Ah, Paris. This is the #1 city destination for travel, according to the recent Trip Advisor poll. I’ve fallen for the charms of this City of Light, and I’ve included time here in every one of my 4 trips to Western Europe. We are planning to end our upcoming European adventure in Paris because that works well and Paris is always a good idea.
I will admit that the first time I ventured to Paris, I felt just “meh” about it. I was thrilled to finally be in the middle of a place I had heard about for so long. I loved the Eiffel Tower at first sight. But I felt I could take or leave the rest. I hopped on a train and moved on to other countries and cities that definitely stirred my heart more than Paris. For some reason, returning several years later, I was immediately smitten with everything — the clean architecture and wide boulevards, the ancient and stately Notre Dame, the sidewalk cafes with their colored chairs and awnings, the art, the Seine. So here are a few of my favorites in Paris, in no particular order except that I’ll save the best till last!
Here is a place you can blend in with the locals, especially on the weekend when you’ll be among joggers, skaters, children running happily, and friendly residents out for fresh air. Beautiful Luxembourg Gardens dates back to 1612. The gardens and the palace here were designed for Princess Marie de Medici, who became Queen of France. Nazis occupied the residence during WWII, and the French resistance fought nearby. The palace is now used by the French Senate.
Locals somehow knew we are from the U.S. and several of them stopped to tell us to be sure to see the Statue of Liberty. As directions were given in French, we wandered around a bit before finding it. The fun part was that we met a family with young children at the statue, and they wanted to practice English. We had quite a chat about their cats and school. These are the experiences that make travel so memorable.
The beauty of Sainte-Chapelle, in the heart of Paris, amazes all who enter here, but it is easy to miss. From the outside, Saint-Chapelle is unimpressive, so you may walk by and not realize this is definitely worth a visit. The chapel dates from 1248. King Louis IX, who lived next door in what is now known as the Conciergerie, built the church to house the relics he collected from Venice. You won’t find the relics here, but come in for the stunning stained glass. You will stand in awe gazing up at these artworks.
During the French Revolution, the chapel became administrative offices. Tall cabinets hid the glass. So when the choir stalls and other parts of the building fell victim to vandalism, these windows weathered the war. The rainbow of colors survived to be enjoyed hundreds of years later.
Visitor’s tip: You walk into the ground floor of the chapel, which does have stained glass windows, but be sure to climb the stairs to the top floor. That’s where the dazzling tall windows will surround you.
You cannot properly visit Paris without sitting in a sidewalk cafe, enjoying a coffee and croissant or a glass of wine. As sidewalk cafes line every street I’ve traveled, you’ll be spoiled for choice. If you find a view you like, grab a chair and settle in. This one is across the street from the Sorbonne, just off St. Michel Boulevard in the heart of the Latin Quarter. We’ve eaten breakfast here. And dinner. And breakfast again . . .
The Marais district offers so many cafes.
The Invalides is a fascinating place where you can take in France’s military history going back about 200 years. The tall dome that crowns the Invalides is a landmark in the center of Paris. The Eiffel Tower rises behind a front yard that’s filled with shrubs and cannon. The Invalides is a chapel, an army museum, a hospital, and the final resting place of Napoleon I. You are sure to find something intriguing here. I’ve spent time at this museum every time I’ve come to Paris.
THE EIFFEL TOWER
How about you? Have you been to Paris? What are your favorite places? Or if you would like to go, where would you head first?