Experience Paris - Fodor's Paris - Fodor's

Fodor's Paris - Fodor's (2016)

Experience Paris

Paris Today

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Bienvenue à Paris! Or, welcome to Paris! Although it may seem as if time stands still in this city—with its romantic buildings, elegant parks, and sublime squares—there’s an undercurrent of small but significant changes happening here that might not be immediately obvious.


Despite the pall cast by severe smog in recent springs, Parisians are breathing a little easier these days as the city becomes more environmentally aware. Emission-free buses and the first hydrogen-powered riverboat are making the capital more eco-friendly. The popular Vélib’ bike program and the AutoLib’ car-sharing service are further helping to reduce Paris’s carbon footprint (l’empreinte carbone). In addition to the gradual replacement of paved streets with more aesthetically pleasing cobblestones and the widening of tree-lined sidewalks, the city is slowly implementing an ambitious project to permanently pedestrianize expressways along the Seine, following the success of Paris Plage, the yearly beach party. Even rooftops are going green with gardens and solar panels appearing in several arrondissements.


You’ll always find foie gras and macarons in this gastonomic mecca (though a poll confirms 29% of the population forgo the former for “ethical reasons”). Yet Parisians are opening up to more diverse dining options and healthier lifestyles. Moisan, an all-organic boulangerie, supplies locations across the city with whole-meal sourdough loaves. Gluten-free gourmets can savor traditional French pastries at Helmut Newcake, France’s first gluten-free bakery, or opt for a full meal at Noglu, a 100% gluten-free restaurant. Vegans can indulge at the Gentle Gourmet Café in the Bastille, while lactose-intolerant gelato lovers can swoon over dairy-free options at Amorino. Parisians are also moving their bodies, and ever-expanding fitness facilities are making exercising more culturally acceptable than ever before.


New gadgets are popping up everywhere since an ongoing government program began encouraging innovation. The result? Centers like the Gaîté Lyrique mix technology with art on a daily basis. Google opened the Google Cultural Institute, which includes a permanent exhibit at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal. Versailles enlists the latest technology to engage visitors, and the Louvre uses Nintendo 3DS systems as its audioguides. Bakeries are giving a nod to the future by letting you pay at automated machines. Less evident to casual observers is the fact that some 17,000 tech companies have set up R&D departments in the capital, benefiting nicely from tax breaks. But ask about Netflix in France or Google’s “right to be forgotten” and you’ll hear about a government protecting the EU from tech giants.


In 2015, music lovers and architecture buffs alike rejoiced when the curtain rose at La Philharmonie de Paris in the Parc de la Villette. Designed by Jean Nouvel, the striking new home of the Orchestre de Paris seats 2,400 and cost a whopping €381 million. Art aficionados needn’t feel slighted, however: a few months prior, the ribbon was cut at Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton, an undulating yet angular museum of contemporary art in the Bois de Boulogne. Makeovers of existing venues (most notably the Musée Rodin’s Hôtel Biron) are also cause for celebration. In fact, culture vultures are still buzzing about the 2014 reopening of the Musée Picasso Paris, which after extensive renovation work—including the installation of bulletproof windows at €12,000 a pop—now has more than twice as much dedicated public space.


Although Paris was once described by Hemingway as being “full of nocturnal pleasure-seekers,” the newspaper Le Monde named it the “European capital of boredom” a few years ago. To help prevent the City of Light from turning into the City of Lights Out, Paris elected its first “Nightlife Mayor” in late 2013. Arguing that “we can’t afford to become the laughingstock of Europe,” Clément Léon promised an after-dark scene to rival such Continental hotspots as Berlin, London, and Barcelona. So has Paris turned the beat around? The continuing cocktail craze is certainly helping to liven things up. Hard-core dance venues are revitalizing the city, too. Witness clubs like Concrete: a repurposed barge on the Seine that has garnered a cult following for its late-night (and sometimes all-day) action.

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Paris Planner

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Although the City of Light is magical all year round, summer is the most popular (and priciest) time to come. As recently as five years ago, Paris was largely deserted in August when locals fled to the coast or countryside, leaving a wake of closed shops and restaurants. But today it remains very much alive throughout the summer, with outdoor music festivals, open-air movie screenings, and fun activities like those available at the popular Paris Plage, the “beach” on the Right Bank of the Seine.

Nevertheless, the city is perhaps most appealing in late spring and early fall. June, when long, warm days translate into extended hours of sightseeing (the sun doesn’t set until 10 pm), is particularly gorgeous. Ditto for September, which promises temperate weather, saner rates, and cultural events timed for the rentrée (or return), signifying the end of summer vacation. In the third weekend in September, scores of national buildings that are normally closed to the public open for visits during the annual Journées du Patrimoine (Patrimony Days).

Winter can be dark and cold, but it’s also the best time to find cheap airfares and hotel deals. Spring tends to remain damp and chilly into May, when prices start rising in synch with the mercury in local thermometers.


Thanks to Baron Haussmann’s mid-19th-century redesign, the City of Light is a compact wonder of wide boulevards, gracious parks, and leafy squares; and, without question, the best way to explore it is on foot.

When you want a lift, though, public transportation is easy and inexpensive. The métro (subway) will get you just about anywhere you want to go for €1.70 a ride (a carnet, or “pack” of 10 tickets, is €13.30); tickets also work on buses, trams, and the RER train line within Paris.

If you’re sticking to sites on or near the river, Batobus offers a convenient on-the-water alternative. A ticket for one day of unlimited hop-on/hop-off boat travel costs €16.

Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods) spiraling out from the center of the city. The numbers reveal the neighborhood’s location and its age, the 1er arrondissement at the city’s heart being the oldest. The arrondissements in central Paris—the 1er to 8e—are the most visited.

It’s worth picking up a copy of Paris Pratique Par Arrondissement, the essential map guide, available at newsstands and bookstores.


Paris is one of the world’s most visited cities—with crowds to prove it—so it pays to be prepared. Buy tickets online when you can: most cultural centers and museums offer advance-ticket sales, and the small service fee you’ll pay is worth the time saved waiting in line. Investigate alternative entrances at popular sites (there are three at the Louvre, for example), and check when rates are reduced, often during once-a-week evening openings. Also note that national museums are free the first Sunday of each month. There are many within Paris, including the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Pompidou.

