Paris—City of Enchantment and Light

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Population:2,193,031
Language:French
Currency:Euro.

DOWNTIME

Exceptionally beautiful, Paris stands as one of the world’s most fascinating and dynamic cities, with cultural and entertainment attractions catering to every taste.


Paris needs no introduction—it is the "City of Love," known to all by the romance of its iconic landmarks, stunning vistas, and wide boulevards. Also known as "City of Light" or "la Ville Lumière," Paris is famous for being a center of education and ideas during the Age of Enlightenment. Its spirit is captured in the paintings of the Impressionists.

The capital and largest city in France, Paris is situated on the river Seine, at the heart of the Île-de-France region in the north. With very few high-rise buildings, the quartiers making up the center of the city resemble a group of villages. The typical western European climate means that summer days are usually warm and pleasant with a fair amount of sunshine, though most agree that Paris is captivating at any time of year.

Many are familiar with the elegant, sweeping architecture that dates to the redesign of much of Paris in the 19th Century. However, single-occupant dwellings contribute to more than half the total number of households in central Paris. As a result, communal spaces such as parks, cafés, and restaurants provide living, dining, and garden space for many Parisians. Most Parisians shop at a series of small neighborhood shops, each with its own specialty—an important ritual of daily life. Narrow backstreets meander to the heart of the city, filled with the aroma of those Parisian staples, baguettes and coffee, wafting from corner cafés.

The city is nestled among several prominent hills, of which the highest is Montmartre to the north, standing 130 meters high. Montmartre is home to one of the best-known sights of the city—the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur sits at its summit. The surrounding district takes its name from the hill and is famous for the many artists who had studios or worked around the Montmartre community, such as Dalí, Modigliani, Monet, Picasso, and van Gogh. Today, the Place du Tertre is a tourist attraction where these famous artists set up their easels in days gone by, now the domain of portrait painters touting for business.

Parisians are known as enthusiastic gourmands and the city’s restaurants are world-renowned for their unparalleled quality and variety. Paris is famous for the combination of entertainment and gastronomy that be found at the traditional cabaret supper clubs, the best-known of which is Le Lapin Agile, dating back almost 150 years and where locals and visitors still go today to dine and sing together.

This is a city with perhaps more familiar landmarks than any other in the world. It goes without saying that the dual spires of Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower spring into view unexpectedly as residents and travelers navigate a street corner. There is no better way to appreciate a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city’s winding streets from above than from the Eiffel Tower, preferably at nightfall.

With street names such as square Charles Dickens, avenue Marcel Proust, and rue Balzac, it is clear that literature is at the heart of Paris and is very important to its residents. The city is filled with quirky and atmospheric bookshops such as Shakespeare and Co., which run literary events throughout the year. The bouqiniste stalls lining the banks of the Seine sell secondhand and rare books, magazines, and postcards, and browsing and bartering for these is a part of Parisian life. Literature lovers can tip their hats to Oscar Wilde and other departed writers at the city’s famous cemeteries. Cimetière du Père-Lachaise is one of the most fascinating of these, with maps directing visitors to Wilde’s lipstick-covered tomb and those of other legendary Paris residents, such as Édith Piaf and Jim Morrison.

Of course, Paris is synonymous with fashion, having given birth to the enduring Chanel brand, and it is often cited as the fashion capital of the world. Whether via the opera or more recently, French cinema, fashion has always been an integral part of the culture. Avenue Montaigne, continuing the tradition of streets named for writers, honors Michel de Montaigne, a writer of the French Renaissance. It is home to several established fashion houses, most notably such famous and established luxury brands as Gucci, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, and Bottega Veneta.

Paris museums are widely held to be among the best in the world, encompassing wide-ranging genres. The traditional Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world, exhibiting art and decorative objects dating from prehistory to the 19th Century in the grand surroundings of the former Palais du Louvre. The Musée d'Orsay, housed in a former railway station, the Gare d'Orsay, exhibits Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in a stunning environment. For fans of modern art and architecture, the Centre Georges Pompidou shows modern art in a post-modern steel structure designed by the architectural team of Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano, and Gianfranco Franchini.

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