The capital city of France, home of more than 2 million people and full of rich history and incredible architecture could keep you busy for an entire week, just as a start-off… so a one-day visit will offer you an introduction to France and to the highlights of the city.
The driving tour will first allow you to discover the beautiful Seine river along which are many of the historical monuments. And all around you, will be present the long history of France, in the many churches (Notre-Dame cathedral or the Pantheon for NationalHeroes) and medieval buildings (Louvre royal palace, now a museum, or Sorbonne university). Each street and monument will give you a true history class. All the invaders along the centuries have created destructions, the Romans, Franks, Vikings, Plantagenets, English, Germans, as well as the civil wars like the 16th century Religious wars, 18th century French Revolution and 19th century Commune. But Paris has always been strong enough to rebuild and move forward !
And Paris is of course a delightful city where you can enjoy the French way of life. It is full of cafés and restaurants, bakeries and pastry shops, famous department stores and fashion shops, little streets and grand boulevards, relaxing parks and busy street markets. So open your eyes to absorb it all and take the time to stroll along for a moment to feel the ambiance.
The City of Lights has been well preserved and yet has some interesting more modern attractions such as the Glass Pyramid at the Louvre, Roland-Garros French Open tennis clay courts or Business district at La Défense with brand-new high-rises.
After a day like today, you feel the need already to arrange for your next visit to more time-consuming museums like Orsay or Rodin and to sights like the Sacré-Cœur basilica and Montmartre hill, more difficult to access... Paris was not made in one day !
Best viewed from the Trocadéro hill across the Seine river, the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 to celebrate modern France during the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.
Around 1.000 feet tall, it remained the world’s tallest building until the construction of the Empire State Building in 1931.
Most beautiful at night when it is lit up or even better on the hour when sparkling lights make it look just wonderful, the tower stands like a lighthouse attracting millions of visitors from around the world.
Center of the medieval city, Notre-Dame’s gothic construction was started here in 1183.
The celebration of the 850th anniversary has offered to the cathedral eight new bells built in Villedieu-les-Poeles, Normandy.
Take the time also to explore the City Island to walk by the Conciergerie, royal palace from the 6th to the 14th centuries, later Parliament and Palace of Justice.
Look up for the skinny spire of the Sainte Chapelle that was built to house Christ’s Passion relics in the 13th century, or up higher for Victor Hugo’s Hunchback…
Quite imposing monument celebrating Napoleon’s victories, the Arc de Triomphe was not completed before 1836.
Since the First World War, a moving ceremony for Armistice Day is held here every year.
It was also decided to place here the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the ceremony to renew the Flame of Remembrance has taken place every night since.
Surrounded by a large round-about and 12 avenues, the Arc is the starting point of the military parade on Bastille Day down the Champs-Elysées.
First built in the 1670’s by Mansart for the Sun King, this hospital and retirement home for injured or invalid veterans has accommodated up to 6.000 persons at once, and today around one hundred.
Comprising a total of 15 inner courtyards, the main one is still used nowadays for national funerals.
Since 1840, Napoleon’s impressive tomb lies under the gilded dome of the Chapel.
Three museums now occupy the buildings, including the renovated French Army Museum and the French Resistance Museum.
Largest public square in Paris with 19 acres, the Concorde dates from the 1750’s and the royal statue was replaced during the French Revolution by the guillotine and Louis 16th and Marie Antoinette were executed here in 1793.
Because of the terrible memory of so many deaths on this square, its name was changed in 1795 to try and bring a symbol of national reconciliation.
In 1836 were finally added at the center the Luxor obelisk and the beautiful cast iron fountains.
The view across the Tuileries gardens reaches the Orangerie Museum and even the Louvre.
Built from 1861 to 1875 for Napoleon III by the architect Garnier, the Opera House sits over an enormous concrete cistern, hiding place of the Erik “the Phantom” in the novel and musical.
The auditorium has around 2.200 seats, under a 6-ton bronze and crystal chandelier and the controversial Chagall ‘s painting on the ceiling from 1964.
Started as a simple hunting lodge by King Louis 13, the chateau was rapidly developed by his son Louis 14, starting in the 1660’s and became the royal residence in 1682.
Typical example of the French Classical style, this immense palace with over 700 rooms and 2.000 windows is quite extravagant with painting decorations, marble and gilding in profusion, to honor the Sun King.
The Hall of Mirrors itself (recently renovated) is a gem !
Save some time for the French gardens that cover about 250 acres of the 2.000-acre park.
Also worth seeing are the Trianons and Marie-Antoinette’s farm.
Medieval fortress built above the Seine river in the 12th century to help the King of France defend the kingdom against his enemy, the Duke of Normandy, King of England, who had just built the massive castle of Chateau Gaillard, a few miles down.
Later in peaceful times, a more elegant and comfortable chateau was built under the chalk cliff, closer to the river.
During WW2, the place was picked by Field-Marshal Rommel for his headquarters, due to its central location and proximity of Paris and most of all the bomb-proof caves in the cliff here.
The famous book “The Longest Day” opens here two days before D-day, with Rommel leaving to visit his wife back in Germany…