A Paris Museum Pass (www.parismuseumpass.com) can save you money if you’re planning on serious sightseeing, but it might be even more valuable because it allows you to bypass the lines. It’s sold at the destinations it covers as well as at airports, major métro stations, and the tourism office in the Carrousel du Louvre. The two-, four-, and six-day passes cost €42, €56, and €69, respectively.

Stick to the omnipresent ATMs for the best exchange rates; exchanging cash at your hotel or in a store is never going to be to your advantage.


Paris is by no means a 24/7 city, so planning your days beforehand can save you aggravation. Museums are closed one day a week (usually Monday or Tuesday), and most stay open late at least one night each week, which is also the least crowded time to visit. Store hours are generally 9:30 or 10 am to 7 or 8 pm, Monday through Saturday, though smaller shops may close for several hours during the afternoon. Since late 2013, “Yes Weekend” demonstrations by workers have encouraged the government to relax laws banning stores from opening on Sunday. Change here comes as fast as a French waiter; however, shops are now permitted to open 12 Sundays per year at the owner’s discretion rather than the previous five. Stores in tourist areas are exempt from these restrictions, so the best spots for Sunday shopping are the Champs-Élysées and the Marais where most retailers open around 2 pm.


Restaurants follow French mealtimes, serving lunch from noon to 2:30 pm and dinner from 7:30 or 8 pm. Some cafés serve food all day long. If you have your heart set on a specific restuarant, it’s wise to reserve a table for dinner; top choices book up months in advance. When you’re ready for the check, you must ask for it (it’s considered rude to bring a bill unbidden). In cafés you’ll get a register receipt with your order. Servis (gratuity) is always included, but it’s good form to leave something extra if you’re satisfied with the service: a few cents for drinks, €1 for lunch, €3 at dinner. Leave 5% of the bill only in higher-end restaurants.


When it comes to clothing, the standard French look is dressier than the American equivalent. Athletic clothes are reserved for sports. Sneakers are not usually worn by adults, but if you pack yours, keep them for daytime only. Neat jeans are acceptable everywhere except at more chic restaurants; check to see whether there’s a dress code.


The Parisian reputation for rudeness is undeserved. In fact, Parisians are sticklers for politesse and exchanging formal greetings is the rule. Informal American-style manners are considered impolite. Beginning an exchange with a simple “Do you speak English?” will get you on the right foot. Learning a few key French words will take you far. Offer a hearty bonjour (bohn-zhoor) when walking into a shop or café and an au revoir (o ruh-vwahr) when leaving, even if nobody seems to be listening (a chorus may reply). When speaking to a woman over age 16, use madame (ma-dam), literally “my lady.” For a young woman or girl, use mademoiselle (mad-mwa-zel). A man of any age goes by monsieur (murh-syur). Always say please, s’il vous plaît (seel-voo-play), and thank you, merci (mehr-see).

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What’s Where

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Paris Neighborhoods

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The Islands. Just a few steps from the “mainland,” the Ile de la Cité and Ile St-Louis are the heart of Paris. This is where you’ll find Notre-Dame and Sainte-Chapelle.

Around the Eiffel Tower. With the Champs de Mars, Les Invalides, and the Seine nearby, many lovely strolls give you camera-ready views of Paris’s ultimate monument.

Champs-Élysées. The Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe are obvious stops for visitors, but several excellent museums here are also well worth checking out.

Around the Louvre. Anchored by the renowned museum, this neighborhood has ultrachic streets and passages couverts that attract shoppers as well as art lovers.

The Grands Boulevards. Use the Opéra Garnier as your landmark and set out to do some power shopping. There are some good, small museums in the area, too.

Montmartre. Like a village within a city, Montmartre feels separate from the rest of Paris—but it’s prime tourist territory, with Sacré-Coeur as its main attraction.

The Marais. Paris’s old Jewish neighborhood is now one of the city’s hippest ‘hoods. While here, visit the renovated Picasso Museum and linger at lovely Place des Vosges.

Eastern Paris. If it’s new and happening, you’ll find it out here. Neighborhoods like Canal St-Martin are full of trendy eateries, funky galleries, and edgy boutiques.

The Latin Quarter. Built around the fabled Sorbonne, the Latin Quarter has been the center of student life since 1257. It’s also home to the Panthéon and Musée de Cluny.

St-Germain-des-Prés. The Musée d’Orsay is a must-see for fans of Impressionism, but make sure you leave time to amble through the charming Jardin du Luxembourg.

Montparnasse. Once the haunt of creative souls—Picasso and Hemingway included—Montparnasse is now known for its contemporary-art scene, as well as the Catacombs.

Western Paris. The Bois de Boulogne is one great reason to trek here. The popular park contains the kid-friendly Jardin d’Acclimatation and art-filled Fondation Louis Vuitton.

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Top Things to Do in Paris

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No monument symbolizes Paris better than Gustave Eiffel’s iconic Iron Lady, a “temporary” structure that opened in 1889. It’s breathtaking, whether you join the millions of visitors taking selfies from the top or see it sparkling from your hotel window after dark. Check out the new glass floor on the first level.


It took almost 200 years to finish this cathedral, but it was well worth the wait. Immortalized by Victor Hugo and his fictional hunchback, the Dame is a Gothic masterpiece. In 2013 she celebrated her 850th birthday with a bang—or at least a clang: nine new bells now reproduce the sounds of yesteryear.


Beloved by urban-weary Parisians, this is one of the Left Bank’s prime leisure spots. Relax in a reclining park chair with a picnic or a book, watch a game of boules while the kids enjoy a marionette show, or visit an exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg in the 17th-century Palais de Luxembourg.


This formal, oh-so-French garden stretches between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde. Originally laid out in the 16th century, it’s punctuated by contemporary sculptures and includes two noteworthy museums: the Jeu de Paume and the Musée de l’Orangerie. In summer, there’s a small amusement park, too.


The 164-foot-tall Arc de Triomphe has served as the backdrop for official military parades since its completion in 1836. Use the underground passageway to reach the monument, where you can visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the arch or mount the stairs for amazing panoramic views.


Built as a train station for the 1900 World’s Fair, this beautiful Belle Époque building is now filled with Art Nouveau objects, Impressionist paintings, vintage photography, and realist sculptures. Be sure to drink in the Seine views from the grand ballroom, which today houses a restaurant.


