I was completely exhausted from the whirlwind of the first 12 hours in Paris and slept hard in my charming little Parisian hotel room. I woke up ready to explore with what time I had left before catching the train to London. Here’s what I saw the second day. P.S. You’re in for a few history lessons!
It’s divided up into the “Old Louvre” and the “New Louvre.” The “Old Louvre” is where a fortress from the 12th century resided. Just the foundation is still visible, as it turned into much larger royal residence in the 16th century. There are eight wings in this part of the Louvre. The “New Louvre” extended the palace in the 1850s and connected the Tuileries Palace to make what King Henry VI originally called the “giant design.”
Fast forward to 1981, where construction began underground for offices, parking, and exhibits to name a few, as well as the famous glass and steel pyramid. It has now become one of the most iconic museums in the world. The Mona Lisa painting is also housed in it (although it’s very small!). The Louvre had over 9 million visitors alone last year.
I didn’t even realize I was walking around the grounds of the Louvre at first because it’s so spacious. Compared to the Eiffel Tower, this one was overwhelming because I really thought it was going to be much smaller. My pictures don’t do it justice in capturing its massive size. I sadly did not have a chance to go in after a quick look at the long, snaking line and a train to catch. I am putting it on my list for next time I go back, and really enjoyed walking around the grounds.
Île de la Cité
I didn’t even know this existed before I started planning for my trip. It’s actually a very important piece of Paris’ history, as it’s where the city began. If you’ve been to Paris before, you’ve probably noticed the location of buildings are described by what arrondissement, or administrative district, they’re in. This is considered the first arrondissement, and others around it go up in number in a clockwise pattern as they began to develop. It goes all the way up to 20.
The Romans are believed to have first sought refuge here in 52 BC. Different groups of people lived here throughout the years, but it wasn’t until the 10th century that a cathedral was built. It was also an easy way to cross the river, as wooden bridges connected either side. The Pont Neuf is the current bridge that connects the island to the city, and remains the oldest bridge in Paris (built in 1607, and rebuilt in 1818 after being destroyed in the French Revolution).
Notre Dame is on the island, as you will read about in a minute, but there are also other famous landmarks on this small piece of land. Louis IX’s Sainte-Chapelle resides here with its beautiful stained-glass windows. It was built to hold many ancient relics the King had purchased, including the famed Crown of Thorns. The Conciergerie is also still standing, which was a medieval prison where Marie Antoinette stayed while waiting to be executed.
There are now government buildings, restaurants and cafes, and even residential buildings on this small area of land. You could easily spend half a day on it, if not more!
I have been fascinated by this since I saw The Hunchback of Notre Dame when I was little. The movie was based off Victor Hugo’s 1831 book of the same title, which was based off the late 1400s. It now is one of Paris’ main tourist attractions.
This Gothic cathedral took about 200 years to build and was completed in 1345. The famous gargoyles on the side serve the purpose of water drainage. I thought they just looked neat! There has been quite a bit of reconstruction over time due to various instances like damage from rioting and stray bullets hitting it in WWII.
The inside is as impressive as the outside. There is a giant organ for services with over 7,000 pipes. The role of the head (or titular) organist at Notre Dame is considered one of the most prestigious organist positions in France. There are 10 bells, with the main one originating from 1681. The main bell will be rung first to signify the hour of the day, followed by the rest.
As with many tourist attractions, there is always a lengthy line to get in. I would advise going early or later in the day, although it can be hard to predict when there will be a line. It is beautiful to see in person though, so I would recommend it.
Have you been to Paris before? What sites did you see?
Looking for more travel tips?
Sign up for my weekly newsletter to get travel tips, plus enter to win travel contests!