2011 was a record year for visitors to some of Paris’ top tourist spots, but increasing tourist numbers are putting strains on some of the city’s finest attractions.

"/> 2011 was a record year for visitors to some of Paris’ top tourist spots, but increasing tourist numbers are putting strains on some of the city’s finest attractions.

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TOURISM

Top attractions struggle with success

2011 was a record year for visitors to some of Paris’ top tourist spots, but increasing tourist numbers are putting strains on some of the city’s finest attractions.

Top attractions struggle with success
Robert S Donovan

A report in Thursday’s Le Figaro says the increasing popularity of Paris as a tourist destination will need to be carefully managed if visitors and the sights themselves are not to suffer.

A record seven million tourists filed past the Mona Lisa, known in France as La Joconde, in 2011. The painting by Leonardo da Vinci is housed in the Louvre museum where it now occupies its own room to cope with its popularity.

According to Henri Loyrette, the president of the Louvre, visitor numbers are manageable at the moment but could eventually become a problem.

“For the time being, visitors don’t complain too much because the Louvre is a must-see,” he told the newspaper.

“But we know the museum would be totally saturated with 12 million visitors.”

It’s not just tourists who could suffer if numbers keep rising. Some of the sights themselves may be damaged.

The Sainte-Chapelle church is visited by 850,000 people each year who cram into its 33-metre long and 10-metre wide space.

“Bit by bit, the breathing of the visitors together with outside pollution is damaging the stained glass,” said Isabelle de Gourcuff who looks after the church.

Seeking to increase its appeal, the Eiffel Tower announced plans this year to renovate its unloved first floor with a revamped visitor area and restaurant. Its visitor numbers are limited by the size of its elevators and the fixed number of trips they can make up the tower each day.

Paris’ most popular sight is the Notre Dame church, which welcomes 13.5 million visitors a year. Other favourites include the Sacré Coeur basilica (10.5 million), the Eiffel Tower (7 million) and the Chateau de Versailles (6.5 million).

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TRAVEL NEWS

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro

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