Paris is an exquisite city – the kind of place clichés were made for. Visitors are captivated by its creative trendsetters, sophisticated style, elegant architecture, world-class museums and exceptional cuisine. It’s a destination for the romantics and the philosophers, the foodies and the fashionable, the tourists and the tastemakers. It’s easy to fall in love with the City of Love.
The beloved French capital has a strength and spirit that cannot be extinguished.
This weekend Paris suffered a terrible tragedy. The city is reeling, and the rest of the world with it, but beneath the turmoil and heartbreak is a light Paris will never lose. The beloved French capital has a strength and spirit that cannot be extinguished.
Paris will continue to be a centre of cosmopolitan grandeur – beautiful, fashionable, confident and awe-inspiring at every turn. Should you be lucky enough to visit, even for only 48 hours, here’s a snapshot of what awaits in the City of Lights – the best places in Paris to explore and visit.
For The First-Timer
Welcome to Paris. Prepare yourself for two magical days in one of the world’s most remarkable cities. But first, face facts: you’re a tourist. Your 48 hours will be heavy on historic monuments and must-see sights. The city’s underground charms will wait for another visit, while you glut yourself on croissants and museums and selfies by the Seine.
You can already list the stops on a first-timer’s to do list by heart. There’s Notre Dame, the splendid cathedral that functions as both the geographical and spiritual heart of Paris. There’s the Arc du Triomphe, centre of a vast traffic circle at the head of the Champs-Elysées. There’s the Louvre, the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Moulin Rouge. And of course, there’s the Eiffel Tower – a landmark Parisians once disdainfully called “the metal asparagus,” now one of the most recognisable structures in the world and an iconic symbol of France.
For The Foodie
French cuisine is lauded the world over as some of the finest. Each neighbourhood in Paris presents a wealth of culinary treasures, from small-time local cheese shops to Michelin starred marvels. Experiencing all of the city’s edible enchantments wouldn’t be possible in a lifetime, much less 48 hours, so choose your degustatory destinations wisely.
For breakfast, do as the Parisians do. Keep it light – a croissant, a baguette or something sweet from a patisserie. After breakfast, all bets are off. Sample everything your waistband will allow. Coq au vin, bœuf bourguignon and ratatouille are traditional French dishes that epitomize the country’s cooking. Try fois gras, escargots, French onion soup or a croque monsieur before your meal. For dessert, sink your teeth into Paris’ laundry list of sugary confections, like macarons, eclairs, crepes, crème brûlée, mousse au chocolat and the impossibly delicate mille-feuille pastry.
For The Fashion Plate
We don’t need to tell you that Paris is a fashion captial – perhaps the fashion capital – of the world. The city is home to renowned designers, unique boutiques, flea markets, vintage shops, department stores and old-fashioned covered passages boasting more unusual wares. This is shopping like you’ve never seen before, and like no other city can match.
There’s something for everyone in Paris. Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps are the city’s two grand department stores. Head to the Avenue Montaigne for haute-couture, or the Rue St. Honoré for trendsetting concept shop Colette. Galerie Vivienne is a traditional 19th century mall filled with chic boutiques. Wander the Marais for vintage and visit the Marché aux Puces for next-level flea market purchases.
The Père Lachaise cemetery is the final resting place of a host of famous figures, including Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Marcel Proust.
For The Romantic
Paris isn’t called the City of Love for nothing. There’s no escaping romance in the 20 arrondissements. From candlelit wine bars, to couples picnicking in manicured parks, to champagne cruises down the Seine, l’amour permeates every part of Paris. Fanning the flames of love is an inevitability in a city that seems designed solely for the purpose.
Almost anything is romantic with the Eiffel Tower in the background, but there are some stand-outs. Indulge in a baguette and brie on the Champs de Mars. Take in the view from the Montparnasse Tower. Hire a row boat on the Grand Canal at Versailles. Watch the sun set over the city from Sacré-Cœur. Share an ice cream from Berthillon. Nosh on aphrodesiac oysters in a classic brasserie. Explore the city from the back of a scooter. Skip the love locks on the Pont des Arts.
For The History Buff
Paris has a dizzying history that stretches back to the 3rd century BC. From Roman-era ruins to World War II memorials, the city is bursting with famous sites and monuments. A tour of Paris’ historic spots is essential to understanding its rich and complicated past. Many options have already been mentioned, but Paris has plenty more to offer.
The Père Lachaise cemetery is the final resting place of a host of famous figures, including Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Marcel Proust. La Conciergerie is a former prison where hundreds, including Marie Antoinette, were incarcerated during the French Revolution. Les Invalides is a 17th-century hospital for soldiers that has since expanded to include several museums and monuments (as well as the remains of Napoleon Bonaparte).
Paris is home to film and music festivals, sporting events, cooking classes, theatre, and cafes formerly frequented by the likes of Sartre, Camus, Picasso and Hemingway.
For The Adventurer
Paris isn’t an obvious choice for the adventurous at heart. Those who thrive on adrenaline typically travel to more harrowing locales, but the City of Light has something to offer erudite daredevils. A trip to the Catacombs is a must for gutsy visitors. The “Empire of Death” holds the remains of around six million people, artfully arranged into walls of neatly stacked bones and skulls.
If wandering through the world’s largest grave isn’t your cup of tea, there are other ways to get your blood pumping in Paris. Take the plunge at Aerokart, an indoor wind tunnel that simulates the experience of jumping out of a airplane. Dine in total darkness at Dans Le Noir. Discover the waterfall at Paris’ most exotic park, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, and the secret vineyard a few minutes away.
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For The Culture Vulture
List the world’s most cultured cities and Paris is bound to make an appearance. Art lovers will find more than enough museums and galleries to fill 48 hours. The Paris Opera is a world-renowned stage for the fine arts. Paris is home to film and music festivals, sporting events, cooking classes, theatre, and cafes formerly frequented by the likes of Sartre, Camus, Picasso and Hemingway.
But lets go back to the art. Paris’ museums are amongst the most esteemed in the world, and it’s easy to see why. The Louvre is the planet’s most visited art museum, and could easily take up an entire weekend by itself. You’ll find the impressionists at the Musée d’Orsay and more recent works at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in the Centre Pompidou. Other favourites include Palais de Tokyo, the Musée Rodin and the Musée de l’Orangerie.
Not an art fan? Paris is still the place to be. The city hosts dozens of smaller museums, some of which are charmingly eccentric or unusual in their subject matter. Try the Museum of Nature and Hunting, the Museum of Magic or the Museum of Counterfeiting.
Paris is both beauty and brains. The city is undeniably gorgeous, but its cultural riches are equally unsurpassed. Whether you opt to explore the historic, the stylish, the bourgeois or the bohemian sides of the city, one thing is certain: the City of Light will always enchant.