The City of Lights, the City of Love, the city of Inspector Clouseau… Paris is so picture-postcard magnificent with its wide boulevards, grand buildings and effortless elegance that, like Peter Sellers’ bumbling Clouseau, there is something almost ridiculous about it.
Fortunately, its residents bring you down to earth. Parisians are arrogant. Sure, the people most tourists come in contact with in Paris – hotel staff, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, even the touts flogging overpriced, cheaply made tat outside the likes of the Palace of Versailles – are friendly enough. But the other 8 million or so Paris residents will openly look down their noses at you, honk their horns as you try to navigate your hire car around the world’s scariest roundabout (aka Place d’Etoile, where the Arc de Triomphe stands) and generally dismiss you with a magnificently Gallic ‘pah!’
And there has to be something good about a city whose residents are so contemptuous of the people who visit it. So instead of being put out by it, see it as a sign that you are in a city so great its people don’t even feel the need to entice you to take a boat ride along the Seine (for the ghoulish, the Bateaux Mouchesleave from Pont d’Alma, at the entrance to the tunnel where Princess Diana died). Or wander with the students around the stalls and wonderful old bookshops in Paris’ Latin Quarter. Or climb the hill to the still-bohemian Montmartre and the neighbouring red-light district of the Pigalle, where bars that double as brothels mingle with iconic establishment like Moulin Rouge.
Paris is so wonderful its inhabitants don’t want you to know. That’s some recommendation.
Paris: Best Public Square
Splendid and refined. Lively and sedate. Paris’ Place Des Vosges is the leading European prototype of a royal residential square. Built in 1606 by Henri IV and housing the likes of writer Victor Hugo and post impressionist painter Georges Dufrénoy, it sits across the border of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, right in the Marais district. Part 17th century royal throwback, part meeting spot for Parisian fey, cashed-up youth, Place Des Vosges is wonderfully egalitarian while cunningly managing to keep the hoi polloi away.
Urban and symmetrical planning at its best, Place Des Vosges features a mélange of private residences, boutique hotels, cafes, restaurants, galleries and a posh tea providore. The square, oddly enough, is divided into grassy quadrants bordered by gravel paths and peppered with a fountain and strategically placed topiary. Summer days here are buzzing – but not groaning – with picnicking families, spontaneous croquet games and the odd busker of relative repute.Paris’ Top 10
10. Musee d’Orsay Known for its remarkable collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces. Be astounded by the likes of Monet, Degas, and Van Gogh.
5. Notre Dame Cathedral is a famed early Gothic cathedral, designed in the 12th century but completed in the 14th century. Quasimodo lived here.
9. Picasso Museum Roam through this museum to explore Pablo Picasso’s masterpieces.
4. Champs-Elysees One of the most famous streets in the world, this 2km-avenue is lined with luxurious shops, cinemas and cafes.
8. Jardin du Luxembourg A stunning public park, which houses the Luxembourg Palace.
3. Louvre Arguably the greatest museum in the world. Go to see the Mona Lisa. Then turn to the person next to you and say in a tone that mixes surprise with feeling ripped off: ‘It’s small, isn’t it!’
7. Arc de Triomphe One of the most famous monuments in Paris. It’s still grandiose and beautiful even with the tacky souvenir shops nearby.
2. Versailles Built by Louis XIV in the 17th century, this beautiful palace and symbol of absolute monarchy is a must-visit. Wonderful restaurants dot the streets around it, while in the gardens, water fountains dance to music every afternoon.
6. Basilique du Sacre Coeur This Roman Catholic church is located at the highest point in Paris.
1. Eiffel Tower The quintessential symbol of Paris. A must if it’s your first visit.
- Eiffel Tower – The world-famous landmark and the most noted symbol of Paris was completed in 1889.
- Avenue des Champs-Elysees – Considered one of the most prestigious shopping boulevards in Paris.
- Place de la Concorde – The Place de la Concorde sits as the largest square in Paris and is surrounded by beautiful vistas.
- Assemblee Nationale – Since 1827, the venue has been home to the National Assembly, the French Parliament’s lower house.
- Hotel des Invalides – The golden-domed structure is an infirmary and home to the Musee de Armee.
Paris Art & Culture
- Musee d’Orsay – Art from great impressionists such as Manet, Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh are displayed.
- Muse du quai Branly – Displays a fantastic collection of tribal art.
- Musee Rodin – Musee Rodin holds an extensive collection of the works of a great sculptor.
- Notre Dame de Paris –Showcases superior examples of French Gothic architecture.
- Musee du Louvre – This notable museum is famed for da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and many other French masterpieces.
- Galeries Lafayette – Top fashions can be found at the Galeries Lafayette.
- The Marais – The Marais offers unique merchandise for the eclectic shopper.
- Avenue Montaigne and Avenue des Champs-Elysees – Famous for legendary designers and luxury names.
- Shakespeare & Company – Paris’ renowned English-language bookstore.
- Saint-Ouen Flea Market – The city’s largest flea market.
Paris Gay & Lesbian
- Gay Pride Parade – June 26th marks the Gay Pride Parade.
- Moulin Rouge – Paris’ most celebrated cabaret.
- Open Café – A well-known venue located in Le Marais.
- Banana Café – A fun gay bar not far from Le Marais.
- Queen Dance Club – This colourful club is located on Champs Elysees Boulevard.
- Jardin des Tuileries – The Jardin des Tuileries is a 70-acre garden.
- Rendezvous au Jar din – Meet Parisian gardeners at the Rendezvous au Jardin open house.
- Fete de la Musique – A city-wide free musical takes place June 21st in celebration of the summer solstice.
- Bastille Day – Bastille Day celebrates the storming of the infamous Bastille during the French Revolution.
- Cinema en Plein Air – France’s annual outdoor cinema event.
- Le Tour de France – The famous le Tour de France cycling race takes place in July.
- French Tennis Open – Starting the last week in May, top tennis players battle it out on a clay court for two weeks in the French Tennis Open.
- Palais de Sports – Built in 1960, Palais de Sports is an indoor sports arena where you can watch football and rugby, as well as concerts and other events.
- Stade de France in Saint-Denis – A world-class stadium hosting football, rugby games, concerts and more.
- Paris Marathon – Every May in Paris, runners pound the pavement in the Paris Marathon.
Paris Local1st Arrondissement
Paris is divided into 20 districts called arrondissements that are numbered from 1 to 20 and spiral around from the centre of the city. You can start at the 1st district and then work your way out from there. The 1st district is home to the Louvre, Palais Royal, and the Tuileries Gardens, where you can chill out in the cafes or scoff down some ice cream.3rd and 4th Arrondissements
These two districts are the oldest in Paris. Centred on the two islands in the Seine, the Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis and linked to the rest of the city by the 500-year-old Pont Neuf, it’s home to some of Paris’ most iconic buildings (and, in the case of the Bastille, former buildings), including Notre Dame Cathedral and the Pompidou Centre. Check out the stalls along both banks of the river (and the city beach created in the summer), the flea markets and the wonderful bars, shops and restaurants.5th and 6th Arrondissements
Like a small village, the Latin Quarter houses numerous schools and universities, the Jardin des Plantes (the botanical gardens), Arenes de Lutece (an ancient Roman theatre which held 15,000 spectators), and the Grande Mosquee de Paris (Grand Mosque of Paris). With so many students around, it’s no surprise that this is the place to go for some of the best times in Paris. After dark, the bars come to life, the food is cheap but tasty, the absinthe runs freely…7th Arrondissement
The grand heart of Paris with Place de la Concorde at its centre. It was there King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had their heads cut off. On the south of square is the magnificent Hotel des Invalides, once a military hospital, now Napolean Bonaparte’s resting place; to the north is the church of the Madeleine; and running away to the west is the Champs-Elysees,where fashion tragics the world over come to worship and normal people come to vomit.Paris Eats
Stop press: French people eat snails and frog legs. It’s true – and you can try them in Paris – but French cuisine is about so much more than clichés.
Le Meurice Splurge at this high-class gourmet French restaurant. It’s the best of the best!
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon See dishes being prepared at the open kitchen of this trendy restaurant, and then choose accordingly.
Yam’tcha The name of this restaurant translates to ‘drink tea’, which is what you’ll get to drink with the food. It’s always over-booked!
Frenchie Fine bistro cuisine prepared by Gregory Marchand, who has worked with the likes of Jamie Oliver.
Le Dauphin Opened in 2010, this tapas bar has an innovative and delicious menu with a great wine selection
Sola Intermingling French and Japanese cuisine, there are two degustation menus on offer.
L’Escargot Montorgueil Snails! Be brave... try them. If you can eat prawns, you can eat these!
Le Bristol Found at the luxurious Le Bristol Hotel, this gastronomic restaurant has earned its 3 Michelin Stars. Showoffs.
Au Petit Sud Ouest This boutique South Western French restaurant is idealfor foie gras and duck lovers. Recently voted the second-best restaurant in Paris.
Le Jules Verne Located in the Eiffel Tower. If you can afford it, go for the views alone (although it’d be rude not to eat something
Au Jardin Gourmet French cuisine with a capital G.
L’Espadon at the five-star Ritz Paris offers French fine dining in a super-luxurious dining room. Celeb spotting is a favourite pastime of people waiting for their dishes.
Paris has a large Chinese population, so Le Nouvel An Chinois (Chinese New Year) is celebrated around February. Join in the celebrations and watch the parades around the 3rd and 4th arrondissements and Chinatown.
In March, Spring Fashion Week offers designers the opportunity to showcase women’s prêt-a-porter collections for winter. Avoid at all costs if you can’t stand pretentious, self-important showoffs.
The French Tennis Open, the world’s premiere clay-court event, starts at the end of May.
In June, the Fete de la Musique takes music to new levels.
No-one quite knows why, but the French love bike racing. Could be something to do with the tight bike shorts. Could be because it’s fun sitting out in the sun with a bottle of red in one hand, a baguette in the other and some seriously smelly cheese balanced on your knees. Regardless, the Tour de France ends under the Arc de Triomphe in July after 3500 grueling kilometers (that’s 2175 equally grueling miles). Be among the thousands lining the streets to see who is the ultimate winner of the yellow jersey, then wonder which drugs he’s on.
Bastille Day on 14 July celebrates the beginning of the French Revolution. Party the day and night away on France’s most important holiday. Fireworks are everywhere, so you may as well join in the fun as you won’t get much sleep.
In mid-September, hip (and hop) youngsters take to the streets for the Techno Parade.
Fashion Week returns in October, to flaunt collections for the following summer.
The third Thursday in November is Le Beaujolais Nouveau, marking the beginning of the Christmas season. Christmas lights illuminate the Champs-Elysees, and even the French President turns out to party.
Fireworks light up the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve. Hundreds of thousands pack the streets. Can be fun, can be cramped and a little crazy.
When To Go
- Paris is best visited in the summer, when the weather is at its best and the Seine sparkles like a diamond necklace.
- In Spring (March to June), Paris starts to thaw from its dreary winter conditions, with daytime temperatures averaging a pleasant 20°C (68°F)
- Summer is between June and September. Expect temperatures of about 24°C (75°F) in the day.
- Autumn (September to December) is still pleasant. Daytime temperatures hover around 21°C (70°F)
- Winter (December to March) is bleak and occasionally snowy. Daytime temps are a decidedly chilly 7°C (45°F)
Getting There & Around
It’s safe to say that all international flights will somehow lead to Paris (even if it’s with a stopover in Frankfurt or some obscure city in Asia or Europe), especially since Paris has three international airports. Of course, if you’re already in Europe you can take the train (the Gare du Nord is the station for the Eurostar train to London via the Channel Tunnel, with a convenient stop at Disneyland Paris on the way!) or even drive. But, Paris traffic is notoriously bad. The peripherique(the motorway that circles the city) is more like a car park and in the city drivers don’t make allowances for out-of-towners (or road rules, for that matter).
Getting around Paris is confusing, but only because there are so many means of transportation available. Take a taxi (but only hail one at an official taxi station), dabble in the complex bus network, rent a bicycle or a pair of skates, take a river shuttle, or the underground train (Metro) with tickets from €1.70, rent a car, or walk!
What To Miss
Illegal cabs. Make sure you’re taking the official taxis at taxi stations.
Watch out for pickpockets in crowded tourist-ridden areas.
The bars around Moulin Rouge – you could potentially pay up to €300 for a single drink at an adult show, so always check drink prices first.
One of the most exciting cities in Europe, Paris beckons with its flair for romance and grandeur. France's capital is truly a perfect representative of French culture, if you don't exactly have time to explore the countryside and other cities. Glitzy and glamorous streets are abuzz with life but don't forget those rickety alleys making Paris a fascinating maze of a city.
Paris presents many faces to each visitor. Artists revel in its theatres, museums, cultural expositions and architectural feats. Social butterflies flutter in and out of cafes, clubs and live for exciting nightly jaunts. What's best about Paris is the size, it's compact with much of the major attractions including the Eiffel Tower closely linked. In a city steeped in colourful history, discoveries are meant to be made in every corner! Paris is, without a doubt, one of the most visited cities in Europe, attracting millions of visitors each year - all intent on sampling Parisien culture, art and cuisine. The River Seine runs through Paris, giving Paris its Right and Left banks, and the city is divided into 20 arrondissements which run clockwise in a spiral from the centre of the city - starting at Notre Dame. Each arrondissement has its own particular character, artistic and bohemian, chic and upmarket - or smart and business like. Paris is a city with something to offer everyone - a capital 'city of light' which really does live up to the hype, which is why visitors return again and again.
Attractions At Paris
The Eiffel Tower is the city's claim to fame, the unmistakable landmark of Paris. At the centre runs the River Seine dividing Paris into two sections with twenty arrondissements or districts found on the left (Rive Gauche) and right (Rive Droite) banks. The dazzling historical buildings and boulevards, delightful epicurean fare , and the Parisiennes' penchant for haute couture! Visiting Paris in springtime is a great chance to see the gardens in full bloom and the atmosphere is bustling with concerts, street fairs and other outdoor events. In summer, the banks of Seine turn into mini-beaches with sunworshippers resting on lounging chairs enjoying the sun. There is much more to see in Paris apart from the Eiffel Tower. All roads meet at the grand Arc de Triomphe, the busiest point of the city. For those wanting the finest sampling of world's art, the d'Orsay and Louvre museums are a must! It is best to explore beyond the tourist path for you are likely to discover something within those charming streets, flea markets and cafes. There is a wealth of attractions on offer to visitors during a visit to Paris, and many will first head for the Eiffel Tower, perhaps the most iconic structure in the whole of France. The Eiffel Tower was built in 1898 for the Universal Exhibition, and a trip to the top takes you 324 metres up, from where unsurpassable views of France's capital are available. The Eiffel Tower is always busy so be prepared for a wait - especially in high season. Next on the must see on a trip to Paris list is a trip to the Louvre, the most famous art gallery in the world, and home to the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The Palais du Louvre was rebuilt on a 13th Century fortress in the 16th Century to be used as a residence for the Royal family. After the revolution it became a national museum, in 1793. The Arc de Triomphe is a monument located at the centre of the Place de l'Etoile, erected in memory of French war victims, as well as providing a reminder of French victories on the battlefield. Les Invalides is a quarter of the French capital which features museums and monuments relating to military history too, and this is situated close by. An area known as Montmartre is also recommended a visit during a trip to Paris. Montmartre is located on a hill, and is famous for being the artistic centre of the capital, having been home to numerous renowned artists - Picasso, Van Gogh, Modigliani and Dali all had studios here. The French quarter has also been used as a film set for many films, because of its quaint cobbled streets leading to the spectacular Basilica the Sacre Coeur at the summit. The Paris metropolitan area is also home to one of the largest theme parks in Europe - Disneyland Resort Paris, which is located in Marne-la-Vallee. Plus, the magnificent Palace de Versailles - home to French kings and queens- should be visited during a trip to Paris. The Centre Pompidou is a fascinating piece of modernistic architecture, which never fails to delight visitors. First opened in 1977 the centre features more than 50,000 contemporary works of art in the Musee National d'Art Moderne which takes up the 4th and 5th floors- plus there is a huge public library housed within the building. Sainte Chapelle is another memorable attraction which is best visited when the sun is out, since this shows off its exquisite stained glass to its best effect. The chapel is situated inside the walls of the Palais de Justice - Law Courts - and is one of the most beautiful churches in Paris. Queues can be long so it pays to get here early - or late, if in winter.
Spring Fashion Week takes place in March, presenting designers with an opportunity to show their ready to wear, or 'Pret a Porter' collections to the world.
Sports fans will want to be in Paris in May for the French Tennis Open - a tournament which features the world's best tennis players who battle for the title on clay courts for two weeks.
The French national holiday is Bastille Day on the 14th July, a day which commemorates the storming of the Bastille at the time of the French Revolution. There are lots of spectacular events including the Bastille Parade which takes place at the Champs-Elysees. The Bastille Day Fireworks display is a real treat for visitors, with spectators gathering around the Champs du Mars - the gardens of the Eiffel Tower to watch.
The Cinema en Plein Air is an annual outdoor cinema festival which takes place at the Parc de la Villette, during July , and features Europe's biggest inflatable screen.
The Tour de France, the world's most famous cycling race has a varied route each year but always ends on the last Sunday in July at the Arc de Triomphe.
Leisure & Recreation
Paris is difficult to beat if you are after a night of culture - if opera is your thing then there is the Opera Bastille, which opened its doors in 1989, the Paris Opera and the Chatelet Theatre Musical de Paris, all of which show large scale operatic productions. The Cite de la Musique offers a varied programme of contemporary music including jazz, chansons and music from around the world. Classical music can be found at the Theatre de Champs-Elysee and the Theatre Musical de Paris, and for theatrical productions the Comedie Francaise and the Theatre National del la Colline are recommended.
Paris has long been at the forefront of fashion and is many shoppers' idea of heaven. All the top designers can be found here from Dior, Givenchy, and Jean Paul Gaultier who has his own store close to the Bastille. The eighth arrondissement features the avenue Champs-Elysees, avenue Montaigne and the Faubourg St Honore which all offer some of the most elegant designer boutiques in the world. For a less ostentatious shopping trip the main department stores are situated on Boulevard Haussmann, where Les Galeries and Au Printemps can be found.
Springtime in Paris has been long touted as the perfect time to visit, but in reality you are just as likely to get stuck in a shower at this time of year as any. Paris is located in the Ile de France region, which is prone to unpredictable weather, but the average yearly temperature is mild at just 12 o C. Winter temperatures are on average around 2 o C and in summer around 19 o C, however it is not unknown for temperatures to reach 30 o C and more during a particularly hot summer, or drop below freezing.
Getting There And Around
Paris is served by Charles de Gaulle international airport and d'Orly which both have good transport links into the centre of the city. Orly is 12 miles south of Paris and has two terminals, both of which operate a free shuttle service into Paris. Charles de Gaulle is 20 miles northeast of the city centre, in the suburb of Roissy and a free shuttle service links all three terminals with railway stations for transport into the city centre.
Getting around Paris is easy by metro which is fast and efficient and provides links between every part of Paris. The bus service is slow in comparison due to the traffic, and can be a little complicated to work out the various routes. Paris is also perfectly accessible on foot since the main attractions are no more than 7 miles apart.
Top 6 Free Things To Do
1. The Jardin du Luxembourg offers formal terraces, green lawns and chestnut groves in a 23 acre park which is a popular place for Parisians and visitors alike. The park has six tennis courts, an orchard and aviary as well as an Ecole do'Horticulture or gardening school in the pavilion. The park is situated in the 6th Arrrondissement .
2. Montparnasse Cemetary contains the tombs renowned artists and writers including Baudelaire, Guy de Maupassant, Samuel Beckett and photographer Man Ray, as well as Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. There are some over the top tombstones as well as pretty scenery to be found here. Open from 8am until 8pm - metro stop Edward Quinet.
3. La Basilique du Sacre-Coeur (Sacred Heart Basilica) is reached by a series of wide steps and is located in Montmartre. The domed tower offers fabulous views over the city of Paris, and the crypt contains an interesting collection of relics. The park at the base of the church is an ideal place for a picnic. Open daily from 6am until 6.30pm.
4. The Rodin Museum is free to enter on the first Sunday of every month, and features works by the famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Works on show include 'The Kiss', and 'The Hand of God'. Opens 9.30 am until 4.45pm.
5. The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is another attractive park which covers 57 acres of land between Belleville and Gare du Nord. Visitors can enjoy the plentiful wildlife as well as hire some skates and take a tour around the skate trail. Open dawn 'til dusk.
6. Musee Picasso is free for under 18s and is open 9.30am until 6pm, closed on Tuesdays. The museum which is housed in a 17th Century house is located in the centre of Paris and features some of Picasso's best known works.
Money And Costs
French currency is the Euro which is divided into 100 cents and has seven different notes with denominations ranging from 5 to 500 - all of different sizes and colours. Visitors will find plenty of ATMs (known as DAB s or Distributeur Automatiqe de Billets) in Paris which take major credit cards - although there is usually a charge of around three Euros for withdrawing money. Money can be exchanged at post offices, banks and bureaux de change.
Under French law all restaurants, cafes and hotels must include a service charge which is usually between 12 and 14% of the bill. Taxi drivers will expect to be tipped though, and a figure of around 5% - 10% is usually the norm, while the fare is generally rounded up to the nearest euro.
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