Napoleon Bonaparte once said ‘secrets travel fast in Paris’, a truth which ensures there are very few hidden gems which have not been discovered by the 30 million tourists who arrive each year. The reasons for Paris’ continued popularity are evident in its vast array of attractions, history and quintessential charm.
The capital city of France, Paris has occupied the banks of the river Seine for more than 2,000 years. The river arcs through the heart of Paris, and its two natural islands, the Île Saint-Louis and the larger Île de la Cité, form the oldest part of the city. A bateau river cruise is a classic way to see the sights, but wrap up warm: the wind can be chilly.
One of the most visited cities in the world, Paris is also a gateway to Europe; a handful of major European countries such as the Benelux, are just a short distance away.
Paris is bursting with monuments; each one as inspirational as the next. The Arc de Triomphe, Cathédrale Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower may seem over-exposed but each is still well worth a visit.
If it’s art or architecture you’re after, don’t miss the glass pyramid of the Musée du Louvre, the ex-railway station Musée d’Orsay or the curious inside-out design of Centre Pompidou – home to some of the quirkiest works of art of the modern era.
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is another of the city’s most popular attractions, and the panoramic view from the top of its dome extends for over 30 kilometres. Construction of the Basilica took almost half a century, and the 1919 completion date makes the Sacré-Cœur Basilica a relative newcomer compared to many of Paris’ landmarks.
Paris can get extremely congested at times, and those looking to escape the crowds should try to avoid the main attractions at peak times, especially as Paris after hours can be every bit as delightful as during the day. More than 20,000 lights dance across the Eiffel Tower every evening, a spectacle which is just as memorable as the view from the top.
France is famous for its own cuisine and many of the best French restaurants can be found in the capital. The French take their food extremely seriously so a lengthy sit down affair is expected at most meal times – you will find very little eating on the run in Paris. Wherever you are in Paris you’ll find typically French fare, whether a high-end restaurant offering elaborate haute cuisine, or a traditional bistro serving hearty but modest dishes.
Nightlife in Paris is every bit as excellent – and varied – as the cuisine. Share a cocktail or three in an Oberkampf café, hang out with the fashionistas at Place Vendome, or experience a 6am finish at one of the tourist-fuelled nightclubs of Montmartre.
The city of Paris could keep a visitor busy for an eternity, but travel just a short distance and your city break will take on a whole new outlook.
France is eponymous with wine, and even if you’re not much of a drinker it’s worth visiting some of the country’s wine producing regions for the scenery alone.
Situated at the bottom of a gentle valley, on the left bank of the Marne and approximately 140 kilometres southeast of Paris is Épernay, the unofficial capital of the Champagne region. At the heart of 20,000 hectares of the world’s most prestigious vineyards, under your feet lie 200 million bottles of champagne ageing in an estimated 322 kilometres of cellars which have been carved out of the chalk soil over the centuries. For a truly memorable experience, sip vintage Dom Pérignon deep beneath the earth in Moët et Chandon’s mile-long cellars.