Lovers flock from all over the world for Paris’ legendary romance. Wander the banks of the Seine, admire the paintings in the Louvre and enjoy what Paris is famous for: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and the haute couture.
By the numbers
Population: 2,229,621 (city); 12,405,426 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 35 meters / 115 feet
Time Zone: UTC +1, Central European Time (CET); UTC +2, Central European Summer Time (CEST)
Average Annual Precipitation: 63.7 centimetres / 25.1 inches
Average January Temperature: 5°C / 41°F
Average July Temperature: 21°C / 69°F
Did you know?
Built for the 1889 World Fair, the Eiffel Tower was originally only permitted to stand until 1909. It has since come to dominate the Parisian skyline and beam brightly as one of the city’s most iconic attractions.
Among the many historical figures buried at the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris are Edith Piaf, Moliere, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and Jim Morrison.
A replica of the Statue of Liberty can be found on the Ile aux Cygnes on the Seine river in Paris.
Once a simple village on the Île de la Cité, one of the two islands situated in the Seine, Paris has expanded over the centuries to incorporate surrounding villages into its greater metropolitan area. Today, the City of Lights is comprised of arrondissements, or districts, numbered one through twenty. The first lies in the city center with the rest following in a clockwise, outward spiral. The differences are vast and varied between the districts, which offer distinct reasons to visit and together make up the multi-faceted French capital the world knows and loves.
Intimate and venerable, the 1st arrondissement of Paris sits mainly on the Right Bank of the Seine. Its top attraction is the Louvre, which brings in visitors from all over the world with its impressive collection of paintings and sculptures. Many combine museum tours with strolls through the adjoining Tuileries Gardens, another must-see landmark in the historic district. Visitors to the 1st arrondissement will also find haute couture designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Dior set up in shops on the fashionable Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which is just a short walk from the majestic Place Vendôme, home to some of the finest jewellers around. Rounding out its stylish reputation, the 1st arrondissement of Paris also houses a massive modern shopping center known as the Forum des Halles, originally a popular food market.
Charming back streets harbour galleries, cafes, and boutiques in this quintessential Parisian arrondissement. The area plays host to a thriving theatre district just west of the Rue Richelieu. Among the most popular performing arts venues in the area are the Opéra Comique and the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens. The 2nd arrondissement is also known for the Palais Brongniart, which once served as the location of the vibrant Parisian stock market, and the Sentier neighbourhood, which transitioned from a historic textile and clothing factory hub to a present-day internet company hotspot. Some even call it Silicon Sentier.
Together with the 4th arrondissement, the 3rd arrondissement of Paris comprises Le Marais, a historic neighbourhood tracing back to the Middle Ages. It represents the smaller, quieter section of the lively district and offers several museums and venerable attractions. Worth touring are the Musée national Picasso-Paris and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme. The latter is nestled in a significant Jewish quarter from the 13th century. Visitors to the 3rd arrondissement will also find the oldest known house in Paris situated on the rue de Montmorency, where it has stood since 1407. Although it is generally less popular among tourists than its bustling counterpart, the 3rd arrondissement is an integral part of Le Marais and an area absolutely worth touring.
The other half of the beloved Marais district, the 4th arrondissement is sometimes called the “arrondissement de l’Hôtel-de-Ville” because it has long housed Paris’s town hall. It is one of the busier and more colourful districts in the city and boasts an exceptional view to match. Beyond its myriad trendy shopping and nightlife establishments, not to mention its longstanding reputation as the premier LGBTQ haven in Paris, the 4th arrondissement is home to such iconic landmarks as the Notre Dame de Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, and Place des Vosges, a beautiful old square lined with historic buildings. Come see the sights, soak up the ambience on an afternoon stroll, or swing by for a night of memorable revelry. Just be sure to stop by this vibrant district!
This and the adjoining 6th arrondissement comprise the Latin Quarter, a bastion of student life and higher education in Paris. Within a 100-meter (328-foot) radius around the Panthéon you’ll find some of the most prestigious schools and universities in all of France, notably the University of Paris, or Sorbonne. Elsewhere, the Jardin des Plantes is the premier botanical garden in the city, and the Roman amphitheater remains at the Arènes de Lutèce remind us just how rich Parisian history really is. Also worth exploring is the Musée National du Moyen-Âge. Wander the cobblestone streets of this quaint district to find second-hand book stalls lining the quaysides, then come back after dark to join the young crowds at the Place de la Contrescarpe and Rue Mouffetard.
This Left Bank arrondissement houses some of the most characteristically Parisian streets in the city. Among the most important are the Rues de Seine, Buci, and Dauphine. Visitors also flock to the area between the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the river Seine. Discover cafes and boutiques in the famed Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter or grab a drink at Les Deux Magots, a historic haunt famously frequented by modernist authors and artists like Hemingway, Camus, Joyce, Picasso, and Sartre. Those that prefer peace and quiet will fall head over heels for the arrondissement’s breathtaking Jardin du Luxembourg, which doubles as one of the most recognizable and unmissable attractions in all of Paris.
Boasting a central location on the Left Bank of the river Seine, the 7th arrondissement is instantly recognizable as the location of the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars, where the iconic structure sits. Unbelievably, this is only the beginning of what this brilliant district has to offer. Also found in the 7th arrondissement is the Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin, and Les Invalides, the site where Napoleon Bonaparte was buried in 1840. For a charming afternoon activity in the 7th arrondissement, wander the area between Quai Voltaire and Rue de l’Université and let the countless antique dealers invite you into their shops.
Any visit to the 8th arrondissement has to start on the most beautiful avenue in the world, the fabulous Champs-Elysées, which extends from Place Charles de Gaulle to Place de la Concorde. Also worth seeing is La Madeleine, a neoclassical church, and lovely Parc Monceau. Other places of interest in the 8th arrondissement include the Grand Palais and the Palais de la Découverte, or Palace of Discovery, which makes the fascinating world of science accessible to all. Last but not least, music lovers will find endless enjoyment on the Rue de Rome, where luthiers and their instruments abound.
Situated on the Right Bank of the Paris, the 9th arrondissement is rich with cultural appeal. Several architectural landmarks can be found within its bounds, notably the Palais Garnier, or Paris Opéra, which is widely regarded as one of city’s top aesthetic marvels. Continue exploring with a trip to see the waxworks at the Musée Grévin or stroll down the 2.5-kilometre (1.5-mile) Boulevard Haussmann for shopping forays at the iconic Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores. While the 9th arrondissement is also recognized as a business hub, its attractions and landmarks make it an easy place explore, either in the afternoon or at night before the opera.
