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“See Paris and Die” – The superlatives are well used, Food, Drink Love and Beautiful Architecture – No 1 French City
There’s simply nowhere else like the Paris, City of Love. The French capital’s dedication to art, architecture and cuisine is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Beyond these cultural riches, there are enough museums and monuments to fill a lifetime of holidays to Paris. No matter whether you want to see the big sights such as the Louvre and Arc de Triomphe, or lesser-known galleries housing private collections, you’ll unearth something new on every trip.
Add in the joys of strolling beside the Seine or sitting in a café on a beautiful boulevard, and you’ll soon see why Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world.
Events in Paris
Paris has a packed cultural calendar. Landmark exhibitions can sell out months in advance, while at other times of year, the entire city is taken over by seasonal celebrations. Urban beaches pop up for Paris Plages in the summer and fairytale illuminations transform parks and gardens in the run-up to Christ
Top 5 things to do in Paris
The Eiffel Tower might be the defining image of holidays in Paris, but there’s lots more to see besides the city’s most iconic viewpoint.
- Visiting Notre Dame has become even more poignant since it was dramatically saved from fire. Construction of the cathedral, known as “Our Lady in Paris”, began in 1163.
- A stroll down the wide, statue-lined avenues of the Jardin des Tuileries is the perfect between-museum break.
- The interior of the Palais Garnier, home to the Opéra National de Paris, is just as splendid as that of Versailles – but you don’t have to leave the centre of Paris to get here.
- Sitting at the centre of the étoile, with roads branching off in every direction, the Arc de Triomphe offers magnificent views over the city. Climb to the top and you can see all the way to La Défense, where the modern Grande Arche mirrors the original.
- Crisscrossed by 37 bridges, the Seine runs through the heart of Paris. Walk the quais, stop to pick up paperbacks from the bouquinistes, then watch the sun set over the water.
Local specialities in Paris
Some clichés do ring true: Parisians order their steak rare and their baguettes liberally spread with salty butter. Paris breaks also offer the chance to discover regional specialities and a burgeoning craft beer scene.
- Saucisse purée, or sausage and mash, is the ultimate French comfort food.
- Whether you prefer yours saignante (bloody) or à point (well done), you can’t go wrong ordering steak-frites in a classic bistro.
- Few sandwiches are held in as high regard in France as the jambon-beurre, a freshly baked and well-buttered baguette filled with nothing more than slices of ham.
- Crêpes (sweet pancakes) and galettes (savoury pancakes) hail from Brittany but there’s no shortage of authentic places to try them in Paris.
- After many years where there was little more than imported lager on offer for beer drinkers, Parisian micro-breweries are making up for lost time with a host of excellent IPAs, saisons and stouts.
Food and drink in Paris
French cuisine is taken every bit as seriously as you’d expect. Eating and drinking is an artform and you’ll find hundreds of restaurants, bars and cafés dedicated to the craft.
- Even on cheap holidays to Paris you can eat well by shopping at local markets. The enormous open-air Marché d’Aligre is the best for fresh produce, while you can slurp oysters at stalls in the covered Marché des Enfants Rouges.
- The best way to get under the surface of French food culture is to take a food tour: many will give you behind-the-scenes access to artisans and chefs.
- The recipe for the French croissant is strictly controlled by law – and there’s nothing like picking one up fresh from a boulangerie.
- Apéro (apéritif) hour is a big deal in Paris. Stop for a glass of wine and a snack around 7pm, when every pavement table in the city is taken before dinner
- Curious about natural wine? You can appreciate organic, unfiltered and biodynamic bottles and dedicated bars across the city.
Paris couples holidays
Couples holidays don’t have to be cheesy. You can make them just as romantic as you’d like.
- Sitting on the floor of digital art gallery the Atelier des Lumières, works of great masters set to music and projected onto the walls around you, is the kind of experience great date nights are made of.
- Strolling the avenues of Père Lachaise Cemetery hand-in-hand is surprisingly peaceful. It’s as much an oasis of calm and reflection for Parisian couples as it is a space to honour the departed.
- The Musée de la vie Romantique isn’t as romantic as you might expect, commemorating the somewhat scandalous life of writer George Sand.
- When gazing across candle-lit tables gets too much, head to community project Ground Control for a street-food feast and great DJ sets.
- Even if you don’t declare your love in front of Montmartre’s wall of love, the mur des je t’aime, you can read “I love you” written in 192 different languages.
Paris luxury holidays
There are plenty of ways to add a little bit of extra luxury to package holidays. Elegance and glamour are wrapped up in the city’s DNA.
- Paris hotel classifications go one step further than the traditional five-star. Book an afternoon tea at a “Palace” property to overindulge on eclairs, macarons and miniature sandwiches.
- Reims, the capital of Champagne, is less than an hour away from Paris by train. You can easily visit several cellars and clink back to Paris with a few cases of bubbly on a day-trip.
- There are more than 100 restaurants in Paris with at least one Michelin star. Book a month or so in advance to be sure of getting a table.
- Time a private boat trip along the Seine with the Eiffel Tower’s hourly illuminations for an evening you’ll never forget.
- From the food halls to the beauty counters, the grands magasins (department stores) clustered on Boulevard Haussmann go all-out on glitz. Their window displays and Christmas decorations are worth coming to see alone.
Best Museums in Paris
Even if you decide to come last minute, make time for at least one of the city’s great museums.
- The Musée d’Orsay, housed in a converted train station, is arguably the most magical museum in Paris. Head straight to the Impressionist galleries, where you’ll find instantly recognisable works by the likes of Degas, Renoir and Cézanne.
- In summer, the gardens of the Musée Rodin are as much of a draw as the museum itself. Original sculptures are on display as well as bronze reproductions and early sketches.
- Riding the escalators through the inside-out skeleton of the Centre Pompidou is almost as much fun as engaging with the contemporary artworks inside. The permanent collection includes works by Kandinsky, Frida Kahlo and Matisse.
- Ask Parisians to name their favourite gallery and they’ll often say the Fondation Louis Vuitton. The temporary exhibitions here are always thought-provoking and often political.
- Housed in a Marais mansion, the Musée Picasso sheds new light on the life and work of the pioneer of Cubism.
History and culture in Paris
Paris began life as a Gallo-Roman settlement known as Lutetia and you’ll see vestiges of the city’s long and fascinating history everywhere you look.
- Start your holiday exploring the city’s oldest landmark, the Arènes de Lutèce. This Roman amphitheatre was in use in the 1st and 2nd centuries.
- The Pantheon, originally designed as a church, is now the final resting place of France’s greatest figures – although only five women are commemorated among the 78 tombs.
- Sainte-Chapelle’s dazzling stained glass windows never fail to draw gasps of awe. This gothic chapel is all the more special for its tucked-away location within the Palais de la Cité.
- The galleries at the Orangerie were designed specifically to display Monet’s magnificent water lily series, Les Nymphéas. Come at quieter times of day to appreciate the paintings at their best.
- The Musée Cluny is dedicated to preserving the artistic heritage of the Moyen ge, or Middle Ages. It’s built on the site of a Roman bathhouse and it’s more engaging than you might expect.
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