Paris, France (Part 1) – The City of Light

Eiffel tower in the evening

I actually went on my Europe trip in June 2011… it’s already April 2012 and I’m still blogging about it! Well… I guess better late than never, right? :p

Paris was our next stop after Luxembourg, and it was another dramatic experience to get there and to get out. We purchased an Eurail Pass which allowed us unlimited train rides on 10 different days. With the pass we did not need to purchase train tickets, but we still need to reserve the seats for popular destinations, like France and Italy. There are only limited seats that they reserved for Eurail Pass holders and we found out the direct train from Luxembourg to Paris was fully booked! Hence the train officer helped us sought for an alternative route – which involved changing multiple trains – thus wasting quite some time to get to Paris.

Our original plan was to depart from Paris after 3 days and head to Avignon, a beautiful countryside in France. Unfortunately all the Eurail Pass seats were taken and if we want to go there, we had to purchase the normal train tickets, which were really expensive, more than €50 per person! After much discussion, we aborted the plan and stayed an additional day in Paris and head to Spain earlier.

It’s a real pity that we weren’t able to go to Avignon, as it was the lavender season at that time… Well, I guess this gave me another reason to go back to France again in the future! (And this is the end of all the dramas! The rest of the journey went smoothly, thank goodness!)

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris) – they were constructing a ramp for a world record event for Frenchman Taig Khris, hence blocking part of the basilica.

Luckily for us, the weather in Paris was really bright and sunny (look at how blue the sky is! It really is this blue, I didn’t photoshop any of the photos!)

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur is a Roman Catholic church located at the highest point in the city in Montmarte, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The construction of this church started in 1876 and ended in 1914. It was consecrated in 1919, after the end of the First World War.

In case you are confused between chruches, cathedrals and basilicas (which I was), here’s a brief explanation:

  • Churches are places of worship. All cathedrals and basilicas are churches.
  • Cathedrals are principal churches of bishops’ diocese, and they contain the episcopal thrones. It is the home church of bishops or archbishops.
  • Basilicas are consecrated (declared holy) by the Pope. This may be due to a particular event (a miracle or pilgrimage) or because there are relics in it.

Entrance to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

One thing about Paris that gave me the worst headache – it’s crowded almost everywhere! As one of the top tourist destinations in the world, Paris is really over-crowded with tourists. It’s almost similar to the case of Venice.

The basilica, built in Romanesque-Byzantine architectural style, is majestically beautiful. If not for the huge crowd of people, we would have wanted to stay there longer and admire the beauty of this church.

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (click to go to the home page)

Address:
ADORATION EUCHARISTIQUE JOUR ET NUIT
35, RUE DU CHEVALIER-DE-LA-BARRE
75018 PARIS

Getting there – Métro :
Jules Joffrin + Montmartrobus (stop “place du Tertre”)
Pigalle + Montmartrobus (stop “Norvins”)
Anvers – Abbesses + Funiculaire

Getting there – Bus :
30, 31, 80, 85 (which arrive at the bottom of the hill)

Opening hours:
6am to 10.30pm (last entry at 10.15pm)

Climbing the dome:
9.00am to 7pm (6pm in winter)

Free entry

L’Église de la Madeleine / L’Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine / La Madeleine

Dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, La Madeleine was designed as a classical temple to the glory of Napolon’s army. It was first built in 1764, with the design being a dome surmounting a Latin cross. In 1777, when the architect died before the church was completed, the new architect re-designed the place based on Pantheon in Rome.

When the Revolution started, work for the church was halted until 1806 when Napoleon decided to re-design and re-build this into a Temple de la Gloire de la Grande Armée (Temple to the Glory of the Great Army). However, when Arc de Triomphe was completed in 1808, the temple was deemed unnecessary and work was discontinued once again.

After the fall of Napoleon in 1814, King Louis XVIII decided that the structure would be used as a church and it was finally completed and consecrated in 1842.

La Madeleine

The church was built with 52 20-metre tall Corinthian columns with a pediment on top depicting The Last Judgment, sculpted by Lemaire. It is a very huge, grand and majestic church!

Inside La Madeleine – St Mary Magdalene sculpture

The interior of the church is grand and beautiful. We were immediately drawn to the St Mary Magdalene sculpture at the end of the church, which depicts St Mary Magdalene being lifted up by angels which evokes the tradition concerning ectasy which she entered in her daily prayer while in seclusion. The beautiful fresco above displayed the key figures in the Christian religion (though I don’t know who’s who because I’m a free thinker).

The funeral of Frédéric François Chopin was actually held here on 30 Oct 1849.

Close up of the St. Mary Magdalene scuplture

Address: Pl. de la Madeleine, VIII

Metro: Madeleine

Did you see La Madeleine at the end of the street?

Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden)

Jardin des Tuileries is a public garden located in the middle of several popular attractions – the Louvre museum at one end and Place de la Concorde at the other and the Eiffel Tower and the Musée d’Orsay on the Seine side.

Small lavender field in Jardin des Tuileries

The garden was commissioned by Queen Catherine de Medicis in 1559 to be built in Italian Renaissance style. The garden underwent several renovations and modifications and it evolved to be a public park in 1667. It is now a popular place for both locals and tourists.

Jardin des Tuileries

I wouldn’t say it’s a good place to take a romantic walk because there’s tons of people around, but it’s a good place to chill, relax and people watch!

Address:
Bordered by Quai des Tuileries, Pl. de la Concorde, Rue de Rivoli, and the Louvre, Paris, 75001

Opening hours:
Jun-Aug: daily 7 am-11 pm
Apr, May and Sep: daily 7:30 am-9 pm
Oct-Mar: daily 7:30 am-7:30 pm

Metro: Tuileries or Concorde

Musée du Louvre (The Louvre Museum)

Musée du Louvre is one of the world’s largest museums and the most visited art museum in the world. The queue to get into the museum is as scary as the people queuing to enter the Vatican Museum. Will talked more about it in my next post (yes Paris post is really long so I’m splitting it so that I won’t bore you guys too much…)

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Not to be confused with the other Arc de Triomphe located in the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle at the western end of Champs-Élysées (more about it at the end of the post),  this Arc du Carrousel is also a triumph arch, located in between Jardin des Tuileries and Musée du Louvre. The arch was built between 1806 and 1808 based on the design of Arch de Constantine in Rome.

See the statues of horses above? It was originally mounted by the horses of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, which was forcibly removed by Napoleon in 1797 to be placed on top of this arch. The horses are returned to Venice only in 1815 by the Austrians. The current statue is replaced in 1828, depicting the Goddess of Peace riding in a triumphal chariot led by gilded Victories on both sides. It commemorates the Restoration of the Bourbons after Napoleon’s downfall.

Petit Palais (Small Palace)

Absolutely not small at all, Petit Palais is a fine arts museum in Paris built in 1900. We didn’t go in and see what’s inside, we were just pretty amused by the name because the museum certainly doesn’t look small at all!

Address:
Petit Palais, City of Paris Fine Art Museum
Avenue Winston Churchill
75008 Paris

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm, closed on Monday and Public Holidays

Métro: lines 1 and 13, Champs-Elysées Clémenceau station.
Bus: 28, 42, 72, 73,83, 93.

Free admission to the permanent collections.
Admission charge for temporary exhibitions.

Église Saint-Augustin de Paris (Church of St. Augustine)

Église Saint-Augustin de Paris was built between 1860 and 1871 in an eclectic and vaguely Byzantine style, and stands at 100 metres in length with a dome height of 80 metres. Sadly it gets overlooked by tourists but I think it’s one beautiful church and the best thing is there’s no crowd there at all. Unfortunately it was closed when we got there.

Statue of Joan of Arc in front of Église Saint-Augustin de Paris

Address: 46 Boulevard Malesherbes, 75008 Paris

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday 8.30am to 7pm
Saturday 8.30am to 12pm; 2.30pm to 7.30pm
Sunday 8.30am to 12.30pm; 4pm to 7.30pm

Palais Garnier

A1,979 seat opera house, Palais Garnier was built from 1861 to 1875 and is named after its architect, Charles Garnier. It holds an important significance in France, due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera. It is also one of the most expensive buildings to be constructed.

I read online that the great staircase, the foyers, the museum and auditorium are grand and beautiful but we didn’t head in because of the admission fees.

Palais Garnier

Address: corner of rue Scribe and rue Auber

Metro: Opéra lines 3, 7 and 8, RER Auber
Bus: 21, 22, 27, 29, 42, 53, 66, 68, 81, 95

Opening hours:
Daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (last admissions 4:30 pm)
Closed January 1st, May 1st, and when a special event is scheduled.
From July 16th until September 5th included, visits will close at 6:00 pm.

Admission fees:
9 € (normal) / 6 € (reduced for students, under 25s, etc)

Saint-Sulpice

A beautiful Baroque parish church made even more famous due to the novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (I did read the book before heading to this church!)

Construction of this church started in 1646, which was then expanded on a larger scale in 1670. It was temporarily discontinued from 1678 to 1719 and was mostly completed in 1745. The church was damaged during the Revolution and became a Temple of Victory which was only converted back in the 19th century.

Organ in Saint-Sulpice

One of the must-sees in the church is the organ – which is one of the world’s largest, with 6,588 pipes. It was majestic and we stood in awe watching this huge piece of art.

