Paris City Guide

Filed under Destination Guides, featured, travel

Words: Keith Austin


PARIS is one of the great cities of the world, arguably the greatest – a bustling 21st century capital city of 10 million people that’s managed the not-inconsiderable trick of remaining relevant, modern and beautifully, wonderfully old-fashioned.

Just the name evokes images of grand streets and cosy cafes, of higgledy-piggledy, cobblestoned lanes filled with the warm aroma of baking bread, toasted croissants and coffee, of the Seine and the Louvre, of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.

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Its loveliness is partly in the very bones of the place – the beautiful boulevards, the well-planned parks, the romantic architecture of its historic buildings – but also in the people and their unquenchable joie-de-vivre.

It is a city of haute couture and haute cuisine, of high art and street artists, of ironically offhand but ultimately friendly bistro garcons, of the madame in the boulangerie with her cheery cry of “Bonjour!”, of the passionate bouquinistes, the booksellers who ply their trade from traditional stalls along the banks of the Seine.

It’s not a question of why you should visit (or revisit) Paris but would you not? Don’t fight it; c’est la vie.


Founded in 3BC, Paris was by the 12th century the biggest city in Europe and has continued to dominate the European cultural, political and economic landscape ever since. With so much history and so much to see and do it can be daunting for first-time visitors and regular returnees alike so here (in no particular order) is our top 10 Must Do list.

1. Eiffel Tower: It’s the Paris experience and it simply must be done. Walk the 704 steps to the top (doable for anyone with a good level of fitness) or take one of the three elevators. Try to get there just before sunset, when the view is splendidly golden.

2. The Louvre Museum: Most famous as the home of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, it has much more going for it than one enigmatic portrait. Under I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid entrance are 35,000 objets – including the wonderful Winged Victory of Samothrace – spread over 60,600 square metres. 

3. Musee d’Orsay: Housed in the striking old Orsay railway station there is something for everyone here but of special interest are the works in the 5th floor Impressionist gallery. Worth a visit for the Van Goghs alone. Just after the gallery, check out the newly renovated Café Campana. 

4. The Pantheon: This graceful building with its Corinthian columns was modelled on the Pantheon in Rome and today houses the remains of some of France’s most famous figures – Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Louise Braille and Marie Curie among them – and Foucault’s famous pendulum. Take time to visit the crypt.

5. Place des Vosges: Straddling the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in the popular Marais district this little residential square with its perfectly proportioned park is said to be one of the finest in Paris. It’s not an idle boast. Have coffee and cake in one of the cafes around the outside.

6. The Catacombs: Journey into a skull- and bone-strewn labyrinth deep under the city. Wander through the remains of some six million people, disinterred and stacked here after overflowing cemeteries above ground began to pose public health issues in the 18th and 19th centuries.

7. Montmartre/Sacre Coeur: Place du Tertre, the famous open-air artists’ square in Montmartre, is touristy but still fascinating. You’ll pay a premium for everything here but if all that mammon gets too much then God is a step away at the lovely Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, aka Sacre Coeur. 

8. Coulee Verte Rene-Dumont: This unsung, 4.5-kilometre-long planted promenade sits atop an old railway viaduct that runs through the 12th arrondissement from Place de la Bastille to Bois de Vincennes. It was the only elevated park in the world until New York’s High Line opened.

9. Luxembourg Gardens: Pull together a picnic and take it in to the 23 hectares of one of the city’s nicest and most chilled-out parks. There is a pretty Medici Fountain, built in 1620, and a large central pond where children can hire and sail model boats.

10. Notre Dame: Sitting on the eastern end of the pretty Ile de la Cite this towering ode to French Gothic architecture is rightly popular with tourists and sometimes very busy but always worth the wait. Make sure you take the tower tour and get up close and personal with a gargoyle.


The Ritz in Paris was reportedly the first hotel in Europe to provide a bathroom en suite, a telephone and electricity to each room. Things have changed a little since 1898 but the essentials remain the same in this pick of some of the top hotels in the French capital.

