I adore France and have found myself in this remarkable country five times, I obviously have not grown tired of it. Paris has been the centerpiece of my visits to France, and she has always shown me a good time. One of my favorite ways to explore the city is strolling along the banks of the Seine River. It is one of the best ways to take in the city, and to get your groundings.
Many of Paris’s most beloved treasures are along the banks of the Seine, and it is no wonder it was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1991.
On either side of the Seine River holds layers of Paris’s evolution from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the Louvre, the Concierge, and on to the Eiffel Tower. The banks of the Seine are studded with masterful architecture that span from the medieval times up until the 20th century, all which are some of the most famous sites in Paris.
During my visits to Paris, I had several focuses and one was to visit the listed historic sites along the Seine. It took me three visits to Paris to complete this goal, but it was a hustle.
For those who are looking to the same or just curious of my explorations of the banks along the Seine; I have comprised a list of many of the most historic and beautiful sites that are situated along the Seine River.
The Eiffel Tower
The first time my eyes saw the Eiffel Tower, I was on a plane with my daughter when she was 14 years old, and we were landing in Paris. We both saw it at the same time, and said “Look, the Eiffel Tower!”, just like everyone else who had seen it for the first time.
On that same trip, we took the elevator up to the top, and spied breathtaking views of the city. My daughter and I had returned again to Paris four years later, and of course we took another trip to the Eiffel Tower. It is what we all imagine when we think of Paris.
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic symbols of Paris, as well as European travel. Most people when they think of France, the Eiffel Tower comes to mind.
The wrought iron lattice tower is named after Gustave Eiffel, an engineer whose company designed and constructed the tower. It was built for the 1889 World’s Fair as its centerpiece, and was first criticized by many leading artists and intellectuals of France. Although it was rebuked by many, the Eiffel Tower had become one of the most beloved symbols in the world.
Whenever I catch a glimpse of the majestic Concierge, I inhale and exhale because of its beauty. It always seemed magnificent and grand in its Medieval architecture.
The Concierge is the oldest remaining section of the Palais de la Cite, which was originally constructed in the 6th century, as a Roman fortress. From the 10th century on the palace was enlarged, and became the royal residence for the kings of France.
In the 14th century, Philip IV moved his residence to the Louvre and more prison cells were added, and eventually became the “Concierge”. Many prisoners were held here over the centuries from common prisoners, to those of the French Revolution, including Marie Antoinette.
I first became more intrigued with the Concierge when our guide in Paris mentioned that Marie Antoinette was imprisoned here. This was after our visit to Versailles, and everything connected for me regarding her intriguing life.
Ille St. Louis
Not many people visit Ille St. Louis, which is a charming neighborhood on a small island, on the Seine. My daughter and I loved its quaint and pleasant streets, the old world architecture, and the delightful sweet shop, La Cure Gourmande. It has become one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris, besides Montmarte.
Ille St. Louis is one of two natural islands on the Seine River, the other being Ille de la Cite, which houses Notre-Dame. It is 27 acres in size and has a small population of over 4,000 people. The island can be reached from Paris by four bridges, and Ille de la Cite by the Pont Saint-Louis Bridge.
The Louvre is massive, and I will be fair in saying that one visit to Paris’s most beloved museum, is not enough. I have been three times, and I am positive that I have not seen everything.
This extraordinary palace turned museum contains a countless collection of the world’s most famous and priceless pieces of art; including the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, the Venus de Milo, Diana of Versailles, and Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. The museum is a phenomenal cultural experience from walking the palace halls, to viewing its masterpieces.
My biggest tip to visiting the Louvre, and viewing its most famous works comfortably, is to pre-purchase your tickets online. Then arrive very early before the museum opens. Every day the queue to enter is excruciatingly long, and if you are anything like me, waiting in any line is a terrible undertaking. There are several entrances, and having your ticket prior can save time especially when entering the Louvre.
For helpful hints on visiting the Louvre, please read –
Jardin de Tuileries
One of my favorite garden parks in Paris along with Jardin du Luxembourg, is Jardin de Tuileries- the Tuileries Garden. The garden is beautiful, and walking distance from The Louvre. This means that you can explore the gardens on the same day visit to the museum.
There are plenty of spaces to sit and relax, or have a light meal at the garden’s café. My daughter had mentioned that one of her favorite things to do at the Tuileries Garden on her own, was to relax, eat a croissant, drink a bottle of Orangina, and people watch.
