For all the talk of its fêted spring, Paris is truly a perennial city. In Fall and Winter, when tourist crowds are sparse, the city’s cafés still hum and the streets throng with natives — well-dressed, portfolio-armed and back to work, refreshed from their own summer escapes. Running on equal parts pride and panache, this everyday Paris — found in sidewalk cafés or in the bookstalls lining the Seine — is equally exciting as any of the city’s grand monuments. Centuries of cultural and political development have brought Paris a variety of museums, theatres, monuments and architectural styles.
Many of its masterpieces such as the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe are iconic buildings, especially its internationally recognized symbol, the Eiffel Tower. Long regarded as an international centre for the arts, works by history’s most famous painters can be found in the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and its many other museums and galleries. Paris is a global hub of fashion and has been referred to as the “international capital of style”, noted for its haute couture tailoring, its high-end boutiques and the twice-yearly Paris Fashion Week.
It is world renowned for its haute cuisine, attracting many of the world’s leading chefs. Many of France’s most prestigious universities and Grandes Écoles are in Paris or its suburbs, and France’s major newspapers Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération are based in the city and Le Parisien in Saint-Ouen near Paris. Paris, the world’s most popular city destination, has plenty of must-see places 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 French city.
Things to do
The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe stands at the center of Place de l’Étoile, the hub from which 12 grand avenues — including the idyllic pedestrian mall, the Champs Élysées — radiate to form the star for which the Place de l’Étoile is named. Climb to the Arc’s panoramic viewing terrace and gaze down each avenue into the city. It’s the best place to admire the taut geometry of Paris’s urban plan, devised by Napoleon III’s prefect Baron Georges-Eugène Hausmann, who razed the city’s medieval slums to lay down broad boulevards.
Musée de l’Orangerie
As much as it delights first-timers, the Orangerie is ripe for repeat visits. The gallery’s appeal lies in part in a pleasing sense of scale — it doesn’t crowd too much together, but gives the works on offer their due. That offering includes Claude Monet’s masterworks, the Nymphéas (Water Lilies) painted in the artist’s garden at Giverny and donated to the French state. Monet stipulated that the monumental panels be displayed precisely as they are seen today, in twin oval rooms that surround enraptured viewers with his vision. The gallery also houses, in its specially built subterranean section, the superb Walter-Guillaume collection of post-impressionist works — keep an eye out for Modigliani’s portrayal of the fedora-topped collector Paul Guillaume as modern art’s Nova Pilota (New Helmsman). Afterward, let impressions settle with a walk through the Tuileries gardens or feed the pigeons from a perch on the promenade.
Shakespeare and Company Bookshop
Time has not sundered the love in between literature and Paris’s Left Bank. The Shakespeare and Company bookstore, has long been a fixture of the affair. The original shop, which doubled as a library, publisher and boarding house for aspiring writers, was opened by the American Sylvia Beach and was featured in Ernest Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast. The store closed during World War II, and was reopened in its current incarnation in 1951 by George Whitman, whose daughter, Sylvia (named after Beach), runs things today. Out front, bookstands surround an ornate drinking fountain, erected in the 19th century to service the area’s poor. Inside, there’s an extensive stock of second-hand books. When you’re done browsing, retire with reading matter to the nearby restaurant Le Procope. Once the haunt of luminaries like Voltaire, Rousseau and Verlaine, its walls were adorned with author-signed title pages, addressed like many love letters to “Le Procope.”
This comprehensive Paris tour allows you to discover the attractions of Paris at your own pace. Whether it is shopping, dining, history or romance that brought you to the City of Light this tour will help you to discover your perfect Paris. Your pass allows you unlimited hop-On, hop-Off access over a one or two day period. There are 4 routes and more than 50 stops to choose from on this wonderful tour. All 4 routes are interconnected, allowing you to switch between them easily.
Three decades into its life, it’s clear that the Centre Pompidou has succeeded in its aim of being both art gallery and cultural hub. Its modern and contemporary art collection, with over 50,000 works and multiple temporary exhibitions, is one of Europe’s most significant. Its public library and performance spaces throng with life — more than 6 million visit the Pompidou each year. The landmark building, designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, wears its skeleton on the outside, with tubes and structures color-coded to denote their function — blue for air conditioning, green for plumbing, yellow for electricity, red for elevators. (Piano, who championed the revitalization of the Pompidou’s environs, has his workshop a stone’s throw away in the Marais.)