  1. Citadines Saint Germain, 53 ter Quai des Grands Augustins: Studio and one-bedroom self-catering apartments which scream location, location, location. Just across the street from the Pont Neuf bridge and moments away from Saint-Michel metro. Pull-out sofas in the one-bedders make them excellent for families.
  2. Hotel Waldorf Madeleine, 12, Boulevard Malesherbes: Modern boutique hotel in an old Haussman-style traditional Paris building in the 8th arrondissement. This is the area – just a stone’s throw from the Champs Elysee and Rue Faubourg St Honore – if you want to shop ‘til you drop. Has 45 tastefully decorated rooms with private balconies. Good views of the Eiffel Tower.
  3. Victoria Palace Hotel, 6 Rue Blaise-Desgoffe: Five-star hotel in an arresting 1913 stone building just a 10-minute walk from the 17th century Palais du Luxembourg and its lovely gardens. Inside it’s very grand, full of starched table linen, framed portraits and marble. Old fashioned elegance with all mod cons.
  4. K+K Hotel Cayre, 4 Boulevard Raspail: Light, bright, modern and airy, this up-market boutique hotel is housed in a charming old building of the traditional Parisienne style in Saint Germain des Prés. Check out the funky stairwell. The breakfast buffet gets rave reviews.
  5. Le Bristol Paris, 112 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré: Opened in 1925, this elegant hotel is one of the most stylish in the city. Not for nothing was it featured in Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris. The pool on the sixth floor has sexy views and its Michelin starred dining room, Epicure, is said to be one of the best hotel restaurants in Paris.
  6. Le Royal Monceau Raffles, 37 Avenue Hoche: After a makeover by French designer Philippe Starck which features a classy mix of eclectic artwork this stylish hotel has emerged as a dramatic and quirky five-star homage to culture, sophistication and design.
  7. Mandarin Oriental Paris, 251 Rue Saint Honoré: A modern hotel just two blocks from the Tuileries, the Mandarin has suites with large outside terraces and beautiful views of the city.  The bar in the inner courtyard is popular, as is the two-floor spa and indoor lap pool.
  8. Mama Shelter Paris, 109 Rue de Bagnolet: Young, hip, funky, cool, wild and wacky, this uber-trendy hotel just east of Pere Lachaise cemetery is designed by Philippe Starck and must be the only hotel in Paris that features an in-room photobooth. Free movies, multimedia-heavy, industrial chic design – it’s bonkers but in a good way.
  9. Hotel Plaza Athenee Paris, 25 Avenue Montaigne: This is certainly one of the best looking hotels in Paris, with its signature red awnings and matching flowers on the balconies. Inside it’s all luxe and sophisticated glamour, its rooms and suites filled with damask, silk and embroidery. It also has an Alain Ducasse restaurant that, quite apart from the food, is a design masterpiece.
  10. Ritz Paris, 15 Place Vendôme: One of Paris’s most iconic hotels has just been reborn after a four-year, multi-million-dollar refurbishment. Started by hotelier César Ritz and chef Auguste Escoffier in 1898 this palatial hotel overlooking the Place Vendome now has 142 luxurious rooms and suites as well as a Turkish bath and indoor pool. The famous Bar Hemingway is again open for business.


Paris is awash with good food – it’s France, after all. From Michelin-starred restaurants to neighbourhood bistros, speciality hole-in-the-wall outlets and weekly markets teeming with fresh produce it’s enough to make even the most avid foodie blush. There’s really no faulting a place where you can find stalls selling only mushrooms.

