If you take a look at our planet from the universe at night, you’ll easily distinguish North America and Europe as the shiniest regions. By focusing on Europe, there’s an area in the northwestern part that stands out as one of the brightest. It is how Paris, among many other epithets, acquired its “The City of Lights” name.
Day and night in Paris reveal two opposite faces of the French capital. While the first delights you, the latter enchants you, especially if you assume the right spot at the right time. So read on to find out what these spots are for you to enjoy.
Paris at dusk
Champs-Elysees Boulevard is probably the best place to be in Paris’s core at dusk. Before the city lights start to light up, you can enjoy a contrasting game of lights and shadows, featured by the setting sun and nearby wooded areas.
Champs-Elysees Boulevard is a part of the Historical Axis (Axe Historique), which follows the sun’s trajectory. If you are in Paris around May 10th or August 1st, go to where the boulevard starts and witness the sun setting between the Arc de Triomphe’s arches.
Another great spot for experiencing sunsets over Paris is in front of the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre. From here, the entire city is spread beneath you.
Along the Seine River at night
Paris becomes especially romantic along the Seine River at night. The best way to enjoy the romantic atmosphere is to take a walk from the Pont de Sully (Saint Louis Islet) all the way to the Eiffel Tower. As you advance towards the Eiffel Tower, there are usually numerous performances and shows you can attend along the way, so make sure to check key tourist points on both sides of the Seine.
Perhaps the most stunning contrast awaits you in the Louvre’s courtyard. The bustling area (bustling only begins to describe it) during the day becomes a spellbinding environment at night, when the Renaissance façade is softly illuminated and only a couple of people are in sight.
Ile de la Cite and Hotel de Ville (City Hall)
As usual, the liveliest part of the Ile de la Cite is in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral, and nothing can change that, be it night or day. However, you are likely to stumble upon a live show at night that includes street performers, fire jugglers, and more. You can also opt to climb the Notre Dame towers for some exceptional panoramic views over Paris (8.50 EUR = 9.30 USD), with the dominating Eiffel Tower, Saint Sulpice Church and the dome of the Invalids Complex in the distance.
Since you are here, allocate some time to cross the neighboring Pont d’Arcole (Arcole Bridge) that leads you to the front of the Hotel de Ville (in the photo) on the Right Bank. With various works of art decorating the façade, its beauty is additionally underlined with dancing fountains that seem to bathe the hall’s base.
Further on: the Invalids Residence (Les Invalides)
The next stop that deserves a prolonged stay is the magnificent Invalids Residence. Take a walk through the outer courtyard with alleys and a collection of canons, and appreciate the complex’s façades and the dome. While you are here, you can also enjoy the open-air cinema on a nearby lawn.
The Eiffel Tower’s night sensation
The illuminated Eiffel Tower is a majestic sight both from a distance and up-close. If you begin at the suggested starting point (Saint Louis Islet), only the tower’s tip will be visible in the beginning. As you draw nearer to the tower while you follow the flow of the Seine, it will slowly emerge before your eyes. Make sure to have a clear view of the tower five minutes before the full hour until 1:00 am. It’s when the Eiffel Tower becomes a sparkling point for a couple of minutes, a spectacle that deserves to be attended both from the Champs de Mars (in the photo) and from the distance (the Seine and Montmartre).
Additional tips and recommendations
These suggestions may be the best of what nighttime along the Seine River can offer, but it’s far from everything. If you wish to learn Latin dances, for example, head to the Quai Saint-Bernard (next to the Pont de Sully), where you can find a bunch of amateur or professional dancers each night during the summertime, starting from 7:00 pm.
Nighttime cruises are also a convenient way to appreciate the majesty of the French capital at night, and cruising companies organize romantic cruises for couples in addition to the public cruises. Depending on the type, romantic cruises are priced from 70 EUR (77 USD) upwards.
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