Things to do in Paris
In this newsletter, I will briefly review some of the top tourist sites in Paris. My information and pictures are based on visits in 2018 and 2022. Overall, I find Paris a very fun city and the people mostly friendly. Everything seems clean and I encountered no crime or other significant problems. Paris makes my top four cities in Europe. The other three are Amsterdam, Munich and Barcelona. In the interests of brevity, I won’t get into traveling to Paris in general, but stick to just the top tourist spots.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is probably the second most recognizable symbol of Paris (behind the Eiffel Tower). It is supposed to honor soldiers who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, but I think the French use it to honor fallen soldiers in all wars. It stands in a prominent location at the western end of the Champs Elysees, Paris’ most famous avenue. The arc itself is in the middle of a traffic circle, with 12 avenues leading to it. In case you’re wondering how to get into the middle of the traffic circle, there are at least two underground tunnels. One can buy tickets to get to the top, which offers great views of central Paris. You might think it isn’t that high to offer good views, but Paris is like Washington DC in that most of the city has a maximum building size of what seems like about eight stories.
The Eiffel Tower needs no introduction. However, you can’t just walk up to it with no planning and expect to get up it. If you’re planning to be in Paris, get your Eiffel Tower tickets as far in advance as you can. This especially goes for the restaurants. The Tower is divided into three observations levels. You may take the stairs to levels one and two or an elevator to all three. It’s easier and cheaper to get the tickets for the stairs. Elevator tickets to the top are in limited supply and fill way in advance. When I went I looked into tickets about a month in advance and the best I could do was the second level by the stairs. I had no luck at all with making a restaurant reservation.
If my trivia is correct, the Louve is the most visited museum in the world. Having been there, I have little doubt that is true. The place is huge, crowded, confusing, and hot. For all the valuable art in there, it would be nice if they spent a little more money on air conditioning. One can’t go to the Louve without seeing the Mona Lisa. This picture showed me as close as I could get without standing in a long winding line, which I didn’t do. If you do go, don’t forget to see the Venus de Milo and Napoleon’s apartment. As for me, I’m happy to cross it off my list, but probably won’t be back my next trip to Paris.
I was fortunate to visit the Notre Dame in 2018, shortly before the fire. After they finish the repairs, it’s worth a visit, in part because of it’s central location for tourism. To be honest with you, I think there are lots of churches and cathedrals on par with the Notre Dame in Europe, but get much less fame. Much like the Louve, I’m happy to cross it off my list, but it’s not a priority to return.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery
I give this cemetery very high marks! I like cemeteries in general and this is my favorite, by far, anywhere in the world. American cemeteries, except maybe those in New Orleans, are extremely boring by comparison. Marker after marker showed both artistic merit as well as a sense of humor. I would be proud to buried here, except for the fact that I support green burials.
A trip to Paris without seeing a cabaret show is like going to Vegas without seeing any show. The most famous one is the Moulin Rouge, which I saw in 2018. I highly recommend it! It’s worth it to pay extra for the pre-show dinner. I’ve been to the Lido de Paris and Folies Bergere in Vegas, which were at best half as enjoyable as the Moulin Rouge. Be warned that tickets were booked up months in advance, when I tried in 2022. If you’re rebuffed getting Moulin Rouge tickets, do not fret as there are other cabaret shows. My last visit I randomly picked the Paradis Latin, which was just as energetic and passionate, but a smaller and more intimate venue. I am happy to give them a recommendation too.
Catacombs of Paris
Finally, I give very high praise to the Catacombs of Paris. This is where the city relocated the remains of six million people from cemeteries the city reclaimed for other uses. The bones are artistically arranged along miles or corridors. The part open to the public goes along just a fraction of the whole system. It’s a humbling experience, being among the bones of million so individually forgotten people makes me feel like one ant among billions. Like many top Paris attractions, I highly recommend getting tickets as far in advance as you can, which you can do online.
I hope you enjoyed that quick report on Paris. Unless a better idea bubbles up, I plan to report on Munich next week.