  1. Café Louis Philippe, 66 Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville: For a quintessential bistro experience you won’t do better than this old and charming place in the Marais. Slap-bang opposite the Ile Saint-Louis it offers traditional French cuisine and whip-smart waiters. Nothing fancy but the food is good and atmosphere excellent. The terrace is perfect on sunny days.
  2. Sunday market, Place de la Bastille: ‘Awesome’ in the true sense of the word. A great place to pull together a picnic, fill the fridge or just wander and gape at the sheer amount of beautiful produce. Serious cheeses, sexy charcuterie, stalls selling nothing but mushrooms.  Affordable, too.
  3. Le Petit Bleu, 23 Rue Muller: If you’re looking for a change from traditional French cuisine then this tiny Moroccan gem in Montmartre not far from Sacre Coeur is the place to go. Cheap, cheerful, loud and tasty – just be careful how much couscous you order as the portions are huge.
  4. Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte, 271 Boulevard Pereire, Porte-Maillot: A restaurant that has no menu, just does one dish and has done it for 50 years must be doing something right. Tell the staff how you like your meat done and that’s it – up comes steak, frites and a simple green salad.
  5. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, 25 Avenue Montaigne: If three Michelin stars aren’t enough for you then just go for the ambience at Alain Ducasse’s astonishing restaurant in the Hotel Plaza Athenee. The food is out of this world but so is the space-age Versailles-style décor. 
  6. Baudoyer outdoor market, Place Baudoyer: Another outdoor market, this one on the edge of the Marais district and only open on Wednesday from 12.20pm-8.30pm and Saturday from 7am-3pm. A popular place to shop but it’s the stalls cooking great vats of heavenly smelling paella that are the main attraction.
  7. Pierre Hermé, 72 Rue Bonaparte: For those with a sweet tooth the acknowledged prince of patisseries, the master of the macaron, is Pierre Hermé. This chic Willy Wonka of Paris has ‘boutiques’ all over the city. They are sleek, beautifully presented and look good enough to eat – just like the macarons.
  8. Au Petit Fer à Cheval , 30 Rue Vieille du Temple: A little traditional Paris bistro where time seems to have stood still. Not very big and can be hard to get a seat at busy times but it’s worth the wait. The confit de canard is always good.
  9. La Brasserie de l’Isle Saint-Louis, 55 Quai de Bourbon: On the tip of Île Saint-Louis with Notre Dame looming over it this is a dream location. The food is good brasserie fare and the place – not much changed from the 1930s – is excellent inside and out, depending on the weather.
  10. Berthillon glacier, 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île: This is the place to come for ice-cream if you can stand the queues (especially in summer). It’s a little pricey but a bit of a bucket list destination for true ice-cream aficionados. The strawberry tiramisu is excellent.


Life in Paris revolves around the acts of eating and drinking. Complete strangers will strike up conversations about where to buy the best baguettes or the cheapest good wine. But where to go out to enjoy that vin rouge, that absinthe or that new craft beer? Here are our suggestions for cool places to drink in the City of Lights.

  1. Moncoeur Belleville café, 1, Rue des Envierges: Both Elle magazine and Le Figaro newspaper have named this café as having one of the best terraces in Paris. And it does. Good food, good wines and possibly the best panoramic view of Paris. Untouristed (so far) with good coffee and cocktails.
  2. La Belle Hortense, 31 Rue Vieille du Temple: It’s a wine bar, it’s a bookshop, it’s a great place to relax with the locals. It’s a smallish space that can get busy at weekends but get there early, sit at the bar and soak up some culture, atmosphere and vin.
  3. Aux Folies, 8 Rue de Belleville: With its cheap drinks and buzzy, unassuming atmosphere, this classic little Belleville institution sprawls onto the pavement and around the corner into an artfully graffiti-splashed alleyway. Not too many tourists here in the 20th arrondissement so brush up your French.
  4. The Experimental Cocktail Club, 37 Rue Saint-Sauveur: The name says it all really. A low-lit speakeasy-style haunt full of dark, comfortable furniture where knowledgeable staff knock out, you guessed it, experimental cocktails using ingredients such as vanilla, cloves, balsamic vinegar and honey. Makes a mojito look positively passe.
  5. Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, 7 Rue Lobineau: From the same bunch who started the Experimental Cocktail Club (above) this is the place to come if you like your vin (there are more than 300 excellent bottles to choose from) in dimly-lit, funky surroundings. Guess the week’s mystery wine, in its own question mark jacket, and you get a free bottle.
  6. The Frog and British Library, 114 Avenue de France: The love child of a British pub and a French bistro, the Frog is leather sofas, giant screens and all the sport you can handle. It’s also a microbrewery. Dark de Triomphe, Maison Blanche, Inseine and Parislytic are just a few of their craft beers.
  7. Les Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés: A mecca for history and literature buffs this bustling café on beautiful Place Saint Germain-des-Pres is one of the most famous in Paris. Jean Paul Sartre, Camus, Brecht, Hemingway, Picasso and Wilde were regulars. The interior is stunning fin-de-siecle Paris and pretty much unchanged since 1885.
  8. Café Coutume, 47 Rue de Babylone: For a city so in love with taste the coffee in Paris can be dire; just something warm to sip while watching the world go by. But things are changing thanks to an influx of Australian baristas. There are many to choose from but laid-back Café Coutume is up there with the best.
  9. Novotel Paris Vaugirard Montparnasse, 257 Rue de Vaugirard: The rooftop bars at Le Perchoir, 43 Up on the Roof, Mama Shelter and Nuba are all so hot you’ll have to get there really early to snare a spot. Head instead to the little-known bar on top of the Novotel where there are panoramic views without the crush.
  10. Le Perchoir, 14 Rue Crespin du Gast: Undoubtedly the place to see and be seen this rooftop bar has a sort of hard-to-find unmarked door vibe about it but the views are worth it. It can get busy and the queues to get in start early.


