Much more than just the Eiffel Tower and picture-perfect sidewalk cafes, Paris, France is a city immersed in history, literature and swirling romance. The cosmopolitan capital is influential in cuisine, art, high fashion and design, and has the reputation for being one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Located in the north of the country on the river Seine, Paris brims with a certain magic and charm that intoxicates all of its guests.
Central Paris is divided into 20 districts called arrondissements that are numbered from 1 to 20 in a clockwise spiral. While each neighborhood has something for everyone, not all are of interest to travelers who only have a short amount of time in the “City of Light.” The first district (1) is at the geographic center of Paris and with sites like the Louvre and Les Halles, it’s a haven for tourists. Three and 4 together make up the Marais -- one of the oldest sections of Paris. Along with quiet 17th century mansions and the grand Notre Dame Cathedral, the center of the Marais is alive with restaurants, shops, bars and nightclubs. Part of this area is also known as the Jewish Quarter along Rue des Rosiers. The ultimate Parisian symbol, the Eiffel Tower is located in 7, along with the famed mega-store, Le Bon Marché. Eight is where you will find the Champs Elysèe and at the border of the 8th, 16th and 17th arrondissement stands the Arc de Triomph. To help with navigating, the best map of the city is called Paris Pratique par Arrondissement, and is available at any news stand.
Despite the crowds of tourists and sightseers all over the city, Paris still exudes an undeniable grandeur. Arguably the most famous museum in the world, the Louvre holds an impressive display of art, art history and culture dating back to the 6th century BC. The most convenient way to see the sights of Paris, including the Pantheon (the final resting place of Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie), Musèe d’Orsay and Arc de Triomphe, is to buy a pre-paid Museum Pass which allows entrance into many of the main museums, churches and sites. Lay a rose at the adorned gravesite of The Doors front man, Jim Morrison, in the Père Lachaise Cemetery or take a romantic sunset stroll across the Pont Neuf. For visitors, it’s not only the countless gems of this beautiful city, but the joie de vivre that Parisians possess that makes everyone else question why we don’t live here ourselves.
As a gastronomic powerhouse in the culinary world, Paris ranks high on the list of food-centric destinations. Whether having a meal at a café, patisserie, bistro, brasserie or chic restaurant, excellent French cuisine can be found all over the city. Once frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Les Deux Magots is a popular café serving authentic Parisian breakfast fare, such as quiche, croissants and an aromatic coffee selection. The best value for lunch or dinner is typically found in Bistros. For Bavette à l'echalotte (flank steak with shallot reduction) or a lovely charcuterie, try bistro Julien in the 10th arrondissement. Chez Dumonet, located in 6th arrondissement, is known for their crispy-skinned duck confit and decadent Grand Marnier soufflé. The ultimate in haute cuisine is headed by famed chef Alain Ducasse of Plaza Athénée. Though a meal here will make your pockets considerably lighter, most foodies would take the hit for this indulgent feast.
Paris is served by three airports, the main one being Charles de Gaulle Airport located northeast of the city. As one of the major international airport hubs of Europe, Charles de Gaulle is quite large and notoriously confusing to navigate. Commuter trains leave the terminals every 4 to 7 minutes for central Paris and will cost 8.50 euros (around $12) per adult ticket. Within the city, getting around by foot (as well as bicycle) is one of the best ways to take in the beauty of Paris. For lengthier city-wide travel, the Metro is one of the most efficient subway systems in Europe. There are 16 color-coded lines that run from 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. on weekends), and are named according to their ending terminal station. Tickets can be purchased at stations at either ticket windows or automated vending machines which only accept coins. One- to five-day metro passes called Mobilis or Carte Orange are also available to travelers.
Paris has a temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters. Though there isn’t much snowfall, it can rain up to 25 inches per year. Though there isn’t a particularly bad season to go, the most popular time of year to visit is during springtime, with its colorful landscapes and peak café culture. This is the ideal time to visit, which means large crowds of tourists and a spike in prices. Autumn is also a good time to see Paris. Flights tend to be cheaper during these months and the mild, crisp weather is perfect for a cozy and romantic couple’s getaway.