Paris, the City of Light and the City of Love…
There really is no other place like it. Even the French consider Paris to be separate, integral to France but not quite French – Parisian.
Considered the most romantic city in the world, with countless stories, movies and art works dedicated to the beauty of this city.
No matter who you ask, this city draws a passionate response – yes they love it, no they hated it. Paris is not a place that causes apathy, it is unique in its ability to draw intense reactions from those who visit.
Parisians are unique in that its very country will admit that the Parisian is a beast of its own. Its people stubborn, arrogant, rude and proud. I love the French and I love Paris, it is my lifelong dream to move to Paris. But the one thing I have learned over the years is that a Parisian would cut off their nose to spite their face to maintain their rights to Liberté, égalité and fraternité.
To be fair when you consider the history of Paris, they have every right to be proud. Paris is the fashion capital of the world; it sets the trends that the world follows. Its museums have lines of people prepared to wait hours just to enter. Its dining is considered the standard to which the world follows, and many of the world’s greatest writers, artists and thinkers have all called Paris home at some point.
Yet Parisians don’t like to brag, instead they complain. Constantly. It is a kind of art form really! And smile? Forget about it. In fact (as I learned the hard way) being someone while naturally smiles and is visibly happy (yes I am Australian – this is normal) it made me an obvious tourist simply because I was smiling in happiness on my first visit there just for being in Paris.
Heads up though – if you smile at a person in Paris they think you are flirting with them, so be careful who you smile to!
So what are some of the reasons you should visit Paris?
1. The Iconic Landmarks
Landmarks – the iconic buildings that automatically come to mind when thinking of Paris
The Eiffel tower: A symbol of Paris, but it was never meant to be. The Eiffel tower was constructed in 1889 for the World Fair and was the subject of much criticism at the time. Now we can’t picture Paris without its iconic tower!
The Louvre: the world’s largest art museum, with more then 35,000 pieces of artwork on display (not counting those in storage beneath the museum or on loan around the world). Even if you only spend a few minutes in front of each piece, it will take you years to see absolutely everything!
The Notre Dame Cathedral: The stunning medieval cathedral on the Île de la Cité, or centre of the city. Construction on the cathedral first began in 1160 and has undergone several restorations. But none more so then the restoration she is experiencing now, after the fire in 2019.
The Arc De Triomphe: just looking at this gives me anxiety, but not because of the actual Arc. But because it sits in the middle of a giant roundabout, and the speed in which cars enter and drive through it is insane! But thankfully there is an underground entrance to this beautiful memorial, dedicated to the soldiers of the French revolution and Napoleonic wars. If you can manage it, the view from the top is worth the 280 steps.
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica: The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a stunningly beautiful church that sits on the highest point of the city on Montmartre Hill. Compared to the Notre-Dame, the Basicilia is very young (construction began in the late 1800’s). Stunning inside and out.
The Moulin Rouge: technically not an landmark, but so well known thanks to the movie (and the distinctive red windmill) that is must feature on this list. I definitely recommend seeing the show, the performances were very entertaining!
On a side note – have you ever wondered why Paris has so few skyscrapers? Most major cities seems to be filled with them, but Paris has managed to limit the intrusion around the centre of the city with strict height limits. It means that unlike most capital cities, you can actually see around you and the city is able to keep its historical charm. Unfortunately, it seems to be changing with some truly horrible looking towers being built. I truly hope Paris does not lose its je ne sais quoi in its rush to modernise.
2. Art & Culture
There are about 130 museums in Paris, ranging from small private collections all the way up to the Louvre.
The most famous museums are the Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, the Louvre (of course). Though if you want to see something truly off the beaten track, you can go to the Musée des égouts de Paris. This strange museum is located in the Parisian sewer system and teaches visitors about the city’s sewer system works. Though if given a choice, I prefer the rather morbid catacombs of Paris, the massive underground tunnel system which holds the remains of over 6 million people.
3. The Food (and Wine)
I have no idea where to start with this one. The food is beautiful, consistent, and always of high quality. The bread however, is mouth-wateringly delicious. I honestly don’t know what makes French bread and pastries taste so amazing, but I can live off French bread, cheese and wine with no regret!
From their famous cheeses, street markets filled with fresh produce, charcuteries filled with everything from sausages to roast chicken and potatoes and of course the mouth-watering croissants, you can eat very well here with minimal effort.
Don’t forget the cafés in Paris as well. The streets are filled with the distinctive wicker chairs outside restaurants and cafes, and while brunch is not a traditional French habit, it is slowly changing.
As for the wine, even the cheapest house wine is reasonable here. Whether you know your way around a vintage or not, the wine lists will always be drinkable. À votre santé (a toast to your health)
4. Fashion & Shopping
From flea markets to high end luxury goods, Paris has something for everyone. Presentation and style is critical to the French, clothing is generally very well made and timeless. So even in the second-hand stores you are bound to find something beautiful to take home with you.
Whether high end shops are in your budget or not though, definitely take the time to go into some of the luxury department stores, it is an experience!
And of course there are the outdoor markets such as the Marché aux Paces de St-Ouen (a flea market with about 3,000 traders), Marché International de Rungis (the largest wholesale food market in the world), and the Marché aux Fleurs et aux Oiseaux (flower and bird market).
5. Parks & Gardens
If you love the outdoors or simply enjoy the peace and quiet a garden brings, then Paris has plenty of green spaces for you to enjoy. From the famous Tuileries Garden outside the Louvre, to the massive Bois de Vincennes there are plenty of options for you to pack a picnic and enjoy an afternoon with a good book.
Paris is a city filled with history, all the way from its origins around 259BC when the Parisii, a Celtic tribe settled in the region. Over the centuries Paris has been attacked by Romans, Attila the Hun, Vikings, Moors, the British, its own revolution, Napoleon and of course the Nazis and countless others, surviving and growing stronger in its identity each time.
The history of this city is fascinating and if you enjoy history, then it is worth reading.
So there you go, 6 reasons to put Paris on your travel bucket list.
Have I missed any?