Oh, where to start? Paris and shopping are like bacon and eggs or Laurel and Hardy – you can’t have one without the other. From the cheapest of flea markets to the grands magasins on the expansive and expensive boulevards, this is the city to shop ‘til you drop.

  1. The Triangle d’or is the area around Avenue Montaigne, Rue Francois 1er and Ave George V and is the home of many of Paris’s top haute couture shops. Chanel, Hermès, Saint Laurent, Prada, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Dolce e Gabbana, Gucci, Bulgari … the list goes on.
  2. The Left Bank’s boho Latin Quarter is the home of Sorbonne University and the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookshop. A stroll away from the river will reveal plenty of good used bookstores, comic book shops and art book stalls.
  3. The Paris flea market at 99 Rue des Rosiers (only open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays) is oddly hard to find (due north of Sacre Coeur, just outside the peripherique) but once you get there it’s hard to leave. The ultimate trash or treasure day out.
  4. Le Marais is either cool and trendy or way past its sell-by date, depending on who you talk to. Either way it’s full of small independent shops featuring hip young designers. The northern section (Haut Marais) is feted as the ‘real Marais’ and the place to complete your French bobo (bohemian bourgeois) look. 
  5. The Canal St Martin area has taken off in recent years and is now full of off-beat boutiques and hip pop-up stores as well as water views. Check out Rue Beaurepaire and Rue de Marseille, which are the main shopping streets. Bazartherapy, Espace Beaurepaire and La Trésorie are all full of funky wares. 
  6. The Jardin du Palais Royal is a great spot to stroll around. It’s also boxed in by the Galerie de Valois, Galerie de Montpensier and Galerie Beaujolais. These covered arcades look like cloisters but are more mammon than God, full of chic art galleries, eclectic nooks and upscale designer boutiques.
  7. Not far from the Jardin du Palais Royal is the glorious Galerie Vivienne at 4 rue des Petits Champs. This 176-metre long pedestrianised passageway with its stunning mosaic floor dates from 1823 and boasts a toy shop, secondhand bookshops, a few clothes shops, a posh wine merchants and a twee tearoom.
  8. Shopping at a Monoprix (they are all over Paris) is a real local experience. They are just department stores but you will find a little bit of everything in them, including food. Imagine Target crossed with Coles. Not flash, not sexy but very Paris. 
  9. A visit to the jaw-dropping Galeries Lafayette department store is pretty much de rigueur when visiting Paris. The huge building, with its massive central open space under a glass dome is jaw-droppingly amazing. Stained-glass, arched balconies wrought-iron railings. It sells stuff, too.
  10. The Sunday market at Place de la Bastille is an excellent place to shop. Among the food  you’ll find plenty of stalls selling excellent accessories. I still have two brilliant silk scarves I found there several years ago. Happy hunting.


Paris is a city that rewards outdoor activity – whether it’s simply walking the boulevards or renting a Velib bicycle. Not for nothing do thousands of Parisians turn up once a week to take part in one of the world’s largest regular roller skating nights. Here, then, are our Top Ten tips for staying active.

