The Five Symbols of Paris (and the 25 things you did not know about them)

Paris is on every traveler’s bucket list. It is easily one of the most visited cities in the world. And although every person in the world has heard about these five symbols of Paris, not everyone knows the curious facts behind them. We list below some of the interesting things about these iconic places, so that next time, when someone you know is going to Paris, you can dazzle them with your knowledge of interesting tidbits about the City of Light.

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower may be synonymous with Paris, but it hasn’t always been that way. Did you know that:

  • The tower was built in 1889 for the World Fair by engineer Gustave Eiffel to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution.
  • When the tower was proposed, it met with strong opposition, especially from French artists who wanted to preserve the “untouched beauty of Paris”.
  • It was the highest man-made structure for 41 years until 1930, when the Chrysler Building in New York, took that title away from Paris.
  • The top level of the tower (there are three) is the highest observation deck accessible to the public in the European Union.
  • Gustave Eiffel had a small apartment on the top level of the tower to entertain his guests.

If you plan on going up the tower, make sure you pre-purchase your tickets here. You don’t want to waste time standing in unnecessary lines.

The Louvre

Everyone knows that Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is on display at the Louvre. But did you know that:

  • The Louvre is world’s largest art museum with approximately 38,000 objects ranging from prehistoric to current times. It covers an area of about 73 000 square metres (783 000 square feet).
  • It is the world’s most visited museum. In just 2017, 8.1 million people visited there.
  • The Louvre Palace began as a 12th century military fortress to defend Paris from English soldiers.
  • It became a public museum during the French Revolution, on Aug 10, 1793, the first anniversary of the abolishment of the French monarchy.
  • When WWII began, the museum hid its most valuable pieces (including the Mona Lisa) at the Château de Chambord, the largest château in the Loire Valley.

If you want to avoid crowds, go first in the morning. Again pre-purchase your tickets online before heading to the museum here.

Notre Dame de Paris

You may have read Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” or seen the Disney movie of the same title. But did you know that:

  • It took almost 200 years to build this cathedral. Construction began in the 12th century and ended in the 14th, almost the entire Gothic period.
  • The cathedral claims to house some of the most important relics of Catholicism: the crown of thorns, a fragment of the cross and one of the nails, all used during the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • The gargoyles and the chimeras you can see around the outside of the cathedral, are there to serve the purpose of water run-off. If you manage to climb the 387 steps to the top, you can see these grotesque sculptures up close.
  • During the French Revolution, the cathedral suffered serious destruction of its religious imagery. Restoration began in 1845 and more recently again in 1991.
  • Notre Dame is owned by the French state and the Catholic Church is its beneficiary.

Admission to this cathedral is free, but the lines are often long to get in. Here is more practical info.

Arc de Triomphe

Another icon of Paris, Arc de Triomphe is a must see. Located in the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle, it proudly faces Avenue des Champs-Elyseés. Did you know that:

  • Its full name is Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile and should not be confused with the nearby Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.
  • It was commissioned by Napoleon to commemorate his victory in Austerlitz. It took 30 years to build and Napoleon never saw its completion during his life.
  • There are 284 steps to climb to the top.
  • Beneath the arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In 1923, an eternal flame was lit and has not been extinguished since.
  • In 1919, a famous French aviator, Charles de Godefroy, flew his plane through the Arc de Triomphe. You can actually watch his flight on YouTube.

To pre-purchase tickets, go here.

‎Champs-Élysées

The Champs-Élysées is probably the most known street in the world. It is filled with elegant shops, theatres and cafes. It stretches for almost 2 km from the Obelisk of Luxor in Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe in Place Charles de Gaulle. Did you know that:

  • The name Champs-Élysées means Elysian Fields which was a paradise for dead heroes in Greek mythology.
  • Before 17th century, the area currently occupied by the Champs-Élysées was just fields and kitchen gardens.
  • Maria de’Medici, Queen of France and wife of King Henri IV is credited with the idea for this street.
  • Every 14th of July, on Bastille Day, the largest military parade in Europe passes down the Champs-Élysées.
  • The last stage of Tour de France has been taking place in the Champs-Élysées since 1975.

And a final piece of trivia. Do you know why Paris is sometimes nicknamed the City of Light? There are two reasons actually. First, Paris was one of the leading cities during the Age of Enlightenment. Second, it was one of the first European cities to adopt gas street lamps.

We hope you enjoyed this article. Tourists often visit amazing world structures without knowing the history behind their existence or understanding their significance. Now instead of being a tourist, you can be a traveler. 😉

See our other Paris blogs:

A Weekend in Paris

Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris

Au revoir!

BPK

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