Sophisticated, elegant, glamorous, effortless. Welcome to Paris
“Paris is always a good idea,” said Audrey Hepburn. Having made five films in the city — including one of her best, Sabrina — well should she know. The City of Lights has long held a reputation for being one of the most beautiful and glamorous destinations in the world, and it is likely it will hold this crown for some time to come.
The plan was to tear the Eiffel Tower down after 20 years
Paris is full of restaurants and bars in which to fill yourself, museums and galleries in which to better yourself, and boulevards and winding alleys in which to find yourself.
Said to be visible from every area of the city, the Eiffel Tower was never meant to still stand over Paris. Built over two years from wrought iron, the tower was intended to be the centerpiece of the 1889 World’s Fair. Originally, the plan was to tear the tower down after 20 years but by that stage, it had become a loved symbol of Paris, and it had made itself rather useful as a communications mast.
Now it is one of the most-visited monuments in the world; in 2015 more than 6.5 million people ascended its decks. As well as offering one of the most beautiful views, there are restaurants on the first and third levels to enjoy it from. Parisian style is glamorous, effortless, and appears unobtainable. But that’s not the case – you just need to know where to shop.
Boulevards, shops, and museums
The Golden Triangle, between avenues Montaigne, George V and Champs-Élysées, is where you will find old-world sophistication from high-end boutiques and fashion houses. The 2nd arrondissement is full of vintage shops and pop-up concept stores. And the Left Bank is so full of oddities and curiosities that it’s always worth a wander.
Try the shop-cum-museum La Maison Deyrolle, a taxidermy and entomology emporium, that only stuffs animals that have died of natural causes; there’s no hunting for sport here.
Lying on the Right Bank of the Seine is the world’s largest and most prestigious museum – the Louvre. Perhaps most famous for holding Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the permanent collection also consists of Aphrodite, known as the Venus de Milo, Delacroix’s July 28: Liberty Leading the People, and Titian’s Woman with a Mirror.
The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace – originally built as a home for the French monarchy in the 12th century and remodeled ever since – and was founded during Robespierre’s Reign of Terror following the French Revolution.
It’s not only about French cuisine
Parisians have a famously relaxed food, wine, and coffee culture. The streets are lined with cute little cafés, bars, and restaurants to sit and watch the world go by from.
Oddly, a Parisian will rarely drink a milky coffee after 10 am; that’s the time they move to espresso, so be careful with your lunchtime pick-me-up. Currently, affordable, regional cooking is in fashion, as is North African food. Make your way to Aux Bons Crus on the rue Godefroy Cavaignac which will do an excellent meal for two for $30.
At Baieta on rue de Pontoise, Julia Sedefdjian, who received her first Michelin star at the age of 21, does an amazing bouillabaisse. And for one of the best wine lists in the city, it has to be Café Trama on rue du Cherche Midi.
Feel the history
Take a walk down the Seine to the 4th arrondissement for a sight of what used to be one of the most beautiful examples of gothic architecture – the Notre-Dame de Paris. It survived Huguenot riots and was desecrated during the French Revolution when it fell out of favor. It was not until Victor Hugo’s hunchback Quasimodo tried to save Esmerelda that Parisians began to appreciate the cathedral again.
But sadly, in April 2019, a huge fire broke beneath the roof of the 12th-century cathedral and cause severe damage to the structure. French President Emmanuel Macron has promised a full restoration of the building that should finish by 2024.
At 1.9 kilometers long and 70 meters wide, the Champs-Élysées must be one of the grandest roads in the world. Bookended by the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde, it has been the home of French military parades for centuries. Now it is also home to the final leg and winners ceremony of the Tour de France in the closing weeks of July, and many, many shops.
If you want to hit more of the big sights, the Arc de Triomphe stands at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle – perhaps the most chaotic roundabout known to man – and honors those who died in the Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and World War I.
The Place de la Concorde is the largest square in the city and holds neoclassical fountains, the Luxor Obelisk and affords one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower.
Paris travel information
Paris is well served by road, rail, and air. There are a total of five airports near to the city – Charles de Gaulle, Orly, Beauvais, Le Bourget, and Châlons Vatry. It has an extensive Metro network that covers much of the city and is easy to navigate, while seven major train stations have routes to Spain, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
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