Paris city guide

Paris is often referred to as the “City of Love” and anyone who ever visited this wonderful city understands why. There are a couple of reasons that come to mind. Let’s start with the city’s best-known landmark and symbol of Paris: the Eiffel Tower. In many international rankings La Tour Eiffel pops up as the world’s most famous tourist attraction. Especially in the evenings when the tower is lit up it’s jaw dropping. La Tour Eiffel makes not only the perfect scenery for a romantic walk but is also an amazing place for a dinner with your beloved one or to impress your new date. Make sure you make a reservation long time before in case you want to book a table for two in one of the tower’s restaurants. Both 58 Tour Eiffel on the first floor and Le Jules Verne on the second floor have an outstanding reputation and are extremely popular. Of course they come with an extraordinary price tag, as nothing is really cheap in Paris. Especially a meal in Le Jules Verne can turn out to be a very expensive experience and you should be ready to pay around 200 euro per person for a few courses diner. And then I have not counted in the mandatory wine yet. But hey, the views are breath taking and the food is superb, so you will get value for money. And lunching or dining on the Eiffel Tower is something you should have done at least once in your life. Another great activity to partake in with your significant other or date is an evening cruise on the Seine. You will be looking upwards to numerous bridges with padlocks attached to them as memoires of lovers who spent a precious spell. Why do I insist on doing everything during the evenings? Because Paris is also known as the “City of Lights”; It’s one of the most illuminated cities in the entire world. Don’t forget that Paris is also a modern European capital, famous for its vibrant nightlife, state of the art French cuisine and world-class fashion, luring in masses of tourists and expats from all over the globe.

Gargoyle at the top of Notre Dame and Paris cityscape

Sitting on the roof of Notre Dame and seeming to be deep in thought, gargoyle (mythical creature) looking at Paris cityscape

Paris is one of those cities that you’re better off exploring during fall or spring. It’s so packed with tourists during summer that it almost becomes unpleasant. Lines for the popular attractions are beyond ridiculous; there are school trips literally everywhere you go. And the Eiffel Tower is a nightmare during the tourist season. Traffic jams are my personal hell and the stairs and elevators are nothing short of a traffic jam, almost claustrophobic. Honestly, you’re better off having a glass of wine and some cheese from a picnic basket in the park surrounding the tower. People usually come back to Paris, so your first visit is probably not your last. Get the staples out of the way, cross them out of the list and take your photos. Then on your next visit, you’ll be able to enjoy the real Paris, explore or the nooks and crannies that aren’t mentioned in tour guides.

What staples? Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the most (if not the most) recognizable gothic cathedrals in the world. Long time ago, the Notre-Dame already gained more popularity thanks to Walt Disney’s animated musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame. You could climb on top of a tower for a great view of the centre of Paris. But you needed to pay for that. Everything was free in the house of God, except for ungodly things like climbing spiral stairs for half an hour. But these days are gone as a consequence of the devastating fire in April 2019 and we will see how it will be after the Notre-Dame has re-opened its doors to the audience. A great structure fire that broke out under the roof on 15 April 2019 could not be distinguished for hours and at some stage it looked like the entire building would vanish. In a miraculous way they managed to end the fire and although it could be worse the impact of the blaze was pretty huge. The cathedral’s iconic spire and most of its roof have been destroyed and its upper walls are severely damaged. The French president Emmanuel Macron assured the French people and the whole word that followed the event that the cathedral would be restored. He initiated a fundraising campaign, which resulted in more than €1 billion of gifts, which also triggered a heated public debate. Some people found it scandalous that so much money could be collected for an old building while other more important issues in society like poverty cannot be solved. Despite the huge available financial resources it is estimated that a complete restoration will take at least twenty years.

Sacre Coeur Paris

"A white pearl" of Paris, the Basilica Sacre Coeur at Montmartre

Speaking of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, why not pay a visit to Disneyland Paris (formerly known as Euro Disney)? I spent a day there around 18 years ago. I had the time of my life and wanted to go back there ever since. They even say you’re never too old for Disney, but I don’t think it applies to the theme park. The Louvre is another place you need to see when in Paris, well you don’t really need to, but it’s just one of those places that everyone cool has been to. Don’t be scared of the lines, you can actually skip them by entering via “secret entrance” which isn’t secret, there’s a shopping mall underneath the museum, they’re connected so you can just walk in and laugh at your fellow tourists that spend hours in lines.

Unfortunately, there is also a dark side to Paris that emerged rather recently. France is a country in confusion and disorientation. The on-going demonstrations of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) in the past, which reached the point of being nihilistic and violent, are a clear manifestation of that. And then there is the impact of mass immigration, globalization, poverty and huge gaps between North and South around the world, and last but not least Islamic radicalism. All challenges the tolerant and free West is facing at the moment you see in an enlarged version in Paris. When you are born in a poor suburb of Paris, the banlieue, you are more or less doomed. For most people, many with immigration backgrounds, it is not easy to find a proper job and escape from the depressing and hard life in the banlieue. These suburbs, not only in Paris but also other big French cities, have sometimes become lawless no-go zones and fruitful soil for a career as a low-life or even a terrorist. On 13 November 2015 coordinated terrorist attacks killed more than 130 people in the centre of Paris. The day after the front cover of the French newspaper l’Equipe was very striking and powerful. It was completely black with only the word l’horreur (the horror). Let’s hope that the city of love will not turn into a city of hate in the long run.

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