Running the length of the Canal Saint-Martin, which connects the Canal de l’Ourcq to the Seine, the 10th arrondissement is lesser visited by tourists but burgeoning among young professionals and creative types. In the way of attractions, it houses two of the most important rail stations in Paris and busiest in Europe, the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est. Otherwise, on either side of the Canal Saint-Martin, the Quais de Valmy and Jemappes provide one of the most delightful walks in the city. To soak up the scenery of the 10th arrondissement, follow the tree-lined canal from Rue du Temple to Place de Stalingrad and take in the many charming bridges and barges.
Formerly a haven for furniture craftsmen, the Bastille district now plays host to the city’s young and trendy crowd. The central Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine has seen countless restaurants and nightlife venues spring up in recent years, and the nearby Rues de Lappe and Oberkampf are particularly noteworthy in the way of after-dark entertainment. Although well-known attractions are scarce in the Bastille district, there are a handful of cultural opportunities for visitors to discover. In particular, museum lovers will enjoy the arrondissement’s quaint Edith Piaf Museum and specialty Museum of Smoking.
Home to one of the largest public parks in Paris, the Bois de Vincennes, and the second largest opera house in the city, the Opera Bastille, this sprawling arrondissement is both lovely and laidback. You’ll find lots of quiet and residential streets interspersed with select historic attractions like the Place de la Bastille and Gare de Lyon train station. That said, the district also houses the AccorHotels Arena, which hosts any number of indoor sporting events and concerts each year, making it more than possible that entertainment lovers will end up in the 12th arrondissement at some point on their tours of Paris.
Tucked between Avenues de Choisy and d’Ivry in the eastern half of the 13th arrondissement is Paris’s most extensive Chinatown. Although a secondary Chinatown has sprung up in the 20th arrondissement, you’ll find renowned Asian eateries and emporiums here, notably some of the best dim sum around. The national library, known locally as the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, has also taken up residence in the area facing the Quai de la Gare on the Seine. Head west in the 13th arrondissement and you’ll find the charming Butte-aux-Cailles neighbourhood, which offers just the right amount of bustle in the way of trendy shops, bars, and restaurants.
In the 14th arrondissement, Rue d’Alésia stands out for its wide array of clothing shops while Parc Montsouris offers visitors to the district a charming green respite. Opposite the park is the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, which offers housing for international students in the city and boasts architectural styles for all of the world. Before you make your way out of the 14th arrondissement, be sure to stop by the iconic Lion of Belfort sculpture at the heart of the Place Denfert-Rochereau.
This district on the Left Bank of the Seine houses more people than any other district in Paris. It plays host to delightful Parc Andre-Citroen, which takes its name from the famous car manufacturer and spans 14 hectares (35 acres) in total. Farther north is a collection of skyscrapers overlooking the river and the replica Statue of Liberty found on the Île aux Cygnes. In fact, the 15th arrondissement boasts the tallest skyscraper in the city, the Tour Montparnasse, lending to its metropolitan ambience. Although it sees fewer visitors than some of the more central districts in Paris, this area offers a nice blend of things to do and places to escape.
There’s no denying this is among the most fashionable and cosmopolitan districts in Paris. The 16th arrondissement strikes a near-perfect balance of trendy restaurants, cultural draws like museums and embassies, grand residences, and nature escapes. It houses the Trocadéro, which boasts beautiful gardens and offers amazing views of the Eiffel Tower. Palace-laden Avenue Foch runs through the district, creating a breathtaking attraction for fans of opulent architecture. Beyond the Jardins du Trocadéro, visitors have a second option for a breath of fresh air, namely Bois de Boulogne, which once served as a hunting grounds for the Kings of France. Last but not least, you’ll find the Parc des Princes stadium in the 16th arrondissement, so keep an eye out for football matches, or soccer games as the Americans say.
The 17th arrondissement occupies the northwest edge of Paris. It showcases a variety of architectural styles and tranquil nature spaces. Among the district’s attractions are the Jean-Jacques Henner National Museum and the Palais des Congrès de Paris, a massive concert and event hall.
The bright, beaming star of the 18th arrondissement is the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur. Gaze up at the mesmerizing cathedral from the market below or get up close and personal and let it take your breath away. A short walk from Sacré-Coeur is the Place du Tertre, a gem of Old Paris that never fails to captivate. Continue your tour of the colourful 18th arrondissement by following the Rue des Abbesses, which is lined with trendy boutiques and eateries, drawing a hipper crowd. Then tour the renowned Pigalle area, formerly the Parisian red light district, for nightlife fun at famous cabarets and bars.
Both the Canal Saint-Denis and Canal de l’Ourcq run through this relatively quiet district, which also offers visitors the third and fifth largest public parks in Paris, called Parc de la Villette and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, respectively. Pack a picnic or opt to stroll around 19th arrondissement and take in sights like the Conservatoire de Paris and the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie museum.
The most well-known cemetery in Paris, the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, sits in the 20th and final arrondissement of Paris. It is the final resting place of countless artists and famous figures, both French stars like Edith Piaf and international celebrities like Jim Morrison, not to mention one of the most-visited sites in the city. This district is also home to the eclectic Belleville neighbourhood whose Chinatown competes with that of the 13th arrondissement. While the young, artsy crowds tend to be drawn further east of the city, this area has managed to hold on to its working class origins and welcoming spirit, creating a vibrant and diverse district well worth exploring.
Dining and drinking
If there’s one word that symbolizes Paris, it’s gastronomy. The French, always appreciative of the finer things in life, have a unique tradition of famous restaurants and great chefs. If you really love good food, you’ll find true happiness here. The latest, most fashionable restaurants mix innovation with traditional culinary techniques to serve classic French cuisine that’s full of unexpected flavours. The cafe-restaurants, which are the pride of Paris, fit into the gastronomic landscape better than ever, with their beautifully presented and affordable food. Paris, always so cosmopolitan, has also been enriched by exotic cuisines from the four corners of the earth.
In Paris, fine dining and great feasts (lasting up to three hours) are sacred, and the chefs in the most famous restaurants have turned their cuisine into a real art form. Paris features some of the most highly-praised restaurants and world-acclaimed chefs by International food critics, including the first arrondissement’s Grand Véfour. Some other fine dining options can also be found in prestigious hotels, like Restaurant Le Meurice in the Meurice hotel. Combining touches of originality in both the food and design, the establishments of the Costes brothers are not to be missed. Café Costes was the first to set the trend quite a few years ago now. Highly popular during cocktail hours, notably among the business crowd, Fumoir is a comfortable lounge with leather couches and an upscale restaurant, serving elaborate, traditional French food. The Pharamond, offers an extraordinary setting and a meal to match: its decor dates from 1832, proof, if any were needed, that Paris’ tradition of exceptional gastronomy is still going strong.
If you’re looking for pastries, the oldest pâtisserie in Paris is Pâtisserie Stohrer, carrying desserts and sweets fit for a queen. A bustling area for Sunday brunch is on Rue Montorgueil, notably Au Rocher de Cancale, which is completely packed after noon.
