First visits to Paris can be as daunting and disorienting as they are enchanting. It’s often difficult to know where to begin: what to prioritize on your first days of sightseeing and exploring? It’s just so easy to get drawn down charming little cobbled streets and old passageways, or to feel overwhelmed by the endless list of city museums and monuments suggested in your guidebook.
The Eiffel Tower
More than any other landmark, the Eiffel Tower has come to represent an elegant and contemporary Paris– but this wasn’t always so. The iron tower, which was built for the 1889 World Exposition by Gustave Eiffel, was wildly unpopular with Parisians when it was unveiled, and was nearly torn down.
The Louvre Museum and Old Palace
To learn the Louvre inside and out, you might need half a lifetime. Still, one has to start somewhere. The site of the world’s largest and most diverse collection of pre-20th century painting, sculpture, and decorative objects, The Louvre is a global touristic draw card. Not forgetting the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, make sure to visit less crowded wings, to bask in the works of Vermeer, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and countless others.
Walk over the bridge from the Louvre to the Musee d’Orsay– and witness a literal and figurative bridge between classical and modern art. Housing the world’s most important collection of impressionist and post-impressionist painting, the Musee d’Orsay’s light, airy rooms whir you through three floors of modern wonders, from Degas’ ethereal dancers to Monet’s water lilies, all the way to Gaugin’s leafy jungles.
The Sorbonne and the Latin Quarter
The Sorbonne University is the historic soul of the Latin Quarter, where higher learning has flourished for centuries. Founded in 1257 for a small group of theology students, the Sorbonne is one of Europe’s oldest universities. It has hosted countless great thinkers, including philosophers René Descartes, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. Enjoy a drink on the café terrace in front of the college before exploring the winding little streets of the Quartier Latin behind it.