When it comes to the French capital city, you can bask in so much culture and succulent foods that make up much of the Parisian experience. From restaurants that serve the best escargot to the galleries and museums that host the best French artworks and worldly treasures, Paris is a sublime visit when you wish to call it home for a matter of days, weeks and months.
With many places to stay in Paris too, from serviced accommodation to hotels, you can have an unrivalled experience both inside and outside of the city’s attractions and luxury amenities.
And now, here’s everything you need to know, from where to stay in Paris to facts, restaurants, attractions and much more:
A Brief History of Paris – Facts & More Cool Things
The city of Paris has a long history. Starting out as a town that was conquered by the Romans, it soon became the centre of French economic and cultural development when Clovis the Frank made it his capital city in 508AD.
Going from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, the city has been at the centre of famines and wars, from the Hundred Years War (where it was occupied by English forces) to the French Wars on Religion.
In the late 18th century, as we all know, the French Revolution kicked off and the Reign of Terror began. Culminating in the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, Paris became the centre of his new empire. After a final swift defeat in 1815, the age of Napoleon was over and turbulent years of empires and republics culminated in Napoleon III losing the Prussian-Franco War.
Animosities between Germany and France would lead to Paris being on the frontline in WWI and being occupied in WWII. Throughout the interwar and postwar years, the city became a Mecca for writers and artists, and still retains that image today alongside its financial and corporate image.
As the centre of the Fifth French Republic, it’s now the symbol of modern Europe. A few other facts can be found below too:
The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be a temporary installation for the 1889 World Fair. However, it was soon kept due to its popularity.
Originally, Paris was a Roman city called “Lutetia.”
It is believed that Paris only has one stop sign throughout the entire city. That explains the crazy driving from the taxi drivers and locals!
Believe it or not, a flat in Paris was left unoccupied under lock and key for 70 years, with the rent being paid every month. After the renter died there was a Boldini painting valued at $2 million inside.
Funnily enough, there are at least three replicas of the Statue of Liberty in Paris. This is largely due to the lasting friendship between France and the US.
Notre Dame Cathedral’s main bell is named Emmanuel and weighs just over 13 tonnes.
There are 6,100 rues/streets in Paris, with the shortest one, Rue des Degrés, only 5.75 metres long.
Did you know that the French army was the first to use camouflage? It comes from the French verb “to make up for the stage.”
For film lovers, the very first public screening of a movie was by French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière in December 1895, showing 10 films of about 50 seconds each.
Tourists that want to visit the Eiffel Tower have to climb 1,665 steps to reach the top. But they can also take the elevator if their legs aren’t up to the job.
Where to Stay in Paris – Top City Neighborhoods
There are many areas of Paris that you can call home. From the trendy spots and artsy districts to financial strongholds and cultural hotspots, however, you wish to enjoy the city, there’s a neighbourhood for you that will be perfect for you. Here are a few places to stay in Paris that you should add to the list:
Montmartre – A hillside quartier with a rich artistic history that has its own bars and restaurants that add to the sumptuous Parisian experience.
Canal Saint-Martin – Cool and charming, this neighbourhood is defined by its long walks over the old waterway. With great shops on rue Beaurepaire and rue de Marseille, as well as the likes of Chez Prune or quirky venues like Le Comptoir Général, there’s much to enjoy.
Haut Marais – An up-and-coming neighbourhood in Paris, it features the Musée Picasso and the city’s oldest covered market, the Marché des Enfants Rouges.
Montorgueil – Containing many shops and many foodies spots for purveyors of chocolate and cheeses, this is a delightful part of the city to stay in.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés – With an alluring artistic and literary vibe, this is where the likes of Oscar Wilde, Sartre, de Beauvoir and Camus would hangout for coffees and live in their own selfless styles.
Bastille – Outstanding dining venues and cool cocktail bars line the streets here, and its historical connection to the French Revolution makes it a pivotal place if you love your history.
Restaurants in Paris – Where You Need to Eat
Throughout the streets of the French capital, there are legions of French restaurants that serve an array of foods that will have you energised and full to the brim as you peruse the attractions of the city:
Septime – A place if you’re a serious food lover, it focuses on plant and veggie-based dishes, with one of the most popular dishes being duck filet with Guéthary anchovies and laurel-infused jus.
Bistrot Paul Bert – A place to head to if you want something more traditional, try the eggs served with shaved black truffles, praline-buttercream-filled Paris-Brest pastry, and steaming-hot soufflé.
Allard – Situated in the heart of Paris, it’s one of the last remaining bistros and serves original, delicious food and serves the finest wine in an old-fashioned decor.
Pierre Sang – Asian influenced French food is all yours to enjoy, complete with a delightfully modern twist and a menu that is far-reaching.
La Dame de Pic – Come and dine in a Michelin-Star restaurant by celebrity chef Anne-Sophie Pic, where French food is infused with a Japanese flavour and where many signature dishes adorn the menu.
Le Servan – With a menu that changes every day, and food that has a strong influence of south-east Asia, you’ll love the open kitchen and the brass bar and vintage leather booths and chairs.
