You can pinpoint the exact centre – it’s called ‘Kilometre Zero’ and it’s right in front of Notre Dame, the city’s 750-year old gothic cathedral. The city’s 20 ‘arondissments’, or areas, fan out from here in numerical order. Unsurprisingly, some big sights are in the First Arondissment: including the Louvre, which occupies an enormous building behind the Tuileries. This area feels like one of its grandest addresses, thanks especially to broad boulevards lined with smart, Haussmann-style buildings.
Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets. Prime real estate, the road is lined with fancy hotels, chain stores, high-end brands and late-night venues – look out for the Louis Vuitton flagship by day and the Lido de Paris by night. It’s a broad avenue that’s always busy and it runs from Place de Concord, through a smart park, and then past a multitude of chain shops all the way up to the Arc de Triomph. This enormous arch honours war heroes, and you can climb it for skyline views day or night. Want to stay here? The luxurious Four Seasons Hotel George V hotel is one of the most famous hotels in the area.
Once upon a time, Montmartre was a rural hill beyond the bounds of the city. Later it became an inexpensive quarter where artists like Modigliani, Mondrian, Degas and Van Gogh could have their studios. Now the area is trendy, with many people coming to climb the steep hill up to Sacre Coeur, Then mooching around the little shops in the cobbled side streets or visiting the small museum dedicated to Salvador Dalí. At the bottom of the hill, near Pigalle, renowned venues like the Moulin Rouge host nightly can-can cabaret shows, which certainly keep things interesting.
To visit the Eiffel Tower, you need to cross over the river. Traditionally, the Left Bank of the Seine was the artistic side. It’s still the place to come for some of the city’s best art museums: Musée d'Orsay, Musée Rodin and Musée National du Moyen Âge are all in the area. Montparnasse, with its enormous tower, has one of the best views of Paris from its observation deck, whilst the Jardin de Luxembourg, and the little streets around it, are some of the best places to wander. The people who love this area really love it. If you want to stay here, try the cosy Hotel Baume on the Left Bank. Plaza Tour Eiffel is actually on the other side of the river, but this convenient hotel looks right out over the famous ‘Iron Lady’ herself.
Hipsters, make a beeline here. Les Marais, once encompassing Paris’s Jewish quarter, is a great place for falafel and boutique-ey shops, whilst the Canal Saint Martin has a lovely, relaxed waterside café culture. The winding Marais streets eventually break out into Bastille: a huge square where the city’s modern opera sits. There's a few cemeteries and catacombs, but one – Père Lachaise Cemetery – gets the most visitors of any cemetery in the world. Many of its tombs only need one-word introductions: Balzac, Wilde, Colette and Proust are all buried here.
What are the best multi-centre breaks from Paris?
Barcelona is a great place to unwind if you’re shopped yourself into a stupor – it’s hot, sunny, and best of all, it has its own beach. Whilst many centuries of artists and architects have shaped Paris’s streets – from Haussmannian boulevards to Beaux-Arts buildings – just one artist is synonymous with Barcelona – Gaudi. For your first look at his Sagrada Familia, fly, drive over a couple of days or go to Barcelona by train. Take a direct TGV (high speed train) and you can be in the Catalan capital in under seven hours.
If you loved the Impressionists on the top floor of Musée D’Orsay, then you’ll love twinning it with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Paris is massive, Amsterdam comparitively small, but you’ll find that the Dutch capital stands up to the French. It’s very easy to reach Amsterdam from Paris. A direct high speed train connects the two capitals, taking roughly three and a half hours and trains run multiple times a day from Gare du Nord. Alternatively, you can drive in roughly five-and-a-half hours.
Holiday like a Parisian – by staying in France, just like the French do. Combine a city break with a beachy one on the French Riviera. Nice, the biggest city in the area, is six hours away by train from Gare de Lyon in Paris. In just half a day you can be sipping a chilled Provencal rose on a terrace overlooking the warm Mediterranean sea. While you’re at it, take a stroll on Nice’s famed Promenade des Anglaise and hop along the coast to Monaco, Cannes or Antibes.
If you’re ‘doing’ Europe, then this and Rome are two of the continent’s truly unmissable capitals. Paris has the Louvre but Rome has the Colosseum and the Capitoline, and between the two you can see some of the best-preserved treasures of the ancient world. You could fly in a couple of hours, drive over a couple of days, or take the train to Italy from Paris’s Gare de Lyon – connecting in Milan or Torino for onward travel to Rome.