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Paris Travel Guide - Sights to See
Arc de Triomphe: (Metro: E'toile) Open daily except Tuesday 10 - 5:30 PM. This is the largest triumphal arch in the world, standing as the focal point of 12 radiating avenues on the Place Charles de Gaule. Napoleon ordered this arch built in 1806 to commemorate his victories. Completed in 1863, it is 162 feet high and 147 feet wide. The bas-relief designs are of military scenes and the names of 128 victories of Napoleon and the 600 generals who participated in these victories. Underneath the arch is the tomb of France's Unknown Soldier. Take the elevator to the top of the arch for a fantastic view of Paris.

Champs Elysees: (Metro: Etoile or F.D. Rosevelt). This famous Boulevard includes the world's most famous promenade. It runs arrow-straight from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, and is lined with Chestnut trees, shops, palatial hotels, movie houses, office buildings, and numerous side-walk cafes. It is the greatest vantage point to sit and watch Paris stroll by. One may sit at a cafe for hours with only 1 drink. It is "improper" to ask you to leave.

Place de la Concorde: (Metro: Concorde). Regarded by many as the most beautiful square in the world, this 85,000 square yard expanse is so vast that your eyes can't take it all in. In the middle rises a 33 centuries old Obelisk from Egypt. Fountains surrounded by eight statues representing 8 French cities flank this. Near the statue of Brest is the spot where the Guillotine stood during the Revolution. In 1793, King Louis XVI lost his head here and was followed by 1,343 other. Off to one side of the square is the American Embassy.

Tuileries Gardens: (Metro: Tuileries). Stretching along the Right Bank of the Seine River from the Place de la Concorde to the court of the Louvre Museum, these gardens were laid out as a royal pleasure park in 1564. Today, they are filled with statues and fountains, plus light-refreshment stands. It's a great place to sit and relax and watch the Parisians... or to picnic. Near one end of the gardens, there's a small version of the Arc de Triomphe. If you'll stand in the middle of this arch, you'll have an arrow-straight view down the Champs Elysees to the big Arc de Triomphe. On the river side of the park above Concorde is the Orangerie Museum. On the opposite side of the park is the Jeu de Paume Museum. At the end of the park away from Concorde is the Louvre Museum.

Palais Royal: (Metro: Palais Royal). Directly beside the Louvre Museum... beautiful gardens surround this palace built by Cardinal Richelieu. There are elegant shops and apartments in the area... especially along Rue St. Honore, for the "designer" names. The French Revolution ignited at the Palais Royal.

Church of St. Germain des Pres: (Metro: St. Germain). This Romanesque Church is the oldest in Paris... not particularly "majestic" or interesting unless one is really "into churches".

Church of St. Sulpice: (Metro: St. Sulpice). This is Paris' largest church after Notre Dame. The prime attraction here: Paintings by Delacroix.

Luxembourg Palace and Gardens: (Metro: St. Sulpice) This is the left bank equivalent of the Tuileries Gardens only more beautiful. The Palace itself is now the Senate Building of the French Government. Originally it was built in the 17th century for Marie de Medici. The gardens are Renaissance in design and surround a central pond, which reflects the palace. The palace is closed to the public but the gardens are great for relaxing, people watching, or picnicking. There are numerous places to sit (chairs and benches) throughout the park.

Quartier Latin: (Metro: St. Sulpice). The Latin Quarter consists of numerous small streets winding around the Paris University, of which Sorbonne is a part. You'll see many students in the area. It's also the area for the lowest priced hotels in Paris.

Place St. Michel: (Metro: St. Michel) Right on the river... decorated by an impressive fountain, this was the scene of some of the most savage fighting during the French Resistance of 1944. You'll see small name plaques where fighters fell. Just off St. Michel are numerous stands selling excellent snacks. The area is a potpourri of many ethnic groups and many tourists think

Pantheon: (Metro: St. Michel) Daily except Tuesday. 10-12, 2-5. This structure is a splendid cross between a Roman Temple and a Gothic Church... and has been both. Towering on the left bank, it is one of the city's most famous landmarks. Originally it was the Church of St. Genevieve in the 18th century. After the Revolution it was converted to a patriotic shrine for the nation's greats. It again became a church during Napoleon's time. In 1885 it was reverted to a non-religious temple. Inside the stark interior are the tombs of Rousseau, Voltaire, Victor Hugo Emille Zola, and Braille. If a guard shows you around, tip him. He generally will try very hard to communicate with you with the little English he knows.

Palais de Chaillot: (Metro: Trocadero) A beautiful, monumental curved palace. Stand within the curve for a view that is breath-taking... the Trocadero gardens, the fountains, the Pont de Lena on the Seine and the Eiffel Tower on the opposite bank. Today the Chaillot is a Museum of Films. Daily except Tuesday. Closed lunch.

Eiffel Tower: (Metro: Trocadero) The symbol of Paris... 985 feet high. It was originally erected for the Universal Exhibition of 1889 and was supposed to be torn down a few years later. However, it found a permanent role as a radio and TV tower. Plans for the tower covered 6000 yards of paper. Its weight is 7000 tons. It contains 2½ million bolts... houses a glass pavilion holding 800 people... and took 2 years to build. It has recently been renovated. Stand underneath, and look up at the steel lace work shooting into the sky. Take the elevator to the top.

