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Paris, Ile-de-France Travel Guide

Paris Summary

Pros

  • Famous museums, like the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay
  • World-renowned ballet and opera 
  • Fashion capital of the world, with great shopping
  • 3,800 monuments and home of the Eiffel Tower
  • The Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame -- the list goes of incredible architecture goes on...
  • Large parks, such as the Tuileries Gardens
  • Top-notch, gourmet cuisine plus a vibrant nightlife scene
  • Great public transportation system -- a 40-minute train ride to Versailles
  • Very clean for such a large city
  • Four distinct seasons
  • Easily walkable

Cons

  • Extremely expensive dining, hotel rates, and shopping
  • Crowded streets, particularly in the summer

What It's Like

Paris is the "City of Light," the most romantic city in the world, the art and fashion capital of the world -- with so many superlatives, it's no wonder that it's also the most visited city in the world. As France's capital, Paris has a plethora of museums, monuments, and astounding examples of architecture, ranging from the iconic Eiffel Tower, built in 1889, to the Gothic-style Notre Dame Cathedral, dating back to the Middle Ages. Visitors often stroll along the Seine to take in the many sites, or walk down the Champs-Elysee, lined by high-end shops and crowned by the Arc de Triomphe. The city is very walkable and tourists are never at a want for things to do -- for those that don't want to walk, the metro is amazingly efficient and extensive.

There are museums to spare here, include the Louvre (home to Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa") and the Musee d'Orsay, which hold an untold number of Impressionist masterworks. Only 40 minutes from Paris by train, Versailles is also a popular destination. It's infamous hall of mirrors, ballroom, chapel, and gardens served as the royal residence for over a century before Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were forced to leave the palace and their luxurious lifestyle during the French Revolution.

It goes without saying that the cuisine in Paris is top-notch, especially on the high end: Paris has more Michelin three-star restaurants than just about any other city in the world (only Tokyo beats it). The nightlife scene is similarly excellent: It's one of the liveliest in Europe, with last call just before 5 a.m., and diverse options ranging from dive bars to the Moulin Rouge to ultra-chic clubs. Like all big cities, Paris is expensive, though even to tourists hailing from similarly pricey spots like New York City, there can be some sticker shock. Still, free activities abound, particularly in the summer when there are lots of outdoor concerts and festivals. In any case, the city is a bucket-list destination for many, and a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Paris is probably worth the splurge.

Where To Stay

Each of Paris's 20 Arrondissements offers a range of hotels, from the tres-chic luxury properties to quaint bed-and-breakfasts and barebones hostels. Arrondissements (or neighborhoods) on the Right Bank are home to the more elegant and expensive hotels, while more budget-friendly, boutique hotels are more often found on the bohemian Left Bank (though in recent years this formula is being turned on its head). 

To be close to shopping, the Right Bank is the place to stay: The famous boutique-lined Champs-Elysee, which ends in the Arc de Triomphe, is in the 8th Arrondissement, while Le Marais is perennially trendy. The nightlife scene is particularly lively on the Right Bank around Place de la Bastille, covering parts of the 4th, 11th, and 12th Arrondissements. But it's the 7th Arrondissement on the Left Bank where the iconic Eiffel Tower is located (though it's a bit removed from other popular sights). A younger crowd often stays on the Left Bank, particularly around the Latin Quarter. Museums and historic sites are spread across the city -- Musee d'Orsay is in the 7th Arrondissement, Notre Dame Cathedral is in the 4th Arrondissement, and the Louvre is in the 1st Arrondissement.

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