From the Eiffel Tower to Notre-Dame Cathedral, the “City of Light” has something for everyone.
Paris may be the capital and economic engine of France, but it is above all the embodiment of romance. Turn off her grand Haussmann boulevards onto smaller shop- and cafe-lined rues to channel the centuries of artists and dreamers who migrated or were born here, giving the world Impressionism, Ladurée macarons and “Les Misérables.” Ernest Hemingway famously called Paris “a moveable feast,” referring not just to its sensuous cuisine but its history, architecture, love of the arts and communal drive to gather in cafes, parks and riverbanks. Dig into this feast over a weekend or a week in the “City of Light”.
When to go
On the third Saturday of each May, museums across Paris, from the Louvre to the Decorative Arts Museum, fling open their doors, for free, until 1 a.m. during La Nuit des Musées.
July brings a month of celebrations to the French capital. Bastille Day, July 14, marks French National Day with parades and fireworks. The Tour de France concludes with its final ride down the Champs-Élysées. And from mid-June to the end of July the Paris Jazz Festival stages free concerts each weekend in the Bois de Vincennes botanical garden.
Parisians turn their attention to cultural matters during the annual Paris Autumn Festival, featuring theater, dance and music performances held in venues across the city from mid-September to December.
The off-season in Paris is a great time to have the Louvre to yourself. Bring an umbrella and a scarf and skate at one of the pop-up ice rinks or linger over un chocolat chaud (France’s answer to hot chocolate) in one of the city’s legendary cafes.
While readily available, taxis are a luxury in Paris. The underground Metro and RER light-rail trains connect the city; the latter connects to both of Paris’ airports. Paris was an early adopter of bike sharing, and its Velib bikes, posted at 1,800 stations, help fill the mass-transit gaps and provide a scenic way to travel. For the ultimate joy ride, glide along the Seine in a glass-enclosed Batobus ferry that stops at nine stations throughout the heart of the city.
- Since the terrorist attacks of 2015, few museums allow visitors to leave backpacks in their cloakrooms. They don’t allow oversize bags in the galleries, either, so the best advice is to pack lightly, and to be patient with the extra security checks.
- Generally speaking about speaking, the French are sensitive. Do not start a conversation in English expecting an English response. Always start with bonjour (“good morning”) or bon soir (if it’s evening), and ask Parlez-vous anglais? (“Do you speak English?”). Whether they do or not, you will at least get credit for trying.
- The Paris Greeter service connects visitors with volunteers who lead complimentary two- to three-hour tours of a neighborhood. They choose the locale, not you, so let serendipity take charge and keep an open mind.