Hotel des Invalides: (Metro: Invalides) Daily 10-6. This is a church, a palace, and what most tourists come to see... the tomb of Napoleon. The hotel was originally built by Louis XIV in 1676 as a home for pensioned soldiers. Most of that section is now a military museum, but a few old soldiers still live here. There are four attractions here:

Musee de l'Armee ... which is the finest military museum in the world. In addition to the usual weapons, etc, one will find uniforms of all periods of French history as well as many items related to Napoleon... including his "death mask".

The Army Church... is decorated with banners captured from France's enemies. Soldiers came here to pray before going into battle.

Church of the Dome ... is considered the finest building in Paris, with the most perfectly proportioned dome. In the crypt beneath this dome is:

Tomb of Napoleon: His body rests in a sarcophagus of red granite on a pedestal of green granite. Surrounding the tomb are 12 figures of Victories, along with captured enemy flags. It took 19 years for the British to release Napoleon's body, which had been originally buried at his place of banishment. In 1.840 Napoleon's second funeral took place in Paris. Inside this huge sarcophagus, his body is further enclosed in 6 additional caskets. Other members of his family and some generals are buried around the sides of the church. It is possible to look down on the tomb from the ground level. If you go to the tomb level, a guide sometimes explains (in French) the story. A tip is expected.

Notre Dame: (Metro: Cite) Daily 8-7. This is "the" Cathedral of Paris and one of the world's greatest structures. The present building replaced two Romanesque churches, which stood until 1160. Bishop Maurice de Sully began the current structure and work on it continued for more than 150 years. The result is definitely a Gothic Masterpiece. The details are exquisite. The grand Rose Window above the main portal forms a halo 31 feet in diameter around the head of the statue of the Virgin. The "flying buttresses" which support the walls are a fantastic architectural achievement. The exterior ornaments, especially the gargoyles around the ledges, are unequaled. These gargoyles also double as rainspouts. It's worthwhile to go to the top of one tower for the view, and later to walk around the church's exterior to the small park in back, where you'll have excellent views of the buttresses.

Pont Neuf and Square de Vert Galant: (Metro: Cite) The Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris and has a row of interesting heads carved along the sides. They all have comical expressions. This square is named for Henry IV whose nickname was "Vert Galant" or ladies man. There is a statue of him on horseback at the stairs above the park.

Sainte Chapelle: (Metro: Cite) Daily 10-11-45, 1:30-5:45. One of the oldest and most beautiful churches in the world. It was build by Louis IX in 1246 to house the relics of the "crown of thorns" and a piece of the "cross". There are really two churches here... the lower chapel for the servants, and the upper chapel for the royals. Look for the small grated window from which Louis IX participated in services without being noticed. The outstanding features of the chapels are the 15 stained-glass windows, which flood the interior with colored light. The chapel comes alive and glows like a rainbow. One feels completely surrounded by colored light. The windows depict more than a thousand scenes from the Bible. Sainte Chapelle, which is located within the court of the Palais de Justice was usually not included in the itinerary of tourists in the past, but now the word has gotten out. You can expect long lines. Do not go to Sainte Chapelle if it is cloudy or is raining. You need sun to see its glory.

The Conciergerie: (Metro: Cite) Daily 9:30-12,1:30-6. On the north bank near Notre Dame, this is the most sinister building in France, and forms part of the huge Palais de Justice. The name "concierge" is derived from "constable" and it's reputation stems from the Revolution. When the Bastille fell, this became the chief prison. When the Reign of Terror began, the Conciergerie turned into a stopover for those on the way to the Guillotine. There are remnants of a medieval palace, including a refectory and kitchen, along with rows of cells in which prisoners waited for the guillotine.

Le Marais: (Metro: St. Paul) This is the second oldest part of Paris, with a large Jewish population. It is dominated by some of the finest old mansions, and is being restored, becoming the place to live.

Place de Voges: (Metro: St. Paul) Laid out in 1605 by Henry IV, this "enchanted island" is the oldest square in Plaris. It originally began life as a Palace. Today the almost symmetrical buildings have been restored to their past glory in total harmony and beautifully balanced. Well worth a visit.

Maison de Victor Hugo: (Metro: St. Paul). Daily except Mon 10 -5:40. Located on the corner of the Place de Voges, the museum houses a collection of 19th century illustrations for Hugo's novels, a few Daumiers, as well as costumes, pictures, and manuscripts of Hugo's plays. He rented an apartment here on the first floor.

Hotel de Sully: (Metro: St. Paul) Wed/Sat/Sun 3-5. #62 Rue St. Antoine. Sully was Henry IV's Minister of Finance and lived simply until he retired. At that time he purchased and re-did this splendid mansion for his young bride.

Hotel de Ville: (Metro: Hotel de Ville) Beautifully restored building now used by the French Government. If you're in the vicinity, it's well worth a short stop.

