paris sights NOT TO MISS

Which Paris sights should not be missed? Paris is renowned worldwide for its history, and the beauty and elegance of its architecture, for its sophistication, its savoire-faire, its refinement. It's a reputation that is well deserved as any walk around its most famous landmarks will demonstrate.

A day spent walking around the Paris sights is one you will remember for a long time. But it will also be the most tiring day of your life, arguably. On the one hand, time, cost, schedules, all urge you to keep going, but so much can be missed in one mad dash to see everything. On the other hand, there is no substitute for keeping it simple. Paris offers so much to see and do, and you will receive many recommendations and sound advice about not only the well-known landmarks but many lesser-known, too.

However, there are certain sights in Paris that you simply cannot ignore; sites with an iconic status that has influenced our perceptions both of France and of other cities across the world. Here is a selection to be thinking about...

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe (Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile) is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (originally named Place de l'Étoile), at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. There is a smaller arch, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands west of the Louvre.

The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces.

© ATOUT FRANCE/Patrice Thébault

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Built in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 International Exhibition, it is today both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame cathedral, is in the heart of the city, on the banks of the Seine, a masterpiece of Gothic architectural concept and design, while the banks of the Seine themselves are ranked as a World Heritage Site.

The cathedral is the true heart of Paris; in fact, distances from Paris to all parts of metropolitan France are measured from place du Parvis Notre Dame, the square in front of Notre Dame. A bronze star, set in the pavement opposite the main entrance, marks the exact location of Point zéro des routes de France, from which all other distances are measured.

© Paris Tourist Office - Photographer : Marc Bertrand

Père Lachaise Cemetery

The thought of a cemetery as a tourist attraction feeds the modern notion of 'Black tourism'. But Père Lachaise is quite something, and well worth the diversion, even though it is still a functioning cemetery. Père Lachaise is in the 20th arrondissement, and is reputed to be the world's most visited cemetery, attracting thousands of visitors annually to the graves of those who have enhanced French life over the past 200 years. It is also the site of three World War I memorials. Here, too, you will find the graves of Oscar Wilde, composer Georges Bizet, singer Edith Piaf, composer Frédéric Chopin, artist Camille Pissarro, and The Doors vocalist Jim Morrison.

© ATOUT FRANCE/Fabian Charaffi

Montmartre and Sacré Coeur

At the top of Montmartre stands the glorious white church of Sacré Coeur, a supreme piece of 19th-century architecture built on a site of ancient worship, said to stretch back to the pre-Roman druids. It's quite a climb to get to the top, but the church itself is one of the most cherished Paris landmarks, and makes a truly romantic setting to get a stunning view of the city.

Wander the streets of Montmartre and admire, perhaps buy, the work of the many artists that throng the main square; it's quite a remarkable atmosphere.

© Paris Tourist Office - Photographer : Jacques Lebar

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