The sheer brilliance of Paris is breathtaking; everything from its imposing architecture, old and new, its romantic and evocative atmosphere, its avenues, squares and gardens, to its cultural wealth and, of course, its flair and joie de vivre.
This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting visitors from far and wide to absorb the sights, sounds and heady atmosphere of the French capital.
There is a huge wealth of history in the capital, a location thought to have been used as a settlement for 12,000 years, and named after the Celtic people that lived here in the 3rd century BCE, the Parisii. The town was known as Lutetia in the 1st century BCE, when it was a Gallo-Roman garrison, and became the capital of France in 987.
By the 12th century, this was by far the largest city in the western world, an important trading centre and already with a renowned university. By the 18th century, Paris had acquired a justifiable reputation for fashion, science, and the arts.
It is this historical evolution that has modelled the city into what we see today, a place of monuments, beautiful architecture, vibrant shopping areas, world-renowned museums, some of the most outstanding art collections in the world, luxury boutiques and an haute-cuisine that can be savoured in hundreds restaurants around the city, all set against a backdrop of relaxing parks and gardens.
Paris needs time
© ATOUT FRANCE/Cédric Helsly
Check out my recommended 'Must See, Must Do' sights, but at the very least, the briefest of visits should include a long, relaxing stroll down the Champs Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, maybe taking a coffee at one of the street cafés; just relax and enjoy the experience of strolling – the French invented to concept of strolling, Flâner, is the verb – just so that visitors would understand how to go about things, of course.
Wander across Pont Neuf to the Left Bank, and dine at one of the seafood restaurants serving fresh oysters and lobsters. Take a taxi up to Montmartre to watch the artists at work. Or simply stroll along the Seine embankment. The Eiffel Tower, majestic and imposing as it is, invariably consumes much time in queuing, and if time is of the essence, do no more than pay it a visit for photographs.
With more time available visit the Louvre and the nearby Musée d'Orsay, or, for something quite different, the Père Lachaise Cemetery, where you will find the graves of Oscar Wilde, composer Georges Bizet, singer Edith Piaf, composer Frédéric Chopin, artist Camille Pissarro, and The Doors vocalist Jim Morrison.
For something to do in the evening, culture vultures will visit the world renowned Opéra Garnier, while those of a less operatic persuasion might enjoy the evening's entertainment at the Folies Bergère.
© Paris Tourist Office - Photographer : Marc Bertrand
Place de la Concorde by night. In the middle, the Luxor Obelisk given to France by Egypt in 1836. © ATOUT FRANCE/Franck Charel
du Tourisme et des Congrès de Paris
25 rue des Pyramides, 75001 Paris
Tel: 0892 68 30 00