Address:
Place Saint-Sulpice
2, rue Palatine
75006  PARIS

Metro: Saint-Sulpice
Bus: 58, 63, 70, 86, 87, 89, 95

Opening hours:
7.30 am – 7.30 pm

Free entry

Popular con in Paris

We caught a conman in action! It seemed like an easy game – there’s three black tiles, one will have a white tile underneath, all you have to guess where is the white tile. This conman actually has several accomplice working for him – pretending to lose or win, just to entice the tourists to play. It was really tempting, but we know it’s too good to be true!

La Tour Eiffel from Trocadero

A wrought iron lattice tower built in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, La Tour Eiffel has become a renown global icon of Paris and France. Standing at 324 metres tall, it is the tallest building in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world – millions of people ascend it yearly (with the exception of us).

We contemplated climbing it, but we were more interested in climbing other towers / buildings to look at La Tour Eiffel, instead of the other way round, so we did not spend the money to go up. I think it’s advisable to reserve the tickets online because of the extremely long queues! You wouldn’t want to waste your precious time queuing for the tickets!

There are three levels for visiting, with the third accessible only by lift while the first and second by stairs or lift. There are 300 steps between ground and first and first and second, be prepared if you’re climbing!

Progression from evening to night

There’s a light show that lasted about 5 minutes (photo on the right) every hour starting from I think 8 or 9pm. Not sure when is the last show though… We actually sat there for more than 2 hours for consecutive 2 nights just so X could take the photos… It was alright staring at the tower for the first hour, but I got bored during the second… haha.

Another view of the eiffel tower (taken on the second night), pity can’t capture the full reflection of the tower in the water

Matryoshka doll

We were window shopping the next day and we saw an amazing set of Matryoshka doll. Matryoshka doll is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size place inside each other. This set was so huge and the details are so intricately painted! It’s a not for sale item (though I’m sure I won’t be able to afford it even if it’s for sale…)

La Sainte-Chapelle

La Sainte-Chapelle is a 13th-Century Gothic Chapel built by King Louis IX for use as his own royal chapel for the royal palace and to house precious relics. The construction of La Sainte-Chapelle started in 1246 and was completed at a fast pace, being consecrated in 1248.

When the chapel was converted into an administrative office during the French Revolution, much was vandalised and destroyed except for the windows (thankfully!). Most relics were also stolen or destroyed, with the remaining few now stored safely away in Notre Dame Cathedral.

There was an extremely long queue to get in – because of the security protocol. They have to scan our bags and ensure we do not have sharp objects on us. We waited for 45 minutes to get in, it was the longest queue I’ve ever been in in Europe I think. And we stayed at the chapel for less than 30 minutes…

Entrace of La Sainte-Chapelle

La Sainte-Chapelle – lower chapel

The lower chapel is located on the first floor. It looks quite pretty already, but the upper chapel (second floor), is of an astounding beauty I’ve never ever seen.

La Sainte-Chapelle – upper chapel

The second floor has minimum structural support in order to accommodate this huge, 6,458 square feet worth of beautiful, intricate and exquisite stained glass. The windows are in deep reds and blues and illustrate 1,130 figures from the Bible.

La Sainte-Chapelle – rose windows

The rose windows were added to the upper chapel in the 15th century.

La Sainte-Chapelle

Address:
4 bd. du Palais, 4e, Paris, France

Metro: line 4, Cité, St-Michel, or Chatelet-Les Halles
Bus: lines 21, 27, 38, 85, 96 and Balabus

Opening hours:
1 Mar – 31 Oct: 9:30 am to 6 pm
1 Nov – 28 Feb: 9 am to 5 pm
Cashdesks close 30 minutes earlier
Open in the evening on Wednesdays, last admission at 9 pm.

Closed:
1 January, 1 May 1 and 25 December

Note:
Access to the Sainte-Chapelle is controlled by the gendarmerie, it is strictly forbidden for visitors to be in possession of any metal objects such as knives, scissors and any other pointed or sharp metal instrument.

Price (free if you have Paris Museum Pass):
Adult rate : 8,50 €
Reduced rate : 5,50 €

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris)

A cathedral that almost everyone will visit in Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral is built from 1163 to 1250, and is a popular symbol of French Gothic architecture, sculpture and stained glass. It attract as many visitors as Eiffel Tower each year and is still an active Catholic church.

At the end of the 17th century, major alterations were made to the cathedral, resulting in many tombs and stained glass windows destroyed. During the French Revolution in 1793, the condition of the cathedral worsened, with numerous sculptures and treasures destroyed or plundered.

The restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral began in 1845 which lasted for 23 years.

In 1991, another major restoration program took place and continued well into the 21st century, and that’s the Notre Dame Cathedral we see today.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) – West Front

In terms of exterior, the West Front of the cathedral is the most striking of all. The two tall towers stand at a stunning 69-meter tall. The cathedral’s famouse bell, “Emmanuel” is housed in the South Tower, weighing over 28,000 pounds. 

