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33 Ways to Explore Magnificent Paris

By: Caroline Marongiu
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1771

Explore Paris and its culture.


Eiffel Tower

Underneath the glaze of the Parisian sky, the Eiffel Tower captures the dazzling spirit of its French capital. A magnificent wrought iron lattice tower that was originally built as an entrance to the 1889 World's Fair, the tower was designed by Gustave Eiffel after his inspiration was fueled by the pyramidal form of Egypt's historic landmarks. This comparison was met with ardent disapproval from several eminent Frenchmen before the tower came to be the celebrated global icon that it is known as today. At a stunning height of 324 meters (1,063 feet), the Eiffel Tower dominates the skyline as the city's tallest, and the country's second-tallest freestanding structure. Its majestic form sports three shades – darkest at the lowest level and colored in a light contrast as the tower ambles up to the top – an illusory mechanism adopted so as to complement its surroundings. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most winning sights in all of France, and even after more than a century, people continue to extol this monumental symbol of architectural beauty.

Paris, France
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Père-Lachaise Cemetery

Paris' most famous cemetery gets its name from Louis XIV's religious adviser, Père-Lachaise, who previously owned the historic property the cemetery is built on. In 1804, the city decided to turn the land it had acquired into a cemetery, the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. 70,000 graves are interred here with memorial sculptures and ornate tombstones decorating the 44-acre (17-hectare) garden. Famous people buried here include authors Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde and Honoré de Balzac, singers Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison (whose grave is one of the most visited), and renowned composer Chopin. Among the many 19th-century sculptures and monuments is the Mur des Fédérés, which was placed in memory of the 147 rebels shot here on May 28, 1871 during the Paris Commune.

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Île de la Cité

Île de la Cité's is one of two natural islands located within the city of Paris. This island is entirely shaped by the Seine River and located in the heart of the city. Many historians believe that the first group of people, a small Gallic tribe, settled on the island in 52 BC. It has been inhabited ever since by the likes of Romans, Merovingians, and contemporary French citizens. Visitors will find some of the city's most recognizable monument on the isle, including Notre-Dame, La Place Dauphine and Sainte Chapelle, to name only a few. These structures on Île de la Cité serve as an excellent representation of the beauty and architecture for which Paris is famous.

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Palais de Justice

Located in the heart of Paris on the Île de la Cité, the law courts occupy more than four hectares (9.8 acres) of land. The building contains around 24 kilometers (15 miles) of hallways, 7000 doors and more than 3150 windows. Four thousand magistrates and civil servants work there everyday, but if you count all of the legal officers, lawyers, police officers and gendarmes, defendants, tourists and spectators who come to the law courts on a given day, the building welcomes an average of 15,000 people daily.

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Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf is one of the oldest bridges which stretches across the river Seine. Ironically Pont Neuf, translated into English means 'new bridge'. Standing at the western point of the Île de la Cité, (island of the city), the Pont Neuf bridge connects the left and right banks of the city. The bridge was officially inaugurated in 1607, by King Henry IV. The attraction and specialty of Pont Neuf is that, it was one of the first to have pavements. Parisians love to socialize and hang out here, and hence there is no doubt that the bridge is one of the most visited spots in the city.

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Foucault's Pendulum

The Panthéon is a must on tourist itineraries to the City of Light. One of its highlights is Foucault's Pendulum. Physicist Léon Foucault proved the rotation of the Earth with an experiment using a giant bob swinging from the dome. A replica of this model, named after the revolutionary scientist, operates under the same theory since 1995, and is one of the most visited features of the building.

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Pont des Arts

Among the various bridges spanning the Seine, the Pont des Arts is without doubt one of the most romantic, its all-metal structure providing a link between the Louvre and the L'Institut de France. This delightful little footbridge, built during the 18th Century, has always been a pedestrian bridge. Originally, a tollgate was installed at each end, ensuring that access was only given to the upper classes. The bridge faced destruction during the world wars, however, in 1981, it was restored to its former glory.

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Luxembourg Palace

The Palais' construction was commissioned in 1615 by princess regent Marie de Médicis, who bought the Duke of Luxembourg's private mansion and entrusted architect Salomon de Brosse with its transformation into a royal palace. The inspiration for its Renaissance style came from Tuscany, Marie de Médicis' birthplace; it remained royal property under the reign of Louis XIV (who raised his children here) and then became a prison under the 18th Century Convention (France's short-term, post-Revolution government). During the Second World War it was used by the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) as their headquarters. Today, it is home to the Sénat (upper house of the French parliament) and its garden (Jardin du Luxembourg) is one of Paris' favorites. The Musée du Luxembourg is nearby.

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Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum houses one of the largest collections of artworks and antiquities in the world. The museum is located inside the Louvre Palace, which was built in the 12th Century as a fortress by Philip II. After Louis XIV, he decided to move his court to Versailles, the palace was occupied by a variety of institutions related to the arts. The museum was first opened under the National Assembly in 1793. The establishment is divided into sections, including drawing, painting and sculpture, and houses antiquities from Egypt, Rome, Greece, and several other cultures. Visitors to the museum can explore its many wings and see some of the most famous works like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Liberty Leading the People.

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Louvre Pyramid

Completed in 1989, Louvre Pyramid marks the entrance to the world-famous Louvre Museum. The stunning architectural monument was dreamed up by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei who is also famous for designing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the east building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Miho Museum in Japan. The pyramid reached a height of 21.6 meters (71 feet) and is flanked by other, smaller pyramids. Built completely out of glass panes held together by metallic poles, the pyramid has become one of the most recognizable and iconic structures not only in Paris, but also globally. A gateway to one of the biggest art museums, the Louvre Pyramid is thronged by tourists.

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Place Vendôme

Follow the Rues de Castiglione and de la Paix to one of the most famous squares in Paris. Intricately linked with the history of France, since its creation in 1685, this architectural jewel was commissioned by King Louis XIV and designed by Jules-Hardouin Mansart. The arcades of the exquisitely fronted mansions that surround the square form a sort of intimate salon in the heart of the capital. Not surprisingly, it was adopted by Paris' aristocracy. Prestigious banks and the emblems of French elegance still cluster around the Austerlitz column that Napoléon erected. Labels of luxury such as Chaumet, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Guerlain, Chanel rule the roost. While you're here, stop at the Ritz hotel or the Palais de l'Élysée (the President's residence). Yes, this really is the home of luxury, elegance and power. Call the tourist information bureau at +33 8 3668 3112, for more information.

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Le Dôme des Invalides

The large Saint-Louis-des-Invalides Church, famous for its magnificent dome, is a typical example of baroque architecture. Built between 1679 and 1706 during the reign of Louis XIV and for his sole use, Le Dôme des Invalides was dedicated to the glory of Napoléon in 1840 and became his final resting place. His body now lies in a red porphyry coffin. In honor of all France's armies, military trophies adorn the ceiling and the remains of heroes like Field Marshals Foch and Lyautey are buried here. Look out for its ceiling decorated by a fresco representing Saint-Louis and Christ. The church is located in the Hôtel des Invalides and its hours vary throughout the year; please call +33 8 1011 3399 or see website for more information.

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