Though some may argue that it doesn’t retain the same charm it used to, the Montmarte district of Paris remains to this day a very special place. The neighborhood is a showcase of all the things that make Paris such a charming, beautiful, and lively place. Quiet, narrow, winding, cobblestone streets lead the way up the Montmarte hill, lined with terrace cafés, restaurants, bars, cabarets, and former brothels (though the prostitution remains). Oh, and it’s absolutely beautiful. In other words, it’s an artist’s paradise, or so thought artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso, all of whom at some point lived and/or worked in the Montmarte. It’s easy to see why so many artists were drawn to the neighborhood; the sights, the sounds, and the overall bohemian culture and atmosphere are unlike anything else. Though that exact vibe is no longer present, you can still get a good feel for it, especially at night; when the sun goes down, so do the tourists traps. To top it off (literally), at the peak of the hill stands the Sacré-Cœur, another beautiful, iconic Paris landmark. From there, you will get the absolute best view of Paris, rivaled only by the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Another iconic landmark of Paris: The Arc de Triomphe l’Étoile. Located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the massive Arc de Triomphe stands as a monument to those who fought in France’s many wars (both Revolutionary and Napoleonic), and also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s an epic monument that honors a time of epic importance in French and Parisian history. The Arc is also the location of Place de l’Étoile, a 12-lane roundabout where insurance doesn’t matter and an accident occurs every half-hour, according to my walking tour guide. Regardless, the Arc de Triomphe is a beauty, and its grand size and scale really must be seen in person to truly understand. For a small fee, visitors can access the top of the Arc (while going through a small museum on the way), and treat themselves to more amazing views of Paris.
Mark my words: If you were in Paris for a week, you could literally spend every second of it at the Musée du Louvre, and the trip would still be amazing. Not only that, but you wouldn’t even get close to seeing all of the museum’s massive collection. The Louvre is overwhelming in all aspects, whether it’s the beautiful palace that houses it, the ridiculously large collection of masterpieces and brilliant art, or the overall size of the museum in general. It’s the world’s most popular art museum for a reason.
Even if you don’t feel like coughing up the well-spent €10 for entrance, the exterior of the Louvre is a fascinating work of art in itself. The Louvre Palace has a long history, originally built in the 13th century as a castle fortress (parts of which can still be seen inside). In the 16th century, it was rebuilt as the Louvre Palace as we (somewhat) know it now. The palace exterior hosts truly remarkable architecture and some pleasant courtyards. But of course, the real treasures lie inside.
Ok, so you’re in the Louvre. Obviously, if you’re a first-time visitor, you’re not leaving without seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Don’t worry; as enormous as the museum may be, there are signs at practically every corner directing visitors towards the Mona Lisa. But don’t be surprised if you can’t get a great look at the small painting as it is usually surrounded by hoards of camera-wielding tourists. Regardless, once you cross the Mona Lisa off your list, prepare to get lost (literally) amongst one of the largest and most astonishing art collections in the world.
As great as the Louvre may be, I have to admit that I was frustrated and exhausted (both mentally and physically) by the end of my short visit. Keep in mind, when I say “short,” I mean a few hours, and that is precisely the problem. The Louvre has such an insanely large collection of art that a few hours is nowhere near enough time to appreciate the greatness of it. If you have a few specific pieces you want to check out, chances are that they are spread around the museum, and you will get lost and distracted on the way, which can be stressful. Instead of forcing yourself to see specific works, I recommend setting aside a nice, big chunk of time to visit the museum, and simply roam around and get “lost” in the good way, by absorbing the phenomenal art around you. This way, you can see your favorite pieces while also appreciating plenty of new things. It is said that if you spend 30 seconds looking at each piece of art in the Louvre, it will take you 3 months of time to see everything. The collection is that huge, and the quality of art is simply incredible. The Louvre is an absolute must for Paris and by far one of the city’s top attractions.
Designed by Gustave Eiffel (and others) for the 1889 World’s Fair, the tower was the tallest building in the world at 320 meters, and stayed as such for 41 years (until the Chrysler Building in New York was built in 1930). Originally, the Eiffel Tower was hated by many Parisians, including French writer Guy de Maupassant, who famously claimed he ate lunch at the Eiffel Tower every day because it was the only spot in the city where he didn’t have to look at it. Today, the tower is cherished, and stands as an iconic symbol not only for Paris, but for France as a whole. The Eiffel Tower is undoubtedly a beautiful sight to behold, and it’s arguably the most famous and recognizable building in the world. But is all the hype worth it? I say yes.
Also worth it is the €14 elevator ride to the top. The panoramic views of Paris will leave you in awe. It’s the best way to see the “City of Light.”
It’s a big one this week, folks. This time, the spotlight is on the City of Light: Paris. Is there a person on this planet who doesn’t know about this place? The massive French capital has a rich history and a richer culture. It’s a city of business and a city of art, and it has always been (and will continue to be) a city of vast enlightenment. Iconic landmarks and buildings are more than plentiful, and there is always something around that will catch your eye, whether it’s a lovely park, a quiet street, a massive cathedral, a bustling avenue, or a lively square. Beautiful is an understatement. And the delicious cafés and boulangeries are just icing on the cake (albeit a giant, sensational, mouthwatering cake to begin with). The city is expensive as hell, but it has every right to be. Simply put, Paris is an amazing place.