Nearly every list of “things to see in Paris” begins with the Eiffel Tower, but it would be very difficult to miss seeing this structure from any part of Paris. What had begun as a World Exhibition in 1891 to celebrate the French Revolution, has become one of the most famous landmarks in the world. The tower rises 300 metres, which made it the tallest monument in the world at its completion. It kept its status for nearly forty years as the world’s tallest structure until the Chrysler Building was completed in 1930. Whether you visit it or not, it will certainly mark the landscape as being uniquely Paris.
Although not the largest Cathedral in the world, Norte Dame is possibly the most famous. The masterpiece in Gothic architecture is in the cradle of Paris and serves as a deeply pounding heart. Its foundation as a holy spot are deeply rooted. The Celts had considered it holy ground, while early Romans founded a temple there to worship Jupiter. The first Christian Basilicas was built in the sixth century Common Era, while the Cathedral itself began construction in 1163.
Many of the Cathedral’s sculptures, gargoyles and even the Hall of Kings were destroyed during the French Revolution. It was largely through the influence of writer, Victor Hugo, that Parisians began realising the value of this historical heritage and began restoring its former glory. The Cathedral went through another restoration period in 1991 so as to carefully preserve its original architecture.
If one word was chosen to be synonyms for the arts, it would be the Louvre. This treasury of some of the finest sculptures and art pieces in the world is located at the Louvre Palace, the 1st arrondissement, at the heart of Paris. The Louvre Museum began as the private art collection of King Francis I, in the sixteenth century. It expanded rapidly throughout its early years of existence through donations, gifts and purchases. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the Louvre became a national art museum and was opened to the public. It now contains over one million works of art, of which 35,000 are on display, spreading out over three wings of the former palace.
Serene within a backdrop of elaborate, geometric gardens, a grand canal with a mirror-like surface, water fountains and graceful sculptures, is the Versailles Palace. The exquisitely cultivated grounds, the opulence of its interior, marked it as the quintessential model for all other European palaces. Located in the western suburbs of Paris, about seventeen kilometres from the city centre, the Versailles communes stretches over an area of 26 kilometres, a quarter of the size of Paris. The one hundred hectare gardens took forty years to build. The work was completed by draining swampland and building a series of basins and the Grand Canal.
A number of fountains adorn the basins, including the famous Latona Fountain, with a statue dedicated to the goddess Latona, and the Apollo Fountain, named after the sun god and depicting the namesake riding in a chariot.
The interior is a transport into seventeenth century elegance and exquisite, yet elaborate tastes. Within seventeen mirrored arches reflect back the seventeen arcaded windows overlooking the palace gardens. Each arch contains twenty-one mirrors for a total of 357, decorating a 73 metre hall. To further dazzle your eyes, the ornate hallway is embellished with statues and figurines. The Chateau de Versailles along with the gardens of Versailles, have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites for thirty years.
Paris is marked by its grandeur. The vision of a beautiful city doesn’t stop short with its streets and the Champs Élysées proves it. The most famous avenue in the world is two kilometres long and seventy metres wide. Its western end is lined with cinemas, theatres, cafes and luxury shops. In the opposite direction, near Place de la Concorde, the street becomes quieter, sighing under the splattered shadows of the Jardins Champs Élysées.
Despite its generous size, the stately avenue was highly congested until some redesigning was done by Bernard Huet in 1994. Side lanes were converted into pedestrian zones, an underground parking lot was created and new trees were planted. The traffic has been cut in half under the new design.
Your visit to Champs Élysées isn’t complete with shopping, dining, entertainment and a stroll through the pleasant gardens were heroes were given a chance to relax. The largest square in Paris is at nearby Place de la Concorde. The memorable location has a somewhat grisly history. It began in1763, with a large statue of King Louis the XV erected in the centre of the square in celebration of the king’s recovery from a long illness. During the French Revolution, the statue was torn down and replaced by a larger statue, called Liberté and the square was designated the “Place de la Révolution”. A guillotine was installed in the centre of the square. Within its first two years, 1119 people were beheaded, including Marie Antoinette, King Louis the XVI and the revolutionary, Robespierre.
The architect of this famous arch was never able to realise its accomplishment. Commissioned by Napoleon in 1808 to commemorate his victories, Jean Chaigrin died in 1811, leaving its completion to Jean-Nicolas Huyot. The construction was halted during the Bourbon Restoration and would not be finished until the reign of King Louis-Phillipe, between 1833-1836.
The design is a neo-classical version of ancient Roman architecture, commemorating the fallen heroes of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It is located at the border of the 8th, 16th and 17th arrondissement, on the right bank of the Seine, at the centre of a dodecagonal configuration of twelve radiating avenues. Beneath its vaults lie the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers from World War I.