Paris Introduction Walking Tour II, Paris

Paris Introduction Walking Tour II (Self Guided), Paris

From the Louvre to the Notre-Dame Cathedral to Place de la Bastille, the evolution of Paris and its history is literally visible on the banks of the river Seine, the linking thread winding its way through the city, as if keeping a watchful eye on its architectural marvels.

This walk is centered around Île de la Cité and Le Marais, which together form the historical core of power in Paris. Along the way, we will learn about some iconic landmarks well-known and firmly imprinted in the French revolutionary past, as well as some hidden gems, too.

There's hardly a better place to end a walk around Old Paris than in the tranquil Place des Vosges. But if you seek an exciting ending to this walk, you may find it in Place de la Bastille, from where you can take a cruising boat further down the canal along the river Seine. So, bon voyage!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Paris Introduction Walking Tour II Map

Guide Name: Paris Introduction Walking Tour II
Guide Location: France » Paris (See other walking tours in Paris)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 Km or 2.7 Miles
Author: karen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Musee du Louvre (Louvre Museum)
  • Pont-Neuf (New Bridge)
  • Cathedrale Notre-Dame (Notre-Dame Cathedral)
  • Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel)
  • La Conciergerie (The Lodge)
  • Hotel de Ville (City Hall)
  • Rue de Rivoli (Rivoli Street)
  • Maison de Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo House Museum)
  • Place des Vosges (Vosges Square)
Musee du Louvre (Louvre Museum)

1) Musee du Louvre (Louvre Museum) (must see)

Originally a fortified castle that was later converted into a regal palace, the Louvre has since transcended its beginnings to become the preeminent cultural destination in France. To refer to this extraordinary institution simply as a museum would be a gross understatement! Boasting a staggering 38,000 artifacts spanning prehistoric times to the modern day, the Louvre offers an unparalleled experience for those who consider themselves true lovers of the arts.

Whatever your area of interest – be it paintings, sculptures, archaeological treasures, pharaonic tombs, or exquisite jewelry and trinkets from across the globe – the Louvre has it all in abundance, including some of the world's most celebrated masterpieces, like the awe-inspiring ancient Greek statues of "Venus de Milo" and "The Winged Victory of Samothrace," as well as the iconic "Raft of the Medusa" painting. And, of course, the pièce de résistance: Leonardo da Vinci's legendary "Mona Lisa".

In fact, for many, Mona Lisa is the prime, if not sole, reason for their pilgrimage to the Louvre. If you are among their ranks, then prepare yourself to politely maneuver through the crowd to the front row, hoping to snap a few shots of the painting. Still, it is not until you visit some of the less hyped areas of the Louvre, such as the Sully or Richelieu wings for instance, that you will bear witness to the full scope of its splendor. Less crowded than the others, these galleries are just as much treasure troves, if not more.

The Richelieu wing, in particular, is extremely chic and renowned for its magnificent lighting and glassed courtyards – truly unique pieces of architecture offering an incomparable aesthetic experience. The pinnacle of the Richelieu is the Napoleon III apartment with its gargantuan chandeliers, acres of ceiling paintings, swathes of red velvet, and an explosion of decorative moldings, all underscored by a profusion of gilded embellishments; a space of overwhelming opulence that leaves an impression on all who experience its majesty.

In 2018, the Louvre cemented its position as the world's most popular art museum, drawing an average of 28,000 visitors per day. If you are intent on crossing this marvel off your bucket list, it is imperative that you procure your tickets or museum pass well in advance, and to expedite your entrance, make use of the less-crowded underground portal at the Porte des Lions (the Lions Gate). For the ultimate experience, visit the Louvre on a Friday afternoon, when the museum remains open until 10pm (subject to seasonal variations), and you may find yourself with the entire place almost to yourself. Either way, upon entering, be sure to obtain a map, which will spare you precious time otherwise spent aimlessly wandering around, enabling you to focus on the art that most captures your interest.

