Central Paris is defined by the long, broad Seine river flowing silver-blue beneath street level. A Seine River cruise offers the ideal opportunity to see some of its most famed monuments and museums.
Get away from the crowds at the Louvre and discover an equally impressive museum featured in movies such as “The Da Vinci Code” and “Midnight in Paris”.
Cross the Seine to discover the stunning 19th-century Orsay Museum (a former train station), featuring art by Van Gogh and Renoir without crowds! You will also find works by other acclaimed artists here such as Degas. Sydney to Paris Cathay Pacific flights are available for those interested.
The Louvre (Musee du Louvre), one of Paris’s premier attractions, is home to one of the world’s largest art collections and some of its most acclaimed masterpieces from across cultures – ancient Egyptian, Greek and Etruscan art alongside masterpieces from Western, Islamic, Asian and other traditions such as Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Jacques-Louis David’s Coronation of Napoleon among them.
Once upon a time, the Louvre was at the epicenter of French art – hosting Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture as well as hosting salons that debated acceptable forms of artwork. Today, visitors flock to see its world-famous “Venus de Milo,” along with its Nike of Samothrace statue; visitors also flock here for its Code of Hammurabi stele and Da Vinci’s tragic The Dying Slave sculpture.
Its celebrated collection includes masterpieces from northern Europe such as Johannes Vermeer’s The Lacemaker and Astronomer and Caspar David Friedrich’s Raft of the Medusa. Additionally, its latest addition, Pavillon des Sessions, houses African and Oceanian art; visitors enter via its grand glass pyramid designed by architect I.M. Pei to funnel in visitors more efficiently; other entryways include Carrousel de Rivoli or Rue de Rivoli for entry; access can also be gained to its medieval section via pyramid and escalator; offering tours and activities perfect for families!
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower, affectionately known as “The Iron Lady,” is one of the iconic symbols of Paris and should not be missed by visitors. You can visit it daytime or nighttime and take in its stunning views and special light shows; visiting in early morning is ideal to avoid long lines; going later will reveal all its lights illuminated throughout Paris.
No matter which route you take to reach the top, you will be astounded at the incredible engineering that went into building this landmark. On the second-floor observation deck is an amazing 360deg panoramic view over the city; also located here are fast service dining, macaroon bar and Michelin-star Jules Verne restaurant, plus gift shops!
On the top level, visitors can pay tribute to Gustave Eiffel as the architect by visiting his former office space – complete with lifelike wax models of himself and his daughter welcoming American inventor Thomas Edison; panoramic maps from 1889; as well as 19th-century lift machines.
Another fantastic way to capture timeless images of the Eiffel Tower is by visiting Paris’ stunning Champ de Mars green space – one of the city’s most picturesque parks – for strolling, picnicking or simply relaxing.
La Sainte Chapelle
Built during the 13th Century, Sainte Chapelle stands as an iconic representation of Gothic architecture. Although seemingly straightforward from its outside appearance, construction took six years and includes one of the world’s largest collections of stained glass windows.
King Louis IX employed this chapel as an innovative way of unifying his people under his rule and demonstrating his divine right as ruler. Housed within its walls are sacred relics such as Jesus’ Crown of Thorns from his death on the cross.
Booking tickets ahead is highly recommended to avoid long lines and ensure a more pleasant visit experience later in the afternoon, when crowds may become overwhelming.
The lower chapel features 140 capitals that are exquisitely detailed, as well as a small staircase leading to the upper chapel. Inside this sanctuary are 1,113 stained glass panels depicting biblical stories on its walls.
The lower chapel features an apse – an area designated by architect Jean Bellu as a sacred space – where the altar used to stand. It serves as the focal point of all activities in a church and its ceiling features exquisite wood carvings that add another level of beauty.
Palais Garnier is known as one of Paris’s most spectacular architectural landmarks; as home of both the Paris Opera and its fictional protagonist The Phantom of the Opera. Decorated in gold, red velvet, bronze and featuring colorful ceiling paintings by modernist artist Marc Chagall – its name alone conjures images of elegance and extravagance from France’s Second Empire era. With 2,000 seats decorated in gold velvet bronze and boasting Chagall’s masterpiece ceiling painting.
Charles Garnier designed and oversaw construction from 1860-1875 of this theater designed by Napoleon III as a show of power and place where Parisian upper class could gather for entertainment, socializing and champagne intermissions.
The exterior of Palais Garnier is an outstanding example of Neo-Baroque style, boasting vaulted ceilings and ornate wall carvings. Inside, watch for its circular rotunda where audiences would gather before performances (now used for ticket purchases) — you’ll also spot four large stone sculptures representing composers Rameau, Lully, Gluck and Handel from 17th and 18th century in seated positions!
There are numerous statues and sculptures throughout the building, but perhaps the most renowned is a six-ton chandelier which may have inspired Victor Hugo’s novel The Phantom of the Opera. This remarkable creation depicts dancing women holding tambourines–an instrument popular in its day for both its sensual and musical properties–which was designed as part of its design. Even after decades have passed by it remains breathtakingly beautiful.
Saint Germain is just one of many Parisian neighborhoods to claim being at some point or another the intellectual centre of the world, but unlike its counterparts which claim Renaissance thinkers and bohemian life as its claims to fame, St Germain claims being home to existentialist thinkers and its birthplace.
Though the area’s iconic cafes like Les Deux Magots remain immensely popular, its narrow streets now primarily provide art galleries and concept stores. Rue Jacob is still home to some great options; but you may find more hidden away along Rue de Furstemberg that begins right there on its corner.
Visit Eugene Delacroix (renowned for his painting Liberty Leading the People) in this district and, nearby, Place de Furstenberg to step inside a house that once served as his workshop and now displays his collection of sculptures made from clay, bronze and wood.
As part of their visit, other attractions of the 6th arrondissement include strolling across Pont des Arts – known for being an international bridge of romance as millions of couples flock here every year to lock love locks on its wrought-iron railings before tossing them off into Seine River below – or shopping and browsing the many boutiques, such as Le Bon Marche which started off as a charming novelty shop and now caters exclusively to designer goods; Grande Epicerie de Paris that sells food supplies; or visiting Musee du Montparnasse which boasts collections of modern art as well as French Impressionist paintings.
Once you’ve seen Paris’ most notable sights – Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Seine – and experienced its bustle for yourself, you may need some restorative down time. Thankfully, getting around this vibrant city is straightforward. Jess recommends buying laminated Metro maps from Streetwise and loading a Navigo Easy card which works with all major passes available (compatible with all passes available).
Public transport can make longer journeys easy in Paris; for example, visiting Rouen takes approximately two hours via train; it is well worth it as Rouen’s cathedral once stood tallest in Europe and serves as Joan of Arc’s final resting place; its medieval center features charming wooden houses; there is also the Gros Horloge astronomical clock!
Military history enthusiasts will enjoy touring the Citadel of Arras, designed by Vauban and used as a prison before World War Two. Additionally, tour the tunnels dug from chalk as part of an Allied effort to enter enemy territory more quickly. Or visit Chateau Breteuil, an impressive estate belonging to one family for generations and now hosting an exhibition dedicated to Perrault’s fairy tales; just 40km outside Paris via car.