After spending a magnificent 3 days in Paris, the best piece of advice we can give to any short term visitor is to buy a Paris Metro pass.
The metro system in Paris is brilliant, it is very easy to use and the tickets are cheap. There is a metro stop by every landmark in the city. Grab yourself a Paris Metro tourist map from the airport or a Tourist Information center and use it for your entire trip.
Here are some of the highlights we enjoyed on our 3 day Paris metro hopping experience.
Metro stop: Charles de Gaulle Étoile
No trip to Paris would be complete without seeing one of the most famous monuments in the world. The Arc de Triomphe was built to commemorate those who fought and died for Napoleon‘s victory and the French Revolution.
Full names of all French victories and generals are inscribed under the Arch and on the outer surfaces.
The Arc de Triomphe was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806 and the artistry on the facade portrays heroically nude French youths fighting against bearded Germanic warriors, typical of triumphant patriotic messages.
The Arc De Triomphe stands at the center of a the Axe historique which is a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares that runs on a route from courtyard of the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Défense. The Arc is also the centre point of 12 avenues which you can see clearly from the Eiffel Tower observation deck.
One of Europe’s first ever eternal flames can be found underneath the arch which is protected by royal guards.
Beneath the vault of the Arch lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I and visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city from the observation deck on top of the Arch.
Metro Stop: Louvre – Rivoli
Located in a former palace, Le Louvre is the world’s second largest museum and is filled with over 35,000 historical and valuable artifacts. The building is divided into three wings of interest that also include high end shops, cafes and a courtyard which is home to famed architecture.
In 1983, French President François Mitterrand proposed the Grand Louvre plan that would see renovations to the current buildings and the construction of the first pyramid, which was completed in 1989.
The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan, La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), was completed by 1993. Tourist numbers have doubled since the construction of both pyramids, as visitors flock to the Louvre to capture the quintessential Paris pose.
As part of the Grand Louvre project, the Louvre Palace was divided into three ‘wings’, the Sully wing to the east, the Richelieu wing to the North, and the Denon wing to the South. The geographic areas are arranged like a horseshoe, and the Pyramids are nestled outside in the middle.
The Richelieu Wing is one of the less crowded wings of the Louvre, most likely because it does not host the most famous pieces of history, such as Da Vinci‘s Mona Lisa painting.
Treasures of the Richelieu Wing include The apartments of Napoléon III, 5th century Cour Marly/French sculptures and Cour Puget/French sculptures located on two sculpture terraces.
Two Marly Horse statues are situated in the courtyard outside the Louvre buildings. These large marble sculptures depict horses being by grooms and were commissioned in 1739 for the horse pond in the gardens of the Château de Marly. In 1743, the king selected the statues that are currently exhibited in the Louvre courtyard.
The Sully wing is the oldest part of the Louvre exhibiting an array of French artworks. One of the most well knows pieces of art is the erotic Turkish Bath, from the late 18th century by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
The Denon Wing is the most crowded part of the entire Louvre Museum as it hosts the Leonardo da Vinci‘s Mona Lisa on the first floor.
Just by the Louve is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. The smaller triumphal arch of the city is located in the Place du Carrousel and was built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories of the previous year. The exterior of the Arc is made up of eight Corinthian columns of marble, mounted by eight soldiers of the Empire.
Le Tour Eiffel is named after the Gustave Eiffel, who, together with his construction company, designed and built the tower between 1887–89.
Metro Stop: Bir Hakeim
The most famous landmark of them all, and the most popular located right beside a metro station that doesn’t give anything away.
The Eiffel Tower is the most-visited monument in the world attracting close to 7 millions visitors annually.
The tower is the same height as an 81 story building, it is enormous! In total, from base to tip it stands at 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, and is the tallest structure in Paris.
Visitors can ascend to three levels of the tower. Tickets can be purchased to access the first and second level by stairs or elevator where there are restaurants with an incredible view. To give some perspective on the height, it would take a climb of over 300 stairs to reach Level 1.
After superseding the height of the Washington Monument, The Eiffel Tower became the tallest man-made structure in the world, and held the title for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was completed in 1930. A broadcasting aerial was added to the top of the tower in 1957, which made it taller than the Chrysler Building by 5.2 metres (17 ft).
The third level is at the top of the tower 276 m (906 ft) above ground level making it the highest observation deck in the European Union. Although there is a staircase to the top deck, it is usually only accessible by lift.
The arrangement of the elevators in the tower has been changed several times, and the time taken to ascend to the top is just under 9 minutes.
At the top of the tower, there were once laboratories used for a variety of experiments and an apartment reserved for Gustave Eiffel so he could entertain guests. The apartment is now open to the public, and is decorated with lifelike mannequins and decor depicting how it once looked.
