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City Guide: Paris
City guide: Paris
Paris – or the City of Lights as it is known – has a reputation for being one of the most romantic and beautiful destinations in the world. And it would be hard to disagree as you wander the whimsical bridges of Canal Saint-Martin or gawk at the glittery Champs-Elysees, from the top of the iconic Arc de Triomphe.
What to do
After seizing the day by grabbing a croissant and coffee, set of to get your bearings by taking a 38-second ride in Europe’s fastest elevator to the top of Montparnasse Tower. It offers spectacular views of Paris with the peaks of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. All you’ve got to do when you get back to the ground is remember what you saw and which direction it was in.
Near the tower is the Montparnasse Cemetery where many famous writers and philosophers are buried, so you can take an informative stroll into the past, guidebook in hand.
From Montparnasse, head to the banks of the River Seine to experience picture-perfect Paris in all its glory. There are also dozens of vintage book stalls, which are a treasure hunter's dream. Paris’s most famous attractions are located here, with the Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Musee D’orsay perched along the banks – one or all are worth a visit, depending on your appetite for art.
If the weather is good, don’t miss a boat-top tour of the Seine. As you drift along the water you’ll catch sight of all the major monuments, the historical buildings and the ornate bridges.
A stroll through the cobbled streets and manicured gardens of Montmartre until you get to the fairytale Sacre Coeur from which you can look down on the kebab stands and sex shops of Boulevard de Clichy.
The recently-gentrified Canal Saint-Martin area – now full of cute cafes and boutique shops, and some great markets – isn’t far away. There are also lots of curious shops that specialise in just one thing, from olive oil to communist literature to piñatas. Along the way are also many quirky museums and galleries such as the Musee de l’Eventail which is devoted entirely to fans, showcasing at least 1,000 examples from the 18th and 19th century. On your travels, look out for streets with names such as ‘Passage du Desir’ and ‘Cite du Paradis,’ making up some of the whimsy and beauty of this area.
And be sure to take in the dimming city lights from atop the Arc de Triomphe, which stands tall as a monument to those who died in the Napoleonic Wars. With 234 stairs to climb you will definitely build up an appetite for dinner.
Where to eat
Remember you are in the culinary capital of the world so this bit might cost you a few euro but could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
Whether or not you’ve been up all night, let’s seize the day by starting with breakfast in, say, romantic Montmartre near Pigalle. Coquelit bakery is packed to the brim with freshly made bread and pastries that only the French know how to make, and its coffee will give you that kick you need.
But wherever you are you won’t have to look very hard for a croissant as there are great bakeries all over. Moisan is particularly good and has a number of locations.
A bit later on and similarly available everywhere is the ubiquitous steak-frites, available at the many classic Parisian cafes that spill out onto the pavement.
If you fancy a break from French food, try the experimental pizza at The Pink Flamingo, with toppings such as figs, pistachios, goats’ cheese and honey – bizarrely named ‘The Brangelina’. We’re not sure why.
But, as we said, this is Paris and you just might want to treat yourself at a glammed-up Michelin-starred restaurant. On the Plaza Athenee, there is Alain Ducasse’s flagship restaurant at the Plaza Athenee, where you can enjoy a luxe meal like no other.
If that sounds a bit ritzy, there are plenty of other slightly less OTT (but still fancy) bistros around the glittery Champs-Elysees shopping district. The art-deco Chez Savy has good food with foie gras made on site. A la carte prices may be high, but there is a set menu with three courses for £25.
Where to party
As evening comes on, you’ll find that Pigalle is the centre of the unique Paris nightlife scene with glaring neon lights and a raunchy reputation. Full of mythic lesbian cabarets, 24-hour peep shows and historic mansions turned debaucherous clubs, your night will see no end. Start in Hotel Amour with disco balls on the ceiling and Terry Richardson photos on the walls. Next, head to Carmen with its life-size birdcages and romantic statues throbbing alongside the all-night DJ sets. The club, which is in a former 19th-century mansion, also has an audacious cocktail list with absinthe concoctions or even some foie gras options.
Where to stay
To be honest, the choice is so vast that it’s hard to make a recommendation. So, assuming that you’ve spent all that cash on fancy meals, we turnedto TNT's resident travel expert, Laura Lindsay from Lonely Planet, for some budget options.
She reckoned that accommodation in Paris for not too much more than £100 a night for a double room is possible; and what’s more, it doesn’t have to be in a rundown hotel.
Going self-catering can reduce the cost of your trip further if you utilise local supermarkets and eat some meals in the apartment. Adagio (adagio-city.com) offers a range of apartments with the Adagio Access Paris Tour Eiffel block just a 15-minute walk from the banks of the Seine and the Eiffel tower. Alternatively, rent an apartment directly from the owner on the popular website airbnb.com, where there’s a huge range of quirky flats to let in the city for a range of budgets.
If you would prefer to stay in a hotel, Laura thinks the Hotel Ecole Centrale (paris-marais-hotel.fr) is great value. It’s a short walk from the popular Marais area. An even cheaper option is the Plug-Inn hostel located in quirky Montmartre.
To be honest, there’s so much to see and do in Gay Paree that you won’t want to leave. If you stay put though, you’ll miss the chance to visit the nearby Palace of Versailles.
The hugely grand and ornate palace, which once housed the Kings of France, consists of hundreds of rooms and is famous for its luxurious furnishings and perfectly manicured gardens. Being one of the biggest palaces in the world, and arguably one of the most beautiful, it is definitely a not-to-miss attraction when visiting the capital.
You can easily book a day trip that will include the transport as well as a guided tour, or alternatively hop on a train near Notre Dame and the journey will take around 30 minutes.