Along the Seine
The river divides the city into the Rive Droite and the Rive Gauche, with each side having a really distinctive spirit. The river is also a great way of getting your bearings ready for a stab at visiting the main attractions in Paris. Start with the Eiffel Tower, which – at 324 metres tall – can be seen virtually wherever you are in the city.
Also not to be missed is a visit to the Louvre (it’s best to book well in advance and allow a full day for the trip), home to some of the most famous works in the world, not least Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo from Greece.
The Musée d'Orsay showcases some of the leading artists from the impressionist and post-impressionist eras (Cézanne, Monet and Renoir), while you can’t go to Paris without heading to the Île de la Cité to see the gothic Notre-Dame cathedral, made famous by Victor Hugo’s celebrated novel.
Nearby is the Centre Georges Pompidou, one of the most cutting-edge museums in the world, where visitors can see over 70,000 pieces of modern and contemporary work by artists like Chagall, Matisse, Picasso and Kandinskij.
The capital of haute couture
Paris is the ideal destination for fashionistas. Among the street artists, cinemas and cafes, the tree-lined Champs Elysées is home to some of the most prestigious fashion brands in the world, including Guerlain, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.
Paris has always been known as the capital of haute couture and the birthplace of designers who have go on to become luxury icons: Vionnet, Coco Chanel, Paul Poiret, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin, not to mention Jean-René Lacoste and his much-loved crocodile.
Any luxury shopping trip should take in Place Vendôme and Boulevard Haussmann, famous for its popular Galeries Lafayette. Vintage lovers should opt for a walk along Rue Mouffetard, in the Latin Quarter, while the Saint-Ouen flea market – the largest in the city – is held near Montmartre. Don’t skip the Marais neighbourhood, with its fashion stores and art galleries.
Paris, je t’aime
The poetic spirit of Paris can be felt on every street corner, but few places are as romantic as the Montmartre district, where the golden age of poetry and art of the late 1800s seems to hang in the air – probably something to do with the many portrait artists that pack the narrow streets.
At the top of the Montmartre hill is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, the dome of which offers a unique view of the capital, while love birds can head to the Mur des je t’aime, an art installation featuring the words "I love you" in 311 different languages.
Bistros and ethnic food
French cooking is loved by all. It has given the world some of the great dishes, including crêpes, foie gras, escargot (snails), French onion soup, profiteroles and macarons.
Breakfast on buttery croissants and the ever-popular pain au chocolate, while for a quick lunch or snack there’s nothing better than a thin, crunchy baguette paired with a French cheese like roquefort or camembert. When evening comes, treat yourself to a romantic dinner in one of the many bistros and restaurants that line the city streets, with the best found in the Latin Quarter and around the Champs Elysées.
If you fancy trying some ethnic food, head to the lively Belleville and Menilmontant neighbourhoods.
Paris by night
The romantic charm of Paris takes on a different feel once night falls, as the city becomes a haven of fun. The historic Latin Quarter is a maze of alleyways packed with countless cocktail bars and pubs, popular with university students, while Pigalle has a more rebellious vibe to it thanks to the iconic Moulin Rouge and many cabaret bars and live music venues such as La Cigale or La Locomotive.
Parisians pack out the many pubs and clubs along Rue Oberkampf in the Bastille district, while Canal Saint Martin is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine in one of the bohemian cafes along the water.
The hidden soul of the city
If you prefer to discover Paris by going off the beaten track a little, there are still some lesser-known parts of the city to be discovered. Head to Le Marché de Belleville, one of the most popular and multi-ethnic markets in the city, where you can pick up a souvenir and engage in some quality people-watching thanks to the international crowd. If you want to enjoy a breath-taking view of the city – from 150 metres up – simply go up the Ballon Generali, a hot-air balloon permanently anchored in the Parc André Citroën.
In the trendy, multi-cultural Grands Boulevards area, a visit to the Passage Brady is like travelling back in time to imperial India. You can buy multi-coloured saris, try the best chicken vindaloo in Paris or get a trim from a traditional New Delhi barber. Situated just a stone’s throw from the much more well-known Notre-Dame, Saint Chapelle features an immense glass mosaic depicting over one thousand biblical scenes. One of the most beautiful churches in the city, it was one the King of France’s private chapel.
Last but certainly not least, the Musée Eugène Delacroix is a small museum housed in the Invalides apartment in which the painter lived and worked. The museum is located in Place Furstenberg, one of the most romantic squares in Paris, with Delacroix’s workshop looking out onto a garden made to look like it would have done during the artist’s time here.
Citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein) and Switzerland do not need to apply for a visa in order to visit Paris. All that’s required is an ID card valid for cross-border travel or a passport.
For more information, please visit the official French customs website: http://www.douane.gouv.fr/articles/a10794-arrivee-en-france-conseils-aux-voyageurs
Paris has a continental climate which is influenced by air currents from the Atlantic. The best time to visit the city is from spring to early summer (June and early July), when it’s not too hot and the days are longer.
September and October are also good times to visit, because you’ll still avoid the low temperatures that grip the city from November onwards. Winter can be cold and wet, though the Christmas lights to give the city a particularly magical feel!
Paris holds its Fashion Week twice a year, in autumn and spring. There are plenty of stand-out events during the spring months, including Paris Book Fair (March), the Paris Marathon (April) or the Foire de Paris (May), which has been going for over 100 years.
Music takes centre stage in the months of May and June, with the Jazz Festival in Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Paris Jazz Festival, while the Fête de la Musique on 21 June heralds the return of summer with a series of concerts and shows around the city.
The biggest event is without doubt Bastille Day (14 July), when the Eiffel Tower plays a starring role in a stunning, multi-coloured fireworks display.
A date for the diary in September is European Heritage Days, the cultural initiative which sees the doors of museums, galleries and places of historical significance open their doors to the public for guided tours, walks and workshops.
Paris is a magical, mysterious city, with its boulevards, open-air cafes and romantic feel. It has – and continues to be – a source of inspiration for the hordes of artists and writers that live in the city, while its cultural riches, elegant style and bohemian vibes delight the millions of people that visit it every year. Taking a stroll around the streets is probably the best way to discover the beauty of this incredible city, but a trip down the Seine on one of the many Bateaux-Mouches boats gives you a truly unique perspective of Belle Paris!