The symbol of France. If you had a layover with only time to see one sight, this of course is it. You can see the tower from many spots in the city, but the two parks in closest proximity give unobstructed views: Champ de Mars and Jardins du Trocadero.
On the left bank of the Seine is Champ de Mars, a large and popular rectangular stretch of green perfect for getting close up pictures with the tower or have a picnic on a sunny day.
On the right bank is Jardins du Trocadero including museums, fountains, and statues along with the view from an elevated platform.
With such a busy attraction, it is good to have a game plan. As price goes, it is your cheapest option is to pay 7 euro for the stairs which will allow you up to the second floor. Otherwise, it is 11 euro for the lift up to the second floor or 17 euro for the lift to the very top. We went with the first option which was the most affordable, gave us some exercise, and most importantly as time is the most precious commodity when traveling – we skipped the line for the lift. I thought the stairs were really cool because we could stop wherever we wanted to take pictures and admire the unique details of the wrought iron structure.
It’s 704 stairs to get to the second floor, which took us mere minutes, but you will want to take a break on the first floor to get your first glimpse of the city from above! The first floor was great because you could still see the details of Paris really well including a statue of liberty and the Sacre Coeur in the foggy distance.
The above pictures of the parks to view the tower from were taken from the first floor. There are many interesting informative panels, a restroom, gift shops, and food options on the first floor. Continuing on to the second floor, at almost double the height you will find much more sweeping views of the city.
I thought the views from the first and second floor were more than adequate, amazing actually, but if you find you want to head to the top you must take a lift from this point!
Arc de Triomphe
The Emperor Napoleon commissioned the construction of the iconic monument dedicated to those who fought for France, and after World War I it would also house the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I have seen the structure in countless pictures, but never realized how huge it was until I witnessed it in person! It is located in the center of a large multi-lane rotary, don’t try to cross it! Take the underground passageway. You can climb to the top, 40 steps, to take in the view which could be an alternative to the busy Eiffel Tower. Adult tickets are 8 euro, and it would be especially cost effective if you were traveling with those under 17 who get in for free.
Famous churches of Paris:
Notre Dame Cathedral
The cornerstone was laid in 1163 and work completed 1345 on one of the most famous churches in the world. We made our journey to the Ile de la Cite in the middle of the Seine River and marveled at the massive structure in a sea of people. I wanted to visit mainly because I loved the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a child, however when I got there I nearly forgot about the story and was taken aback completely by the building itself.
Set in front of a brooding sky, the French Gothic architecture was stunning, intricate, and thought provoking.
We walked around looking at the countless sprouting gargoyles, surprised to see such a scary sight on a church, but they just remind you that we are all gods creatures.
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame novel was written by the famous French author Victor Hugo, and is now on my summer reading list!
Sacred Heart Basilica (Sacre Coeur)
To get to the highest point in the city, you’re going to have to do a bit of climbing, unless you take the funicular of course.
We took one of the many sets of stairs and enjoyed the view along the way.
The hilly neighborhood of Montmartre is interesting to walk around, looking at the shops, restaurants, and street art.
When we got to the top there was a market in full swing right beside the viewing platform.
Even on a hazy day it was sure something to see. Oh and the church itself was magnificent!
You can pay to walk up to the top of dome and get an even higher view. Be sure to walk around the circumference, you can find more gargoyles here as well.
Palace of Versailles
Not technically within Paris, but close enough to justify that no trip to the city is complete without visiting the famed palace!
We got to the palace easily by train and a short walking distance. The major tip of the day, wear good shoes because there is a ton of walking to do at this expansive estate! Or you could rent a bike. Or you could pay for the tram. You can also rent a rowboat, but that’s just for fun. We didn’t buy tickets in advance and lucky for us there really wasn’t a line. We visited on the shoulder season and it was a rainy day, so luck was on our side in that aspect. Brush up on your history prior to visiting or get the audio guide if you are looking to learn something because there are no historical panels, otherwise it’s just another pretty house and garden.
Speaking of tickets, if you’re on a strict budget it is free to walk around gardens. If you want access to everything the grounds have to offer, you’ll pay 18 euro which we did. The palace was gorgeous, amazing, filled with numerous intricate artifacts.
However, unless your dead set on seeing the Hall of Mirrors (where the Treaty of Versailles was signed) which was exceptionally crowded,
my ideal (half) day would have been a visit to the Trianon Palaces and Marie-Antoinette’s – a 10 euro ticket. Starting right from the very pink marble,
it was more colorful, playful,
and I simply adored the Hamlet village.
I loved the wildlife in this area, including the winding canals and lakes that the muskrats, moorhens, and swans inhabit.
So whether you’re a lover of history, architecture and interior design, or even nature, Versailles is a magical and must experience element of your trip to Paris.