Oodles of reasons to love it.
So many reasons, in fact, that it sometimes feels overwhelming.
Traveling is serious business.
You worry about finding "the right stuff"
as you tackle a litany of "must" do's.
Trying to muddle our way through a topsy-turvy schedule
is not my idea of entertainment.
My aim is to help restore a little sanity and imagination to your Paris itinerary.
IT'S TIME TO PLAY.
No need to throw out the guide book, just look at the map in a different way.
Instead of staring down individual monuments and tourist sites,
I encourage you to formulate your plan by looking at the city's
twenty individual arrondissements as separate entities.
Spend a little time developing a blueprint to find something of interest in each.
It's a good way to look at Paris, an approach that will help
acquaint you with each neighborhood personally.
After all, the best way to learn a city is to uncover its unique characteristics,
often hiding in plain sight just around the corner from the top monuments.
From the 1st through the 20th, each district offers treasures that will
stir your emotions and make you more of a Paris insider.
Of course, you'll want to see the biggies -- the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, etc.
But if you step on the gas and investigate a few offbeat options too,
before long you'll develop the confidence to break out of the ordinary.
No need to drive yourself crazy looking for greener pastures when you start
each day in neighborhoods brimming with your handpicked activities.
Whatever you're looking for -- be it upscale & refined, family friendly,
colorful, edgy, romantic, hip, charmingly sleepy -- or all of the above -- in
no time, you'll find exactly what puts a smile on your face.
Here are some of my favorite sights including a few off-the-cuff
ideas to make your Paris experience more balanced and original.
Don't even try to work all twenty arrondissements into your schedule.
Keep it real and keep it flexible.
Without even trying, you'll find the magic.
In no time at all, you'll be a Paris genius.
From the Tuileries and the Louvre to the gorgeous Palais Royal,
this neighborhood has too many imperial splendors to count.
With an abundance of museums -- l'Orangerie, Musée de la Mode et du Textile,
for starters; churches -- Sainte-Chapelle and Eglise Saint-Eustache;
and shopping -- jewels fit for a queen on Place Vendome -- the magic
of the 1st would take an entire week to fully digest.
So do yourself a favor.
Take a break and dive head-first into the culinary arts.
After all, this is Paris.
E. Dehillerin, arguably the most famous copper cookware shop in the world,
has been serving up cooking expertise in Paris for nearly 200 years.
With fans like Julia Child and Joel Robuchon, you have to believe
Sunday supper will taste a bit finer if you make a stop here.
This is where you'll find just about anything your little heart has ever desired
for that gastronomic kitchen of yours back home.
"Paris is the greatest temple ever built to the material joys and lust of the eyes."
Henry James, American Writer
a neighborhood custom made for giving your brain a little break.
Sure, it's an elite address.
Here stands The Bourse (stock exchange) as well as the historic Bibliotheque Nationale de France, but let's take a little time off from the rich and the powerful.
It's time to relax.
It's time to eat, drink & be merry.
After so much glitz and glamour, you'll be glad Marie Antoinette
gave a thumbs up to "let them eat cake."
Because that's exactly what you'll do when you stroll down rue Montorgeuil,
the enchanting market street just behind Eglise Saint-Eustache.
You won't find the blue-blooded monarchs of the last neighborhood here.
Rue Montorgeuil was made for the red-blooded masses.
See, taste and smell your way through an incredible mouthwatering journey.
The 2nd, too, is where many of the covered passageways reside,
such as Galerie Vivienne -- stylish & chic -- and
Passage des Panoramas -- historic and quirky.
Paris is the place to worship at the altar of your favorite cocktail.
Harry's New York Bar on rue Danou is celebrated for inventing
several of our treasured favorites such as the Bloody Mary and the Side-Car.
Many of their past patrons are just as distinguished,
proving that a good cocktail can give you courage.
Ernest Hemingway (of course!), Humphrey Bogart and Rita Hayworth
bellied up to Harry's bar and legend has it that George Gershwin penned
"An American in Paris" underneath its emblematic ceiling.
Even James Bond (print version) learned how to drink here.
People watching is almost as much fun as traversing the actual venues
so jump right into the local scene as soon as you start your day.
