Paris, the City of Light. I’ve wanted to go since I was a little girl, and when I had to opportunity to stop there for 24 hours, I knew I had to take it. It wasn’t at all long enough, but here are some of the things I saw the first day I was there. I always like to learn the history about places I’m going because I feel that I get more out of it, so I have provided the background and my take on the following places.
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Built in 1889, it was named after the engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. Constructed for the World Fair, it actually had a permit to stand for only 20 years and then was ordered to be torn down. Due to the huge wave of tourism it brought, the city allowed it to stay standing.
Eiffel had a private apartment on top of the tower, and frequently invited high profile people such as Thomas Edison up to visit. There also used to be a printing press on the second floor and a post office on the third floor. It was the tallest building in the world until the Chrysler Building in New York was built in 1930. The only time it was closed was during WWII when the Germans took over Paris from 1940-1944. Hitler ordered the Tower to be destroyed, but the occupation ended and luckily this didn’t happen.
For the most iconic site in Paris and probably even France, this was a little underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it was still amazing to see and I walked by it multiple times just to keep looking at it. I just thought it would be…bigger? At 1063 feet tall, it still towers over the largely flat city. I think seeing it hundreds of times in movies just makes it seem taller and more glamorous.
What I did absolutely love was how it’s always full of people, day and night. During the day, I took some wine and laid out in the grass on the hot, sunny day, people watching everyone walking by on the Champs de Mars (the long stretch of grass in front of the Tower). Children were running on the lawn shrieking with delight with how much room they had to run. Young adults were circled together under trees with notebooks and looking like they were in deep discussion. Many tourists were here with their selfie sticks, probably the most I’d seen in all the countries I’d been to.
I came back after dinner to see if the scene was any different. Under the lights from the Tower, groups of locals and tourists stretched down the lawn as far as I could see. Most people had bottles of wine, some had picnic baskets, and everyone seemed relaxed and having a good time.
This is also when the local vendors really come out. I probably got asked every two minutes if I wanted to buy wine, soda, or memorabilia. I appreciate them trying to make money, but it got a little annoying to constantly say no. Regardless, this was probably one of the best places to spend a night in Paris.
Arc de Triomphe
Everyone has seen this iconic roundabout, but not as many know the history of it. Construction was done for it in 1836, and its purpose was to honor the soldiers who fought in the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution. It became the site for French soldiers to celebrate victories at. The Bastille Day Military Day parade on July 14th goes by it as thousands of people line the streets every year. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is underneath it, a soldier from WWI who has not been identified.
I got really lost trying to find this, as there’s a ton of roads that lead to it, but not all are straight shots. Determined, I finally found it after reading bus stop maps every few blocks (a helpful tip by the way if you’re lost!). The scene before me was so crazy. Roundabouts can be hard enough to drive in, but imagine having twelve streets that merge into one roundabout!
There were a lot of horns honking, but surprisingly traffic moved along somewhat smoothly. I probably stood there for about 15 minutes just watching the mix of angry locals and confused tourists trying to navigate it. I didn’t have time, but you can go underneath the traffic circle to access the Unknown Soldier and see the eternal flame. It’s also supposedly a better view of the city than the Eiffel Tower.
(Avenue des) Champs-Élysées
This large span of land was originally gardens back in the 1600s. It wasn’t until 200 years later that it became fashionable to live here, and fancy houses and palaces started lining the avenue. Trees started lining the streets, and entertainment in the form of theaters and outdoor parks started appearing over the years. In 1860, a group formed together to start commercially promoting the avenue. Shops started opening, and now it is mainly shops and office buildings. Some people still live there, but for a pretty penny.
Two words: shopping heaven. At 1.2 miles long, what store is not on this famous avenue? There were many chains, such as Adidas and McDonalds, that cater to lower budgets. High-end shops such as Louis Vuitton and Cartier are also there for the ones with higher credit lines. My favorite find was the very famous macaron shop, Laduree. The line to get in was about 20 minutes alone, even though they’re not the only location in the city.
I noticed a lot of activities going on besides shopping. In one of the pictures above, I walked by a street that was renting out fancy cars for a 15 minute joy ride. There were a ton of street musicians and dancers in front of stores trying to earn a little money. Many of the restaurants have outdoor seating as well, as this is probably one of the best places to people watch in Paris. You could easily spend a day here exploring all the shops. After all, it’s Paris.
Click here for the second part of my 24 hours in Paris!
What would you add to this list of things to do in Paris?
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