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The Big Walk. Paris Highlights.


Paris In A Day - Self-Guided Walking Tour - Directions.
Yes. It is possible to visit Paris in just one day.
You can see a lot. But if you wish to actually visit/go inside a certain attraction, then count on seeing just that one attraction - and treat anything else that you have time to see as a bonus. This is especially valid if you wish to visit the top of the Eiffel Tower.
This is a self-guided walking route which should take about 5-6 hours at a very leisurely pace, with a couple of short metro rides to cover a lot of ground quickly. This is the most economical way to see the major sights in central Paris, in time as well as money.
But it is a long, and continuous, walk. So, in addition to your camera and bottle of water, you'll need comfortable shoes. There are plenty of eating and drinking places along the way.
1. Arc de Triomphe
Your walk starts at the Arc de Triomphe. Metro lines 1, 2 and 6 all arrive at Charles de Gaulle Etoile station, as does RER line A. The station is situated directly below the monument. If you wish to climb to the top, you must pay an admission charge of EUR 9.00/5.50 before you can climb the 284 steps (there is a lift/elevator, but this is reserved for disabled people only). From the top of the Arc de Triomphe you get great views down the Champs Elysees to Place de la Concorde (we'll be going there later) and to the Louvre beyond.
From the Arc de Triomphe either return to the Metro station and take Metro line 6 to "Trocadero" (3 stops) or walk down Avenue Kleber (a good 10 minute walk, but it is a beautiful avenue). Once you arrive at Trocadero, look for "Le Palais du Chaillot" (the biggest structure in the area, so not hard to spot) and walk up the steps between both wings.
2. Trocadéro
Ignore evrything your guide book has told you about reaching the Eiffel Tower. Yes, there are many ways, but for your first ever view of the Eiffel Tower, at close quarters, this is the only way. Trust us.
To continue towards the Eiffel Tower, take the steps down to the gardens below on the left-hand side as you are facing the tower. You will then pass through the leafiest part of the Palais du Chaillot's gardens before reaching a crossroads before the river. Continue over the river, via Pont d'Iéna, until you reach the base of the tower.
3. Eiffel Tower
Something to consider if you want to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower: The Eiffel Tower is pyramid-shaped. Everybody wants to get to the top. But there's only so much room up there. And people tend to hang around for 10 minutes once they get to the top. So when it gets too crowded up top, access is restricted - the lifts simply don't take more people up. So, if you visit during the busiest periods you could queue up for 2 hours - and get no further than the middle level before having to queue again.
Our advice: Have a good look at the Eiffel Tower from the ground (you'll have a much better view of Paris INCLUDING A VIEW OF THE EIFFEL TOWER later on today from the top of Tour Montparnasse). Continue walking in the same general direction, this time away from the river, through the Champs de Mars towards the École Militaire.
4. École Militaire
The magnificent École Militaire (Military School) was founded in 1750. Its most famous student was a young Napoleon Bonaparte who, unsurprisingly, completed the two-year course in just one.
Facing the École Militaire, turn left, and walk along Avenue de la Motte Picquet towards École Militaire Metro station. At the junction turn rightish and continue walking along Avenue de Tourville until you reach Les Invalides. You won't be able to miss this building. There's a gold dome on the roof.
5. Hôtel des Invalides
Hôtel des Invalides is the final resting place of Napoleon. You'll find his tomb here (which is rather large for such a short guy) as well as the Musée de l'Armée - well worth a visit, even for non-military types.
Turn left as you leave Les Invalides then immediately turn left again, into Boulevard des Invalides. On the other side of the road you will find Musée Rodin.
6. Musée Rodin
You don't need to be an avid lover of sculpture to appreciate the Musée Rodin. The gardens here are beautiful, with the Eiffel Tower and the golden dome of Les Invalides as a stunning backdrop, and can be visited seperately (just EUR 1.00!). There are a number of sculptures dotted around the garden, including The Thinker. However, for a couple of Euros more, you can access Rodin's mansion too.
