City description

Synonymous with the Eiffel Tower, Paris is more beautiful than ever from its summit. To the north of the city, Montmartre rises up on its hill, immortalised by the film Amélie, towered over by the majestic Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Closer to sea level, the Champs Elysées, “the most beautiful avenue in the world” and the imposing Arc de Triomphe, or Notre-Dame Cathedral, rise up between rows of Haussmann’s buildings.

Popular with the crowds, following in the footsteps of the Château de Versailles with its 7 million visitors a year, these iconic monuments tell the story of an omnipresent, celebrated France. Especially on 14 July, when the French capital pulls out all the stops with its extraordinary fireworks.

With close ties to its past, Paris is a leading city of culture. The Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay boast priceless art collections. In keeping with its avant-garde reputation, the capital is also packed with venues dedicated to contemporary creativity. While Montparnasse holds on to its nostalgia for the buzz of the roaring twenties with the likes of Modigliani, Picasso, Chagall and Léger, today, the arty intelligentsia has made way for the Fondation Cartier, the Palais de Tokyo, the Grand Palais and the Centre Pompidou. At the Palais Garnier, another cultural hub, the Neo-baroque style and heavy velvet curtains are gently displaced by the current programme of Benjamin Millepied, the new director and choreographer, as well as being “Mr Natalie Portman”. No surprise that anybody who’s anybody in Paris is making a beeline for its doors.

And what would Paris be without the Parisians? To get to the bottom of the capital city with its 20 cosmopolitan arrondissements, you need to watch its inhabitants start the day with a “café-croissant” in Saint-Germain or the Marais. The different neighbourhoods of Paris cultivate their village feel to their fingertips, from Batignolles to the Canal Saint-Martin, from the Faubourg Saint-Honoré to Ménilmontant. Although that doesn’t stop Parisians from rushing to the other end of the city to be seen, such as at Roland Garros, for example, whose stands bring together the beautiful people in June.

Trying out the latest best restaurant is another national sport. Paris is incredibly proud of its great chefs, including Yannick Alléno, Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon, today’s ambassadors for French haute cuisine. But the locals aren’t afraid to go off the beaten track and trust their instincts at the latest trendy or international venues too, like Maison Plisson, the Mini Palais or Kinugawa. They serve carefully selected dishes in unique atmospheres, guaranteed to win over fans of modern cuisine.  

The same is true for fashion. Exclusive designers and trendy concept-stores are flourishing, even though Le Bon Marché, the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps are still the big classics when it comes to shopping. French style and haute couture have plenty to look forward to, as demonstrated by the catwalk shows during Fashion Week and the stunning window displays on Avenue Montaigne. This well-known street is renowned for its luxury stores including Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton.

Tree-lined and now often adorned with beehives, Parisian gardens provide an antidote to all this buzz. In Les Tuileries, Les Jardins du Luxembourg, the Palais Royal or the Place des Vosges, the capital changes tempo and reveals its more romantic side. Head to the Pont des Arts, even without its famous padlocks, to experience the city of love. Before you leave, take the opportunity to experience Paris’s nightlife, from the Moulin Rouge to its trendy clubs.
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