5 things I loved about Paris
It consistently ranks as one of the most visited cities in the world, and has a history that spans over two thousand years. It has been home to innovations, inventions and revolutions and in the middle of the previous millennium it was the largest city in the world.
Paris is so much more than the romanticism that its name conjures, its history includes episodes as violent as any other city and all these events have left their unique mark on France's capital city.
It's also one of the closest capital cities to where I live, a short train ride away, but it's perhaps because of this proximity that I often overlook it for other destinations. My trip last year was to visit friends that I worked with previously, and their knowledge of the city allowed me to see a side of Paris I may have otherwise have missed.
There's a lot that I enjoyed (food, culture, history) and some things that I didn't, but here is a list of 5 things I absolutely loved.
5. Take a walk along the Seine
As with the Thames in London, a walk along the River Seine takes you past some of Paris' most famous landmarks and monuments.
From the banks of the river you can see the famous Eiffel Tower, you walk past Notre Dame Cathedral, Sainte Chapelle, Orsay Museum and the Louvre. You can also navigate the river on water taxis and use sightseeing tour boats to see the city from a slightly different perspective.
Some of the best architecture and history is actually on the river itself, two bridges in particular stand out; the Pont-Neuf and the Alexandre III bridge, the former being the oldest standing bridge in the city.
4. Climb the Arc de Triomphe
This was surprisingly good! Approaching the 200 year old monument, you can feel the sense of history. It's a landmark closely associated with France and its construction was to honour those who fought in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, and is a reminder of the national motto - liberty, equality and fraternity.
At 50m tall, it is nothing compared to modern skyscrapers, but given the building and zoning restrictions that the centre of Paris operates under, the view from the top is unbelievable. Don't be fooled though, 50m isn't a short climb, and every so often I would see people who were stopping for rest at various points.
Avenues radiate from the monument like rays from the sun, and the wide boulevards allow you to see miles into the distance without any obstacles to block your view. All the main landmarks of Paris are visible from this 50m arc, the Champs-Elysees perhaps the most spectacular.
Inside the arc are a number of exhibitions and below it sits the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, a poignant reminder of the horrors of the two World Wars in the 20th century that followed the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century.
3. Get lost in the Musee du Louvre
The history of the building goes back 800 years, although the museum itself was established just over 200 years ago. The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world, and perhaps the most recognisable.
The beauty of the museum begins on the outside, its architecture is amongst the most impressive of all the museums I have visited. The museum has almost 400,000 objects from across the world (which is slightly controversial) but without a doubt, the busiest piece of artwork is the Mona Lisa, the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece that always seems to be surrounded by hordes of people desperate to get a closer look.
Here's the strange thing. It doesn't quite have the size of collection that the British Museum has, nor does it have the laid back charm of some of New York's museums, but for some reason, it is the most memorable museum I have ever visited.
2. Take a journey back in time inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral
Almost every landmark on this list seems to have a grand history, and Notre-Dame is no different. Construction began almost 1000 years ago and this gothic giant still dominates the skyline of Paris a millennium later.
As impressive as the outside is, it's the inside of the Cathedral that is most breathtaking. The dimly lit interior almost transports you to another time period. The intricate decorations make this one of the most aesthetically pleasing cathedrals I have visited, up there with St. Paul's in London and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The Stained Glass windows are breathtaking whilst the 18th century organ looks imposing yet somehow fragile.
The Cathedral still serves its function as a place of worship but also has a small exhibition that traces the history of the building, from a small Norman church to the large structure that stands today.
1. Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmatre
A short metro ride from the centre of Paris takes you to Pigalle Station. On leaving the station you find yourself in a pretty sketchy neighbourhood. Touts surround you selling all manner of goods and the streets are littered with rubbish.
A short work from the station however brings you to the foot of Sacre-Coeur basilica, a large Catholic church located on the highest point of Paris. The church almost looks like an Eastern Pagoda or Hindu Temple and it's not that surprising to find out the building actually dates back only 100 years.
The inside of the church is as impressive as you would imagine, the domes in particular are jaw dropping, but it's on the outskirts of the basilica that this area really comes into its own. The high elevation means that you can see across the city of Paris, including landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower. The neighbourhood around the basilica is ridiculously beautiful, with small cafes and restaurants lined on narrow streets.
A short walk from the basilica takes you to the Montmartre area, an upmarket neighbourhood full of restaurants, bars and, for some reason, windmills. The area became a haven for artists in the early 20th century, and as London and New York have found out recently, wherever there are artists, gentrification tends to follow.
The area, and the landmark, remains my best memory of a beautiful city.
Are there any landmarks that you really enjoyed in Paris, any experiences that you thought were incredible? Comment below!
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British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.