This is a perfect spot for a break from walking, as there are benches around the garden where you can relax and enjoy the peace of the gardens. Something you'll no doubt appreciate after the hustle and bustle of the Parisian streets. There is also a cafeteria here where you can have snacks and a well-earned drink.
The queues here are nowhere near as horrendous as you'll find at the most popular attractions, but can still be lengthy at times. If there is a queue, don't let that put you off entering. Even when the queue is long, it moves quickly, and the museum is still an oasis of calm.
As you leave the museum, cross over the road again, so that you are on the same side of the road as Les Invalides. Turn right and follow the road around the "back" of Les Invalides. You will see a huge expanse of lawn on the other side of the road from Les Invalides. Walk across this in the direction of Pont Alexandre III.
7. Pont Alexandre III
Pont Alexandre III is the most extravagantly decorated bridge in Paris. Adorned with golden winged-horses on either end, cherubs and exhuberant Art Nouveau lamps, the bridge connects Les Invalides on the Right Bank with the Grand Palais and Petit Palais on the Left Bank.
Walk across the bridge and continue along the road between the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais.
8. Grand Palais and Petit Palais
The recently refurbished Grand Palais, which resembles an enormous greenhouse from a distance, was originally built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. The Grand Palais hosts a variety of exhibitions. Check the official website at www.grandpalais.fr to see what exhibitions are taking place during your time in Paris.
The Petit Palais, across the road, was built at the same time, and now houses the Musée des Beaux Arts de la ville de Paris (Paris Museum of Fine Arts).
Continue walking in the same direction until you reach the Champs-Élysées. This is the tree-lined lower half of the world's most famous avenue. Look to your left and you will see the Arc de Triiomphe (where you started out some time ago). Cross to the other side of the Champs-Élysées and turn right, walking away from the Arc de Triomphe, and continue to the end of the avenue, where you will find Place de la Concorde.
9. Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde is dominated by a 23-metre high Egyptian obelisk flanked by two of the most ornate fountains in Paris. This was the site of the infamous "guillotine" during the years following the French Revolution. Today, it's the traffic that you need to beware of.
Cross the Place de la Concorde at the traffic lights (don't try and run across the road here, it is just too dangerous) and continue in the same direction, passing through the entrance gates of the Jardins des Tuileries.
10. Jardins des Tuileries
The Jardins des Tuileries were originally the gardens of the Palais des Tuileries, a royal palace that was burned to the ground during the Paris Commune in 1871.
The gardens, originally designed by Le Nótre (garden designer to Louis XIV, and architect of the gardens at Versailles) have been beautifully preserved and maintained to this day. Pull up one of the ubiquitous green chairs and rest your weary legs for a while, or sit down and enjoy a café in one of the cafés hidden amongst the trees.
Continue walking through the gardens in the same direction, passing through the rose marble Arc de Triomphe du Carousel and head for the glass pyramid of the Louvre.
11. Musée du Louvre
The Louvre is the most-visited museum in the world. On average around 15,000 people visit the Louvre every day. Which explains the queues. If you want to visit the museum, come back another day. Preferably first thing in the morning if you want to beat the crowds.
Among its 35,000 exhibits you will find Leonardo da Vinci's enigmatic Mona Lisa and the Ancient Greek classical sculpture Venus de Milo
12-13. Metro journey between Palais Royal Musée du Louvre and Hôtel de Ville stations
To cover a lot of ground fast, you should now continue to Metro station "Palais Royal Musée du Louvre" which is accessed by walking through the main archway on the south side of the museum building. This station is on Metro line 1 (coloured yellow on any metro maps). Take the first train eastbound - it will have "Chateau de Vincennes" marked as the destination. Stay on the train for just 3 stops and alight at "Hôtel de Ville" station.
14. Hôtel de Ville
The Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) houses the Mayor of Paris. The original building was gutted by fire during the Paris Commune in 1871. Only the shell remained intact. What you see today is a replica of the building that stood since here since 1628. Occasionally, various exhibitions take place in the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville. If you visit in Winter, you will be able to see (and use?) the outdoor ice-skating rink that appears here every year.