After a stroll in the narrow streets of Île-Saint-Louis, head to the oldest artisan ice-cream parlour in the city, Berthillon. With more than 60 different flavours, their all-natural ice creams will enchant the whole family. The most exquisite include Caramel Beurre Salé (caramel and salted butter) and Cappucino. At one point in time it was very hard to find a Parisian restaurant that served brunch. That time is behind us now, and brunch has become so popular that, at some places, you will have to wait quite a while for a table. Le Loir dans la Théière is definitely worth the wait. All pies, tarts, and pastries are hand-made and fresh, and prices are more than reasonable. For tea, Mariage Frères has the best reputation. As for nightlife, one of the hottest spots in Paris is Georges at the top of the Centre Pompidou.
5th & 6th Arrondissement
Tour d’Argent is one of Paris’ culinary institutions, serving up dishes of worldwide renown.
Le Procope is decked out in the finest fashions of Paris’ Années Folles, and Ernest Hemingway finished “Le soleil se lève aussi” at the world renowned Closerie des Lilas. Parisians think of Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore as historic monuments just like the Eiffel Tower or Notre-Dame Cathedral. Visitors should make a point of visiting these historical establishments to truly soak up the atmosphere of the capital’s glorious past; it’s easy to imagine past celebrities and intellectuals dining in the luxurious period decor. If you’re looking for authentic country bread, Poilâne bakery is the best bet. You will find the famous Tartines made with this bread (toasted with cheese, vegetables, or prosciutto) at numerous cafes in the city. What is a good meal without an espresso at the end? Something is definitely missing–notably the chocolate served with it. The French are chocolate connoisseurs and you can find some chocolate artisans throughout the city, like the Maison du Chocolat that imports chocolate from Switzerland and Belgium.
The 8th arrondissement is home to some of the finest restaurants in France, with Pierre Gagnaire voted one of the best restaurants in the world by the British magazine Restaurant, and the oft-celebrated Restaurant Alain Ducasse situated in Plaza Athénée Hotel. Maxim’s is a veritable institution devoted to classic French cuisine, and another excellent yet expensive spot is Taillevent, which has wines that can cost as much as a dress from Chanel. Paris has numerous fashionable spots where you go to see and be seen. Most of these restaurants have chic and trendy interiors designed by popular architects. For fashionistas and celeb-watching addicts, L’Avenue, located on the prestigious avenue Montaigne where many famous designers have boutiques, is an ideal spot. For flavoured and rare types of mustard and vinegar, the first established Boutique Maille is the best bet, and Hédiard and Fauchon stock some of the world’s finest specialty foods. For desert, don’t miss Maison de la Truffe for first rate truffles. For the best macaroons (a kind of soft cookie filled with cream) in town, head to Ladurée, a shop first established in 1862.
A new trend arose in Paris as an alternative to cafes and bistros serving a rich food: healthy soup and juice bars. With an abundance of vegetarians bereft of many dining options, they rapidly became a success. The soup and juice bar Soup & Juice perfectly illustrates the phenomenon. People don’t always have time to sit at lunch for hours anymore, and they may want a healthy alternative to the sandwich booths and bakeries. With a dozen locations across the city, you can grab a healthy meal at very reasonable prices.
The Brasserie Flo, located in a remote and quiet court in the 10th arrondissement, is a bargain for seafood lovers. The ingredients are extremely fresh and the decor reminds some patrons of Grandma’s kitchen. Bistros are certainly the best value for price if you cannot afford the star-rated restaurants but still want to enjoy the best of French food. You can find many bistros and brasseries in the capital, serving the traditional Entrecôte (rib-eye steak) or Bavette à l’échalotte (flank steak dressed in a shallot reduction) with French Fries, the cheese or charcuterie plate, and chocolate mousse or caramel creme. Julien, with its Belle Époque décor, is a great place to sample the cuisine of a traditional brasserie à la française. If you’re looking for seafood, La Marine offers a lovely dining experience alongside Saint-Martin Canal. For dessert, try Furet Tanrade, which offers exquisite chocolates in a cozy atmosphere.
When Bastille became a hip district for nightlife, the spotlight fell on the restaurant-bar-club, Sanz sans, which consistently draws a lively crowd of revellers. For traditional meals from the Auvergne region, head to La galoche d’Aurillac. Try one of the specialties like Le Puy lentils or the charcuterie plate, notably the Fricandeau (a kind of pâté typical of that region). The cheese plate is a must-have here, as they mature the cheeses in their cellar. Another classic brasserie is Petit Bofinger in Bastille, more affordable than the original Bofinger. Chez Paul is one of the best bistros in Paris, but make sure to arrive early or be prepared to wait up to one hour for a table. The Bar à Soupes in Bastille is a charming place for healthy cuisine. For oysters and shellfish, a great option is the Bar à Huîtres, an oyster bar in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Cheese is to France what tea is to England; it is part of the national identity. There are more than 300 varieties of cheeses from various regions of the country. Neighbourhood farmer’s markets are the best places to sample and buy all the kinds of cheese you can imagine and probably some you didn’t know existed. Choose from fresh, creamy, or dry goat cheese, soft and milky Camembert, creamy Brie de Meaux, strong Munster or Époisses, and full-flavoured Roquefort. The Aligre Market is without a doubt the largest and the most comprehensive market in the city.
Whether sampling on site or souvenir shopping, wine is instrumental to a visit to France. You will find many wine shops in Paris, with an excellent selection of bottles from small French wineries or prestigious houses. The most widespread name in the city is Nicolas. The wine merchant has burgundy-tinted shops all over the city and carries affordable ordinary wines alongside expensive vintages. All the sales associates are very professional and can give you good advice on wine and meal pairings. The wine bar, Bar à Vins Nicolas located alongside fashionable Cour Saint-Émilion in Bercy-Village is a great spot to sample the selection they carry.
Visitors should make a point of visiting several historical establishments to truly soak up the atmosphere of the capital’s glorious past. La Coupole offers all the splendour of Paris’s golden age, and if you look out at the terrace of the Dôme, you may even see the ghost of Jean Paul Sartre.
The Café de L’Homme offers an intimate dining experience behind its red curtains and warm wooden decor. Paris has countless fine specialty food stores, each only dedicated to one sort of delicacy. For caviar, go to Prunier.
17th & 18th Arrondissement
The Paradis du Fruit (literally “paradise of fruit”) will enchant those in search of a perfect smoothie. Wepler is a well-established brasserie on place de Clichy.
With its incomparable historic sites and rich art collections, Paris is often thought of as the largest museum in the world. But the Parisian culture is not just about the past; the City of Lights also celebrates the arts, and its nightlife is as exciting as that of London or New York.
Paris has more than 60 museums, so chances are you will find one to accommodate your tastes and interests. They are usually open from 10a to 6p and most of them have a weekly late day, staying open until 9p (generally on Wednesdays or Thursdays). Public museums are usually closed on Tuesdays and private museums often close on Mondays.
Let’s begin with the most renowned among them, the Louvre, with its iconic glass pyramid. The must-see museum houses one of the most remarkable collections of paintings and sculptures in the world, including two legendary works: the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. Another popular museum is the Musée d’Orsay, which brings in roughly 2.5 million visitors each year to admire its comprehensive collection of Impressionist masterpieces. Next there is the Centre Georges Pompidou, also known as the Beaubourg, whose avant-garde architecture has been compared to a multicoloured steamboat launched in the belly of Paris.
If you are with kids or interested in science, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in La Villette is not to be missed. You can also learn about human evolution at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, followed by a peaceful stroll in the beautiful Jardin des Plantes. Besides these essential landmarks, there are a number of small, themed museums worth checking out, including the Musée Picasso Paris and Musée du Quai Branly, which offers a prodigious collection of around 300,000 artifacts from from Australasia, Africa, and the Middle East. Lastly, visitors can learn even about Middle Eastern cultures at the Institut du Monde Arabe. Many lectures and seminars are organized here as well, so keep an eye out for educational events.
Admission to most galleries in Paris is free. Opening hours vary from one neighbourhood to another, with some staying open until 11p. Many of the city’s most prestigious galleries are located in Saint Germain des Prés, either in Rue de Seine or Rue des Beaux-Arts, such as the Galerie Claude Bernard. Most of them promote various styles of contemporary art, from Cubism to Abstractionism. Check out Galerie Maeght to dig into some of Miro’s work and Galerie Arcturus for Selinger statues. Famous antiques galleries are gathered around Haussman Boulevard and Matignon Avenue, down the road from famous auction house Christie’s. More avant-garde galleries have set up shop around Beauboug, and still others have turned the Bastille district into an arty and trendy neighbourhood, notably around Rue Keller and Rue de Charonne.
Those set on classical music will be thrilled by the opulent Opéra Garnier, home to Paris’s ballet company, also known as les petits rats de l’Opéra. Performances here include the world-famous operas and ballets, like Berlioz’s Romeo & Juliet and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Its ultra-modern counterpart, Opéra Bastille, concentrates more on music than dance performances and hosts great operas as well as symphonic concerts. Two other concert halls will enchant classical music connoisseurs, namely Salle Pleyel, which is home to the Paris Symphonic Orchestra, and Salle Gaveau, which is dedicated to chamber music.
For jazz lovers, there many clubs are located in the Saint-Michel and Saint-Germain-des-Prés districts. To start, be sure to check out great sounds at the Caveau de la Huchette in the 5th arrondissement. Otherwise, the legendary Olympia Hall still welcomes the biggest names in French pop, just as it did when Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf pulled in the crowds. World-renowned bands and singers also fill up the Zénith and AccorHotels Arena. Last but not least, the Palais des Congrès plays host to musicals and multimillion dollar productions for the performing arts crowd.
Paris is home to more than 140 theatres featuring various types of shows, from classic plays to avant-garde live performances, not to mention dance, comedies, and musicals. The eminent Comédie-Française features classic comedies written by the likes of Molière that are accessible to large audiences. The Odéon Théâtre de l’Europe is a great alternative as it hosts classic plays in their original languages. Théâtre de la Ville, once home to famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt, is an open door to performers of the world. Many world renowned artists have performed here with famous international dance companies like Merce Cunningham or Ann Theresa de Keersmeaker. The program also includes a great selection of world music concerts, with artists from Asia and the Middle East. Finally, the Théâtre du Châtelet, with its tradition of education and innovation, plays host to young talents and dance companies coming from all over Europe. As if that weren’t enough, the theater also organizes numerous festivals throughout the year, drawing visitors from far and wide.
Famous film director François Truffaut said that every French citizen is a cinema critic. It comes as no surprise then that Paris is a film-lover’s paradise, with many cinemas in every district. The big complexes like the UGC Ciné Cité Les Halles and UGC Ciné Cité Bercy show more than 15 films at once, mostly in their original languages. The MK2 chain, which not only screens blockbusters but also independent French movies, also has a faithful clientele. Worth noting is that the MK2 Parnasse and MK2 Beaubourg have a more avant-garde selection than the other theatres belonging to the chain. Elsewhere, in the Latin Quarter, art and experimental cinemas carry on the French cinematic tradition of showing classic films. For true cinephiles, try the Studio Galande, which often puts on high quality film series and retrospectives.
Many international tournaments take place in Paris. The Stade de France is the traditional venue for major events as it can accommodate up to 80,000 people. That said, the home games of Paris’s Saint Germain FC professional football team are hosted at Parc des Princes, which lies not far from another major venue, tennis’s Roland Garros Stadium where the French Open takes place every June.
Paris has numerous bars and clubs, many of which stay open later than those of other European cities. Typically, bars close at either 2a or 4a whereas clubs close at 6a. Some are open extra late on weekends. Vibrant neighbourhoods include Bastille, Rue de Lappe, Rue de Charonne, and Rue de la Roquette, where you will find countless bars. These range from fancy wine bars to smaller local cafés, but all of them boast a distinctly Parisian ambiance. Arguably the most popular nightlife district in recent years can found between République and Oberkampf.
Rue d’Oberkampf offers lively Café Charbon, whose infectious energy is brought by both locals and tourists. Alongside the Saint-Martin Canal, Chez Prune is practically a Parisian institution. The 5th arrondissement is also very lively, particularly among students who flock to the pubs behind the Panthéon, between Place Descartes and Rue Mouffetard. The Hurling Pub is a great hangout with its infused vodkas and wooden counter. Also worth trying are central Bombardier, an authentic English pub, and the more upscale bars found in Saint Germain des Prés and alongside the Champs-Élysées.
Paris also has a flourishing club culture, boasting DJs in action all through the night. The hippest DJs play at Queen on the Champs-Élysées. Disco nights at Queen are very popular, particularly among house music fans. For a less glamorous and more trendy experience, try underground techno temple Rex Club. After hours, follow the hip crowd for experimental techno and French electronic music at Batofar, a red boat moored on the Seine. Another option is Glazart, a boon for creative types where all kinds of arts and music are intertwined for live performances and crazy nights.
For salsa and hip hop, head to Barrio Latino in the Bastille district or to Favela Chic near République metro. In the Pigalle neighbourhood, you can dance the night away to the sound of rock music at the Elysée Montmartre. Alternately, if you’re looking for the most upscale, exclusive clubs, you stick to the 8th arrondissement. Visitors to the capital can also take advantage of the cabaret culture and traditional French Cancan shows at the Moulin Rouge or enjoy some high-class cabaret at the world-renowned Crazy Horse.
