Paris is a culturally dense destination, with so many artists and items to study and see around the city, one trip just won’t be sufficient. A visitor can spend multiple days in the Louvre alone, getting lost in the wings and exhausting their feet. There are six museums in particular that should not be missed. If time doesn’t allow for them all, it’s recommended time be spent exploring them on subsequent visits to this most amazing of cities.
- Modern Museum of Art at the Centre Georges Pompidou
The National Museum of Modern Art inside houses the world’s most impressive collection of 20th century art. It has nearly 50,000 items to see varying from painting, sculpture, media, and architecture on two floors. It covers major 20th-century art movements, including Cubism, Surrealism, and Pop Art. The building itself is a monstrous curiosity, with building innards such as ventilation systems on display in primary colors on the exterior.
- Musee National du Moyen Age
On display are early middle age antiquities, items from Roman times, gothic sculpture, goldsmith’s work and ivory, paintings, miniatures and stained glass, and most famously its Roman baths, tapestries, cloths and embroideries. This museum is house in two exceptional buildings in Paris, the Gallo-Roman thermes (baths) constructed in the 1st through 3rd centuries, and the Cluny Abbey built in the late 15th century.
- Musee Rodin
Opened in 1919 this museum is housed in the sculptor’s private Paris mansion which was built around 1730. It has a lovely garden to stroll and admire the sculpture collection on display. The Thinker, Camille Claudel, and Balzac are among the many well-known pieces in residence. The building is an impressive example of rocaille architecture that was popular at the time, and it houses the nearly 300 works from Rodin’s collection.
- Musee d’Orsay
On the bank of the Seine River in the center of Paris, the Musee d’Orsay building is an impressive old railway station built for the universal exhibition of 1900. The art displayed is from the period of 1848-1914 and includes paintings, sculpture, photography, objets d’art, graphic arts and architecture. The Café de l’horloge on the top floor offers a nice break for refreshments, and an iconic spot for photos of and through the building’s famously massive and transparent clock face.
- Musee de l’Orangerie
Found in the Tulieries Garden just behind the Louvre, the Orangerie is best known for housing a spectacular collection of Monet’s water lilies. Housed in two long white rooms with beautifully curved walls, visitors get a chance to be immersed in Monet’s Impressionistic style. It provides an intimate moment to get up close to the colors, brush strokes and feelings the artist tried to evoke in viewers. The Walter-Guillaume Collection is also found here, representing modern Classicism and Impressionism, a collection given to the state in 1960.
- Musee du Louvre
Containing more than 35,000 priceless works from artists around the world, the Louvre building was originally built as a fortress by King Philippe-August in 1190. In the 16th century Francois I replaced is with a Renaissance-style palace and began the art collection with a mere 12 paintings from Italian artists. Napoleon remodeled the building and was the first to showcase the building as a museum. With the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory among the most well-known residents, there are and endless number of other art, statuary and historic artifacts that are worth spending an entire day exploring.
Paris has some of the most atmospheric and enjoyable parks in the world. They are all easily accessible by public transportation and best enjoyed with a blanket, picnic, and bottle of wine. Let the hours slip from your grasp while passively participating in a sport the French have perfected – people-watching.
- Parc Monceau
Begun in 1769 by the Duke of Chartres, Parc Monceau was opened to the public by Naploeon III in 1861. Elements that make this worth seeing are its grotto, waterfall, English gardens, impressive gates, and statues. Parc Monceau has a variety of playgrounds so it is very popular with children and families. Its flower gardens attract lunchtime visitors in the warmer months.
- Arenes de Lutece
A relic from 1st century AD Gallo-Roman times be transported at this arena which lies in the Latin Quarter. 15,000 spectators could once fill it to watch gladiators fight the good fight.
- La Promenade Plantee
Similar to the High Line in New York City or the 606 in Chicago with its wild vegetation and more thoughtfully landscaped sections, Paris’s Promenade Plantee is a park created on a former railway line. It is an example of preserving a version of the old to create something useful and new for the common man. Developed in 1988 it connects Varenne-Saint-Maur to Place de la Bastille
- Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
Found in the 19th arrondissement, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont has one miles of walking paths and was opened to the public in 1867. This park has the steepest incline of them all. It is best known for its lake and Ile de la Belvedere, Tempe de la Sibylle, grotto and waterfalls, bridges, and particular architecture inspired by the Alps in Switzerland and ancient Rome.
