Paris; the most romantic city in the world, and our destination last weekend.
An early flight from Manchester on Friday morning saw us arriving in Paris before lunch, giving us plenty of time to get the most out of the weekend.
“Paris is always a good idea” – Audrey Hepburn
When I visit somewhere new, I love to walk around and soak up the atmosphere. Aside from the main tourists spots I like to get a feel for a city off the beaten track. Paris is great to explore on foot, but the metro is easy to use and perfect if it’s raining, or you just want to rest your feet for a while.
The tourist sites
1.Arc de Triomphe
Our first destination was to the centre of the world’s largest roundabout and the monument to Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz. We took the obligatory tourist snaps from a precarious position in the middle of the road and spent several moments contemplating the names of French soldiers carved in to the intricate stonework.
You can’t visit Paris without taking a stroll down the city’s most glamorous avenue. The tree lined luxury shopping street is the place to browse in high end stores and maybe be tempted to buy a Mercedes – it’s normal to have car showrooms on the high street, right?
3. Notre Dame
On Saturday morning, the rain came, so it was time to turn our sights to the indoor attractions. The Notre Dame may be free to visit, but you can’t escape the queue. Huddling under umbrellas for about an hour was worth it to take a peek inside this stunning example of French Gothic architecture.
I loved the eerie quality of the light created by the chandeliers and incense.
There was a wedding taking place during our visit, which brought the building to life. It’s not often you get to see ancient churches in use.
4. Moulin Rouge
Whilst we decided against buying tickets for a show (it’s not a cheap night out and I’d heard mixed reviews so couldn’t decide if it was worth it), I still wanted to see the Moulin Rouge. I’d recommend visiting at night to see the iconic windmill in all its glory.
5. Eiffel Tower
You can’t walk far in Paris without spotting the Eiffel Tower. It stands proud and tall against the city’s low level architecture. A light show takes place on the hour each night after dark. It’s somewhat tacky but spectacular at the same time. To get a good view, join the crowds at Jardins du Trocadéro.
6. The Louvre
Whether you’re an art lover, or you simply enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, visiting the Louvre should be on your Paris ‘To Do’ list. Apparently it would take 9 months to glance at the 35,000 works of art in the world’s largest museum, so don’t expect to get round it all. Most visitors will head straight to the Mona Lisa – be prepared to push your way through a huddle of tourists to make it to the front.
The other must see piece is the Venus de Milo, which is an ancient Greek sculpture believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
If you’re interested in the history of the building head down to the medieval Louvre exhibit, which allows you to walk through the moat and gaze at the castle walls from the days when the Louvre was in fact a fortress.
7. Musée D’Orsay
If you’re interested in the work of artists such as Monet, Renoir and van Gogh, the former railway station makes for a stunning place to view their paintings. Just be prepared to queue, particularly if you are visiting on a Sunday.
1. Explore 19th-Century Paris
One of the joys of the Lonely Planet guide books are the walking tours. They are guaranteed to take you through some of the lesser known sites of the city and make you feel like you’ve stumbled upon hidden gems. After enjoying a picnic lunch in Jardin des Tuilleries we took advantage of the sunshine and explored the covered arcades of early 19th century Paris.
The walk also took us in to Jardin Palais Royal, which features the 260 humbug like columns of Daniel Buren’s sculpture.
2. Meander along the Seine
It was lovely to stroll along the river in the sunshine, taking in the views and the Pont Alexandre III bridge.
3. Canal St-Martin
The quirky 4.5 km canal is the lesser known waterway of Paris. It’s not as stunning as the Seine, but it’s nice to stroll along the cobbled banks and watch boats mastering the locks.
Other Points of Interest
1.Pont des Arts
Also known as the Lover’s Bridge. Despite 45 tonnes of padlocks being removed from the bridge this summer, there are still many thousands of ‘love locks’ adorning the railings either side of the river. The sheer volume of locks is stunning.
2. Galeries Lafayette
Instead of queuing to climb the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe we decided to take in panoramic views of the city from the roof of Galeries Lafayette. The grand department store is spread over 3 separate buildings. The main store features a magnificent stained glass dome in the centre and a roof garden where you can enjoy the sunset, a drink, and the view.
3. Marché Bastille
This open air street market, stretching between the Bastille and Richard Lenoir metro stations would be a great place to stock up on supplies if you were self catering in Paris. We enjoyed the hustle and bustle of locals picking up their groceries. With all kinds of sea food, fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and of course breads and pastries, it was a treat for all the senses.
4. Belleville Street Art
Always on the look out for something out of the ordinary we found an unusual street in Belleville. Rue Dénoyez, 20e is decorated in some of the most extravagant street art you will ever see. Everything, from the walls to the litter bins, is covered in brightly coloured graffiti. There are some quirky looking cafes towards the end of the street, which would make a great place to watch the world go by.
Have you been to Paris? If so, what were your favourite things to do? Let me know in the comments below.