The French capital of Paris is so exquisite that it is oftentimes considered to be the cultural capital of the entire world. No matter what your passion is, Paris will definitely have something for you!
Paris is an artistic haven. Between the Musee de Louvre, the local neighbourhood exhibits, and the numerous ballets, there is something artistic around every Parisian corner.
The first stop on any cultural tour of Paris is the Louvre. This world-famous museum features a priceless collection of paintings, sculpture and artefacts that have been collected and preserved by the French government for over more than 500 years. Roam the exhibits for works from all over Europe, as well as Assyrian, Etruscan, Coptic, Greek and Islamic art.
At the Musee d'Orsay, home to France's national collection of Impressionist, Post-impressionist and Art Nouveau works, you will find pieces from great masters including Manet, Renoir, Degas and Van Gogh. Take note of the beautiful architectural details here: the building was once the stunning Art Nouveau Gare d'Orsay railway station.
1. Climb the Eiffel Tower. Of course, you cannot go to Paris without heading to the Eiffel Tower. To get the most out of it, ride up elevators to the very top. On a clear day, you'll have a view that stretches for more than 40 miles! There are three different observation platforms: at 57m, 115m and 276m.
2. Stroll the Jardin du Luxembourg. This is a popular spot with the locals; it was dedicated to the children of Paris by Napoleon. Many Parisians grew up using this park, and it remains a nostalgic place to spend a sunny afternoon.
3. Shop the street markets. To get a feel for the real Paris, head to the street markets, where you can shop, eavesdrop on neighbourhood gossip, chat with vendors, and maybe even pick up a few cooking tips.
4. Visit the Mosquee de Paris. Topped by a breathtaking 26m-high minaret, this art deco mosque was built between 1922 and 1926; the structure is still an active place of worship, but if you are modestly dressed you can wander through the courtyards or browse ancient Arabic manuscripts in the library.
5. Head to the Notre Dame Cathedral to indulge in some history. This French Gothic marvel is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world and is a must-see. As an added benefit, there are tasty, inexpensive cafes nearby.
When it comes to food, Paris simply can't be beaten. Whether you're looking for a 5-star meal or a classic “croquet monsieur”, there is plenty to indulge in!
If you have a sweet tooth, you're also in luck. The most popular ice cream shop in town is right across the street from the famed Notre Dame Cathedral.
Read on for some of the city's best-kept culinary secrets:
Gérard Mulot is a wonderful patisserie and traiteur (a catering business providing take-out food) in St-Germain. Look for the pretty white awnings and towering stacks of macaroons in the window; the gorgeous smell of melted butter and sugar hits you as you step over the threshold. The Jardin du Luxembourg is right nearby, so take your treats with you and enjoy them al fresco.
On Rue Jean-Baptiste Dumay you'll find La Cagnotte de Belleville, a perfect Parisian bar if ever there was one. It's a bit rough around the edges, but an authentic experience and popular with the neighbourhood locals. Best of all, it's open from 7am until 2am so you're sure to find a crowd any time of the day or night.
For some of the best cheese in Paris, go to Fromagerie Trotte on Rue St. Antoine. This tiny little Marais shop is funky and charming, but don't let its modest appearance fool you. The cellar at Trotte is serious business, and the shop owners are masters of maturing and ripening their cheeses in-house.
Benoit is an ancient brasserie in the Les Halles district. Open for almost a century, the portions and quality of the food are top-notch. Be sure to leave room for the traditional - and delicious - desserts.
Cafe Cambronne is a quintessential Parisian cafe that's a favourite of passers by and the neighbourhood regulars. Service can be slow, as there are only two or three waiters on duty most days, but the crazy, hectic vibe is part of the charm.
While in Paris, plan a day trip to one of the area's nearby destinations.
Normandy: Visit the battlefields and infamous landing beaches at Normandy. You can also visit other well-known World War II sites and the American cemetery. This moving day trip is sure to become a treasured memory of your time in Paris, as you remember the triumphs and tragedies that occurred in France during the war.
Versailles: Nothing compares to the splendour of the Palace at Versailles. Small-group tours are frequently conducted in the palace and around the grounds. Many tours will pick you up right from your hotel; half-day morning or afternoon independent tours and full-day guided tours are on offer. If you visit at the weekend during April to October, you can also view the spectacular fountain show, with its musical accompaniment, that takes place in the palace gardens.
Champagne Region: Sip a glass of bubbly as you tour the famous Champagne region just outside of Paris. Enjoy a tour of the magnificent vineyards, learn about the region's impressive heritage, and sample world-class champagnes. There are plenty of important landmarks and sights to see in the Champagne countryside.
Perhaps the most popular family destination in Paris is the Disneyland Resort. Take a break from historic sightseeing and cultural pursuits to spend a day with Mickey Mouse and friends. The rides, shows, performances and special events will keep kids of all ages happy and fully entertained all days. Included in the price of admission is unlimited access to all the rides and attractions in the park; multi-day passes are also available. Some live shows and special events - like having breakfast with the characters or catching a dinner show - do cost extra, so it's best to plan your visit in advance to ensure that you aren't surprised by unexpected charges.
With so much to do and see, it's great that there are Paris hotels at every corner. Just like the rest of the city, hotels in Paris come in every décor and in every price range. If you're trying to see Paris on a budget, there are plenty of cheap Paris hotels around.
Depending on how much money you're willing to spend, you can wind up with a hotel in Paris that gives you a picturesque view of the Arc de Triomphe, the Seine River, or the Chatelet.