5 Things to See in Paris Even If You're Pressed For Time

The cityscape of Paris, including its business district "La Défense".
The cityscape of Paris, including its business district "La Défense".

Paris is the capital city of France as well as its largest city. It is also the largest city in the European Union outside of the United Kingdom with a population of 2.2 million residents (10 million in the entire metropolitan area). Sometimes known as the “city of love”, "city of light" and the “fashion capital of the world,” the French capital is is a very popular tourist destination. In 2015 alone, the city welcomed 22.2 million foreign visitors. Although Paris offers a list of tourist attractions that is nearly endless, this is a list of the five quintessential things that every tourist must see before leaving the city.

5. Tour Montparnesse Observation Deck

The Tour Montparnasse is a 58-story skyscraper in Paris that rises 689 feet in the air. At the top of the tower is a panoramic observation deck that features an open-air terrace, arguably offering some of the most mesmerizing and iconic views of the city. As the Tour Montparnasse itself is a large monolith structure, some joke that the view from its deck is made even more beautiful as it is the only place in Paris where your view does not contain the tower itself. The Tour Montparnasse is the perfect stop for any visitor to Paris who is short on time and still wants to be able to capture stunning photos of the cityscape.

4. Notre-Dame Cathedral

Located on its own little island called Île de la Cité, Notre-Dame is an ancient Roman Catholic cathedral that was constructed in the 14th century. However, the site on which Notre-Dame was built dates back even further to when it hosted a Gallo-Roman temple over 1,000 years ago. Attracting over 14 million visitors per year, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is a Parisian must-see. Most famous for having inspired Victor Hugo's classic story The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, entry to the impressive Gothic edifice is free, and it is even possible for visitors to climb to its top. The central location of the Notre-Dame Cathedral makes it an accessible choice to even the most time-crunched of visitors.

3. Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe, whose fulll name is the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile was built to honor the lives lost during the Napoleon Wars as well as the French Revolutionary War. The names of French army generals and their victories are inscribed on its surface. At the bottom of the Arc is the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" which symbolizes the millions of French soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War. An example of neoclassical architecture with Roman influence, the arc is located at a roundabout from whence several Paris avenues begin, including the famous high-end shopping district of the Champs-Élysées. It is possible to climb to the top of the arc using the steps located in the interior. It makes the list for its undeniable status as a highly recognizable symbol of Paris.

2. Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

The Basilique du Sacré-Cœur is an of early 20-century basilica affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The basilica stands out from the neighboring city landscape due to its white marble exterior and its large protruding dome which offers impressive city views (after visitors climb its 300 steps, that is). The bell of the basilica weighs 19 tons, making it on of the heaviest in the world. The Basilique du Sacré-Cœur makes the list for its location in the iconic Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre, which although heavily-touristed, is still worth a visit. Montmartre is famous for having served as an artistic hotspot for the likes of Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. A visit to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur can be easily accompanied by a walk around the area, where residue of its artistic past still shine through.

1. Eiffel Tower

The ultimate symbol of Paris, the Eiffel Tower is built of iron and rises 1,063 feet in the air. Attracting an average of 7 million visitors per year, the Eiffel Tower is the most visited tourist site in the city as well as its most famous symbol. Originally intended to be a temporary structure, it was constructed by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Exposition Universelle. At its time it was the tallest human-made structure in the world, a title it would hold for 41 years until the 1930 opening of the Chrysler Building in New York. The observation deck at the top of the tower is the highest in the entire European Union at 906 feet. Although long lines often prohibit easy access to the tower's observation deck, no trip to Paris is complete without at least visiting the base of the tower, where it is still worthwhile to look up and admire the iconic symbol of Paris from afar.


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