Magnificently over the top, Charles Garnier’s opera house is a Second Empire jewel. Its marble staircase and ruby-red box seats have been featured in films from Dangerous Liaisons to Marie-Antoinette, and its backstage corridors are famously haunted by the Phantom of the Opera.


Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers’s groundbreaking “inside-out” design delivered a visual shock when Centre Pompidou opened back in 1977—and it’s still an eye-popper. The galleries (including one aimed at kids) make it a top destination for connoisseurs of modern and contemporary art.


Poised at the highest point in the city, this white wedding cake of a basilica dominates Montmartre’s hilltop. Most visitors are content with the views overlooking Paris from Sacré-Coeur’s stairs, but ambitious sightseekers can ascend to the top of its 271-foot dome for an even better perspective.


The grandest museum in the world began as a medieval fortress and morphed into a sumptuous royal palace before the French Revolution gave it a new lease on life as home to the Republic’s art collection. Don’t miss the art lover’s “holy trinity”—Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo.

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What the Locals Do in Paris

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To appreciate the City of Light as the locals do, start by learning some of the daily rituals of Parisian life. These simple pleasures will quickly get you into the swing of things.


Parisians prefer the boisterous atmosphere of bustling street markets to the drab supermarchés. Even if you’re just buying picnic fixings, you can follow suit. The city’s website (www.paris.fr/english) has a full listing of Paris’s markets, but these are some of our faves.

Le Marché d’Aligre, just off Rue du Faubourg St-Antoine beyond the Opéra Bastille, dates back to the 18th century. Open every day except Monday, the market has fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, fish, and poultry, as well as a host of other products. The best selection is on the weekend (Tuesday to Friday 7:30-1:30, weekends 7:30-2:30). Le Marché Mouffetard, between the Panthéon and the Jardin des Plantes, is a combination of stands and food shops that spills out onto Rue Mouffetard, a cobbled pedestrian street crammed with restaurants, cafés, and tempting little stores. Market offerings include olive oil, chocolates, and wine aplenty, plus produce, cheese, and meats (Tuesday to Sunday 9-1:30).

You might not need to buy a bouquet, but the flower markets are lovely for wandering. Try one of Les Marchés aux Fleurs: at Place de la Madeleine (Monday to Saturday, 8-7:30), Place des Ternes (Tuesday to Sunday, 8-7:30), or Place Lépine on the Ile de la Cité (daily 8-7:30, with the bird market Sunday morning).

If flea markets are your thing, Paris has two that can satisfy any bargain hunter. At Les Puces des Vanves (weekends 8-1) collectors hunt through old furniture, stamps, postcards, clothes, and assorted tchotchkes. Les Puces de St-Ouen (weekends 9-6, Monday 10-5 | marcheauxpuces-saintouen.com), otherwise known as the Clignancourt flea market, is a little more expensive, but a real treasure trove. Bypass the noisy stands near the métro in favor of the buildings beyond the elevated highway, where antiques dealers and vintage-garment sellers set up.


Le café in Paris isn’t simply a drink that begins the day: it’s a way of life. Though Parisians do stop at the counter to order a quick café expresse, bien serré, s’il vous plaît (“good and strong, please”), more often people treat the café as an extension of their home or office, with laptops precariously balanced, cell phones ringing, gossip being shared, and business being done at any time of the day. Think of Simone de Beauvoir, who spent more time at Café de Flore (172 bd. St-Germain, 6e, 01-45-48-55-26) than in her chilly apartment. We’ve listed some of our top choices on the neighborhood Getting Oriented pages, but you’re bound to find your own preferred haunt. Choose one with a patio or good windows for people-watching, or pause at the nearest counter, and you’re in for a dose of Parisian café culture. Just one caveat: don’t complicate your coffee order. Other than at a trickle of places (including Starbucks), cafés don’t serve low-fat or soy milk.


Paris was made for meandering, and the French have coined a lovely word for a person who wanders the streets: le flâneur, one who strolls or loiters, usually without a definite destination. The streets here beckon, leading you past monuments, down narrow alleyways, through arches, and into hidden squares. As a flâneur, you can become attuned to the city’s rhythm and, no matter how aimlessly you walk, you’ll likely end up somewhere magical. Want to improve your chances? Saunteralong the Seine, into the poetic streets of St-Germain, or through the tangled lanes around the Bastille and Canal St-Martin. Strolling is a favorite Sunday pastime for locals—but you’re on vacation, so you can be a flâneur any day of the week.


The Tour Eiffel might be the most famous symbol of Paris, but perhaps the true banner of France is the baguette, the long, caramel-color bread brandished at every meal. Locals take inordinate pride at finding the best baguette in the neighborhood. To locate a worthy boulangerie—a bakery that specializes in bread, as opposed to a pâtisserie, one specializing in pastries—look for a line outside on weekend mornings. Also look for places labeled artisan to ensure that you’re getting the genuine article, not a less-tasty industrial version. (If you see little raised dots on the underside, it means the baguette was made by a machine instead of by hand.) Favorite bakeries include Aux Délices du Palais (60 bd. Brune, 14e, 01-45-39-48-68), Arnaud Delmontel (39 rue des Martys, 9e, 01-48-78-29-33), Jean-Pierre Cohier (270 rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, 8e, 01-42-27-45-26), the original Maison Kayser (14 rue Monge, 5e, 01-44-07-17-81), and Boulanger de Monge (123 rue Monge, 5e, 01-43-37-54-20). True Parisians know that all baguettes are not created equal and will order one bien cuit (well-done) to get the crispiest of the batch. After buying yours, do what many locals do—nibble the end of the crust while it’s still warm.


High prices are making luxury all the more elusive in Paris, but there’s one indulgence most people can still afford, at least occasionally—fine pastries. As you can see when you stop in at any of Paris’s extraordinary pâtisseries (pastry shops), a wonderful array of French treats awaits. Leading our list are the deliciously airy and intense macarons—which have nothing in common with the heavy American shredded-coconut macaroons you might be familiar with. Ladurée (16 rue Royale, 8e, 01-42-60-21-79) claims to have invented these ganache-filled cookies, but two Left Bank pâtisseries also have particularly devoted fans: the flavors at Gérard Mulot (76 rue de Seine, 6e, 01-43-26-85-77) include pistachio and orange-cinnamon, while Pierre Hermé (72 rue Bonaparte, 6e, 01-43-54-47-77) has exotic ones like passion-fruit compote. Another traditional sweet is the mont-blanc, a mini-mountain of chestnut purée capped with whipped cream, best rendered by Jean-Paul Hévin (3 rue Vavin, 6e, 01-43-54-09-85). When you’re craving eclairs, break away from the classic by trying the artistically decorated Hokusai variety at fine-food emporium Fauchon (26 pl. de la Madeleine, 8e, 01-70-39-38-02). If your tastes change with the seasons, head to Hugo & Victor (40 bd. Raspail, 7e, 01-44-39-97-73), where selecting a pastry is as elegant as shopping for diamonds at Tiffany’s.