At first blush, Paris’s Montmartre neighborhood might seem little more than a sad neon strip, lined with peddlers of souvenir windmills. But idle away a few hours in its intricate back streets and you’ll likely find more local color than you would in the center of Paris. Trace the maple-dappled paths of Montmartre Cemetery to the resting places of the old avant garde — Edgar Degas, Gustave Moreau and Francis Picabia lie here, amongst the more obscure departed. Climb or ride the cable car up the hill to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre. Built to cure the country’s spiritual ills in the face of military defeat at the hands of Germany, the basilica expresses a singular faith in beauty’s power to move. From the steps outside, amidst hawkers and buskers, the city succumbs to countless daubs of gray in the dusk.
Shopping in the Marais
A marsh until the 12th century, the Marais has led many lives — parade of grand villas, Jewish district and the gay nightspot. It’s also a famous shopping precinct, its boutiques and ateliers supplying Paris’s yen for simple things done beautifully. Stock up here on smart staples for your wardrobe, writing desk and larder. Ashen knits and dove-colored cottons are on offer at Loft Design by a company found in Paris in 1989, Patrick Frèche. Next, select some fresh-minted stationery from one of the many papeteries on rue du Pont Louis-Philippe — the original Papier+ has been setting a high bar since 1976. Then, sample some organic olive oils and goodies at the newly opened Premiere Pression Provence — the shop has dozens of oils, but we recommend beginning with the award-winning Domaine Les Bastidettes. The candy-pink sidewalk table bears seasonal specials.
The Louvre Museum
The Louvre Museum is unquestionably one of the finest art galleries in the world. Home to thousands of classic and modern masterpieces, the Louvre is the jewel in the crown of French culture, a towering testament to European civilization and history. Its quality and importance is highlighted through its popularity as the Louvre is the globes most-visited museum. To walk through the Louvre Museum is to walk through the history of France and into the minds of kings and revolutionaries. The reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XIV saw major expansion and a linking of the palaces and halls, which makes up the museum today. The Louvre Museum contains over 35,000 pieces of artwork across numerous departments including the Near Eastern Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, Paintings, Prints and Drawings. Masterpieces by great artists such as Da Vinci and Delacroix are part of the permanent collection of this prestigious gallery. Surrounding this iconic pyramid building are the Carrousel gardens. These beautiful formal gardens are among the finest in the world and the perfect setting to discuss and reflect on the wonders of the gallery itself.
Notre Dame Cathedral
The construction of the Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, undertaken at the initiative of Maurice de Sully, began in about 1160 and amazingly was completed within 40 years. Around 1250, Jean de Chelles built the north arm and began work on the south arm, which was completed by Jean de Montreuil. From the middle of the 13th century to the beginning of the 14th century, the chapels of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris were constructed between the buttresses of the nave. The buttresses next to the chevet were built by Pierre de Montreuil and are particularly fine. The Towers of Notre Dame Cathedral are amongst the great delights of the cathedral and provided you have the energy for the ascent, they provide a spectacular view over central Paris. The Towers ascend to 422 steps (226 feet) above ground level. Notre Dame Cathedral Paris is justly famous throughout the world. Almost intimidating in its gothic splendor, this is the work of hundreds of craftsmen and centuries of labor- an astonishing testament to cooperative civilization.
You couldn’t possibly visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. Even if you do not want to visit this world famous structure, you will see its top from all over Paris. The tower rises 300 meters tall (984 ft), when it was completed at the end of the nineteenth century it was twice as high as the Washington Monument – at the time the tallest structure in the world.
The Champs-Elysées is almost two kilometers long and seventy meters wide. At its western end the street is bordered by cinemas, theaters, cafes and luxury shops. On the opposite end, near the Place de la Concorde, the street is bordered by the Jardins des Champs-Elysées – beautifully arranged gardens with fountains and grand buildings including the Grand and Petit Palais at the southern side and the Elysée at its northern side.
