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Paris has an incredible wealth of things to see and do - so much so that Paris guide book writers have a field day practically every year. If however, your time in the city is limited and you have to pick just five things to do, then go with the following for an all-round impression of the city.
1. The French might tell you that the Eiffel Tower is the most overrated attraction in Paris, but actually, even after having been to Paris at least once a year since birth and after five years of living here full-time, I still marvel at the grande dame in her glitzy bolero as she shimmies across the Paris skyline. The best spot to see the Eiffel Tower is from the Trocadero at around 10:00pm, when the lights go on.
2. The Louvre is another big one not to miss, even if you only have a spare couple of hours – however, the museum spans about twice the length of the Empire State Building if it were standing up, so for something a little more manageable you might want to try the Musée d’Orsay for an equally good – if not better – dose of 17-18th-century art.
3. Wandering the narrow streets of the Marais is definitely not to miss, no matter how long you are in the city for. You won’t regret exploring this neighbourhood’s 13-17th century charms and its trendy luxury boutiques, bars, cafés and restaurants. Predominantly known as the ‘bobo’ (bohemian-bourgeois) neighbourhood par excellence, it is a great place to see some of the city’s best art, as well as the place to be seen on a Saturday afternoon.
4. At this time of year, the weather is warming up, the sun stays out until late and trees are growing back their leaves. The ideal place to see the beating heart of Paris in summer is the Canal Saint-Martin (take the Faubourg du Temple at Républic and walk along the canal towards Jaurès). Lined by boutiques, bookshops, and some of the best restaurants and bars in Paris (Chez Prune and Comptoir Général for bars and Hôtel du Nord, Marcel and Le Cambodge for restaurants), everyone in search of some sun at the weekend gets up early to nab a spot along the canal for the day.
5. A picnic on the River Seine right in the heart of Paris is also a must in the summer. Join the beer-drinking and guitar-playing crowds along the river banks. For the best view of Notre Dame, which is just across the water on the Ile de la Cité, an island on the Seine, set up on quai de la Tournelle – not only will this part of the river be quieter, but you will have a spectacular view of the back of the cathedral, which is adorned with large ghost-like statues of Jesus’ disciples stepping down on to the roof as though from the sky.
When visiting Paris, the best attractions are all about the view. One of the best views in Paris is from the Parc de Belleville, the highest park in all of Paris. The large terrace at the top of the park offers panoramic views of the city, similar to those at the top of Montmartre where the famed white basilica, Sacre Coeur, stands. Sacre Coeur and its surrounding cobblestone streets, quaint cafés, and village vibe makes it one of my favorite spots in Paris to visit on a clear day. Other attractions with gorgeous views is the Arc de Triomphe, that stands at the top of the Champs Elysées and offers views in all directions, especially down to the Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries gardens. Another great attraction in Paris is the ferris wheel that is installed at the entrance to the Tuileries each winter. Go for a ride at night and enjoy seeing the views of Paris from the top as the city twinkles. Another landmark to visit in Paris is the famed Palais Garnier, the home of the Paris opera. From the steps in front of the opera, you can see all the way down the Avenue de l’Opéra to the Musée du Louvre. Built during the reconstruction of Paris by Baron Haussmann, the Opera Garnier is one of the most beautiful landmarks in the entire city.
Summary: Paris Attractions With a View
• Parc de Belleville 47 Rue des Couronnes, 75020 Paris, Metro: Couronnes
• Montmartre & Sacre Coeur 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, Metro: Anvers
• Arc de Triomphe Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, Metro: Charles de Gaule Etoile
• Place de la Concorde Metro: Concorde
• Tuileries Gardens Metro: Tuileries
• Le Palais Garnier 8 rue Scribe, 75009 Paris, Metro: Opéra