Paris is no longer prohibitively expensive for Americans to visit. The euro can be stretched more than ever before, and as newly affordable as Paris is today, the sights, sounds and tastes of the City of Light are as rich as French chocolates.
Monuments and cathedrals
The Eiffel Tower may be the symbol of Paris, but it's only one of many must-see sights. Within walking distance in the historic heart of Paris are the Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Elysee Palace and Notre-Dame Cathedral. All historic, exquisite and massive in scale. Connecting them are the Champs-Elysees, perhaps the world's most famous boulevard, and the Seine, surely the world's most romantic river.
Also in the walkable heart of Paris is a concentration of major art museums unrivaled in the world. The Louvre, housed in a 16th-century palace and the world's second-most-visited museum, tops the list. But visitors can also spend many hours nearby:
- The Musee d'Orsay boasts the world's largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces
- Musee de l'Orangerie houses impressionist masterpieces including Monet's Water Lilies murals
- Musee Jacquemart-Andre is a sumptuous mansion emphasizing Renaissance Italian art
- Musee de Cluny contains medieval art
- The Petit Palais includes masterpieces from many periods
- Plus, there are many museums devoted solely to the works of Monet, Rodin and Picasso
Many chefs say there are only two great cuisines in the world: French and Chinese. Parisians are known for their appreciation of superb French food, fine French wine and good conversation as they enjoy meals that stretch long into the night. Paris visitors can get a literal taste of this culture by indulging in meals at French restaurants, bistros and brasseries. Most open at 7 p.m. and fill up at 9 p.m.
Watching the world go by from a French café, preferably on the Champs-Elysees or one of Paris' teeming pedestrian plazas, is the perfect way to rest your legs between museums and boutique shops. But your barista won't speak Starbucks. Order “un café" (espresso, no milk) or “un café crème" (espresso with a separate cup of milk) and a croissant that you can dip into the milk. But don't ask for it “to go." Most Parisian cafes don't even have paper cups.
The Tuileries Garden, adjacent to the Louvre, and Luxembourg Garden, adjacent to the Musee de Cluny, are each filled with flowers, ponds and sculptures. They're the two most centrally located large Paris parks. To really stretch your legs while experiencing one of Greater Paris' most famous cultural landmarks, head to Versailles, the palace and garden complex 12 miles from the city center, where you can roam 977 acres on Louis XIV's colossal celebration of power and wealth.
Hotels and inns
Are you ready to splurge? The Ritz Paris, which attracted countless celebrity guests such as the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Princess Diana during a 118-year history, recently reopened after a four-year, $450-million renovation. Are you not that ready to pay $1,200 (and up) per night? Standard hotel and inn rooms in Paris now cost about the same as they do in most major U.S. cities — $100 to $200 per night. If you don't mind a shared bathroom, it's even less.
It only rains about two inches a month, every month, in Paris. And it never gets too cold or hot, typically ranging from the forties in the winter to the sixties in the summer. So, anytime is a good time to go, although flight and hotel prices tend to be lower from mid-autumn to mid-spring. Also, because it's such a walkable city, with excellent public transportation as a backup, there's virtually no need to rent a car.