Paris, Ile-de-France Travel Guide
- Famous museums, like the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay
- World-renowned ballet and opera
- Home of the Eiffel Tower
- Fashion capital of the world, with great shopping
- 3,800 monuments
- Beautiful architecture -- Arc de Triomphe, the Pantheon, Notre Dame Cathedral, the list goes on...
- Large parks, such as the Tuileries Gardens
- Top-notch, gourmet cuisine
- Only 40-minute train ride to Versailles
- Great public transportation system
- Very clean for such a large city
- One of the best, most varied nightlife scenes in Europe (everything from dive bars, to ultra-chic clubs, to the infamous Moulin Rouge)
- Four distinct seasons
- Easily walkable
- Extremely expensive
- 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 -- no wonder it is also the most visited city in the world. As France's capital, Paris boasts 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.
Some of the most popular museums are the Louvre (home to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa) and Musee d'Orsay (home to Whistler's Mother). 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, but it tops most in how extremely expensive it is. Still, free activities abound, particularly in the summer when there are many free concerts and festivals, and many consider Paris worth the splurge.
Where To Stay
Each of Paris's 20 arrondissements offers a range of hotels to choose from -- from the tres-chic hotel to the quaint B&B. 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. 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. 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.