Why You Should Visit:
One-of-a-kind, unparalleled experience that remains one of the most delightful destinations for art lovers.
Pont-Neuf (New Bridge)

2) Pont-Neuf (New Bridge)

The Pont-Neuf has stood the test of time since the late Middle Ages. Despite its name, which suggests newness, it is in fact the oldest surviving river crossing in the city of Paris. Despite its age, or perhaps owing to it, the bridge has remained as popular in modern times as it was in the 1600s when it was first opened, and it is undoubtedly the most renowned of all the bridges that span the River Seine. In reality, the word "new" was to distinguish it from the other, older bridges that existed at the time, which were traditionally lined with houses on both sides. The innovation of this "New Bridge" was that it was the first to be built without such structures, providing an unobstructed view of the Parisian skyline from the river, with boats passing underneath. Centuries on, the panorama has expanded to include new landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, while the long-standing grandeur of the Notre-Dame Cathedral on Île de la Cité still remains a striking sight to behold.

Another distinctive attribute of the Pont-Neuf is the semicircular bastions jutting out above the piers. These were erected to allow people to step aside so as not to get wet or soiled in mud by the passing carriages. Later on, they served as popular gathering spots and, at one point, even functioned as trading areas for street vendors and even tooth-pullers. Now that the tooth-pullers are gone, these bastions are primarily occupied by tourists and enamored couples seeking to immerse themselves in the city's romantic ambiance.

Another striking feature of the Pont-Neuf is the array of mascarons: stone masks with high relief, some 300 of them on the outer edges of the bridge, close to the cornice. On closer examination, it becomes apparent that each mascaron is unique, with its distinct and rather unconventional expression; some appear to be contorted in grimaces or otherworldly visages.

Why You Should Visit:
If you find pleasure in watching boats traverse the River Seine, the Pont-Neuf is the ideal location. However, even for those who do not share this particular interest, the bridge offers stunning views of Old Paris from either side.

Pro Tip:
For ardent bridge enthusiasts seeking a unique perspective of the Pont-Neuf, consider embarking on a River Seine cruise with the "Vedettes du Pont-Neuf" company, conveniently located near the bridge. Their cruise offers excellent value for money, and you can even obtain a discount voucher from most tourist information offices in Paris.
Cathedrale Notre-Dame (Notre-Dame Cathedral)

3) Cathedrale Notre-Dame (Notre-Dame Cathedral) (must see)

While the Eiffel Tower is an instantly recognizable symbol of France, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is an unmistakable symbol of Paris. At the time of its construction, it was the most ambitious cathedral project ever attempted in France, with its vaults rising over 33 meters and holding a national height record for several decades. Its architectural complexity and intrinsic beauty have long made it one of Paris's top landmarks and an absolute must-see for visitors.

Largely completed in the 13th century, the cathedral's construction took overall around 160 years, and thus can be attributed to an early-Gothic period. Following later attempts to modernize it in the 13th century, the final major round of work on the building came in the 19th century to repair the damage caused by the French Revolution's brutal vandalism. Almost all of the decorative elements seen today date back to that time.

Aside from architecture, another reason the Notre-Dame is so famous is "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" novel by Victor Hugo written in 1831. In the course of history, the cathedral has witnessed many glorious and tragic events. In the midst of the Second World War, upon the Fall of France, there were fears that the German invaders might destroy the freshly renovated stained glass of the Rose Window. As a result, a lion's portion of the glass was hidden and re-installed only after the war ended. Created in the 13th century, this world's biggest glass window recently has made headlines again after successfully surviving the devastating fire in April 2019, along with other artifacts and relics which were temporarily removed for safety.

Regrettably, that fire completely destroyed certain parts of the building, like the roof and the historic spire. To rebuild the iconic monument, a major fundraising campaign has been launched managing to generate over $1bln. After a projected five-year restoration period, hopes are high that the Notre-Dame Cathedral will reopen its doors in renewed splendor.
Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel)

4) Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel) (must see)

The crown jewel of Gothic architecture in Paris, the Holy Chapel, is located in close proximity to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Aged almost 800 years, the remarkable structure is renowned for its stained glass and most notably the 15th-century rose windows in the upper portion, widely regarded as the finest of their kind in the world. These and other things render this church outstanding, even among the most extraordinary medieval monuments of Paris.

