The Big Three:
Arc de Triomphe
Have you really been to Paris if you haven’t at least cast a glance upon these three mighty monuments? No matter how many days you choose to stay in France’s capital city, you should make a point to visit these three landmarks.
How you choose to go about it will depend a great deal upon time, weather, your willingness to brave crowds, (and possibly transportation strikes).
First, some logistics:
The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe are closer to one another than to Notre Dame Cathedral. So, if you’re trying to squeeze a lot of sightseeing into a tight time frame, start first with the Arc de Triomphe, Metro: Charles-de-Gaulle/Etoile.
If you have to choose between monuments for your ‘bird’s eye view’ of the city, the Eiffel Tower will give you the best view, not to mention the memorable experience of ascending its puddled iron skeleton. The downside is that it will take you minimum an hour or even two hours to get to the top. If you don’t like crowds, walk up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. From its summit, you can view the ‘spine of Paris’ from La Defense’s Grand Arch -and all the way to the Louvre with the entire Champs Elysees at your feet.
From the Arc de Triomphe, take the Metro Line #6 from Etoile to Trocadero (just a few stops). Exit on the Palais du Chaillot side of Place Trocadero. Catch your first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from the Palais du Chaillot Esplanade, then decide if you want a closer look. You can either walk across the Seine River to the base of the Eiffel Tower or you can hop back in the Metro (on the #6 line). While the Bir Hakeim stop is under construction, you can also use the Dupleix stop. The Eiffel stays open for visitors during night hours – and its open seven days a week.
You’ll want to spend your second day visiting Notre Dame and the center of Paris on Ile de la Cite. Metro: Cite. If the weather is good, you can also climb up stairs to the church’s rooftop. Otherwise you’ll want to take your time to admire the epitomy of Gothic architecture which has been, for hundreds of years, the epicenter of Paris. Notre Dame Cathedral’s front doors mark the zero kilometer point from which all roads radiating from Paris are measured.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to see the Eiffel Tower illuminated, you can catch an evening boat from Place Dauphine on Ile de la Cite (where Notre Dame is located). The Vedettes de Paris will take you right past the Eiffel Tower and bring you back again to Ile de la Cite.
After visiting Notre Dame Cathedral, explore the surrounding neighborhoods. You can either cross over to Ile St. Louis, the oldest part of Paris, or you can cross over to the Left Bank to Paris’s Latin Quarter.
After having visited the Big Three, if you have one more day or evening in Paris, finish up your trip at Montmartre’s Sacre Choeur. This church tends to remain open later than Notre Dame because of all the tourists who come up to the Montmartre hilltop for the great view of Paris – and the constant activity on Place de Tertre. The best thing about this view of Paris compared to Big Three is that you get a completely FREE view of Paris if you’re willing to walk up all the steps. Otherwise the newly renovated funiculaire service can be taken (using RATP) Metro tickets which will give you that extra little boost up the hill.
Arc de Triomphe, Metro: Etoile.
Eiffel Tower, Metro: Trocadero, Dupleix (while Bir Hakeim is under renovation)
Notre Dame Cathedral, Metro: Cite
Sacre Choeur, Montmartre: Metro: Anvers or Barbes
All three monuments are open 7 days a week.