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Paris With Kids

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Paris is often promoted as an adult destination, but there’s no shortage of children’s activities to keep the young ’uns busy—even many of the city’s top attractions have carousels parked outside them in summer. Make sure to buy a Pariscope (found at most newsstands) and check the enfants section for current children’s events. In addition to what’s below, sites of particular interest to children are marked with a family icon.


Paris has a number of museums that cater to the young and young at heart. They’re great places to occupy restless minds, especially if the weather is bad. The Parc de la Villette’s Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie is an enormous science center with a kids’ area that’s divided into two main sections: one for 2- to 7-year-olds, another for the 5 to 12 set. Interactive exhibits let inquisitive young visitors do everything from building a house to learning about communications through the ages. The Musée de la Musique, also in the Parc de la Villette, will appeal to more arts-minded children. The Musée de la Poupée, a cozy museum in the heart of the Marais, has a collection of 500-plus dolls dating back to the 1800s, complete with costumes, furniture, accessories, and even a “Hospital,” where “sick” dolls and plush toys come to be repaired. Labels might be in French, but they’re not really the point anyway. The whole family can spend hours ogling exhibits about the natural world at the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution; its hands-on Galerie des Enfants, for children aged 6 to 12, is an added bonus. The Palais de la Découverte has high-definition, 3-D exhibits covering subjects like chemistry, biology, meteorology, and physics, so there’s bound to be some interesting dinner conversation when the day is done. Many of the displays are in French, but that doesn’t stop most kids from having a blast—the choice between this and the Louvre is a no-brainer.


Visiting a zoo is usually a good way to get kids’ attention, although you might want to keep in mind that most European ones aren’t as spacious as their American counterparts. The Ménagerie at the Jardin des Plantes, an urban zoo dating from 1794, is home to more than 240 mammals, nearly 400 birds, 210 reptiles, and 900 insects. The country’s largest zoo, the renovated Parc Zoologique in the Bois de Vincennes, lets you observe animals in realistic-looking habitats. The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, in the Marais, is another place to get up close and personal with ferocious lions, tigers, and one in-your-face polar bear—these critters just aren’t alive. An impressive collection of taxidermy trophies takes children on a safari to discover man’s relationship with animals.


What child could pass up the circus? There are several in the city, including the Espaces Chapiteaux at the Parc de la Villette. Pinderland, a new attraction south of Paris, promises an interactive experience: the first European theme park dedicated entirely to the circus comes complete with a circus school and themed museum. For traditional entertainment, try Les Guignols, French puppet shows. The original Guignol was a marionette character created by Laurent Mourguet, supposedly in his own likeness, celebrating life, love, and wine; today, shows are primarily aimed at children, and are found in open-air theaters throughout the city in the warmer months. Check out the Marionettes des Champs-Élysées, Champs de Mars, Parc Montsouris, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Jardin du Luxembourg, and the Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes. Even if they don’t understand French, kids are usually riveted.


There’s something about exploring underground that seems to fascinate kids, at least the older ones. Les Égouts, the Paris sewer system, has a certain gross factor but isn’t actually that disgusting. It’s worth noting, though, that the smell is definitely ranker in the summer months. At the redesigned Catacombs, in Montparnasse, dark tunnels filled with bones are spookily titillating—provided you’re not prone to nightmares. For some cheap underground entertainment without the ick factor, the métro itself can be its own sort of adventure, complete with fascinating station art such as the submarine decor at Arts-et-Metiers, the colorful Parisian timeline murals at Tuileries, or the Egyptian statues of the Louvre-Rivoli station. A good tip: métro Lines 1 and 14 feature conductorless trains that let you sit at the very front, and kids love the sensation that they’re driving.


Many kids are oddly thrilled at the prospect of climbing countless stairs just to get a cool view. The Eiffel Tower is the quintessential Paris climb (especially now that the first level boasts a dizzying glass floor), but Notre-Dame gets extra points for the gargoyles, and the Arc de Triomphe is a good bet, since it’s at the end of the Champs-Élysées. Parks offer other opportunities for expending energy. In summer, kids can work off steam on trampolines or ride ponies at the Jardin des Tuileries; the Jardin du Luxembourg has a playground and a pond where they can rent miniature boats; and the Bois de Boulogne has real rowboats, bumper cars, plus lots of wide-open spaces. For rainy-day rescues, La Galerie des Enfants at the Pompidou Centre has an indoor playground, as well as art exhibitions. In winter, consider ice-skating. From mid-December through February several outdoor sites transform into spectacular rinks with twinkling lights, music, and rental skates available; the main one is at Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, in front of City Hall.


All that activity will no doubt make kids hungry, and luckily there’s no shortage of special places to stop for a snack. La Charlotte de l’Isle (24 rue St-Louis-en-l’Ile), on the Ile Saint Louis, is a whimsically decorated tearoom known for its hot chocolate—deliciously thick and yummy, unlike what American children are usually used to. Just down the street at No. 31, Berthillon is renowned for decadent ice cream, although the Amorino gelaterias give it a run for its money. French children adore the pastel clouds of meringue that decorate almost every pâtisserie window—and, when in need, a chocolate croissant is never hard to find. After filling up, you can cap the day with perhaps the best treat of all, a boat ride on the Seine. It’s the perfect way to see the sights while resting weary feet.

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Great Walk: Artists and Writers of the Left Bank

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Some of the greatest artists and writers of the 20th century were attracted to the winding streets and bustling boulevards of Paris’s Left Bank between the end of WWI and the social upheavals of the 1960s.