Originally commissioned by King Louis IX, an exceptional figure who led the 7th and 8th Crusades to the Holy Land and returned with a multitude of treasures, including the Crown of Thorns purportedly worn by Jesus himself, the Holy Chapel was initially intended to serve as a depository for this priceless relic. However, it was also designed to function as the palace chapel for the king and the royal family, embodying the intersection of religious and secular power in medieval France.

Over the centuries, Sainte-Chapelle had sustained numerous damages. Frequently beset by floods and fires, it suffered especially during the French Revolution, when its sculptures were intentionally destroyed and furnishings were pillaged. Ultimately, to rectify the damage, extensive renovation work was required in the 19th century, entailing skilled craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail. The result of this laborious process is truly commendable, and the chapel we observe today is as much a 19th-century masterpiece as it is a medieval one. Miraculously, roughly two-thirds of the original stained glass has survived. It is particularly striking on sunny days, but even on overcast days, the glass is absolutely fabulous.

Like many other religious edifices of its time, the Sainte-Chapelle symbolized Jerusalem and was intended to invoke a vision of paradise on Earth for the saved at the Last Judgment. In keeping with this vision, a cedarwood spire was placed atop the building, a technical marvel at the time, which also captured the spiky essence of Gothic design to stunning artistic effect. The chapel is remarkably simple and harmonious in comparison to other cathedrals and churches of its era, and represents medieval Gothic architecture in its purest form. In contrast to its apparent architectural simplicity, on the inside, the chapel boasts rich decoration in the upper portion, with its gilding and coloration creating a dazzling visual display.
La Conciergerie (The Lodge)

5) La Conciergerie (The Lodge)

The City Island (Île de la Cité) in Paris, situated amid the river Seine, is a home to the 14th-century palace that went down in history as the seat of the French parliament prior to the French Revolution. It is also known as the home of France's first public clock, installed around 1370. Build on orders of King Philippe IV, the palace was recurrently added to and rebuilt up until the early 20th century, thus gradually becoming a fascinating conglomeration of buildings.

Nowadays, it is particularly famous for its Conciergerie section which owes its name to a “concierge”, the official nominated by king to maintain law and order in Paris. In 1391, the building was partially transformed into jail to hold both regular criminals and political prisoners. The treatment of inmates depended totally on their wealth, social status and personal connections. The most affluent were usually allowed separate cells with a bed, desk and reading/writing materials. Those less rich settled for more modest cells, called “pistols”, furnished with a rough bed and a table, whereas the poorest ones were kept in the dark, damp and vermin-infested cubicles, known as “oubliettes” (or “dungeons”). Most prisoners wouldn't stay there for long though, as the carts carrying the condemned to the nearby guillotine, in Place de la Concorde, kept running on a regular basis.

During the French Revolution, hundreds of people were killed. At some point, the Conciergerie became a VIP prison seeing among its inmates the likes of Queen Marie Antoinette and Napoleon III. Later, Marie Antoinette's cell was made into a chapel and is currently open for public viewing, featuring, among other relics, several of her portraits made during the final days before the execution.

Those eager to learn more about the French Revolution and the history of France in general are free to explore this fascinating Gothic site with its halls and dungeons. For more information and better understanding of what this place was like back in the day, consider spending a few euros on the little 'Histopad' gadget, combining both audio & visual function, offered on the site. It is quite handy!

Why You Should Visit:
An absolutely fascinating Gothic landmark where you can learn about the French Revolution and other historic moments.

Visiting the Conciergerie is possible on a combined ticket granting access to the neighboring Holy Chapel as well.
Hotel de Ville (City Hall)

6) Hotel de Ville (City Hall)

Paris's City Hall is the largest city hall building in Europe and one of the most prominent landmarks of the French capital. Curiously enough, the early sessions of Paris municipal council were held at the home of a city mayor – the practice continued until the 16th century when King Francis I ordered to build a dedicated Renaissance-style Hôtel de Ville.

Centuries later, that first purpose-built edifice served as headquarters for the French Revolution, accommodating Robespierre and his supporters. Ironically, it was there that Robespierre himself was arrested at the end of the infamous “Rule of Terror” period, during which anyone opposing the revolution was sent to the guillotine.