60 tons of paint is applied to the tower every seven years to prevent rusting and the tower has been completely repainted at least 19 times since construction completed.
Ticket sales show an average of 25,000 people ascend the tower daily and visitors can enjoy a champagne bar at the top of the tower as well as a ‘Kissing point’.
The Eiffel Tower has inspired the construction of many other towers in the world including England’s Blackpool Tower and Japan’s Tokyo Tower. The Paris Hotel in Las Vegas also has a half size replica built into it’s casino.
In 2007, an American woman named Erika Eiffel, officially ‘married’ the Eiffel Tower.
After being built purely for the 1889 Paris exposition, the tower was saved from being demolished in 1905 after it served a purpose of radio transmission. The tower was not built with the intention of being a permanent Paris fixture.
Rumor has it, during World War II, when Hitler visited Paris, the French government cut the lift cables on the Eiffel Tower so Hitler would have to climb the mass of stairs if he wanted to reach the top.
A special lighting display marked the 100th anniversary of the tower back in 1989 and can be seen from dusk until dawn every night.
Buy your Eiffel Tower tickets in advance to avoid queues on the day.
Monmartre is a historic district in Paris, situated on a hill and is predominantly known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur on the summit, and as a social area of Paris.
The area has a great artistic history and was home to art studios of the most renowned artists in the world like Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh.
At the edge of Monmartre, you can find the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. The Moulin Rouge was established in 1889 and is mostly known for its lucrative shows and as the birthplace of the can-can dance.
Visitors can experience authentic and original shows by means of a pricey ticket from the official Moulin Rouge website.
Like us, if you’re on a budget, you can watch the pre-show fluster in the early evening by sitting in the neighboring fast food establishment. Take an upstairs window seat and watch the props and dancers arrive. We got to see Les Petits Chevaux pull up right outside.
There are a lot of nightclubs surrounding the Moulin Rouge that attract potential customers by means of strippers and erotica.
Monmartre is also home to Paris’ only vineyard which can be seen on the way up to the top of the hill.
Avenue Jean Jaurès is known for a mass of shops, cafes and restaurants as well as some beautiful historical buildings.
Metro Stop: Porte de Pantin
We often get off at a random stop on any city’s metro system to explore areas that we may not have seen otherwise, and we’re glad we stopped at Porte de Pantin and experienced Avenue Jean Jaurès.
The Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (a School for music and dance) is situated by the metro station and the school was founded in 1795. The building is remarkable and has to be seen to be believed. The CNSMDP offers education in music, dance and sound professions. It is considered one of the largest art education institutions in the world.
The eye catching gold decoration on the roof of the building is something to be admired from afar.
Other buildings of interest on the Avenue include the Gymnase Jean Jaures and the Campanile and the Cité de la musique-Philharmonie de Paris.
Metro Stop: Cité
Notre Dame literally translates to ‘Our Lady’ and the area is most famous for the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The Cathedral is glorious and is a fine example of French Gothic architecture. Tourists in their thousands flock to the area every single day. The Cathedral is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world
From 2008, tourists have attached thousands of customized padlocks to the steel railings on the bridge. The ‘love locks’ usually have the names of lovers written or engraved which is then attached to the railing, or to an existing lock, and the key is thrown into the Seine river below.
In 2014, the City Hall of Paris replaced three panels of the Pont des Arts with a special glass panel as an alternative material where locks cannot be attached. There was said to be in excess of 700,000 padlocks which was causing parts of the bridge to give way.
From 1 June 2015, the city council started to cut down the locks and it was estimated that over a million locks were placed, weighing approximately 45 tons. Street artists Jace, El Seed, Brusk and Pantonio have been chosen to paint artwork on the panels that will ultimately replace the steel railings.
France is notorious for its gastronomy and you will find many delicious treats in local supermarkets that you may not find as reasonably priced anywhere else in the world.
Metro Stop: Châtelet
Weather permitting, Paris is a beautiful city to stop by one of the many urban retreats and have a grass lined picnic. We chose to rest our tired feet at the park below Saint-Jacques Tower (“Saint James of the butchery”), which is a monument located in the 4th arrondissement.
The Gothic Saint-Jacques Tower is enormous, standing at 52-meters (171 ft) tall. The tower was once a 16th-century Church (Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie ) which was demolished in 1797, during the French Revolution. The remaining tower is now considered a national historic landmark.
The tower is marked with symbolic statues representing the four Apostles and St James as well as true Gothic style crockets and niches. The bell tower reflects the wealth of its patrons, the Guild of Paris’ Butchers who sold their goods at Les Halles market.
This was a perfect ending to our 3 days in Paris.
For more information on Paris, we recommend the following books: