What can be said about the sexy, sophisticated City of Lights that hasn't already been said a thousand times before? Quite simply, this is one of the world's great metropolises, a trend-setter, market-leader and cultural capital for over a thousand years and still going strong. This is the place that gave the world the cancan and the cinematograph, a city that reinvented itself during the Renaissance, bopped to the beat of the Jazz Age and positively glittered during the belle époque (beautiful era).
As you might expect, Paris is strewn with historic architecture, glorious galleries and cultural treasures galore, but the modern-day city is much more than just a museum piece. It's a heady hotchpotch of cultures and ideas – a place to stroll the boulevards, shop till you drop or just do as the Parisians do and watch the world buzz by from a streetside cafe. Savour every moment.
It’s impossible to imagine Paris without the Tour Eiffel, but the ‘metal asparagus’ faced opposition from Paris’ artistic elite when it was built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle. It was almost torn down in 1909 but was spared because it proved an ideal platform for radio antennas.These days some 6.9 million people make the 324m trek to the top each year. If you’re feeling steely-legged, you can dodge the lift fees by taking the stairs to the 1st and 2nd platforms, but be warned: it’s steep. Really, really steep. Spreading out around the Eiffel Tower are the Jardins du Trocadéro (Trocadero Gardens), whose fountains and statue garden are grandly illuminated at night.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe stands in the middle of the world’s largest traffic roundabout, place de l’Étoile (Charles de Gaulle Étoile). The ‘triumphal arch’ was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon to commemorate his victories, but remained unfinished when he started losing battles, and wasn’t completed until 1836. Since 1920, the body of an unknown soldier from WWI has lain beneath the arch; a memorial flame is rekindled each evening around 6.30pm.The viewing platform affords wonderful views of the dozen avenues that radiate out from the arch, many of which are named after Napoleonic generals. Av Foch is Paris’ widest boulevard, while av des Champs-Elysées leads south to place de la Concorde and its famous 3300-year-old pink granite obelisk, which once stood in the Temple of Ramses at Thebes (present-day Luxor).
Montmartre & Pigalle
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, bohemian Montmartre attracted a number of important writers and artists, including Picasso, who lived at the studio called Bateau Lavoir from 1908 to 1912. Montmartre’s most famous landmark is the Basilique du Sacré Coeur, whose gleaming white dome has one of the most spectacular city panoramas anywhere in Paris.Nearby place du Tertre (Abbesses) was once the main square of the village of Montmartre; these days it’s filled with cafes, restaurants, endless tourists and a concentrated cluster of caricaturists and painters – if you want to get your portrait painted in Paris, this is definitely the place. Only a few blocks southwest of the tranquil residential streets of Montmartre is lively, neon-lit Pigalle (9e and 18e), one of Paris’ two main sex districts. It’s connected to the top of Butte de Montmartre (Montmartre Hill) by a funicular.
Musee du Louvre
The vast Palais du Louvre was constructed as a fortress by Philippe-Auguste in the 13th century and rebuilt in the mid-16th century. In 1793 the Revolutionary Convention transformed it into the Musée du Louvre.The Louvre’s top attractions are da Vinci’s mischievous Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, but there’s much, much more to see. Other highlights include key works by Raphael, Botticelli, Delacroix and Titian, the lavish apartments of Napoleon III’s Minister of State, and a glorious collection of Greek and Roman sculpture. Tickets remain valid for the whole day, so take your time – you’ll enjoy it more if you don’t try and pack too much into one day.The main entrance in the Cour Napoléon is covered by the 21m-high glass Pyramide du Louvre.
When it comes to food, Paris has everything.As the culinary centre of the mostaggressively gastronomic country in the world, the city has more ‘generic French’,regional and ethnic restaurants than any other place in France.
Le Petit Mâchon An upbeat bistro with Lyon-inspired specialities.Try the saucisson de Lyon (Lyon sausage) studded with pistachios.
Scoop This American-style ice-cream parlour has been making quite a splash for its wraps, burgers, tarts and soups and central, trendy location. Sunday brunch (11.30am to 4pm) includes pancakes with maple syrup.
Breakfast in America (4 rue Malher, 4e) American-style diner, complete with red banquettes and Formica surfaces.Breakfast, served all day and with free coffee refills, starts at €6.50, and there are generous burgers, chicken wings and fish and chips.
Le Trumilou (84 quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, 4e) Thisno-frills bistro is a Parisian institution for classic French cooking: try confit aux pruneaux (duck with prunes) and the ris de veau grand-mère (veal sweetbreads).
Kootchi (40 rue du Cardinal Lemoine,5e) Afghan grub such as qhaboli palawo (veal ‘stew’ with nuts and spices) and traditional halva perfumed with rose and cardamom.
Le Baba Bourgeois (5 quai de laTournelle, 5e) Contemporary dining in a former architect’s studio. Its tartines (open-face sandwiches), terrines, tartes salées (savoury tarts) and salads are delicious, and there’s an all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet.
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