Ask for "un cafe creme" at Café Ob-La-Di on rue de Saintonge
and in no time, you'll start feeling like a regular.
If you're a fan of art and history, you're in the right place.
And when you get to combine the two in one museum, it's a home run.
Musée Carnavalet does it all -- it's where Paris history is told
through a pair of connected mansions overflowing with timeless art.
Catch your breath and walk a few short blocks to Musée Picasso,
the most thrilling taste of cutting edge Paris you'll find.
Even if you think you hate Picasso, you owe it to yourself
to see this intricate collection.
You're sure to discover a few surprises as you witness the artist's
transition from traditional to the revolutionary,
dabbling in every art movement of the century.
You, too, may become a believer.
Yes, some may call the Marais a tourist trap, but you won't feel like one when you
take time out at this Paris favorite -- Jacques Genin -- on rue de Turenne.
Chocolates and caramels are laid out like jewels, the perfect take-home gift.
A cup of Genin's over-the-top hot chocolate will revive your pioneer spirit in no time.
I'll wager you'll never ever EVER want to say au revoir.....
Noble monuments and exquisite architecture
reveal why this neighborhood is so universally celebrated.
From Place des Vosges to Notre Dame, City Hall (Hotel de Ville)
and Pompidou Center, you're smack dab
in one of Paris' most historic neighborhoods.
Galleries, bars and hip design shops sit side by side with
historic synagogues and aristocratic mansions.
Intimate little parks are scattered throughout the neighborhood, colonized
by laid back locals who are the bread and butter of this remarkable setting .
The Marais will enlighten you, for sure, but even the most rabid
culture-vultures will be ready for a glass of wine at the end of the day.
The perfect place to unwind is Place du Marché St. Catherine,
the little square with the big personality.
Brandishing genuine Parisian spirit,
the charismatic piazza swims with youthful energy.
Café terraces fill up early with smiling, pretty people, so get their early.
It's a fun way to wrap up your day in the Marais and ferret out
some of that legendary Paris night magic.
Game on, party animal!
This is the world-famous Latin Quarter, the place where Paris
gets its intellectual mojo on, beginning with La Sorbonne.
There's a village-like atmosphere here, particularly following the path
from sacred St-Etienne-du-Mont to rue Mouffetard and all
the animated little streets running in between.
The site which now boasts the Musée Nationale du Moyen-Age
(nicknamed The Cluny) stands on 2nd century Roman baths.
It's breathtaking, an intriguing mix of medieval stained glass windows and exquisitely feminine tapestries (The Lady and the Unicorn).
If that's not enough, consider this latter day miracle.
In 1977, the long lost sculpted heads of the *decapitated kings of Notre Dame
were discovered and are now displayed in the museum's Gallery of Kings.
*like so many Parisians, they lost their heads during the French Revolution
Certain people & places are the stuff of legend but don't confuse that with touristy.
Make sure you stop at Shakespeare & Co.,
the immortal bookstore on rue de la Bucherie.
Take your time browsing and pick up a copy of
"Time Was Soft There" by Jeremy Mercer.
It's the story of a real writer who walked the walk at this immortal writers' refuge.
Though store owner George Whitman is no longer with us,
Mr. Mercer's tome brings his spirited "qualities" back in such a way
you'll feel like you've made a new -- and odd -- friend in Paris.
because I think it gets a rap it doesn't deserve.
Saint-Germain-des-Pres, my home-away-from-home for an
extended period of time, feels like a friend of the family.
Sometimes it gets unfairly branded as a sell-out
to gold collar stores and commercial hype.
True you'll bump into many well-heeled tourists,
but the neighborhood's charm cannot be denied.
This is no counterfeit, this is Left Bank Paris and it's worth every
little annoyance for the chance to be part of its legendary narrative.
Many of the greatest writers of the 20th century wrote in the famous
cafés of the 6th and it was here where I felt inspired enough
to test my own resolve to write a novel.
Après coffee time, you absolutely positively cannot miss the Musée d'Orsay.
It's that good. But you probably already know that.
And just as important, an unhurried walk in Luxembourg Gardens will elevate
your trip in ways I can't begin to enumerate -- especially if you're able to
come on a Sunday morning when the locals are out seizing the sun
and capturing that whole "la vie en rose" thing.....
