Your Paris holiday
One of the great cities of Europe and the world, this settlement on the banks of the Seine has persisted through plague, pestilence, revolution and occupation to remain an influential voice on the global stage. The Île de la Cité was populated in 2000 BC by the Parisii people, who used its island situation to make it their capital.
However, the expansion of what was then called Lutétia did not go unnoticed and in 52 BC the Roman Empire struck, burning the bridges connecting the island to the land and sacking the city. Under them the city grew and spread beyond the island to the less flood-threatened Left Bank. As Roman influence waned, Christianity grew from strength to strength in Paris, untouched by the changes in rulers.
As testament to this religious influence, from the 12th century onwards sacred buildings like Notre-Dame, which still characterise Paris to this day, began to reshape the city's skyline. However, with the city growing at an incredible rate, its overcrowded streets became a magnet for disease and in the 15th century plague wreaked havoc on the Parisian population.
Paris rose again and the following centuries were characterised by the lavish lifestyles of its monarchs. Their obliviousness to their subjects' woes led to the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century, and from that moment on France has been a republic. Dark days arrived again with the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940 but thanks to a disobedient German officer the city was not destroyed by the retreating Nazi troops four years later.
For centuries the French capital has been the world's city of romance, and a weekend in Paris can still enchant visitors and warm the coldest of hearts. From the imposing Eiffel Tower to the seedy glamour of the Moulin Rouge, its attractions are well known but have lost none of their lustre.
The town drips with so much history that it can sometimes to be hard to take everything in; just a short stroll along the banks of the Seine gives you a glimpse of the sheer number of architectural treasures the city boasts. A flight to Paris can bring you all of this and more.
Best time to take a vacation to Paris
Paris in springtime lives up to its reputation: Flowers bloom, cafe culture returns, hotel rates soar. But with a bit of planning, you can find good hotel deals. Summer is peak season, and social calendars fill with festivals and open-air events (many free) -- so be sure to plan well in advance.
Paris gets a makeover in fall: new movies, new fashions and that gorgeous crisp in the air. Fall is low season, and cheap hotel rates in Paris abound.
Winter gets a bad rap; with so many museums, cathedrals and cozy cafes in Paris, November and December might be just your style. Christmas markets start in late November and early December, and the City of Light takes illumination to a whole new level.
Paris offers an amazing experience no matter when you visit. Springtime is a good time for some travellers because the flowers begin blooming and temperatures reach highs of about 20Â°C. Winter temperatures drop below 10Â°C, and the cold winds, snow, ice, and freezing rain can result in a less pleasant trip. Summers offer temperatures in the low to mid-20s, and some days can see temperatures of 25Â°C.
Insider tips for Paris travel
Bread and chocolate
How to buy bread in Paris? Look for the longest lines. At Poilane, that's around 4 p.m. when it's fresh out of the oven. And chocolate? Richart, near the Musee d'Orsay. (Go for the liqueur-filled).
Cirque de Paris
Bring your petits enfants on official kids days: They can meet the animals, put on clown makeup, practice tight-rope walking and lunch with the artistes.
Get in early or after 1:30 p.m. to avoid the crowds. Juveniles Lavinia and Legrand Filles et Fils in the Opera district are among the finest.
Dine at this gem located across from the Pompidou. Order the beef stroganoff and cream of lentil soup. For dessert: everything.
Most churches have free musical performances, from classical concerts to organ recitals. Regular concerts are held in St-Julien-de-Pauvre, St-Germain-des-Pres, Notre-Dame and Sainte-Chapelle.
Le Chapeau Melon
The four-course dinner prepared by the chef and the fun atmosphere of this restaurant keep locals returning.
Bistrot Paul Bert
With a wide range of wines, an extensive menu filled with steak dishes, and a classic style, this restaurant is a local favourite.
Old Books Market
Located in Square Georges Brassens, this flea market features hundreds of vendors specializing in rare, used, and hard-to-find books.
This small street teams with locals who come for the low prices found at various restaurants and specialty shops.
Tucked inside a heavy-metal nightclub, this steakhouse is the type of restaurant that only locals know about.
You can photograph it, climb it, drink wine near it and kiss under it. One lady loved it so much she married it. Nearby: Quai Branly Museum, the Champ de Mars Gardens, lots of hotels.
Notre-Dame and Sainte-Chapelle
These Gothic masterpieces, located a few blocks apart, are steeped in sacred beauty. Discover flying buttresses, relics and artwork inside Notre-Dame. Jewel box Sainte-Chapelle sparkles with thousands of religious scenes depicted in 15 stained-glass windows.
The Louvre (Musee du Louvre)
Get your art fix from Mona Lisa to the Michelangelos and Winged Victory to the Louvre Pyramid. Stroll the still-thriving old market district Les Halles nearby.
This bohemian nook has eccentric Paris character to spare with its easel-and-artist filled square (Place du Tertre), Moulin Rouge and hilltop Sacre-Coeur basilica. Mustachioed master Dali's Espace museum is nearby.
