Whether you jam pack your visit with culture or simply savour the Parisian atmosphere in pavement cafés, watching the world go by, you will find something for you in the city of Paris.
Famed for its cuisine, beautiful architecture, art and romance, Paris is a city demanding to be seen. To get the most out of your visit to the French capital, check out our Paris city guide.
Top five things to do in Paris
A Paris icon, avoid the queues for the lift and climb the many steps to the first and second levels where the views are still pretty amazing. For the best approach, get off the metro at Ecole Militare and walk the path from there through the park. Make sure you see it after sunset too, when the tower lights sparkle every hour, the best view of this is in the less well known Montparnasse Tower where you can watch the sun set and Paris light up.
Galleries Lafayette Department Store
The most famous and the most spectacular of Parisian department stores, visit it if just to marvel at the early-1900's stained glass cupola, classified as a historic monument, with fantastic chandeliers and floors and floors of galleried balconies. But of course the French know fashion, so after you’ve bumped into a few fellow travellers gazing up at the ceiling, take a look around and feel like a true stylish Parisian.
Arc de Triomphe
An unusual focus for a very large roundabout but that’s not what the Arc is all about. It’s worth taking a visit up to the viewing platform for a good view of the Champs Elysees. The best way to appreciate the Arc and the magnificent Champs Elysees, said to be the world’s most beautiful avenue, is to walk the avenue taking in its elegant shops and eateries and enjoy the view at the Place de le Concorde, an Egyptian Obelisk, offering a stunning view.
Visit, if not for the view of the city beyond, then for the interesting walk up to this iconic landmark. The building itself is very dark inside and not as easy on the eye as some of Paris’ other gems but it’s all about the atmosphere of Montmartre, the buskers on the steps and of course, the view. The walk from the metro takes you through narrow, winding streets with quaint shops and cafes to take your mind off of the climb ahead.
Cathedral of Notre Dame
A masterpiece of French gothic architecture, you cannot miss this stunning building. If you can, take the boat, as the approach from the Seine is truly stunning. Visit early on in the day when it is much quieter, the steps outside can get pretty busy and noisy spoiling the serenity of inside. Many take the narrow, steep steps up the north tower to get a closer look at the gargoyles and share their great vista of the city.
Not to be missed on a peaceful Sunday afternoon in summer, the pretty English-style Rose Gardens and shady trees offer the perfect home for some of Rodin’s finest pieces of art, including his most famous 'The Thinker'. Visit the magnificent 18th century house, once home to Rodin, for more of his work and some great views over the garden.
Where to stay in Paris
Paris not only has an excellent reputation for its cuisine, but also for the quality of its accommodation. You will find total luxury off the Champs Elysees but a price tag to match. In the picturesque Montmartre and Marais areas the hotels are particularly charming, with equally charming rates. Saint-Germain-des-Près has a great laid back atmosphere and some great hotels to match. For low budget, head to the east of town to areas like Bastille, where you will find many decent hotels.
Where to eat and drink in Paris
The restaurants lining the Champs Elysees look appealing but be warned, their location adds to the price you pay, and if you come a little away from here you will find much better value. In Montmartre visit the Place du Tertre where cafe tables, waiters, artists, souvenir vendors and visitors jostle for pavement space. This is where you'll find most of the restaurants, so ignore the high prices, sit down and enjoy the general atmosphere.
How to get around Paris
Walking really is the best way to truly take it all in. When the legs get tired the Metro is very good and even if your French isn’t totally up to scratch you will find the ticket machines and maps easy to understand. After spending a bit of time taking in the roads of Paris you will agree that hiring a car, or indeed a bike, is not a good idea.
The best time to visit Paris
You can’t beat Paris in springtime, you get the wonderful flowers and buds appearing and the sun begins to warm your face, it still isn't too busy yet and you can get a deck chair in the parks without being harassed for your euros. Summer brings crowds of tourists and beautiful weather but the room rates go up, and winter time offers many cultural events to entertain.
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