Paris is home to many exceptional restaurants, but finding one that can also be relied upon for professional, courteous service and an inviting ambiance can occasionally prove tricky. Among the French capital’s vast array of eateries, the list below can be relied upon to deliver wonderful cuisine and a dining experience to remember.
Pierre Gagnaire – Champs-Elysées
A discovery trail of French cuisine from one of the most inventive chefs around today, who often finds inspiration in painting and jazz. The pared-back dining room provides the stage for a panoply of dishes from minuscule appetizers – a tuna meringue, a clam with diced veg – to a whirlwind of desserts, all propelled by a fleet of lithe waiters.
Although Pierre Gagnaire is often associated with molecular cuisine in his collaborations with scientist Hervé, this is real food, not froths and foams with perfect seasoning and an extraordinary variety of flavors and textures. The lunch menu is a relatively accessible way to sample this extraordinary cuisine.
Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée
More than a name, Alain Ducasse has become a veritable institution. Although he has several establishments in France, the Relais Plaza at the Plaza Atheéné is one of his most emblematic. The elegant art deco setting is a perfect foil to his cuisine. Rather than seeking to be inventive, the menu features traditional and classic dishes that are composed with outstanding expertise like pan-fried veal liver, beef tartare and more. Take bistro classics, mix them with the spirit of the Plaza Athénée and you have the most upscale dishes with quite a new flavor.
They would be delighted to welcome you at the Meurice. The dining room was recently redecorated by designer Patrick Jouin with a mix of traditional and modern swarovski crystals, ceilings with gold leafs, armchairs in Corian and lighting that changes with the time of day.
Viewpoint: View over the interior courtyard of the Plaza Athénée.
Le Pré Catelan
A delightful setting in the heart of the Bois de Boulogne, an elegant Napoléon III pavilion with classic decor and salons full of history available for private hire for your finest fêtes, weddings, private receptions, professional events and seminars.
The Pré Catalan restaurant with talented chef, Frédéric Anton at the helm, serves inventive and refined haute gastronomie awarded with a 3rd Michelin star in the 2007 edition of the Michelin Guide.
Located on avenue Franklin-Roosevelt in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, the restaurant Lasserre welcomes diners in a sophisticated setting with a Belle Époque decor. The restaurant is famous for its food and especially for its open roof. The restaurant was named after its creator, René Lasserre. Christophe Moret and the patisserie chef Claire Heitzel created a subtle, delicate, and delicious cuisine using the strong identity of this place whilst opening to the rest of the world. The ground floor dining rooms, with decor inspired by the 18th century are modular and can seat up to 54 diners.
Cuisine traditional: Chef Christophe likes to play with taste pairs, combinations of textures, and color themes to create a real voyage of flavors.
Speciality: Macaroni, black truffles, and duck foie gras, André Malraux pigeon, crêpes Suzette.
The restaurant at Le Bristol, the five-star hotel on Rue Saint-Honoré, holds three Michelin stars. Ten years after becoming executive chef, Eric Fréchon received the ultimate fine dining accolade – the coveted third Michelin star. Fréchon’s cooking had already won him recognition, notably a Meilleur Ouvrier de France award.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has gone on record saying Fréchon is his favorite chef. The dining room overlooking the garden was a former theater created by Jules de Castellane – it has a magnificent ceiling in gold leaf decorated with an allegory of the 4 seasons, regency wood paneling with oak from Hungary and 16th-century tapestry from the Lille tapestry factory.
Summer dining: The restaurant opens out onto a huge 1,200 m² French-style garden, an exceptional place in Paris. 114 Faubourg, the luxury brasserie directly accessible from rue du faubourg Saint Honoré.
This restaurant opened at the heart of the Marais under the magnificent arcades of the Place des Vosges in 1986 and occupies the premises of a former goldsmith’s store featuring an 18th century decor with tapestries by Aubusson, original parquet flooring and stylish furniture. This Michelin-starred temple to gastronomy offers a journey through time with awonderful Neo-venetian style setting.
Viewpoint: View on the Place des Vosges. (Marais district)
Le Jules Verne – Eiffel Tower
To dine at the Jules Verne is a rare moment, a step out of time and space… A particular experience and a wonderful journey. The Jules Verne offers the best views of Paris, one of the warmest and most intimate dining rooms of the capital, the plate a reflection of French culinary heritage with a hint of a contemporary touch and attentive service.