Named after Louis XIV's confessor, this French cemetery is filled with serene beauty. Visit the interred here: Oscar Wilde, Maria Callas, Gustave Dore, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrisson.
Though it's not technically in Paris, missing Versailles is still a real non-non. Catch your reflection in the Hall of Mirrors, and see a world of silks, murals, ostrich plumes and regal glitz.
Boat Down the Seine
The Seine has been an outlet to the rest of the country as well as a vital trade route since Paris was first founded. Nothing shows this importance better than the list of civic buildings clustered around the river: Notre-Dame, the Louvre, the Grand Palais, the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadéro are just some of the examples. The best way to get an idea of their proximity and a glimpse of Paris at a relaxed and leisurely pace is on a boat tour. A host of operators will guide you under the city's pretty bridges and you can choose between a simple sightseeing cruise or a romantic night-time trip complete with dinner.
Check Your Reflection in the Hall of Mirrors
Just a 30-minute train ride from central palace will take you to the embarrassment of riches that is the Palace of Versailles. The building was improved upon by a number of French kings but it will always be considered the work of one man, Louis XIV. It was in Louis' third campaign of building at Versailles that he created the palaces’ most famous and outlandishly opulent feature, the Hall of Mirrors. At a time when mirrors were the height of luxury and hard to come by, the French monarch used more than 350 to decorate this breathtaking passage. Besides the Hall of Mirrors there are myriad wonders on offer at Versailles, including the king's apartments and the sprawling gardens.
Cancan the Night Away
The red windmill of the Moulin Rouge has been synonymous with all things cabaret since the venue opened its doors in the late 1880s, and today visitors still flock to the place for a glimpse of seedy glamour at the nightly shows. Found in the red-light district of La Pigalle, the Moulin Rouge cast off the more shady elements of its reputation in the early 20th century and became a venue of choice for Parisian society. Artists like Toulouse-Lautrec were frequent visitors and many of his works depict the life of the cabaret centre and home of the high-kicking cancan dance.
Top Paris attractions
Bois de Vincennes
The gardens found in this attraction let you escape the city, and there are ample places to enjoy a simple picnic lunch.
PÃ¨re Lachaise Cemetery
Hidden inside this cemetery is the final resting place of legendary singer Jim Morrison, and hundreds of people make the pilgrimage here every week.
Clignancourt Flea Market
Travellers and locals flock to this Paris flea market for antiques, vintage collectibles, and other items imported from other countries.
Notre Dame Cathedral
People around the world know this historic cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century and has appeared in dozens of movies.
This museum has a variety of Impressionist paintings on display inside a historic building once used by hunting parties.
MusÃ©e d'Art Moderne
With a focus on modern art, this museum is home to hundreds of paintings from famous artists who worked in styles such as Cubism.
Relax at this amusement park, which offers new and classic rides, live entertainment, food, and a nightly parade and fireworks show.
While this museum focuses on the history of war, it also has a variety of displays devoted to different types of vehicles and weapons.
Visit this local flea market to find everything from freshly made coffee and pastries to souvenirs, clothing, and more.
MusÃ©e de l'Orangerie
This hidden gem of the city is practically unknown to tourists, but it is home to a variety of Impressionist paintings, including several by Monet.
The Eiffel Tower
Built in the late 19th century amid a storm of controversy and only supposed to stay standing a mere 20 years, the Eiffel Tower is a testament to how perceptions change. French engineer Henri Eiffel conceived of and built the tower as the showpiece and entrance to the 1889 World's Fair, and today it is one of the world’s most striking landmarks. But it was not always so beloved: in its early years it enraged the Parisian artistic community, with the likes of Alexandre Dumas and Guy de Maupassant speaking out against it. Maupassant was even said to have eaten lunch at the tower on a daily basis as it was the only eatery in Paris from which the structure could not be seen. With unrivalled views from its three levels and even a Michelin-starred restaurant, it is a monument that simply cannot be missed.
The Sacré Coeur
Equally impressive is the domed grandeur of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, or the Sacré Coeur. This is the most democratic of constructions: a competition was held to decide on the design, with the Romano-Byzantine vision of Paul Abadie being chosen. Sadly for him he died soon after construction began and other architects were drafted in to complete the project. The basilica is as gleaming white today as it was when it was completed in the early 20th century, owing to the use of travertine stone, which reacts with rain water to produce the calcite that keeps the structure pristine. When you visit make sure to check out the surrounding bohemian streets of Montmartre, an artistic hub since the 1880s.
Effortlessly blending the historic and the modern, this world-famous museum is housed in the Louvre Palace. The original structure dates back to the 12th century but the attraction has become just as well known for its arresting glass pyramids rising from the ground, which were added in the 1980s. The Mona Lisa—with probably the most famous smile on the planet—is just one of the countless treasures inside, so be prepared for some queuing.
