Here at Sports Travel International we have loads of reasons that we love the city of light. From the Paris Marathon, to the legendary Paris – Roubaix; the French capital has a special place in the hearts of sports fans the world over. The sport of triathlon, “Les trois sports“, originated in the city, and of course, it is impossible to discount the legendary Tour de France. This year, Sam Bennett set the tour alight, and became the first Irishman to win the green Jersey since 1989. He is also the first Irish rider to win the Tour’s most iconic stage, in Paris, on the Champs-Élysées.
However, this cultural hub, and city of arts and romance has even more to offer to its guests. So, while you’re waiting for race day, or after taking in an unforgettable stage of the Tour de France; here’s our top pickks of what else to do on a short break in Paris!
1. Palais Garnier
“Probably the most famous opera house in the world.” The Palais Garnier or the Garnier Opera was built between 1861 and 1875 at the behest of Emperor Napoleon III. The opera house is perhaps most notable as the setting of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera. Especially given the novels subsequent film and musical theatre adaptations. One of the highlights of the construction was a seven-ton bronze and crystal chandelier; designed by Garnier himself. On 20th May 1896, one of the chandelier’s counterweights broke free and burst through the ceiling into the auditorium. The dramatic incident inspired the most iconic scene of Leroux’s novel.
Although most people just take photos, from outside of the opera, on their way to some of Paris’s most famous shops (such as Galeries Lafayette), the building interior is well worth a visit. Jam packed with stunning golden pillars, majestic staircases, and sparkling chandeliers, the opulence is sure to take your breath away. You can purchase a self guided tour of the opera for €14, which is available with a multimedia guide.
2. Notre- Dame de Paris
Built between 1163–1345 in the French Gothic style, this incredible Medieval Cathedral is another true icon of French architecture. Another Parisian landmark made famous by literature; interest in the cathedral was spiked by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, known in English as The Hunchback of Notre- Dame. It was in fact Hugo’s novel that saved the breathtaking cathedral. Following the Napoleonic Wars, the cathedral was in such a state of disrepair that Paris officials considered its demolition. Hugo, who had always admired the structure, published his work in 1831, and so great was it’s success, that it successfully raised awareness of the building’s decaying state. In 1844 King Louis Philippe gave orders for the building to be restored.
The cathedral was badly damaged when a fire broke out in 2019. The blaze destroyed the 18th Century spire and the oak roof beams supporting the lead roof. The structure of the cathedral survived the fire and, almost immediately after the blaze, an enormous restoration project commenced. Although the building currently remains closed due to the ongoing repair work; Notre- Dame attracts some 12 million visitors each year, making it the most visited monument in Europe and certainly well worth a visit!
Montmartre is a large hill in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, which also gives its name to the surrounding district. The area is well known for it’s strong links to art and culture, and it’s lively nightlife (home to the legendary Moulin Rouge.) It is a popular and varied neighborhood, and well worth a visit in the day or evening. During the Belle Epoque (Beautiful Era) 1880 – 191, Montmartre was a bohemian haven. Artists flocked to the area for its low rents and congenial atmosphere, and it became associated with their values of beauty and pleasure. Many of the most famous post impressionist artists including Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as African-American expatriate Langston Hughes worked in Montmartre during that era. Lautrec’s famous posters for the Moulin Rouge (commissioned in 1889) are still popular and widely reproduced to date.
Montmartre hill is home to the stunning 19th century Sacre Coeur Basilica, which is the second most popular landmark in Paris and well worth a visit. Also on the hill, you will find the lesser known Saint-Pierre de Montmartre. Which, built in 1147, is one of the oldest surviving churches in Paris. From Montmartre you can also enjoy spectacular views of the rest of the city.
4. Jardin des Tuileries
Positioned just a short stroll from the Louvre Museum, Jardin des Tuileries is both a charming sculpture park in the heart of the city, and one of Paris’s major historical landmarks. Paris’s oldest and biggest public garden, Tuileries was commissioned by Catherine de’ Medici in 1564. At the 1900 Olympic games the garden hosted the fencing. The garden was declared a UNESCO World Herritage site in 1991 and features over 200 exceptional statues, vases and monuments. The park offers unrivaled views of the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe, and is the perfect place to soak up some culture, and some sun, in Paris.
Particular areas of interest around the garden include; Jardin du Carrousel festuring the Arc de triomphe du Carrousel, which was built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories the previous year. The garden was first opened to the public in 1667, at request of famous fairy-tale author Charles Perrault. It became the first royal garden in French history to open its doors to the public.
5. Champs Elysees
As well as being the iconic finish point for both the Tour de France and the Paris Marathon , the Champs Elysees is well known as one of the most iconic and instantly recognizable roads in the world. The avenue runs for 1.91 km (1.19 mi) from the Place de la Concorde in the east,where you can find the Obelisk of Luxor, to the Place Charles de Gaulle in the west. Perhaps the most iconic view of the Champs Elysees is west, towards the Arc de Triomphe, at Place Charles de Gaulle. The road is known for its many theatres, cafés, and luxury shops, and hosts the annual Bastille Day military parade.
Originally designed as an extension of the Jardin des Tuileries, the new avenue went by the name “Grand Cours”, or “Grand Promenade”, and was not known as the Champs Elysees until 1709. The Jardin des Champs-Élysées, through which the lower part of the Champs Elysees runs, is a park which contains several iconic attractions of the city including, the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, the Théâtre Marigny. An evening stroll down the Champs Elysees, could be the ideal way to relax after your running or cycling event. The view from the Arc de Triomphe, out towards Montmatre, will simply take your breath away.
We can’t wait to join you on your next trip to the city of light. Whether it be to watch Sam Bennett defend his Green Jersey, to run the Paris Marathon, or to soak up some magic at one of our runDisney® Paris events; you can be sure to book with confidence when you book with Sports Travel International!
Whatever your next trip looks like book it with confidence with #IrelandsSportsTravelExperts. When you’re ready to take on your next overseas running, cycling or triathlon event we’ll be here to help you as we have for 30 years. See you on the start line pic.twitter.com/XWuaLSYQui
To the Green prince 🍻
In a really bad year Sam Bennett has been a positive beacon of light for all of cycling in Ireland. Correction all of sport in Ireland. We can't wait to see more of him in the future twitter.com/CyclingIreland…