So as all of you know, we packed our backpacks and embarked on a 10 day adventure to Paris/Rome and now we are sharing our experience with you. I’m going to tell you a little bit about Paris, France. But, before I go into details, let me debunk the saying “French people are rude” or “Paris is not that great” which I sadly heard numerous times before we decided to experience it ourselves. Parisians are incredibly nice, and the city itself is nothing short of amazing. There are so many places to see that in all honesty, we probably needed a whole month to see them all!. Many locals went out of their way to help us out and to give us directions when they recognized a "we're lost" face- even when we didn't speak each other's language. All you have to do is be polite to them and they will be polite to you.
So we made sure we had a metro map, and toured this fascinating city by ourselves. Here are my top 5 must see places while in Paris:
1. THE LOUVRE MUSEUM.
This is perhaps my favorite place in Paris. The Louvre Palace was originally built in the 12th century and extended over the centuries to what it is today; a magnificent, massive palace, home to thousands of the world’s most renowned works of art. The actual museum opened in 1793 and is divided into several wings, from Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities, to Islamic art, sculptures, paintings, prints, and drawings. You can see world famous paintings like the Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci, to Greek art masterpieces like the Aphrodite sculpture (The Venus de Milo). There is so much to see and experience in the vastness of this museum that it can be a little overwhelming. The Napoleon III apartments are a must see area of the Louvre. The extravagance and magnificence of the exhibit shows you how luxurious it was to live in this palace. I can totally picture myself living here (as a princess in a fairy-tale). Oh! and don't forget to stroll by the "carousel" and see the, also very famous, inverted pyramid. It's beautiful!
2. THE PARIS CATACOMBS
Equal parts amazing and macabre; the underground Paris Catacombs are definitely something different. Get there early (before they open!) so you don't have to wait too long in the line. We got there thirty minutes before opening and still have to wait over one hour to get in. When you enter, you have to go down, and down, and down a spiral staircase that seems never-ending (So beware if you are claustrophobic), but it's worth it! There are miles and miles of underground tunnels and secret passages under the city of Paris and most of it is covered by the bones and skulls of more than 6 million people. Of course, only a portion of these tunnels are open to the public, but it is still shocking to see this osseous display with your own eyes. Back in the late 1700’s when the cemeteries of the city were overflowing with centuries of dead Parisians, mostly from disease, famine, and wars, millions of remains and bones were transferred to the underground tunnels, establishing the largest ossuary in the world. They say there are several secret entrances around the city, and if you are not an expert in the tunnels, better not attempt to explore the non-public areas of the catacombs on your own…legend says a man got lost in the catacombs in the late 1700’s and died without finding the exit.
3. NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS CATHEDRAL.
Everybody has heard of Esmeralda and Quasimodo, right? Well, Our Lady of Paris (exact translation) is one of the most beautiful medieval/Gothic structures you can visit. It is surreal to think that you can step foot in a building that has stood tall for so many centuries. Construction began in 1163, but it wasn't until the mid-13th century that the design and the façade were completed. You can appreciate the magnificent Rose window and the Cathedral’s gorgeous inside. The Gothic architecture and the many engravings, and sculptures will keep your jaw dropping. We took an extra step (or 387 to be exact) and climbed all the way to the dome. I mean, you can’t go to Notre Dame and not see the very famous Gargoyles! It was a narrow, endless spiral staircase to the top, but we made it. After shaking the claustrophobic moment off, you can see it was well worth it when you catch your first glimpse at the amazing Gothic gargoyles. They have been watching over the city of Paris for centuries and they are still standing. Another quick step inside the bell tower (another smaller staircase) and you can see the Cathedral’s majestic bell. But, just so you know, this part of the tower is (all) a wooden structure, so you will feel it move underneath you. Or that could’ve been my legs feeling like jelly after going up 31 flights by foot.
4. THE EIFFEL TOWER.
I get it. You can’t be in Paris and not see the very famous Eiffel Tower. Located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, this gigantic iron tower was built in 1889 as an entrance to the world’s fair. When you are under it, you can actually feel its energy and magnificence on your own body. Security was very high when we went (the EuroCup 16 was in effect), and Paris celebrated with European soccer fans by hanging a colossal soccer ball from the tower. We didn’t go up to the floors allowed to the public, but we enjoyed some good ice cream, and shopped for souvenirs at the Champ de Mars.
5. SACRE-COEUR BASILICA
Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this basilica built in the late 1800’s, sits on top of the butte Montmartre, which is the highest point in the city. Prepare to walk up many, many steps, since the roads that lead to this point are filled with stairs. There’s no avoiding this fellows, so get your legs ready. You can take a little funicular car (your metro ticket will work for this one) to the top of the hill. Once you reach the top, you will be amazed by the view. It’s totally worth it. After your visit you can stay in the area and visit the little museums and galleries nearby. My favorite, the Dali Gallery, is within walking distance of Sacre Coure.
Bonus tip, wear comfortable shoes when sightseeing in Paris. You will do a whole lot of walking and stair climbing.
Besides my top 5, I also have to mention:
The Chateau de Versailles.
Located 45 minutes south of Paris (just take the C line and it will take you directly there), it was the luxurious home of Louis XIV in the late 1600's, early 1700's. We got there pretty early. They open at 9am and the lines can get very long, very quick. Since the early bird gets the best worm, we were among the first in line and were able to buy a "passport" ($18 euros) which grants entrance to the palace, the gardens, and other smaller house-museums inside. The golden gates of the lavish Chateau gave us a good preamble of what to expect once inside.The furniture, the decor, the chandeliers, the statues, everything evoked an extravagant way of life. A royal way of life. *sigh*
We walked and got lost in the gardens (yes, they are that big), ate lunch at one of the several little restaurants, and rented a row boat for a romantic sail in the Palace's Grand Canal (it is so big, it took 11 years to be built). By the way, this is a must do! So the next time you are in Paris, don't hesitate to visit all of these places and take lots and lots of pictures!
**** Read about our other adventures around the world! HERE
Fellow travelers, what are your favorite parts of Paris?