The weather in Paris is relatively temperate, making it a year-round destination. Winters usually stay above freezing and summers are mild compared to southern Europe. But keep in mind that in summer—especially July and August—Parisians go on their own holidays, and that means the city becomes crowded with tourists. If you don’t mind colder temperatures, the City of Light can be impressive around the holidays. Spring or fall are often considered your best bet—just keep in mind that even spring can get crowded with tourists trying to beat summer fares in pleasant weather. Early spring and most of autumn you will find that the attractions, restaurants, and transportation will be less crowded and the weather will still be tolerable for exploring the city. There are some events—like the auto show in October—that will also crowd the city so it never hurts to see what’s on before you book a trip.
France is the most popular international tourist destination, and Paris obviously is at the epicenter of the market. The city’s landmarks are sought out by visitors from all over the world every year. From the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées, from the Louvre to Versailles, Paris has stunning sights to offer. Be sure to take in Notre Dame Cathedral and the Musée d’Orsay. Tour the Sorbonne to see where René Descartes, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir all studied, and then explore the winding streets in the Latin Quarter. You can enjoy contemporary art at Centre Georges Pompidou and take the city’s cultural pulse in the “Beaubourg” Neighborhood. Visit the highest point in Paris at Sacre Coeur and Montmartre. Don’t forget to stop by the famous graves of Molière, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Richard Wright, and Jim Morrison at Père Lachaise Cemetery. If you can, book a boat tour on the Seine River.
Travel with Kids
Paris is an especially great city for kids—there is much to do, and children are not just tolerated but embraced. There are many parks and playgrounds throughout the city. One suggestion is Place des Vosges where your little ones can make a sandcastle next to 17th-century residences. Jardin d’Acclimatation is a 19th-century children’s park with cool rides and an old air of Paris. Winter in Paris brings ice skating with rinks around the city including in front of the Montparnasse tower and at Place de l’Hôtel de Ville where you’ll have views of Notre Dame. If you visit in the summer, spend an afternoon at the Paris Plage, or “beach,” where truckloads of sand are dumped along the banks of the Seine accompanied by food stands, bouncy castles, concerts, and games. For a great place for kids to play freely visit Le Jardin des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement. This botanical garden has a ménagerie (zoo) with some fun monkeys and an absolutely retro natural history museum filled with dinosaur bones and no over-produced entertainment. The Palais de la Découverte, or Palace of Discovery, is set in a 19th-century Worlds Fair building and features science exhibits targeted for under-12s. You can ride the ferris wheel or rent a model sailboat in the Tuileries Garden near the Louvre. One section of the Jardin du Luxembourg is dedicated to kids, with a play area and puppet theatre. Finally, Disneyland Paris is a no-brainer, but keep in mind it is 30+ km away from city center so plan your trip in advance. In general, keep in mind that most major Paris attractions are very kid-friendly with special programming just for young ones.
The public transportation system in Paris is top-notch. Operated by the RATP, Paris transport includes the métro subway system, RER commuter trains, buses, night buses (Noctambus), Montmartrobus, and the Montmartre funicular railway. You can purchase tickets or a Paris Visite Metro Pass that can be used on all of these methods of transportation throughout your stay. The métro is safe and fast, carrying over 9 million passengers daily. Go to RATP.fr and for information in several languages. The métro runs until 12:30 am so be sure you check the Noctambus schedules. These night buses operate hourly between Chatelet and the main gates of Paris from 1am through 5am. The Paris transport system is very affordable, but you do want to get an idea of the different kinds of tickets you’ll need so do look over the RATP website. The RER train connects the Paris airports to city center quickly and often. There is also express bus service and some airlines provide shuttles. A taxi from Charles de Gaulle to the city will cost around 40 Euros.
Le Roy al Monceau
Le Royal Monceau is a 5-star Raffles hotel with 149 rooms. Originally opened in 1928, this luxury boutique hotel is set in one of Paris’s premiere shopping and business districts. Convenient to major sightseeing destinations such as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, Le Royal Monceau is just two blocks from one of the best views of Paris atop the Arc de Triomphe. Le Royal Monceau is perfect for a ChicTraveler quick getaway or extended Parisian vacation. The Deluxe collection rooms feature two beds and a Courtyard view in approximately 430 square feet of space. There is a separate dressing area, desk, complimentary wifi, cable television, direct-dial phone with voicemail, and air conditioning. Large, spacious Apartment rooms will open in early 2011 with even more space and luxury accommodations. Guests have several dining options, including traditional French by Chef Laurent Andre at La Cuisine; Italian at Il Carpaccio; and light meals and cocktails at Le Bar Long or Le Grand Salon. A spa is in the works for 2011 and Le Royal Monceau offers meeting services with AV equipment, banquet facilities, business services, exhibit space, and a diverse set of meeting rooms.
