La Ville des Lumières… the City of Light, as Paris is commonly known, is a moniker adopted in part due to the beautiful lights that illuminate the city at night and also thanks to its cultural reputation as the hub of the Enlightenment. With an astonishingly high concentration of architectural, historical and cultural gems, a visit to the French capital is an unforgettable experience.
The symbol of Paris known the world over, the Eiffel Tower was constructed in the late 19th century and held the title of the tallest building in the world for 41 years. It remains the tallest structure in Paris and is one of the most visited attractions in the entire world. A trip to Paris is truly incomplete without ascending this metallic monolith. There are restaurants on the two lower levels and lifts to take you up to the very top. Aside from the stunning panoramic views you will see from inside the tower, seeing the outside of the structure is also a must. The Trocadéro Gardens just across the river in front of the tower provide ample photograph opportunities, and make sure to see the tower lit up in the evening as it shines its beacon over the city.
It would be a mistake to go to the Louvre with the sole intention of seeing the Mona Lisa: as impressive as the famous painting is, the museum is home to many more treasures. The building itself is a spectacular work of architecture in its own right, and the impressive glass pyramid in the courtyard hides a secondary entrance that was constructed because of the immense popularity of the museum. Aside from the Mona Lisa, the Louvre also hosts famous paintings by Caravaggio, Vermeer and Raphael. There are also many sculptures to see, including the world-famous Venus de Milo.
A stroll down the Champs-Elysées is essential when visiting Paris. At one end of the Champs-Elysées is the Place de la Concorde, historically famous as the place of execution of Marie Antoinette and her husband, King Louis XVI. The Tuileries Garden, a lush, verdant public park, is just next to the Place de la Concorde. At the other end of the Champs-Elysées is another of Paris’ most famous monuments: the Arc de Triomphe. A tribute to those who died fighting in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, beneath the arc is the subterranean Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War.
Famously the setting of the hit film Amélie, Montmartre is a charming area atop a hill overlooking the rest of the city. Montmartre has a fascinating artistic heritage, having attracted famous artists from Picasso to Renoir, and is full of charming cobbled streets and quaint cafés. The jewel of Montmartre’s crown is undoubtedly the Sacré-Coeur, a pristinely white basilica that sits atop Montmartre hill and houses an impressively large mosaic that decorates the ceiling.
For lovers of music and literature, a visit to the Père Lachaise Cemetery to pay your respects to some late icons is an opportunity not to be missed. The wide variety of tombstone styles show a fascinating insight into the culture of the death ritual, and the winding pathways lined with trees offer a supremely calm resting place for those buried in the cemetery. Edith Piaf, the famous French singer of Non, je ne regrette rien found her final resting place in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, as did the lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison. The most famous literary name to have been buried in this cemetery is arguably Oscar Wilde, though you will also find the resting places of several titans of French literature, from Colette to Balzac to Molière.