Paris' monument-lined boulevards, museums, classical bistros and boutiques are enhanced by a new wave of multimedia galleries, creative wine bars, design shops and tech start-ups.
The cloud-piercing, wrought-iron Eiffel Tower, broad Arc de Triomphe guarding the glamorous avenue des Champs-Élysées, gargoyled Notre Dame cathedral, lamplit bridges spanning the Seine and art nouveau cafes’ wicker-chair-lined terraces are enduring Parisian emblems. Despite initial appearances, however, Paris’ cityscape isn’t static: there are some stunning modern and contemporary icons, too, from the inside-out, industrial-style Centre Pompidou to the mur végétal (vertical garden) gracing the Musée du Quai Branly, the glass sails of the Fondation Louis Vuitton contemporary-art centre, and the gleaming steel egg-shaped concert venue La Seine Musicale.
France’s reputation for its cuisine (the French word for ‘kitchen’) precedes it, and whether you seek a cosy neighbourhood bistro or a triple-Michelin-starred temple to gastronomy, you’ll find that every establishment prides itself on exquisite preparation and presentation of quality produce, invariably served with wine. Enticing patisseries, boulangeries (bakeries), fromageries (cheese shops) and crowded, colourful street markets are perfect for putting together a picnic to take to the city’s beautiful parks and gardens. A host of culinary courses – held anywhere from home kitchens to the world’s most prestigious cookery schools – offers instruction for all schedules, abilities and budgets.
Parisians are synonymous with style, and fashion shopping is the city’s forte. Paris remains at the forefront of international trends, and browsing emerging and established designer boutiques and flagship haute couture houses is a quintessential part of any visit. You’ll also find hip concept and homewares shops, and resplendent art nouveau department stores, along with a trove of vintage shops and flea markets, atmospheric bookshops and dark-green bouquiniste stalls stocking secondhand titles lining the riverbanks, adorable children’s wear and toy shops, art and antique dealers, venerable establishments selling professional cookware, and, of course, gourmet-food and wine shops galore.
With an illustrious artistic pedigree – Renoir, Rodin, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Dalí and Van Gogh are but a few of the masters who have lived and worked here over the years – Paris is one of the great art repositories of the world, harbouring treasures from antiquity onward. In addition to big hitters like the incomparable Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay’s exceptional impressionist collection, and the Centre Pompidou’s cache of modern and contemporary art, scores of smaller museums showcase every imaginable genre, a diverse range of venues mount major exhibitions through to offbeat installations, and there’s also the city’s vibrant street art.