Centre Georges Pompidou: (Metro: Rambuteau, Chatelet, Hotel de Ville). Daily except Tuesday 12-10. In 1969, Pompidou, then President of France, began this project as the "temple devoted to art". The building has become the most avant-garde building in the world. Through a transparent facade one sees colorfully painted pipes and ducts which crisscross the building. There appears to be no interior walls and a grand feeling of space is created. All this has made the Pompidou Center one of the biggest attractions of Paris. For a city who hated the building originally, the French now lovingly refer to it as "Beaubourg". The building is so radical that it almost over-shadows what is inside... the Musee National d'Art Moderne with one of the worlds most important collections of modern art. If you don't visit for the art, do go for the open square in front of the Pompidou... see the lively "street performers" and then walk around to the right side for the amusing and humorous Tingley Fountains.

Place de la Bastille: (Metro: Bastille) What you will see is a busy traffic circle with nothing left of the grim prison except some tracing along the street that outline where the Bastille used to stand. In the center of this square stands the monumental July Column, which honors the victims of the July Revolution of 1830 that marked the supremacy of Louis-Philippe. The God of Liberty crowns the column.

Le Forum des Halles: (Metro: Les Halles or Chatelet). This immense shopping center is built on the site of the now demolished early morning food market of Paris. There are over 200 shops, 16 restaurants, 12 movie theatres, a wax museum, etc. The architectural style is a mixture of marble and neon, and plastic... all connected by escalators and elevators, stairways and streets.

Place Vendome: (Metro: Madeleine) This is a perfect example of Classical French architecture on the fashionable Right Bank. The palaces surrounding this square include the famous Ritz Hotel as well as the Ministry of Justice. The center is crowned by a 144-foot column erected to commemorate Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz. The actual column is stone, but the band enclosing it is made of bronze, cast from 1200 cannon captured by the Emperor. The statue on top is Napoleon.

La Madeleine: (Metro: Madeleine) This is the patron church of Paris. It is located on a square between the Place de la Concorde and the Opera House. It has been a temple for Napoleon, a library, a stock exchange, a theatre, and the Bank of France. In 1842, it was completed as a church.

Opera House: (Metro: Opera). This is the largest theatre in the world... opened in 1875... ornately grand. It is possible to take tours through the building when there is no performance.

New Opera House: This new structure opened in 1989 for the French Bicentennial.

Montmartre: (Metro: Abbesses or Anver). This area is the highest point in Paris and used to be the famous artist's village. Most tourists think of this as the "real" Paris... but, while it is charming, it is also very tourist. Around the area is a maze of steep and crooked little streets looking much the way Renoir, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and the other Impressionists saw them. In the area one will find the ruins of Moulin de la Galete, which was made famous by Toulouse-Lautrec. It is currently being restored. And the Montmartre Cemetery is an interesting side tour. On the highest point of Montmartre is the Basilica of Sacre Coeur, which is built in an oriental, neo-Byzantine style. This church, which dominates the area, is a major landmark of Paris.

Parc Monceau: (Metro: Monceau. This is the most fashionable park in Paris, located in the expensive district northeast of the Arc de Triomphe. You'll find a colonnade of artificial Romans Ruins, a Venetian Bridge, a small lake, and many children of the rich guarded by their nurses and dogs.

Pere-Lachaise Cemetery: (Metro: Pere-Lachaise). This cemetery, the largest in Paris contains more famous dead than any place on earth... Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Moliere, Chopin, Rossini, Corot, Delacroix... down to Edith Piaf. The over-all effect of the architecture/design of the tombstones is very interesting.

Sewers of Paris: (Metro: Alma-Marceau) The sewers were constructed by Baron Haussmann and are a complicated network of tunnels like an underground city with the street names clearly labeled. Tours through the sewers are very popular perhaps, because of the drama of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables". Tours begin at Pont de l'Alma, where a staircase leads into the bowels of the city. Check visiting hours with tourist information.

Catacombs of Paris: (#1Place Denfert-Rochereau, Paris 14e) Open daily except Monday. It's a weird tour... a one hour macabre hike through limestone tunnels. The tomb entrance bears the inscription "Arrete, c'est ici llempire de la mort". As you pass below this admonition, you will view the remains of literally millions of Parisians whose bones were placed here when certain cemeteries were needed for other purposes. Begun as a tomb near the end of the 18th century, the catacombs became the final resting place for many victims of the French Revolution.

Rodin's villa studio at Meudon: This country home of Rodin recently was opened to the public. He bought the 3- story villa in 1895 and lived here until his death in 1917. Meudon can be reached by subway. Museum is only open Fri/Sat/Sun ...1- 6 PM.

The Lido, Folies Bergiere, Moulin Rouge: Dinner shows at these famous theatres are very expensive, and most people say that the shows in Las Vegas are better. If you are inclined to go, it is cheaper to go to the late show and have drinks only. Tours can also be booked thru your hotel. These tours will include 2 other types of nightlife.

Seine River Cruise: All cruises leave from the Pont de Lena or Pont de l'Alma area near the Eiffel Tower. The prices are all about the same and no reservation is required. There is also an expensive dinner cruise. Recommendation: A cruise during the evening hours can be more interesting because the major buildings in Paris are illuminated.
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Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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