Paris is one of the most exciting and romantic destinations in the world. It’s a place most people have seen in movies if not in person. It’s a place that’s worth seeing in person, however, as it offers an incredible number of things to see and experience.
Districts and “Banks” of Paris
Paris is divided into 20 districts, called arrondissments (usually abbreviated arr.). Chances are, you won’t get a chance to visit all of them on a single trip. Some districts you will probably want to see include the 1st, which is the center of the city and has many attractions such as the Louvre; the 7th, which is where the Eiffel Tower is located; the 8th, the location of the Arc de Triomphe and the famous avenue Champs-Elysées.
Paris is also commonly divided between La Rive Droite (Right Bank) and Rive Gauche (Left Bank), referring to locations relative to the river Seine.
Highlights of Paris
It’s hard to summarize the highlights of such a grand and cosmopolitan city, but the following are a few sights and landmarks you won’t want to miss.
- Musee du Louvre -The world’s most famous art museum, where you can see the original Mona Lisa and thousands of other great works from many epochs. Art lovers can spend days here, but even casual visitors should put aside a few hours to browse this unique museum.
- Eiffel Tower -The most widely recognized landmark in Paris, you can admire it from the ground or go to the top where you can enjoy beautiful views of the city.
- Notre Dame Cathedral -There are many churches around the world with this name, but Paris has the original, which dates back to the 12th century. An architectural masterpiece both inside and outside.
- Luxembourg Gardens -A relaxing and scenic spot in the middle of the city. It’s nice to wander around any time of year, but it’s especially vivid and colorful spring through fall.
- Shopping -There are great places to shop all over Paris. Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche is one of the city’s oldest department stores and a place to find elegant fashions. Another renowned department store is Printemps on Boulevard Haussmann. Book lovers won’t want to miss Shakespeare & Company, the famous English language bookstore on Rue de la Bucherie. Rue Mouffetard Market is a lively street market in the Latin Quarter that has a little of everything; open all week except Monday and closes early on Sunday.
- Tours of Paris -Bike tours are a great way to see Paris, either day or night. Some companies that offer bike tours include Bike About Tours and Blue Bike Tours. There are plenty of walking tours as well, many with specialized topics, such as Sight Seeker’s Delight Unique Walking Tours, Paris by Mouth Food Tours. City Free Tour offers some great free tours.
Dining and Entertainment
Paris is practically synonymous with great food, and not only of the French variety. You can find everything from casual cafes to 5-star restaurants. The following are just a few great choices.
- When in Paris, be sure to have breakfast or brunch in some local cafes or bistros where you can get fresh croissants and coffee. Just a few examples are 13-a Baker’s Dozen in the Saint-Germain-de-Pres area on Rue des Saints Peres; Bagel Baget Cafe on Rue de la Verrerie in Les Halles and Matamata Coffee Bar on Rue d’Argout in the Opera-Bourse area.
- For a classic Paris dining experience, you might try Le Pavillon de la Grande Cascade by Bois de Boulogne park in the Passy area or Pur’-Jean-Francois Rouquette on Rue de la Paix at the Park Hyatt Paris.
- A L’endroit is a restaurant and delicatessen on Rue du Tunnel in the Belleville-Pere Lachaise area where you can get traditional French cuisine in a casual environment and at affordable prices.
- Paris has plenty of great choices that aren’t specifically French. If you’re in the mood for Italian, a great choice is 0039 Ristorante Italiano on Rue du Faubourg Saint Martin for authentic pasta, pizza and other Italian dishes.
- Matsuri Victor Hugo, on the avenue of the same name in the Trocadero area is reliable choice for sushi, tempura and other Japanese specialties. Petit Saigon, in Quartier Latin on Rue des Carmes is the place for authentic Vietnamese food in Paris.
- If you’re missing burgers and other traditional American food, you can always go to Pretty Damn Good on Rue du Dragon in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, a genuine burger and fries joint in the heart of Paris.
You can get plenty of entertainment in Paris simply walking around (or biking, driving or taking the Metro). Beyond this, you could see the famous Moulin rouge Show Paris, the cabaret that inspired a movie. You could see an opera, concert or ballet at the beautiful Palais Garnier -Opera National de Paris,
Paris is also full of nightclubs and bars with music, such as Chez Michou, a traditional French cabaret in the Montmartre area; Le Paradis Latin in the Quartier Latin or the popular Buddha Bar on Champs-Elysees.
Where to Stay
Deciding on where to stay in Paris really comes down to a few factors -what area you want to be in, your budget and whether you prefer a large hotel, a quaint historic building or a B & B.
For an elegant 5-star hotel in a convenient location, there’s Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris on Av George V in the 8th arr, offering old fashioned European style splendor and only a few minute walk to attractions such as the Eiffel Tower. Another grand, centrally located hotel is Hotel Eiffel Seine in the 15th arr., right near the Seine as the name promises.
Paris can be an expensive city and many visitors are seeking more economical choices. Some possibilities offering excellent value include Familia Hotel in the 5th Arr. on Rue des Ecoles, a small and charming hotel in the Latin Quarter or Hotel du College de France on Rue Thenard, a small and friendly hotel not far from Notre Dame.
Some inviting inns and B & B’s include Les 3 Chambres on Rue Bleue, a beautifully decorated B & B in a building from the mid-19th century; Bed & Breakfast Bouchardon, on Rue Bouchardon in the 10th Arr. is not quite as centrally located, but is in a charming residential area and close to the metro.