- Canal St.-Martin
At 2 miles long, Canal St-Martin offers plenty of bank-side benches to sit and relax. In 1802 it was constructed by Napoleon I. Its purpose was to provide fresh water to a city that was dying from cholera and dysentery. An enjoyable day can be had watching barges go through the bridges and locks along the canal.
- Jardin des Tuileries
Named for the tiles factories that originally were found nearby, this garden is a must-see for anyone visiting the city. Found just behind the Louvre, this park offers free tours in French certain times of the years, houses the Musee l’Orangerie, two ponds, a variety of sculptures, and a fountain where, in the summer months, adorable little French children can rent model boats to push around the water with sticks. This garden opened to the public in 1667.
- Place des Vosges
Nestled in the desirable Marais quarter and once considered the jewel of the city, this little park was built by Henry IV. Victor Hugo was a famous resident as he lived here while writing Les Miserables. The buildings that surround the park are very similar in design and add an other-worldly feeling as you watch small French children play in the park from your comfortable, shaded vantage point on a bench under the trees; you feel transported back to a simpler, more elegant time.
- Jardin du Luxembourg
The second largest park in Paris, Luxembourg garden is located in the 6th arrondissement. It is best known for its Medici fountain, variety of sculptures, balustraded terraces, apple and pear tree orchard, marionette theater, carousel, and octagonal basin of water where children can rent model boats to push around with sticks.
Going on safari in Africa is an exciting adventure. You’ve probably spent a lot of money, time, and preparation to get to Africa, and are looking forward not only to seeing the majestic landscapes but also the wild animals. Depending on where you visit will determine what animals you will see. Uganda, for example, is home to the famous gorilla treks. South Africa is not. There are a handful of animals considered the “Big 5” when going on a safari, so know which ones they are and be on a lookout to make sure you don’t miss them.
- African Elephant
While large in size, elephants can hide in soaring African grasses, and have a tendency to charge when feeling threatened. According to the Wild Wildlife Fund there are an estimated 470,000 to 670,000 African Elephants in existence. They are close to being on the threatened species list due to a recent regain in popularity amongst hunters and their loss of habitat. Depending on where you go, it’s not uncommon to be driving on a well-traveled road in Africa and see an elephant on the side of the road randomly.
- Cape Buffalo
Of the animals listed in the Big 5 of African safaris, buffalo are considered the most dangerous and it’s claimed they are the animal that has claimed the most lives of hunters, earning it the nickname “The Widowmaker”. Each year African buffalo gore or kill nearly 200 people. They are hunted for their meat, or, sadly, purely for the hunter’s enjoyment of the kill and being able to boast such an accomplishment.
There are an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 African lions in existence. The number was twice this thirty years ago; the decline can be attributed to them being killed to save farmers’ livestock. As the people population spreads out it takes away from animal habitat, and does what it has to to survive which includes killing the original residents (lions).
Leopards are the most elusive because they are nocturnal and take flight when they sense risk. Their top running speed is nearly 38 miles per hour. They are unequaled by their agility climbing trees. Their spotted pattern is called a rosette.
There are two types of rhinos – black and white. Black rhinos are preferred by hunters and because of this they are listed as critically endangered so they are off limits to hunters. With 17,000 white and 3,500 black rhinos in existence, they are near-threatened and critically endangered, respectively.
While it’s widely known that hippopotamus’ are the most dangerous of all animals, the term “Big 5” was coined by African game hunters to refer to the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot. There are other exciting animals to see outside these particular 5, some being giraffes, warthogs, gazelle, zebras, gnu, and a wide variety of beautiful birds. Going with a good safari guide is important, because he knows what to look for and where, and can best spot the animals while you’re fiddling with your camera in anticipation of shooting a great photo to take home.