  1. At 10pm every Friday night in Paris thousands of rollerbladers gather to skate through the streets with a police escort. I kid you not. Not for beginners (you have to be able to stop) the free Pari Roller starts and ends in Montparnasse and takes about three hours to cover 30 kilometres.
  2. Exercise is often best when you don’t notice you’re doing it so a turn among the great and the good of Pere Lachaise cemetery is recommended. Oscar Wilde, who is buried here, would disapprove (“To get back my youth I would do anything … except take exercise”) but he died aged 46. Amazing tombs in 110 wild acres.
  3. Another exercise in exercising with really exercising is to accompany author and Australian ex-pat John Baxter on one of his literary walks around St. Germain and Montparnasse. He spoils it all by taking you back to his apartment for lunch afterwards but it’s the thought that counts.
  4. Take a rowboat out on the lake in the Bois de Boulogne. Failing that just jog, cycle or stroll around the place – there’s plenty of it. Situated on the western edge of the 16th arrondissement it covers an area of just over 2000 acres. 
  5. Train it out to Versailles and take a bicycle tour around the Palace. There are plenty of tours available and most include entry to the palace itself. It’s a good way to take in some of the more far-flung parts of the impressive grounds.
  6. And talking of bicycles, learn to embrace the Velib, the public bike-hire scheme with its 14,500 bicycles and 1,230 stations all over the city. Once you get the hang of it, cycling around bike-friendly Paris is great fun. A cheap and cheerful way to stay fit.
  7. Take a turn around the 61 acres and 2.2 kilometres of paths at the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement. That done, cross the bridge to the island in the middle of the lake and climb the steep 173 steps to the incongruous Temple de la Sibylle perched 50 metres above.
  8. The 25-metre Josephine Baker swimming pool at Quai Francois Mauriac is the closest you’ll get to swimming in the Seine. Built inside a barge permanently moored on the river it has a retractable roof for those more inclement days. Can get uber-busy.
  9. Get out of town by cycling the semi-rural, car-free Coulée Verte du Sud Parisien bike path which runs from the Montparnasse railway station for nearly 14 kilometres to the town of Massy. Or if your legs give out, stop in the hamlet of Sceaux and admire its chateau.
  10. Jog safely away from the traffic along the top of the Coulee Verte Rene-Dumont, the 4.5 kilometre railway viaduct that runs from Place de la Bastille to Bois de Vincennes, the largest public park in the city. At the bois just keep on going, if you can.


Look up the word ‘culture’ in a dictionary and there should be a picture of Paris there, so synonymous has the city become with the Arts. From the classic to the avante-garde, Paris has a wealth of art spaces, events, museums and galleries from which to choose. Here are just a few.

  1. Paris has had a long-time love affair with cinema so to choose one movie theatre over another seems churlish. Accatone, Le Champo, La Cinémathèque Française, Cinema du Pantheon and La Pagode all show independent, arthouse and classic movies. Don’t make me pick one.
  2. The crowds in the Mona Lisa room at the Louvre tend to detract from the painting itself (you could lose an eye to a selfie stick) but the rest of this magnificent space is crammed full of fascinating objets. Eschew the Mona and admire The Raft of the Medusa instead. 
  3. Just across the Seine from the Louvre is that other repository of classical art, the Musee d’Orsay. Not only is the building itself a work of art it’s chock full of them, too. Paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, graphic arts, photographs. You could lose days in here.
  4. Loved and loathed in equal measure for its hi-tech style of architecture, the Pompidou Centre near Les Halles is a multi-purpose arts complex that houses a public library, a museum, a cinema, a space for contemporary art and live music.
  5. No serious art lover could visit Paris without stopping by the Musée Picasso in the Marais district (Hôtel Salé, Rue de Thorigny). It opened again in 2014 after a five-year, multi-million euro renovation and contains more than 5,000 of Pablo Picasso’s paintings, ceramics and sculptures.
  6. The history of the art movements of the 20th century are the main focus of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Found just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower the museum is in the east wing of the Palais de Tokyo and has works from just about every significant artist of the last century. 
  7. As live music venues go Le Batofar is one of the more unusual. An old lighthouse boat, moored on the Seine, which plays progressive music and features both DJs, dance parties and cutting-edge live bands. During the day it is a restaurant.
  8. Situated in an old red farmhouse, La Maison Rouge near the Bastille is a contemporary modern art gallery with an attached bookshop and organic café – the Rose Bakery – which changes its décor with each exhibition. Good for keeping abreast of what’s new and interesting and experimental in the modern art scene.
  9. Tucked away in lovely 1706 hotel in a small street in the Marais, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (aka La Mèpe) is a sadly little-known venue for exhibitions of photography as well as a superb permanent collection.
  10. Le Lucernaire is a former factory which incorporates three theatres (Théâtre Noir, Théâtre Rouge and Paradis), several movie screens, a bar, a restaurant, a bookshop and an exhibition space. Shows everything from classics to avant-garde art – a cultural hub loved by locals.


