One of the top attractions in Paris has to the Eiffel Tower named after its creator Gustave Eiffel. The tower is one of the worlds most visited structures, it was constructed out of 12,000 iron pieces, weighing over 7000 tonnes and held together by 2.5 million rivets. It was built for the 1889 World Exhibition and is an impressive 324 metres high giving the visitor unrivalled vistas of Paris and its surrounding area. There are three levels which can be accessed by the public, the first two levels each with their own restaurants can be accessed by 300 steps each if feeling like a challenge but for most visitors they take the lifts located in the north, west and east pillars. The third and highest level can only be reached by lift; stairs are present but rarely open to the public. If time is a constraint during your visit then it’s best to buy tickets well in advance online to avoid the huge queues which are often present during the summer season.
In the early days Parisians were not sure the tower fitted in with the general architecture of Paris but today Parisians could not imagine the city without the ever present tower which has become a symbol of the “City of Light”. Each evening in Paris the tower lights up in a dazzling display which can be enjoyed from almost everywhere in the city. Since its construction over 200 million visitors have been drawn to this iconic structure and it’s easy to see why when standing at the foot of this imposing Tower, a definite “must see and do“ on any tour of the city.
Located top of the Montmartre Hill this majestic Basilica is a major tourist attraction towering over the city from its prominent position. Construction began in 1876 in a downtown part of Paris in a former small village and farming community which quickly became the home of many artists and craftsmen who have been ever present since those early days. The leading architect Paul Abadie died before its completion in 1884 and was succeeded by the equally talented architect Lucien Magne who added the world’s largest Savoyarde Clock in the 83 metre tall clock tower. It is a wonderful place to visit and the panoramic vistas over Paris and its surroundings are magnificent, after visiting the Basilica a stroll around the surrounding area is highly recommended. Today it is full of artists and craftsmen selling their goods, for a great holiday memento stop at one of the many artistes and have your silhouette drawn, mounted and framed while you wait. Interesting fact about the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, the stones used in its construction the Château-Landon stones react with rain water to produce calcite which bleaches the stone keeping it white.
The Louvre Museum
Formerly a royal palace the Louvre is undoubtedly one of the most outstanding museums in the world with over 8 million visitors flocking through the doors to see some of the most important works of art in the world. The collection has been housed in the enormous Louvre Palace in the very heart of Paris since the 16th century when King Francis I began his private collection, the renowned “Mona Lisa” being one of his outstanding purchases. The collection steadily grew over the centuries to over one million works of art with 35,000 on display in three large wings: Richelieu, Sully and Denon the most crowed of the wings containing the “Mona Lisa” the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece. The collection contains fantastic exhibits of Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Near Eastern and Egyptian antiquities, Sculptures including the “Venus of Milo”, Islamic Art, Paintings, Drawings and prints.
The museum itself is a piece of art, entering through the once controversial “Louvre Glass Pyramid” the main entrance to the museum, constructed in 1989 by American architect I.M.Pei it allows copious amount of sunlight into the underground level. Surrounding the glass pyramid entrance are the fabulous “Carrousel Gardens” amongst some of the most superb in the world.
One of the finest examples of Gothic architecture to be found anywhere in the world Notre Dame located on Ile de la Cite attracts millions of visitors and worshippers every year. Construction began in 1163 under the reign of Louis VII but was not completed until 1345 due to continual modifications and enlargements. The final Cathedral was truly monumental in size, 48 metres wide, 130 metres long, and 69 metres high, “The South Tower” contains the famous Emmanuel Bell weighing in at an incredible 13 tons. The Cathedral became the archetype for future cathedrals that were built in France in the following centuries. During the Revolution much of the interior including sculptures and gargoyles were demolished or removed. During the 19th century a 20 year restoration program began to restore it to its former glory and these days there are plenty of attractions for visitors to see.
The stained glass windows are beautiful examples and many of them date back to the time of the original construction, the three “Rose Windows” are the finest example of original surviving glass which gleam like precious stones over the South and North Transept and West door .The most notable feature of the West front of the Cathedral are two 69 metre towers connected by the Grand gallery containing the fabled gargoyles added during the restoration of the 19th century. In the “Kings Gallery” there are statues of 28 Kings of Israel and Judah which replaced those decapitated during the Revolution. The three West Portals of Notre Dame contain fabulous examples of the artistic skill of the early gothic craftsman with scenes depicting the “Last Judgment”, “Virgin Mary” and scenes from the life of “The Virgin Mary’s Mother”.
Notre Dame is open daily from 8am to 6.45pm Monday to Friday and &.15pm on weekends and entry is free during these times.
Arc de Triomphe
Located at the end of the Champs- Elysées at the junction of 12 prominent avenues is the arch an imposing structure rising to 50 metres in height, it was commissioned in 1806 by napoleon to commemorate his many victories but it was not completed until after his demise in 1836. The Arc de Triomphe contains many reliefs mainly commemorating Napoleon’s successful battles with 30 shields containing the names on top of the arch. Below the arch is the “Grave of the Unknown Soldiers” dedicated to the numerous who paid the ultimate price for freedom during the First World War. There is no elevator in the arch so be prepared to climb the 234 steps up to the viewing platform with fabulous panoramic views of the Champs- Elysées, La Defense and Sacré-Coeur.
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