Top 5: Things to do in Paris

Nope, I haven’t been here YET – but I can dream of my top 5 things to do in this city of romance, right?

5. A walk along the Siene River

In the city of romance, the Seine River is its lifeblood. Formerly a major trade route, today the river’s islands, bridges and quays evoke the most romantic visions of Paris. This nostalgia is heightened after dark when the Seine shimmers with the watery reflections of floodlit monuments and bridges. C’est magnifique!

4. Le Jardin du Luxembourg

When the weather is fine, Parisians of all ages come flocking to the formal terraces and chestnut groves of the 23-hectare Jardin du Luxembourg to read, relax and sunbathe. There are a number of activities for children here, and in the southern part of the garden you’ll find urban orchards as well as the honey-producing Rucher du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Apiary).

3. Notre Dame Cathedral

Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris is the true heart of Paris; in fact, distances from Paris to all parts of metropolitan France are measured from place du Parvis Notre Dame, the square in front of Notre Dame. A bronze star, set in the pavement across from the main entrance, marks the exact location of point zéro des routes de France (point zero of French roads).

2. The Louvre

The vast Palais du Louvre was constructed as a fortress by Philippe-Auguste in the early 13th century and rebuilt in the mid-16th century for use as a royal residence. In 1793 the Revolutionary Convention turned it into the nation’s first national museum.

The paintings, sculptures and artefacts on display in the Louvre Museum have been assembled by French governments over the past five centuries. Among them are works of art and artisanship from all over Europe and important collections of Assyrian, Etruscan, Greek, Coptic and Islamic art and antiquities. Traditionally the Louvre’s raison d’être is to present Western art from the Middle Ages to about the year 1848 (at which point the Musée d’Orsay takes over), as well as the works of ancient civilisations that informed Western art.

The Louvre may be the most actively avoided museum in the world. Daunted by the richness and sheer size of the place (the side facing the Seine is some 700m long, and it is said that it would take nine months just to glance at every piece of art here), both local people and visitors often find the prospect of an afternoon at a smaller museum far more inviting. Eventually, most people do their duty and come, but many leave overwhelmed, unfulfilled, exhausted and frustrated at having got lost on their way to da Vinci’s La Joconde, better known as Mona Lisa (room 6, 1st floor, Salle de la Joconde, Denon Wing). Your best bet – after checking out a few works you really want to see – is to choose a particular period or section of the Louvre and pretend that the rest is in another museum somewhere across town.

1.  The Eiffel Tower (was that too obvious?!)

When it was built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World Fair), marking the centenary of the Revolution, the Tour Eiffel faced massive opposition from Paris’ artistic and literary elite. The ‘metal asparagus’, as some Parisians snidely called it, was almost torn down in 1909 but was spared because it proved an ideal platform for the transmitting antennas needed for the new science of radiotelegraphy. Named after its designer, Gustave Eiffel, the tower is 324m high, including the TV antenna at the tip. This figure can vary by as much as 15cm, however, as the tower’s 7300 tonnes of iron, held together by 2.5 million rivets, expand in warm weather and contract when it’s cold.

* Thanks Lonely Planet for helping me daydream!