Few cities have enjoyed such enduring praise as Paris—and with good reason. Charming streets, a love affair with food and art, and a place at the forefront of history since the 12th century have made the French capital one of the most popular places to live and visit. At once a charming burg and a center of world industry, the City of Lights is located in the north of France, with the Seine river meandering through its middle. Cole Porter touted his love for most every season in his song “I Love Paris,” but with warm summers crowded with tourists and somewhat harsh winters, the shoulder seasons are often a visitor’s best bet.
THE CITY’S CULTURE
Parisians are renowned for their love of arts, food, and overall enjoyment of life. French cuisine is one of the most highly touted in the world, and Paris is its culinary capital, with more Michelin stars than most any city in the world. But dining out needn’t be expensive. French croissants and other pastries are one of life’s little pleasures, and there are few better ways to pass a day that people-watching in a Parisian café. The city’s many opera houses and theaters have played host to some of the most renowned troupes and performers the world over, and in the fashion world, only Milan and New York can compete with Parisian couturiers.
It’s hard to believe but Parisians once protested the building of the Eiffel Tower, which whose sleek and wiry silhouette has become synonymous with the city. The Louvre, one of the most visited museums in the world, is home to such masterpieces as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, while the Musée d’Orsay houses the world’s largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works; more modern pieces can be found at the Centre Georges Pompidou. Many visitors seek out the Père Lachaise Cemetery to pay respects to eternal residents as varied as Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, and Gertrude Stein, while the Paris catacombs, sometimes referred to as the “world’s largest grave,” contain the remains of some six million individuals, mainly from the 1700s.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements, which are laid out in a spiral fashion, starting from the center with the Île de la Cité, the island in the center of the Seine river that is home to the medieval Notre-Dame Cathedral. On the Left Bank, in the fifth arrondissement, lies the Latin Quarter, home to the Sorbonne University and its numerous students, as well as a more recent influx of business folk. The chic Champs-Élysées Boulevard is acclaimed both for its scenic, tree-lined streets and as one of the most elite shopping destinations in the world. But perhaps the most famed neighborhood of all is Montmartre (18th arrondissement), notorious over the years for its bohemian lifestyle and numerous famous artists, which have included Toulouse-Lautrec, Dalí, Monet, Picasso, and countless others.