This may be the most famous monument in the world and is certainly the most emblematic of Paris. It's hard to believe that the structure was dismissed as a monstrosity when it was first unveiled. The Eiffel Tower was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel and built for the Paris Exhibition of 1889, which marked the centenary of the French Revolution. The tower consists of 15,000 steel sections held together by 2.5 million rivets. This innovative structure is now considered a masterful architectural feat and is one of the top tourist attractions in Paris.
A sumptuous palace that was once the home of France's Kings, the Louvre is now a marvelous museum of fine art. Visitors enter the museum in the courtyard of the palace at the glass pyramid (designed by Ieoh Ming Pei in 1917). This Louvre Museum possesses more than 30,000 works of art, from antiquities to medieval art and European painting of the 15th to 19th centuries. It is impossible to see it all in one visit, but tourists can focus on one particular gallery such as classical sculpture, Italian Renaissance art, or 17th-century French paintings; or take a tour of the highlights.
The most monumental boulevard in Paris used to be a desolate field of marshland until the 16th century, when it was landscaped by Le Nôtre. The Champs-Elysées is divided into two parts with the Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées as its intersection. The lower part of the Champs-Elysées, bordering the Place du Concorde, includes a spacious park, the Jardin des Champs-Élysées, and the Petit Palais fine arts museum. The upper part, extending to the Arc de Triomphe, is lined by luxury shops, hotels, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, and theaters. This bustling area draws many tourists and is a gathering place for Parisians.
This renowned collection of Impressionist art is one of Paris' top attractions. The museum is housed in an expansive space (formerly the Belle Epoque-era Gare d'Orsay railway station) and the collection represents the work of all the masters of Impressionism. The artists range from classic Impressionist masters Degas, Manet, Monet, and Renoir to Post-Impressionist artists such as Bonnard, Cézanne, and Van Gogh; the Pointillists (Seurat, Signac); and Bohemian artists like Toulouse Lautrec.
Created between 1755 and 1775 by the architect of King Louis XV, this impressive octagonal square is at the heart of 18th-century Paris. With its majestic dimensions, the Place de la Concorde is one of the most beautiful squares in the city. It was the scene of several key historical events, including the execution of King Louis XVI, and it was part of Napoleon's triumphal route. The square offers sensational views of the triumphal route towards the Arc de Triomphe and the Défense, and towards the Louvre as well as to the Madeleine and the Palais-Bourbon.
The Arc de Triomphe is dedicated to the victorious French armies of the Revolution and the First Empire. Napoleon ordered the building of this mighty structure in 1806 but did not live to see its completion in 1836. Designed by JF Chalgrin, the arch features reliefs with larger-than-life-size figures, which depict the departure, victories, and glorious return of the French armies. Particularly noteworthy is the relief by François Rude on the Champs-Elysées front, Departure of the Volunteers of 1792, also known as The Marseillaise, illustrating the troops setting out, led by the winged spirit of Liberty.
If you make just one excursion out of Paris, then it should be to Versailles, for its vision of royal absolutism — "the state is me". Louis XIV called on architects Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart and painter Charles Le Brun to transform a hunting lodge into glamorous palace and focus of court life. Today, its extravagant ceilings, hall of mirrors, and king's and queen's bedchambers remain fascinating for their excess
A triumph of Gothic architecture, the Notre-Dame stands in the heart of Paris on the Ile de la Cité (an island in the Seine River) near the Latin Quarter. An island in the Seine River, the Ile de la Cité is the historical and geographical center of Paris. On this small plot of land, the Romans built the Gallo-Roman city of Lutetia, and from the 6th century to the 14th century the Kings of France resided here. The Notre-Dame Cathedral was founded in 1163 by King Louis IX (Saint Louis) and Bishop Maurice de Sully, and the construction took more than 150 years.
In the Palais de Justice on the Ile de la Cité, Sainte-Chapelle is considered a rare jewel of the Middle Ages. This masterpiece of High Gothic architecture was built from 1242 to 1248 for King Louis IX (Saint Louis) to house the precious Christian relics, which he had acquired from the Byzantine Emperor. The altar displays a relic of the Crown of Thorns. The chapel is renowned for its exquisite stained-glass windows, which give the sanctuary an iridescent glow and serene aura. The colors and light symbolize divinity and the Heavenly Jerusalem
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