The dazzling 'City of Light' and home of romance, Paris has long been recognized as one of the most dazzling cities in the world. Whether you prefer to explore the wonders of this magnificent city on a sprint morning, prefer to explore the majestic wonders of its historical past, visit some of the best fashion outlets in the world or indulge in a gastronomic "tour de force" this is a city that has something for everyone.
A Quick Look At The 'City Of Light'
The urban center of Paris is home to 2,200 million people, with the greater metropolitan area housing approximately 9,6 million.
The city, which was originally founded on an island in the middle of the Seine River, the "Ile de la Cite" grew quickly and spread to both banks of the river now known as the "Rive Droite" (right bank) and the "rive gauche" (left bank), with the left bank quickly becoming known for its intellectual vibrancy and home of the University of Paris.
Visitors arriving by plane in Paris will usually land at either one of the two airports Roissy-Charles de Gaulle or Orly. From either of these airports, tourists can access public transportation (by subway, coach or taxi) to the heart of the city in around 1 hour.
Time to Explore this Amazing City
Exploring the city is best accomplished through the purchase of a 'carnet' of 10 tickets which allow the visitor to use both the metro and the city's highly efficient bus services. Those wishing to take in the sights and sounds of this vibrant city are advised to make use of the bus services which allow for easy access to the many world famous attractions. Aside from the public transportation options, there are numerous bus tour companies which offer exciting and informative tours of the many attractions (hop on buses - hop off). These tours are highly recommended for those wishing to get under the skin of this magnificent city.
Another fabulous option is an hour long cruise of the river Seine where visitors are introduced to the many monuments, bridges and cathedrals which give the city its unique ambiance. A river tour is possibly one of the best ways to enjoy a view of the stunning cathedral of Notre Dame.
One-hour cruise on the Seine in a sightseeing boat or bateau mouche, which points out the main monuments, bridges, and cathedrals (the best view ever of Notre Dame).
A rough guide to the prices that tourists can expect to pay during their stay in Paris include the cost of a single occupancy hotel room at $146 per night (there are both less and more expensive options) and meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) at an average cost of $79.
A Short History
The origins of Paris can be found over 2000 years ago when the Gaul's founded the city close to the end of the third century BCE. By 52 BCE the Romans had taken the city and changed the name from Paris to Lutetia. The Roman control of the city ended in the fifth century when they ceded control to the Franks. The Middle Ages are considered by some to be the golden era of Paris. During this period construction of magnificent buildings such as Notre Dame commenced. Work started in the 12th century and continued for 200 years until the completion of one of the greatest cathedrals in the world - and a tourist attraction that still has 21st-century visitors marveling at its great beauty. Other marvels flourished during this time. The swamps surrounding the Marais were drained and what was to become known as the Right Bank came into existence. In 1248 work on the Sainte Chapelle, which was reputed to contain the remains of the True Cross was completed, attracting wealthy pilgrims for far and wide. In 1253 one of the great centers of learning, the Sorbonne was accepting students.
By 1415, the Hundred Years War had drawn to a close and left the English in control of Paris and indeed the whole of France. It was only the passion of Joan of Arc that would see the city liberated by the middle of the 14th century.
The 1500's were a time of upheaval and warfare with battles between the Catholics and the Protest Huguenots occurring on a regular basis with a huge attendant loss of life.
The end of the 1600's saw the crowning of The Sun King, Louis XIV. If the Middle were when Paris really began to shine the period of the Sun King's rule was when the city assumed a brightness unmatched in the world at that time. The magnificent palace of Versailles was completed, and monuments showing the world the opulence of France and especially Paris began to appear across the country and the rest of Europe. It was not to last - poverty and class inequality would lead to the French Revolution 1789 and the streets of Paris ran red with the blood of royalty and those not deemed to be revolutionary enough.
By the time the Revolution had ground to a halt 17,000 had been guillotined.
After the bloodletting of the Revolution both Paris and France as a whole were desperate for stability - which they found in the form of general Napoleon Bonaparte, who, in 1804 was crowned 'Emperor of the French' by the Pope himself. Napoleon's military genius saw much of Europe fall under the control of France until his defeat at Waterloo, Belgium in 1815.
After Napoleon, it was the turn of Napoleon III to take the reins of power. He ruled the country for a period of over 17 years which saw Paris undergo a face-lift and come to resemble the city that it is today. Napoleon III tasked Baron Hausmann with revitalizing the Paris infrastructure. This resulted in the construction of the broad Paris boulevards - a feature that still characterizes the city today and delights tourists who flock to the city from across the globe each year.
