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What Paris is famous for

12 mins read
Eiffel Tower

Paris landmarks are among the most recognizable in the world: the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Versailles, the Louvre. From its iconic cafés to famous monuments, the city has so much to offer! Paris is famous for its bustling museums and galleries, its top cuisine, its beautiful architecture, and its chic fashion.

This selection of the best things to do in Paris was not simple to make. Paris has so many places of interest, making it difficult to compress down to a reasonable number. Please don’t blame us if your favourite Parisian site is not listed below. It certainly will be part of one of our many pages introducing all that you shouldn’t miss in Paris, the “city of light”, the capital city of France.

1. Eiffel Tower

It was at the 1889 Exposition Universelle, the date that marked the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, that a great competition was launched in the Journal Officiel.

The first digging work started on the 26th January 1887. On the 31st March 1889, the Tower had been finished in record time – 2 years, 2 months and 5 days – and was established as a veritable technical feat.

2. Cafés

It seems that everything’s over the top at this former royal palace, now the most famous French museum. From paintings to sculptures and from archaeological finds to drawings, The Louvre has 35,000 works of art plus over 350,000 objects on display. The permanent collections cover an area of 60,600 sq m. A good hint to make your day is to get a map and an audio guide at the ticket desk before starting your visit of one of the largest museums in the world

3. Arc de Triomphe

Stretching for almost 2 km between Place Charles de Gaulle and Place de la Concorde, Champs-Élysées Avenue is an iconic street of Paris famed for its stylish restaurants and cafés, luxury boutiques, big-brand stores and theatres. Go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe on Place Charles de Gaulle to get a stunning view of the tree-lined avenue and of the Voie Triomphale – the Triumphal Way. The street forms a straight line between the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the Obelisk of Place de la Concorde, and the Grande Arche of La Défense.

4. Champs-Élysées

And naturally from the Arc de Triomphe to the… Champs Élysées! This avenue, which connects the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, is Paris’ most famous and beautiful street.

Nearly two kilometers long, it is known as the home to numerous theatres, luxury shops, and cafés. It also hosts the annual Bastille parade and the final stretch of the Tour de France cycling race. Be sure to drop into the stores of famous fashion brands here, from Dior to Louis Vuitton.

5. Fashion

Paris is renowned worldwide for its chic fashion, making it the world’s fashion capital. Often simplistic, the Parisians are well envied for their ability to effortlessly pull off the most classic fashion trends.

Paris is also home to a variety of huge fashion brands, from Dior to Givenchy, Louis Vuitton to Chanel.

The most important time for these brands is Paris Fashion Week, which takes place twice a year in illustrious venues such as the Grand Palais. As the final Fashion Week of the Big Four (New York, London, Milan), it is followed by people across the globe.

6. Notre-Dame

The cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris (‘Our Lady of Paris’ in English) made headlines in 2019 when it caught on fire. 15 hours of burning brought significant structural and aesthetic damage. But, even now, the cathedral remains one of Paris’ most famous and symbolic landmarks.

Notre Dame cathedral was constructed between 1163 and 1260, and the hundred years’ worth of effort shows! The cathedral towers over the Ile de la Cité, the small island which is located in Paris’ center and completely surrounded by the Seine river.

The cathedral was especially popularized by Victor Hugo’s book Notre-Dame de Paris (translated into English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), which made the cathedral a national icon. Though nearly 1000 pages long, it is one of my favorite books and I would recommend it to anyone seeking to learn more about French literature or Notre-Dame.

Even though the cathedral is not currently open to the public, it is still worth a visit to glimpse its magnificent façade. The French government hopes to have Notre-Dame restored by 2024, in time for the Paris Olympics

7. Literature

From Victor Hugo to Marcel Proust, Paris is famous for its contributions to worldwide literature.

During the 19th-century especially, it was the center of European culture and literature. Influential literary movements from Naturalism to Surrealism were established and developed in Paris.

But it is not just French writers that made a name for themselves in Paris. The city was also home to writers such as Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway and James Baldwin, who were drawn to its burgeoning literary scene and charm.

8. French Revolution

Paris was the center of the French Revolution. Its significance on the city is clear from the Place de la Bastille to the Place de la République.

The Revolution is commonly agreed to have begun on 14 July 1789, when protestors from the city attacked the Bastille, a royal fortress that stored arms and political prisoners. 14 July is now celebrated every year as Bastille Day in France.

If you travel to the site of the Bastille today, you will find no building resembling a fortress, since it was destroyed by revolutionaries that same year. However, the Place commemorates the revolutionary era, and the original perimeter of the fortress can be found on the floor of the Boulevard Henri IV.

The French Republic was declared on 22 Sep 1972, and King Louis XVI was famously executed by guillotine a few months later. The Republic is important to France, and commemorated at the Place de la République.

The symbol of Marianne came to symbolize the Revolution. She can be found across French and Parisian culture, from her statue on the Place de la République, to her depiction in Eugène Delacroix’s La Liberté guidant le peuple (Liberty Leading the People), which can be found in the Louvre.

9. Food

French food is famous across the planet, and you can surely find the best of it in Paris. If croissants or pastries are your thing, head to a local boulangerie, where you are also sure to find an assortment of baguettes.

If you want to taste the best crêpes Paris has to offer, Rue du Montparnasse is an amazing street lined with crêperies on both sides. Many people moved to Montparnasse from Brittany, the home of the crêpe, thus creating this crêpe center.

For a taste of France’s most traditional dishes, you could head to just about any brasserie. There will be one on every street corner or so.

For the most traditional experience, head to Le Bouillon Chartier in the hills of Montmarte. Located in a beautiful 19th-century high-ceiling dining room, the restaurant has been classified as a monument historique and serves the most delicious and traditional French food.

However, as a cosmopolitan hub, Paris is not just great for traditional French food. Food from the Maghreb (principally Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco) or the Middle East is also incredibly popular! Popular hubs include the 19th and 20th arrondissements, where many foreign citizens have settled.

10. Architecture

Paris is well known for being one of the most pretty and aesthetic cities in the world! Modern Paris owes much of its beauty to Eugène Haussmann. Under the direction of Napoleon III in the mid-1800s, he completely redesigned the city center.

Paris’s wide boulevards that make it famous today were originally designed to prevent protestors from barricading its formerly narrow streets, a common practice since the French Revolution.

Haussmann also insisted that all buildings be built from “Paris stone”, which gives the city’s buildings their distinctive color and texture. Whole buildings were torn down over a twenty-year period to integrate his designs.

Modern Paris is also well-known for its lack of skyscrapers. Other than the Eiffel Tower and the Tour Montparnasse, it is hard to find a building within Paris taller than 30 meters high. After the building of the Tour Montparnasse and the significant negative reaction towards it, a law was introduced to prohibit the building of new skyscrapers.

However, just outside of Paris’s boundary (known as the périphérique) can be found a hub of skyscrapers in the business district of La Défense, where height rules are more relaxed.