Whoever told you that Paris is the romantic city of passion every single lover dreams of must have been too spellbound for forgetting all the other fantastic things you won’t experience anywhere else in the world. Because, you see, Paris isn’t all about the person/people you’re with, but more about the great stuff that’s impossible to miss. There are so many things not to be left out of your visiting program, and the good news is – most of them are free – that you’d need at least a week to cover them all. Some of the attractions are iconic for the ‘city of love’, while others are less popular, but stunning in any possible way you can think of.
1. Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris.
‘His cathedral was enough for him. It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquility and benevolence. The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him – he resembled them too closely for that. It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at. The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and kept watch over him.’ Victor Hugo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
It wasn’t just Hugo who was impressed enough to create a fictional universe in which this great artwork exists. I’m pretty sure every tourist who’s been here – even during the renovation periods – would have done the same. Almost shockingly, everyone seems to think the same – there’s something about this place that makes it very imposing, magnificent and culturally significant. And it’s not just the beautifully mastered gothic elements, but the over one hundred and fifty years of work that took until its completeness seem to have marked it in a very special way. This medieval outstanding beauty with its carved portals and ornate rose windows is free for visits, even on the inside. The fact that it’s still functional makes it possible for you to even catch an instrumental rehearsal if you’re lucky enough. And while you’ll be charmed by the prestigious performance, you may as well admire the stained glass windows and the sculptures collection while at it. And if all this spectacle isn’t enough of a demonstration, you can try a view from behind the cathedral, from about 2 kilometers away, offering you a landscape as classy and refined as the interior itself.
If you don’t happen to have a map that’s good and clear enough or if you simply forgot to take it with you in the morning, the best way to make sure you’ve arrived correctly is to have a feeling you’re in Provence rather than in the country’s dynamic, crowded, active, animated capital. Because all the rumors are true: Montmartre is classy, and yet somehow provincial. It’s what makes it unmistakable for anyone who knows something (anything!) about Paris and didn’t live under a rock. But this air bourgeois, yet somehow bohemian isn’t inferior in its delicacy and finesse. There are plenty of things to do here as well. The tip would be not to get distracted. Instead of following the crowd (herd) to Place du Tertre searching for doubtful artists overly conscious of their talents, try Rue Abbesses – a place that would have made a great Diagon Alley if the Harry Potter plot were to be French.
There’s not much you could think about not to be found here. From delicately arranged shops, traditional restaurants with great food, all kinds of boutiques with their je-ne-sais-quoi, everything you’ll need for a nicely spent evening you can find here. As about Sacré Coeur, there are two things you just have to do once you’re visiting. The first one’s natural and you don’t really need any advice for it – just walk up the stairs, turn around and admire one of the most stunning views of Paris you could ever get to see. Don’t forget that some of the most beautiful photos of France’s capital were taken from here. Take a shot yourself. The second one, on the other hand, doesn’t get to be popular enough and the trip reviews don’t often make it justice. But go inside the Basilica and admire the riot of glitzy mosaics – you don’t have to be a born artist to be dazzled by the thorough, meticulous artworks which, if you look long enough, sometimes seem to borrow elements from the panorama you’ve admired outside. Pieces from the glistening city’s elegance were triumphantly slipped into the play of colors.
3. Have the world’s most popular and enjoyable promenade
Starting point – Place de la Concorde. The obelisk from the center is a gift from Egypt’s pasha in the nineteenth century. The pink granite is over 3000 years old and really worth a look, while the surroundings were designed to make the locals (as well as the tourists) escape from the city torment. The eight beautifully carved women waiting for you at the corners of the square embody the country’s largest and most important cities in history. Watching over the park for almost three centuries has made them not only artistic symbols, but maternal figures of protection as well. The point you’re aiming towards is l’Arc de Triomphe¸ a famous monument standing for the country’s magnificence in terms of historic impressiveness. One of the many reasons for which this monument is a must see is la forme d’étoile (star shape) in which the most impressive boulevards of Paris spread, getting lost in the city complexity. A panoramic view is perfect to make you understand (or a map of the city, for that matter) the architectural and infrastructural grandeur of the ensemble. What’s really beautiful from Concorde to the Arc is the chops and changes of the surrounding – the scenery oscillates from chestnut trees to high office buildinds and expensive shops and boutiques. Once you’re looking at the Arc, the final destination of your promenade is perhaps the world’s most popular boulevard – Champs Elysées. Confined by tall, imposing trees, it’s just marvelous with all the noise and fuss anywhere around, and yet charmingly calming and perfectly suitable for a walk in the evening.
4. Le Jardin de Tuileries
If you’re backtracking, from Place de la Concorde you can walk here on your road to Louvre. A splendid garden that’s been a topos for all kinds of French celebrations and gatherings for the past two centuries, when it was first made public. Here you’ll find the smaller relative of the very imposing Arc de Triomphe, a landmark for the Tuileries Palace. Goves of trees, vast lawns, small culptures, many statues fo Rodin, minutiously carved arrangements and an overall splendid layout is what expects you here. After this visit, there won’t be anything left to understand about the general French tendency for spectacular, simple elegance in delicate yet very precise forms.
5. Eglise St. Etienne-du-Mont
Suppose you left home not because you felt the need to roam around, but because you’d love to meet other people and understand their culture as well. If so, Eglise St.-Etienne-du-Mont is a great deal. The Parisiens are popularly known as sincere, borderline rude sometimes, and understanding their way of being by taking the cultural approach is one of the best decisions you could make. More than the church’s architectural joint of renaissance and gothic elements, this place is truly insightful – home of the patron saint of Paris, who saved – back in 451 – the city from being invaded by Atilla the Hun. The amazing taste for details and metonimic perfection of the elements suggests a very powerful nation, while the different foreign influences and adjustments show the sensitive side of the historical truth – just like the Parisiens. Go on the park, sit on a bench and say nothing and they’ll just ignore you; ask what time it is and they’ll answer you politely but distant; but compliment their dog, their eyes and they’ll clearly remember you. And while you’re there, take some time to visit the Panthéon on the same square as the eglise.
6. Have some fun at Showcase!
Make sure you’re there before midnight and your presence will be rewarded with great musical and artistic representations of a wide range of genres from jazz to rock, not to mention the world’s top DJs that sometimes come and mix here! The live acts are the ones that made the place famous, but it’s the people who keep it alive, so our next advice is about networking: meet people, talk to strangers and see if you’ve figured them right by visiting their most culturally representative attractions!