Yes, it is a challenge! But, if your time in this sublime city is limited, here are several absolute musts.
More than a beautiful, culturally rich city, Paris is a world unto itself, oozing with atmosphere and bursting with inspiring art and architecture, wonderful restaurants, and exuberant nightlife. There is no place on earth quite like it.
How long should you plan a stay in this one-of-a-kind place? It’s up to you, of course. Many travelers consider a week about right. Others stay longer. There is just so much to see and hear and taste. But, if a day or so is all you can spare on this visit, here are some sights you won’t want to miss:
- The Eiffel Tower. Both the symbol of Paris and one of the most widely recognized structures in the world, the tower stands more than 1000 feet high and provides a 40-mile view from its observation platforms. On its first and second levels, there are also two restaurants: Altitude 95 and Le Jules Verne.
- Arc de Triomphe. Built by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victories, this is the largest triumphal arch in the world. Like the Eiffel Tower, it’s so imposing it’s impossible to miss when in Paris. But many travelers don’t know about a couple of its very interesting features. One is an observation deck and an interesting exhibition hall at the top that tells about the monument’s history. Another is that Napoleon, a master at inspiring loyalty from his troops, had the names of his top generals and high-ranking officers inscribed on the arch to thank them for their victories. When he marched the men through the arch, they could see the names. When you walk through the arch, you can too!
- Notre Dame. Built during the late Middle Ages and famous for its gargoyles and flying buttresses, this great cathedral was once called a “symphony of stone” by French writer Victor Hugo. If you like, you can take the 387-step climb to the top of the south tower for a wonderful 360-degree view of the city. While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss nearby Ste.-Chapelle, a Medieval chapel that has some of the most stunning stained glass you’ll ever see. It’s breathtaking!
- The Louvre. This immense museum—said to be the world’s largest—is home to the Mona Lisa, I.M.Pei’s remarkable and provocative pyramid, and more than 400,000 other works of art. Originally a palace, it was turned into a museum after the French Revolution. Guided tours are available in English.
- Musee d’Orsay. If you are a fan of impressionism, symbolism, pointillism, or realism, this is a can’t-miss experience. In a stunning, glass-topped building that once served as a train station, this museum displays much of the work of artists Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, van Gogh, and other greats of the late 1800s and early 1900s. If you have a special fondness for the works of Monet, you might also want to check out the Marmottan Monet Museum, which exhibits more than 130 works from throughout Monet’s long and very productive career.
- Left Bank Cafes. One of the great pleasures of Paris is to sit in a outdoor café on the Left Bank and have a simple lunch with a glass of wine. As well as great food, you’ll have the chance to take in great atmosphere!
- Seine River Cruises. Although Paris is one of the world’s great walking cities, this is a great way to see Notre Dame, the Louvre, and other sights from the outside as you are taking a leisurely cruise up the Seine, the river that runs through the center of town. This is particularly nice to do in the late afternoon or early evening when everything lights up.
What have we left out? The short answer is: an enormous amount. Paris is home to many, many more wonderful museums, monuments, restaurants, and places of interest. If anything, a short stay in this great city inspires people to do something that makes total sense—start planning a longer stay next time.
Also, when traveling to Paris or anywhere else in France, it’s important to remember that the country is notorious for last-minute public worker strikes that can shut down public transportation (including airports) for days at a time. Having travel insurance covers you for any such travel delays and will help cover any extra hotel costs if you get stuck because of a strike.
But, if you are lucky enough to get stuck in Paris, maybe you can take the time to see more of its magnificent sights!
If you have some Paris “musts” you’d like to add to this list, please add a comment. We would love to hear from you.