The extraordinary setting 400 ft (122 meters) up the Eiffel Tower (reached by the restaurant’s own lift, south pillar) takes the stuffiness out of grand-occasion dining with a suave decor by Patrick Jouin and nonchalant waiters who don’t bat an eyelid when you get up to take photos. Since being taken into the Ducasse empire, Le Jules Verne has improved its food to match the views, with a modern take on grand classics by Pascal Féraud, right down to a chocolate bolt dessert in homage to the 2.5 million bolts that hold the tower together.
This hidden gem in the posh neighborhood across the river from the Eiffel Tower is the brainchild of two l’Arpège alums, Pascal Barbot, former sous chef and Christophe Rohat from Maître d’hôtel who earned L’Astrance’s first Michelin star within five months of opening in 2000 and followed by a second and third star in 2007. L’Astrance has been ranked by San Pelligrino as one of the 50 best restaurants in the world for the last 8 years.
The result is a delicate broth, langoustine, lobster, veal or duck accompanied by the likes of lemongrass, coriander, miso, jasmine, coconut milk, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, edible flowers and daikon. Three of his signature dishes are: a layered galette of raw mushrooms, foie gras with hazelnut oil and lemon confit, a tender lobster tail on spicy tomato-peanut sauce and a hollowed-out eggshell cups filled with jasmine-infused eggnog.
Every meal here is a succession of astonishingly delicious flavors. Reserve as soon as you can, the waiting list ranges from 1 to 2 months.
Picturesquely located in the gardens of the Champs-Elysées, the Pavillon Ledoyen is one of the oldest gastronomic restaurants in the French capital. The establishment boasts an impressive facade, magnificent art deco decor with beautiful wood paneling and an exquisite glass roof.
Under the aegis of talented chef Christian Le Squer, the restaurant has become one of the most popular in Paris with top class cuisine and three stars in the Michelin Guide. Bresse chicken in a pot and morels in juice, casserole cooked lobster, wild duckling with orange rind, crispy salted truffles and creamy quenelles with foie gras … Luxury dining.
Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse
The Meurice restaurant, at the eponymous hotel, offers a wonderful and varied menu. The triple-starred cuisine of chef Alain Ducasse is modern and audacious with authentic flavors and meticulous presentation. Inspired by the Salon de la Paix at the Palace of Versailles, the decoration of the restaurant was revamped by Stark in 2007 and offers timeless elegance with majestic glass doors with gilding, antique mirrors, chandeliers, bronzes, marble and frescoes. The silver, white and natural light gives the room a unique harmony. There is also an enchanting view of the Tuileries Gardens through the windows. It’s turn for century decor like marble columns, mosaic floors, glass chandeliers, frescos and gilding.
Viewpoint: Of the Tuileries Gardens/rue de Rivoli.
Paris climate is unpredictable. It sees warm summers and cold winters. In summer temperature goes to mid-20s and in winter it may dip to 1C. The rainfall is moderate and steady year round. Paris, the capital and largest city in France, experiences the typical Western European oceanic climate.
Summer comes in July and lasts till August in Paris. Throughout these summer months the average temperature stays at 25°C. Moreover, nighttime temperature hardly falls below the mid-teens. Rainfall is not frequent although the occasional and unexpected shower could disturb the tourists at any time. Summer months receive more than 60mm of rain. However, the city witnesses more than eight hours of sunshine per day.
October to December is the period of change. Paris experiences cooler temperatures during this season. The first month of Autumn sees regular highs of 15°C and as the season progresses it falls quickly and stands at 10°C. Rainfall remains almost same like the other months of year. Night time temperature, however, drops into 8°C in October. Interestingly, the city gets very low level of sunshine during November, less than three hours per day.
Winter features very cold weather in Paris. During January the maximum temperature of the city stands at only 6°C while the minimums at 1°C. Although it is unusual, the city sees snow often. During this time, especially when snow falls, Paris looks truly stunning.
Spring appears with better climate. Paris dwellers see the sign of the season when flowers bloom in several well decorated gardens in the city. The temperature increases gradually and stands at around 20 degrees during May. The season sees a great level of sunshine during the Spring season.
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