Discover a whole new world...in the Old World.
Paris is like a canvas that an artist has been painting for 2,000 years, blending the old with the new, the serene with the glamorous. Grand palaces, heroic and tragic figures, creative geniuses, and even legendary cuisine all have their place in the masterpiece that is this city. Artists like Mozart, Monet, and Hemingway have flocked to it for centuries seeking inspiration. The on-going courtship between past, present, and future creates vistas of ancient monuments rising up next to chic boutiques launching the haute new trends. Museums overflowing with treasures share plazas with unknown artists, exhibiting their creations on makeshift stands.
As the paradigm of high style, this is perhaps the most tantalizing city in Europe, yet it is deeply rooted in traditional village life. Nowadays, some of the most palpable pleasures of Paris are foundin the daily street life and along the spirited banks of the River Seine. Fortunately, the city is so clearly laid out that you can easily discover the different personalities of each section - the arrondissements - as you saunter around at your own pace. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris." The smart ones don't wait around 'til then!
Whether you are a newcomer or already familiar with Paris, everyone falls in love with the city, with over 2,000 monuments, museums, theatres and cinemas. Some are among the most visited and recognizable sites in the world - the Eiffel Tower, the Arc D'Triumphe, the Cathedral at Notre Dame - evoking the passion and romance of France. Paris, however, is not just a historical city. Its charming riverbanks and neighborhoods are an invitation to stroll and sightsee.
By day or by night, from Belleville to the Marais, from the Butte aux Cailles to Montmartre, soak up the special ambience of these quarters to grasp the true "spirit" of the city and be carried away by its energy and vitality.
The fashion capital of the world, Paris is home to some of the best couture shopping on Earth. House of Chanel, Yves St Laurent, and Jean-Paul Gaultier all operate within the city. Paris also has its share of quaint markets, little wineries and charming boutiques.
Parisian restaurants, ambassadors of good taste, offer up an endless range of flavors: tasty country dishes, regional specialties, lush desserts. Restaurants, brasseries, tea-rooms, patisseries, and open-air cafés invite gourmets from all over the world to a true culinary feast.
Art in Paris is more than the Louvre, home to one of the world's largest collections. Visit remains of the old Roman Lutetia, grand medieval abbeys, gothic masterpieces, and collections from Napoleonic times. Discover renowned collections of paintings and sculpture, go in search of iconic emblems - all this makes Paris a capital of the arts, both past and present.
What To Do & See
City Tour: Start by acquiring a guided understanding of Paris' layout. This "getting to know Paris" excursion also treats you to a "primer" glimpse at many sights like Napoleon's Arc de Triomphe, and helps you decide which you would most like to explore in depth.
Museums: Paris houses many of the most poignant, famous, and priceless masterpieces ever created by the hand of man. Large and small, modern and historic, there are more than you could possibly visit in one trip, but the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay should be explored straight away.
The Louvre: opened to the public during the Revolution in 1793, was turned by Napoleon into the largest art collection on Earth within a decade. Filled with the booty from his new empire, and growing ever since, the collection is numbingly vast. You'll need heroic stamina to journey through the over 300,000 works of art on display, including the Mona Lisa.
The Musée d'Orsay: was transformed from a luminous train station into one of the greatest museums in the world. It is devoted exclusively to 19th-century art and contains paintings by most of the French Impressionists, as well as thousands of sculptures and objêts d'art.
Sightseeing Cruise on the Seine: An elegant way to see Paris, with the all-encompassing view afforded by distance, and the chance to relax in the fresh air and soft breezes. Expert narrators share their knowledge of the landmarks, and snacks or dinner are served.
Cathédrale de Notre-Dame: The stupendous 12th-century cathedral stands on the Île de la Cité, where Paris was born. It is so central to the psyche of the city that distances from Paris to other places are measured from the "0 kilometer" plaque in front of the cathedral. Intricate architectural detail, spires, ancient stained glass, sculpture, pillars, and the choir give the cathedral its physical magnificence. The most striking aspect of the cathedral as a whole, however, is the dramatic contrast of light and darkness created by the sun's rays streaming through the enormous glass transepts. Excavations revealed what is now known as the Crypt, containing 3rd-century Gallo-Roman, late Roman, and medieval ruins of streets and homes, making it the largest archaeological crypt in Europe.
Eiffel Tower: The most recognized structure in the world was never meant to be permanent! Designer Gustave Eiffel (also the designer of the Statue of Liberty) was harangued by skeptics who said it was an engineering impossibility, by anti-modernists who despised it, and by naturalists who feared its interference with avian flight corridors. It narrowly escaped destruction in the 1890s when the government found use for it by installing antennae on it, ushering in wireless communication for the city. In time, it became a beloved symbol of the city. The view from the 3rd floor is a favorite.
Castles of the Loire Valley: Castle-hopping is one of France's most enjoyable adventures, however, there is such a great density of them that it's best to choose a few like the Chambord or Chenonceaux to focus on. Chenonceaux straddles the Loire and is likely the finest of all the castles in the region, built in 1520 as the home of King Henry II's lover, Diane de Poitiers. Unlike other velvet-roped historic sites with limited access, here you are allowed to roam freely to observe the many priceless tapestries, paintings, and furniture.
Normandy Landing Beaches: Visit the spot where the faltering fate of the World War II Allies turned on a dime into impending victory at the cost of countless courageous lives. For the United States, Normandy proved to be an inauguration of military responsibility in the world. Before 1945 was over, the US was established as the most powerful country the world had ever known and, moreover, a power dedicated to the maintenance of the peace it had won.
Basilique du Sacré-Coeur: Like the Eiffel Tower, this too has been a controversial structure prompting many criticisms, including writer Emile Zola's denunciation of it as "the basilica of the ridiculous." Gleaming white domes and the campanile (bell tower) rise high over Paris and offer fabulous views. Mosaics decorate the inner walls, and the stained glass windows are replacements for the originals shattered during the Nazi invasion. The basilica derives its name from a relic in the church's crypt, which the devout believe is Christ's sacred heart (sacré coeur).
Catacombs: Millions of bones were transferred here at the end of the 1700s because their previous resting place - the Cimetiere des Innocents - had become overcrowded. It was the headquarters of the French Resistance, and the Nazis never discovered their secret.
Visit the "Dead But Never Forgotten": At the most famous cemetery in Europe, Père-Lachaise, chances are good you'll find one of your favorite artists, with the "resident" roster including such names as Gertrude Stein, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Alice B. Toklas, Abélard and Hélöise, and Marcel Proust. After paying tribute to these souls, may they rest in peace, explore the many fascinating ambient factors like the eerie, elaborate, and often bizarre tombs. There are remarkable views from this 200-year-old cemetery, which occupies a sloped hill in Ménilmontant.
Jardin des Tuileries: Flanked by the Louvre, the Seine, Place de la Concorde, and the rue de Rivoli, this is a superior spot to rest between sightseeing jaunts. The Jardin is a stunning example of French formal gardens, symmetrical and manicured with terraces and pools, designed for Louis XIV in the 1600s. Another gorgeous spot in downtown Paris is the Luxumbourg Gardens, the beautiful grounds in front of the French Senate.
A listed masterpiece of the XIXth century, the Hotel Concorde Saint Lazare welcomes you to a unique atmosphere.
In the centre of lively Montparnasse, just a few minutes away from the Eiffel Tower, Saint-Germain-des-Près and the Luxembourg.
The Hôtel de Crillon is situated in the centre of Paris - on Place de la Concorde, close to the American embassy.