Paris simply has that je ne sais quoi. While you may want to avoid the city in high season due to the high density of tourists, Paris is beautiful the whole year round and anybody who’s been there will tell you how there’s always something new to discover. If you’re planning a trip there or just looking for some ideas for what to do when you’re there, look no further…
Getting around Paris is simple. Locals recommend taxis for the speediest way across town, but they can be expensive. A cheaper option is the Metro, which is cheaper and very extensive, although it can be crowded. Otherwise, you can go by foot or rent a bike as part of the city’s Vélib’ system. Paris is an incredibly pedestrian-friendly city and one of the greatest pleasures is simply strolling through the streets and seeing what hidden gems you find.
During summer, the weather is often warm and can be humid. In autumn, winter and spring, it is cool, with wetter winters. Still, even if it rains, there is a wealth of museums and galleries to see, or you could simply while away your time in a trendy cafe.
Museums and Galleries
The Louvre is one of the largest and most famous museums, housing many works of art, including the Mona Lisa (La Joconde) and the Venus de Milo statue.
Le Musee d’Orsay is located on the banks of the Seine, housed in the former railway station the Gare d’Orsay, an impressive Beaux-Arts edifice. Houses works by greats such as Monet, Cezanne, Renoir and Degas.
Centre Georges Pompidouis is a complex in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles, rue Montorgueil and the Marais. It was designed in the style of high-tech architecture. It houses the Bibliothèque publique d’information, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research. It is named after Georges Pompidou, who was President of France from 1969 to 1974. The Centre Pompidou has had over 150 million visitors since 1977.
Palaces and Landmarks
The Eiffel Tower is a global icon, completed in 1889. Its first and second levels are accessible by lift and stairs, but you must take an elevator to the top, where you can look out over the entire city for a spectacular view.
The Palace of Versailles is known in French as the Chateau de Versailles. When it was first built, Versailles was a country village: today it is a suburb of Paris! The court of Versailles was the centre of political power from 1682 till 1789 and is a symbol of the Ancien Regime. Today it is one of the top tourist attractions in Paris.You can purchase a Passport for Versailles from one of the train stations that includes round-trip train ticket and admission to more than you’ll have time to see!
Notre Dame is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world and boasts beautiful stained glass windows and a massive organ, which has an astonishing 7,800 pipes! The great bell, Emmanuel, is tolled to mark the hours of the day and special occasions. Astonishingly, the cathedral itself was never officially finished…
Arc de Triomphe is a famous moment that stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle at the western end of the Champs-Elysees. The triumphal arch honours those who fought for France, particularly in the Napoleonic Wars. On the inside and top of the arch, the names of generals are inscribed. The Arc is the linchpin of the historic axis (L’Axe historique) – a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route which goes from the courtyard of the Louvre Palace to the outskirts of Paris.
The Panthéon was originally intended to be a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, but is now most famous as a burial place for such famous names as Voltaire, the Curies and Rousseau. Located in the 5th arrondissement on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Panthéon looks out over all of Paris. Head down to the catacombs for a particularly interesting experience. Its architect, Jacques-Germain Soufflot, died before his work was achieved, and his plans were not entirely followed. Nevertheless, it is one of the most important architectural achievements of its time and the first great neoclassical monument.
Cafes, Restaurants and Bars
Art Brut – fantastic setting and incredible decor (food isn’t bad either!)
Cafe Lacombe – perfect for brunch
Tribal Cafe – cheap pints and free couscous – need I say more?
Le Tambour – all night eating and drinking, for those who get a bit peckish around midnight…
Hotel du Nord – understatedly chic with a parisian heritage, fantastically romantic and peaceful
Point Éphémère – run by a non-profit organisation that converts wastelands into cultural centres for young artists, features a variety of interesting exhibitions and concerts.
When booking a hotel, bear in mind that while most places in the centre of the city (1-6th districts), once you start getting into double-digits, you should take more care. Check out your hotel or hostel beforehand. Don’t just go for the cheapest one you find, or you might discover with a shock that it’s, for example, in the middle of the red light district! Hotel reviewing platforms and travel forums are a good place to check out whether your choice is a safe one.