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Vacationing in the City of Love eh? We’re envious – a trip to Paris for any reason is always a pleasure. The capital of France, it’s home to 2.16 million souls and has been one of the world’s most important hubs for culture, cuisine, couture and commerce for centuries. Also known as the City of Light because of its luminaries in art and science (as well as its early adoption of street lighting), it’s a metropolis which exists not just in physical form, but also as a motif for civilization in the collective consciousness of the western world.
Despite its size, once you start to explore Paris, you might find it surprisingly manageable – its 20 arrondissements (administrative areas) make it feel more like a collection of large villages or small towns than a sprawling megalopolis. And although you’ll see some contemporary buildings, a stringent city planning regime means that there’s no area where sprawling skyscrapers or other forms of polarizing contemporary architecture spoil the ambience (or view). Highlights here include the Eiffel Tower (one high-rise that’s embraced), Champs-Elysees, Centre Pompidou (did you know it was the inspiration for Nike’s Air Max1 sneakers?), and Notre Dame cathedral.
Rent a car in Paris and you can explore the surrounding countryside, historic towns and more. Paris car rental is easy with Enjoy Travel – pop your dates and details in soon to get excellent early bird deals.
Guide of Paris
Paris has been a settlement for a long time. In fact, it was first settled back in 259 BC by a Celtic tribe called the Parisii and existed as a reasonably low-key fishing village on the banks of the Seine until it was captured by the Romans in 52BC. Originally called Lutetia, it didn’t change its name to Paris until the 4th century and it was taken over by the Franks in 508AD and the Capetian dynasty in 987AD. Skip forward a few centuries and by 1530AD, Paris was the largest city in Western Europe, it was central to the French Revolution in 1789, with the storming of the Bastille still celebrated annually on Bastille Day (14th July). Napoleon ruled the roost from 1799 until his exile after Waterloo, and it flourished as a global cultural center from the construction of the Eiffel Tower in 1889 to the present day.
Next to London, Paris is the second-most popular place to visit in Europe and that’s thanks in no small part to it being a cultural powerhouse. With leafy boulevards, expansive city squares, iconic monuments by the dozen and characteristic, blue-roofed buildings, the city is a visual delight that stimulates the senses and fires the creative imagination. Parisians are effortlessly stylish, so if you want to blend in as you stroll around, stick to a subtle, smart-casual style with plenty of nonchalance. The ancient Marais area is full of museums, green spaces and good places to stay, while visiting Montmartre during the day means you can see the stunning Sacre Coeur church and enjoy a beautiful view of the city from its hilltop perch.
Away from the most popular tourist sites, there’s an off the beaten track side to Paris which makes visiting an even richer experience for visitors. For starters, if you’re a fan of 60s rock music, you might like to visit Pere Lachaise cemetery to pay homage to Jim Morrison – the lead singer of The Doors is buried there, and his grave has become a shrine. Meanwhile, the Museum of Paleontology and Anatomy is another interesting (if rather gruesome) place to visit, which is packed with skeletons and various other unusual exhibits. And although there’s no argument that The Louvre is the finest art museum in Paris (if not the world), the Centre for Contemporary Arab Culture is a lovely counterpoint which showcases beautiful art and artefacts from a different tradition.
Things To Do in Paris
There are more iconic sights in and around Paris than you can shake a baguette at. The Eiffel Tower still claims its place as the city’s main architectural motif and it’s still very impressive – originally opened in 1889, a glass floor was added in 2014 – walk across it if you dare! Alternatively, Chateau de Versailles is a manageable drive outside Paris and it’s still a mind-blowingly plush mansion set in outrageously expansive grounds. For something a bit different, try Les Catacombes – a labyrinthine network of tunnels containing the bones of some six million souls – including those of Robespierre. And don’t forget the Arc de Triomphe – completed in 1836, this is still the word’s foremost war memorial.
Turns out there’s lots to do with Paris if you’ve got kids in tow. One lovely outdoor spot is Parc des Buttes-Chaumont – with its hilltop gazebo, pounding waterfall, suspension bridge and donkey rides, there’s definitely enough to keep youngsters occupied for an afternoon. Or, for a walk on the wild side, stroll over to Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes to check out apes, red pandas, and big cats. And if your kids are creative (or you’d like to fan their arty flames), then L’Atelier des Lumieres is worth a visit. This 300 square meter studio housed in a former iron foundry is a cutting-edge digital art center which showcases the work of icons like Van Gogh and Klimt in spectacular, interactive style.
Paris looks even more charming as night falls – with the Champs Elysees transforming into the avenue of rubies and diamonds (thanks to vehicle head and taillights) and every other prominent structure sparkling with an otherworldly sheen. Moulin Rouge and the Crazy Horse are top spots for bawdy burlesque and Can Can, while Oberkampf has been a top nightspot since the 90s and Au Chat Noir at Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud is a quirky cocktail café for cool kids. If you like Indie Rock, make a beeline for Pop In at Rue Amelot – its three floors comprise a piano lounge, bar and basement dance cave.
Eating Out in Paris
If fine dining floats your boat, you’re in for a fantastic time in Paris – this culinary city is illuminated by a constellation of Michelin stars. Restaurant Guy Savoy is a friendly, welcoming establishment where you can sample a French gourmet lunch and the signature artichoke soup with black truffle shavings. Alternatively, Pavillion Ledoyen first opened its doors in 1792 and was the first-choice hangout of the Belle Epoque beautiful people – expect sumptuous surroundings and traditional French food with a contemporary twist.
As you might expect, French streetfood is on a whole different level. At La Baguette du Relais in Marais, the steak sandwiches with secret sauce are jaw-droppingly good, while Creperie de St Germain near Eglise St-Germain serves its trademark thin pancakes with panache (as well as toppings like chestnut cream and chocolate spread). Another excellent option if you’ve got a sweet tooth is Tapisserie – located between Champs Elysees and Grands Boulevards, it serves mouth-watering macarons, fruit flans and more.
If you’ve got an international palate, you won’t be disappointed in Paris. Churrasqueria Galo for instance, specializes in Portuguese specialties, Saravana Bhavan in Little India serves spectacular Indian vegetarian food, and Mazeh features rich Iranian stews. Furthermore, if you want to prepare your own meals, there are several markets where you can pick up fresh, colorful ingredients from diverse cultures. For example, Marche de Dejean is the place to pick up Afro-Caribbean foods like okra and yam, Rungis International Market is the largest fresh produce market on Earth, and Saint-Denis market has delicacies from all over the world.
The two main airports in Paris are Charles de Gaulle (to the northeast) and Orly (to the south) and there’s also a third airport, Beauvais, located further north – this is mainly used by budget carriers. You can easily rent a car for the main airports in Paris right here at Enjoy Travel and hop behind the wheel when you land.
The Public Transport network in Paris comprises the Metro (subway), RER train and tramway. The network covers the whole city and is fairly reliable.
Remember to drive on the right in Paris and remember that there are many pedestrianized zones in the city. Renting a car in Paris really comes into its own when you strike out from the city and explore the stunning surrounding countryside.
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