Where to stay in Paris
If your mind is made up to splash out when in Paris, few hotels can compare to the luxury of Hotel De Crillon. From its perfect location on the Place de la Concorde, this 18th century palace sounds out as a building of beauty even in a city as well stocked with architectural treasures as Paris. Meanwhile, gleaming marble floors, shimmering chandeliers and luxurious suites ensure the hotel is as beautiful on the inside as it is from outside. The terrace on top of the building has incredible views of Paris, particularly by night.
Paris is one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities and at the Citadines Paris Place D'Italie Hotel you can get a flavour of the mix of cultures that make the city what it is. Within easy reach of the hotel on foot lie Chinatown, the Latin Quarter and the traditionally French Butte-aux-Cailles. This thriving area of Paris is also close to the new national library (Bibliothque Mitterrand) and the Natural History Museum, as well as a host of bistros.
From the balconies of the Hotel Napoleon the Arc de Triomphe looks almost close enough to touch, a view even the great leader himself would have been pleased with. With such a winning location the shops of the Champs-Elysées and many of Paris' most famous sights are close by to the 101 rooms of this four-star hotel.
The Best Western Jardin de Cluny Hotel offers a green lodging option. This forward-looking hotel has obtained its European Eco-label certification and lies between Notre-Dame and the Sorbonne.
How to move around in Paris
Arriving By Air
Of the three international airports located around the French capital, the most likely to welcome your flight to Paris is Charles de Gaulle International. CdG can be difficult to navigate and the separate terminals take a while to travel between, so leave plenty of time to get your bearings.
When you arrive there are a number of ways to reach your hotel in Paris; the RER train is one of the most popular, and takes you to Gare du Nord in just over half an hour, passing by other central destinations. The Roissybus also runs from the airport into central Paris, while Air France has its own collection of shuttles. If you are landing in Orly airport, the Orlybus runs to Métro Denfert-Rochereau.
Look for a lit-up 'LIBRE' sign in the window and just put out your hand if you want to hail one of Paris' 15,000 cabs. Taxis are not pricey in themselves but with the city traffic, taking one during the day can quickly become a costly, and frustrating, business.
The 16 lines and 300-odd stations of the Paris Metro are the easiest way for tourists to navigate the city. Running from 5 a.m. until the early hours, the service is quick and convenient and a range of ticket options are available: singles, a carnet of tickets, and multi-day tourist passes. The RER service, separate to the metro, runs to the suburbs and also has a number of stops in the city centre.
Driving in Paris can be hectic but if you feel you are up to the challenge or simply wish to explore the countryside outside the city, check out our Paris car hire options.
A cafe originally for taxi drivers is not the place you would expect to find haute cuisine, but this is Paris, where even the seemingly mundane can surprise you. Such is the case at Au Rendez-vous des Chauffeurs (11 rue des Portes Blanches). The decor, food and general no-nonsense approach of this brasserie has changed little since a major taxi rank sat across from the entrance and provided the majority of clients. The set menu and old-fashioned Parisian favourites like rabbit and steak tartare are reasonably priced and cater mainly for the legions of regulars who have been eating here for years.
The cuisine is about the only traditional thing at off-the-wall apartment-restaurant Derrière (69 rue des Gravilliers). If you do not feel like eating in the dining room, take your plate to the boudoir, or maybe a more informal setting in the lounge, where you can have a game of ping pong to help the food go down. Make sure you fit in a drink beforehand at the nearby Andy Whaloo bar, which is owned by the same people.
For history buffs the place to eat in Paris is Le Procope (13 rue de l'Ancienne-Comédie, 6e). This cafe has been welcoming the great and the good of Parisian society since the late 17th century and every effort has been made to keep the place true to its past. Surrounded by walls covered in paintings and artefacts, a night here sometimes feels more like eating in a museum than in a restaurant. The menu is full of tradition, the chefs serving up French stalwarts like onion soup and coq au vin.
Health & Safety
Health and Hygiene
There are no obligatory vaccinations for a trip to Paris, though it is highly recommended that you update your boosters in the typical schedule. For children it is advisable that the BCG, MMR and hepatitis B injections be administered before travelling. For rabies steer clear of a vaccination but seek treatment promptly after any bite you deem suspect.
The water is drinkable and a large number of brands offer bottled water, including Volvic, Evian, Contrex and Perrier. The health infrastructure is excellent, with everything you would require should a problem arise and a choice between different practitioners.
General doctor: Dr Bache, 5 rue Leon Cogniet in Paris, 17th arrondissement. Tel 01 47 63 42 07
Medical emergency: dial 15
Fire Brigade: dial 18
Police: dial 17
European emergency number: 112
Safety and Security
Most trips to Paris end trouble-free, but remember that this is a huge city, and some dangers from crime are inevitable. Try not to show off a lot of valuables and stick to well-lit, active areas after dark. Be wary of confidence tricksters at some of the major tourist hotspots.
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