Artists and Writers of the Left Bank

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The streets around Place de la Contrescarpe have hardly changed since they were immortalized in Hemingway’s Moveable Feast. He lived at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine (down the street from James Joyce at No. 71) and worked at 39 rue Descartes. George Orwell lived nearby, at 6 rue Pot de Fer, while writing Down and Out in Paris and London. The famous bookshop Shakespeare & Company lost its owner, George Whitman, in 2011, but his daughter Sylvia continues his legacy in a medieval house at 37 rue de la Bûcherie; many of the Beat Generation writers who frequented it in the ’60s, like Burroughs, Ginsberg, and Kerouac, stayed in the Hôtel du Vieux Paris, aka the “Beat Hotel,” at 9 rue Gît-le-Coeur. Pablo Picasso perfected his Cubist style at 7 rue des Grands Augustins from 1936 to 1955.


Follow Rue St-André-des-Arts and Rue de Seine to Rue Jacob, home to American writers like Djuna Barnes, who stayed at the Hôtel d’Angleterre at No. 44. On the corner of Rue Bonaparte is Le Pré aux Clercs, where Hemingway and Fitzgerald shared many a drink. Henry Miller lived up the street at 24 rue Bonaparte and later at No. 36. Pass the home of Jean-Paul Sartre at No. 42 to the square that now bears his and Simone de Beauvoir’s names. Along noisy Boulevard St-Germain are the Deux Magots, Café de Flore, and Brasserie Lipp, legendary establishments frequented by the couple as well as by Faulkner, Camus, Apollinaire, André Gide, Giacometti, Cocteau, Duras, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and André Breton. Bookshops like La Hune still give the area intellectual character despite the proliferation of fashion boutiques.


At 12 rue de l’Odéon, a plaque commemorating Sylvia Beach’s publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses marks the original location of Shakespeare & Company, which closed in 1944. On Rue de Vaugirard, Faulkner lived at No. 42 and Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda at No. 58. Man Ray’s studio is still intact at No. 2 bis, rue Ferou. Hemingway lived at No. 6 for a year, writing often about the Luxembourg Gardens.


Leaving the Luxembourg Gardens, follow Rue du Fleurus, where Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas lived at No. 27, entertaining artists and writers such as Picasso, Matisse, Erik Satie, and New Yorker correspondent Janet Flanner. Stein’s friends Ezra Pound and Hemingway lived nearby on Rue Notre-Dame des Champs (at No. 70 and No. 113, respectively), near Boulevard du Montparnasse, the expat epicenter a decade before St-Germain held that distinction. Some of the establishments still here are Closerie des Lilas (No. 171), Le Sélect (No. 99), Le Dôme (No. 108), La Rotonde (No. 105), and La Coupole (No. 102), where Modigliani, Dalí, Samuel Beckett, Colette, and Miró rubbed shoulders. Rue Delambre leads to the Cimetière du Montparnasse, the final resting place for many of the illustrious names of the Left Bank, including publishers Hachette and Larousse; artists Man Ray, Kiki de Montparnasse, Brancusi, and Brassaï; and writers like Baudelaire, Ionesco, Sartre, Beauvoir, Beckett, and Duras.

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Paris Itineraries

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When vacationing in a city this rich and multifaceted, you’ll want to do more than just take a quick look at a few landmarks. These one-day itineraries are mix and match: follow the ones that intrigue you—and leave yourself time to just walk and explore.


Begin your day at the Trocadéro métro, where you can get the best views of the Tour Eiffel from the esplanade of the Palais de Chaillot. If you absolutely must ride to the top, now is the best time to get in line. Otherwise, get a Seine-side view of the city’s other noteworthy monuments from the Bateaux Parisiens, moored below the Pont d’Iéna. Hour-long cruises loop around the Ile de la Cité, with multilingual commentary on the sights along the way. Afterward you can take the RER to the Musée d’Orsay for lunch in the museum’s Belle Époque dining room before tackling the stunning 19th- and early-20th-century artworks. Then it’s a short walk to the imposing Hôtel des Invalides, the French military museum built as a retirement home for wounded soldiers under Louis XIV. The emperor Napoléon Bonaparte rests beneath the golden dome. If the weather’s nice, have tea next door in the sculpture gardens of the Musée Rodin (entrance to the gardens €1). If you can still feel your feet, cross the gilded Pont Tsar Alexandre III to the Champs-Élysées, passing the Belle Époque art palaces known as the Grand Palais and Petit Palais. You can take Bus 73 from the Assemblée Nationale across the bridge to Place de la Concorde and all the way up Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Open until 10:30 pm (11 pm from April through September), its panoramic viewing platform is ideal for admiring the City of Light.

Alternative: Instead of the standard Seine cruise, try the Batobus, which lets you hop on and off throughout the day with one ticket. Batobus ports include the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysées, Notre-Dame, Hôtel de Ville, Louvre Museum, and Musée d’Orsay. Note that there’s no commentary onboard.


Start at Pont Neuf for excellent views off the western tip of the Ile de la Cité, then explore the island’s magnificent architectural heritage, including the Conciergerie, Sainte-Chapelle, and Notre-Dame. The brave can climb the corkscrew staircase to the towers for a gargoyle’s-eye view of the city. Then detour to the neighboring Ile St-Louis for lunch before heading into the medieval labyrinth of the Quartier Latin: its most valuable treasures are preserved in the Musée de Cluny, including the reconstructed ruins of 2nd-century Gallo-Roman steam baths. At the summit of the hill above the Sorbonne university is the imposing Panthéon, a monument (and mausoleum) of French heroes. Don’t miss the exquisite Église St-Etienne-du-Mont next door, where the relics of the city’s patron Saint Geneviève are displayed and where iconic scenes in Midnight in Paris were filmed. Follow Rue Descartes to Rue Mouffetard for a café crème on one of the oldest market streets in Paris. If the sun’s still shining, visit the Gallo-Roman Arènes de Lutèce.

Alternative: For a different look at the Quartier Latin, pay a visit to Jean Nouvel’s sleek Institute du Monde Arabe (a cultural center devoted to the 22 Arab League member nations) or follow the example of generations of students and simply soak up the atmosphere in a cheap, cheerful café.


