Like any capital city, Paris is jam packed with sights and attractions. It would be easy to spend a month or more visiting the many museums, galleries, parks and churches in the city. The entrance fees for many of the attractions are pretty hefty so the cost of visiting a few different places can soon add up. We spent five days in Paris and were delighted to discover that the beauty of the city can be experienced simply by walking around it. Most of the impressive buildings are easy to find and can be viewed from the outside for free. Walking through Paris also helped us to feel less guilty about the delicious croissants, pastries and baguettes that kept falling into our mouths at regular intervals.
In light of recent events, on our first day in Paris we stopped to pay our respects at the memorial sites at the Bataclan Theatre and Place de la République. We wandered through the city peering into bistros and craning our necks to look at the opulent balconies above us. Paris is grand city full of wide boulevards, giant doors and magnificent architecture, walking around is an ideal way to experience it.
On the right bank of the Seine River is the Musée du Louvre. The famous Louvre is home to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and is one of the largest and most visited museums in the world. As we were short on time, we decided not to cough up the entrance fee and spend a whole day examining stuffy artworks. But we did enjoy wandering around the courtyard of the Louvre. Elegant statues peer down from the facades of the former royal palace and there is a real sense of grandness and history around the place.
From the louvre we walked through the Tuileries Gardens to the Place de la Concorde, a large public area with opulent statues and fountains. In the middle of the square stands a large Egyptian obelisk that was gifted to France in 1829. The obelisk previously marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple and is covered in hieroglyphics exalting the reign of Pharaoh Rameses II. Given the history of it, it is no wonder it looks so out of place in the Place de la Concorde.
Leading away from the Place de la Concorde is the most well-known street in Paris, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Home to designer stores, opulent tearooms, flagship shops and fancy boutiques. As we visited during December the area nearest to the Place de la Concorde was covered with stalls for the Christmas markets. We strolled along the Champs-Élysées marvelling at the fancy stores. After pressing our noses up against the windows we decided to treat ourselves to tea and cake in the world renowned Ladurée luxury patisserie. Inside the home of the Macaron, mahogany tables sit under crisp linen tablecloths and crushed velvet drapes frame the windows. Ladurée has an extensive range of teas all served in silver pots and accompanied by exquisite art deco crockery. The cakes we ordered were like edible works of art and we felt almost guilty destroying them with our forks (OK, we hesitated for about three seconds before digging in). They were full of creamy chocolatey goodness and worth every cent of the luxury price tag.
After our much needed sugar fix we continued along the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomph. The huge archway honours those that fought and died during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The Arc de Triomph has oddly become the centre point for the busiest roundabout in Paris. We watched hundreds of cars weaving through the lanes of traffic and wondered how this roundabout with no rules worked. It soon became apparent that the normal rules of giving way did not apply here and that the only way to successfully navigate the roundabout was a deep breath and plenty of courage.
Our walk from the Musée du Louvre to the Arc de Triomph was an ideal way of seeing the historical sights of Paris in a short time frame. It was completely free (except for the tea and cake) and was an excellent way of exploring the beautiful architecture and monuments in the city.