A stroll along the little streets -- dozens of them -- each with their
own peculiar charm -- is essential to appreciating this village within a city.
Stop to read the little plaques where famous residents lived and worked.
An out-of-the-ordinary neighborhood, it's the little things that count.
Tasty macaroons from Pierre Hermé -- handmade umbrellas at Madeleine
Gely -- designer hats at Marie Mercié -- fun murals at La Palette -- and the
virtual Noah's Arc at Deyrolle -- just a few of the reasons my heart
beats faster whenever I think about this extraordinary part of Paris.
La Dernière Goutte wine shop -- galleries on rue de Seine -- antiques
on rue Jacob and rue Bonaparte -- the cour du commerce St André.....
Get out your walking shoes!
It's a dream come true.
See ya' there!
Of course, you won't want to miss Monsieur Eiffel's crowning achievement.
But the truth of the matter is you don't have to be in the neighborhood
to see la Tour Eiffel -- although it helps if you plan to climb it.
So go ahead, get your photo op and move on.
There's TOO much to do to longer too long.
And then there's my favorite, the Musée Rodin, the sensational
mansion and garden of the world's great sculptor.
Just a few blocks beyond, look for Napoleon's Tomb,
another must-see that will give you goosebumps for days.
And of course, Rick Steve's favorite market street, rue Cler.
Are you out of breath already?
Since this is starting to resemble a laundry list,
I'll just remind you to stop and smell the roses.
Some of the prettiest flower shops in Paris fill this fragrant neighborhood
including the best of the best, Moulié Fleurs, and at least a dozen others
that will make a day in the 7th feel like everything's coming up roses.
A few names to remember:
Moulié Fleurs - Place de la Bourbon
Adrienne M. on rue Saint-Dominique
Flower.fr on rue de Babylone
Bonus: All these streets are made for walking and gawking -- just gorgeous.
Footloose and fancy-free, that's you in Paris.
in the world, will bring tears to your eyes.
For me, it's the supreme symbol of Paris.
From the top of the Arc to the bottom of the Champs-Elysées,
you'll forge a path as naturally as if you were born here.
Everything seems connected, culminating at majestic Place de la Concorde.
The whole quarter bustles with commerce and hyperactive excitement.
Avenue Montaigne drips with high fashion -- Dior, Chanel, Valentino....
Even if your wallet is made for Tati, it's still fun to make the scene.
Luckily, there are several places to re-group after your date with
the busy Champs and all the grand dame fashion streets.
The 8th is a museum mecca, a soft landing
after the fast pace of the quarter's famous center.
Two of my favorites, the Petit Palais -- think Belle Epoque & Art Nouveau -- and
the Musée Jacquemart-Andre -- think mansion-museum and all things Italian.
If that's not enough to decelerate your day, unwind at Parc Monceau,
truly one of the most classically beautiful parks in Paris.
For a gourmet option, visit the food paradise on Place de la Madeleine.
Maison de la Truffe, Fauchon and Boutique Maille are just a few spots
that will whet your appetite for life's most lavish and sinful pleasures.
Is it pure animal gratification that brings us back
to this neighborhood again and again?
possibly the most splendid edifice in the city.
Go for the full tour and if possible, come back for a nighttime performance of
the Paris Opera Ballet, the oldest national ballet company in the world.
Several big Paris department stores reside in this neighborhood,
the most iconic being Galeries Lafayette.
Its stained glass dome, over 100 years old, is worth the visit alone.
There's a rooftop panoramic view of the city and a gourmet emporium
to satisfy your chocolate fix but I go for the sheer pleasure of
working my way through the fragrance section.
The staff works it to the hilt, expertly making you feel
like a movie star while you open your wallet wide.
No matter, it's interesting to discover both new and vintage scents
and really, they're worth every penny.
Men, take my word for it,
Dior's legendary Eau Sauvage will make you a hero.
The 9th is worth visiting, too, if you're a museum lover
but shy away from the gargantuan art stables.
Gustave Moreau's mansion-museum is your kind of place.
It feels like a private peek into the artist's apartment -- perfect
for off-the-grid connoisseurs like you.
that project a boatload of funky, casual fun.