Benoit – A classic bistro that has been serving scrumptious food since 1912, try the Scottish salmon with Béarnaise sauce, seared scallops with leeks, and many other dishes. Don’t forget about the wine list too.
Bouillon Chartier – Opened in 1896, its long history means you’ll be dining somewhere that is reputable for taste and flavour.
La Coupole – Popular with some of the most famous citizens past and present like Jane Birkin, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and President François Mitterand, this is a top place for seafood and good times.
Le Grand Bain – Get in touch with your hipster side when you dine in this cool restaurant and don’t forget to indulge in the veggies and mutton shoulder.
Attractions in Paris – Museums, Galleries & More
We all know the top landmarks in Paris. But there are a few others that don’t get as much notice as what they should. Here are the ones you need to visit to have the perfect Parisian experience:
Eiffel Tower – Showcasing French ingenuity and might, this is the go-to spot if you want to propose or want to see the best views in Paris. Over 7,300 tonnes of iron were used to build it and it dominated the World Fair of 1889 to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution and to show off it might on the world stage. Pick a day when the sun is out or when there are clear skies to make the trek up the tower as rain and storms will only dampen the pleasure of it.
Disneyland Paris – You may be old on the outside but the younger you on the inside will still find much to love, especially if you have family in tow with you for the Paris adventure. Mickey Mouse, Goofy and co. are all here too to bring back pings of nostalgia. Other than that, you can go on rides like Big Thunder Mountain, Crush’s Coaster, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, Phantom Manor, Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop and many others. When all the excitement is over, or if you need a break, indulge in hot dogs and fast food.
Versailles Palace – This magnificent palace was constructed on the orders of Louis XIV and has seen its fair share of historical moments happen in and out of its doors. The Peace of Paris (1783) was signed in Versailles, the Proclamation of the German Empire happened in the Hall of Mirrors, and the Treaty of Versailles was signed here too at the end of World War 1. The sheer opulence and luxury that oozes through the architecture cannot be matched at any other place in the city, and possibly even the continent. Experience the rise and fall of the French aristocracy of the ancien regime and come to realise how they were overthrown during the French Revolution of 1789. While the French president takes up refuge in the great palace, it is still one of the greatest feats to be enjoyed in the city alongside the Eiffel Tower.
Louvre Art Gallery – Drag yourself along to one of the art world’s most famous galleries, and see paintings as rich and textured as Avignon Pietà, by Enguerrand Quarton; Hyacinthe Rigaud’s Louis XIV; Jacques-Louis David’s The Coronation of Napoleon; Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa; Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People; Johannes Vermeer’s The Lacemaker and The Astronomer; Caspar David Friedrich’s The Tree of Crows; Rembrandt’s The Supper at Emmaus, Bathsheba at Her Bath, and The Slaughtered Ox. If art is really your thing then you will be pleased to find out that some of the artists within include Nicolas Poussin, the Le Nain brothers, Philippe de Champaigne, Le Brun, La Tour, Watteau, Fragonard, Ingres, Corot, and Delacroix. And of course, don’t forget to take some time for the Mona Lisa.
Place des Vosges – Take a break with friends and family during the day and the evening and watch the sun go down on another Parisian day and talk about the adventure you’ve all experienced so far. During the summer days, catch the hot sun and maybe even have a small Parisian picnic with the group and loved ones. Enjoy being in what would have been one of the most expensive parts of the city back in the 17th and 18th centuries. While dukes and courtiers no longer wander the gardens thanks to the aftermath of the French Revolution, you can start your own quiet revolution by sitting in the garden that once banned such gatherings, and party with your group and family among the rest of the city.
Grand Magasins – This means the Le Bon Marché, Galeries Lafayette and the BHV (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville), also known as some of the top shopping quarters of Paris. You’ll want to book a place close to these beacons of luxurious consumerism as you won’t want to leave them ever to return to your other more humble abode. Funnily enough, what makes these shopping quarters so popular aren’t actually the stores embedded within, even though they are extremely boutique and bespoke. It’s their art nouveau glass domes, grand staircases, and lush interiors that make them so grand and hook in the tourists and locals. You’ll definitely want to take a few snaps for your Instagram followers and Facebook friends. And if you want to save money in lush sales and still end up with first-class goods, it’s best to come during “les soldes”, in January and June, where shop discount their inventory.
Centre Pompidou – When modern art and architecture are your favourite things to see during your spare time, then this is where you need to go. Known for its exposed skeleton of crazy coloured tubing, it houses the National Museum of Modern Art (covering 1905 to 1960, and 1960 to the present), and has had past exhibitions that have included David Hockney, Jeff Koons, and Frank Gehry. Also, the top floor provides panoramic views of Paris, and the museum’s plaza has the Stravinsky Fountain, a collection of 16 sculptures.
Arc De Triomphe – A symbol of French patriotism, it was built by Napoleon to recognize the first French Republic’s 128 battles and the 558 generals who took part in them. Plus, the base of the arch has an eternal flame that’s re-lit every evening to commemorate the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Believe it or not, it’s older than the Eiffel Tower, and is now a symbol of remembrance. Climb to the top and admire the view down the Champs-Elysées, and add another snap to your social media feeds.