A week in Paris - the essentials
Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

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Paris is on most people's 'to visit Bucketlist' and for good reason. The city of love has its own je ne sais quoi whether you've been there once, one hundred times or even if your planning your first visit. Paris has something which other cities don't, and it's not just that Paris has something special, it has a lot of special somethings and the city and the 12.5 million Parisians who proudly call it home, know it.
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The Louvre may be the world's greatest art museum. Don't be daunted by its size and overwhelming richness; if you have even the merest interest in the fruits of human civilization from antiquity to the 19th century, then visit you must. The former fortress began its career as a public museum in 1793 with 2,500 paintings; now some 30,000 are on display. The most famous works from antiquity include the Seated Scribe, the Jewels of Rameses II, and the armless duo - the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo. From the Renaissance, don't miss Michelangelo's Slaves, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and works by Raphael, Botticelli, and Titian. French masterpieces of the 19th century include Ingres' La Grande Odalisque, Géricault's The Raft of the Medusa, and the work of David and Delacroix. The Grand Louvre project has rejuvenated the museum with many new and renovated galleries now open to the public. To avoid queues at the pyramid, buy your ticket in advance.
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The museum displays France's national collection of paintings, sculptures, objets d'art produced between 1848 and 1914, including the fruits of the Impressionist, Post Impressionist, and Art Nouveau movements. The Museum fills the chronological gap between the Louvre and the Musée National d'Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou. Austerely housed along the Seine in a former railway station built in 1900, it was re-inaugurated in its present form in 1986. Upstairs the grand salon still dazzles and there is an elegant tearoom and restaurant with a good view over the river.
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If Paris has a heart, then this is it. The cathedral of Notre Dame (Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris) is not only a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, but has also been Catholic Paris' ceremonial focus for seven centuries. The cathedral's immense interior, a marvel of medieval engineering, holds over 6,000 people and has spectacular rose windows. Although Notre Dame is regarded as a sublime architectural achievement, there are all sorts of minor anomalies, the result of centuries of aesthetic intervention. These include a trio of main entrances that are each shaped differently, and are accompanied by statues that were once coloured to make them more effective as Bible lessons for the masses. The interior is dominated by a 7,800-pipe organ that was restored but has not worked properly since.
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Built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World Fair, held to commemorate the centennial of the Revolution, the Eiffel Tower Tour Eiffel made headlines at the time as the world's tallest structure at 1,050 feet 320 meters. Initially opposed by Paris' artistic and literary elite, the tower was almost torn down in 1909, but its salvation came when it proved an ideal platform for the antennas needed for the new science of radiotelegraphy. Today, the highlight of a visit is the supreme view over Paris. When you're done peering upward through the girders from the ground, head up to the three levels open to the public, one of which features the famed 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant.Just southeast of the Eiffel Tower is a grassy expanse that served as the site of the world's first balloon flights. Today, the area is frequented by skateboarding teens and activists stating their views on the current state of France.
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The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, or Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, perched at the very top of Butte de Montmartre (Montmartre Hill), was built from contributions pledged by Parisian Catholics as an act of contrition after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Construction began in 1873, but the basilica was not consecrated until 1919. The basilica's domes are a well-loved part of the Parisian skyline. A 234-step climb up narrow spiral staircases takes you up to the dome, which affords one of Paris' most spectacular panoramas. It is, however, outside on the steps where the action takes place - lovers, buskers, locals and foreigners all converge to take in the vistas and each other.
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The Arc de Triomphe, standing proudly in the circular Place Charles-de-Gaulle at the top of the Champs Elysées, is a symbol of the French nation. It stands at the crossroads of the magnificent axial avenues defining Paris, and honors all those who fought for France, particularly in the Napoleonic Wars. Written on the arch are all the wars fought by France and the names of the French generals involved. It is also the location of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier commemorating those lost in World War I. The arch itself is huge: 160 feet (50m) tall, 148 feet (45m) wide, and 72 feet (22 m ) deep. It's so large that, after World War I ended, a joyous pilot flew his biplane through the Arc de Triomphe.
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The controversial industrial facade of the Centre Pompidou in Paris houses one of Europe’s best collections of contemporary and modern art within its Lego-like walls. Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers in 1977, the building’s architecture became famous for its color-coded innards displayed on the outside: green water pipes, yellow electric wiring and blue air ducts. The building’s main attraction is the Musée National d’Art Moderne, housed on the fourth and fifth floors, where a sampling of the 100,000-piece collection from 1905 onward hangs on display. The first two floors house the Bibliotheque Publique d’Information, and the upper floor of the building contains galleries and temporary exhibition space. The views from the rooftop are also worth a visit, as are the two cinemas and theater in the basement.
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The Panthéon was originally meant to be the final resting place of the relics of Ste-Genevieve, but it now serves as a deconsecrated, non-denominational mausoleum of some of France's most revered artists and writers, such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Zola and, most recently after an exhumation and the moving of his coffin, Dumas. It also has a tribute to the French Jews who survived the horrors of World War II. But visitors often find their gaze divided between the final resting places of these distinguished Frenchmen and the stunning, vaulted open space that remains from its construction, completed in 1790. The Panthéon is one the world's best examples of early Neoclassical architecture. Don't forget to stay a moment on the exterior stairs and enjoy the view of the Eiffel Tower.
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The most exquisite of Paris' Gothic gems with a delicate soaring spire, Sainte Chapelle is tucked away within the walls of the Palais de Justice. The chapel consists of two areas: the simple lower chapel, once used by the servants, and the magnificent upper chapel which is illuminated by a veritable curtain of luminous 13th-century stained glass (the oldest and finest in Paris). The huge windows depict the Book of Genesis and other Old Testament stories, the Passion of Christ, history of the relics, and the Book of Revelation. Consecrated in 1248, Sainte Chapelle was built to house what was believed to be Jesus' Crown of Thorns and other relics purchased by King Louis IX from the bankrupt empire of Byzantium. The chapel's exterior can be viewed from across the street, from the law courts' magnificently gilded 18th-century gate, which faces Rue de Lutèce. Regular evening concerts are held here.
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Les Invalides began as the army hospital, initiated by Louis XIV in 1670 and finished six years later. These days, it is a complex of buildings including a collection of museums, a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, and a chapel which is a burial place of war heroes including Napoleon Bonaparte. The museums include Contemporary History, Maps, as well as Military History. As is the way with French Kings and their projects, a simple idea to build a place for war veterans to retire grew into a massive and grand statement with fifteen courtyards, a chapel - the Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides, and then a royal chapel - Eglise du Dome. Based on St Peter's Basilica in Rome, this latter became the prime example of French Baroque architecture.





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