Seductive, beguiling Paris is an entire museum of French culture hiding in plain sight. A city whose streets are lined with sidewalk cafes and antique shops, where a Gothic church is tucked into every neighborhood. The only thing missing to complete the picture is the faint sound of a concertina wafting through an open window. Paris is also one of the world’s most refined cities, a place where haute couture and cuisine sit side by side with world-class art museums like the Louvre and the D’Orsay. A short drive outside the city brings you to unforgettable sights such as Chartres Cathedral, the Palace at Versailles and Giverny, Monet’s home and gardens.
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Parisian arrondissements or neighborhoods each possess a distinctive atmosphere. There are the famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides and Napoleon's Tomb, Notre Dame, the Louvre and Palais Royal as well as historic neighborhoods like Le Marais, the fashionable, revitalized old Jewish quarter, Ile de la Cite, Ile St-Louis with its aristocratic mansions and antique shops. Some of the world’s finest museums are also to be found like Louvre, Picasso Museum, the Musee d'Orsay with its collection of Impressionist artists and the Musee Rodin. The basilicas and churches of Notre-Dame, Saint Sulpice, Saint Chapelle and the gardens like the Tuileries or Luxembourg are just made for leisurely strolls and are the perfect way to while away a Sunday afternoon.
Visit the Latin Quarter with its bookstores, the Sorbonne, medieval backstreets and boutiques, shop for antiques, browse picturesque flower markets or stop at a patisserie for a snack. Explore the cafes and brasseries of St-Germain and visit haute couture showrooms or flea markets of Montreuil and Clignancourt. Shop for beautiful antiques under the arcade of the Palais Royal at the Louvre des Antiquaires, for porcelain and crystal on rue de Paradis, or for chocolate, teas and other delicacies at gourmet stores such as Fauchon and Laduree.
The Île-de-France is the compact region immediately surrounding the capital of France, Paris. As such, the region includes all of the Paris metropolis, from the great capital itself through the gritty banlieue right out to now far-flung suburbs and exurbs, together with several large surrounding towns that form part of the greater conurbation. All is not urban sprawl, however: the region is also known for its natural beauty, in the form of parks, forests and river lands, and also contains some of the most fertile agricultural soil in France.
While most visitors to France make the City of Light their primary destination, excursions from Paris are a must and not to be missed. The royal palaces of Versailles, Fontainbleau with its famed forest, the village of Barbizon, Van Gogh’s final resting place at Auvers-sur-Oise, romantic Chantilly best known for lace, cream and stunning medieval manuscripts or Chartres’ Gothic cathedral with its unparalleled stained glass windows are all favorite day excursions. Other recommended trips include Reims and the surrounding Champagne region for wine tasting at local estates and cellars. Day trips from Paris can also be organized to Giverny, Rouen, the D-Day sites and the Loire Valley to visit its castles.
"Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant," wrote the novelist Honoré de Balzac in 1830, and today it is still hard to argue with the sentiment. The city has been a center of fashion since Louis XIV first donned a pair of white stockings.
From the opulence of the Golden Triangle, between avenues Montaigne, George V and Champs-Élysées to the shimmering boutiques of Rue Saint-Honoré and Place Vendôme, the city's concentration of exquisite couture and jewelry is unparalleled. But it's not just old-fashioned sophistication on offer – the city is also the birthplace of the 'concept store' and home to myriad vintage shops, hip designer boutiques.
The national passion for excellent cuisine makes eating in Paris one of the greatest pleasures of a holiday.
Today the chefs in many Parisian restaurants are turning towards the cooking of the Provinces. The most popular regional cooking style is from Lyon, Burgundy and the southwest. Provençal traditions with scents of garlic and olive oil are also gaining popularity. Lyonnais cooking characterized by salads and hearty meat-based recipes like andouillettes, Burgundian and foods from Bordeaux and the southwest are rich. Typical dishes are foie gras, jambon or homard persillé and cassoulet.
Vaux le Vicomte, the Ile de France
Seine River Cruise
Joan of Arc
Moulin Rouge Dancers
Pont neuf, Ile de la Cite
Notre-Dame de Paris
French Wine Shop
Château de Chantilly