We spent almost six days in Paris on this trip with a couple day trips to the surrounding areas thrown in. There's no logical way to break up the sights of Paris on this page so it's just one giant page this time. As we were with some family members new to Paris we basically did all the greatest hits starting with this one, the Eiffel Tower.
There's always something different every time we come to the Eiffel Tower. This time it was a very cool art installation made from painting the grass in the Champs de Mars so that it appears as a series of interlocking arms from above.
There's a lot of security around the tower now. It was crowded but the elevator wait (without reservations) wasn't too bad and we were up on the second deck within about a half hour of arriving. This coincided nicely with the lights turning on for the evening.
This is a view of Notre Dame from the Eiffel Tower. We visited in June about two months after the fire that extensively damaged the upper parts of the Cathedral. Apart from the missing spire, there's not too much damage apparent on the exterior of the front facade.
Here's a view from the Ile de la Cite of the back of Notre Dame, now scaffolded extensively for reparations.
La Chapelle has always been our favorite of the major churches, basilicas, and cathedrals in Paris. It was rather crowded this time, possibly because Notre Dame is closed to visitors and it is conveniently nearby on the same island. The interior of La Chapelle is still amazing though.
The upper chapel inside has fabulous stained glass that depicts the entire Old Testament (more or less, with some help from the carvings).
A new location for us was the Lafayette Galleries which contain an upscale shopping center. It's actually spread across several blocks of Paris but this section is located in an old Opera House. It's a fabulous scene, it's just a shame you have to stand in the perfume section to take photos like this one.
Even more spectacular and less perfume-y is the food hall of these galleries which is across the street. There are pastries, spices, chocolates, pasta, fruits and vegetables, and of course pastries. Did we mention pastries? Here's some eclair-like creations.
And of course, macarons. As a family, we aren't quite as bedazzled by macarons as many tourists to France seem to be. (Ok, maybe one of us, the youngest, is that bedazzled) It still makes for a nice picture though.
This is the Musee d'Orsay which is housed in an old train station just across the Seine from the Louvre. On average the Orsay actually probably has more recognizable pieces of art to the average person than the Louvre does. It is mostly 19th century impressionism. It also has this fabulous view from the clock tower. That's Sacre Coeur in the distance just inside the VIII.
The museum is relatively open and it's quite possible to see the entire thing in a few hours (unlike the Louvre). There are a couple very crowded areas (Van Gogh, Monet) but it's still far more manageable than the Louvre.
We also visited Sacre Coeur on this trip mostly while it was grey and gloomy outside. On our way back to the metro the sun came out for this nice view from the souvenir shops on Montmartre. We don't remember there being quite this many souvenir shops from previous visits but maybe that's just selective memory.
Next up, the Arc de Triomphe which we enjoyed much more than we expected to. There's a tunnel underground from a couple points along the Champs d'Elysees to access the Arch without being killed in the traffic circle around it.
It's worth noting there is no elevator to the top of the Arc. Just a very long spiral staircase, so expect some climbing. The views are worth it though.
From atop you have great views of all the monuments of Paris and the giant avenues radiating out from below. We spent considerable time just watching the traffic below us navigate the rotary. It's a remarkable system that appears to have no real rules yet somehow works.
We were also lucky enough to catch this brilliant shallow rainbow extending from Sacre Coeur to some random spot on the Champs d'Elysees (probably a department store).
Another new stop for us on this trip was the museum complex on the south bank of the Seine that collectively goes as the Museum of Natural History. There are about six buildings that comprise this museum, each of them have their own separate entry fees or there are some options to combine everything together. In the center is a nice park and arboretum (free to enter). There's also a very small zoo somewhere in the area to commemorate the menagerie that was once housed here.
We visited only the Gallery of Evolution which alone took us several hours (and we could've spent more time here). Something to consider if you're buying a day pass to all the museums in the complex. This one building covers all the kingdoms of living species (shown here), focusing as one might expect on living animals.
The centerpiece is this display of animals. You can see through to bits of the 'ocean' on the lower floor and there are some towers of birds and arboreal species as well. The colors inside slowly change through different times of day and there's even a thunderstorm periodically. This museum was a huge hit with our son and highly recommended.
On to an even bigger museum - the Louvre. This view is from the restaurant / cafe on the balcony on the top floor which is a good place to sit down and not be in a huge crowd of people. The Louvre has almost become a sort of necessary evil. The galleries containing the 'greatest hits' (Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo) are crammed full of people and tour groups who are mostly there to see the 'greatest hits'. There is plenty of interesting art in the other wings of the Louvre (which close in rotation on different days of the week).
This is inside the mall that now exists underneath the pyramid. Anyone planning to visit should buy tickets online, in advance which will give you a specific entry window. Then get there early enough to get through security before your window starts. Unlike the Orsay, it's probably not feasible to see this all in one trip.
After the Louvre you probably just want to be out, away from all the people. Certainly any children in your group do. That's what the Tuileries gardens are for. Also, we're rather fond of the Tuileries. There's a playground tucked away behind some hedges about half way to the obelisk (Cleopatra's Needle).