Featuring magnificent architecture, a world-leading art scene and postcard-worthy street scenes at almost every turn, there is no city on earth that epitomises chic style and historic glamour quite like Paris does.
Having been considered as the European centre of fashion, art and design for so many generations, it's not surprising that Paris draws so many visitors every year. It's also not difficult to see why the city remains synonymous with sophistication. Whether you're wandering through its boulevards, exploring its museums or sipping on a glass of wine at a local bar, it's impossible to not be impressed by the dazzling surroundings. Indeed, even the local cemeteries have become a popular stop on many Paris tours, showcasing the elegance and grandeur that the city is famous for. Naturally, there is much more to the city than glamour. Paris holidays provide a fantastic wealth of fascinating things to do and see, whatever your interests.
Paris was founded some time during the third century BC, by a Celtic tribe named the Parisii. The city is thought to have originated on today's Île de la Cité, a natural island on the river Seine that sits right at the heart of what we now call Paris. It wasn't until that settlement, then named Lutetia, was conquered by the Romans two centuries later that the city spread out and the foundations were laid for today's metropolis. In more recent years, the city has been a draw for artists, writers, and musicians, and it has retained much of its cool and bohemian atmosphere, with new galleries, independent shops and quirky coffee shops arriving all the time.
The city is happily compact, making it very viable to see the highlights even on short Paris trips. There are a number of neighbourhoods to explore, each with their own charm and distinct atmosphere. In Marais you'll find trendy bars, shops and restaurants, as well as the oldest square in Paris, while Montmartre retains its long standing status as the city's bohemian hub. Bastille has been transformed in recent years, and is now one of the most fashionable districts in Paris, and the 12th arrondissement is the place to go for the most authentic slice of everyday local life, complete with pleasant little cafes and traditional markets.
When it comes to sights and attractions, one of the biggest draws for most Paris holidays is the vast array of enchanting architecture on display throughout the city. Whether you're exploring church interiors or simply strolling through the streets with a coffee in hand, you'll find plenty of incredible scenery to keep your camera busy. Of course, when it comes to Parisian architecture, the first stop on visitors' itineraries is the Eiffel Tower. Take in the sprawling views of the city from the third visitor platform, 900 feet above street level, or stick to taking photos of the magnificent structure itself; either way it's a staple for all Paris trips. Another iconic monument, the Arc de Triomphe is certainly photo-worthy, and makes for a nice stroll along the ever-elegant Champs-Élysées boulevard.
The city's churches provide some of the most spectacular sights. From the world-famous Notre-Dame to the Sainte-Chapelle, a gothic cathedral complete with breathtaking stained glass, their captivating interiors are almost unparalleled. Sacré-Cœur Basilica is another must-do. This Roman Catholic church, constructed in 1919, features a stunning mosaic above its altar and also offers superb views over Montmartre and beyond. This exceptional level of design isn't just confined to the city's religious buildings, with one of the best examples being the astounding 19th-century Opéra Garnier theatre, complete with velvet, gilding, and a sensational chandelier. Elsewhere, the palace of Versailles is unbeaten in opulence, and makes a wonderful afternoon away from the city, with a Hall of Mirrors, Queen's Playground and beautiful gardens all in need of being explored. If history is of particular interest, the Army Museum, home to the rather imposing Napoleon's Tomb is sure to captivate, as is the Jewish Art and History Museum.
Of course, for those with a penchant for art, Paris is something of a paradise. Having been the birthplace of some of the most revered talents, it's no surprise that the city is home to such an exceptional variety of world-class galleries. Most Paris tours include a visit to the Louvre, and the Musée d’Orsay, with a superb array of impressionist pieces, is another important destination for art lovers. The Centre Pompidou, meanwhile, houses a fine collection of contemporary art, and the Musée Rodin provides the chance to see some of the eponymous sculptor's best works in a serene garden setting. Once you've had your fill of history and culture, the city provides plenty in the way of tempting shopping experiences. From iconic designer stores and chic boutiques to quirky independent shops and flea markets, souvenir shopping doesn't get much better.
All Paris holidays should involve making the most of the city's extraordinary culinary scene. Whether you opt for traditional bistros or luxurious Michelin-starred restaurants, you'll find that the quality of produce on offer is fantastic. With everything from seafood eateries to hip coffee shops to take advantage of, the only problem is finding time to refuel amid seeing all of the city's exceptional sights. If you consider yourself a particular foodie, you'll find whole itineraries for Paris tours based solely around exploring the city's eateries. From cheese shops and wine cellars to bakeries and, of course, patisseries, you'll find plenty of opportunities to sample the local flavours.
When it comes to local dishes to try, there is a wide variety to tempt your taste buds with. After starting the day with a warm butter croissant, a lunch of onion soup or snails stuffed with butter and garlic is sure to do the trick. Steak tartare is also popular among locals. This dish of seasoned raw ground beef with an egg yolk on top is served at many of the city's classic bistros. Paris trips also would not be complete without enjoying at least one macaron. With a light and crisp meringue shell and a chewy moist interior, they're a perfect sweet treat when you need a little sugar hit.
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