Paris is unique in that it is a major global city, home to more than 10 million people in the greater region, yet it manages to synthesize the rhythms of village life with those of a cosmopolitan world capital. Although the city is a center of European commerce, many shops are closed on Sundays, leaving time for lazy brunches or shopping excursions at a local market. Paris is the capital of fashion, art, and people-watching; a city where Chanel-clad ladies walk poodles along grand boulevards; a place where the waiters might be rude but the food is délicieux. Paris is all of that and more. Your love affair begins once you look beyond the Eiffel Tower, explore the backstreets, and make Paris your own.
Comfy shoes are essential for this city of a thousand walks, landscaped gardens, and cavernous galleries. Reserve your ticket for speedy access to the Louvre, which sidles up to the sculpture-dotted Jardin des Tuileries. Across the Seine on the Left Bank, take your pick from Impressionist hangout Musée d’Orsay, Notre-Dame’s Gothic grandeur and Musée Rodin’s Kiss sculpture. Okay, you really can’t leave without seeing Paris light up from the Eiffel Tower, open till midnight. With more than 130 world-class museums to visit, scores of attractions to discover, extraordinary architecture to gape at, and wonderful neighborhoods to wander, Paris is an endless series of delights. The hardest part is figuring out where to begin. Fortunately, you can have a terrific time in Paris even if you don’t see everything. Some of your best moments may be simply roaming around the city without a plan. Lolling on a park bench, dreaming over a drink at a sidewalk cafe, or noodling around an unknown neighborhood can be the stuff of your best travel memories. Here, then, is the best of Paris’s attractions.
Paris’s Top 14 Sights and Attractions (in alphabetical order):
1) Arc de Triomphe
2) Basilique du Sacré-Coeur
3) Cathédrale de Notre-Dame
4) Centre Pompidou
5) Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
6) Hôtel des Invalides/Napoleon’s Tomb
7) Jardin du Luxembourg
8) Musée d’Orsay
9) Musée du Louvre
10) Musée du Quai Branly
11) Palais de Tokyo
12) Parc de la Villette
13) Sainte Chapelle
14) Tour Eiffel
Good food is a birthright and its appreciation a rite of passage in Paris, where a meal, sometimes even coffee, can last hours. For a memorable splurge, book one of the city’s opulent three-star palace restaurants, like Le Plaza Athenée or L’Astrance, or book ahead for a table at one of the trendy bistronomiques that combine gastronomy with bistro pricing, Frenchie, Le Chateaubriand, Rino, and Spring are all hot right now.
Parisians luxuriate in shopping, bidding shopkeepers bonjour and pausing to lèche-vitrines (“lick the windows,” or window shop). Saunter the boutiquey Marais for home-grown fashion, or voguish rue Saint-Honoré, home to concept store Colette, for more high-end labels. Where else can you find such palatial department stores as chic Bon Marché, Art Nouveau Printemps, or monumental Galeries Lafayette? Antiques, bric-a-brac, vintage Chanel, it’s all at the charming Porte de Vanves weekend flea market; arrive early for bargains and stay for brunch.
Ballet and opera at the glittering Opéra Garnier, Molière classics at the Comédie Française, and cancan at the Moulin Rouge, Paris nightlife reaches from sublime to borderline sleazy. A young, trendy crowd parties around the Bastille, gay Marais, and the effortlessly hip bars in Oberkampf, where DJs play at industrial-chic Nouveau Casino. Dress to the nines to slip past picky doormen in clubs around Champs-Élysées like celebrity-magnet Le Baron, and rock the Seine dancing to techno on moored party boat Batofar.