Paris, the cosmopolitan capital of France, is, with 2.2 million people living in the dense, central city and almost 12 million people living in the whole metropolitan area, one of the largest agglomerations in Europe. Located in the north of France on the river Seine, Paris has the reputation of being the most beautiful and romantic of all cities, brimming with historic associations and remaining vastly influential in the realms of culture, art, fashion, food and design.
What to see in Paris
- The Eiffel Tower - Ok, ten out or ten for stating the obvious. Everyone puts the Eiffel Tower top of the list of things to see in Paris. But with good reason, because the Eiffel Tower is a place you just can’t miss. From its looming construction to its stunning views of the city and just the general energy and buzz of the place, it really does live up to the billing.
- The Catacombs of Paris - While most people come to this city for romance, there’s a darker side to be found… This underground burial complex houses six million skeletons dating to the 18th century. Stacked in endless corridors, it’s a fascinating and haunting place. If you have the courage, it’s one of the most interesting places in Paris to see.
- Louvre Museum - Firmly seated among the most famous places to visit in Paris, you could spend your entire trip exploring the Louvre. It is vast and packed full of masterpieces at every turn. So do you zip through to see the highlights – the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo et al - or do you take your time and risk joining the collection…
- The Pantheon – Paris - The Pantheon's in Rome right? True, but it’s also in Paris. At least, the Paris Pantheon is in Paris. Makes sense, if you think about it. The Paris Pantheon is a church turned mausoleum and resting place of France’s famous. Little visited, it’s a magnificent building and ranks as one of the best things to do in Paris.
- Palace of Versailles - A monument to the decadence of royalty and a constant draw for vast numbers of visitors, Versailles is simply astonishing. And if the massive opulent palace isn’t enough, the gardens will simply blow your mind. Representing ostentatiousness beyond measure, it’s clearly one of the very best places to visit in Paris.
- Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris - Standing at the very heart of the city, Notre Dame is an iconic cathedral and a staple entry on any list of what to see in Paris. With its looming ceilings and magnificent stained-glass windows, it's a wonderful place to visit. Its fame and location leave it slightly over-glorified, but it's genuinely impressive all the same.
- Pere Lachaise Cemetery - This cemetery is not the most obvious of things to do in Paris, and yet it has a strange allure. As well as many famous figures and military grandees found here, and alongside ornate and elaborate tombs, are a number of graves which have become cult destinations – principally the burials of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.
- Crypte Archeologique – Paris - One of the city’s best hidden gems is the Crypte Archeologique – an underground museum of Roman Paris. Indeed, few people even think of Roman ruins among the interesting places in Paris to visit. This site is more curious as it's directly below Notre Dame; yet of the thousands above, barely dozens descend its steps.
- Sainte Chapelle - If there was ever an example of good things in small packages then Sainte Chapelle is it. A 13th century church, its beautiful upper chapel is formed of intricate stained-glass windows and a richly decorated ceiling. It’s easily one of the top ten Paris places to visit and really has to be seen to be appreciated.
- Musee de Cluny - A hidden gem in the heart of Paris, Musee de Cluny is a medieval museum nestling within an ancient Roman bath complex. In fact, this tucked away treasure is one of the very best remnants of the ancient Roman city which would become Paris. If you’re seeking interesting places to visit in Paris, this is hard to beat.
What to do in Paris
- Make the most of free first Sundays - If you get your timing right, you can visit some of the most popular museums and monuments in Paris for free, thanks to the free first Sundays programme. Among those included are tourist magnets such as the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay, as well smaller quirky spots such as the Albert-Kahn musée et jardins (a homage to gardens around the world) and the Musée de l'Assistance Publique, which celebrates the history of Paris hospitals. The free Sundays programme offers the perfect opportunity to poke your nose into some of the places you may not have considered visiting with a door tax.
- Parc de la Villette free open air cinema - Make the most of a summer evening in Paris and catch a free film at the open-air cinema at the Parc de la Villette. The programme runs during July and August and usually follows a particular theme. This year it's "Tous en scène'" or "Everybody on stage" and includes films such as Where the Wild Things Are, Be Kind Rewind and The Killing. It's a fantastic communal event and if you're averse to perching on the grass, you can always upgrade to a deckchair for €7.
- Stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg - It's easy to spend an entire day wandering around this sweeping city park, which is the second largest in Paris and is the garden of the French senate. The beautifully landscaped garden, which was built in the 17th century, contains hundreds of statues, monuments and fountains – including the first model of the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric Bartholdi – which you'll stumble across as you make your way through the well kept flora. Only a short walk from many of Paris's main attractions, the park is the perfect place for any sightseer to put their feet up, read a book and enjoy a picnic.
- Check out the Love Wall - If your stomach turns at the thought of slushy, romantic photo opportunities, then the Love Wall in Montmartre may not be for you. Still, Paris being the city of love, it's no surprise that this mural that features "I Love You" scrawled in hundreds of different languages, draws countless visitors looking for an opportunity to capture a smoochy holiday snap. The wall is the brainchild of Frederic Baron, who began collecting I love yous in 1992 before teaming up with artist and calligrapher Claire Kito who drew the mural. It's not far from the gleaming white Sacré-Coeur Basilica, an iconic Parisian attraction that can also be visited for free.
- Visit the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris - One of the most popular attractions in Paris, Notre Dame cuts a dominating figure on the Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine. The spindly gothic buttresses and magnificent stained glass windows make it as much a treat to see from the inside as out. Meanwhile, in the square and bridges around the cathedral you'll find assorted buskers, from full live bands to human statues, which always draw a crowd.
- Explore the Père Lachaise cemetery - Behind a looming stone entrance in the 20th arrondissement lies Paris's largest cemetery, with over 100 acres of graves, tombs and memorials and 69,000 ornate (and often over-the-top) tombs of curious. It is the most visited cemetery in the world, thanks to its impressive roll call of those laid to rest here, including Georges Rodenbach, whose tomb features a bronze figure breaking out of the grave, and Oscar Wilde's, which used to be kissed by visitors with red lipstick. Jim Morrison of The Doors is also buried there; his grave is a humble stone marker that draws thousands of fans each year.
- Walk La Promenade Plantée - Opened in 1993, six years before New York's similar High Line project, La Promenade Plantee is a tree-lined walkway on an old elevated railway line in east Paris. The 4.5km trail is a wonderful way to explore the city, taking you up and down staircases, across viaducts, above the streets and offering the occasional chance to wave back at the lucky Parisians whose apartments overlook it. The walkway also runs over the Viaduc des Arts, a bridge in which the arches are now occupied by galleries.
- Have a late night picnic at the Square du Vert-Galant - If you want to get a taste of the real Midnight in Paris, bohemian vibe, make your way down to the Square du Vert-Galant with a bottle of wine in the evening. The cosy park is situated on the western tip of the Île de la Cité and can be reached by taking the stairs down from Pont Neuf. In the summer, the park is dotted with people relaxing on the grass, enjoying the view and watching the boats sail past on either side of the island. It's not uncommon to see sparkling tea lights floating downstream with them too, adding that extra touch of Parisian magic.
- Check out a fashion show at Galeries Lafayette - Getting a seat for Paris Fashion Week might be beyond the means of most visitors, but it's possible to get a taste of la mode every Friday afternoon at the Galeries Lafayette department store. The free shows involve professional models strutting the runway and displaying the store's fashion collection. It's still worth booking ahead to get a seat, and to confirm a show will be taking place, so contact the store in advance to get yourself a ticket.
Shopping in Paris
Paris is one of the great fashion centres of the Western world, up there with New York, London, and Milan, making it a shopper's delight. While the Paris fashion scene is constantly evolving, the major shopping centres tend to be the same. High end couture can be found in the 8th arrondisement. In summer, there is nothing better than browsing the boutiques along Canal St-Martin, or strolling along the impressive arcades of the historic Palais-Royal, with beautifully wrapped purchases swinging on each arm.
A good note about Le Marais is that as it is a mostly Jewish neighbourhood, most of the shops in Le Marais are open on Sundays. The stores in this area are intimate, boutique, "Parisian" style clothing stores. You will no doubt find something along each street, and it is always well worth the look.
