An Insider’s Guide To Paris: The Top 6 Places To Visit (And 1 Not To!)

by Travelling Peach

1. Notre Dame De Paris Cathedral  
Notre Dame is a revelation. As one of the world's most famous medieval Catholic cathedrals, you see so many photos of the beautiful gothic architecture; the magnificently carved stone gargoyles watching over the cathedral in all their imposing glory; and, of course, the radiant stained glass windows; but what nobody ever prepares you for is how overwhelmingly peaceful and harmonious the energy is once you enter the building – whatever your mood is when you arrive, you can’t help but be affected.

What we loved most about the cathedral was how many interesting things there were to see. It’s so much more than the architectural icon and religious symbol that it’s become. As you walk around, you can’t help but be in awe of the imposingly high ceilings, gothic arches, pillars and balconies; but what’s even more impressive are the coves. Full of historical, religious and cultural treasures, they showcase exquisitely carved sculptures and vibrant original paintings, all telling their own unique story. For those of you who prefer to take a more revered approach to exploring Notre Dame, there are also many interesting plaques and story boards sensitively positioned around the cathedral, detailing its rich and colourful history. Furthermore, over the years, the building has undergone restoration and refurbishment by its successors, meaning that architecturally it contains allusions to the French Gothic age, the Renaissance and the Naturalism era. It really is a quirky, yet harmoniously beautiful, effect.  

Whether you’re religious or not, it’s a great place to visit for an educational family day out or to enjoy some peaceful meditation and clear your mind from the noise and stresses of everyday life.





 

2. Jeff Leatham’s Pop Up Spa At The Four Seasons George V Hotel
As much as we enjoy sightseeing and shopping, sometimes it’s nice to relax and have some ‘me time.’ The Pop Up Spa at George V is the perfect place to do this.

The usual spa area is under renovation until 2018 but don’t be disappointed; this one is even better than the previous one. The whole floor has been exquisitely designed using plush cream and gold furnishings, and with elegant, hand designed wallpaper lining the walls, and beautiful statuettes scattered around the rooms. Whether you want to enjoy a relaxing massage with one of the masseuses, an anti-cellulite body firming massage or shape up in the state of the art gym, there’s something for everybody. 

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that the room was previously a guest suite but one of the best things about this gym is that, as much as it is a place to get fit (with some very handsome people!), somehow, it has a warm, homely feel to it so it’s unintimidating and a place where you feel comfortable working out – something that’s often forgotten but so important in maintaining results! Then, after you’ve finished, there’s a lovely relaxation room where you can enjoy a selection of fresh herbal teas and plump, juicy fruit, whilst listening to gentle music.
 

‘If you do decide to stay at the hotel too, it has a special secret that we’re completely in love with. Every week, a different member of the team takes guests on a walk, run, bike ride or fitness activity around Paris. One week you can be jogging with 3-Michelin starred chef Christian Le Squer and one of the receptionists; the next you could be cycling with one of the masseuses and the manager.’ 






 

3. Dinner At Le George Restaurant
When in Paris, having dinner at Le George is a must. The restaurant is situated in The Four Seasons George V Hotel and has a chic Parisian vibe, relaxed atmosphere and delicious Italian food, designed to share. Whether you enjoy semi-cooked tuna with sensuous amounts of black truffle petals or oxtail agnolotti with red wine and sage, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Try the red onion tarte tartin with parmesan sorbet and the cheese crème brûlée with mandarin sorbet and a glass of champagne. To die for! 





 

 

 

4. Shopping At La Place Vendôme & Avenue Pierre 1er De Serbie
There are so many fabulous places to shop in Paris, Galeries Lafayette, Champs Élysées and many, many more. However, if you’re looking for some stunning designer stores, full of exquisitely made dresses, silk scarves, buttery leather handbags and more, La Place Vendôme and Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie are the places to be. Fun, fashion, beautiful fabrics and champagne, what’s not to like?!

The areas are full of wide, open spaces and stunning Parisian architecture so are lovely places to walk to whilst enjoying the weather.


 

 

 



5. Le Louvre 
Le Louvre is somewhat of a controversial topic when it comes to tourist attractions. Everybody knows about the Mona Lisa and the iconic glass pyramids; and then there are the people who say that they ‘don’t like museums’ so avoid it like the plague. However, surprisingly, the best things about Le Louvre often go unnoticed. 