Made for people watching and cafe sitting, this animated quarter
boasts an unbelievable number of wonderful places to dine.
Treat yourself to a smorgasbord of french regional specialties -- cassoulet
at Auberge des Pyrénées-Cévennes, a gastronomically perfect cheese platter
at Astier, or traditional steak-frites at Bistro Paul Bert -- fabulous!
Better yet, go to market and create your own feast.
Marché Bastille in the 11th; Marché Aligre in the 12th -- I'd rate any
experience like this in my top 10 things to do in Paris.
And to round out your exposure to all things gourmet, look for the unique
flavors at ice cream palace Raimo Glacier -- orange flower,
ginger and violet are just a few of the standards.
An important stop for American travelers in particular is the Picpus Cemetery
where french-born hero of the American Revolution, General Lafayette,
lies respectfully tended by the Daughters of the America Revolution.
The grave of America's champion includes American soil on sacred french ground.
It's tough to choose from all the entertainment choices in this
neighborhood -- the Promenade Plantée, Bercy Village, Bois de Vincennes.....
If you're having trouble deciding which to choose, maybe you should just
point your feet toward the rowdy bars of the Oberkampf neighborhood.
You can search for the legendary "green fairy" without resorting to PokemonGO.
Both absinthe lovers and virgins can agree that La Fée Verte on rue de
la Roquette is the place to find out how the potent green liquor got its nickname.
Put your mood ring on and give the Bastille/Aligre-Faubourg
Saint-Antoine neighborhoods a whirl -- and watch it turn blue for happy.
I've made some of my favorite Paris memories in the 14th arrondissement.
Learn more here: montparnasse-moves-like-jagger.html,
a blog I wrote recently about magical Montparnasse.
If that's not enough to get your motor up and running to the 14th,
here's my next best suggestion:
A teeny tiny restaurant with a pretty red facade, La Cerisaie is the place
to go if you've ever wanted to sample the cuisine of southwestern France.
Favorites like foie gras, porc noir de Bigorre (a pork specialty),
duck confit and all things Armanac are just a few of the special tastes you'll
enjoy in its simple surroundings -- just two seatings every evening.
With a daily changing blackboard menu, two servers manage the entire
space on Boulevard Edgar Quinet in the heart of the quarter.
It almost feels like family and if you have to use the "facilities",
you'll have to squeeze past the chef in the tiny kitchen's close quarters.
This is Real Paris and another reason why I love this neighborhood so much.
If you spend time here, you'll walk away a wiser, more cultured person.
Fashionistas will love the Palais Gallieria with its
ever changing exhibitions of cutting-edge couture.
Asian art buffs will do cartwheels over the Musée Guimet, its collection
tipping the scales with over 40,000 works of art from China,
Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and India and beyond.
The Musée de l'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is a pleasure palace of light,
color and form, celebrating 20th century art in a gorgeous 1930's-style villa.
If your taste runs to the great outdoors and you don't care to be inside a
museum on a beautiful sunny day, Passy has something for you, too.
Prolific architect Hector Guimard's thumbprint
is revealed all around the neighborhood.
My best advice to you is just to wander.
Art Nouveau lovers won't want to leave number 14 rue de la Fontaine
where Monsieur Guimard's masterpiece calls them out with unforgettable panache.
The building's curvy lines, tile, brick and stained glass will wear out
your camera's battery and your artistic heart.
And please don't forget that this was Benjamin Franklin's neighborhood,
the quarter he invaded (wooing all the ladies) for over eight years.
It's fitting, then, that Bartholdi's original model of the Statue of Liberty
stands on a tiny island not too far away -- the Pont de Grenelle -- in the Seine.
You get to Vive la France and Vive U.S.A. all in the same breath.
and cobbled streets evoking visions of Amélie and happily ever after.
Most people head straight to Place du Tertre, the 14th century square that's
covered with street artists, con artists and an avalanche of bohemian flair.
It's worth seeing but thank heavens, the 18th is so much more!
Wander the pretty side streets and try to get a bit off the tourist circuit.
You'll discover adorable little squares, colorful shops and intriguing art.
There's a vineyard and a cemetery, too, as well as outdoor terraces,
several good museums, windmills and theaters.
