Why are people so obsessed with Paris? If you’re like me, you may have left Paris, but Paris never left you. There’s a certain magic, charm, and fantasy that exists within the city boundaries of Paris that is unlike any other European city. Let’s pinpoint a few reasons why Paris is so great, and why you’ll keep coming back for more.
A Slower Pace
Although there will always be people in a rush, most European cities are a bit slower than cities in the U.S. In a city with far more pedestrians than cars, you are among thousands of Parisians and visitors walking to their destinations. The architecture, the art, the culture, the ambiance…it all forces you to take a breath and absorb what’s around you. Paris is peace for the soul.
Rue de Tresor
Paris is a city of 7,000 cafes! Not restaurants- cafes! This means that literally wherever you go, an espresso and a good dessert are in reach. I’ve been to many European cities, and nowhere else is there a cafe atmosphere like in Paris. No matter what time of day, what you are doing, where you have to be, there is always time for a cafe stop. These moments often end up being my favorite parts of the day.
Cafe Tournon, Saint-Germain-des-Pres
There’s no better place to people-watch than in Paris. With thousands of commuters and tourists, it is quite satisfying to sit at a cafe or park and just take in those around you. Another great place to people-watch is the metro. Ha! I am always fascinated by the vast array of characters that go through and live in Paris. Stop for a few minutes and observe who surrounds you.
With 130 museums to choose from in the city alone, you will not be shorted on incredible art. The Louvre is the biggest art museum in the world, and that’s only one of the museums that you can experience in Paris. I find a different museum (or three) every time I visit. Montmartre is also a great spot to watch artists in action. Street art, in many different forms, is everywhere.
Musee du Louvre
Paris is known for it’s perfect lines, attention to detail, and symmetry. Much of the city’s history is a story told through its architecture, with the city center holding some of it’s oldest buildings and monuments. You can wander through the city and find a mixture of Baroque (Versailles), Renaissance (Louvre, Palais Royal), Gothic (Notre Dame, Saint Denis), Romanesque (The Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés), Classicism ( Hôtel des Invalides), Rococo (Place de la Concorde), Neo-Classicism (Arc de Triomphe), Napoleonic (Pere Lachaise Cemetary), Art Nouveau (Hector Guimard’s metro entrances), as well as post-war and modern architecture (Pompidou, Opera Bastille). Last but not least, we all recognize the quintessential Parisian apartment buildings created by Baron Haussmann.
Parisian Way of Life
Although Paris is a big city, it is separated into arrondissements (neighborhoods). These spaces create a village feel within the bigger city boundaries. Many locals have lived in the same neighborhood for years, and their village becomes their community. Parisians will go to the same boulangeries, cafes, florists, etc. their entire lives. They create relationships and are on a first-name basis with the local business owners and neighbors. Many of us crave this way of life, and it’s why so many of us feel a tug toward the romantic, “old” pace that exists in Paris.
Where to even begin on the history within Paris? Paris is more than 2,000 years old and there is an abundance of history everywhere you turn. Visiting Palaias de Luxembourg or Pont Neuf transports you back to the 17th century; these are two of the oldest sites in the city. Walking past the Bastille is a reminder of the French Revolution in 1789, when Parisians stormed the prison as a symbol of “liberte, egalite, fraternite”. Strolling on the Pont des Arts and the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe were visions ordered by Napoleon during his reign. Baron Haussman began rebuilding Paris in 1870 to create the charming, iconic, whitewashed grand boulevards we see throughout Paris today. The Eiffel Tower was built in 1899 and quickly became the monument that defined Paris to people around the world. Additionally, the Eiffel was used strategically by Parisians when they once again rose up in rebellion, this time against the Nazi occupation during WWII.
While exploring Paris, you may find American connections such as the multiple Lady Liberty’s, statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and other notable Americans who had significant connections to France. I would advise you to look up (thanks Corey Frye) when walking through Paris, in search of plaques against the stone buildings; these serve as reminders of important events in history that happened near that very spot. There is endless history in Paris – you just have to look for it.
Throughout the years, Paris has been known for it’s exquisite cuisine and gastronomy, which means the practice of art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food. Along with housing 84 Michelin-star restaurants, Paris is home to a unique and thriving food scene. As the city evolves, so does its’ food industry. Street food and international fare has become increasingly popular with the cultural diversity that exists in Paris today. France also has a presence of fresh, quality food that is grown locally. With all of these combinations adding to the food industry, many eating experiences you have will be completely unique to the city.
Countless artists, writers, poets, musicians, and famous individuals came to Paris for inspiration and a bolster to their creativity. Ernest Hemingway called Paris “a moveable feast”, during his time living in the city of light, and it’s clear that many other famous individuals felt the same. As you traipse the streets of Paris, you can feel the buzz of inspiration all around you from the ghosts of creativity’s past. A walk through Montmartre allows you to follow the footsteps of Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, just to name a few. Visiting Pere Lachaise Cemetery gives a broad view into just how many inspirational names made Paris their home, both in this life and the next. Visit the graves of Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, and Frederic Chopin.
Like millions of people out there, once you go to Paris, you probably won’t return with your whole heart. Paris is a city that will always pull you back, feed your soul, and refresh your mind. When you are itching for more, don’t forget there are Francophiles out there just like you; I’m one of them! Let’s connect about Paris in the comments. I’d love to know what makes Paris so special to YOU! Until next time, travel far, travel often (but always come back to Paris). Au Revoir!