Paris is the romance capital of Europe, situated on the River Seine in the heart of the Île-de-France region. Its ever-expanding limits are home to some of the greatest artworks, fashion, entertainment and iconic landmarks in the world.
Known as the 'city of light', the architecture and artistic history of Paris, combined with its innate elegance and style, makes it the most visited city in the world.
With a maze of nearly 400 metro stations, Paris is surprisingly simple and easy to navigate. In 2010, the city ranked amongst the 10 greenest cities in Europe*, so what better way to travel there than by train!
Whether you're rambling the streets, enjoying an exquisite pastry, taking in the culture and art at the Louvre or climbing the heights of the Eiffel Tower - Paris has something for everyone.
At just 121 years old, the Eiffel Tower is not the oldest monument in Paris by a long way. Built by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel to celebrate the 100th year anniversay of the French Revolution, the tower was a symbol of technical and arcitectural prowess but was only intended to last 20 years. However, it was saved by the scientific experiments that Gustave Eiffel suggested; in particular, radio and telecommunications projects that helped to secure its permanence.
At more than 300m tall, this marvellous monument has always encouraged millions of visitors and is a favourite among artists. Since its opening, over 250 million visitors have come to see the panaromic views of Paris from the top by day, and the brightly lit beacon by night. The tower is easy to get to by metro and RER (a rapid transport service integrating underground and commuter railway lines).
The Louvre or the Musee du Louvre is the biggest museum in the world, with its vast galleries and a maze of 35,000 works of art and artefacts. When the museum first opened in 1793, the collection showcased 537 paintings and 184 objects of art. Celebrating humanity's long journey, spanning thousands of miles, from America to the borders of India and China. The Louvre is universally admired nowadays for iconic work such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
The Louvre is split into eight departments and housed in three different wings, housing treasures from the Middle Ages up until 19th Century. The restoration and layout of the Louvre is still a work in progress, with new galleries and departments being added. The Islamic Arts department is set to open in 2012. Entry fees are payable, although those under 26 can visit for free on Friday nights after 6pm.
As Henri Loyrette, the director of the Musee du Louvre puts it; "It is this multifaceted museum, at once immense and intimate, that I invite you to discover."**
In a perfect central location, the Louvre is easily accessible by metro from the Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre station.
Notre Dame is a Gothic, Catholic Cathedral, and one of Paris's most spectacular; home to the cathedra, (or official chair) of the Archbishop of Paris. Notre-Dame was constructed between 1163 and 1334 in the French Gothic style, including beautiful stained glass windows, and provided a stark contrast to France's earlier Romanesque architecture.
The best way to explore the Notre Dame is by climbing the towers. You'll see fantastic views of the city and can truly appreciate the detailed stonemasonry of the cathedral as well as the great bourbon bell, Emmanuel. The Notre Dame Cathedral is easily accessible by both RER and metro.
Though smaller and older than the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe holds the title of second most iconic monument in Paris. Commissioned to be built in 1809, but not completed until 1936, Napoleon had the Arc de Triomphe built to honour his armies, but sadly didn't live to see the finished monument.
Take the lift up to the small museum and from there climb 46 stairs to see the views. This symbolically important momument stands in the centre of the traffic junction of l'Etoile, with fantastic panaromic views of Paris, day and night and is well worth a visit. The Arc deTriomphe is easily accessible by Metro and RER.
Sample the French cuisine - Whether you love coffee and a pastry or a gourmet three course meal - Paris is the place for you. With cafes and bistro's lining the streets of Paris, there is a multitude of choice.
Spend your money at the local flea market. The flea markets of Paris are full of curious artefacts, antiques and, of course, bric-à-brac stalls. The most famous flea market in Paris at Porte de Clignancourt; officially called Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, but known to everyone as The Fleas. Covering seven hectares, it is the largest antique market in the world. Go to the flea markets early in the morning before they get crowded, and barter - everything is negotiable. The origin of flea markets dates back over two centuries, when rag and bone men raided the rubbish of Paris at night to find valuable things that they could sell.
Celebrating its 28th year in 2011, the Banlieu Bleues Festival is an annual five-week festival of jazz, blues, R&B and world music. Held every April/May, the festival is spread out in various venues across the Seine- St Denis district.
For one night only, La Nuit des Museacutees, the museums of Paris are open to the public at night for events and entertainment. Visit the museums and enjoy a totally different atmosphere. This event is held annually mid May, with other museums in France also taking part.
Held between 2nd and 24th July each year, the Tour de France is a international event. With 9 riders per team (22 in 2010), the Tour de France tests cyclists' endurance over 2,175 miles, winding around France and ending in downtown Paris.
Getting to Paris is really simple! Jump on the Eurostar at London St Pancras International and you will be in Paris in 2 hours 15 minutues. So breakfast in London and lunch in Paris. Arriving at the Gare du Nord, you can pick up connections to other destinations in Europe, as well as a plentiful supply of public transport into the city. The Gare du Nord is one of the six large railway stations on the SNCF mainline network, connecting Paris with the rest of France. You can travel on from Paris to many other European towns and cities; RailEurope offers great value passes to make exploring both cheap and fun.
If the train isn't for you and you'd prefer to go by plane, most international flights land at Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, 30km (19 miles) north-east of Paris. Domestic and other international flights use Orly airport, 18km (11 miles) south of the city.
You can get around Paris on the city's various bus routes, metro or RER. Paris's metro has 14 lines and almost 400 metro stations located throughout the city, along with a network of rapid transit trains called the RER that serve Paris and its outer suburbs.
* sourced from wikipedia
** sourced from the Louvre website