Answers from Our Experts (2)
Paris is filled with museums, cafés, shopping and more — during a visit it’s difficult to squeeze in everything, whether you are an art fanatic or a foodie. To help you pare down the list, our Forbes Travel Guide editors picked the five best things to see and do in Paris:
1. Climb the Eiffel Tower. You don’t have to actually climb the 704 steps to the top — take the elevator for a speedy way to unrivaled views of the City of Light. We suggest getting there early because lines tend to get long.
2. Shop along Champs-Élysées. This wide boulevard is home to some of the best shopping in the world. Stop in the Louis Vuitton flagship store and Cartier before heading to Ladurée for some world-famous macarons. The neighboring streets like Rue Saint-Honoré are lined with designer shops like Hermès, Lanvin and Goyard.
3. Explore the museums. Visit the world-famous Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and take time to admire the building, a work of art itself. Three other must-visit museums include L’Orangerie (Monet’s water lilies are on display), Musée d’Orsay (for sculptures and impressionist paintings), and Centre Georges Pompidou (to see the intriguing inside-out exterior and contemporary art).
4. Discover Versailles. Home of French royalty until 1789, the Château de Versailles is an extravagantly beautiful, palatial estate about 12 miles outside of Paris. Plan to spend half a day visiting the postcard-perfect gardens and heavily ornamented interior rooms.
5. Stroll through Montmartre. On Paris’ Right Bank, Montmartre is known for two things: Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur and its nightlife. You’ll find the legendary Moulin Rouge in this artsy, bohemian neighborhood.
It’s not easy to capture the entire essence of Paris in just five points, especially as there is always something new opening, be it an exhibition, restaurant, hotel or bar. However, if I had to advise someone who didn’t have much time to see the city I would recommend the following:
1. Seeing the permanent exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay (7th arrondissement, metro line 12 to Solférino). The building, built in 1898, used to be a train station and it is spectacular, as are the works, which range from Courbet Realism to Van Gogh and Degas Impressionism.
2. Walking the streets of Montmartre (18th arrondissement) Nutella and chopped banana crêpe in hand. Head all the way up the butte (hill) and wander around the Place du Tertre, the Sacré Coeur Basilica from which the views over the city are incredible, and walk down the village’s small winding cobbled streets – Montmartre is where the real romance of Paris roams.
3. Another area that encapsulates that quintessential Paris charm is the Marais (3rd arrondissement). Predominantly a gay and Jewish neighbourhood, the narrow streets are lined by some of the most beautiful architecture with some buildings dating back to the thirteenth century. Start from Place des Vosges (metro line 8 to Chemin Vert) and take the rue des Francs-Bourgeois, which will take you all the way across the Marais via its art galleries, chic boutiques, cafés, restaurants and monuments.
4. Paris’ base, conscious or unconscious, lies in its philosophical past, especially where the existentialists, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre are concerned. In order to fully absorb the magic, follow in the icons’ footsteps to their favourite cafés like Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore in Saint Germain (metro line 4 or 10 to Saint Germain des-Près, Mabillon or Odéon).
5. A visit to the Château de Versailles (about an hour out of Paris via metro and over-ground train on the RER C) is worth the trip just to admire the full splendour of pre-revolution Paris, when France was still governed by a monarchy – until it was overturned in 1789 on Bastille Day.