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) – South rose window

One of the highlights in Notre Dame Cathedral is definitely the stained glass windows. In my opinion, though Notre Dame Cathedral‘s stained glass windows are beautiful, the ones in La Sainte Chapelle are more impressive.

The South rose window was installed around 1260. It was donated by King St. Louis himself. It was repaired more than once over the centuries. The main themes are the New Testament, the Triumph of Christ and the symbolic number four.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) – the North Rose

Supposedly installed around 1250, it has the main theme of the Old Testament, but the central medallion depicts the Virgin Mary and Child.

The West rose window (not pictured) was installed around 1220, and managed to keep most of its original pieces. The main theme of this window is human life, and features symbolic scenes such as Zodiacs and Labors of the Months. However it is unfortunately half-blocked by the great organ.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris)

Address: 6 place du Parvis Notre-Dame, Île de la Cité, 4e, Paris, France

Metro:
Line 4 – Station Cité or Saint-Michel
Line 1, 11Station Hôtel de Ville
Line 10 -Station Maubert-Mutualité or Cluny – La Sorbonne
Line 7, 11, 14 -Station Châtelet

RER:
Line B and CStation Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame

Opening hours:
Daily from 8:00 am to 6:45 pm
(7:15 pm on Saturdays and Sundays)

Free entry

Random pretty fountain that we saw while walking along the streets

Panthéon

Panthéon is a neo-Classical church which was originally dedicated to St. Genevieve (the patron saint of Paris) but is now a burial place for famous French heroes. The church was commissioned by King Louis XV in 1744, with the foundations laid in 1758. Financial difficulties resulted in delay in construction, hence the church was only completed in 1789.

Panthéon

This church is the burial place for Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers), Victor Hugo, Louis Braille, Marie Curie (the only woman to be honoured) and many more important people of France.

Panthéon – Foucault’s pendulum

An amazing sight that one will see upon entering the church is Foucault’s pendulum beneath the central dome. It is used to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth.

Panthéon

We also managed to climb to the top and took beautiful photos of the church’s surrounding:

La Tour Eiffel

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

Address: Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris, France

Métro: line 10 – Cardinal Lemoine
Bus: lines 21, 27, 38, 82, 84, 85 and 89
RER: line B – Luxembourg

Opening hours:
1 Apr – 30 Sep: 10 am – 6.30 pm
1 Oct – 31 Mar: 10 am – 6 pm
Last admission 45 mins before closing (and they were very, very strict about it!)

Closed:
January 1, May 1 and December 25

Cost (free with Paris Museum Pass):
Adults – 7 € adults,
Age 18 – 25: 4.50 €
Free for children 17 and under

Arc de Triomphe (Arc of Triumph)

This arc honours those who died for France during the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. Beneath the vault also lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

Arc de Triomphe is also one of the most visited monuments in Paris. We went there at night to avoid some of the crowd and to also take some night photos. It’s a bit hazy at night but the view is quite pretty.

The spiral staircase up the Arc de Triomphe that made me so dizzy.

Arc de Triomphe

Address: 16th arrondissement on Paris’s Right Bank

RER: line A, station Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile
Metro: lines 1, 2 and 6, station Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile
Cross the underground passage way to get there

Opening hours:
1 Apr – 30 Sep: 10 am – 11 pm
1 Oct – 31 Mar: 10 am – 10.30 am
Last entry 1/2 hour before closing time

Closed:
January 1, May 1,May 8 (morning) July 14 (morning), November 11 (morning) and December 25

Cost (free with Paris Museum Pass):
Adults : 8 €
Students (18 – 25 years) : 5 €
Free for children 17 and under

Night view of La Tour Eiffel atop Arc de Triomphe

And this is the end of the Part I of Paris trip… (phew!) will update the rest as soon as possible! (:


Other Europe destinations I’ve been to:

Updated:

Till then! Have a great day!

14 thoughts on “Paris, France (Part 1) – The City of Light

  1. wow! the photos are beautiful!!!! Did you visit any patisseries over there? Paris is my dream destination for the longest time!!! Probably wanna live there for a while but I’d heard that everything’s so freaking expensive!

    • Thank you Alan! The food’s in part 2, stay tuned! :) I didn’t get to try much pastries because I was on a tight budget, only macarons from lauduree and Pierre Herme. The things there are really, really expensive, but I’m definitely going back there in the future to splurge on the pastries! :)

  2. Wow!
    Your photographs are stunning, really!!
    I love Paris. I love to walk and discover new places in the city and now I have a new one: L’Église Saint-Augustin de Paris. Apparently I’m one of those tourists that overlook it ;)
    Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Pingback: Paris, France (Part 2) – Versailes, Invalides, Louvre and Food

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