The most impressive aspects of the museum are by far the stunning architecture of the building itself - both internally and externally. Each room is a revelation, with an entirely different character, colour scheme and atmosphere than the last. Some rooms decorated in a typically ‘art gallery’ and somewhat clinical style, whereas others resemble fabulous palace ballrooms, unashamedly extravagant, with their gold gilt furnishings and exquisitely rich hand-painted ceiling murals.

… Michelangelo, Raphael, Da Vinci, Rosso, Primaticcio …

These in themselves are far more fascinating and impressive than any of the sculptures and artwork on the walls that so many of the typical ‘tourists’ are attracted to so my advice to you is: don’t forget to look up. It’s also lovely to see how welcoming they are to select visiting artists, who sit in the art galleries with their easels and oil paints, replicating the famous artwork of The Greats.

Another great tip is to remember to look out, as what many people don’t realize is that the many windows of Le Louvre offer some of the best views in the city. They’re so consumed with the actual history inside the building that they miss out on the fabulously unaffected views over Le Seine, with its blue skies and the water sparkling in the sunlight; the subtle beauty of the Parisian architecture surrounding the building; the Pont des Arts bridge and much more. 

The Fontaines du Jardin des Tuileries and L’Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel are situated just outside Le Louvre so, if the weather’s nice, it’s a lovely place to enjoy a picnic and afternoon stroll.
 

‘The only thing we didn’t like about Le Louvre is that it’s so easy to enter but, in order to exit, you have to pass though a ridiculous amounts of corridors followed by a mini shopping center. It’s crazy and, as much as many people may be happy to browse through the shops, they shouldn’t be forced to go through so much effort to exit. If you’re in a rush or have children, this could prove very frustrating.’


 


6. Montmartre & Sacré Coeur
Whether it’s the day or the night, if you forget to visit La Basilique du Sacré Coeur, you’re really missing out on something special. It’s not just the magnificence of the basilique, standing proudly in its radiant white glory, but everything about the whole journey is full of excitement, intrigue and wonder. To begin with, you’ll walk through the charming Parisian streets of Montmartre, with its charming shops and cafes, and smile at the cosy atmosphere of the locals, sitting wrapped up in blankets at the outside tables, indulging in glasses of wine and French delicacies. At night, with the streetlights glinting in the darkness, it really is a beautifully relaxing atmosphere to be in. As you climb the steep steps up to Sacré Coeur, you can’t help but be taken away by the spectacular, changing views of Paris as you ascend… La Tour Eiffel, The Wheel and so much more. However, nothing can prepare you for what awaits at the top as, to witness the enormity of the beautiful white travertine, luminescent against the black sky; and protected by titanic bronze statues of France’s national saints: Joan of Arc and King Sant Louis IX, and the iconic 19 tonne Savoyarde Bell in itself is breathtaking. Then, as you turn around and walk towards the railings, the endless views of Paris will leave you speechless. Simple, silent, vast, dark…. Incredible!
  
‘This is a magical place to visit, whether day or night; however, for the changing views and atmospheres that you’ll experience, if you have time, we really recommend visiting it once at both times as the whole energy changes so it really is worth experiencing.’

Stopping off for a drink at one of the local bars or restaurants in Montmartre. We especially like Le Saint Jean and Aux Trois Petits Cochons. 





 

7. Don’t Visit... Catacombs (A controverial point, perhaps, as the site does have historical and literaturial value, most famously featuring in Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but worth mentioning nonetheless.)

Catacombs is an ancient ossuary site and ‘museum’, dating back to the 1780’s and contains the bones and skulls of more than 6 million unnamed people – the largest in the world. Situated in the heart of Paris, deep underground in a small part of the ancient Mines of Paris Network, the site was constructed as a solution to the overflowing cemeteries at the time and, in later years, since the 19th Century, has become somewhat of a tourist attraction. It’s true, there is a lot of historical value to the place and, in fairness, Catacombs is less creepy when you get down there, with some interesting religious and royal carvings; however, why anybody would pay €27 to walk hundreds of feet down a narrow, dark winding staircase, built from damp, cold stone, only to be greeted by walls and walls of human skulls and bones forming long narrow corridors is beyond me. And that’s the main point of interest!

I visited with my ex (needless to say it says quite a lot about his state of mind!) and, as someone who's quite adventurous with a strong stomach, even I came out with a mild, lasting case of vertigo and claustrophobia – I didn’t notice straight away until I tried to climb a steep staircase Castelgrande in Switzerland several weeks later but… mmm… not my thing!

 




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