22nd Jun 2012 4:27pm | By Editor
The City of Love: stylish and cultured but also snobby, the French capital has a reputation that can’t be ignored. But Paris is more than its stereotypes
Of course you’ll want to see the tourist attractions while visiting this stunning city, but make sure you venture off the beaten track as Paris has more to offer than its arrogant residents and high-street style. There’s a buzzy music and arts scene, eclectic nightlife and off-beat shopping to be had.
Be a tourist
Don your most comfy walking shoes and hang your camera around your neck – you’re going sight-seeing, Paris style. First, head to the Eiffel Tower. The view from the top is breathtaking – on a clear day you can see for 40 miles. They don’t call this the city of romance for nothing – you’re more likely to see a man go down on a bended knee to pop the question here than any other place on Earth. At night, 20,000 lightbulbs illuminate the tower for five minutes every hour creating a magical spectacle even the love-cynic can enjoy. The queues to buy tickets and climb to the top are long, but you can book ahead at tour-eiffel.fr.
Hit the road
Take a stroll along the beautiful river Seine. Every summer, “beaches” – with sand, parasols, games and cafes – are set up on stretches of the Seine. Between February and November, cruise along the Seine on a hop-on, hop-off boat. Get your camera ready for shots along the way of the Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay and Notre Dame cathedral. Also worth a stroll is the once bohemian, now posh Latin Quarter – home to the Sorbonne university
and streets of chic boutiques.
Day at the museums
The Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world – it’s also one of the biggest, with some 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century. There’ll be a crowd around the Mona Lisa, so have a quick look, then get lost in the original courtyards of this 12th century, former palace. Fans of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code can buy an audio guide explaining the links between the book and the museum, which opened in 1793. For another culture fix, head to the Musée d’Orsay. It is best known for its vast collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces by renowned painters including Monet and Van Gogh.
Spend, spend, spend
To part with your hard-earned cash quickly, the Champs-Élysées is lined with designer retailers, such as Louis Vuitton, where you often have to queue just to get in. However, for more realistic prices, head to Le Marais, the historical centre of Paris’s Jewish and gay communities, where you’ll find vintage bargains. And the Saint-Ouen flea market is great for one-off finds.
At the end of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe is the world’s most famous roundabout. Built as a monument to fallen soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars, it’s another icon of Paris. Sacré-Coeur Basilica, at the summit of Montmarte Hill, 130m high, is the highest point in Paris, so prepare for stunning views.
As the centre of the Belle Epoque, and home to the Moulin Rouge, Paris does partying with a twist. Head to the up-and-coming Bastille area for an array of edgy bars, clubs, live music venues and cafes galore. For an authentic night out, venture to the Oberkampf district, which is popular with the trendy Parisian crowd, for its selection of sleazy cafes as well as its lively bars.
The major airports are Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Orly. Eurostar (eurostar.com) trains from St Pancras take just over two hours to Gare du Nord.
When to go: Paris is great to visit at any time of year.
1 GBP = 1.17 EUR
Accomodation: Dorm rooms from €16 (£14). Private rooms from €23 (£20).
Getting around: ParisVisite tickets can be used on the Metro and bus networks, the city’s trams, and SNCF trains.
Visas: South Africans need
a Schengen visa. Australians and New Zealanders don’t need a visa.