Plan Your Paris Sightseeing Tour
The majestic Seine is your compass when you plan your sightseeing tour of Paris.
We walked to all these destinations, but not all on the same day.
Fall in Love in Paris
Swear your love forever in Paris:
- Write your names on a lock;
- Lock it on the bridge on the Seine
- Throw the key in the Seine
If you love does not last forever, take a Freedom Trip to Paris:
- Find you lock on the bridge
- Free it with bolt cutters
- Throw the lock in the Seine
We started our sightseeing tour of Paris with a visit to Notre Dame, one of the most popular cathedrals in the world.
We visited during Sunday morning mass. This was a fabulous time to visit.
There are separate areas for visitors and worshipers. The visitors’ areas are on both sides of the altar. This offers great views of the service and the fabulous stained glass windows.
An altar boy at Notre Dame. You can almost smell the incense!
We skipped the climb to the top of the tower because we already had plans for a full day of sightseeing. If you plan to do the climb, go early and be patient. There are long lines.
This is a children’s choir from Amsterdam, prepping for their performance in Notre Dame!
The cornerstone for Notre Dame was laid in 1163
Notre Dame was vandalized during the French Revolution, damaged during World War II and now, restored in all its glory.
Architects and engineers will be interested to know that Notre-Dame was one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses.
A Horse Ride on a Carousel was absolutely thrilling when I was a kid
Carousels are dotted throughout Paris in areas that are popular with tourists.
The marque on the top of the Carousel says La Belle Époque. This “beautiful era” dates from the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
La Belle Époque was a time of optimism, peace and prosperity. The arts flourished with a backdrop of outstanding achievements in innovation and scientific advancement.
The horrors of World War I brought this golden age to an end.
A two-kilometer stroll up the Champs-Élysées will bring you to the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous monuments in Paris.
This triumphal arch was commissioned by Napoleon to as a patriotic tribute to those who died in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.
We would have climbed to the top. It is only 40 stairs. But it was closed that day.
The Arc de Triomphe is encircled by a giant roundabout with no lanes and no traffic lights. Do not attempt to cross the roundabout to reach the Arc de Triomphe! There is an underground tunnel for pedestrians.
Parisians call the Champs-Élysées the most beautiful avenue in the world. It is one of the most famous upscale shopping streets in the world.
We stopped for lunch at the famous Café George V at 120 Champs-Élysées, almost in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. This restaurant is made for people-watching. There is barely an illusion of privacy, as tables are separated by mere inches. We started a conversation with an American woman, since we were practically at the same table. We followed her recommendation of French onion soup. It was the best I have ever had!
Our new friend was in Paris for six weeks on a Road Scholar learn-to-speak-French tour. Road Scholar is an American not-for-profit organization that offers educational travel tours.
We had a great lunch in a famous café on a famous street and made a new friend!
The Eiffel Tower is the Symbol of Paris
The Eiffel Tower was built during La Belle Époque for the World’s Fair in 1889.
It was designed as a temporary structure to be torn down after 20 years. It was not dismantled as intended because it became very valuable for communications.
The Eiffel Tower is the most recognized structure in the world!
About 7 million people visit the Eiffel Tower every year
If you want to go to the top, get your ticket online. There are looooong line-ups for tickets.
Rodin House and Gardens
The sculpture garden in the Auguste Rodin museum is a wonderfully relaxing way to spend a couple of hours. Rodin’s home is jammed with his work but I preferred the gardens where you can take the time to absorb each sculpture in a more natural setting.
Rodin’s early training followed a traditional approach to sculpture with themes from mythology or historical events. He applied three times to get into École des Beaux-Arts and was rejected three times. He struggled to make a living as he refined his vision of sculpture.
Auguste Rodin came into his own during the La Belle Époque. He rejected centuries of tradition that used sculpture to express physical beauty. Instead, he used sculpture to express passion, angst, character. His sculptures of ordinary men and women express every range of human emotion and intellectual force.
What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes.
The Gates of Hell
The Gates of Hell is a monumental sculpture that Rodin worked on for 37 years until his death. It contains 180 figures.
The Thinker, who sits over the door, was cast independently and is Rodin’s most well known sculpture.
The Burghers of Calais
The Burghers of Calais was greeted with great criticism. Rodin was commissioned to create a public sculpture for the town of Calais. In that era, public sculptures were divine creatures of beauty, erected on pedestals, to be admired from below. Instead, Rodin created a sculpture of ordinary men with no pedestal.
