Think of Paris and you might conjure up images of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame Cathedral. Or you might envision the food, art, culture and shopping – all just as much a part of the city's identity. Easy to reach by train, plane or Eurostar, the French capital is an iconic city break destination for good reason.
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements
(districts) arranged in a clockwise spiral. Parisians call an arrondissement
by its number – the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on.
The River Seine
divides the city into Right and Left banks. The Left Bank,
or Rive Gauche, houses the 5th through 7th and 13th through 15th arrondissements and has a reputation for being bohemian and artsy. Here you'll find the Eiffel Tower
and Musée d'Orsay
The Right Bank
, or Rive Droite, contains the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which stretches from Arc de Triomphe
to Place de la Concorde
. The Louvre
museum is just beyond the Jardin des Tuileries
, while modern-art mecca Centre Georges Pompidou
is a further 20-minute walk.
Top attractions in Paris
One of the world's most recognisable landmarks, the Eiffel Tower
offers 360-degree views of Paris from its observation deck. There are three lifts that take you to the top, or you can climb the 704 steps.
From there, you can walk a half-hour west along the Seine to the Musée d'Orsay
, an extensive collection of Impressionist art in a former train station. For some bucolic respite,
the Jardin du Luxembourg is a 25-minute walk south, or you can head west to the Jardin des Champs-Élysées, which can lead to a shopping expedition along the famous avenue.
For a cross-section of the city's differing architectural styles, you can head to the Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, the Roman-Byzantine Sacré Cœur Basilica in the bohemian Montmartre district and the neoclassical Panthéon, burial site of Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie.
The concierge recommends…
- Walking through the famed Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, a 20-minute train ride from Paris. The room was the site of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
- L'Hôtel National des Invalides is dedicated to France's military past, housing museums as well as Napoleon's tomb.
- Cruising along the Seine in a Bateau Mouche, perhaps with dinner on board.
- Père Lachaise Cemetery is the resting place of such noted celebrities as Édith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Max Ernst and Jim Morrison.
Hotels in ParisAn efficient metro means that wherever you stay in Paris, you'll be within easy reach of the city's important monuments, sights and business areas.
Hotels near the centrally located Notre Dame Cathedral put you a 10-minute walk from Centre Georges Pompidou and a short stroll from the trendy Marais district as well as the hip Latin Quarter, known for its student life.
Choose a hotel in chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés on the Left Bank for proximity to upscale shops and smart eateries. You'll also be close to Montparnasse, where you can sip a grand crème in a café once frequented by legendary artists like Pablo Picasso and Man Ray.
You'll find luxury accommodation in the Opéra district, which boasts must-see sights like the Louvre and Palais Garnier opera house.
Affordable hotels with amenities like free Wi-Fi can be found in transport hubs, Gare de l'Est and Gare de Lyon.
For proximity to family-friendly destinations like Disneyland Paris, you can choose a hotel in the low-key village of Noisy-le-Grand, a half-hour drive from Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Eating Out in ParisParis's gastronomy is renowned, and wherever you stay you'll always be around the corner from a traditional brasserie or a bakery selling fresh baguettes and fluffycroissants.
Street eats are taken to new heights in the city, where immigrant culture has influenced the way Parisians eat on the go. A takeaway falafel sandwich in the Marais district is one of the city's quintessential experiences – on weekends, the queues stretch down the street. For Greek gyros bulging with rotisserie chicken and chips, head to Saint-Michel.
Montparnasse is known for the bestcrêpes in town, including savoury galettes from the Brittany region. You'll also find some of the best sushi restaurants outside Japan in this Left Bank district.
The area around the Champs-Élysées, known as the "Golden Triangle", houses Michelin-starred eateries serving up dishes like lobster, oysters and caviar.
The chef recommends...
- Pot-au-feu: A beef stew made with oxtail or brisket, cooked with vegetables including carrots, turnips, celery and onions.