The propensity of Parisians to party is perhaps best shown in the Paris-Plages festival. What other major city would close off a main traffic artery for two months of the year (July-August) and turn it into a series of artificial beaches? There are, as you would expect, a host of other festivals for your diary but here is our pick of the bunch. A comprehensive list can be found at

  1. For five days in October since 1934 Paris has taken the streets to celebrate Clos Montmartre, a small vineyard that still grows grapes in the middle of the city. The Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre (Grape Harvest Festival) features live music, wine tastings, a flea market and fireworks. Increasingly popular with locals.
  2. Paris Beer Week in April/May is a celebration of all things craft beer related which culminates in a Grand Finale day/night evening showcasing the best local and international artisanal brews. In the week leading up to it bars, bottle shops and breweries around the city offer special events, tastings and workshops.
  3. To be in Paris on June 21 and to experience La Fête de la Musique is something everyone should do once. The place goes OFF, the streets are alive with people and with hundreds if not thousands of musicians giving impromptu performances in bars, cafes and, especially cool, on random street corners.
  4. Vive La Republique! July 14 is Bastille Day and Paris is the place to be. This is the moment the people stormed the Bastille prison in 1789 and began the age of liberty, fraternity and equality. No guillotined heads these days – just parades, parties, and a festival atmosphere finished off with fireworks.
  5. Four hundred chocolatier stands all in one place? What’s not to like? Le Salon du Chocolate is held at Porte de Versailles in October/November and showcases chocolate from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Russia and Japan among others. Sweet.
  6. Towards the end of January every year all those people who ran away to join the circus run to Paris for the Cirque de Demain (Circus of Tomorrow). There, under the Cirque Phénix Big Top, you can check out all the fresh new talent in the circus world.
  7. As if food wasn’t already ever-present in this most gastronomic of capitals along comes February and the Taste of Paris food festival at Le Grand Palais. Four days, 18 chefs, 18 pop-up restaurants, tasting plates, cooking demonstrations, you name it – and next year will be even bigger.
  8. The Paris Independent Film Festival will be held at the Reflet Medicis, one of the city’s best independent cinemas. From November 30 -December 4 the cinema will showcase independent filmmakers worldwide, with special attention paid to very low-budget films by first and second-time directors.
  9. The first ever Paris Fringe festival in English took place in Paris in May this year. More than 20 English-language shows – theatre, comedy, musicals, mime and more – from all over the world were performed in venues within walking distance of each other in the 9th arrondissement.
  10. The three-day Rendez-vous aux Jardins event in June sees more than 2,300 gardens open to the public. It’s a chance to visit gardens normally closed to the public and talk to professional and amateur gardeners about all things green fingered. There are exhibitions, lectures, and concerts, too.


Paris has featured in myriad books and movies, from the gritty darkness of 1995’s La Haine (featuring a breakthrough performance by local boy Vincent Cassel), through Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and the cartoony technicolour of Gene Kelly’s An American in Paris – and always ends up with a starring role.

Recommended reading list

A Moveable feast – Ernest Hemingway: Still used by many as a guide to Hemingway’s Paris, this memoir of his years as a struggling writer from 1921-1926 is a good evocation of Paris between the wars. Great names dropped? Hilaire Belloc, Aleister Crowley, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein.

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris – John Baxter: Ex-pat Australian John Baxter has lived in Paris for many years and knows as well as anyone what makes the modern city tick and what’s worth seeing. It helps that he’s a beautiful writer, too.

A Year in the Merde – Stephen Clarke: A funny comic novel about an Englishman’s year in Paris trying to assimilate and, generally, failing. Great insights into les differences and you’ve got to love a table of contents that reads thus: “OCTOBRE … I visit different parts of Paris, touristy and less so, treading in plenty of dog-poop, literal and metaphorical.” 

