What do you think of when you think of Paris? Incredible food? Romance? World class museums and art? Fun? When you visit you will quickly realize that Paris is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world. From taking a leisurely walk along the River Seine, climbing up to the top of the Eiffel Tower just to glance at the horizon at sunset or grabbing a crispy croissant on your morning walk, once you experience the charm of Paris you will never want to leave.
Let’s start with some history of how this fanciful city began. Founded by the Gaul’s of the Parisii tribe, who were Celtic Senone’s, boatmen and shrewd traders around 250 BC. Paris actually started out as a small fishing village. It came under Roman rule after being conquered by Julius Caesar over 2000 years ago. Originally named Lutetia, later it was renamed Lutece.
The budding city became an important trading center filled with palaces, roman baths, theaters, temples, amphitheater and even a forum for the traders. (You can view the ruins of a Roman forum even today.) Abandoned after the collapse of the Roman Empire the local inhabitants who decided to stay and tough it out, built a fort on the island, and named it Ile de la Cite’. Although Emperor Julian the Apostate reigned only for 2 years in 363 BC, it was under his rule that Paris finally received her name.
Although Paris has had a tumultuous past, it’s the modern city that beckons tourists from all over the world. Where else can you wake up to the most amazing fresh-baked, flaky croissants and pastries, or walk through a room in the Louvre Museum, which houses the original ramparts of the original city. Stroll along small Parisian streets lined with unique shops, historic buildings, and sidewalk cafés filled with people trying a steamy aromatic Parisian Caffe.
Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic buildings, sport world-famous statues, and notice how the windows are framed with colorful geraniums and summer flowers. Chubby cheeked brass cupids hold 3 bulbed lampposts, glowing in the evening sky giving way to a very romantic scene. The Eiffel Tower puts on quite a light show around 9 p.m. nightly, no wonder Paris is known as the City of Lights!
If you love to shop or you are an avid Fashionista, Paris is loaded with chic shops and fashion shows to keep you busy for weeks.
Luxembourg Gardens is a nice retreat from the hectic city life. Stop by a small market to pick up a few picnic items and trot on over to the gardens. Parisian families and lunch break workers go there to enjoy a little leisure time. The large central fountain that sits in front of the Palace you can smile watching children with their handmade or rented toy sail boats as they urge each other on to see who will win a race. All the while parents are busily chatting with each other sitting in one of the many chairs set out under nearby billowing trees. If you want a little quiet where you can admire some amazing art walk over to Medicis Fountain about a minutes walk from the Palace.
Sacre’ Coeur Basilica
There is actually a hill in Paris and it houses the very large Sacre’ Coeur Basilica which looks out onto the City. Many tourists miss this spectacular church on their first visit. If you have abundant energy you can hike up the 1000 or so stairs up to the top or take a cogwheel to arrive up top in minutes. The panoramic view of Paris is one you will not soon forget. (Especially if you have your camera handy.) The mosaics in the main section are stunning and the Pietro downstairs in the mausoleum very thought-provoking. Then take the walk from the Basilica to Montmartre. You will pass by a small café lined square filled with Artists selling their works of art. Shops in small historic buildings guide you down the streets back into town.
Sainte Chapelle just a few short years ago was missed by most visitors to Paris. Take a short detour around the corner from Notre Dame to see this Gothic cathedral. Originally built as a private sanctuary by Louis IX, the chapel has 15 vibrant panels of stained glass with colors that still cannot be replicated to date. Sunsets will intensify the colors of the stained glass.
The Moroccan decor adds to the ambience of the room with multi-domed ceilings drenched in smokey blue and white stars. Marble columns with shiny inlaid tiles lead up to golden flumes of tiny archways to the ceiling. The intricate hand carved archways that direct you to the main altar are delicate and precious. Sainte Chapelle also houses part of the Thorn Crown from Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
Paris Day Trips
Paris is also the perfect location to use as a home base. Versailles is a short 20-minute rail ride away, the Normandy beaches are about a 2-hour drive, and the Loire Valley showing off manor homes and castles is an easy day trip. Other excursions to think about would be to see Chantilly a smaller but less crowded version of Versailles and Giverny where artist Monet painted some his most popular works.
You can even go across the border to Bruges also known as the Venice of the north. It’s well worth the 2 1/2 hour train ride. Another worthwhile train ride just 2 1/2 hours from Paris also is Mont Saint Michel. One of the most fascinating Abbey’s in Europe not just for the historical attributes but its built on a small island with a natural fortress created by the sea.
So, why would you want to visit Paris? It’s unlike any other city in the world, there is something new around every corner. The food is remarkable, and although you still might run into a less than friendly local from time to time, Paris is a city that must be experienced at least once in your lifetime. So, what are you waiting for? Start checking out airfares and hotels and make plans for an unbelievably memorable vacation!
Find out how to rent a bike and tour Paris on your own here