Will it be the Eiffel Tower? The Louvre? The Arc de Triomphe? Notre Dame Cathedral? The Paris Metro? It is possible to briefly immerse yourself in all of these iconic destinations even in just a weekend visit to the City of Light.
One of the most recognized structures in the world was built to be temporary. The Eiffel Tower was designed and constructed to be an architectural showpiece for the Universal Exhibition in 1899. One hundred and twenty two years later this symbol of Paris continues to draw visitors.
When you go be prepared for a long line of up to an hour. The view is certainly worth the wait! Y
ou can see for almost 40 miles in all directions, depending upon the weather conditions.
It takes more than one elevator to reach the top, each progressively smaller than the previous. But the views are magnificent from any level. Make sure you take time to have lunch at Altitude 95 or the Jules Verne. Lunch in the Jules Verne offers very traditional French fare at a fairly reasonable price. The service is excellent and the memory of having lunched at the Eiffel Tower is priceless.
This edifice was built first as a medieval fortress and then expanded to become a royal residence. Finally it became one of the largest art museums in the world. Visiting this historic building can be a humbling experience. Give yourself a time limit for your first visit and donít expect to see everything. You wonít. But you may catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory.
The seven departments of the museum include Egyptian antiquities, Asian and Islamic antiquities and art, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, sculpture, paintings, prints and drawings, and, of course, object de art. It is quite impossible to see it all and appreciate it in any one visit. So, take a bite of the Louvre, literally. See a few highlights, shop the store, and take time for a coffee and cake in the cafť.
Notre Dame Cathedral. This magnificent building where Napoleon crowned himself Emperor, where Joan of Arc was canonized, and even Englandís Henry IV was crowned, is still a part of everyday life. You can attend day or evening services in the cathedral at no charge. But, this is not a place to come and be married or baptise your child. Why? The cathedral is no longer a parish, and those services are not available. Notre Dame is open every day of the year and admission is free. But, if you want a gargoyle perspective of the city, that is going to cost a few francs. To reach the top of the bell tower, the fictional realm of Hugoís Quasimodo, means a climb of some 387 steps. There is a separate entrance outside of the cathedral to the left
Arc de Triomphe. Built by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his armyís victories this has become a focal point in the city. Conquering and liberating armies have marched beneath its arch. At the top youíll find an observation deck with an exhibition hall that commemorates many of the historic moments that have occurred here. You will enter the arch from an underground passage, which is a very good thing, considering that some nine circling lanes of traffic swirl around this rotary. Donít even think about trying to cross the street here!
The Metro. One of the most extensive, and sometimes confusing, transit systems is a great way to see Paris. Buy a ďcarnetĒ of ten tickets if you plan on short trips within the city. This is a true glimpse of Paris. There are old lines and new. Up to the moment modern transit cars, and those that look like they should have been retired decades previously. And there are the Parisians. Itís not at all unusual to see someone nibbling on a baguette or have a wandering accordionist join at a stop and serenade you. Donít forget you will need to push the button to open the door at the station of your choice (they can remain closed at a destination), and donít attempt to drag a mammoth backpack on the train. Space is at a premium on the trains.
You can have a whirlwind visit to Paris and hit most of the high spots that will leave you in awe of history and a body tired enough to grab sleep on your return transatlantic flight.