Parks and Gardens
Nature lovers will there find public parks and gardens around almost every corner in Paris. A stroll in the Tuileries Garden is one of the best ways to round out your visit to the Louvre, and visitors to the Latin Quarter breathe easy at the famously stunning Luxembourg Garden.
If you’re with kids, try the Jardin des Plantes, where you’ll also find a zoo and tropical botanic garden, the Parc Astérix theme park, or the Thoiry zoo for wildlife. The largest park in Paris, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, is another great spot for families as it contains numerous children’s playgrounds. Younger locals also enjoy picnicking and partying here, and visitors of all ages can enjoy the vistas of the city from the top of the park’s tower. Of course, no Parisian entertainment guide would be complete without mention of its number one attraction for family fun: Disneyland Paris. Situated just east of Paris, the massive theme park has visitors from all of the world flocking to France, earning it the reputation of the most-visited theme park in Europe.
Paris, the City of Lights, is a stop on every intrepid traveler’s list of cosmopolitan cities to visit. Famous sites around the city vary from historical monuments to museums, as well as the famous shopping and restaurants. Paris holds something for everyone, from the art buff to the romantic to Baudelaire’s flâneur, which, roughly translated, is someone who adores wandering around the city merely to absorb the atmosphere and watch the people pass by.
No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the most famous monument and internationally recognized symbol of the city, the Eiffel Tower. The tower sits at the top of the Champs de Mars, a beautiful green esplanade, which is perfect for sitting and reading or playing a pickup game of football. After a trip to the top, either via stairs or the glass elevators that allow you to see the views of the city in all her glory, try having lunch at the famous Le Jules Verne restaurant, which is conveniently located at the lower level of the tower: there is a special elevator provided to reach it. If you’d rather dine somewhere a little less expensive (or less overrun with tourists), you have two options: the tower sits on the line between the 7th and 15th arrondissements. In the 7th, try neighbourhood favorite Café de l’Alma, with a terrace view of the river Seine. In the 15th, Le Café du Commerce is the place to go: don’t be surprised if you’re the only tourist there, as this is well-known among natives as a place for excellent classic French cuisine. Either way, if you’re in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower, take advantage of the proximity of Invalides, where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t see an actual monument at the Place de la Bastille: remember that the prison was broken down in 1789 during the French revolution, and the place, or square, is all that is left. This is no reason not to visit this vibrant neighbourhood, however. The Bastille neighbourhood is an excellent place to visit both during the day and at night as it is famous for its nightlife. Daytime excursions include the Saint-Martin Canal, which is an excellent place to go relax, especially on the weekends when cars are not permitted, and you are free to sit at an outdoor cafe and enjoy a few minutes of quiet in the otherwise bustling city. If you’re a fan of the film La Vie en Rose (French title: La Môme) about the life of Edith Piaf, consider a trip to the Edith Piaf Museum. Bastille by night is excellent, both for eating and bar-hopping. For bars, try anything along the Rue de Lappe, where swarms of Parisians invade every Saturday night. Le Havanita is more laid-back than some of the clubs and is a great place to get your evening started, while Brazilian club Favela Chic is ideal for dancing the night away.
L’Arc de Triomphe
While the Eiffel Tower is famous for its views of the city, the Arc de Triomphe in the middle of the Champs-Elysées is a far better place to see the city and its famous arrondissement structure. When you’ve finished, take a stroll down the Champs-Elysées, the famous boulevard with the best real estate in all of Paris. Dine at one of this area’s many restaurants and enjoy window shopping afterwards. When you’ve finished browsing the designer shops, take a little walk over to Place de la Concorde to see the Egyptian obelisk in the center of the square. You’re now on one side of the Tuileries Garden, the garden that is attached to the Louvre Museum. Have a stroll through the gardens before visiting the museum, and be sure to have an African hot chocolate at Angelina’s, on the Rue de Rivoli, which runs parallel to the gardens. If it’s gotten late, you can also drop by the famous Buddha Bar for a drink.
The famous home of the hunchback is a gorgeous cathedral right on the Seine River. Once you’ve visited it, you have your choice of sights to see. Literary buffs should stop by the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore. This shop has housed homeless writers who have since become household names, and a walk amongst its musty shelves seems to bring those times back to the present. A wander through the neighbouring Latin Quarter will open your eyes to the wonder of the Greek kebab sandwich: lamb, salad, tomatoes, fries and the famous “sauce blanche,” or white garlic sauce, for a mere five euros. Adjacent to the Latin Quarter, along the quay, you can browse the wares of the bouquinnistes, the booksellers who open shop every afternoon to sell antique books and postcards, as well as touristy trinkets. If you haven’t had your fill of churches, Sainte Chapelle, with its famous stained glass windows, is worth a visit, although be aware that it’s one of the only churches that requires an entry fee. The Institut du Monde Arabe, right behind Notre Dame, is a very interesting place to visit if you’re interested in Arab studies. And at the very top, there is a cafe which offers the only view of its kind over the top of the cathedral.
Montmartre is home to the Basilique du Sacré Coeur, the gorgeous white church that can be seen atop the mountain from the city proper on a clear day. After visiting the church (no pictures are allowed inside), take a stroll down the winding streets behind it and have a look at the Montmartre vineyards. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in November, you may be able to pick up a bottle of the wine that is made here. In order to reach the top of the mountain, you must get off the metro at Abbesses. Take advantage of this stop and explore the neighbourhood. One of the best baguettes in Paris can be found on Rue des Abbesses at Le Grenier à Pain. While in the area, take the time to visit the Montmartre Museum. Travel down further to reach Pigalle, the Parisian red light district. The famous French can-can dancers still perform at Le Moulin Rouge, and you can get tickets to a dinner performance if you like. If not, try an entertaining dinner at Le Refuge des Fondus, where the waiters hoist you over the communal table to reach your seat on the inner bench, and the wine is served in old-fashioned glass baby bottles. If you enjoy smooth jazz and typical brasserie fare, grab a bite at the Relais de Montmartre.
Walking Tours Paris Walks (+33 01 48 09 28 40 / http://www.paris-walks.com)
Paris Walking Tours (http://www.paris-walking-tours.com)
Classic Walks (+33 01 56 58 10 54 / http://paris.classicwalks.com)
Fat Tire Bike Tours (+33 01 56 58 10 54 / http://paris.fattirebiketours.com)
Bike About Tours (+33 06 18 80 84 92 / http://www.bikeabouttours.com)
Paris Bike Tour (+33 01 42 74 22 14 / http://www.parisbiketour.net)
Bateaux Mouches (+33 01 42 25 96 10 / http://www.bateaux-mouches.fr)
Bateaux Parisiens (+33 01 46 99 43 13 / http://www.bateauxparisiens.com)
Vedettes du Pont Neuf (+33 01 46 33 98 38 / http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com)
Paris City Vision (+33 01 44 55 60 00 / http://www.pariscityvision.com)
Big Bus Paris (+33 01 53 95 39 53 / http://eng.bigbustours.com/paris/home.html)
L’Open Bus Tour (+33 01 42 66 56 56 / http://www.ratp.fr)
Paris’ monuments, museums, squares and gardens remind visitors of the historical importance of the city, which has been an intellectual, political and economic center since its founding. It is a cosmopolitan city of the people, and its cultural and sociological mix gives Paris an irresistible charm.
