You’ve seen it come alive in movies, saw its pictures splashed across magazine pages or read about it in novels. Paris is probably a city you’re pretty familiar with even before you actually step foot in it. There are a million and one places you want to go and even more pictures you wish to take. Here’s my guide on what are the absolute must- capture shots when you’re in the city of a thousand lights.
Obviously. There’s no way you can visit the romantic capital of the world and not leave with at least one shot of the city’s most iconic structure. The tower is visible and looks stunning from many parts of the city, but it’s right at its foot that you truly appreciate how magnificent the Eiffel Tower is. An inter-web of steel frames stacked together and narrowing to its peak, it’s much larger than you imagine and far more awe-inspiring that you expect.
Arc de Triomphe
If the Eiffel Tower is the most prominent landmark in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe must rank second. It stands proudly at the west end of the Champs-Élysées and right in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle. It’s the meeting point of 12 straight avenues that fan from it to different parts of the city. Apart from serving as an important traffic marker, the Arc itself is a tribute to the fallen who sacrificed for France during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The monument is inscribed with the names of the French victors and generals.
Notre Dame de Paris (Notre-Dame Cathedral)
Made famous by the novel Hunchback of Notre Dame, the imposing cathedral is a sight to behold. Up close it is huge, with intricate Gothic details covering almost every inch of its façade. The Notre Dame is considered one of the best structures of French Gothic architecture and remains as one of the biggest and well-known churches in the world today. A tiered seating area in front of the church is a welcome resting spot, where you can take a break and appreciate its grandeur. There’s usually a snaking queue to enter the church to admire its interiors and the beautiful stained glass designs. Anyone can enter Notre Dame during opening hours, and to avoid long queues, visit in the morning.
The Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre)
The world’s largest museum, the Louvre stands as a central landmark of Paris on the right bank of the River Seine. Housed in the Louvre Palace, there are almost 35 thousand items from pre-historic times to the 21st century on display here. The contemporary glass pyramid design of the museum’s entrance is a stark contrast to its backdrop of the Renaissance, Neo- Baroque Louvre Palace. If you want to take a clear picture of the Louvre entrance without other people, you’ll have to go earlier in the morning. Crowds mushroom from mid-morning onwards.
Pont des Arts (Love Lock Bridge)
The Pont des Arts now is actually a reconstructed one, after the first collapsed in 1979 when a barge struck it. The Bridge itself, a metallic pedestrian walkway is pretty ordinary, compared with the rest of the ornately decorated bridges across the city, but the locks lining both sides of the bridge makes it quite a sight. Since late 2008, locks started appearing on the bridge as visitors began putting their names on padlocks and throwing the keys into the River Seine after placing the locks on the bridge as a declaration of love. The locks have become too overwhelming in recent years, and space had run out, forcing couples to attach their locks upon locks. Back in 2014, it was estimated that there were over 700 thousand locks on the bridge, causing a safety concern for the bridge. The sheer mass of the locks has been weighing the bridge down, and workers have since been cutting off locks to ease the burden. That has done little to ease the bridge’s weight, since people continue to place locks on the bridge. There’re benches placed in the middle of the bridge, where you can rest and people watch, or just admire the sights on both sides of the Seine.
The most famous cabaret of them all, Moulin Rouge is originally notorious for its sensual dance performances, followed by high-energy can-can dance acts. It’s nothing quite as dramatic as the Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor version, but it did help to introduce Cabarets throughout Europe. Today, Moulin Rouge offers musical dance entertainment and is a major tourist attraction. I got off the train station at Monmartre and wandered around half an hour to find that familiar windmill. Mark it out on a map before you visit and when you’re near, just look out for a crowd taking pictures. There’s usually at least a handful of people standing opposite the building snapping away.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris
Perched on top of the highest point in the city, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacre-Cœur Basilica, is a popular landmark in Paris and a double monument for political and cultural causes. Located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, this basilica is publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a popularised vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ. Its political significance stems from the atonement for the excesses of the Second Empire and the socialist Paris Commune of 1871. Built from travertine stone that constantly exudes calcite, this ensures the Basilica remains a pure white during the harshest of weather conditions and against increasing pollution. Inside the Basilica complex is a garden for meditation and reflection, made more soothing with a fountain. The Basilica is open to the public, and of you visit on the weekends, you can even join in the mass.
I first came across Monmartre from the film “Amelie from Monmartre”. I was fascinated with the movie and curious about the colourful, quaint and artsy hilltop place. At the turn of the 20th century, Monmartre was already attracting renowned artists like Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. They flocked here for its low rent and welcoming atmosphere. Today, Monmartre brims with vibrancy and still retains that artistic atmosphere. At the Place du Tertre, a square at Monmartre’s center, artists gather to paint, draw and sculpt their art pieces, showcasing their talents for the crowds that gather here from mid-morning onwards. The Monmartre area is a designated historic district that restricts too much development in order to preserve its historic character.
Statue of Liberty
This is a 35-foot replica of Lady Liberty on the tiny island of Île des Cygnes on the River Seine. It’s much smaller than its New York counterpart but no less impressive. In fact, the tinier size allows visitors taking the cruise down the river to get a good look at its excellent workmanship and truly admire its beauty. If you’re up at the Eiffel Tower, you’ll be able to spot this beauty. To see it really up-close, you can get down from the Pont de Grenelle Bridge to the little island and get right in front of it, but it’s too close for my comfort. The best view and distance is when you cruise down the Seine.
Pont Alexandre III
Connecting the Champs- Elysees quarter, the Invalides and the Eiffel Tower quarter, the Pont Alexandre III Bridge is regarded as the most ornately designed bridge in the city and is classified as a French Monument. Built in Beaux-Art style, it features two rows of Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, winged horses and nymphs. Built between 1896 and 1900, the bridge was named after Tsar Alexander III, and was considered an engineering marvel back then. It features a six-meter high single span steel arch, which was needed to prevent the bridge from obstructing the view of the Champs-Élysée. Do take a walk across the bridge and admire its beauty.
Tags: Basilica de Sacre Coeur, Eiffel Tower, Paris
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