Paris’s most famous landmark was built in 1889 for the International Exhibition making the centenary of the French Revolution. Designed by the architect Gustave Eiffel, at 300m high, the Tower was the world’s tallest building until 1930.
The Eiffel Tower is open to visitors daily from 0900 to 0045 summertime, and 0930 to 1830 in the winter. Visitors can choose either the lift or the stairs for the ascent to the first and second floors. Access to the very top is by lift only.
On the first floor, enjoy the wonderful views – orientation panels help you identify major landmarks – feroscope, tower-top movement system plus shop, café and Altitude 95 restaurant. The second floor brings more fabulous views, shops and the glass floor-panel for a spectacular view down! At the top, the views over Paris are just breath-taking.
Summertime visitors can visit the Tower at night when it is beautifully illuminated. The restaurants remain open too so you can enjoy the marvellous views over a leisurely meal.
The Arc de Triomphe is another famous Parisian landmark. Located at the end of the Champs Elysees in the Place Charles de Gaulle, it is the centrepiece for state occasions throughout the year. Napoleon commissioned the Arc in 1806 to commemorate his victories. Built in the style of the Roman Arch of Titus, it took some 30 years to construct.
Visitors can take the steps to the top to admire the view, visit the museum and visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that lies beneath the Arc and see the eternal flame in memory of the victims from both world wars.
The Louvre Palace is located in the first arrondissement (Paris is divided into 20 numbered areas known as ‘arrondissements’) on the banks of the River Seine. The building dates from the sixteenth century, underwent considerable extension in the nineteenth century and now sports its striking glass pyramid entrance.
The Louvre’s huge collection is presented in 8 areas, and includes Egyptian and Roman antiquities as well as paintings and sculptures. 2008 exhibitions include Gabriel de St-Aubin, Jan Fabre, Marie d’Orleans and Babylon. Many visitors of course head straight to the Mona Lisa, the route to which is clearly signed.
You can self-guide, take a guided tour or follow one or more of the themed trails, such as the Da Vinci Code. There is also a full programme of events in the auditorium, a huge bookshop and a good selection of places to eat. The Louvre is open daily except Tuesdays and some bank holidays.
One of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, Notre Dame is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Paris, although the building itself remains state-owned. Construction began in the twelfth century and its fascinating history includes its pillage during the Revolution when it was used as a food warehouse.
Victor Hugo’s ’Hunchback of Notre Dame’ has the cathedral as its setting and, in fact, raised awareness of its disrepair at that time. A fund-raising campaign followed and the cathedral was restored in the mid nineteenth century.
In the Second World War, its beautiful windows were removed for fear they’d be irreparably damaged. In 1991, another major restoration programme was initiated.
Notre Dame is open daily. Of particular note for visitors are the West Front with its magnificent portals, the Kings Gallery which has 28 statues of the Kings of Judah and Isreal, the West Rose Window, (some of the glass in this 10m diameter window dates back to the thirteenth century) and the Galerie des Chimeres with its famous gargoyles. Access to the towers for close-up views of the gargoyles is to the left of the main West Front.
The cathedral has 5 bells, the largest and oldest (1631) of which, Emmanuel, weighs 13 tons and is located in the South Tower which you can visit. The remaining 4 bells date from the nineteenth century – the originals were melted down to make weapons during the Revolution – and are in the North Tower.
The Lido, on the Champs Elysees, is home to France’s famous colourful caberet shows. An evening there comprises dinner at 1930 followed by shows at 2130 or 2330. Alternatively, go for lunch and a matinee on Sundays and Tuesdays.
Situated in the eighteenth arrondissement in the north of Paris, photogenic Montmartre is dominated by the domed Basilica of Sacre CÅ“ur. Montmartre is chiefly known for its artistic community. Picasso, Salvador Dali, Monet and Van Gogh all worked here. Its artistic community still thrives today and you can visit the many galleries and the Place du Tertre to see local artists at work.
Montmartre has been a place of religious significance right from the third century when Saint Denis, the first Bishop of Paris, was martyred. Work on the Basilica of Sacre CÅ“ur began in 1875 following the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. It was completed in 1914 and dedicated in 1919. Visitors can admire the stunning white stone, the vast interior, the beautiful mosaics, the tranquil gardens and of course the stunning views from the top of the dome.
Opened in 1977, the Pompidou Art Centre houses France’s leading collection of modern and contemporary art. It also has a huge library, cinema, theatre, 3 bookshops and a design boutique as well as cafes and a restaurant.
Its contentious architecture with colour-coded external ducts was designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. However, the building was a victim of its own success and, in 1997, it had to close for major renovation, not re-opening until 1 January 2000.
It is open daily except Tuesdays and 1 May. On Thursdays, it remains open for evening visitors until 2300. Guided tours are available, those in English on Sundays at 1500.