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Best Historic Locations in Paris

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The first Saint-Gervais Saint-Protais Church was built in the 6th Century in the Marais district in Paris. The construction of its current shape started in 1494 and lasted 150 years. It is consequently the oldest parish of the Seine’s right bank. Even though its style is definitely Gothic, the French classicism has inspired the creation of the facade, which was finished in 1621. This facade has a distinctive feature: it has three different Greek-style columns; moreover, one can also admire the two sundials: one is made with Roman numerals, to the southeast, the other with Arabic numerals, to the southwest. Inside the Saint-Gervais Saint-Protais Church, one can look at the oldest church organ of Paris.

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.

Intended to shelter greenhouses, the Château de la Petite Malmaison was designed by a landscape architect Jean-Marie Morel, as an integral part of the Malmaison estate. It was completed in 1805 as a technological accomplishment for the era, enclosed partially by glass walls and including a reception hall. Thematic and seasonal exhibits continue to be hosted here. For visitors it is open all year long.

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.

Surrounded by shady arcades that shelter beautiful boutiques, this square, situated in the heart of the Marais, is one of Paris' unmissable sights. Place des Vosges is perfectly symmetrical, measuring 140 meters (459 feet) by 127 meters (416 feet). Stone and brick houses, whose almost identical facades are all crowned by steep slate roofs, border its quasi-rectangular shape. Designed by Henri IV, it used to be the favored sight for duels. Famous people also lived in the area, including the Cardinal de Richelieu and the writer Victor Hugo.

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.

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.

For connoisseurs of architecture in Paris, La Madeleine is a must visit. Pierre Constant d'Ivry began the construction of this monument in 1764, and it was completed by one of his colleagues. It was looted during the French Revolution and Napoléon I later decided to transform it into a temple in the memory of his glorious army. Eventually, this structure was instead dedicated to St. Mary Madeleine. One of Paris' most famous churches, its impressive façade is made up of 52 20-meter (65-foot) Corinthian columns, while inside its nave is magnificently crowned by three cupolas. Sculptor Charles Marochetti's marble statue the Ravissement de Sainte-Madeleine overlooks the high altar, giving it a unique splendor. Classical concerts are occasionally organized at this church.

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.

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.

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.

Named after King Louis IX, this island in the Seine River is known to be the birthplace of Parisian civilization. Connected by many bridges to Paris, Île Saint-Louis is a sanctuary from the bustle of the city. Untouched by modernization, this small wonder has many markets, bakeries, cafes, boutiques and historic attractions. One of the most significant monuments is the St Louis en l'Ile Church, an ethereal chapel built in 1662. Indulge your palate for fine food at the numerous restaurants around the island. Suitable for all budgets whether it is dining, shopping or just sight seeing, Île Saint-Louis will charm you with its centuries-old splendor.

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