The Jardin de Tuileries was created as the garden for the Tuileries Palace by Catherine de Medici in 1564. After the French Revolution, the gardens were opened up as a public park in 1667. Since then the gardens have become a place for Parisians and tourists to meet, relax, have a stroll, and relax.
Notre-Dame de Paris
The Notre-Dame of Paris is the most widely known Gothic style cathedral in France. It is one of the most beautiful and grandest, in addition to being one of Paris’s top tourist attractions.
This is the Gothic cathedral where Victor Hugo’s fictional character, Quasimodo, from his novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (French: Notre-Dame de Paris), rang the church bells.
The medieval Catholic cathedral, Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris), was constructed between the years of 1163-1345 on the Ile de la Cite, a natural island on the Seine River. It is considered one of the greatest examples of French Gothic architecture. Several of the church’s significant architectural attributes are the pioneering of the rib vault, and flying buttress. The flying buttress happens to be my favorite feature of a Gothic cathedral, by the way.
Inside the cathedral is just as extraordinary with giant colorful rose windows, three pipe organs, and giant church bells.
I do love Saint-Chapelle with it’s stunning and majestic interior. The chapel is not as grand as Notre-Dame, but it is still extraordinary- none the less. Both the lower and upper chapel are beautiful in color and design, it is a fine example of early French Gothic Architetue.
Saint-Chapelle was completed in 1248, taking six years to build. It was the royal Catholic chapel, within the Palais de la Cite, which was the residence of French Kings until the 14th century. During the French Revolution, the chapel was a target for its symbolism for religion and royal reign and was severely vandalized.
It had become a grain storehouse and the royal emblems on the facade were damaged, along with the spire pulled down, and many of the stained glass broken or disperesed.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Sainte-Chapelle went through major restoration being faithful to its original plans and designs. There were several architects, writers and scholars in 1835 who rallied to restore it to its original medieval state.
The stained glass windows took many decades to restore, after being removed during WWII to put in safe storage. In 2015 the restoration of the rose window on the west facade was finally completed in 2015, before the 800th anniversary of St. Louis’s (Louis IX of France) birthday.
Located on the left bank of the Seine River is the Musée d’Orsay, which is a remarkable museum housing the world’s largest collection of impressionists, and post-impressionist art pieces.
The grand building of Musée d’Orsay was originally intended as a railway station and hotel, Gare d’Orsay, and was completed in 1900. By 1939 the technology of trains had evolved, and the railway’s short platforms had become unusable. After 1939 the station was in operation for suburban transportation, and then a mail center during World War II. It was later used for theatrical purposes for the Renaud-Barrault Theater Company, and also as a set for films and for holding auctions.
In December of 1986, the railway had re-opened as the art museum it is today. The concept of this museum was to bridge the gap between The Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art – Georges Pompidou Centre. I have been to both of these museums, as well as the Musée d’Orsay, and I do see the bridge that was needed.
It was a genius move on using a historic building, and creating a space for French Artwork between the years of 1848 to 1914; the prime years of French Impressionism and post-impressionism.
Les Invalides, or formally known as Hôtel des Invalides (House of the disabled) is a complex of French Baroque style buildings; with a magnificent golden dome and church, which is considered one of the best examples of French Baroque architecture.
The original purpose for Les Invaildes was a retirement home for war veterans and served this purpose until the early 20th century. The Artillery Museum was installed in the building in 1872, followed by the Historical Museum of the Armies in 1905. Soon after, the resident veterans were dispersed into smaller homes outside of Paris.
Today Les Invalides is home to an impressive collection of artifacts, armory and monuments relating to the military of France. There is also the the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, housing military models and the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, a 20th century French history library.
Napoleon’s Tomb – Underneath Les Invalides golden dome is the tomb of Napoleon, a stunning monument that holds his mortal remains. It took a couple decades of construction until the inauguration of the tomb, on April 2, 1861. Planning had started in 1840 but the requirements needed to complete the monument took much effort, since the stone used, Russian quartzite, was not delivered until 1849. The monument underneath the golden dome is extraordinary from the circular shape of the room, the intricate crypt floor design, and up to the interior of the golden dome.
Paris is an extraordinary city and will always have my heart- lock and key. I had even placed a love lock on the Pont des Arts Bridge before they were all removed in 2015. Apparently, the fencing on the bridge started to crumble with the weight of all the locks- Ooops. I am glad that my daughter and I got to place our locks on the bridge before it was taken down, although we did add to the weight issue- no regrets!
Paris, Je T’aime…
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre
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