Paris, the capital of France is often known as the city of love, filled with beautiful architecture, interesting museums and cozy cafes.
Paris is situated on the Seine River, in the northern part of France, and located in the region Ile-de-France. When exactly did Paris become such a romantic city, and top travel destination?
The city was first founded in the 3rd Century BC by a Celtic tribe, named the Parisii, who named the city Lutetia. Years later, in 52 BC, the Romans conquered Paris and expanded it to fit their growing empire, by building baths, temples, theaters and forums. By the end of the Roman Empire, Lutetia adopted the name of Parisius in Latin and Paris in French.
The Louvre was originally built as a fortress in 1190, it was reconstructed in the 16th Century to serve as a Royal Palace. And for years, many French kings lived there, however in 1682 King Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles as his home instead, which was located right outside of Paris. For the first time ever, he moved the royal family out of Paris and away from the people, which caused a large disconnection with the Parisians. Movements such as these and new ideas on liberalism led to the French Revolution, and the overthrown of the royal family and the establishment of a secular and democratic French republic.
As a result of this, Napoleon ruled France for many years, as the Emperor of France, until his great defeat in 1815. Similar to the rest of Europe, France also goes through the revolutions of 1848, sparked by a global famine and economic depression. The end of this revolution eventually led to the creation of the Second French Republic. During the 19th Century, Architect Georges Haussmann redesigned Paris by adding boulevards, uniformed buildings, parks and squares which we continue to see throughout the city till this day, such as the famous Paris Opera building.
Early in the 20th century, Paris most famous landmark, the Eiffel tower was built as part of The Worlds Fair, showing visitors that Paris has been restored and was ready to back on the map. World War I and II, brought Paris back to a gloomy place in time, filled with much disruption and disarray. Despite these horrible war times, Paris is one of few European cities that survived many of its famous landmarks all in one pieces, such as the Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre, which attracts many visitors. And to many others Paris is more than just a romantic city, its also a capital of fashion, culture and gastronomy, and hopefully this guide will be a helpful tool to find your way around this amazing city.
What to see
There’s a lot to see Paris, but here’s a top 5 list of things you must visit during your stay in Paris
1. Eiffel Tower
This iconic Parisian landmark is located at the Champ de Mars in Paris, and is named after engineer Gustave Eiffel. It was originally supposed to only be a temporary building for the 1889 World’s Fair. And despite much critique, it has now become one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, and a Parisian landmark. You can either take a lift all the way to the top and enjoy an amazing view of Paris, or relax in the gardens around the Eiffel tower.
2. Notre Dame
This cathedral is one of the most well-known churches in the world. And besides being the center stage for Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the church also depicts the style of French Gothic Architecture. The entrance is free, however if you wish to climb the top and enjoy a different view of Paris you can do so for a few Euros.
With over 35,000 works of art, including Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, this Parisian museum is definitely worth a visit. Prior to being a museum, the building served as a royal palace and a fortress, which is still visible in some rooms. And if you bring your student Visa and Student ID with you, you can get visit the museum for free
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris is located in Montmartre, on the highest point of the city. It was constructed in 1875, and completed in 1914. Entrance to the church is for free, and the view of the city is breathtaking. Right behind the church is an artistic alley, where many painters come and sell their artwork, which is definitely a nice place to walk around, sit at a cafe and possibly buy a one of a kind art piece.
The palace of Versailles is just a short train ride outside of Paris, and definitely worth a visit. It was one the home of the French royal family including Marie Antoinette, and now serves as a museum. The actual palace is decorated with much gold on the inside and filled with many impressive rooms, such as the Hall of Mirrors. But what is also impressive to visit are the gardens, which cover over 800 hectares of land decorated in a classical French garden landscape style.
Le Marais, is filled with street art everywhere you look and many thrift shops, where you can make sure to find the latest French vintage stuff. Montmartre, is more the place to admire artists work such as paintings, and buy reasonable prices pieces of art that are one of a kind. The Latin Quarter, located right next to Notre Dame has some street art, many libraries and bookshops but definitely also a lot of art work sold along the Seine.
Fun for Free
Though Paris can be an expensive city at times, there are still many things to do for free, such as walking around and relaxing in the many parks Paris has to offer. The walk around Canal Saint Martin is all for free, and filled with many beautiful views of the city. Another great location to visit for free is the Pont des Art, also known as the love bridge, visited by many couples. And, with a student ID and student Visa many museums are also for free. Throughout the week, on different dates many open markets all around Paris are held, offering a wide range of flowers, produce at affordable prices. Furthermore many churches such as Notre Dame are free to enter, and cemeteries with famous politicians and artists, such as Jim Morrison’s grave are also free to visit.
What to Eat
The French are famous for their crêpes, baguettes and croissants. So definitely try to go to a Parisian boulangerie and grab a bite to eat. For a fancier sit down brunch and some nice macaroons try Ladurée. But, if you want a nice fondue place try Le Refuge des Fondus, located in Montmarte, where they even serve you wine out of baby bottles. This is a great place to spend a fun night with some of your friends! For a more authentic French cuisine try Bouillon Chartier, where they serve you many French delicacies such as escargots, foie gras and with a nice French wine. And for the best falafel go to l’As du Falafel, located in Le Marais.
During nice warm days, its not unusual to sit along the Seine and grab a drink with some friends, while looking out on some beautiful Parisian landscapes. The Bastille Area is a great place to go barhopping, such as the Yellow Mad Monkey Bar and Rue Mouffetard provides a street with many cute restaurants and fun bars to visit. Throughout Paris, there is also a chain of bars known as “The Frog and The Princess,” which can be found all over Paris. For the most part these places are all very casual, so if you’re more interested in high-end night out, then Les Champs Elysées, has many night clubs.
The best way to get around Paris would be by the Metro, it effectively covers all of Paris, and is easy to understand with a map where all the possible connections are shown. There are also plenty of cabs around the city, and many cab drivers who speak enough English to understand where you would like to go. However, if the weather is nice, the best way to really enjoy Paris and its architecture would be by foot.
• During metro rides, the French find it rude when you speak loud and stare at them, so try not to do that. Metro stations is where most pickpocketing takes place, so try to avoid backpacks, and keep your phone hidden away.
• When ordering water at a restaurant, ask for “une carafe d’eau” (tap water) which comes for free, otherwise you will be given mineral water which will cost you some euros.