Like any big city, Paris is full of places to worship. Unlike most, the buildings to choose from have such long histories and are built it such dramatically beautiful architecture styles that even if you’re a traveler who prefers to skip churches and museums, these are well worth the visit. There are eight in particular that shouldn’t be missed, some more well-known than other, all equally deserving of being on this list.
Arguably the most spectacular and photogenic of all the churches in Paris, Sainte-Chapelle was commissioned by King Louis the IX of France to house the most holy of holiest relics – parts of the thorned crown of Christ. Construction was completed in 1248. It’s collection of 13th century blue stained glass is breathtaking. The upper royal chapel is gothic in architecture and has an extremely vertical deliberateness, as if its royal worshippers were trying to shorten their distance to heaven. The lower chapel was reserved originally for the staff of the King. Its vaulted ceiling is much lower, and resembles a starry night sky. Fleur-de-Lis, a symbol of France, can be found on the columns. Photographs just cannot capture the beauty of this breathtaking church, nestled in tightly amongst the neighboring buildings.
- Basilique du Sacre Coeur
Sitting proudly atop a hill, the highest point in the city, in the neighborhood Montmartre, Sacre Coeur is a Roman Catholic church and basilica that beckons to all tourists who enter this city. Once of the newer entries, this church’s construction began in 1875. It is built in Roman-Byzantine form with travertine stone, which continuously exudes calcium to ensure it stays white forever.
- Saint Severin
Located in the Latin Quarter, this Roman Catholic church built in the 11th century is one of the oldest to remain on the Left bank. Notable features include gargoyles and flying buttresses.
- Saint Etienne du Mont
Located in the 5th arrondissement, Saint Etienne du Mont was first established in the 6th century. Home to the bodies of French dramatist Jean Racine, physician, journalist, politician, political theorist, and scientist, polymath Jean-Paul Marat, and Christian philosopher, inventor, writer, physicist and mathematician polymath Blaise Pascal. Also on-site are the relics of Saint Genevieve.
- Saint Eustache
While this site originally house a church that became a parish in 1223, the current structure was built between the hundred years of 1532 and 1632, this religious center is found in the 1st arrondissement at the entryway to Les Halles marketplace. A gothic structure covered in Renaissance details, Saint Eustache’s organ is claimed to be the largest in France with over 8,000 pipes.
A Roman-Catholic church in the 8th arrondissement, its architecture is that of a neo-classical Roman temple. Nearby, the famous Place de la Concorde and Place Vendome can be found.
- Saint Germain des Pres
In the center of the 6th arrondissement, the neighborhood surrounding this church was the center for intellectuals and the existential movement that flourished in its many cafes.
- Cathedrale Notre Dame
Found on the island known as Ile de la Cite, the Notre Dame Cathedral in all its French gothic splendor is literally the center of the city, marking point zero from which all other distances are measured. There is a small brass plaque that can be found on the ground as the official marker. This year marks the 850th anniversary of the cathedral as it’s said its first stone was laid in 1163 and the work was complete 170 years later. Walk up the nearly 400 narrow steps to get a gargoyle’s view of the city, and breathtaking photos to remember the tiring trip up by.
Paris offers so many things to see, do eat, and experience it simply can’t all be done in one visit. If you’re traveling on a budget you’re in luck! This magnificent city has an enormous selection of things to be enjoyed without costing so much as a euro. Aside from museums, parks and churches, this list will provide visitors with additional recommended experiences that can be enjoyed without cost of any kind. So put on your beret, practice your best French greetings, lace up your walking shoes, and get ready to hit these sights.
- Le Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen
Being the country that gave us the phrase ‘objets d’art’, it’s no wonder that beautiful objects to admire can be commonly found in shops. St-Ouen is a Parisian flea market and antiques fair, specializing in the wildly eccentric with high price tags. A great place to browse and take in the atmosphere, it satiates a traveler’s desire to find local curiosities.
- Le Marais
Home to Paris’s Jewish quarter, Victor Hugo, and Louis the XIV, this area is wonderful for weekend strolls and vintage boutique window-shopping.