Begin at Place de la Concorde, where an Egyptian obelisk replaces the guillotine where Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette met their bloody fate during the French Revolution, then escape the traffic in the formal Jardin des Tuileries (it once belonged to the Tuileries Palace, which was destroyed during the Paris Commune of 1871). Pass through the small Arc du Carrousel to the modern glass pyramid that serves as the main entrance to the Louvre—formerly a fortress, then a royal residence, and now the world’s grandest museum. When you’ve worked up an appetite, cross the street to the peaceful gardens of the Palais Royal for lunch at a café beneath the stone arcades. From here take métro Line 1 to station St-Paul. To the south you can find the Hôtel de Sens, home to King Henry IV’s feisty ex-wife Queen Marguerite, and one of the few surviving examples of late-medieval architecture. Around the corner on Rue Charlemagne is a preserved section of the city’s 12th-century fortifications built by King Philippe-Augustus. Cross busy Rue St-Antoine to the Marais and enter the Hôtel de Sully, a fine example of the elegant private mansions built here by aristocrats in the early 17th century. Pass through the gardens to the doorway on the right, which leads to the lovely symmetrical town houses of Place des Vosges, designed by King Henry IV.

Alternative: Many of the old aristocratic mansions in the Marais have been turned into top-notch museums, including the Musée Picasso Paris, the Musée Cognacq-Jay, and the Musée Carnavalet (which actually occupies two Renaissance mansions). Lingering in them is a fine way to pass a rainy day.


Get an early start to avoid crowds at Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, two of the city’s grandest historic department stores conveniently side by side behind the Opéra Garnier. Refuel at Place de la Madeleine, where gourmet food boutiques such as Hédiard and Fauchon offer light deli foods for shoppers on the move. If the luxury boutiques on Rue Royale aren’t rich enough for you, head down Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré and Avenue Montaigne (via Avenue Matignon), where you pass the exclusive couture houses of Chanel, Dior, Hermès, and Yves Saint Laurent. Department stores are closed on Sunday, but remain open late on Thursday. Many small boutiques are closed Sunday and Monday. The Marais and the Champs-Élysées are the best bets for Sunday shopping.

Alternative: For a more genteel shopping experience, head to the Left Bank’s chic Bon Marché department store, then work your way through the fashion and home-decor boutiques around Église St-Sulpice and St-Germain-des-Prés.

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Cheap Things to Do in Paris

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It’s easy to break the bank in Paris, but those acquainted with the city know where to find the free (or almost free) stuff. Here are some tips.


Thanks to the city of Paris’s dedication to promoting culture, access to the permanent collections in municipal museums is free, so you can learn about the city’s rich history and revel in artworks without dropping a dime. The Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in the Marais regularly runs several expositions at a time, most of which focus on French artists. Past expos have included the “Life of Edith Piaf” and the works of photographers Wally Ronis and Robert Doisneau. The Maison Européene de la Photographie, also in the Marais, is a favorite among flashbulbpoppers and amateur-photography buffs alike—and Wednesdays from 5 to 8 this museum opens its doors free of charge. Expositions can cover everything from the history of the camera and the evolution of printing to selections from some of the world’s most famous photographers. Near Place des Vosges, the Musée Carnavalet—yup, this is in the Marais, too—puts Paris’s past on display with a collection of old signs, keepsakes, relics from bars and cafés, plus paintings of what the city looked like before it was fully developed. It’s an excellent place to get a feel for Paris then and now. Other free museums include Maison de Balzac, Maison de Victor Hugo, Musée Cognacq-Jay, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Petit Palais, also known as Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.


Many of Paris’s churches host free or almost-free concerts at lunchtime and in the evening, allowing you to enjoy fine classical music in an ethereal setting. Look for flyers posted around the city and outside the churches, or check weekly events listings. There are free organ recitals on Sunday at Notre-Dame and Église St-Eustache, both in the 1er arrondissement, at 4:30 and 5:30 pm respectively.Free concerts at Église de la Madeleine (8e), Église Saint-Roch (1er), the American Church in Paris (7e), Église St-Merry (4e), and Église de la Trinité (9e) are music to frugal ears, too. You can watch up-and-coming students perform in 300 concerts entrée libre at the Conservatoire Nationale Supérieur de Musique. Radio France also sponsors about 180 free concerts throughout the year (usually at 12:30 on Saturday, with tickets given out 30 minutes beforehand) at the Petit Palais and various locations across the city. In summer and fall there are free concerts in the city’s parks, including the Jardin des Luxembourg (classical music), the Parc de la Villette (world music, pop and jazz), and the Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes (classical and jazz). During Paris Plage, in late summer, there are free nightly pop and rock concerts on the quays of the Seine. When the weather’s nice you’re also likely to find musicians along the quai of the Canal St-Martin, or in Place des Vosges, guitars in hand for spontaneous song.


If the hustle and bustle of Paris is getting to you, there are plenty of parks where you can kick back for free. Some host no- or low-cost activities and events: the Parc de la Villette, for one, shows free open-air movies in July and August as part of the Cinéma en Plein Air Festival. Parisians also like to recharge their batteries with an afternoon catnap in one of the handy reclined chairs scattered throughout the city’s gardens. This is the cheapest option for relaxation, reading, and postcard writing—just make sure your possessions are secure if you’re actually going to grab some shut-eye. Perennial favorites for parking yourself are the Jardin des Luxembourg and the Jardin du Tuileries, but one of the most serene venues, buffered from the traffic by the arcaded shops, is the garden at the Palais Royal, not far from the Louvre. Any perch along the Seine will also do in a pinch if the busy streets start to feel overwhelming: it’s amazing how tranquil a spot by the water can be, so close to the frenetic workings of the city, especially if you find yourself on the incomparably charming Ile de la Cité.


What souvenir retails for about €0.10 and makes a perfect memento for friends back home? The postcard, of course. Go retro and send some quintessential scenery home with a “J’aime Paris” scribbled on the back, or just bring back a little packet of choice images. For the best prices, check out the news kiosks along Rue de Rivoli and the Grands Boulevards, or visit the bookstore Mona Lisait (9 rue St-Martin, 4e,01-42-74-03-02). Keep an eye out for vintage postcards sold by the bouquinistes along the Seine and by collectors inside Passage des Panoramas. You can buy stamps at any tabac as well as at post offices.


Some of the city’s public bus routes are fantastically scenic; hop on the right one and you can get a great tour for just €1.70—sans squawking commentary. The No. 29 route reaches from Gare St-Lazare, past the Opéra Garnier, to the heart of the Marais, crossing Place des Vosges before ending up at the Bastille. This is one of the few lines that runs primarily on small streets, not major arteries. Hop the No. 69 bus at Champ de Mars (by the Tour Eiffel) and ride through parts of the Quartier Latin, across the bridge to the Rive Droite near the Louvre, and on to the Bastille. The No. 72 bus follows the Seine from the Hôtel de Ville west past the Louvre and most of the big-name Rive Droite sights, also giving you views of the Rive Gauche, including the Tour Eiffel. Bus No. 73 is the only line that goes along Avenue des Champs-Élysées, from the Arc de Triomphe through Place de la Concorde and ending at Musée d’Orsay. You can also take walking tours with the enthusiastic guides from Paris Greeters (www.greeters.paris), Sandemans (www.newparistours.com), or City Free Tour (cityfreetour.com)—all are free, though tips are appreciated.


