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A Guide To Visiting Paris

By Stephen G. Beck

Paris, the most romantic city in the world, has always been a popular destination of tourists, poets, lovers, and artists. No matter what your reason for wanting to visit Paris, you will be sure to find it. One visit is not enough! I could visit Paris numerous times without getting bored or seeing the same thing twice. In fact, on several occasions I have visited Notre Dame and have seen different things each time. At any rate, I have assembled here to be what I believe are the "must see" destinations. This is certainly not a complete list of things to do and see...

Le Tour Eiffel

Eiffel Tower, Le Tour Eiffel, Paris Tourist InformationIf it’s your first time to visit Pais, it just wouldn’t be right not to include a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Rising up over 300 meters tall, this steel structure can be seen throughout most locations around the city. Elevators lift visiting tourists to the top to get a bird’s eye view of Paris. As it is lit up in the evening, it is one of the most beautiful sights in the entire city. Guided tours add to the thrill as you get to peek into history on how it was made and what it means to the French today. Here are a few interesting facts:
  • 1st floor: 57.63m
  • 2nd floor: 115.75m
  • 3rd floor: 276.13m
  • Total height: 324m
  • 1665 steps from the ground to the top via the east pillar.

Musée Du Louvre

Le Louvre, in its successive architectural metamorphoses, has dominated central Paris since the late 12th century. Built on the city's western edge, the original structure was gradually engulfed as the city grew. The gloomy fortress of the early days was transformed into the modernized abode of François I and, later, the extravagant palace of the Sun King, Louis XIV.

The Palais du Louvre, which houses one of the most spectacular collections of artworks in the world, is known first and foremost as a museum. Yet for almost 700 years the buildings constituted one of the primary residences of the kings and emperors of France. If I had to describe Le Louvre in one sentence, I would say that it is an enormous piece of artwork containing thousands of small works of art. The building is just as much a work of art as any of the individual paintings, sculptures, or artifacts. Even without any of the collections, the building itself is well worth the visit.

If you plan to visit Le Louvre (and you will be making a huge mistake if this is not on your itinerary), make sure you allow plenty of time—at least one full day. It is possible to hurry though in 4-6 hours, but this will not allow you time to enjoy—or see—everything: The sheer size of the building makes it impossible.

Chez Angelina

If you like chocolate, you absolutely must visit Chez Angelina-a Viennese cafe founded by Antoine Rumpelmayer in 1903-a former favorite with Proust, Coco Chanel and George V and now a must for Parisians and tourists alike. In addition to scrumptious pastries and delicious food, this beautiful salon serves what can only be described as the greatest hot chocolate in the world. This thick, sweet hot chocolate, accompanied with cream and served on a silver tray, is enough to wipe out the most demanding appetite. Try the pastries, and if you don't want to go home empty handed, treat yourself to something sweet from the boutique. Located at 226 Rue de Rivoli-directly north of Les Tuileries and west of Le Louvre-Chez Angelina is the perfect place to stop after spending the day exploring Musée Du Louvre.

The Catacombs

If you are the adventurous type, you will love the catacombs. This is a network of subterranean chambers and galleries that are located in what were Roman-era limestone quarries. The quarries were converted into a mass tomb near the end of the 18th century. It is most widely known as "the catacombs", but the official title is "les carrières de Paris" or "the quarries of Paris." The portion of the catacombs open to the public covers a surface area of 11,000 square meters, a tiny portion of the 300 km of old quarry corridors.

Burial use in the depleted quarries was established in 1786 by the order of Monsieur Thiroux de Crosne, Lt. General of Police, and by Monsieur Guillaumot, Inspector General of Quarries. At the time, the Les Halles district in the middle of the city was suffering from disease resulting from contamination caused by improper burials and mass graves in churchyard cemeteries, especially the large Cimetière des Innocents. It was decided to discreetly remove the bones and place them in the abandoned quarries. As a result, the catacombs now hold a bone collection of 5 to 6 million people.

The catacombs are located at Place Denfert Rochereau. The easiest way to get there is via Métro. If you begin at the Charles de Gaulle-Etoile station, take line 6 towards Nation and get off at the Denfert-Rochereau station. When you exit the station, you will be at the corner of Avenue René Coty and Place Denfert Rochereau. From Avenue Rene Coty, turn to the right onto Place Denfert Rochereau and walk until you reach the catacombs—it’s not far.

Cimetière du Père Lachaise

As long as I am on the topic of burial places, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the Père Lachaise Cemetery. Of the twenty cemeteries in Paris, Père-Lachaise is the most famous, it now has over 70,000 plots and receives some two million visitors a year from all over the world. With 44 hectares and 5,300 trees, Père-Lachaise is also the largest park in Paris.

Paris's most renowned cemetery gets the name from Louis XIV's religious advisor, who formerly owned the property. In 1804, the city decided to turn the land into a cemetery. Famous people buried here include Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Honore de Balzac, Jim Morrison (whose grave is one of the most visited), and Edith Piaf. Among the many 19th-century sculptures and monuments is the Mur des Federes, which was placed in memory of the 147 rebels shot here on May 28, 1871, during the Paris Commune.

If you find cemeteries interesting, this one will have you in awe! The monuments are more sculpture than gravestone. One could almost consider this cemetery to be an outdoor art museum.

To find the cemetery, take line 2 (from Charles de Gaulle-Etoile) towards Nation. Stay on the train until you reach the Père Lachaise station. The entrance to the cemetery is a short walk from the station along Boulevard de Ménilmontant.

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris, Tourist Information Notre Dame de Paris, Gargoyles, Tourist Information You don’t need to be Catholic to appreciate the majestic architecture of Notre-Dame. Its construction was made to fit a monumental scale, and plans were made to enlarge it even before the cathedral was completed. While not the biggest, it is the most famous and one of the grandest cathedrals in the entire world. Notre Dame is a must see! Arrive early in the day to avoid the crowds and be sure to visit the bell tower. It requires a small admission fee, but it is well worth it. At the top you will find an assortment of gargoyles perched upon the ramparts that you will be sure to find interesting and entertaining.

To find Notre Dame, take line 1 from Charles de Gaulle-Etoile towards Château de Vincennes. Connect at Châtelet and take line 4 toward Port d’Orléans. Get off at Cité. Notre Dame will be about a 5 minute walk.

Opéra de Paris Garnier

The opera building, Opéra de Paris Garnier started its history back in 1862 when its construction began. It took over ten years to complete because an underground lake was discovered under the location and was completed in 1875. Tours and shows continue to operate through this attraction for those visiting Paris, though now mainly used for ballet performances since the construction of Opéra de Paris Bastille, another distinctive entertainment tourist spot.

About The Author

Stephen Beck is an independent photographer specializing in nature, landscape, architectural, and travel photography. You can view his online gallery at www.sgbphotography.com.