- Le Champ de Mars
Interested in visiting the Eiffel Tower but don’t have the money to ascend? While this is indeed a park and that should disqualify it from being on this particular list, it’s so closely tied to the most iconic of Parisian attractions that it’s included as a close, and free, substitution. Once a training ground for the nearby military school, Le Champ de Mars is an enormous and beautifully landscaped esplanade of 60 acres, which also once grew grapes and vegetables. With enviable views of the adjacent Eiffel Tower, bring a blanket, picnic, and bottle of wine, and soak in the atmosphere of a perfect French day, relaxing on the lawn.
- Rue Mouffetard
A picture-perfect market street pieced together with cobblestones, it is the epitome of what people think of when they think of French markets. There is the patisserie that only sells pastries, the boulangerie that sells bread, the charcuterie that sells meat, the fromagerie that sells cheese. Pick up an assortment of items from vendors who spend their entire lives, if not generations, specializing in these particular delicacies, to be enjoyed on your visit to Champ de Mars.
- Theatre de Lucernaire
A place where art, theater and cinema combine, there are many free offerings including photography exhibits. Hang out at a café amongst French intellectuals. In France, a $4 cup of coffee allows you to sit and people-watch as long as you’d like, no one will rush you to empty your chair, so enjoy the slower lifestyle and partake in this local experience.
- Pere la Chaise Cemetery
The final resting place of Oscar Wild, Balzac, Proust and Jim Morrison, the tree lines walkways of this infamous cemetery is one of the most atmospheric places to visit in town. The grave markers are often adorned with photos of the departed, and the property evokes an eerie, spirit-filled feeling. Pere la Chaise has a lot of character, unlike most American cemeteries, that invites you to spend some time soaking it in.
When globetrotting it can be an amazing experience to participate in the authentic celebrations of the places you visit. It allows you to connect without language barriers, to see local traditions and eat local foods. The bigger festivals, such as Rio’s Carnivale, Germany’s Oktoberfest and France’s Bastille Day are great, but there are lesser known parties in more exotic corners of the world that are definitely worth checking out if you find yourself in their neighborhoods.
- Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand – A beautiful example of the local culture, Songkran celebrates one year ending and another beginning, according to the Thai lunar calendar. Involving scents and water to cleanse the bad and welcome the good, this festival usually involves an eruption of water fights. And images of Buddha.
- Thaipusam, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – This is a festival celebrated by Asians of the Tamil community, known because they speak Tamil. It’s held on a day with a full moon to honor the Hindu god of War. As a way to show they are grateful for the gifts of life festival participants stick hooks through their sin and carry milk in pots to caves called Batu. Many sharp objects are stuck through the skin and this festival is not for the squeamish.
- Tomorrowland, Boom, Belgium – A world famous, critically acclaimed electronic music festival with a unique artistic concept in a beautiful natural setting. Top shelf DJs, fairytale sets, an amazing fireworks display and more are what make this festival unrivaled.
- Esala Perahera, Kandy, Sri Lanka – Dancers and elephants are what can be seen at this event. Dancers of local style, with fire, or with whips, and elegantly decorated elephants. A Buddhist festival begun to celebrate the tooth relic thought to be Buddha’s himself, it has become a symbol of this nation.
- Crop Over, Bridgetown, Barbados – Similar to the Carnivale celebration in Brazil, Barbados’ celebration of the harvest involves a lot of dancing, partying, climbing a pole that has been greases, eating, singing, and drinking. Begun in 1668 on sugar cane plantations, today’s version has parties on the streets, craft vendors stalls selling food, and daily events at the fairgrounds.
- Naadam, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – Believed to have been started centuries ago, the largest celebration of this festival is held in Mongolia’s capital during midsummer to celebrate the upcoming harvest. Traditionally a nomadic culture, it gives people a reason to gather in one place to celebrate each year. Mongolian wrestling, archery and horseback riding are the competitions, with women competing in archery only and young girls participating in the racing of horses. The festival opens with an official ceremony, and dancers, athletes, traditional musicians and beautiful horses can be seen.
If you’re looking for a reason to grab your passport and pack a bag, checking out a festival or two is a fantastic way to sample local color up close. Bring an open mind, sense of adventure, and, depending on the event, a camera with charged battery. See the world when it’s in its best mood possible, when it’s thankful and partying.