The sculpture was intended to commemorate the siege of Calais by England that drove the population towards starvation. The English king offered to spare the population if six top leaders would surrender and face execution. Rodin’s sculpture captures the emotions of the doomed volunteers. Rodin wanted to show their heroism through their pain, despair, defeat and acceptance of death. He intended that the sculpture be displayed at ground level, not on a pedestal, with the idea that anyone who walked with them could feel solidarity with them.
Ultimately, the King spared the lives of the heroic men from Calais.
There are fourteen statues of the Burghers of Calais. Once a plaster cast is made, making a bronze reproduction is rather straightforward, leading to a proliferation of forgeries. France has enacted laws to curb forgeries by limiting bronze reproductions to twelve casts that will be attributed as the original work of the artist.
Musée d’Orsay is only 30 years old.
Musée d’Orsay opened in 1986 in a magnificent Beaux-Arts building that was originally built as railway station on the left bank, overlooking the Seine, during La Belle Époque. I can’t image what it must have been like to arrive in Paris by train and disembark at that station.
It is amazing that Musée d’Orsay exists in this space. The building was slated for demolition in 1970, to be replaced with a hotel. The Minister of Cultural Affairs stepped in and refused to grant final approval for the demolition.
Take the time to experience the fabulous space even if you have no interest in the largest collection of impression and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world.
The collection is housed on four floors that surround the open space in the centre.
Even though the museum is crowded, the relaxed atmosphere allows you as much time as you want to absorb works by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gaugin, Van Gogh and Lautrec.
Starry Night Over the Rhone
A new book has just been released with the definitive answer on whether Van Gogh cut off his ear or lost it in a fight. The author spent 6 years tracking down every lead on the topic. The new release was timed for a special exhibit at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.
My first visit to Musée d’Orsay was almost 20 years ago. It was a better experience then because the paintings were not framed with a protective glass cover. The glass buffer zone between a painting and the viewer detracts from the full experience. However, I can’t complain too much if a pane of glass is the only thing between me and a priceless masterpiece.
There are long line-ups to enter so get your tickets online in advance!
The Musée de l’Orangerie also has an impressive collection of impressionist paintings. It is best known for its two oval rooms with Monet’s massive water lilies, covered in a previous blog.
Of course, the Louvre is the most famous museum in Paris, covered in a previous blog.
Shopping in Paris!
If you have had enough of cathedrals and museums, it is time for SHOPPING!
Paris is the fashion capital of the world. If you are into high-end luxury, Rue St Honoré is the street for the top fashion design houses. It is a short walk from the Louvre.
Note the ankle socks.
The next time someone complains about the socks-and-sandals combo, just say that it is all the rage in Paris.
For a true Parisian shopping experience, plan time …. a lot of time… for sightseeing at Galleries Lafayette, a symbol of luxury French lifestyle since 1895.
When you shop in Paris, don’t settle for subtle. Go for sparkle and flash!
Shopping for you daughter or granddaughter?
Introduce her to luxury high-end with a little something from Young Versace!
Shopping for your young son or grandson?
It is never too early to wear Boss!
Shopping is a Religion
Although you will be in awe of everything this store has to offer, take time to look up.
This magnificent building is topped by a stunning stained glass dome. It looks like a church. In fact, if you have no time to visit any churches on your European tour, just show your family a picture of the dome and pass it off as the best church in Europe. Tell them you devoted many hours paying homage to the best.
If all that shopping has worn you out, take a champagne break at one of the 24 cafes or restaurants in Galleries Lafayette
We ended our walking tour with a truly Parisian experience at Luxembourg Gardens. It is open until dusk so it was a lovely place to relax and plan a Parisian dinner.
There are strolling paths, lawns and flowerbeds. There were lots of Parisians enjoying a sunny day.
The best way to get information on the Gardens in on the official website for Paris tourism:
Rent a sailboat in Paris!
It has been a tradition dating back 90 years for children to rent little wooden sailboats to sail in the large oval basin that frames the Palace in Luxembourg Gardens.
There are no batteries and no remote controls for the boats. Each child is given a long stick to push the boat across the basin. Children are occupied running around the basin while parents relax!
You cannot experience Paris in a day. You need time to enjoy your sightseeing tour.
What did you do in Paris?
Please send in comments on what you did when you were in Paris.
It is time to say goodbye to Paris.
Next week: What I wish I knew before I booked a package tour