Monday, Nov. 09, 2009

1. Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe stands at the center of Place de l'Étoile, the hub from which 12 grand avenues — including the idyllic pedestrian mall, the Champs Élysées — radiate to form the star for which the Place de l'Étoile is named. Climb to the Arc's panoramic viewing terrace and gaze down each avenue into the city. It's the best place to admire the taut geometry of Paris's urban plan, devised by Napoleon III's prefect Baron Georges-Eugène Hausmann, who razed the city's medieval slums to lay down broad boulevards. Rows of neatly trimmed plane trees line each avenue, heightening the effect. You can also see the Eiffel Tower in its entirety from here — it's close enough for you to marvel at its construction. Yes, the traffic around the Arc is mayhem, and it's crawling with tourists. Don't be deterred — the Arc still thrills.