Paris Must-See Attractions: 10 Monuments and Historic Places Not to Miss
City of museums, City of lights, City of love, City of fashion and gastronomy... superlatives abound to describe Paris. In the first part of our report on the 10 must-see attractions in Paris, we discussed the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe at the Place de l'Étoile, the Louvre, and the Tuileries Garden, as well as the royal squares through the most beautiful ones, namely Place Vendôme and Place des Vosges.
Here is the continuation of the must-see attractions in Paris, which we hope will help you make your choices or, even better, visit them all!
This is an immense architectural complex built in 1628 at the request of Cardinal Richelieu. Located in the heart of Paris, it was intended to serve as a residence for the king or the heir. It includes, among other things, arcaded galleries, theaters, and an elegant garden.
While it is uncommon today to stop in this sumptuous and peaceful garden, almost invisible from the street, the Palais-Royal, with its dormant appearance and somewhat timeless ambiance, played a central role in Parisian life.
In the 18th century, while Paris was the capital of France, the Palais-Royal—an vibrant cultural, intellectual, and commercial center—was the capital of Paris. Everyone met there, and you could find everything: in the shops, under the arcades, or in the garden. Many small trades were represented. Young Savoyard boys, known as "marmot showmen," charged passersby to pet their marmot.
The palace was a safe enclave, meaning that the police did not have access. You could speak freely there. Newspapers, pamphlets, and satirical newspapers were edited or sold. It was the ideal place for revolutionaries or conspirators of all kinds. It's also the chosen location by Emily Cooper and her friend Mindy (heroines of the series "Emily in Paris") to exchange the latest gossip.
Unique for its time, the palace was illuminated by street lamps until 2 am. Gambling, conspiracies, and prostitution were well-established. The Revolution decriminalized prostitution, and by the end of the 18th century, there were nearly 800 prostitutes, all listed in a register. It is said that there were options for all tastes and budgets.
Today, the Palais Royal is home to many institutions such as the Comédie-Française, the Council of State, the Constitutional Council, and the Ministry of Culture.
6/ The Garnier Opera House
Founded by the architect Charles Garnier following a competition initiated by Napoleon III as part of the large-scale renovations carried out by Prefect Haussmann, the Garnier Opera was inaugurated in 1875.
Initially called the "Opéra de Paris," it was renamed in 1989, with the opening of the Opéra Bastille, as the "Opéra Garnier" or "Palais Garnier."
It is said that Charles Garnier disliked the Haussmannian style. He would have preferred a larger square (larger than the current Place de l'Opéra) in front of his opera, which does seem somewhat squeezed between the Haussmannian buildings.
Legend has it that when Charles Garnier showed the plans for the future opera to Empress Eugénie, she asked him about the style. "Well, it's Napoleon III," replied Garnier.
The opera was intended to be an academy of music, choreography, and lyric poetry, as indicated on its facade.
It still houses the dance school of the Paris Opera. The Paris Opera Ballet is recognized as one of the best in the world.
7/ Notre-Dame and the Île de la Cité
The Île de la Cité is the heart of Paris, some would even say the cradle of the capital. Indeed, it was here that the first inhabitants, the Parisii, settled around 250 BC. This strategic island location allowed them to control the flow of boats on the Seine and better defend themselves against enemy attacks. By establishing a river and road toll, the Parisii quickly became wealthy.
In 885, 40,000 Norman Vikings, arriving on no less than 700 ships, besieged it for nearly two years!
The island was the center of the spiritual and temporal power of the city. The Palais de la Cité was the first palace of the Kings of France. It also hosted two Roman Emperors during their stay in Lutetian in the 4th century.
With the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral is undoubtedly the most iconic monument in Paris and France. It is the most visited in the world, with 13 to 14 million annual visitors.
The construction lasted almost 200 years, from 1163 to 1345.
Located in the heart of medieval Paris, on the Île de la Cité, the forecourt of Notre-Dame was the gathering place par excellence, where religious and social life unfolded, blending daily activity with sacred space.
Since the fire in 2019, hundreds of artisans have been working on its reconstruction. The reopening is scheduled for April 15, 2024, precisely 5 years after the tragedy.
From Pont Neuf to Pont Saint-Louis, a stroll on the Île de la Cité is a must for anyone interested in the history of Paris. Even though the island has changed its appearance many times, you won't have any difficulty feeling the vibrations of a particularly rich past.
TO BE CONTINUED.... Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Musée d'Orsay