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Indisputably one of the most opulent buildings, the Palace of Versailles is the epitome of French royalty. Louis XIV commissioned architects Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin to build the Château de Versailles in 1664, on the site of his father's small hunting lodge. It became one of the largest palaces in Europe, accommodating up to 20,000 courtiers at a time. The interiors are extravagant and the highlights include the Royal Apartments and the world renowned Hall of Mirrors. The Grand Trianon (1687) and the Petit Trianon (1762) are also in the park. In the year 1919, the Hall of Mirrors played a significant role in world politics for being the place where the Treaty of Versailles was signed. An outstanding exemplar of the French Baroque architecture to this day, this UNESCO World Heritage Site palace enthralls visitors with its opulence and legends.
The Louvre Museum houses one of the largest collections of artwork 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 .
Nearly 2.5 million visitors each year come to see Musée d'Orsay's mammoth collection of French art. The building itself, called the Gare d'Orsay, was built as a railway station in 1900; the principal gallery of the ground floor, 138 meters long (453 feet) and 32 meters tall (105 feet), is a reminder of the building's history. Among the masterpieces in this gallery are the scandalous à Ornans by Gustave Courbet and the lane uses by Jean-François Millet. Fans of impressionism should head directly up to the fifth floor, where works by the greatest masters of this genre can be found.
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.
The ground on which the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Palais du Luxembourg stand was originally the site of a Roman camp. In 1257, the Chartreux religious order bought the land and built a monastery here, while the princess regent Marie de Médicis had the palace built-in 1615. This is one of Paris' favorite gardens. Ornate fountains and lush lawns set against the backdrop of a palace look no less than magical. With a truly beautiful layout, the park is popular with students and residents in the city's Latin Quarter. Children can go on the vintage style carousel, play on swings and sail their toy boats on the octagonal pond. This park is a much-loved and popular meeting place.
Famous for housing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Arc de Triomphe is a site of memories, current events, and celebrations. Construction of the Arc de Triomphe began in 1806 and was completed thirty years later. Standing in a direct line between the Louvre and the Grande Arche de la Défense, the monument links the past with the present and offers amazing views of the city from atop the arch. Many of France's famous leaders, dictators, writers, and artists have passed under its arch on the way to their final resting place, including Napoleon and Victor Hugo. A closer look at the arc reveals six evocative reliefs carved into its historic facade, portraying key highlights and events that transpired during the French Revolution and Napoleon's reign.
The Romano-Byzantine Sacre Coeur Basilica overlooks Montmartre, one of Paris's most picturesque districts. Its distinctive travertine stone dome rises up over the rooftops, allowing visitors to the basilica the perfect vantage point from which to survey the city. Within Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, often called Sacré-Cœur, visitors will find several interesting sites, including a mosaic of Christ, an elegant organ constructed by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, and a crypt. Commissioned by the Catholic Church, construction began in 1875 under the watchful eye of architect Paul Abadie, and was finally completed in 1914.
Located in the centre of the city within the Palais de Justice complex on the Île de la Cite, the Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel) is a small Gothic chapel constructed in the Rayonnant style. Built by King Louis IX from 1238-1244, the chapel housed holy relics from the Passion believed to be Jesus' Crown of Thorns and a piece of the True Cross. These items were purchased from the Byzantine emperor Baldwin II in 1239 for a huge sum of 135,000 Livres (the church cost 40,000 livres to build) due to the King's desire to elevate France as the leader of Western Christianity. The Sainte-Chapelle provides visitors with a spectacular visual experience since the entire upper tier of the chapel is surrounded by enormous stained glass windows.
Stretching for two kilometers (one mile) and lined with trees, les Champs-Élysées has become the center for festivities and official parades in Paris. The avenue was originally created in 1667 by André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV's gardener, in order to improve the view from the Jardin des Tuileries and its palace. The avenue was lengthened at the end of the 18th Century to run from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. Today, this famous boulevard is a magnet for tourists and for the multitudes who enjoy evenings spent strolling along the broad and picturesque street. The many cinemas, cafés, and restaurants tempt visitors to rest their legs for a few hours, tired from walking by the designer boutiques, banks, and embassies also situated in this chic neighborhood.
The Panthéon is a magnificent building that was built between 1764 and 1790, commissioned by King Louis XV and completed on the heels of the French Revolution. Not only is the building renowned for its Neoclassical architecture, but the Panthéon is also the resting place of famous individuals such as Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Marie Curie. The architecture is inspired by the Roman Pantheon, with the dome closely resembling that of the St. Paul's Cathedral in London. This is a must-visit for all visitors of Paris - not only for its grand history, but also the sheer beauty of the Panthéon.