Written by Kat Mackintosh
Ah, Paris. Paris is… a lot of different things to as many different people. A home for some of the world’s greatest art, a centre of fashion, place scarred with history, or just a pretty city on the way to somewhere else – Paris has as many guises and disguises as its citizens.
City of light, city of love, city of art...city of lots of stuff, but many of people swing though on the way to or from somewhere else, catching a glimpse of the city each time they do, which is a good way to do it – because Paris is the kind of city you'll want to keep coming back to. There are so many things to see and do in Paris that just walking around can be an experience, but if you choose your route carefully you can swing by some of the main events as you do. This Itinerary is Paris 101 – for the beginner, who knows they're coming back.
The first question to ask yourself as you're boarding your plane or train Paris bound is how much of my time do I want to spend in art galleries?.
Paris has so many that if you're only there for a short time you're going to have to make a difficult choice, and if you haven't been before that choice is probably going to be between the Louvre, with its bigger-than-Jesus star the Mona Lisa and glass pyramid glowing invitingly, or just across the river the Musee d'Orsay, with works by Degas and Manet. This is not an easy choice but it can be a case of do one well of swing quickly though both. If you haven't made your decision by the time you're checked into your hotel give yourself a bit of extra thinking space while taking coffee on a cruise along the Seine, which will help get you a feel for the layout of the city. Get off by Notre Dame and make your decision... Then absorb as much as you can before closing time spits you out into the now glowing city.
If you skipped the Louvre stroll by now admiring the pyramid in what photographer's call the magic hour, where architecture is at its most photogenic. Then catch the same magic at Notre Dame. The advantage of visiting this most famous of churches late in the day is that it's quieter and you can hear the beginning of mass – they still let people though during the service but if you time it right you can hear the choral beginning without feeling like you're disturbing the real business of religion.
Cross the bridge to the edge of the Latin Quartier for a proper evening springing between Parisian cafes for vino, cognac and coffee.
The second question to ask yourself is do you want to see Paris laid out before you in the day or lit up with lights in the evening? Le Tour Eiffel will keep popping into view as you turn a corner, tempting like a siren, so you should make a date with this iron lady. The cheap date involves walking up 650 stairs to the second level, and the expensive involves paying for a lift to that height or higher. Plan to see her at the beginning or end of your second day so as not to keep her waiting too long.
Paris is best seen on foot so the rest of your second day should be spent seeing the sights. Visit old Paris at Pere Lachaise, then walk though to the Opera, the Arc de Triomphe and shop for parfum at Sephora on the Champs-Elysees. For the total Parisian experience consider booking a dinner and floor show sitting next door at Le Lido.
If you're in Paris for a long weekend then this is the perfect Sunday. Rise early to get over to Sacre Coeur and experience the church as it should be before climbing the stairs into the dome for another opportunity for a view over Paris. Film fans will want to breakfast in the same cafe as Amelie works in before wandering though the meandering preserved alleyways of the Marais and indulging in some day dreaming about living there, or at least taking an artistic lover who lives in a garret here. Shop for painstakingly blended teas and nougat made by nuns before having a big meal and spending a couple of hours in the Musee Picasso, not forgetting to admire the building as well as the art. Head back into central Paris via the Pompidou Centre before saying your au revoir on a final walk along the Seine.
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