Likewise, in 1871, the City Hall once again hosted headquarters, but this time for the Paris Commune. When their defeat became imminent and the French army closed in on the building, the Communards set fire to it completely destroying everything inside. The exterior was then rebuilt following the original design, but the interior had to be created anew.

Outside the building is decorated with 108 statues of famous Parisians like Voltaire, Rousseau, Charles Perrault, Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, and others. The other thirty statues there represent French cities. The clock at the central tower is also adorned with statues – several female sculptures depicting the river Seine, the city of Paris, the “Work” and the “Education”.

While public access to the City Hall is generally restricted, there are two rooms in the building constantly allocated to art exhibitions. One of them usually features photography and the other one – art in general. Also, there are almost always some cultural events or exhibitions taking place outside, in the square in front of the building. Still, the main attraction for tourists visiting the Paris City Hall is, undoubtedly, its architecture!
Rue de Rivoli (Rivoli Street)

7) Rue de Rivoli (Rivoli Street)

Rue de Rivoli is among the most distinguished thoroughfares in Paris, a bustling commercial artery replete with shops featuring the most prestigious brands in the world. Its name commemorates Napoleon Bonaparte's momentous triumph over the Austrian army at the battle of Rivoli on January 14 and 15, 1797.

The novel street, which Napoleon carved through the heart of Paris, encompasses the north wing of the Louvre Palace on one side, (which the same Napoleon extended), and the Tuileries Gardens. Upon completion, it marked the first occasion on which a wide, thoughtfully designed and aesthetically pleasing street bounded the north wing of the Louvre Palace. The restored Bourbon King Charles X continued the Rivoli's extension eastwards from the Louvre, as did King Louis-Philippe. Lastly, Emperor Napoleon III extended it into the 17th-century district of Le Marais.

Presently, visitors will encounter numerous outstanding restaurants, cafes, and shops along this street. The section near the Louvre is more commercial and offers a greater variety of shopping and dining options. Conversely, the stretch of the street located in the Le Marais area is more tranquil and picturesque, providing an authentic Parisian experience, with serene café-brasseries such as La Tartine – a local favorite with an extensive wine list. In any case, a leisurely walk on this street is a worthwhile activity.
Maison de Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo House Museum)

8) Maison de Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo House Museum)

The museum of Victor Hugo in Paris, at Rohan-Guéménée Hotel in Place des Vosges, is actually just an apartment on the 2nd floor that the writer rented for 16 years, from 1832 to 1848, in which he wrote the bulk of his "Les Miserables" and other major works.

Apart from being a writer, Hugo is recognized as one of the greatest French poets who also made significant impact on classical music – based on his books are several operas including "Lucrezia Borgia" by Donizetti, "Rigoletto" and "Ernani" by Verdi, and "La Gioconda" by Ponchielli. Hugo was also a grand political figure, which together with his creative talents, had earned him much love and admiration of the Parisians during his lifetime.

The museum consists of several rooms, including antechamber, Chinese-decorated living room, Medieval-style dining room, and the reconstructed bedroom featuring the interior of 1885 in which Hugo passed away at the age of 83. Upon the announcement of his death, Paris mourned deeply seeing over two million people take to the streets to bid farewell to the writer at his funeral procession stretching from the Arch of Triumph to his final resting place at The Pantheon.

That procession is depicted in one of the paintings displayed at the museum alongside the sculptures, caricatures and other memorabilia collected by Hugo over the years.

On the first floor, there is a permanent exhibition of Hugo's drawings plus the iconography of his literary works. At times, there are also temporary exhibits presented there, too.

If you're a fan of Hugo and happen to be in the area, paying a quick visit to the museum is a great idea, as it is free to enter and doesn't take long to explore. For visitor's convenience, there is an audio guide in English which helps put into context all that is to see there.
Place des Vosges (Vosges Square)

9) Place des Vosges (Vosges Square) (must see)

Originally known as Place Royale, this classy corner of Paris was built by King Henri IV in the 17th century. Situated in Le Marais district, it is the oldest planned square in the city, featuring a unique, perfectly symmetrical layout of houses with red brick facades and slate roofs constructed over vaulted arcades. On the southern side is a King's pavilion overlooking Queen's pavilion on the opposite, northern side. Of a special note here are the balconies, the first extended ones ever built in Paris.

