When in Paris…

With almost 250 museums in the city alone, art lovers are spoilt for choice, although most people might only choose to go for the 2 most important ones


IT IS a cliché as much as it is a fact. Anyone who goes to Paris for the first time would always want to see at least these three landmarks — the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the famous Louvre Museum (Musee du Louvre).

Well, in a city that has so many iconic structures with different architectural styles, these grand monuments certainly leave that indelible impression on just about anyone.

However, depending on the length of your stay, Paris has so much more to offer than just the infamous three landmarks.

With almost 250 museums in the city alone, art lovers are spoilt for choice, although most people might only choose to go for the two most important ones — The Louvre and Musee d’Orsay.

As the city suffered its hottest day ever at 42.6°C last month, the searing temperatures had forced many tourists to scale back their sightseeing plans.

Some had opted to be in museums and other attractions that are climate controlled, while others doused themselves at fountains, cooling down with ice cream.

However, the blistering heat wave was just temporary. The intense heat had subsided following strong winds, heavy rainfall and hail struck in several regions of France last week, on Aug 13 and 14.

Pastry? Yup, you’re in the right city. In fact, the “City of Love” offers more than just that.

There are plenty of great restaurants, cafes or even sidewalk brassieres that serve from simple hearty food to foie gras, classic Parisian steak, macarons and more.

Ah yes…there’s also bicycle tour that could take you in groups to see Versailles (one of the wealthiest cities near Paris known for the vast royal palace and gardens).

You’re in for a ride as you are entertained by many humorous stories about King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette from your tour guide!

However, if you are on a short visit in this city for the first time, these are the places (or activities) that you should never skip on your itinerary, and here’s why…

Eiffel Tower

This one needs no introduction. Everyone would agree that a trip to Paris is incomplete without seeing this metal structure up close. It’s like going to Kota Baru without eating nasi dagang or laksam.

You’ll find the 324m high structure is an object of desire, fascination and it has always inspired artists or anyone

Spend between two or three hours here (or more) and you’ll find the 324m high structure is an object of desire, fascination and it has always inspired artists or anyone, for that matter.

In fact, there is so much to see and do here that you may find it rather fun and quite out of the ordinary.

If you plan to go up the Eiffel Tower, you have a choice of either taking the stairs to explore the tower from every angle or you can also take the elevator. Or you can do both.

There are three lifts — in the North, East and West pillars — that will take you up to the first and second floors. If you opt to go to the top, you will have to change lifts at the second floor. Expect very long lines here during spring or summer.

On the other hand, if you are the adventurous type, you can climb up at your own pace to the second floor. One could not really find a better spot than here, to enjoy a panoramic view of the Parisian landscape.

While most visitors normally choose to go up by elevator and come down by foot, taking the stairs also means that you can have bragging rights for climbing 704 steps!

After sunset, the Eiffel Tower is adorned with its golden covering and sparkles for five minutes every hour, while its beacon shines over Paris.

For a truly memorable sight of the tower, take the Metro (underground train service) to the Trocadero station and walk towards Palais de Chaillot that houses theatres and a few museums.

Once at the large marble square, enjoy the spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower across the River Seine, framed by the fountains in the Trocadero gardens.

Spend some time here until you are ready to stroll along towards the base of the Eiffel Tower through the gardens.

Musee Du Louvre

Without a doubt, this tourist attraction is definitely on everyone’s must-see list when a person sets foot in Paris.

Being one of the largest and most diverse museums in the world, the collections offered are one no first-time visitor to the city can resist.

The Louvre is massive, but be prepared to deal with crowds and get ready to do a lot of walking all day

The Louvre is massive, but be prepared to deal with crowds and get ready to do a lot of walking all day.

It showcases up to 35,000 works of art and relics — from Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek antiquities to masterpieces by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rembrandt. It is said that one would take nine months to glance at every piece.

Although you do not plan to see them all, advance planning is essential. You might want to go to their website ahead of time and map out the exhibitions you feel you need to see.

This way, you can save time when you are there and ensure that you do not miss anything that is important for you to see.

The Louvre is laid out in three expansive wings — Denon, Richelieu and Sully.

The Denon wing is used to house da Vinci’s masterpiece “La Joconde” or “Mona Lisa”, which is smaller than you would expect. It was hung behind a bullet-proof glass, and on the opposite wall of the room hangs a humongous work of “The Wedding at Cana” by Paolo Veronese.

Da Vinci’s masterpiece ‘La Joconde’ or ‘Mona Lisa’, which is smaller than you would expect, hung behind a bullet-proof glass

Well, that was until the middle of last month. The iconic painting has been moved “a hundred steps away” on July 16 to the Gallerie Medicis, one of the museum’s largest galleries.

The portrait of a Florentine noble will be returned to her spot in Salle des Etats (the States Room) just before a blockbuster da Vinci exhibition opens at the world’s biggest museum in October.

Paintings from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century from across Europe are on the Richelieu wing, which also includes many works from master painters such as Rubens and Rembrandt.

The Sully wing is the oldest part of the Louvre. It holds French paintings, drawings and prints, French sculptures dating from the fifth to ninth centuries and also the Royal Apartments of Napoleon III.

Arc De Triomphe

This monument is actually a “rival” to Eiffel Tower as the symbol of Paris. Standing sentinel in the centre of Etoile roundabout at the western end of Champs-Elysees (the famous 2km stretch boulevard in the Eighth arrondissement), the arch was built to honour those who fought and died for the country during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

The Arc De Triomphe was built to honour those who fought and died for the country during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. (Source: www.pexels.com)

The names of all French victories and generals were engraved on its inner and outer surfaces.

Beneath the arch lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, honouring 1.3 million French soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.

You can also climb up the arc to catch the view of Paris and its 12 avenues, if you do not feel like doing the same at the Eiffel Tower.

This is another option available to help you burn the calories after all the delicious pastries that you are likely going to eat during your stay in Paris!

Whatever it is, do not attempt to cross the roundabout above ground to get to it if you value your life.

Use the stairs from the northern side of the Champs-Elysees beneath the Etoile to pedestrian tunnels that will bring you out safely beneath the arch.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

This historic Catholic cathedral, a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, was one of the most visited landmarks in the city, until a horrible fire gutted the building on April 15.

The inferno was rather “savage” as it destroyed the top structure and sent the cathedral’s towering spire crashing through a part of the ceiling.

The three most exquisite windows at The Notre Dame Cathedral, dating from the mid-12th century

Due to the sweltering heat last month, the building’s chief architect Philippe Villeneuve warned that the vaulted ceiling of the national landmark could just collapse.

According to him, the now water-logged stone and masonry is at risk of drying out too quickly, causing it to crumble.

At the moment, engineers have not been able to access the ceiling to directly assess the damage although sensors have been placed around the cathedral to monitor changes in its structural integrity.

Located in the Fourth arrondissement of Paris, Notre-Dame is among the largest and most well known church buildings in the world as it can accommodate over 6,000 worshippers at a time.

It was built during the first quarter of the 13th century to replace a Romanesque cathedral that had also been devastated by fire.

Among the highlights at this building are its three spectacular rose windows, treasury and bell towers which can be climbed.

From the North Tower, there were 400-odd spiral steps to the top of the western façade where you’ll find yourself face-to-face with frightening gargoyles and a spectacular view of Paris.

The cathedral’s 176 extraordinary stained-glass windows, almost all of which date back to the 13th century, form one of the most important ensembles of medieval stained glass in the world.

The three most exquisite windows, dating from the mid-12th century, are in the wall above the west entrance and below the rose window.

Let’s hope that the rebuilding and restoration work would bring the cathedral back to its old glory.