What to do:
A couple of sites I’d consider seeing while in Paris if you’ve only got a few days (because you could live here for years and not even come close to seeing what you should in Paris):
Is there any place in Paris as life-altering as the Louvre? You don’t have to like art. You don’t have to like history. You don’t have to think you’re going to like the Louvre- just go. Just show up and see if it doesn’t change your mind and every preconception you ever had about art and frankly, life.
Website: The Louvre
-Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is within the Place Charles de Gaulle, or the Place de l’Etoile at the border of the 8th, 16th, and 17th Arrondissement. The Place Charles de Gaulle is the circle surrounding the Arc de Triomphe, and from that circle 12 major avenues extend back into the city. Once you see it, you’ll realize you’ve seen it a thousand times in movies, T.V. shows, paintings, and pictures. You can reach the arch from a pedestrian walkway underneath the traffic circle. Please do not try to reach the arch by walking through the traffic. The arch commemorates Napoleon’s victories and there is a viewing platform at the top. There is no elevator! You have to walk the 200 + steps to the top.
The Musee d’Orsay is in the 7th arrondissement, along with the Eiffel Tower. This museum mainly focuses in on the mid-nineteenth century and extends until about 1914. This is one of the best places in Paris for the hardcore fans of Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Renoir (to name just a few). There are so many amazing works of art in the Musee d’Orsay that it can be a bit overwhelming to take it all in. For those of us (like myself) who are not art connoisseurs, there are a number of audio tours that simplify the process. One is the Rick Steve’s audio tour, “The Orsay Museum,” which lasts about an hour and is found on the Rick Steve’s Audio Europe App, free on the App Store. Tickets are 13.70 Francs. The website is found here.
-The Eiffel Tower
Built in 1889 for the World Fair, Gustave Eiffel’s tower won out over more than 100 other candidates. Despite this, his tower was called “unnecessary and monstrous” by many of the cities prominent writers and artists in an official complaint letter sent to the director of the 1889 World Fair. It’s amazing to consider the origins of the Eiffel Tower, especially considering it’s now eponymous with the City of Light. It’s an absolutely amazing site and should definitely spend some time in front of it, preferably playing cards and eating a baguette with some amazing French cheese. If you want to go to the top, you do need tickets and they’re about 17 Francs a piece – check out this link for more information.
-Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame is truly stunning- it’s full of myth and legend, but is also important because of its historical significance and its resilience- it survived (although just barely) the French revolution and has been restored twice- once over a 20-year period in the early nineteenth century (we can all thank Victor Hugo for that) and again between 1991-2001. It acted almost as a prototype for the design of future cathedrals in France, so if you’re planning on traveling to other parts of the country it makes sense to see Notre Dame before you go. In addition, it’s in the fourth arrondissement, which although crowded and expensive, is very beautiful and worth a look if you’re not staying in the region. For more information, check out this link.