Here’s a tip for getting tipsy: wine stores sometimes offer free or inexpensive wine tastings, generally on the weekends. Check out La Derniere Goutte (6 rue de Bourbon le Château, 6e, 01-43-29-11-62) on Saturday from 11 to 7:30, and the prestigious Caves Taillevent (199 rue du Faubourg St-Honore, 8e, 01-45-61-14-09) on Saturday from 10:30 to 6. Paris in spring becomes even more enticing with tastings at Caves Augé (116 bd. Hausmann, 8e, 01-45-22-16-97) each Saturday from 11 to 6 in April and May. La Cave du Panthéon (174 rue Saint-Jacques, 5e, 01-46-33-90-35), touted for its conviviality, is another destination where wine lovers congregate on Saturday afternoon to learn about—and indulge in—their favorite beverage. If you’re lucky, the winemaker hailing from the featured winery of the day may be among those taking part in the tasting.

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Paris Museums, An Overview

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There’s no shortage of museums in Paris, so it’s a good idea to make a plan. This overview includes all of those listed elsewhere in the book; check the index for full listings.


Ambitious art lovers will focus on the Big Three—the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Georges Pompidou. The Louvre’s collection spans from about 7000 BC until 1848, and has its own Big Three: the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory. The d’Orsay’s collection picks up where the Louvre’s leaves off and continues until 1914. The Pompidou has art from the early 20th century to the present. Of course, smaller spots can have a big impact, too: the Musée de l’Orangerie provides a stunning setting for Monet’s Water Lilies, while the underrated Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris in the Petit Palais has an excellent collection of art and objets.


Three major must-sees are Musée Rodin, with its lovely sculpture garden; Musée Picasso Paris (which recently underwent a massive redo); and Musée Marmottan Monet, which boasts the single largest collection of works by Claude Monet. Other options include the Musée Delacroix, Espace Dalí, Musée Gustave Moreau, Musée Zadkine, and Musée Maillol, all of which are devoted to works by the titular artist. French chanson fans shouldn’t miss the one-woman show at the tiny Edith Piaf Museum.


A house museum is doubly appealing because it offers two treats in one: the art or exhibits and the actual abode. Maison de Victor Hugo and Maison de Balzac are the former homes of renowned writers. Musée Jacquemart-André has an intriguing collection of Italian art, and Musée Nissim de Camondo has decorative art, mostly from the 18th century. Musée de la Vie Romantique, celebrating the novelist George Sand, was the elegant town house of Dutch-born painter Ary Scheffer, and Musée Cognacq-Jay was the residence of Ernest Cognacq, founder of the now closed La Samaritaine department store. The small Musée Baccarat displays some crystal masterpieces in the former mansion of Marie-Laure de Noailles, patron of the Surrealist circle.


Excellent venues for modern art include the Palais de Tokyo and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. There’s also Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain for emerging artists’ work, and La Maison Rouge, which shows private collections. The Pinacothèque de Paris is a private museum dedicated solely to temporary exhibits, while Halle St. Pierre has exhibits of outsider and folk art. Le 104 is an offbeat option with artist studios, boutiques, and performance spaces. For something new and noteworthy, see Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne; designed by Franky Gehry, the stunning structure displays a stellar private collection and hosts top-notch temporary exhibitions.


There are two superlative places in Paris to see Asian art: Musée Guimet, where you’ll find a massive collection that spans seven millennia, and Musée Cernuschi, a small house museum that holds the personal Asian art collection of Enrico Cernuschi. For Arab and Islamic art and architecture, visit the impressive Institut du Monde Arabe; for African art, head instead to Musée Dapper. If you have trouble choosing, try the Musée du Quai Branly: it turns the spotlight on pieces from Africa, Asia, and Oceania.


For a mix of photographs from different artists, your best bet is the Maison Européenne de la Photographie. Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson features works by the well-known French photographer in a building that was also his atelier. The Jeu de Paume, in the Tuileries, showcases modern photography. For modern design, Fondation Le Corbusier is well worth the trip to the city’s western edge. Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent is the designer’s atelier as well as an archive and gallery of his work. Late 2014 saw the unveiling of another venue honoring a fashion giant: the Musée Pierre Cardin in the Marais. The recently renovated Musée de la Mode in Palais Galliera hosts temporary exhibits about fashion in an ornate palace. Offering a different take on textiles, the Manufacture des Gobelins traces the history of weaving and tapestry. And don’t miss Les Arts Décoratifs, which includes the Musée de la Mode et du Textile and Musée de la Publicité, plus the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, featuring one of the world’s great decorative-art collections.


Musée de Cluny, home to the well-known Lady and the Unicorn tapestry, recalls the Middle Ages. Beginning in that same period, the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme documents Jewish history in France. For Parisian history, don’t miss Musée Carnevalet. Montmartre has its own museum, Musée de Montmartre. The Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine presents a history of French architecture, and Google’s permanent exhibit in association with Pavillon de l’Arsenal traces the history of the city—and envisions its future—through the lens of urban planning. Maritime history is the subject of the Musée National de la Marine in the Palais Chaillot. The Musée de la Légion d’Honneur showcases French and foreign military decoration; the phenomenal collection at the Musée de l’Armée includes everything from antique weapons to Napoléon’s trademark hat; and the Musée Jean Moulin, in the Jardin Atlantique, focuses on the life of the famous leader of the French Resistance.


Some museums aren’t easily classified. The Musée de l’Erotisme is a seven-story building that explores erotic fantasy. The Musée du Vin details the history of wine making and also stages wine tastings. The Musée du Parfum is dedicated to the art of perfume; La Musée de la Prefecture de Police has exhibits pertaining to the Paris police; and the Tenniseum is, you guessed it, all about tennis. For chocolate lovers of all ages, there’s Chocostory, a museum of chocolate.


