Few cities have honed their swoon-inducing skills as well as this one: every cobbled lane, every streetside café, every patisserie window seems to have been art-directed by some impossibly savvy set designer; every passerby apparently costumed by a couturier. Paris spoils you for everywhere else—yet somehow, despite centuries at the epicenter of global tourism, it has never spoiled itself. (No city has so successfully navigated the tricky business of historic preservation.) And although Paris does grandeur and drama better than any place, its greatest pleasures are arguably its simplest ones: the rustic charm of a humble neighborhood bistro; the tranquility of a churchyard; the lilt of a jazz combo; the crunch of a perfect baguette. Best of all, such indulgences are easily accessible and affordable (and often outright free). When was the last time your heart quickened by the mere act of walking down the street?
Paris just may spoil you for every other city. Chanel-clad ladies stroll grand boulevards, museum-worthy confections line the windows of every patisserie, and the bells of Notre Dame resonate through cobbled alleys. It’s little surprise then that people from all over the world visit Paris, drawn by the cutting-edge fashion, art, and culinary scenes, as well as a certain je ne sais quoi that appeals to all kinds of lovers. While the people watching is second to none, and the Eiffel Tower remains one of the highlights of travel to Paris, this is an insider’s city, steeped in a rich history of riots and revolutions. Every quarter is unique and, though the summer is the most popular season to visit, each is compelling in its own way. To make the most of your Paris travel, it’s best to have a sense of the places you’d like to explore first. To make the City of Lights your own, turn to this Paris travel guide.
Things Not to Miss in Paris
The Eiffel Tower, Musée du Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, Chateau de Versailles, Luxembourg Gardens, and Notre Dame de Paris.
When To Visit Paris
April, May, June, and September are ideal—the weather is warm and the crowds are few.
- Strolling through the 2nd Arrondissement’s covered walkways—the historic galeries Vivienne and Colbert or the newly hip Passage du Grand Cerf.
- A jaunt along the Left Bank of the Seine from the Eiffel Tower to the undulating Simone de Beauvoir footbridge, which leads to a developing warehouse district–turned–art enclave.
- The incomparable shopping along the Rue Charlot, the Rue Vieille du Temple, and throughout the rest of the Upper Marais, where the streets are rife with au courant boutiques.
Try some tea and a coco-banane pastry at Boulangerie Bechu, a striking Art Deco boulangerie complete with starburst light fixtures, 1930’s mirrors and curved display cases in the heart of the chic 16th Arrondissement that dates back to the 1890’s. Check out more of Paris’ best boulangeries.
Thanks to a $100 million top-to-toe renovation, the famous stained-glass Art Nouveau cupola ofPrintemps, the grande dame of les grands magasins is gleaming again in Paris’s Ninth Arrondissement.
There is no more sumptuous Belle Époque dining room in all of Paris than the Restaurant of the Musée d’Orsay, overlooking the Seine and the Right Bank. The frescoed ceiling alone is worth the visit. You can imagine Marcel Proust and his friends sitting here (when it was the ballroom of the hotel adjoining the Orsay train station), gossiping of the rebels not yet known as the Impressionists, whose work now hangs in the museum. The recently renovated kitchen specializes in subtly simplified versions of traditional cuisine—grilled sea bream fillet or duck-and-peach supreme served with gratin dauphinois. The two-course prix fixe lunch is a bargain at only $20.
Leave the hotel early on weekend mornings and take the metro to the far left bank outpost of Vanves, then walk a few blocks to Avenue Marc Sangnier and Avenue Georges Lafenestre for this small, excellent market, also an open secret among dealers. (Rumor has it that after dealers shop here, they bring their treasures to the far larger Porte de Clignancourt later in the day.) The tables brim with vintage boxes, glassware, old Parisian periodicals, posters, and other souvenir-ready material. Prices are congenial, but remember to bring cash—the ATM machine is a bit of a hike.
On the Left Bank, the well-organized Les Trois Marches de Catherine B has been selling vintage purses for the last 15 years. “But they must bepresentable,” the gentleman behind the counter will tell you with charming understatement. In fact, the offerings are impeccable, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to pick up something—perhaps a 1960 Chanel “Mademoiselle” for a tempting $1,100—from the pristine array. From the article Secondhand Shopping in Paris.
You can now savor Paris in slow motion. The Hôtel Plaza Athénée and Le Meurice are offering a classic way to see the city: on a vintage-style Comète cruiser. The bikes—in geranium red and moss green—are free for hotel guests to use and are equipped with a helmet and chic nylon saddlebag.
The entrance to the Café des Deux Moulins.
A satisfied customer at Café des Deux Moulins.
Outdoor seating at Melac, after closing time.