- Croque-monsieur: This classic grilled ham and cheese sandwich is sometimes topped with béchamel sauce.
- Foie gras: Made from duck or goose liver, this pâté, parfait or mousse can be eaten alone or as an accompaniment to steak.
- Camembert cheese. A fresh baguette smeared with Camembert cheese and a picnic-sized carton of red wine drunk with a straw – available at any supermarket – makes the perfect lunch on the go.
Shopping in ParisSynonymous with Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent, Paris is the birthplace and reigning capital of haute couture. You have only to stroll along streets like Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Avenue Montaigne to know that style is a way of life in Paris.
Perhaps the city's most famous department store, Galeries Lafayette, offers shoppers endless visual delights, including Belle Époque architecture and a 3,500-square-metre, two-floor food hall.
To browse some of the city's trendiest independent boutiques, head to the Marais district, which runs across the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Here you'll also find shops from upscale French brands like Zadig & Voltaire and IRO.
For fashion, home decor, antiques and charming bric-a-brac from days past, you can check out the Saint-Ouen flea market, which runs on weekends and Mondays in the 18th and boasts over 2,500 market stalls.
Paris's best buys...
- Create your own fragrance at Ex Nihilo. You can choose from a selection of base notes like rose or vetiver and personalise it by adding raw materials like orange blossom and sandalwood.
- Try a pair of Repetto ballet flats. An enduring symbol of Parisian chic, Repetto flats were made famous by Brigitte Bardot in the 1956 film "...And God Created Woman".
- Stock up on Ladurée's famous macarons in whimsical flavours like Earl Grey and rose petal.
Culture & Nightlife in ParisWhether you're looking for a chic bar with classic cocktails, a lively nightclub or an all-night art event, you'll find it in Paris.
Classical culture hounds flock to Paris for its opera, ballet and orchestral concerts, many of which take place at the Palais Garnier opera house or younger sister, the Opéra Bastille.
Contemporary art lovers will enjoy the city's annual Nuit Blanche festival, held on the first Saturday in October from 7pm to 7am. Expect interactive art displays in neighbourhoods around the city, as well as music and theatre.
Paris is legendary for exclusive night clubs like Le Baron and Chez Régine, where you're likely to find Hollywood celebrities mingling with chic locals. For a more laidback scene, consider heading to a spot likeSocial Club in Montmartre.
Cultural thrills in Paris
- For a night of bawdy entertainment, you can check out one of Paris's celebrated cabaret shows at an iconic venue like the Crazy Horse.
- Enjoy a classic cocktail at La Conserverie, considered one of the city's most striking establishments thanks to its industrial decor and plush seating.
- You can get your contemporary art fix at the Louis Vuitton Foundation, which is housed in an avant-garde building designed by Frank Gehry and includes pieces from modern luminaries like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Ellsworth Kelly.
Visiting Paris with a FamilyParis offers activities for all the family, from public parks to child-friendly museums. And if all else fails, Disneyland Paris is a half-hour drive or quick shuttle ride from the airport.
Many of Paris's family attractions are conveniently located in the city centre, so you can access them easily on foot. In the Jardin du Luxembourg, a 15-minute walk from Saint-Germain-des-Prés, children can run wild in the playground, spend an afternoon sailing wooden boats on the fountain pond, ride the antique carousel or take in a show at the marionette theatre.
Another fun garden in Paris is the Jardin des Plantes, where you'll find the National Museum of Natural History as well as the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes, one of the world's oldest zoos.
Unsure of how to explore the Louvre with your kids? You can book a treasure hunt that allows kids to uncover clues while discovering major works of art.
24 hours with the children in Paris
- Visit the Gourmet Chocolate Museum and book a chocolate piping workshop for children as young as six.
- Spend an active afternoon at Jardin des Dunes et des Vents in Parc de la Villette, where kids can play on airbag waves and zip lines.
- Take in street performers like breakdancers, mimes and human statues on the Champs-Élysées.