France’s political, economic and cultural capital had modest and strictly rural beginnings; it started as no more than a little Celtic fishing borough, established in Third Century BCE in the middle of the Seine on the Île de la Cité. The fortified and prosperous Lutèce appealed to Caesar and his Roman army’s greed, and they appropriated it in 52 BCE as one of the first Gallo-Roman cities. The first mention of the name Paris appeared in 207 CE, when the civitas parisiorum (literally meaning city of the Parisians) stretched from the left bank of the Seine to the thermal springs of Cluny. Paris quickly attracted the favour of two saints who were to contribute to its construction. Saint Denis was the first Christian bishop to be beheaded by the Romans in 280 CE; his remains now lie in the Saint-Denis Basilica. Saint Geneviève became the patron saint of Parisians after miraculously repelling the invasion of the Huns in 451. Monasteries and abbeys flourished, including the powerful abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Près, erected in 558 under the aegis of King Childebert I. Many kings of the Merovingian dynasty were buried here. The Abbey in itself doesn’t exist anymore but you can visit the remaining adjacent church, the Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés . While Charlemagne preferred Aix-la-Chapelle and suffered a long siege there at the hands of the Vikings in 885, Paris continued to repel the invasions of the barbarians with varied success until 987, when it regained its pride with the accession of Hugues Capet to the throne.
As capital of the tiny French kingdom, the city grew considerably between the 11th and 13th Centuries. The development of the city owed much to Philip II, known as Philippe-Auguste (1165-1223), son of Louis VII, who paved the streets and built the new market in the Halles, the circular ramparts, and the Louvrefortress (1204). These extravagant centuries saw the completion of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame (undertaken in 1163), and the Sainte Chapelle under Saint-Louis (in 1248). The medieval town was divided, with the commercial, political and religious areas on the right bank and the bastion of dissident intellectuals on the left. The most famous of these was Robert de Sorbon, whose college was the precursor of the famous university of the Sorbonne. With a population of 200,000, Paris had become the biggest city in western Christendom in the beginning of the 14th Century. But some black years were to follow with the famine of 1315, the plague of 1348 and the Hundred Years’ War, when Paris was besieged by the English until 1436. Fortunately prosperity was to return in the 16th Century with François I to whom we owe the Hôtel de Ville, the college of France, the Hôtel des Tuileries and the Pont Neuf. He also transformed the old Louvre fortress into a Renaissance palace.
Paris sank into chaos once again with the religious wars and the terrible St-Barthélémy massacre of the Protestants during the nights of August 23rd and 24th, 1572. The fiercely Protestant regent, Henri III, had to flee the city and was succeeded by Henri IV in 1594 after he gave up the throne. A convert to Catholicism, he courted the hearts of Parisians by building the Place des Vosges, the Place Dauphine, and the Quais de l’Arsenal and Orfèvres.
Even more beautiful extensions to the city came under Louis XIII with the building of the Marais district (which retains its original character), and the Saint-Honoré and Saint Germain suburbs. This was followed immediately by the construction of the Luxembourg Palace by Marie of Médicis, the Val de Grâce by Queen Ann of Austria, and the Palace of the Cardinal (now the Palais-Royal) by Richelieu. The establishment of the Royal Printing House, in 1620, the botanical garden located now in Jardin des Plantes and the French Academy consolidated the intellectual character of the capital.
Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, installed his sumptuous court at Versailles, leaving Paris to deal with the Fronde from 1648 through 1652. This group protested against an absolute monarchy, but by isolating the king and his minions, it was only strengthened. Colbert, in charge of buildings, had superb monuments built by Mansart and Perrauls in honour of his sovereign: the colonnade in the Louvre, the Invalides, the Observatory, the gates of St-Denis and Saint-Martin, the Salpêtrière hospital, and the Jardin des Tuileries. The opulent architecture offered a stark contrast to the over-populated and poverty-stricken Paris of the ordinary people.
The proliferation of cafes and literary salons, including the famous Procope, fostered new egalitarian and libertarian ideas that preceded the French Revolution, and contributed to the cultural reputation of Paris. At this time were constructed the École Militaire, the Panthéon, the Place de la Concorde and the Palais-Royal Gardens, where the initial 1789 uprising was plotted; it was here that the famous Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen were originally formulated, and numerous remaining royalists were executed. With the regent beheaded, Napoleon put Paris in the control of two prefects charged with establishing a government. He set about creating the capital of Europe, establishing the Arc de Triomphe, the Stock Exchange in Palais Brongniart, the Place Vendôme, the Vendôme Column and the Saint-Martin Canal.
During the 19th Century, the poverty of the people fuelled the anti-royalist revolutions of 1830 and 1848. Napoleon III’s Second Empire symbolized the start of a new era: above all a period of industrialization, efficiency and public health. Official architect, Georges Haussman, changed the face of the city, transforming its medieval character into the one we know today. Dirty lanes gave way to broad, tree-lined avenues and majestic buildings that were accessible by new means of transport. Parks and gardens were established, such as the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes. Success came with the Universal exhibition of 1889, whose specially built iron structure was designed as a temporary monument and is now the archetypal symbol of the City of Light; without the Eiffel Tower, Paris just wouldn’t be Paris. The Sacré-Coeur Basilica was completed in 1910, as was the Palais de Chaillot.
Spared by the Great War, intellectual and artistic Paris attracted numerous important painters and writers, especially in the Montmartre district. World War II was a different story however, when the German army occupied the capital in June 1940; the city was eventually liberated in August 1944 by General Leclerc and General de Gaulle. The latter declared the Fifth Republic, which was to be challenged by a great social, economic and cultural upheaval in May 1968. This dissident movement arose in student circles and was led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit. The occupation of the Sorbonne and Nanterre universities degenerated into riots and barricades in the Latin Quarter. It was an unprecedented crisis whose shock tactics paralyzed the country with a general strike.
