Paris, city of romance and home to some of the most iconic architectural structures in the world. From the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe, from the River Seine to the Streets of St Germain, Paris offers picture-postcard landscapes at every turn. Add to this a healthy dose of famous artworks, flagship stores for designer brands and some of the most refined gastronomy on the planet, and it is no wonder that millions flock to sample the delights of the French capital 365 days of the year.
Things to see and do in Paris
Getting around Paris is a delight in itself. The city is small enough to be navigated largely on foot, with the odd hop on the Metro or a bus thrown in for good measure. Another way to sample its delights, however, is to take an open-top bus tour, which will save your legs and give you the added benefit of having someone point out the most important sights to you as you go. Various routes are on offer and these make for a particularly good option if you only have a day or two to explore.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the Musée du Louvre, home to the Mona Lisa and a huge number of old masters – its collection numbers approximately 400,000 in total. For more recent works, head to the Orangerie Museum in the Tuileries (see more below) or to the Musée D’Orsay, home to the best collection of impressionist paintings in the world and some beautiful Art Nouveau design offerings. If museums are your thing, it is well worth investing in the Museum Pass, a two, four or six-day entry pass for many of the city’s historical attractions. Alternatively the Paris Pass may cost more but is well worth it for getting the most out of the city, offering queue-beating pre-paid entry to attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral as well as river cruises and even public transport.
Take a walk along the banks of the Seine or hop on a river tour to enjoy the water from another perspective. Candlelit dining tours are a popular favourite during the warm summer evenings. Expect to be joined by a bevy of romantic couples and don’t be surprised to witness a nervous gent on a neighbouring table getting down on one knee to pop the question – it happens more frequently than you would imagine.
Parks and leisure spaces in Paris
To escape the hustle and bustle of Parisian life, head for the Jardin des Tuileries. This intricately landscaped space within the Place de la Concorde captures Paris at its best. It has also long been associated with the French Impressionist movement, with its Orangerie Museum housing works by Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Sisley, Matisse, Picasso, Rousseau and Modigliani. The garden itself also featured in one of Eduard Manet’s most famous and controversial works, ‘Music in the Tuileries’.
For more outdoor chic, head to the Place des Vosges, Paris’s oldest public square with its manicured gardens surrounded by 17th-century townhouses.
Other top choices for green space include the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th Arrondissement. This area is also home to the National History Museum and the Sorbonne, both of which are popular places to explore, or head to the 4th Arrondissement for the Eiffel Tower and its adjacent Parc du Champ de Mars.
Shopping in Paris
Considered by many to be the home of designer fashion, Paris is the perfect city in which to stock up on your wardrobe essentials – and plenty of non-essentials too. Head to Faubourg Saint-Honoré for classic designer names including Versace, Hermes and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as some of the newer names to grace the world of fashion. Don’t miss Galeries Lafayette, the quintessential Parisian department store, and if you have time take a look at the elegant boutiques of the arcades surrounding the Palais Royal with their high-end jewellery, art and lifestyle collections for sale.
Eating and drinking in Paris
One of the pleasures of visiting Paris is that seemingly no matter where you choose to eat, you are in for a gastronomic delight. With brasseries lining every street and patisseries punctuating every corner, stopping for a snack could not be easier. For the best of the best, however, try the Champs Élysées branch of Ladurée for the best macarons in the business, or the Rue Bonaparte branch for a full-blown high tea.
Bustling St Germain is a popular haunt for those in search of evening eateries, with restaurants catering for every style and budget. For something special, head to the heights of the Jules Verne, 400 ft up the Eiffel Tower with sweeping views over the city skyline, sample the molecular delights of Pierre Gagnaire, Paris’ answer to Heston Blumenthal, or revel in the refinement of Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice.
The Moulin Rouge is perhaps one of the most famous – and infamous – nightlife venues in the world. This risqué cabaret is performed in a 19th-century windmill and has been entertaining Parisian visitors and residents for well over 100 years. Whether you are in search of cruises along the River Seine, dinner and a crisp bottle of white burgundy in St Germain, an atmospheric night in a jazz club or sets by world famous DJs, as one of the planet’s leading cultural capitals, Paris will not fail to deliver.
When to visit Paris
Summer in Paris is a delight, and despite the fact that you will be accompanied by a bevy of tourists from all over the world, there is plenty of space for all and plenty of sunshine to be enjoyed. Spring and Autumn are great choices if you want to stock up with the new season’s fashions, while Christmas is a magical time of year, with the city lit up by twinkling lights and the shops and market stalls bursting with unusual gifts with a Gallic twist.
Tennis fans will enjoy visiting in May for the Tennis Open at Roland Garros, while those who enjoy a party will appreciate the music and cultural calendar that begins in June and continues until Bastille Day on 14th July.
Paris climate is temperate, not unlike the south of England though generally a degree or two warmer. Average summer temperatures are around the mid twenties Celsius while spring and autumn are a little cooler and tend to see more rainfall. Even the depths of winter rarely see a frost, making Paris a great choice for those who don’t want to bear the cold.
As with any capital city, Paris offers accommodation for every budget. There are many aparthotels, perfect for families, as well as bed and breakfast and backpacker hostels for the more budget conscious. Book into a hotel in the St Germain district to stay right in the heart of the action with easy access to all that Paris has to offer, or splash out at Raffles Le Royal Monceau, the Shangri-La or the art deco opulence of the famous Four Seasons George V.