Other great areas to shop around in are around the area Sèvres Babylone (Métro Line 10 and Line 12). It is in this area you will find the Le Bon Marché 7th, particularly rue de Cherche Midi 6th. The area boasts some of the major fashion houses (Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Versace, etc) and also has smaller private boutiques with handmade clothing.
In the Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés, you can find a handful of vintage clothing shops, carrying anything from couture early 20th century dresses, to 70s Chanel sunglasses. Walking along Boulevard Saint-Germain, you will find major brands. However, if in search of eclectic finds, opt to walk the northern side of the Boulevard, especially along rue Saint André des Arts, where you can always find a nice café to stop in. The area south of Saint-Germain is just as nice, and comes with a price tag to match.
Paris has 3 main flea-markets, located on the outskirts of the central city. The most famous of these is the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen (Porte de Clignancourt) (Clignancourt Flea Market).
What to eat in Paris
French cuisine is popular for its delicious, diversified and world-wide known cuisine. Traditional French foods range from delectable cheeses and desserts to hearty soups, stews, and fresh fish. One of the great things about French traditional food is the fact that each region has its own specialties that are traditional and unique to that area. These French traditional food items are based off the available items within that particular region. In this writing, we only give you some general ideas of the most popular traditional French foods. Look for the regional favorites while visiting France if you want to taste the best of the region.
- Escargot - Most people unfamiliar with French cooking are quick to turn up their collective noses at this dish. Perhaps the most widely know of the traditional French dishes, escargot is a delicacy made from snails. Served as an appetizer, escargot is usually prepared in a garlic butter sauce. The snails themselves are first removed from the shell, cleaned, and then placed back inside the snail shell after preparation. Escargot generally come served with an herb butter sauce for dipping. This traditional French dish even has its own utensil; escargot comes to the table with special tongs designed for holding the shell.
- Bouillabaisse - Bouillabaisse is a French fish soup that is a specialty of the region of Provence and is one of the most familiar of the traditional French dishes. Three kinds of fish usually go into this traditional French dish, including scorpion fish, conger and monkfish. Cooked with special herbs like saffron and garlic, as well as orange zest, bay leaf, and fennel. Leeks, tomatoes, celery, and onions simmer together with the fish and spices. Bouillabaisse is served with crusty French bread topped by rouille, a mayonnaise made with olive oil, cayenne, garlic and saffron.
- Pumpkin Soup - In the center of France, soupe au potiron is a favorite. In the fall, when pumpkins and potatos are harvested, this soup is featured on many traditional tables. The main ingredients are mixed with cream and topped with croutons or served with a freshly-baked baguette.
- Chestnut Soup - Another seasonal favorite is soupe aux chataignes. Locally-grown chestnuts are mixed with potatos, leeks, and turnips to make a hearty, and yet sweet, winter soup. While this French soup is more difficult to make because finding fresh chestnuts and peeling them can be tricky, it is a great recipe to try for a special occasion.
- Coq au Vin - Literally “chicken and wine”, this dish is a combination of braised rooster served in a special wine sauce. Coq au vin, like many traditional French dishes, varies slightly by region. Wine sauce preparation depends upon the area, though a burgundy is the most common choice. After the chicken marinates in the wine one day before, it is seared in a hot pan. Small mushrooms, onions, garlic, butter and salt pork (bacon) are added to the chicken and allowed to simmer. As the sauce thickens, salt, pepper, thyme and other savory herbs are added to the pot.
Paris is one of Europe's culinary centres. The restaurant trade began here just over 220 years ago and continues to thrive. It may, however, come as a surprise that Paris isn't considered the culinary capital of France; rather some people prefer the French cooking found in small rural restaurants, outside of the city, closer to the farms and with their focus on freshness and regional specialities. Even amongst French cities, Paris has long been considered by some people as second to Lyon for fine dining.
Nightlife in Paris
A night on the town in Paris can now lead you anywhere, from a Mexican speakeasy to a Brazilian model den to a Shanghai-style jazz club. But you can also spend your evening in a spectacular new French wine bar or semi-secret experimental cocktail lounge.
Pershing Hall, Experimental Cocktail, ClubL'Absinthe, O Chateau - Wine Tasting, ChaCha Club, Mariage Freres are just a few places where you can go.
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