Bargain hunters like me head to Tati, a discount
department store that's fun to pick through.
I always find a little something in the housewares department.
After all, who doesn't enjoy a little shabby-chic once in a while?
Of course, if you want to get everyone's attention back home,
visit the Musée de l'Erotisme,
an oh-so-french look at the finer points of the sexual arts.
Much of the art is serious stuff, including works from India, Japan
and all corners of the planet, though the biggest eye-opener is the
multi-media presentation of the old "maison closes" -- the brothels of Paris.
It's meant to be serious but some of the stuff is downright weird
and makes me revert back to a giggling 5th grader.
It's your big chance to return home with gifts for friends -- chastity
belts, erotic postcards, "toys" -- batteries not included.....
After all that depraved behavior, perhaps you should head back up the hill
to the Sacré-Coeur basilica, its beautiful domed white facade
the very symbol of the Montmartre hill.
Perhaps a little cleansing of the soul is in order after that last museum visit....
overlooked by the casual Paris visitor.
Curious explorers eventually end up at Père Lachaise Cemetery,
biggest and most famous eternal resting place in the city.
It's fabulous and certainly recommended but keep in mind, there is
so much more to these two eclectic neighborhoods.
The beauty of the great outdoors is what brings me
back to this arrondissement again and again.
Begin at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, the perfect place to pack a picnic.
Afterwards, climb to the gazebo-shrine for an outstanding view of Paris.
Talk about ambience!
Take a little stroll and you'll spot a charming grotto, a couple of bridges,
and a waterfall, each path making you feel like you're in the middle
of an old french rococo landscape painting.
End your afternoon with a drink at Rosa Bonheur,
a hip little tavern with an outdoor terrace and a golden view.
On a completely different mission, Parc de la Villette combines green Paris with outstanding contemporary architecture, a project carried out with great success. Created specifically for the diverse working class culture of the district,
the city assembled a magical habitat, a place that everyone can appreciate.
Top of the line museums, concert halls and cultural centers share space
with amusing playgrounds and soccer fields.
There's even a space dedicated to hip-hop culture,
popular in this diverse neck-of-the-woods.
From symphonic orchestra to monkey bars,
Parc de la Villette has something for everyone.
One of the great Paris walks lies just outside the park.
Along the Canal de l'Ourcq, treat yourself to a stroll filled with
magic and a real Paris point of view.
A successful urban renewal project has brought life back to this neighborhood.
At Bassin de la Villette, a stretch of water leading from the Canal de l'Ourcq
to Canal St. Martin, you'll enjoy a real show of diversity, the sunny side of Paris.
I once saw a group of teenagers as they practiced walking a tightrope, as if
it were an everyday occurrence like going to football practice or playing the drums.
Dog walkers, skateboarders and residents pass by with a fine
french baguette firmly tucked under each arm.
You can even rent an electric boat if you wish.
This walk is not likely to be in your guidebook -- Don't miss it!
I haven't even mentioned Parc de Belleville, one of my favorite parks in all of Paris.
Are you getting the picture?
These two arrondissements are gloriously vibrant experience so please
don't let a slightly longer Metro ride keep you from
discovering the special enchantment waiting for you in the 19th & 20th.
Sadly, I've left out many special places -- even entire neighborhoods.
This serves as an idea starter, hopefully one that will help you
break up your Paris itinerary into manageable parts.
I always say There's No Such Thing as Too Much Paris.
So don't take yourself too seriously and make it hard.
Remember that old game "Pick Up Sticks"?
You'd throw a handful of the skinny little "sticks" into
a random pile, the messier the better.
The object of the game is to pick up as many sticks as possible
without moving the other sticks in the pile.
As long as you don't cause anything in the stack to move, you get to keep playing. The winner is the player who has collected the most sticks at the end of the game.
I used to love that silly competition -- but fear too many of us
apply those same rules to our travel agendas.
The "winner" of the Paris competition "collects" the most
attractions at the end of the day -- A DEFINITE DON'T.
Plan ahead, yes, but be open enough to swap horses in the middle of the day.
Messy can be good -- a little of this and little of that -- and stop worrying
about how many "sticks" you have accumulated at the end of the day.
I wish you joy and happiness in whichever path you choose.