Just as all the monarchs had left their mark on Paris, naturally the presidents of the Fifth Republic wished to be remembered through their great monuments. De Gaulle bequeathed the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport; the Centre Georges Pompidou is a controversial memorial to the president of the same name; Giscard D’Estaing established the Musée d’Orsay and transformed the old abattoirs of la Villette into the Cité des Sciences. François Mitterand, during his 14 years as president (1981-95) carefully planned his monument works to evoke controversy and excitement. Among these are the Arche de la Défense, the glass pyramid of the Louvre, the Opéra Bastille and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Getting there and getting around
From Charles de Gaulle Aiport (CDG)
Charles de Gaulle Aiport (CDG)
Paris-Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG)
+33 1 4862 2280
Looking like something from the future or just out of George Orwell’s mind, Paris-Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG) resides 22.5 kilometres (14 miles) northeast of Paris. Not only is the structure a bit imposing, but the mass of humanity trying to move from point to point in the airport can make for a frustrating and confusing experience. But most of the airport’s customer service representatives are quite friendly, speak English, and are more than willing to help you.
Free ADP shuttle buses (each colour coded green or blue depending on terminal) connect the three terminals, which are loaded with shops, restaurants and bars, play areas for the kids, ATMs, information booths and currency exchange centres. Parking is ample and a number of hotels are perched in the center of the airport grounds. Most international airlines descend into Paris-Charles de Gaulle at some point.
There are more than enough ways to get into the center of Paris from CDG, including a wealth of inexpensive options and those that require a hefty wallet.
Driving out of the airport can be taxing on the nerves (especially if you do not speak or read French), and once you manage to find your way, traffic rushing toward the center of town is nothing short of a nightmare. For jet-lagged travellers, driving is either a great adventure or a nail-biting obstacle. The best bet to get into central Paris is to locate the A1 and head southwest. From there are multiple motorway options. On-site car hire companies are:
Avis (+1 800 230 4898 / http://www.avis.com)
Budget (+1 800 527 0700 / http://www.budget.com)
Europcar (+33 825 825 490 / http://www.europcar.com)
Hertz (+1 800 654 3131 / http://www.hertz.com)
National (+1 800 227 7368 / http://www.nationalcar.com)
Taxis are one of the more expensive options (EUR40-EUR60 depending on destination) and trips can take up to an hour in traffic. There are only two official taxi companies in Paris: Taxis G7 (+33 1 4739 4739 / http://www.taxisg7.fr) and Taxis Bleus (+33 891 70 1010 / http://www.taxis-bleus.com). In addition (like many other countries), there are a number of non-regulated taxis. If you choose to use a non-regulated taxi service, make sure you agree on a price before your departure as sometimes drivers try to take advantage of tourists. From the airport to central Paris should be around EUR50. A supplement of about 15 percent applies to rates at night (between the hours of 7p-7a), on Sundays, and on public holidays.
Shuttle & Limousine
Door-to-door van service is available though Blue Airport Shuttle Paris (+33 1 3011 1300 / http://www.paris-blue-airport-shuttle.fr) and Paris Airports Service (+33 1 5598 1080 / http://www.parisairportservice.com). Must Limousine Service (+33 1 45 62 3077 / http://www.mustlimousines.com) and Agence VIP Car (+33 1 4500 1211 / http://www.agencevipcar.fr) are among the luxury car and limo services.
Bus & Train (RER)
Getting into town via coach is a more economical transportation alternative; fares usually range from EUR8 to EUR13 depending on your destination. Air France (+33 1 4156 8900 / http://cars.airfrance.fr) operates two lines of bus service from CDG airport: Line 2 departs from the terminals to Porte Maillot and Étoile. Departures are every 15 minutes from 5:45a-11p. Line 4 connects the airport with Montparnasse and Gare de Lyon, leaving every 30 minutes from 7a-9p. RAPT (+33 1 4468 2020 / http://www.ratp.fr), the local public transportation company, employs the Roissybus, which heads off from each terminal from 5:45a-11p every 15 to 20 minutes for a 45 minute direct jaunt to the Place de l’Opéra. The fare is EUR8.20. Public bus 350 jogs to Gare de l’Est train station and bus 351 connects Roissy with the Nation metro stop. These buses run daily but stop during the night.
If you are traveling light, the Regional Express Network (RER) B line train (http://www.ratp.fr) is the way to go. It leaves from the TVG Station in Terminal 2 (via an ADP bus if coming from other terminals) for Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les-Halles, Saint-Michel, Denfert-Rochereau and beyond every 4-15 minutes from around 5am to midnight. Each stop links with the Paris Metro. It is also the quickest way to go to the city center.
From Orly Airport (ORY)
Orly (+33 1 4975 1515) is the smaller of the two airports and at 14.4 kilometres (9 miles) due south, it’s closer to the city center, but unfortunately most international airlines fly right over it to Paris-Charles de Gaulle. Planes pull into one of the two terminals (South, West), and free shuttle buses join the terminals. Shops ranging from duty free to newsstands, restaurants, bars, currency exchanges, and ATMs are dispersed throughout both terminals. A business center is in the west terminal and a business lounge is in the south terminal.
If you are ready to take on the speedy roads of Paris, wind out of the airport and hop on the A6 going north to hit the city center via Porte d’Orléans (A6a) or the Porte d’Italie (A6b). For more of a warm up to driving in Paris opt for the N7 to the Paris Porte d’Italie. Rental car companies are located in the arrivals hall and include:
Avis (+1 800 230 4898 / http://www.avis.com)
Budget (+1 800 527 0700 / http://www.budget.com)
Europcar (+33 1 494 61 570 / http://www.europcar.com)
Hertz (+1 800 654 3131 / http://www.hertz.com)
National (+1 800 227 7368 / http://www.nationalcar.com)
Sixt (+820 00 7498 / http://www.e-sixt.com).
Taxis ranks are located outside the arrivals hall of each terminal. Although rather expensive (EUR20-EUR60), especially if you are heading to the suburbs and at peak traffic hours, it may be a good option if you are tugging along a houseful of luggage. Remember to negotiate a fare with you driver in advance if you are not using one of Paris’ official taxi companies, Taxis G7 (+33 1 4739 4739 / http://www.taxisg7.fr) or Taxis Bleus (+33 891 70 10 10 / http://www.taxis-bleus.com).
To the credit of Napoleon III and his much maligned administrative chief (and city planner) Georges Haussmann, Paris was transformed from a battle torn dilapidated walled town into the cherished urban showcase that it is today. The relatively compact 20 arrondissements unfold clockwise like a spiralled croissant with the Seine splitting the city into a right bank and a left bank. Broad tree lined avenues give way to squares that branch out to narrow cobblestone streets and even thinner pedestrian alleyways filled with shops or cafes or even markets. Thus, walking is the best means to get around, and each new street and each new corner presents another focal point and another example of the city’s envied civic artistry.
Metro, Bus & RER
RAPT (+33 8 92 69 32 46 / http://www.ratp.fr) coordinates and manages the city’s comprehensive public transit system, which consists of 14 metro lines and nearly 300 stations, more than 400 bus routes, three tram lines and the Réseau Express Régional (RER) suburban rail network. The system is divided into six zones, although in most cases tourists will stay within the first three zones, and various ticket packages are available ranging from single one way fares to a carnet (book of ten). A carnet is around EUR14.10, whereas a single ticket is EUR1.80. A Paris Visite pass allows unlimited rides on all forms of public transport and comes in blocks of one to five days and for one to six zones. You can purchase a card at either airport or any metro, RER, tram station or bus counter.
