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
If 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,
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
Chez AngelinaIf 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.
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
Notre Dame de Paris
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
Opéra de Paris GarnierThe 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