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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.
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.
Perched elegantly on Île de la Cité, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is as arresting as it is imposing. One look at the spellbinding architectural details, both inside and out, and you'll understand why it took nearly a century to complete, beginning 1160. Two monumental towers rise from it's western facade, marking the most intricately adorned portion of the cathedral. As a bonus, visitors can climb the 380 odd steps leading to the top of the towers for arguable the best views of the Parisian cityscape. Highlight of the cathedral's interiors are most certainly, the beautifully vivid rose windows in stained glass. History enthusiasts can also check out the archaeological crypt that exhibits interesting relics found in Paris. Considered to be a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is deservedly one of the most visited of Paris' enchanting sights.
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.
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.
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.
Situated to the west of the historic Palace of Versailles, Les Jardins de Versailles is a magnificent garden created by André Le Nôtre for Louis XIII. The beautiful landscaped garden is set in a geometric motif of paths, bushes, flowerbeds, sculptures and trees. In addition to these, the fountains radiate the opulence of that era and were set up to enthrall the royal guests. All the artworks such as the statues and fountains are creations of some of the great artists such as Charles Le Brun, Louis Le Vau and André Le Nôtre. Recorded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Les Jardins de Versailles will bewitch you with its beauty.
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.
If you hadn't heard of it before, The Da Vinci Code would have told you all you need to know about the Pyramide du Louvre. La Pyramide Inversée, however, is an attraction of a different kind; this inverted pyramid situated at the Carrousel du Louvre is an upside-down skylight. Although the mall itself has much to offer, the widespread fame of this inverted pyramid is what draws so many tourists here.
This vast complex was founded in 1675, at Louis XIV's request to take in French ex-servicemen and handicapped war veterans; these men are the invalides commemorated by the building's name. It was the first French hospital-turned-home to be built entirely for soldiers. The building is adorned with a classical facade, a delightful little garden, a large courtyard and an impressive esplanade. An erstwhile hospital that cared for hundreds of disabled ex-servicemen, the complex also now houses the Eglise du Dôme, Tomb of Napoleon, the Musée de l'Armée, the Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération and the Musée des Plans-Relief.