Although the network may appear confusing at first once you pick up a map it is actually quite uncomplicated to decipher. Plus, the fact that metro stations are seldom located more than a few blocks from any point in the city center makes it one of the most convenient in Europe. The metro stations are marked with an ‘M’ and the lines are marked by number (1-14). RER trains are listed by letter (A-E). Because of the numerous forks on the rail lines, especially on RER routes, it is essential to know the terminus of the train you are catching. This way you will avoid hopping on the wrong train, which is easy to do if you are not paying attention. Buses, also listed by number (20-96 in the 20 districts), once slogged along in Paris traffic but now dedicated lanes have made them more efficient. The three tram lines reside on the outskirts of the city and are rarely used by tourists. Balabus is a public bus that offers a fifty minute tour of the area’s major attractions like the Musée d’Orsay, Louvre, Notre Dame and the Opera Bastille.
Trains run from around 5:30a until about 1:00a daily. On Fridays and Saturdays, the Metro runs up to 2:00a. Bus service usually ends around 8p-10p. Night buses operate after hours.
Driving in Paris may be challenging, but it is not as bad as driving in other European cities. Just try changing lanes during rush hour. Traffic on the outskirts of the city and on major boulevards in the city center inches along at a snail’s pace and parking is literally non existent especially after dark. You may end up parking a full metro ride from your hotel, because most do not have lots or garages. And just because you see locals prop up on the sidewalk, don’t follow the lead: the city has little qualms about towing at all hours of the night.
Roads marked with an “A” (Autoroutes) are wide, speedy (128km/80mph speed limits) expressways that usually involve tolls once you venture outside the major cities. Roads designated with an “N” (National) are two lanes and toll free. Many parallel the main expressways, which is convenient, but the roads do have a few drawbacks: 1) due to the two lane set up and the lower speed limit it takes longer to get where your are going, 2) they are riddled with roundabouts, 3) if you are driving cross country you will literally go through the center of every town on the way. That is quaint at first but becomes tiring after a while as all the towns begin to look the same 4) France’s truckers use the roads and 5) construction delays are seemingly ever occurring.
The A1 and N1 from the north, A13, N13 and N14 from the northwest, N12 from the west, A11 from the southwest, A10, N20, A6 from the south and the A3 and A4 from the east all converge on the city. The Boulevard Périphérique (periphery) winds around the circumference of the city, but once you exit off this road you are quickly thrown into an organic maze of streets that make having a map a must to navigate.
Taxis are good late at night after the trains stop running. Ranks are positioned about every couple of blocks, outside the airports, train stations and many of the main tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower. Rates start at EUR2.50 and the meter rates are around EUR.60-EUR1.50 per kilometer with a minimum charge of EUR5. You can also call or have your hotel dispatch a cab. Companies include: Taxis G7 (+33 1 47 39 4739 / http://www.taxisg7.fr/) and Taxis Bleus +33 891 70 1010 / http://www.taxis-bleus.com/). Rates are located outside the terminal arrivals hall.
Batobus (+33 1 4411 3399 / http://www.batobus.com/english/index.htm) has a fleet of big glass window boats that float up and down the Seine seasonally stopping at eight attractions including the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
An effort by the city to reduce the congestion and pollution caused by cars has led to a service called Vélib (a combination of vélo, meaning bike, and liberté, meaning freedom) that allows paying members to borrow bikes from the numerous stations around the city and return them at any other station. Both year-long subscriptions and one-day passes are available, with the first half hour free and the subsequent time on a sliding scale to promote the prompt return of bicycles and their continued rotation. More information can be found at the website: http://www.velib.paris.fr/
Although you will probably want to avoid the cobblestoned traffic nightmare of Champs-Elysées, it is not a bad idea to see Paris by bike, although it does have its hazards. More than 96 kilometres (60 miles) of bike lanes share major thoroughfares, along with trails through parks and along the Seine making the city rather biker friendly. Plus, it may be the only spot on the globe where you can see commuter cyclists maneuvering the streets of Paris with a cigarette in hand. Paris à Vélo (+33 1 4887 6001 / http://www.parisvelosympa.com) rents cruiser and tandem bikes and provides guided tours.
Leaving Paris By Rail
Six major stations and various smaller ones encircle Paris sharing the rail workload. For the most part each serves trains arriving and departing form the point of compass on which the station is perched (i.e. east, west, south). But there is considerable overlapping, especially for domestic routes, so make sure you arrive at the right station if you are booked in advance. Stations include:
Gare du Nord (home to Eurostar (http://www.eurostar.com), which has daily high speed jaunts between Paris and London, via the Chunnel, and Paris and Brussels. It is also the hub for trains exiting to northern France, Holland, and Belgium). Gare de L’Est is the international gateway to central Europe with trains sprinting to Germany, Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland. Gare de Lyon links Paris with Lyon, the French Riviera, Italy and points in Switzerland. Gare d’ Austerlitz serves the Loire Valley, southwest France, and Spain. Gare Montparnasse links Paris to western and southwestern France.
The quantity of train operators and the mind boggling number of passes (Inter Rail, Eurail Select, Eurail Flexi, Eurail Saver, Eurail Flexi Saver, Euro Domino, etc,) being peddled can be overwhelming, especially for a novice rail traveler. The last thing you want to do is have a brain freeze and end up in Brussels when you packed the bathing suit for beach time in Barcelona. Rail Europe (+1 877 257 2887 / http://www.raileurope.com) does an excellent job of making sense of the complicated origami of high speed and traditional (slow) routes and breaks down the difference between the likes of TGV, Thalys, Eurostar, Talgos, AVE and the seemingly endless array of rail service providers. It also lists the various pass options so you can find the right fit for your travel.
The country’s national rail company, Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) (http://www.sncf.com), is famous for its track record of efficiency (meaning trains are usually on time; a rarity in Europe) and bullet trains, which link Paris with the major cities of France and with Geneva, Switzerland. Daily service to London is available through Eurostar (http://www.eurostar.com). About 20 trains link Paris to London in two hours and a half. Daily service to Brussels is also available on Thalys (http://www.thalys.com), which also links Paris with Amsterdam, Cologne and Geneva among other northern European cities. Artesia trains run high speed routes between Paris and Milan and Paris and Turin up to five times a day. Elipsos/Tago Night Trainhotels has various classes of overnight sleeper service to Madrid on the Fanscico de Goya and to Barcelona on the Talgo Joan Miro. You can also book night trains to Berlin, Hamburg and Hanover.