One of the largest cities in Europe and one of the most visited in the world, Paris is an open air art exhibit. During centuries French leaders invested all of their energy in displaying the grandeur of their country to the world. With Paris as their canvas, they created splendid architecture, manicured orderly parks and numerous elegant boulevards. There was a price to pay, most of medieval Paris was destroyed to leave room for such extensive projects. Nevertheless, what remains to this day is a large number of historic monuments that represent the best of their time period.
The city of Paris is divided into twenty districts (arrondissements) within the Périphérique road, in the center of a vast urban area that covers more than 17,000 km2. The current urban grid was traced in the XIX century when Napoleon III commissioned G.E.Hausmann to replace the chaotic medieval town with a modern geometrical one. It is made of hundreds of large boulevards intersecting each other in circular crossroads marked by grand monuments. These boulevards are connected by an endless number of streets, with a different calmer atmosphere. Most of the city is flat, except for a couple of hills, being the highest Montmartre, popular among tourists. The river Seine divides the city into north and south.
Paris is packed with important cultural landmarks. The oldest part of the city lies on the island named Île de la Cité, where we find two very important gothic structures: Notre-Dame and Sainte-Chapelle. The city is home to three of the most visited museums in the world: the Louvre which displays art from ancient times till the 19th century, Musée d’Orsay, which includes 19th and early 20th century art, and Centre Pompidou, home of an extensive contemporary art exhibit. The historical axis of Paris begins at the Louvre, continuing through the Concord square, the Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe and ending at the new arch in la Défense. Other highlights include the Torre Eifel, once the tallest building in the world, the Garnier Opera, the Hôtel de Ville and the Pantheon. On the Monmartre Hill, a charming art district ends with the magnificent church of Sacré Coeur. At the foot of the hill, on famous Pigalle Street, the Moulin Rouge and the Lido offer some of the best cabaret shows in the world.
Paris has an incredibly wide range of accommodation options. Although considered very expensive, there are still budget and midrange hotels in different areas. In general, cheaper hotels and guesthouses can be found in most peripheral districts. Districts 18th 19th and 20th have the highest number of budget hotels. With a more central location, hotels in the 9th and 10th districts are a bit pricier. If you prefer midrange accommodation, lodgings in the 5th and 6th districts near the Latin Quarter are a great option, while the best upscale hotels can be found within districts 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Walking about is easy, since most of the city is flat, and is specially recommended in areas with several places of interest, like the Champs Elysées. However, the City is big and most landmark attractions far from each other, thus walking to them is next to impossible. Biking is becoming increasingly popular especially since the introduction of a public transport bike sharing program in 2007, with more than 440km of bike lanes. Traffic is intense so be cautious. The fastest way to move around Paris is by metro, with a massive network of 16 different lines and a total length of 212 km.
Paris is a world class destination loved by tourists. Several nicknames given to the city throughout its history illustrate its importance, such as the City of Lights or the Capital of Fashion. But Paris is so much more than that. It´s probably the city with the best collection of museums in the world. Of course, food is an attraction in itself, with cafes, markets, food stalls and restaurants offering an impressive selection of quality dishes from all over the world. The city continues to invest millions in expanding its cultural scene by building the new megalomaniac venues, a peculiar policy that somehow seems to work. One thing is undeniable: supreme art, old world pride, first class architecture, chic shops and outstanding food blend here like nowhere else in our planet.
Check out this post if you only have 3 days in Paris.
Paris Travel Guide
- Stay in the IX district or near Latin Quarter depending on your budget. Happy Frog recommends Ibis Opera La Fayette
- The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou;
- Notre-Dame and Saint-Chapelle;
- Arab World Institute and the Défense neighborhood;
- La Vilette park and Luxembourg gardens.
- Have dinner or a drink in the Latin Quarter;
- Check out this Paris food guide.
- On foot, by bike, metro, tram and bus.
- Spend a day in the Palace of Versailles.
DO NOT MISS:
- Climb the Montparnasse tower to enjoy spectacular views;
- Walk along the Champs Elysées and next to the Seine;
- Get lost in Monmartre and finish in the Sacré Couer Church;
- Watch an opera in the Garnier Opera house;
- Let yourself go in the Moulin Rouge or the Lido.