Paris Sights & Attractions
What to See and Do in Paris
The Eiffel Tower was built to impress, hated when it was unveiled, and is admired by everyone today. The TRIUMPHAL ARCH marks the center of the city and offers views from the top, while the domes of the PANTHEON and of the LE DÔME DES INVALIDES (the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte) both stand out in the city's skyline.
The Centre Pompidou's extraordinary inside-out building by architect Richard Rogers is home to the museum of modern art. It holds Matisse, Picasso, and other Cubist, Fauvist, and Surrealist works, while Picasso has the honors of having his own Picasso Museum. Having lived in France for most of his life, many of the Spanish-born artist's major works (such as his self-portrait or "The Kiss") are on display in a 17th century mansion.
More recently, Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine (the City of Architecture and Heritage) opened with the aspiration to be "the world's biggest architecture museum." Facing the Eiffel Tower in the Palais de Chaillot, it presents the history of architecture since the 12th century, but also promotes contemporary ideas.
The Louvre, the world's first and still most important museum, can take days to be seen properly. You'll likely be standing in line for some time before entering and getting close to its most famous piece, the Mona Lisa, but every effort is worth it. Its vast collection includes the best of European painting and sculpture, and ancient treasures from Asia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
But the Orsay Museum (housed in a splendid building that used to be a train station) also has a collection not to be missed. Each of its works (by Manet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, among many others) is a masterpiece, and there is also a varied sculpture collection.
The Centre Pompidou (see above) is the city's most striking building, but there are several other constructions in the city that stand as architectural wonders. The Arab World Institute is an example of that. It's a very modern construction but incorporating ancient Arabic motifs. Inside it exhibits a collection of Middle Eastern art and archaeological finds.
Another museum that would be worth a look for the architecture alone is the Quai Branley Museum. It is partly covered in wood and dense vegetation, while inside it showcases art from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania.
More famous though, is the Sacre Coeur Basilica, a Romano-Byzantine construction standing above Paris for close to a century, while the modern Great Arch of La Defense (in reality a hollowed cube), also provides panoramic views over the city.
The splendid Cluny (as formerly known) or Moyen Age Museum (the official name today) holds one of the world's most beautiful and unique medieval art collections, including Roman baths, tapestries, medieval stained glass, and exquisite gold crowns and jewellery.
Also considered a medieval masterpiece is the SAINTE-CHAPELLE CHURCH and its soaring stained-glass windows, while the Notre Dame stands as arguably the world's most famous cathedral. Its spectacular Gothic facade is only the beginning of extraordinary architectural details found throughout the building, ending with the gargoyles seen from up close in the north tower.
Start at the grandiose PLACE DE LA CONCORDE towards the CHAMPS-ELYSEES, where every local and tourist goes for a stroll and window-shopping. From there, move on to the most glamorous shopping streets in the city, RUE DE RIVOLI, SAINT-HONORÉ running parallel to it, and AVEBUE MONTAIGNE not too far away. Follow that with a walk down RUE MONTORGUEIL just outside MARAIS, the most elegant Paris district. In the evening, RUE OBERKAMPF nearby has the trendiest nightlife. Across the Seine is the lively ST. GERMAIN DES PRÉS quarter and its historic cafés down BOULEVARD ST. GERMAIN.
Give your legs a break at the beautiful LUXEMBOURG GARDEN, the city's most popular park.
TOURS & DAYTRIPS
Go on a Tour of Paris and also take the train or go on an organized tour to Versailles Palace, only 40 minutes away. This 17th century royal residence is the largest palace in Europe, and is surrounded by impressive formal gardens. The sumptuous interior includes the famous Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, bringing WWII to an end.
Find out about Versailles tours here.