The modern metropolis is home to countless activities for lovers. If you are not coming with the love of your life, you may meet her or him in the romantic city of love. Spend the day exploring the Louvre, meandering the cobblestone streets of Montmartre, and taking in the views from the Sacre Coeur, popping into boulangerie after boulangerie for buttery pastries, or walking hand-in-hand through the manicured Tuileries Gardens – it’s all romantic. The ultimate Parisian couple’s activity? A simple, but très chic picnic for two along the Seine, sharing a bottle of wine, a fresh baguette, and brie.
Long considered the paragon of style, Paris is perhaps the most glamorous city in Europe. It is at once deeply traditional – a village-like metropolis whose inhabitants continue to be notorious for their hauteur – and famously cosmopolitan. The city’s reputation as a magnet for writers, artists and ‘dissidents’ lives on, and it remains at the forefront of Western intellectual, artistic and literary life. The most tangible and immediate pleasures of Paris are found in its street life and along the banks and bridges of the River Seine. Cafés, bars and restaurants line every street and boulevard, and the city’s compactness makes it possible to experience the individual feel of the different quartiers.
There is a sense that people in Paris really know how to live life…lunch is never rushed, the local hairdresser is eternally busy, and there is always time for one more glass of red. French cuisine is famous all around the world, and Paris is the epicenter of the art of gastronomy. Everything revolves around food in Paris, you can eat in 3-star Michelin luxury at ‘Guy Savoy’, just off the Arc de Triomphe, or sit down over a steaming hot bowl of bouillabaisse on Rue de Seine and comfortably claim to have eaten the finest food of your life. Whether it is a local bistro, a snack at the food truck, or renowned restaurant, eating is serious business and something to be savored, no matter what time of day.
In terms of where to go in Paris, the city is easy to navigate, even on foot, from the calm, almost small-town atmosphere of Montmartre, and parts of the Quartier Latin to the busy commercial centers of the Grands Boulevards and Opéra Garnier, or the aristocratic mansions of the Marais. The city’s lack of open space is redeemed by unexpected havens like the Mosque and the Place des Vosges, and courtyards and gardens of grand houses like the Hôtel de Soubise. The graveled paths and formal beauty of the Tuileries create the backdrop for the ultimate Parisian Sunday promenade, while the islands and quaysides of the Left and Right banks of the River Seine and the Quartier Latin’s two splendid parks, the Luxembourg and the Jardin des Plantes, make for a wonderful stroll.
Paris’s architectural spirit resides in the elegant streets and boulevards, created in the 19th century under Baron Haussmann. The mansion blocks that line them are at once grand and perfectly human in scale, a triumph in city planning, proved by the fact that so many remain residential to this day. Rising above these harmonious buildings are the more sophisticated monuments that define the French capital. For centuries, an imposing classical style prevailed with great set pieces, such as the Louvre, Panthéon, and Arc de Triomphe. Over the past hundred years or so, this architectural style has repeatedly been broken with a succession of ambitious structures, the industrial chic of the Eiffel Tower and the Centre Pompidou contrasting with the almost spiritual glasswork of the Louvre Pyramid.
When the Centre Pompidou opened in 1977, it was a radical (and controversial) design for a museum—all industrial pipes and open glass views of Paris. Forty years later, it’s the undisputed ‘Grande Dame’ of Paris’s contemporary art world. Within the massive, 100,000-piece collection, you’ll find everything from Picassos to video installations. The ‘Philharmonie de Paris’ is another striking contemporary building, designed by Jean Nouvel (not without controversy) and opened in 2015. Located within the Cité de la Musique complex in the Parc de la Villette, in the underexplored 19th arrondissement, the building breaks with all the design conventions of traditional symphony halls, instead favoring pod-like boxes inside the theater, a stage in the round, and a complex, undulating metal façade.
If museums are your love, then Paris is the city for you – with a whopping 153 to explore. The Museé d’Orsay, the Louvre, l’Orangerie, Centre Pompidou – some of the most famous art and historical museums are right in the heart of the city. The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world, counting more than eight million visitors in 2017. The former royal palace is now the magnificent home of some of the world’s most iconic artworks. Walking through the halls where Louis XIV once strolled (he lived here before moving to Versailles), surrounded by the most famous art on earth, is an overwhelming experience.
But there is more to the museums and culture scene in Paris than the Mona Lisa. The Museé Carnavalet offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of Paris as a city. You can get right up close to ‘The Thinker’ and ‘The Gates of Hell’ at Rodin’s sculpture garden, and wind your way through the bone cluttered tunnels of ‘The Catacombs’. Locals and those in the know wait for the first Sunday of the month, when many museums offer free admissions.
Literature buffs will find a city steeped in writing. Sink a beer at ‘Les Deux Magots’, the café loved and frequented by Hemingway, Sartre, Joyce, and Brecht, and shop for the finest English language books at ‘Shakespeare and Company’. The original closed during WWII, but this 1960’s recreation remains of Paris’ finest institutions for those, who value words highly.
Typical Parisian cafés are another thing people love about Paris. You may complain about the expensive price and the ridiculously small amount of coffee in your cup, but cafés are a must-do in Paris. Here, you’ll be able to discuss world issues, get into a thrilling debate about French wines, catch up with friends, and most importantly, enjoy watching people in the street. A full Parisian experience!
When to Go?
Paris has an oceanic climate, characterized by warm summers and cold winters, but without extreme temperatures thanks to the North Atlantic current. In other words, there is really no bad time to visit one of the world’s great cities.
The best time to visit Paris is in spring (March – May). In April, temperatures typically hover around 52 F, and cherry blossoms are blooming. The pavement terraces start to fill up as the days get warmer.
Summer (June – August) offers lovely summer temperatures. This is also high season, and visiting during this time, you will be sharing the city with thousands of other tourists. Many locals leave Paris in August.
Fall (September – November) is a good time to visit, as there are less crowds, the locals are back with renewed vigor from their summer vacations, and the parks are resplendent is fall colors. It’s still warm enough to sit at a pavement terrace café, sipping coffee and feeling like a Parisian, rather than a tourist.
Winter (December – February) can be cold with temperatures averaging 41 F, but snow is a rarity. There are a few Christmas Markets bringing festive cheer in December.
Best of All?
AirlinePros partner XL Airways offers extremely affordable rates to Paris – the 2018 TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice No. 1 Destination in Europe! Seasonal non-stop flights to Paris CDG are available from New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and Miami (MIA).