. At night the boulevard is ablaze with light from end to end.