Paris’s towering reputation as a bucket-list destination can be intimidating to newcomers. Connor McGovern helps with a quick guide to the City of Light.
Constellations of museums, restaurants and unrivalled shops, guarded over by iconic structures such as the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame — Paris is a city that has inspired generations of artists, filmmakers and writers, as well as the visitors that flock from across the globe.
Most US visitors arrive by plane, and from the airports an extensive and affordable transport network snakes out across the metropolis, connecting the major sights and neighborhoods.
From leisurely brunches and long afternoons wandering around galleries, to perusing department stores and sunset walks along the river Seine, there’s enough to keep visitors coming back for years.
Get up early and take your pick from the cakes and pastries at Huré (rue Rambuteau) while the baked goods are still warm from the oven. Head up to Montmartre, its superb views crowned by the great Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and watch the city come to life down below.
A cemetary may not be the most obvious attractions on a city break, but Père Lachaise in the east of the city is an eerily enchanting place. Final resting place to Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde, the 110-acre necropolis is a fascinating walk, full of subdued salutes to the many names that shaped France’s chequered history.
There are many Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris; no surprise in a country obsessed with food. For an unforgettable dining experience, book a table at Le Relais Louis XIII in the 6th arrondissement, and enjoy delectable dishes including lobster ravioli and a to-die-for vanilla mille-feuille.
Join the runners and picnickers in one of Paris’ most beautiful parks, Jardin du Luxembourg, its pristinely manicured beds and lawns spread out before the elegant Luxembourg Palace.
Explore the Latin Quarter on foot, a warren of bookshops, university buildings and cafés at the heart of Paris’ synonymy with the arts world. Don’t miss the nearby St-Étienne-du-Mont and the elegant Panthéon — a neoclassical mausoleum, burial place to some of France’s most distinguished figures.
The Eiffel Tower may be iconic, but for some of the best views of Paris at dusk, make the pilgrimage from Place de la Concorde up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, standing proudly at the intersection of 12 grand avenues. The views from the top are sweeping and magnificent, and considerably more affordable than those from the tower.
In a country where shopping is a national passion, Paris’s markets are a must. The bustling flea market in St-Ouen is one of the biggest and best in Europe, but there are many others where you can try your hand at bartering in French: Bastille or Rue Montorgueil for food, Marché aux Fleurs near Notre Dame for and the Marché des Timbres for stamps will easily fill your mornings.
Some relish the challenge of getting lost in the colossus of the Louvre, but for a more intimate artistic encounter, the Musée Rodin is a safe bet. Devoted to Auguste Rodin’s life, the excellent museum boasts the largest collection of works by the sculptor, including The Thinker, still contemplating away in the garden out back.
They say Paris is the most romantic city on earth, and whether you walk along the Seine hand-in-hand or not, the banks of Paris’ watery heart are one of the highlights of a stay in the capital. Unwind with a picnic, take a lazy bike ride, or simply stroll along and admire the sunset as Paris lives up to its nickname of the City of Light.
WHERE TO STAY
Hôtel Le Petit Paris
Perfectly located for exploring the Latin Quarter, this boutique hotel near the Jardin du Luxembourg has a sleek lounge and bar and a range of stylishly designed rooms, all offering contemporary and comfortable spaces in a prime location. The extensive continental breakfast in the courtyard is not to be missed before setting off for a day in the city.
This five-star retreat off the Champs-Élysées feels a world away from the bustle of the city. Most of its 56 rooms and suites lead on to the peaceful inner courtyard, offering the perfect place to switch off. Sumptuously designed with elegant finishing touches, the Lancaster is ideal for those looking for a touch of luxury during a stay in the capital.
Les Plumes Hôtel
Siutated in a bijou townhouse in the heart of the city, Les Plumes has all the pizzazz and comfort of a boutique hotel. Rooms are stylishly designed with Paris’ colorful couples of the 19th century in mind, so guests can relax in rooms inspired by Victor Hugo and his mistress Juliette, or the stormy romance of poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine.