Ah, the City of Love – Paris may stir up romantic notions, but don’t be fooled, there are tons of things to do in Paris that are completely unrelated to the L-word. (Although our contributors have said that they feel romantic just walking the streets of this beautiful city.) Paris is full of history, culture, and of course delectable food, so pack your passport wallet and money belt and come ready for an unforgettable vacation with your culinary taste buds prepped and your French translation book accessible.
Visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris – An Appreciation by Darrin Gleeman
Want to see the whole city of Paris from above? Visit the Eiffel Tower as part of your trip. The Eiffel Tower, designed by Gustave Eiffel, is the tallest structure in Paris and can be viewed from all points of Paris whether you’re on the right bank or left bank of the River Seine. It was constructed between 1887-1889 to serve as the entrance archway to the World’s Fair and as a celebratory landmark marking the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Interestingly, the Eiffel Tower was intended to be built in Barcelona for their World’s Fair in 1888 but it was rejected.
If you are on a budget or enjoy the exercise, you can climb the Eiffel Tower’s stairs to the top for 4.00 Euros, or you can pay a bit more to take the lift up to either the very top, the first floor, or the second floor. Of course the view from the top can’t be beat, but “the second floor offers great photo opportunities,” says Paris frequenter Darrin Gleeman. On the first floor, you will find an array of shopping and dining opportunities along with the Eiffel Tower Post Office. One unappreciated photographic viewpoint is at the base of the Eiffel Tower where hundreds of people sit, walk, ponder and play. The combination of the Eiffel Tower’s majesty and architecture and the energy emitted by people on the ground in front of it cast varying perspectives on the structure and the photograph itself.
The Louvre Museum in Paris
One of the oldest and most visited museums in the world, the Louvre museum in Paris houses an exhaustive collection of art from around the world including Venus de Milo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, Madonna of the Rocks and, of course, Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. This magnificent building originally served as a royal fortress, but today the Louvre is a public museum that offers collections of Egyptian art, Eastern art, Greek art, Islamic art, along with European sculptures, paintings, drawings, and more. It recently was featured in one of the more acclaimed and debated novels (and later a movie) of our time, called the DaVinci Code. Darrin Gleeman recommends that any Paris traveler “check out the surrounding gardens and the glass pyramid – breathtaking!”
Go to the Moulin Rouge in Paris
During your trip, don’t miss a show at Moulin Rouge – the oldest cabaret hall in Paris built in 1889. Moulin Rouge is translated to Red Mill or windmill in English and that is exactly what is placed on its roof although it is an imitation red windmill. Full of adult dancing, singing, and extravagant costumes, a visit to Moulin Rouge will be a night to remember. Even Frank Sinatra and Edith Piaf once performed here. You can order Moulin Rouge tickets online that include dinner and a show. The dinners are lavish – there are generally three choices – and are accompanied with French wines.
Stroll Paris’s Montmartre
Montmartre is the Montparnasse of the Right Bank in Paris and was “founded” by Jongkind and Camille Pissarro in the late 19th century. It is a hill that sits on the Right Bank of the River Seine, known by sight because of the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur that sits high on the horizon.
Montmartre is known as a social destination and artistic one. It is a popular nightclub hotspot with many restaurants and is a comfortable place to walk with family and friends late at night or during the day. However, it really made its name as an artistic hotspot for famous artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, and Pablo Picasso – all of whom either worked on the hill or had studios there.
Montparnasse, on the Left Bank of the River Seine, was a more refined and less gritty locale for aspiring artists of the 20th century. Rent was cheap but ideas abounded which attracted artists of all denominations, i.e., painting, sculpting, writing, poetry, music composing, etc.
Climb the Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph)
Want to see the world’s largest triumphal arch? Visit the Arc de Triomphe on the Right Bank of the River Seine. Commissioned by Napoleon to honor his Army and to commemorate his victory at Austerlitz, this arch took nearly thirty years to complete. It is known for its intricate engraving and for the tomb of the unknown soldiers that is today located beneath the arch. To learn more about the history associated with the monument, you can visit the small history museum located inside. Even if you are not interested in the historical aspects of the monument, this grand arch presents a beautiful contrast to modern Paris’s urban landscape. Mr. Gleeman says, “When you visit the Arc de Triomphe take the lift up to the top, it offers a view of Paris that is outstanding.”
Ernest Hemingway once said that if you were lucky enough to live in Paris as a young man, then it would stay with you wherever you went. For it is, as he said, a moveable feast.
Paris café’s are the epicenter of Paris’ social life. They provide relaxation, culture, people watching opportunities but mostly intellectual stimulation especially in the district of Montparnasse. Artists such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Robert Capa and others often drank and lunched at Lipp’s and Café du Fleur on St. Germain, Café de Medici’s at the Luxembourg Gardens on Montparnasse, Harry’s New York Bar near the Opera House, Au Cliron dess Chausseurs on Montmartre, or the Ritz at Place Vendome.
Mr. Gleeman warns that your trip to Paris would be incomplete without sipping espresso and nibbling on a croissant in a café during the afternoon or evenings.
Because Paris only about six miles across, you can cover much of the city by foot, but Paris’s metro – or subway – can be essential at times. The Paris Metro is an experience to behold even though it really is a subway. Its underground is clean, artistic, organized and the trains are quiet. It seems to be the antithesis of what American subway systems offer and is the preferred method of traveling into and out of Paris arrondissements. You can preplan metro trips by using the RATP website first, which will give you detailed directions. There are a few things to be aware of when planning travel by subway. Paris has a low crime rate for a metropolitan city, but you still must be aware of pickpockets and other scammers that can be quite creative at times. Additionally, you need to hold onto your ticket the entire time you are in the station, even after you finish the last leg of your train ride, as you can be fined if you are found without your ticket in hand.
Paris Accommodations and Apartment Rentals
Paris not only has impeccable food, but also impeccable accommodations, whether that is a high-end hotel, an apartment rental, or a hostel. If you are looking for a charming, quaint area to stay, try Ile de la Cite Montmartre or Marais. Want to stay where famous artists once stayed? Try Saint-Germain-des-Pres or the Latin Quarter, all located on the Left Bank. Or if you are looking for more modestly priced accommodations with a bohemian feel, look for a place slightly east of Paris.
Renting an apartment in Paris can be a great way to submerge yourself into the city as well as feel right at home. Because apartments are equipped with kitchens, this can be a great money-saver if you want to keep leftovers, or make a few breakfast items before you head out in the morning. You can generally find apartment studios, one bedroom, and two bedroom rentals.