Historic Landmarks in Paris

Paris is known as one of the romantic cities in the world, part of the reasons for that designation is its romantic connection to the past. Paris has been a leading city and important cultural hub for more than two thousand years, its cultural significance and historical stamp can be felt the world over. Visitors to Paris are well advised to visit some of the local historic landmarks for one of a kind experiences that will leave them awestruck with wonder and with a deeper understanding of the history of this magnificent city.

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is the single most visited paid monument in the world. Designed and engineered by Gustave Eiffel, the tower was planned to be the entrance arch for the 1889 World’s Fair. At 1,063 feet tall it’s about as tall as an 81 story building and was the tallest structure in the world until 1930, it currently remains the second tallest structure in France. Originally the structure was hated by many who considered it ugly and an eyesore. According to the original permit the tower was to be demolished in 20 years, but when 1909 rolled around it was determined that it was useful for communications so the tower remained. Now its tourism value is noted as well as its status as a national icon. There are three different levels for visitors to visit and elevators take you to all three levels, while more adventurous visitors can walk to the top two levels if they wish. On the first level is one of two restaurants, Altitude 95, the second floor features the Jules Verne, a very expensive, two Michelin star restaurants. Otherwise the levels are really just observation platforms.

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe was erected to honor those who fought for France, especially those in the Napoleonic Wars. Visitors can see that on the inside and the top of the arc are the names of all of the generals and the wars fought. Underneath the structure is a tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. Designed by Jean Chalgrin in1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon. The foundations alone took two years to construct and the designer died in 1811leaving the majority of the work to be completed by Jean-Nicolas Huyot. For several years construction was halted and not completed officially until somewhere between 1833 and 1836. Visitors to the Arc de Triomphe have access on foot through the underpass. There is an elevator or stairs to take you to the observation deck which affords visitors an incredible view of the city and the impressive traffic surrounding the monument.

Notre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame Cathedral is also known as the Notre Dame de Paris or Our Lady of Paris. This beautiful example of French gothic architecture is considered one of the most impressive in the world. The flying buttresses, or exterior supports, used extensively were brand new when they were applied and were not a part of the original architectural plan, but the walls began to fracture and needed some support. Construction began on this magnificent cathedral in 1163 and remained a living construction project until its effective completion date of 1345. The changed in architectural styles and architects of the period are apparent throughout as certain sections were completed in different centuries. The building has suffered major damage throughout the years due to wars, changes in religious views, and even a few “renovations”. The latest major program of maintenance and restoration was begun in 1991 and planned for 10 years but the project was still underway in 2009 and probably will continue for quite some time.

Champs-Elysees Avenue

The Avenue des Champs-Elysees is one of the most famed streets in all the world and is known by the locals as the most beautiful avenue, although the arrival of chain stores is beginning to diminish that beauty. The street only runs a little more than one mile long and is part of Paris’s Axe Historique or Voie Triomphale, a line of historical monuments in the city of Paris. The street was originally expansive fields with market gardens but in 1616 Marie de Medici decided to expand the garden with a row of trees. Today the lines of trees remain, but the fields are long gone, replaced by storefronts and houses. This stretch of land has seen much history throughout the years but it has managed to keep up with the times rather than stay stagnant in its original state.

Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge or Red Windmill, has gained ground due to the popular movie of the same name, but originally this cabaret was built in 1889 in the red light district of Paris. The can-can dance came from the Moulin Rouge and was originally a seductive dance but has evolved and spurred on the creation of more cabarets. Today the structure is still an adult oriented cabaret, but with an obvious emphasis on the tourism element, although the décor remains turn of the century and the atmosphere truly decadent.

Sacre Coeur Basilica

The Sacred Coeur Basilica or Basilica of the Sacred Heart is another prominent catholic church in Paris, this one dedicated to the heart of Jesus. Located on the top of the highest point in the city the Basilica, the building was designed by architect Paul Abadie after winning a competition. Construction began in 1875 but debate ensued and continued until 1897, but by then the construction was almost complete and the church had been offering services for six years. The architectural style is a combination of Romano-Byzantine styles with a lot of freeform interpretation. Although the structure was functioning by 1891 the official completion date wasn’t until 1914 and then World War I prevented consecration until after the war ended. One obvious feature of the Sacre Coeur Basilica is the white appearance of the exterior. The basilica is built of travertine stone quarried in the region which exudes calcite, which can show phosphorescence or fluorescence making the structure always appear white no matter how much pollution there is or how much it ages.