By the end of the 1800's the rule of Napoleon III would come to an end and the time of the so-called Third Republic would begin.
The Nazi control of Paris during the Second World War would last until the liberation of the city on the 25th of August 1944. The city quickly regained its position as a promoter of innovation and liberal ideals. By the 1980's president Mitterand launched the 'grands projects', a series of significant city planning projects which would further entrench Paris as one of the most beautiful cities in the world as it entered the third millennium.
Today Paris remains the destination of choice for well over 22 million tourists a year. Each of whom visits the City of Lights for their own, unique reasons - however, figures shown that a significant number of these visitors will take in some of the many cultural attractions offered by Paris during their visit.
Aside from the mandatory visit to the magnificent Eiffel Tower, the visitor to Paris is offered a wealth of opportunities to explore both the history and the cultural importance of the city.
One of the most rewarding of the destinations would have to be the Louvre museum. This museum of art and culture has been called the shining jewel in the crown of French cultural attractions. With classic and modern pieces of art such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo a tour of the museum is unmissable. Visitors have access to approximately 380,000 objects from pre-history to the 21st century, including 35,000 works of art housed in 8 departments. A visit to the Orsay museum is also recommended for art and culture lovers. With works by masters such as Gaugin, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh this is an opportunity to take in some of the greatest artwork ever produced and should not be missed.
The Palace of Versailles is one of the most visually arresting and historically interesting sites in Paris. An example of some of the most opulent buildings in the world this is a must see for the Paris visitor.
A tour of the Cathedral of Notre Dame (English - 'Our Lady of Paris') is an essential for the tourist. In 1323, John of Jandun remarked that the cathedral 'deservedly shines out, like the sun among stars'. Any visitor today would tend to agree with this observation. With a Paris Pass in hand visitors are allowed access to the top of the Towers of Notre Dame for free.
Visitors to the City of Light would be missing one of the most iconic of all French monuments if they neglected to take in the grandeur of the Arc de Triomphe. It offers exceptional views across the city from the viewing platform and insight into the proud martial past of the city (and country as a whole), as well as the development of Parisian society. The architecture alone is worth the trip.
For those who would like to explore the history of wine and the impact that it has had on Parisian and French culture a wine tasting in a historic wine cellar in the middle of the city is hugely instructive. Participants will enjoy and introduction to some of the best Bordeaux wines and French champagnes during the ‘ Chateau Wine Tasting - an indulgent treat for those wanting to get some insight into the French love of great wine - and relaxed living.
Find more cultural activities in our Culture and Arts Section!
Although this vibrant city offers the visitor a fascinating glimpse into history and culture during the daylight hours, it is at night that the city begins to shine.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable ways to begin a night in Paris is to find a seat at one of the elegant and vibrant cafes that characterize the city. A glass of good wine (or two) and crowd watching is the perfect beginning to an evening in the City of Love.
From there Paris will open its arms to visitors via its cuisine and it's buzzing clubs and bars.
Enjoy some of the best gastronomic experiences on the face of the planet in one of the many world-class restaurants, bistros and cafes that can be found across the city. For those who wish to immerse themselves in the rich literary tradition of Paris a visit to the Boulevard Saint-Germain is an absolute must. It is in the cafes and bistros of this area that some of the world's greatest artists and literary giants had been inspired to create masterpieces. Cafe de Flore, Les Deux Magots, and Brasserie Lipp are only a few of venues that will reward the eager explorer.
However, it should be mentioned that almost any area in Paris will provide a dining experience that will have the visitor returning again and again to this magnificent city.
For late night owls and those in search of a more active night out Paris boast some of the best nightclubs in the world. The tourist can rub shoulder with the stars or enjoy the sounds provided by some of the best DJ's in the world at any number of clubs dotted across the city. Head over to the Pigalle area to find some of the best clubs.
Of course, a visit would not be complete without the obligatory evening at the Moulin Rouge - without a doubt the most famous cabaret in the world.
Visitors to the 'City of Light' will be dazzled and entranced by the sheer depth of cultural and historic attractions offered by this cosmopolitan city. Paris is a place that will reward repeated visits - and those that visit it once are sure to return again and again to the magnificent city located on the banks of the Seine river.