Paris

Paris

Go to Paris. The City of Light draws millions of visitors every year with its unforgettable ambiance. Of course, the divine cuisine and vast art collections deserve some of the credit as well. The gentle River Seine rambles through the city, flanked by stately museums, centuries-old churches, and blocks of Rococo- and Neoclassic-design architecture, further enhanced by cascading trees and glowing streetlamps. Peppering the Seine’s cobbled walks and graceful bridges are impossibly chic Parisians, probably on their way to the market, cafe or cinema.

Containing world-class museums, fashion, cuisine and an atmosphere all its own, Paris is also a city of “many splendors,” as Ernest Hemingway recalled in his memoir, “A Moveable Feast.” Visit the beloved Musée d’Orsay, shop the biggest designers on the Champs Élysées or hit the boutiques in Le Marais, take in the view atop the Eiffel Tower, or even plan a day trip to Versailles Palace. But don’t miss out on the simple pleasure of meandering the marvelous arrondissements (districts), or snacking on street crepes either.

Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris

The Notre-Dame Cathedral is seen as a Parisian icon. Located right along the picturesque River Seine, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is considered a Gothic masterpiece and is often regarded as one of the best Gothic cathedrals of its kind in the world. Construction of the famous cathedral started in the late 10th century and final touches weren’t made until nearly 200 years later. And once you get an eyeful of the cathedral yourself, you’ll start to understand why it took so long.

The architectural details of the Notre-Dame are intricate and become more abundant the closer you get. The front entrance boasts carefully carved statues that integrate seamlessly into its stone facade. The portal of judgment entrance, in particular, is just one example of this awe-inspiring architectural style. The back end of the cathedral is just as spectacularly detailed, featuring an ornate flying buttress just begging to be photographed. Inside, travelers will find sky-high gilded ceilings and stained-glass windows throughout. If you want to do more than just meander around, visitors have the option of climbing the cathedral’s 387 steps for top-notch views of the city. Or you can venture below to the crypt to view ancient remains.

Travelers found the architecture of the Notre-Dame to be amazing both inside and out. Those who ventured to the top of the cathedral thoroughly enjoyed the views, but were annoyed at how little time they were afforded by cathedral officials. Because going to the top of the Notre-Dame is such a popular activity, and there’s so little space at the top, the cathedral restricts the number of people at the top as well as how long they can be there. Also, be prepared to wait. The attraction sees upward of 13 million visitors per year, so unless you come really early in the morning or late at night, there will likely be throngs of people at the front plaza and long lines to the top of the cathedral.

Notre Dame is open Monday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 7:45 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. There is no entrance fee, even if you want to climb to the top of the cathedral. The towers are open daily April through September from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. October through March. You’ll find Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of the city; subsequently, the Cité stop on the metro’s line 4 is the nearest.

Musee du Louvre

If you only had time to visit one museum in Paris, it should undoubtedly be the Louvre Museum. That’s because the Louvre is not only widely considered to be one of the best art museums in Europe, but one of the best in the world as well. The museum first opened its doors in 1793 and features a grand total of 35,000 works of art. Here you can get up close to a variety of art from different time periods and cultures. The Louvre features everything from Egyptian mummy tombs to ancient Grecian sculptures (including the renowned Winged Victory of Smothrace and curvaceous Venus de Milo). There are also thousands of paintings to peruse as well. Masterpieces such as “Liberty of Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix, “The Raft of Medusa” by Théodore Géricault and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” the museum’s biggest star, can be found here. You can even get a glimpse of Napolean the Third’s old apartment digs. Though you don’t necessarily have to visit the apartments to get a taste of what it was like to be a royal. Before it was a museum, the Louvre served as a royal residence for a number of French powers, including Louis XIV. It was only sometime after Louis XIV left the Louvre in favor of Versailles that the Louvre began to transform into a museum.

With such a robust art collection, the Louvre has earned the title as the most visited museum in the world (upward of 9 million per year). While visitors agree it is no doubt a must-visit attraction, with the majority more than impressed with the museum’s offerings, the crowds can be a major turn off (especially around the glass-enclosed “Mona Lisa”). Not to the point where travelers are willing to skip the Louvre altogether, but they stress going at a time where there will be fewer people (not the middle of the day on a weekend). Others said the sheer enormity of the museum can be overwhelming, so much so that covering the entire 650,000 square feet of gallery space in a day is close to impossible. The best strategy is to pick what you want to see ahead of time and grab a map so you can easily locate those works of art. Otherwise, you could easily end up spending hours wandering around waiting to run into the must-sees and miss them.

The museum is open Mondays, Thursdays and weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. Admission costs 15 euros ($16.80) for adults and is free for visitors 17 years old and younger. If you’re visiting between October and March, save some money by planning your visit for the first Sunday of the month when admission is free. The museum is located in the city center and has its own metro stop, Louvre-Rivoli on line 1.

Tour Eiffel

Designed and constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (the World’s Fair), the Eiffel Tower was always meant to be a temporary structure, but it skirted demolition talks twice. The first time, at the beginning of the 1900s, the tower was kept around because of its transmission talents. Gustav Eiffel, chief architect of the Eiffel Tower, had a variety of scientific experiments tested on the tower with the hope that any discoveries would help prolong its lifespan. One of these included a wireless transmissions test, which the tower passed with flying colors. During World War I, the Eiffel Tower’s transmission capabilities enabled it to intercept communications from enemies as well as relay intel to troops on the ground. The second time the Eiffel Tower was almost destroyed was during the German occupation of France during World War II. Hitler planned to get rid of the tower, but never ended up going through with his plan.

Today, the Eiffel Tower is still used for communication transmissions but is chiefly regarded for its grandeur. If you can believe it, many Parisians initially found this architectural marvel to be nothing more than an eyesore. Regardless, the Eiffel Tower today stands as one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. Visitors can walk up to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower or take the elevator all the way up to the top, where they’ll be treated with vast panoramic views of the city. While some recent visitors complain of long lines – especially during the summer – you can bypass the wait by booking your tickets online at the Eiffel Tower’s website. And though some travelers aren’t crazy about the price to get to the top, many agree that the views are worth it. Visitors also strongly recommend making an additional trek at night. That’s because every hour on the hour, thousands of flickering light bulbs make the Eiffel Tower sparkle, leaving tourists in complete awe.

You can reach Paris’ most famous landmark from the Bir-Hakeim, Trocadéro or Ecole Militaire métro stops, serviced by lines 6, 8 and 9. The Eiffel Tower, located on the western side of the city, is open every day of the year, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. from mid-June to early September, and from 9:30 a.m. to 11: 45 p.m. the rest of the year. Admission prices vary depending on how high you wish to go and how you choose to get there (elevator or stairs). Most visitors choose to ride the elevator to the top, which costs 17 euros (about $19) for adults, 14.50 euros (roughly $16.27) for visitors between the ages of 12 and 24, and 8 euros (about $9) for children ages 4 to 11.

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