The Eiffel Tower
The 324m tall Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris, built in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel for the Universal Exhibition. Originally, the Eiffel Tower was meant to be taken down after 20 years, but it was so popular with tourists and scientists, who used it to carry out experiments and meteorological and astronomical observation, that the city of Paris decided to keep it. Visitors can climb to the second floor, about one third of the way up, then take an elevator to the top for a magnificent panoramic view. The best pictures of the Eiffel Tower can be taken from the Trocadero viewing platform, just across the Seine. The Eiffel Tower is especially beautiful at night, when it's lit up. Every hour on the hour, the tower glitters magically for five minutes.
Notre Dame is the most famous church in Paris, immortalized in Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Construction began in 1163 and wasn't completed until 200 years later. Notre Dame was one of the first gothic cathedrals in Europe, and one of the first buildings to use flying buttresses. Renowned for its stained glass windows and the statues adorning the facade, Notre Dame is a one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture. Climb the 387 steps to the top for a fantastic view of Paris, and a close up of the gargoyles added in the mid 19th century by architect Viollet-le-Duc during a major restoration program to remedy the damage done to the cathedral during the French Revolution.
The Louvre, with 35,000 works of art displayed in over 60,000 square meters of exhibition space, is the most visited museum in the world. Masterpieces like the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa are housed in a former royal palace that began as a fortress at the end of the 12th century. The palace was turned into a museum in 1793 in the aftermath of the French Revolution. After your museum visit, stroll through the Tuileries, a classic 17th century French garden, to the Place de la Concorde.
Sacre Coeur and Montmartre
From some parts of the 9th arrondissement of Paris, the ghostly white Sacre Coeur church looks like it's floating over the city. In fact, Sacre Coeur, which was completed in 1919, stands atop Montmartre hill, the highest point in the city. The church is designed in a neo-byzantine style, featuring impressive mosaics inside, and was modeled in part after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. There is a great view from the viewing platform by the entrance, or visitors can also climb to the top of the dome for a panoramic view. After your visit, explore the village-like neighborhood of Montmartre, which was the home of famous artists like Renoir, Van Gogh, and Picasso in the second half of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.
The Sainte Chapelle, located on an island in the Seine a stone's throw from Notre Dame, is a must-see Paris landmark. Built in the mid 13th century by Louis IX to house holy relics, Sainte Chapelle features 15 breathtakingly beautiful stained glass windows, two thirds of which are originals. Like many religious buildings, the chapel suffered extensive damage during the French Revolution, so much of what you see is a 19th century restoration.