Paris Destination Guide
As Audrey Hepburn famously remarked, “Paris is always a good idea”. It’s easy to understand why, because the world’s most popular city destination offers plenty of must see attractions, including the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame. But make sure you spend at least a day strolling off the beaten path, as this is the only way to discover the real Paris: a lively cosmopolitan but undeniably charming city.
Start your trip with a walk down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, see the Arc de Triomphe and stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries. You can stop to admire the Louvre before continuing down Rui Rivoli and crossing into the original part of the City. From here it’s a short walk to the Notre Dame de Paris, the City’s most visited attraction, so make sure you arrive early to avoid queues at the Bell Tower. The La Sainte Chapelle is considered by some to be even more beautiful than the Notre Dame, and its stained glass windows will leave you breathless.
Add the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles to your itinerary, but make sure you have enough time to enjoy the sights at leisure. If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, take a Paris sewer tour or visit the fascinating but grim Catacombs of Paris with their endless winding tunnels that house thousands of bones.
Paris is regarded as the culinary capital of Europe and dining out is an attraction in itself. Although the City is home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, even the humblest of back-alley bistros is likely to offer a romantic candlelight experience. Parisian restaurants may be predictably expensive, but the City also has plenty of eateries where the eternal waft of doughy air lures you in to buy bread, cheese, meat, vegetables and more chocolate than you should probably eat.
Want to socialise like a true Parisian? Instead of going bar-hopping for the night, get some cheese and wine and sit down by the banks of the River Seine, perhaps at Quai de la Tournelle behind the Notre Dame Cathedral. If you’re intent on seeing Paris’s nightlife spots, the area around the Place de la Bastille is a good place to go.
Paris is divided into 20 districts or arrondissements, and the River Seine splits the City in half: the Right Bank (Rive Droite) is the northern half, while the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) is the southern half. Each district is like a little village within the City and has its own history and culture. Once you know which attractions you’d like to see, you can plan your accommodation accordingly. Paris hotels are spread far and wide, though certain quarters house more attractions than others. On the Left Bank is the Latin Quarter, where intellectuals and artists mix and mingle. Le Marais is at the heart of the City and close to several major attractions, including the Louvre. The north-western fringes are where you’ll find the Champs-Élysées, while the other side of the City is famous for the artist enclave of Montmartre.
Shopping is a popular pastime in Paris and there are lots of good places to do so. The Champs-Élysées offers many recognisable brand names, as does Rue de Rivoli on the Right Bank. Also on the Right Bank are streets like Rue SaintDenis and Rue des Lombards where you’ll find more alternative shops. On Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and the nearby Avenue Montaigne are some of the City’s most exclusive high-end stores, while the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps on Boulevard Haussmann offer a quintessentially Parisian shopping experience. If your budget is at the low end of the scale, a weekend excursion to the northern suburb of Saint-Ouen is a must. It’s home to Paris’s largest flea market and is a great place to shop for antique furniture, vinyl records and vintage clothes.
Good to know in Paris
- Lace up your shoes – the café lined streets are so intriguing that you won’t realise how much ground you cover in a day.
- The big museums are free on the first Sunday of the month.
- Although the Eiffel Tower is grand during the day, it’s illuminated at night and sparkles for five minutes every hour on the hour.
- The French love their language. Try to learn at least a few phrases before you arrive.