Paris is known throughout the world as a city of exquisite cuisine, famous artistry and beautiful panoramas. Although you could spend weeks touring the world-class museums and hanging out with the arts crowd in Montmartre, it’s impossible to holiday here for the first time without ticking these famous attractions off your traveller’s checklist. Here’s a quick introduction by cheapflights.co.uk to the capital’s classic sights.
Possibly the most iconic cathedral in the world, Notre Dame also marks the centre of the city and is still a proud focal point today, standing by the River Seine in its broad cobbled square. Although originally built in the medieval period, much of the architecture was restored in the 19th century, after the people destroyed many of the religious statues and melted down the bells during the French Revolution. Today, you can scale the heights of Notre Dame’s twin towers and meet the famous stone creatures who dwell up there, often mistaken for gargoyles (they are purely decorative and therefore more accurately known as grotesques).
Named for its revolutionary architect, Gustave Eiffel, this tower forms an instantly recognisable landmark on the Parisian skyline. Famous for being a temporary construction that has stayed on for more than a century, the tower is 986 feet high and receives thousands of visitors each day. Through a series of elevators that take you firstly to the mid-section and then through the central spire to the top, the trip up to the highest viewing platform presents unparalleled views of the French capital.
Among Paris’ more sobering sights, the Catacombs form a labyrinth of underground passages that house several million former inhabitants of the City of Light. Stacks of bones line the former quarry tunnels below the streets, where the dead were taken from the 18th century onwards, the city cemeteries having become full to bursting with bodies. Explore this flickering, lamp-lit world today and the sense of morbid fascination is everywhere you look. You will marvel at the neat arrangements of leg-bones and skulls in addition to the darkly comic French signs reading pronouncements like ‘Stop! Here is the empire of death’.
Many visitors’ first stop on a tour of the gallery halls is Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, which in reality is quite a small portrait, in the Salle des Etats. One of the top museums in the country and in the wider world, the Louvre has existed on this site since 1793 and offers many more grand sights in addition. A Jordanian plaster-cast from around 9,000 years ago, the Classical sculpture of the Venus de Milo and Renaissance masters from Mediterranean and Northern Europe all sit in contrast to more modern artworks right up to the present day. Book a themed trail, from historic eras to the story of ‘The Da Vinci Code’.
So, if you’re headed to France’s first city and feeling overwhelmed by choice, make time for these Parisian giants and you won’t miss out. This said, with the myriad shopping districts, caff culture and graceful boulevards like the Champs Elysees all forming part of Paris’ charm, it’s certainly worth extending your trip to fit in as much of the capital as you can.