Quick guide to Paris, France Currency: Euro
The City of Light and Love was the third most visited city in the world in 2015, attracting 16.06 million visitors. It is both the capital and the largest city in France, located in the Île-de-France region in the north. Founded in the 3rd century BC, Paris is steeped in history.
The River Seine divides Paris into the Right and Left Banks and the city is further divided into eighteen arrondissements which each have their own particular feel and character. Known for its world-class cuisine, literature and art, Paris is one of the most beautiful cities on earth.
The climate in Paris is relatively mild and wet with light rainfall occurring all year round. There are quite often grey skies during winter and temperatures are cold although rarely below freezing, averaging 5 °C in the coldest months (December and January). Summer offers plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures, averaging 15 to 25 °C (59 to 77 °F) although occasional heatwaves see temperatures soar to the mid-30s (mid-90s °F).
Although the weather in August is beautiful, many establishments are closed as the city empties and its residents go ‘en vacances’.
There is nothing better than becoming a flâneur for the day in Paris, which is a very walkable city. However, when travelling long distances the metro is the easiest way to get around and you are never more than a ten minute walk from the nearest stop. Buying a carnet (a book of ten tickets) works out slightly cheaper than buying ten individual tickets.
The bus network is also very user-friendly. The free RATP smartphone app, covering all public transport in the city, will work out the quickest and easiest way for you to get from A to B.
Paris is renowned for the quality of its food and was the birthplace of haute cuisine. Michelin-starred restaurants abound in this city, where there are over seventy to choose from (as of December 2015). The two Michelin-starred Restaurant Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée is a treat for all of the senses, decorated with 10,000 shimmering crystals which hang from the ceiling.
Be sure to try the falafel in the Marais district, the patisserie which is on display around every street corner and a proper French baguette from Le Grenier à Pain in Montmartre, voted the best in the city in 2015.
Make like the Parisians and settle down for a few kir royales on one of the many ‘terraces’ across the city. Les Deux Magots in St-Germain des Prés was once the hangout of choice for twentieth-century literary heavyweights and is now an ideal spot for an aperitif.
Overlooking the Louvre pyramid, Le Café Marly offers an extensive drinks menu. Le Showcase is a nightclub in a truly spectacular setting inside the converted boat hangers of the Pont Alexandre III. Theatres include the Comédie-Française and the beautiful Palais Garnier for opera and ballet performances.
History buffs should check out the Musée Carnavalet, a charming museum of the history of Paris located in the Marais.
Head to the medieval heart of the city on Île de la Cité to see the Sainte-Chappelle, a thirteenth-century royal chapel containing breath-taking stained glass windows. Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral (‘our lady of Paris’) is not to be missed. Visit art galleries including the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre and the Musée Jacquemart-André, a nineteenth-century mansion which puts on excellent exhibitions alongside its permanent collection.
Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. The rather well-heeled Avenue Montaigne is lined with designers like Chanel and Dior while the Champs-Élysées is home to both the high-end and the high street.
The best department stores include Collette, the Galeries Lafayette (housed in a stunning Art Nouveau building) and Le Bon Marché, the oldest department store in the world. Shakespeare & Co., the bookshop a stone’s throw from Notre-Dame in the 5th, was once a place of pilgrimage for writers and is now stuffed with an eclectic mix of books.
Hotels in Paris
Some of the most luxurious hotels in the world can be found in Paris, alongside plenty of affordable accommodation. The most opulent five star options include Hôtel de Crillon on Place de la Concorde (set to reopen after renovations in 2016), Hotel Le Meurice on rue de Rivoli opposite the Tuileries gardens and Le Bristol in the 8th.
Hotel Costes in the 1st Arrondissement is known for being one of the most chic in the city and attracts a cool crowd of arty and fashion types. Be sure to check out the courtyard restaurant and the bar, which is a destination in itself.