Shakespeare and Company – Sylvia Beach: The 1959 memoirs of the American who started the first Shakespeare and Company bookshop in 1919. Recounts growing up in America and ends with the liberation of Paris in 1945. Anyone who refused to sell a Nazi officer the book he wanted deserves to be read.

Almost French – Sarah Turnbull: The story of an Australian journalist who follows her heart to Paris on a whim and ends up settling there is part love story, part social commentary and totally amusant. A perfect fun read to guide you through the minefield of French society.

Recommended watching list

Breathless: Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 movie about a criminal (Jean-Paul Belmondo) on the run from the police and hiding out in Paris with his American girlfriend (Jean Seberg) ranges far and wide across the city. Belmondo and Seberg were beautiful and so was the Paris they sauntered and (later) ran through.

Amelie: The whimsical romantic comedy starring Audrey Tautou is set mainly in the Montmartre neighbourhood and many of the locations can still be found today. The Cafe des Deux Moulains, where Amelie works as a waitress, is much the same as in the movie.

Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen’s glorious, delightful love letter to Paris stars Owen Wilson as a writer who gets magically transported to the Paris of Hemingway and Gertrude Stein and, in turn, becomes disenchanted with his life. Has done more for tourism in the city than any movie for a long time.

Before Sunset: The sequel to Before Sunrise is set in Paris and again stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke as they meet nine years after the original. Paris is a co-star as the couple meet in the Shakespeare and Company bookshop and then stroll the streets talking love and life. 

Paris, Je t’aime: As good a title to finish on as anything, Paris, Je t’aime is an anthology of 18 short films all set in different arrondissements of Paris. A wonderfully eclectic collection of stories from directors as diverse as Joel and Ethan Coen, Gérard Depardieu, Wes Craven and Gus Van Sant.


Paris is a city that rewards walking. The Metro is fast and efficient but you miss so many of the beautiful, tiny details that way. And it helps that most of the main attractions are huddled together in the central arrondissements. Here, then, is how to make the most of your visit in one day.


K+K Hotel Cayre and Le Bristol Paris are renowned for their breakfasts, as are the cafes Frenchie To Go (9 Rue du Nil, 2nd) or Holybelly (19 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 10th). Failing that, just head out into the street, pick the likeliest looking café and have a croissant and café au lait while watching the world go by. 


Begin working off those calories by climbing the Eiffel Tower. It’s the Paris experience and, despite the crowds, not to be missed.


Once you’ve returned to earth this is a good starting point for a stroll along the Left Bank of the Seine. You’ll want to stop off in Les Invalides to see Napoleon’s Tomb and also the Musee D’Orsay. Save time and go straight to the Impressionists gallery. 

12 noon

Take a turn around the magnificent interior of Notre Dame and then pop across the river to hunt for a bargain in the wonderful Shakespeare and Company bookshop.


Cross back over to Notre Dame, head around the back of the cathedral, through Square Jean XXIII and across the bridges for a steak and frites lunch at Café Louis Philippe (66 Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville).


Walk through the historic, cobblestoned streets of the Marais to the elegant Place des Vosges for a coffee. After that, follow Rue de Rivoli down past the Hotel de Ville and on to the Louvre.


Admire I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid above the Louvre entrance and nip in to see the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory of Samothrace.


From the Louvre there is pretty much a straight line to the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a fine walk and one that takes in the Jardin des Tuileries, Place de La Concorde and the Champs Elysee.


Jump on the Metro and head for Jourdain station in the 20e arrondissement. A short walk will bring you to Moncoeur Belleville café (1, Rue des Envierges) and one of the best views in Paris. This is a good place for a pre-dinner drink or two on the terrace as the sun sets. If you can drag yourself away the Aux Folies bar (8 Rue de Belleville) is nearby.


Dinner at Les Deux Magots (6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés). This lovely fin-de-siecle restaurant is a Paris icon (yes, it’s touristy but you are a tourist) and in a beautiful old part of the city so a post-dinner stroll is recommended.


Go to the Experimental Cocktail Club (37 Rue Saint-Sauveur) for, you guessed it, an experimental cocktail or two.

12 midnight

Finish off the night with drinks at Le Perchoir (14 Rue Crespin du Gast). Great views and if all that walking hasn’t finished you off, it’s open until 2am. 

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