Previously reserved for the royals, today Place des Vosges is a public square, quiet and peaceful, with a nice well-manicured park complete with shady trees, refreshing fountains, and sandy walkways. Classically elegant and very French in style, it represents a perfect example of an early 17th-century garden. Boxed in by the buildings, this park is invisible to the outsiders, but locals know it all too well and come here regularly on weekends, especially in summer. The surrounding homes are quite expensive properties. Having an apartment overlooking the square is the luxury very few can afford.

Apart from the lovely architecture, much of the area's appeal is associated with the historic figures that once resided here. One of them is Victor Hugo whose house stands on the corner. Today, it is the museum with the interior caringly preserved just the way it was back when Hugo was alive.

At the ground floors of the buildings are the art shops, designer clothing boutiques, and outlets selling handicrafts, musical instruments and other pleasant things. There are also plenty of small Parisian-style bars and restaurants in the vicinity, somewhat bohemian yet with a casual touch and leisurely attitude that is hard to find anywhere else in the city center. They make a perfect landing space for those keen on a small round table for a quick snack with a glass of beer or wine. Apart from the typically French restaurants, there are also those serving kosher and ethnic cuisine nearby.

Why You Should Visit:
Whether you are a history buff or an art-minded shopaholic, or a connoisseur looking for fine dining, or just a casual someone in need of relaxation, you may rest assured to find it all here, at Place des Vosges.

Walking Tours in Paris, France

Create Your Own Walk in Paris

Create Your Own Walk in Paris

Creating your own self-guided walk in Paris is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
St-Germain-des-Pres Walking Tour

St-Germain-des-Pres Walking Tour

This self-guided walk takes you to explore the 6th arrondissement, covering the quarter of St-Germain-des-Prés, the riverside districts and the areas nearby the Luxembourg Garden. It is one of the most expensive districts of Paris, home to posh boutiques, eateries and iconic cafes once favored by philosophers and legendary writers, the likes of Hemingway and Camus. The area is likewise renowned...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Le Marais Walking Tour

Le Marais Walking Tour

The district known to locals as "Le Marais" used to be a bourgeois area in the past and a major center of the Paris Jewish community that still exists today. Here, you will find different bookshops specializing in Jewish books, restaurants with traditional Jewish food and a synagogue. As one of the hippest neighborhoods in the city, it also has no shortage of narrow medieval streets,...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Paris Introduction Walking Tour I

Paris Introduction Walking Tour I

The capital of France takes its name from the Celtic tribe of Parisii who, back in the Iron Age, around the 3rd century BC, settled near the river Seine. The Romans conquered the Parisii and established on their land a garrison town which, towards the end of the 5th century AD, fell to the Franks and flourished under their rule. Despite wars, revolutions and numerous social cataclysms, Paris had...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 Km or 3.2 Miles
Champs-Elysees Walking Tour

Champs-Elysees Walking Tour

On this self-guided walk you will witness the grandeur of the 8th arrondissement of the French capital – one of its busiest and chic neighborhoods, thanks to the presence of Avenue des Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, and Place de la Concorde.

Your best plan would be to start with the Triumphal Arch and walk up to its viewing area for great sights down the Champs-Élysées – a lovely...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
Souvenirs Shopping Walk

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Being one of the world's premier shopping destinations, the French capital attracts thousands of shopaholics every year. Even those who hate shopping, enjoy doing it here. Renowned for its luxury and sophistication, Paris is a great place for finding unique and elegant souvenirs to cherish. Here are some must-visit places for souvenir shopping in the City of Light.

Lafayette Galleries...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 Km or 3.1 Miles
The French Revolution Landmarks Walking Tour

The French Revolution Landmarks Walking Tour

The French Revolution had a huge impact on France's history as it gave rise to a radical democratic republic and resulted in quite a bit of violence during the infamous "Reign of Terror". Even though many of Paris’ buildings were damaged in the course of the bloody conflicts, the sites they occupied – which you can find on this self-guided tour – are of a great historical...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.3 Km or 4.5 Miles

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