The City of Light. The Fashion Capital of the World. The City of Love. With all of these nicknames it's easy to see why 45 million people flock to Paris each year. As France's capital and largest city, Paris is a cultural and artistic melting pot, an old world city that combines sophisticated charm with contemporary elegance and adventure. With so much to see and do, Paris, like a fine wine, must be savored. Here's a quick guide of the top attractions no photo-snapping explorer can afford to miss before heading home.
Standing at more than 1,000 feet, this originally "temporary" structure, designed by and named for Gustave Eiffel, has become the internationally recognized symbol of Paris. This unique skyscraper is easily one of the most visited and replicated sites in the world. Cyclists will fall in love with the guided bike tour, available for both day and evening adventures. For a reasonable fee (expect to spend $35- $45), you can experience the city from the seat of a bike. Day tours include stops at the Eiffel Tower, Napoleon's Tomb, the Louvre Museum and the Avenue des Champs- Élysées, better known to cyclists as the finish line for the Tour de France. For those who'd rather take a stroll through Paris, guided walking tours, with stops at local historic establishments, are also available for groups of every size and every interest (see Resources). Hikers will enjoy the day tours that explore all of the major landmarks, as well as some little known gems, of the city and range from a few hours to full-day excursions. For those who want to explore in the evening, try a nighttime tour and see firsthand why Paris is called the City of Light.
One of the world's most famous rivers and the lifeblood of Paris, the Seine is arguably one of the city's best backdrops for memorable photographs. Day cruises, complete with stops at recognizable sites, as well as lesser known must-sees, also include knowledgeable tour guides who are available for groups of all sizes. Walkers looking to soak up some local color will want to stroll along the Seine and stop for lunch at an authentic Parisian café. For a reasonable fee, a lamp-lit dinner cruise on the Seine is available for sunset tours. With first class dining and live entertainment, you'll discover first hand why Paris is considered the world's No. 1 place for romance. For those who want the experience of boating and biking through Paris in a single evening, nighttime bike tours that include an hour-long boat ride along the Seine are also available (see Resources). You'll sail right through the heart of Paris and find out firsthand how magical the City of Lights truly is.
Château de Versailles
Make the most of your Parisian journey and take a day trip to Versailles, the treasured home of Louis XIV. With its lush gardens, dense forest areas and relatively tourist-free streets, Versailles is the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts. Hikers and bikers can explore more than 2,000 acres of classic French style gardens and bask in the majestic shadow of the Castle of Versailles. For those looking for a truly unique adventure, climb aboard a hot air balloon and sail through the clouds (see Resources). Certified pilots and knowledgeable tour guides will take you a once in a lifetime tour over Paris, Versailles and the forest surrounding Fontainebleau. While this adventure can be a little pricey (expect to spend around $300 per person) it offers one of the most unique tours and views of Paris that you'll ever see. In addition to getting a bird's eye view of the city, you'll get a chance to discover all of the hidden treasures unknown to the majority on the ground.