From Hôtel de Ville, walk southwards to wards the river. This is actually the northern branch of the Seine. What you see on the other side of the river is not actually the south side (Left Bank) of Paris, but Ile de la Cité the larger of the two islands situated in the heart of Paris.
Cross the river via Pont d'Arcole and continue walking in the same direction, along rue d'Arcole, until you reach the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.
15. Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in Europe. Access to the interior is free of charge, although a donation is requested. If you wish to climb to the top of the bell tower, and do your Quasimodo impression, you have to pay seperately. And queue. Just look for the long line of people on the north side of the square.
Pickpockets operate in the square in front of Notre Dame. Keep a good eye on your belongings.
From Notre Dame, continue walking south, this time over the southern branch of the Seine (via Pont au Double). And be prepared for your first uphill walk of the day.
Once across the river, continue walking south, until you reach a fork in the road. Take the right-hand fork (rue Dante) and continue walking uphill along rue Saint-Jacques. The main Sorbonne building will be on your right. Turn left when you reach rue Soufflot. The impessive Panthéon is directly in front of you.
16. Panthéon
Modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, the Panthéon is an early example of neoclassic architecture. It houses the tombs of "The Great Men of France" (Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Louis Braille, Jean Jaurès and Soufflot, its architect). Although not all "Great Men" were actually men. Marie Curie is also buried here.
The interior is wonderfully cool on a hot day, and is the perfect spot to cool down after your uphill wander. Climb the dome for excellent views over the Left Bank of Paris.
Retrace your steps down rue Soufflot* and continue walking downhill in the same direction until you arrive at the main road (Boulevard Saint-Michel). Cross over to the other side and you arrive at the Jardin du Luxembourg.
*There are many excellent cafés in this area if you are in need of sustenance.
17. Jardins et Palais du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Palace and Gardens)
Home of the French Senate, the Palais du Luxembourg is an impressive building surrounded by peaceful and elegant gardens. The palace was commissioned by Queen Marie de Medicis who pined for her native Florence, which explains the Florentine style.
If you are lucky, you might find an empty chair around the octagonal pond where children sail miniature sailing boats.
Exit the gardens by the north-west exit (left of the Palace as you look at it from the pond). You will now be on Rue de Vaugirard. Turn left, and continue along this road, crossing a number of junctions, until you reach Église Saint-Sulpice.
18. Église Saint-Sulpice
Église Saint-Sulpice is the second largest church in Paris, only slightly smaller than Notre Dame. Église Saint-Sulpice contains one of the world's finest and most famous organs, over 6,700 pipes, constructed by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in 1862. The real draw here are the stunning Delacroix frescoes in the Chapelle des Anges (Chapel of the Angels).
If you are still feeling energetic, then walk to Tour Montparnasse (the conclusion of the Big Walk) via Rue de Rennes. Turn left and walk uphill as you leave Saint-Sulpice.
Alternatively jump on the first train at Saint Sulpice Metro station and take line 4 (destination of train is Porte d'Orleans) three stops south to Montparnasse Bienvenue. Leave the station via exit number 1.
19. Tour Montparnasse
For the best aerial view of Paris, pay the €10.50 per person entrance fee and step aboard Europe's fastest lift (elevator) which will whisk you up to the 56th floor (196 metres) in just 38 seconds. There's a cafe/bar up there, and tables dotted around by the windows. So grab a drink, sit back, and be seduced by what lies before you.
If you want to visit the Tour Montparnasse, then you should arrive about an hour, or 40 minutes, before sunset. This will let you see Paris in the daylight, then, as the sun sets, watch the City of Lights come to life before your very eyes.
Once you come back down to street level (and have your ears popped again) you'll find countless eating and drinking options. In the past, Montparnasse was the quartier of choice for all the incomers from Brittany and Normandie, so crepes and cider can be found in abundance.
This is the end of The Big Walk. We hope that you enjoy your day walking through Paris.
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