Paris is one of the most fascinating and romantic cities in Europe, and tourists visiting this wonderful city will find that things to see and do are almost limitless.
Known as the 'City of Light' or 'Capitol of fashion', the beauty of Paris is overwhelming and its architectural and artistic heritage combine with undeniable appeal and world-class tourism to make any visit an unforgettable experience.
Paris had always been a destination for traders, artists and students, but its 'tourism' in the proper sense of the term began on a large scale only with the appearance of rail travel, namely from state organisation of France's rail network from 1848. One of Paris' first 'mass' attractions drawing international interest were, from 1855, the above-mentioned Expositions Universelles that would bring Paris many new monuments, namely the Eiffel Tower from 1889. Eiffel Tower These, in addition to the Capital's 2nd Empire embellishments, did much to make the city itself the attraction it is today.
Must see in Paris
Paris' museums and monuments are by far its highest-esteemed attractions, and tourist interest has been nothing but a benefit to these; tourism has even motivated both city and State to create new ones. The city's most prized museum, the Louvre, sees over 8 million visitors a year, being by far the world's most visited art museum. Paris' cathedrals are another main attraction: its Notre-Dame cathedral and Basilique du Sacré-Cœur receive 12 million and 8 million visitors respectively. The Eiffel Tower, by far Paris' most famous monument, averages over 6 million visitors per year and more than 200 millions since its construction. Disneyland Resort Paris is a major tourist attraction not only for visitors to Paris, but to Europe as well, with 12.4 million visitors in 2004.
The Louvre is one of the largest and most famous museums, housing many works of art, including the Mona Lisa (La Joconde) and the Venus de Milo statue. Works by Pablo Picasso and Auguste Rodin are found in Musée Picasso and Musée Rodin respectively, while the artistic community of Montparnasse is chronicled at the Musée du Montparnasse. Starkly apparent with its service-pipe exterior, the Centre Georges Pompidou, also known as Beaubourg, houses the Musée National d'Art Moderne. Lastly, art and artefacts from the Middle Ages and Impressionist eras are kept in Musée Cluny and Musée d'Orsay respectively, the former with the prized tapestry cycle The Lady and the Unicorn.
Many of Paris' once-popular local establishments have metamorphised into a parody of French culture, in a form catering to the tastes and expectations of tourist capital. Le Lido, The Moulin Rouge cabaret-dancehall, for example, are a staged dinner theatre spectacle, a dance display that was once but one aspect of the cabaret's former atmosphere. All of the establishment's former social or cultural elements, such as its ballrooms and gardens, are gone today. Much of Paris' hotel, restaurant and night entertainment trades have become heavily dependent on tourism, with results not always positive for Parisian culture.
Divided into a total of 20 different numbered districts (arrondissements), Paris spirals around the River Seine and comprises almost 400 different metro stations, meaning that finding your away around really is a breeze. The most familiar arrondissements comprise the areas named Bastille, Élysée, Ile de la Cite, Louvre, Marais, Montmartre, Montparnasse, Opéra and the Latin Quarter.
The city: Part of the 1st District (premier arondissement); La Cité is one of the the islands in the middle of the Seine, and is the historic heart of Paris. L'Ile de la Cité is today home to a number of historic monuments and administrative buildings, including Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Sainte Chapelle. Next to l'Ile de la Cité is the Ile Saint Louis, another very old quarter, which is more residential, with shops, restaurants and small hotels.
Louvre / Champs Elysées: 1st to 8th arondissements
The Champs Elysées bisect this quarter from south-east to north-west. This quarter includes the Louvre and the Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde, the Champs Elysées, the Place de l'Etoile and the Arc de Triomphe, as well as several other museums including the Orangerie, the Grand Palais and Petit Palais
Les Grands Boulevards
The district of the Grand Boulevards (2nd and 3rd Arondissements, and 8th to the 11th). Running more or less from the Place de la Madeleine (8th arondissement) to the Place de la Bastille (11th arondissement), this is the main shopping area of central Paris. The heart of the shopping area is the Boulevard Haussmann, near the Opéra (RER Auber, Metro Opéra), with some of the biggest department stores.
Le Quartier Latin
Covering part of the 6th arondissement, and also part of the 5th, this is the traditional student quarter of Paris, centered on the Sorbonne and the Panthéon. The narrow pedestrian streets are full of cafés and restaurants, and the busy boulevards, particularly the Boulevard Saint Michel, known as the Boul'Mich, have bookshops, cinemas and other shops.
Le Marais - The 4th Arondissement
This district, lying on the north bank of the Seine, has become a chic residential area; it is a district of narrow streets, with a lot of attractive historic buildings, and has become particularly popular since the opening of the modern art museum and library at the Pompidou Centre.
Le Septième - Quartier des Invalides
This district on the south bank of the Seine is largely administrative and residential. It contains, among other things, the Eiffel Tower, the Hotel des Invalides, the French National Assembly (parliament building), the residence of the Prime Minister (Hôtel Matignon), and the Musée d'Orsay.
Pigalle / Montmartre - the 9th and 18th arondissement
Pigalle is the night-life district of Paris, famous for its clubs, cabarets and bars. It is also known as the red light district of Paris. Among the world famous cabaret bars are the Folies Bergère and the Moulin Rouge, popular tourist attractions. It borders on Montmartre, the hill on which sits the famous Sacré Coeur church, and the so-called artists quarter of Paris, today rather commercial.
18th to 20th arondissements
Essentially ordinary residential areas, among the less expensive parts of the city. The Cité des Sciences de la Villette, the Paris science museum, is located in the 19th on the site of former industrial premises.
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