The city’s hottest avant-garde art scene is on and around Rue Vieille du Temple in the north Marais. Around St-Germain and Place des Vosges the galleries are more traditional; works by old masters and established modern artists dominate the galleries around Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré and Avenue Matignon. Carré Rive Gauche, around Rue du Bac in St-Germain, has dozens of art and antiques galleries on its narrow streets.

The Association des Galeries (www.associationdesgaleries.org) lists exhibits in more than 125 galleries through the city. Paris-art.com (www.paris-art.com) focuses on contemporary art, with reviews, exhibition calendars, and interviews, in French only.

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Bicycling in Paris

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You’ve seen those 1930s photographs of Paris—men in berets bicycling the streets, a baguette tucked under one arm; elegant women in billowing skirts gliding past the Eiffel Tower on two wheels. Until recently, though, it was difficult for visitors to the City of Light to do the same without signing up for a bike tour. That changed when Paris introduced a bike-rental program called Vélib’ (01-30-79-79-30 | www.velib.paris.fr), whose odd-sounding name is an amalgam of vélo (bike) and liberté (liberty).

Even if cycling across the French countryside is your dream, taking to the streets of Paris can seem like a nightmare, with motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic, delivery vans double parked, pedestrians texting while walking—you get the picture. But the resounding success of Vélib’ has meant that dedicated bike lanes have been popping up in the center of the city to accommodate all the new cyclists.

You’ll encounter several different types of bike lanes in Paris: bike-only lanes completely separated from vehicular traffic (these are well worth seeking out); lanes divided from traffic by white lines (you can easily be cut off by turning cars or buses making a stop); lanes shared by buses, taxis, and bikes; and lanes where you’ll pedal against the flow of traffic. There are also lanes running adjacent to sidewalks (watch out for crossing pedestrians).

There’s always safety in numbers, and many seasoned cyclists opt to join the group Paris Rando Vélo (www.parisrandovelo.fr) every Friday evening for a free ride through the streets of Paris. Rendezvous at 9:30 pm at l’Hôtel de Ville. On the third Sunday of each month there’s also a morning ride at 11 am.


So you’re ready to rent a Vélib’ bike? You can’t miss the silver-and-purple cycles at more than 1,800 docking stations spread around the city, from the Champs Élysées to Montmarte to the Louvre. Logging more than 60 million trips, they are showing some wear and tear, so check yours over thoroughly, especially to ensure that the bell is fully functional.

There are several stands near the Eiffel Tower, four of which form a not-quite-symmetrical square around the landmark: one on Quai Branly at Avenue de la Bourdonnais, another on Avenue Rapp near the corner of Bourdonnais, a third on Rue de Suffren off Avenue Joseph Bouvard, and the last on Avenue Octave Gréard where it intersects with Avenue de Suffren. This neighborhood is ideal for cycling: the roads are wide, there are several dedicated bike lanes, and, most importantly, the terrain is gloriously flat. Try a relaxing ride across the Champs de Mars, along Rue St-Dominique, and around the Invalides.

You’ll pay €1.70 a day—or €8 for a seven-day pass—to use Vélib’. If you ride for less than 30 minutes at a time, there’s no additional fee (you get a code to use throughout the day, which allows you to take out a bike whenever you want one). If you keep it for more than 30 minutes you pay an additional €1, then €2 for the next 30 minutes, and €4 for each half hour on top of that. If you’re spending a lot of time in Paris, opt for the €29 annual pass. A combination métro-bike pass is also available. The system accepts debit or credit cards that contain an electronic chip that can be read by the French system. Bike helmets can be rented for €2 a day or €10 a week from Alternative Bike (01-44-61-56-76 | www.velib.paris.fr).

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Romantic Things to Do in Paris

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It isn’t hard to stumble across a romantic moment in Paris. Couples kiss on park benches, dine by candlelight in cozy neighborhood bistros, and walk arm in arm in the rain.

Leading our list for romantic moments is a trip to the top of the quintessential Paris monument, the Eiffel Tower. You get extra points for making a reservation at the elegant (and pricey) Jules Verne restaurant, which lets you bypass the crowds for a VIP elevator ride. And if your sweetheart isn’t with you in Paris, you can send a soulful missive from the landmark’s exclusive mailbox; it’ll arrive with the Eiffel Tower postmark.

If seeing La Tour in the skyline is part of your romantic vision, there are choice spots throughout Paris from which to gaze upon it. Montmartre’s Sacré-Coeur has breathtaking vistas, as well as a lovely green space to throw down a blanket and snuggle. Or head to the top of Centre Georges Pompidou for a glass of champagne at the restaurant while gazing out at the tower and the silvery Parisian rooftops. Although somewhat more prosaic, don’t rule out Au Printemps’s top-floor terrace for views: the café atop the department store has stunning 360-degree panoramas.

Speaking of shopping, some of the world’s best lingerie can be found in Paris; wear it for romance, but enjoy shopping for it, too. Department stores have entire floors dedicated to underthings, and there are fabulous boutiques throughout the city where you can find styles and materials to suit every personality and budget.

Also, there’s always something sexy about a hotel room. And doesn’t it seem that Paris hotels have a little something extra? It might be the gorgeous old buildings and the unique, often family-owned accommodations. Or maybe it’s the history—the ghost of Oscar Wilde or Henry Miller wandering through what used to be a pavillon d’amour? At any rate, it seems to us that if you’re going to splurge on luxury accommodations, Paris is the place to do it.

Big spending, of course, isn’t always necessary, no matter what you’re up to. An expensive meal is one thing, but snacking at a corner crêperie can be just as romantic as a sit-down dinner. Indeed, a picnic by the Seine, or at one of the marvelous jardins (gardens) is one of the ultimate romantic, and generally inexpensive, Parisian experiences (unless you buy a €2,000 bottle of Château Lafite to wash it down with). Feed your love with bites of chocolate and cheese in the manicured Jardin du Luxembourg or at the intimate Place des Vosges.

If art fuels your passion, Paris is home to romantic museums aplenty—for starters, visit the Musée Rodin and its elegant gardens, and make sure to see the sculpture of The Kiss.

If you just love to stroll hand in hand, Paris is your place. Any of the winding streets will do, but a walk along the Seine is assured to create romantic memories—especially if you pick a bridge for a sunset kiss. For a straight-from-the-movies moment, pretend you’re Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in Charade and take a nighttime boat tour, making sure to time it so that you see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at the top of the hour.