Gay Paree will put the joie back in your vivre.
Paris stimulates the senses, demanding to be seen, heard, touched, tasted and smelt. From romance along the Seine to landscapes on bus-sized canvases to the pick-an-ism types in cafes monologuing on the use of garlic or the finer points of Jerry Lewis, Paris is the essence of all things French.
Gaze rapturously at its breezy boulevards, impressive monuments, great works of art and magic lights. Savour its gourmet selection of cheese, chocolate, wine and seafood. Feel the wind in your face as you rollerblade through Bastille, or a frisson of fear and pleasure atop the Eiffel Tower.
WHEN TO GO
As the old song says, Paris is at its best in springtime, even if it is sometimes a little wet. In winter Paris has all sorts of cultural events going on, while in summer the weather is warm and lazy – sometimes sizzling. In August, when Parisians flee for the beaches to the west and south, many restaurateurs lock up and leave town too, but this is changing rapidly and you’ll find considerably more places open in summer than even a decade ago. Things can get a bit hectic around Bastille Day and towards the end of the year so reservations at this time are a good idea.
Things to Do
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.
Restaurants and Dining
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.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Ballet and opera at the glittering Opéra Garnier, Molière classics at the Comédie Française, and cancan at the (in)famous 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.