Set in Saint Blaise, a Parisian neighborhood with a rebel character, Mama Shelter is a design conscious, luxury boutique with 170 rooms. Both sensual and comfortable, the 170 rooms have the feel of a sensual refuge with their five star bedding. All rooms include 100% cotton satiny smooth sheets, a microwave oven, minibar, 24-inch IMAC TV, radio, cd/dvd, free wifi, an office, an elegant and functional bathroom, and some surprises to unearth once you get there. Book a Mama Suite for a large terrace with a view of the 20th arrondissement. The ground floor restaurant is known for its Sunday brunch with simple family dishes conceived by Alain Senderens. The Chic Chic Bar is perfect for a thoughtful chat; for more action try the Island Bar. For perfectly formed pizzas eat at Mama Pizzeria. Mama Shelter was named best Europe’s no. 1 best business hotel in CNBC Business magazine.
Murano Resort Paris
Murano Resort Paris is situated on the edge of the historic and trendy Marais district close to the chic Rue Charlot and Rue Vieille du Temple. This 60-room, 5-star, luxury boutique hotel also provides easy access to Le Cirque d’Hiver, le Théâtre Dejazet, The Picasso Museum and the Opéra Bastille. The rooms of the Murano are futuristic: each room is protected by a fingerprint scanner that controls access while lighting can be changed to suit the mood. Decoration is white from floor to ceiling, with modern paintings, contemporary furniture, and pop art. The bathroom’s sleek black and white design complements smooth chrome and naturally rough slate tiles. The hotel also offers a bar-lounge, a restaurant serving light and healthy cuisine in an avant-garde environment, and a gym with private instructors and aromatherapy. If you really want to splurge, choose a Murano Suite. With 807 square feet, this spacious, two-level sanctuary comes with a private pool and terrace. To go right to the top book the Top Floor Suite, which comes with over 3,000 square feet of pure indulgence. The pool, dining room, and terrace are only the beginning; guests also have an Audi TT at their disposal. The hotel’s Restaurant features world-class food and special vegetarian dishes. You can also relax and have a drink at the Lounge Bar.
Standard Design Hotel
The Standard Design is a 36-room, 5-star, luxury boutique hotel near the Opera de la Bastille, Maison de Victor Huge, and Place des Vosges. Rooms feature LCD televisions with satellite channels, complimentary wifi, direct-dial phones, air conditioning, welcome amenities, and an in-room safe. Guests can choose from Standard or Deluxe rooms. The Standard Design Hotel can accommodate business travelers with flexible meeting rooms. The front desk is open 24 hours a day, and the hotel’s multilingual staff offer tour arrangements and ticket assistance. The hotel is also close to several recreational activities including bicycle rentals, playgrounds, racquetball/squash, running track/path and swimming to enhance your stay.
Hotel Le Bristol
Steps away from the Champs-Elysées, Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, and the Orsay Museum, the Le Bristol is a 161-room, 5-star, luxury boutique hotel on the fashionable Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, famous for its fashion boutiques and art galleries. Perfectly located for both business and pleasure visitors to Paris, Hotel Le Bristol is a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of The World. Accommodation at Hotel Le Bristol comes in Room and Suite types, with a large variety classified as Superior, Deluxe and Prestige Rooms, and Junior, Deluxe Junior and Deluxe Suites. In addition, Hotel Le Bristol offers a number of Prestige Suites each of which is uniquely named and designed. The Prestige Elysee Suite features 1,290 square feet of ultra luxurious living space with a huge master bedroom, three further bedrooms, and two bathrooms. The Penthouse Suite features 2,150 square feet of living space and a private terrace with unique views of the Paris rooftops. For the best views in Paris, book the Panoramic Suite. The 3 Michelin Star Gastronomic Restaurant at Hotel Le Bristol is renowned for changing its decor and surroundings to match the seasons. Offering an unparalled menu of the finest cuisine, it is an exceptional restaurant in an exceptional location. 11 Faubourg is Hotel Le Bristol’s newest restaurant, offering a menu of creative cuisine with fresh and seasonal ingredients. THE BAR at Hotel Le Bristol offers a relaxing bar experience with lunch, dinner, and afternoon teas, fine wines, and exciting cocktails. Guest can relax at the Anne Semonin Spa with a wide range of wellness treatments that use the finest natural ingredients to help rejuvenate guests after a day exploring the streets of Paris. The hotel also offers a swimming pool and fitness are also housed in a vast solarium with wonderful views of Paris.
Other Paris hotels to consider include Hotel Square , a luxury boutique and one of Paris’s best-kept secrets, or the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, located on the prestigious Rue de la Paix. This 5-star, 168-room luxury hotel offers well-appointed accommodations surrounded by an impressive art collection in what is one of the best possible locations for a stay in the City of Light.
