Capital and largest city of France, Paris is one of the world's most popular holiday destinations. Majestic monuments, world-class art museums, exclusive shopping and some of the best food in the world attract millions of visitors each year to this historic city.
Everyone knows that Paris is beautiful in the spring, but a visit can be rewarding at any time of year. Spring is a good time of year for walking and for enjoying the city's parks and gardens. Summer sees a wide range of festivals and celebrations, and is also less crowded as well as many Parisians leave the city during the hotter months and head for the countryside or beach. Autumn is a more subdued and relaxed time of year. Paris in the winter is dark and rainy, but the city fights back against the cold and gloom with bright lights and events such as the Montmartre Wine Festival, Christmas festivities and winter sales!
There are thousands of things to see and do during a holiday in Paris, and a short list can only scratch the surface. Perhaps the most famous of Paris's attractions are its monuments. For instance, the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889, remains the tallest structure in Paris and an international symbol of France. From the tower's position on the Champ de Mars, visitors can enjoy stunning views of the city. The famous Arc de Triomphe, located in the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle, commemorates the dead of the Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. The city's most macabre monument is the Catacombs, a warren of underground tunnels filled with bones relocated from old cemeteries. Only part of the Catacombs is open to visitors, but rumours circulate of secret late-night tours for those in the know.
Paris's museums are among the finest in the world. Some, like the Louvre, housed in a former royal palace, combine both historic artifacts and works of art; the Louvre's collections range from Ancient Egyptian funerary items to masterpieces like Leonardo's Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Others, like the Musée d'Orsay, focus primarily on art – in the Musée d'Orsay's case, 19th and early 20th century French art. Housed in a beautiful fin de siecle train station building, the Musée d'Orsay is not to be missed. Other museums, such as the Musée de Cluny, focus on a particular period. Housed in the former Paris residence of the abbots of Cluny, the museum preserves medieval art and artefacts including the famous “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries.
There are only so many paintings even the most enthusiastic art lover can look at in a day. When fatigue sets in and you need some fresh air, it's time to take a stroll or have a picnic in one of Paris's many parks. The city is famous for its green spaces, from the sprawling landscapes of the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes to the child-friendly playground of the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Paris's historic buildings, particularly churches, need no introduction. Everyone recognises the imposing Gothic edifice of Notre Dame de Paris, but there are other, less well-known churches equally deserving of attention, such as St-Etienne-du-Mont, which houses the relics of Saint Geneviėve in a peculiar mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles.
Parisians come from all over France – and from all around the world – so it's no surprise that Paris doesn't so much boast its own regional cuisine as it does the very best of French and international cooking.
Size: 17,174 square kilometres
Population: 12, 161, 542 people
Landscape: Elegant 19th-century boulevards, Haussmann palaces, medieval churches.