The essentials

Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, the Louvre, Montmartre … What to see on a short trip to Paris

Begin with a coffee on the Champs-Elysées, then take a gentle stroll down to the Eiffel Tower along the avenue Marceau, passing the famous flame of the Pont de l’Alma. From the top of the Tower, you’ll be treated to an unrestricted view over Paris. Then, hop onto one of the river boats moored just below and glide down the Seine as far as Notre-Dame. When you’ve finished your visit of the cathedral, it’ll be time for a lunch break. The Louvre is just half an hour away and awaits you for a made-to-measure tour around the major works of art. As you leave, the day will be drawing to a close over the footbridge des Arts, the Pont Neuf and the Institut de France… Cross over the river and make your way to Odéon metro station which will lead you straight to the Montmartre hill where you can enjoy an exceptional panorama over the city and its monuments, illuminated at nightfall.

1 Avenue des Champs-Élysées (don't miss)

Christmas lights, avenue des Champs Elysées, Paris © OTCP - Angélique Clément

Between Concorde and Étoile, is the emblematic section of a perspective that extends from the Louvre Pyramid to La Défense. The first steps of this 'glorious way', an obligatory passage for patriotic parades, were however modest. Lined with undergrowth, the avenue reached the current site of place de l’Étoile in 1724. A fashionable place to walk, the gardens were devastated at the fall of the Empire. They regained their splendour around 1840: candelabras, fountains, creamy pavilions, landscaping with flowers and copses date from this period of balls and theatres. It was one hundred years later that rapid development occurred when affluence spread to the west of the capital. The avenue was then adorned with prestigious palaces, cafes, and restaurant terraces and cinemas – joined today by ready-to-wear fashion stores and high-tech showrooms. Everything can be found on the Champs Elysées: films, dresses, lunch, cotton and compresses, racing cars, yoghurts and fresh vegetables, books, CDs, perfume … from morning to midnight, sometimes 24 hours a day, often 7 days a week.

2 Tour Eiffel

La Tour Eiffel, Paris © Thinkstock

This towering monument, inaugurated by Gustave Eiffel during the World Fair is a landmark site 324-metres-high. Its graceful metallic structure has dominated the Seine riverbanks and Champ-de-Mars for more than 120 years. At nightfall, it sparkles with lights to mark the change from one hour to the next. As well as taking the lift up the three floors, there are also temporary exhibitions to see and the private apartment that the engineer Eiffel had installed there.

3 Pont de l'Alma

Pont de l'Alma, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

This bridge connecting the 7th, 8th and 16th arrondissements of Paris is known not only for its statue of a Zouave soldier, formerly used to measure rises in the level of the Seine… At one end of the bridge is the Flame of Liberty, a gift to France as a token of thanks for French help restoring the famous statue in New York, and now an unofficial memorial to Princess Diana. The flame is a perfect replica of the torch held up by ‘Lady Liberty’.

4 Musée du Louvre

Musée du Louvre, Paris © OTCP - David Lefranc - Ieoh Ming Peï

The biggest museum in Paris, and home of the Mona Lisa, The Raft of the Medusa, and Venus de Milo was, first and foremost, the jewel in the crown of the kings, emperors and republics of France. From the sombre late-12th century fortress, to Peï’s glass pyramid, built in 1989, many have reigned here and practically everyone has left their mark – Renaissance, Classic, First and Second Empire, contemporary… The Louvre, a museum since 1793, houses collections of Western art from the Middle Ages to 1848, and collections of ancient oriental, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman civilisations which preceded and influenced them, as well as graphic arts and Islamic arts.

5 Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

The Pont-Neuf is the oldest of Paris bridges and the first highway in France to accomodate an effigy. The original equestrian statue of Henri IV was melted down at the Revolution in 1792 and replaced by the Restoration with the present figure. Built in two halves between 1578 and 1604 to the designs of Androuet Du Cerceau, the bridge is on a broken axis. The 12 rounded arches each have a keystone carved with humorous grotesques.

6 Odéon

Odéon - Théâtre de l'Europe - Théâtre de l'Odéon, façade, Paris © Thierry Depagne

People in a hurry or just strolling by, traffic, cafe lights, historic facades, sinuous lines of people queuing in front of cinemas … That is what the Odéon district looks like at almost any time of day. A lively place full of cultural attractions right in the heart of historic Paris!

7 Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris | © Thinkstock

The beginning of its long construction coincided with the choice of Paris as a capital and, on the square in front of the cathedral, a bronze star inscribed 'zero kilometre' indicates the centre of the country in terms of travelling distances. A symbol of Gothic art, its harmonious layout seems to be the work of just one architect, yet dozens followed on from the 12th to the 19th century, the date of its restoration by Viollet-le-Duc. The cathedral has witnessed Saint Louis, barefoot, wearing the Crown of Thorns in 1239, the coronation of Napoléon in 1804, the celebration of the Liberation of Paris in 1944… and you too, as you climb the 422 steps leading to the top. Like Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo, you will then find yourself face to face with some of its grimacing gargoyles. You will also be able to make the acquaintance of the thirteen-ton bell named Emmanuel, and enjoy a breathtaking view across the rooftops of Paris.

8 Butte Montmartre

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre, Paris © Thinkstock

Venice has its gondolas, Montmartre its steps – physically demanding but Romanesque in the extreme. Countless novels, legends and 'fabulous destinies' are set in the Butte, such as the Bateau-Lavoir in place Émile- Goudeau, where Picasso painted the Demoiselles d’Avignon, and the cafe made famous by Amélie Poulain in rue Lepic. The grocery from the film is higher up on rue des Trois-Frères. And there’s even more climbing to do – but Montmartre’s well worth it! Walk up rue Tholozé, for example, for a film or a drink in the winter garden of a tiny cinema run by Buñuel and Cocteau. Pause at the top of the street under the last remaining windmills, before continuing on up … keep going! At the top is the Sacré-Coeur, surrounded by a labyrinth of extraordinary little streets, and a vineyard, where the grape harvest is celebrated each year. There is also the flattering bust of Dalida in the square of the same name, breathtaking views over the rooftops of Paris, amazing crowds and hundreds of tranquil spots. From the square de la Turlure or the rue de la Chevalier-de-la- Barre, the Sacré-Coeur is just as wonderful from the side, the back or the front!