The wonderful thing about Paris is that pretty much wherever you go, you will enjoy quality, elegant meals. If you are looking for one of the best restaurants in the world and money isn’t an issue, then head for Chez Pierre Gagnaire on Rue Balzac. For a classic bistro try L’Avant Goût in the Butte-aux-Cailles neighbourhood where traditional dishes like pot-au-feu de cochon (various cuts of pork served with sweet potatoes, fennel and a glass of spiced broth) are updated by Chef Christophe Beaufront. If the weather is good then lunch at Lasserre, where the terrace view will compete with the food. Try regional cuisine at Ambassade d’Auvergne in a cozy setting. Some newer and funky options include Philippe Conticini’s Pâtisserie des Rêves on Rue du Bac in the chic 7th arrondissement. Everything looks artistic here, from the paint on the wall, to the employee uniforms, to the packaging and—of course—the cakes. For a cozy atmosphere, softened lights, and corners that give a very boudoir style, have a meal or enjoy a cocktail at the Chacha Club.
Paris = shopping, so you don’t even need to actually buy something to experience the brilliant mix of art, fashion, and ideas that Parisian shops have on offer. Visit the city’s oldest department store, Le Bon Marché, opened in 1848, and peruse the luxury Dior and Chanel boutiques. Then shift gears entirely and head for Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt, one of the world’s largest flea markets, for seven hectares of bargains from 3,000 traders. From there you can shop by neighborhood. The best Right Bank shopping includes the 1st and 8th arrondissements. Here you’ll find the big designer houses near the Champs-Elysées with mass-market and teen scenes. Visit the glamorous Avenue Montaigne. The 2nd arrondissement has a few sophisticated shopping secrets, such as Place des Victoires. In the 3rd and 4th arrondissements you’ll find everything from Gap and Marks & Spencer to cutting-edge designers and up-to-the-minute fashions and trends hidden in the Marais. Near the Bastille, in the 4th arrondissement, look for art galleries and the newer shops of the Viaduc des Arts. In the heart of the Left Bank, explore the 6th and 7th and luxury retail of Rue du Bac. In the 9th, walk along Boulevard Haussmann for big department stores like Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.
Paris is a wonderful example of how history and religion created architecture that we now understand as art. It is also famously the most romantic and artistic place in the world. Museums will take time, and they are worth it. Some might be closed for renovation—check before you travel. Consider buying a Museum Pass if you plan on visiting several museums. Here is a list of just some of Paris’s best museums:
Fragonard Musée du Parfum
La Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrim
Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins
Musée Carnavalet-Histoire de Paris
Musée Edith Piaf
Musée Marmottan Monet
Musée National Eugène Delacroix
Musée National des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet
Musée National du Moyen Age/Thermes de Cluny
Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon
Musée Nissim de Camondo
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Par
Musée d’Art et Histoire du Judaisme
Musée de l’Erotisme
Musée de l’Histoire de France
Musée de l’Institut du Monde Arabe
Musée de la Musique
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Musée du Louvre
Musée du Vin
Palais de Tokyo
The City of Light makes every night unforgettable. No matter what your taste is, Paris has something special at night for you. If you are in Paris for business, you might enjoy a glass at Willi’s Wine Bar in the financial district. If you are looking to take in some culture, visit the Cité de la Musique, a massive complex and home to the best music concerts around. For traditional and contemporary theatre, check the listings for the Comédie-Française. If you are an opera buff, then you probably already know to get tickets for the Opéra Bastille or the Opéra Garnier. If you’d rather dance, Cab is a good choice, where you can move in a basement under the Louvre to house and electro. For a speakeasy feel, go to the former brothel Le Baron, where 1920s décor still reigns surrounding a crowded dance floor. For gay-friendly options try Le Raidd and Au Lapin Agile.
If you visit for New Year’s Eve, be sure to hang out near the Sorbonne and the Latin Quarter for the best party. As winter sets in, Paris hosts the International Ready-to-Wear Fashion Shows (Salon International de Prêt-à-Porter) at the Parc des Expositions (the shows return in the fall). At the end of March through May you can visit what fans call France’s largest country fair, the Foire du Trône, held on the lawns of the Pelouse de Reuilly, complete with a Ferris wheel, carousels, acrobats, and fire eaters. The Paris Marathon comes to town in early April beginning in a morning spectacle on the Champs-Elysées. From April through September enjoy Les Grandes Eaux Musicales at Versailles. Intended to invoke the atmosphere of the ancient regime, you can listen to music surrounded by bursting fountains in front of the château. VE Day, or Jour de l’Armistice brings citywide celebrations commemorating the capitulation of the Nazis on May 7, 1945. The four-day event includes a parade along the Champs-Elysées and events in Reims. This is when it’s a good time to be American in Paris! The French Open runs in early summer at Stade Roland-Garros. If you visit in June you can join the Fête de St-Denis in St-Denis for a month of artfully contrived music in the burial place of the French kings. Stay on for the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget where you can check out the latest in French air technology. But summer is really special once the Tour de France begins in July; catch the finish line across the Champs-Elysées. And of course, Bastille Day is a must on 14 July. This celebration of the 1789 storming of the Bastille is the birth date of modern France, and festivities reach their peak in Paris with street fairs, pageants, fireworks, and feasts. There is also a jazz festival in September, an autumn festival, horse races, an auto show, a boat show, Armistice Day in November, and finally, the release of the first batch of Beaujolais Nouveau, an occasion celebrated throughout the city on the third Thursday in November.