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Paris Cheat Sheet

by Christina Henry de Tessan

Basics for the Paris First-Timer

So you've never been to Paris (we understand—it can happen to the best of us). No matter. We'll get you up to speed on the must-sees and still leave you plenty of time for other important Parisian rites of passage (like shoe shopping).

Musée d'Orsay, 7th Arr.: If you're only going to one museum, make it this one. The collection of Impressionist works here is among the best in the world, but if you want even more, buy a ticket that's also good for the nearby Musée de l'Orangerie, where you'll find Monet's masterpiece, Les Nymphéas.

Musée du Louvre, 1st Arr.: And of course you have to go to the Louvre. A 90-minute tour for newbies, in English, is available most days at 11 am and 2 pm. Your admission ticket (which you can purchase in advance) is valid all day; when the Rubenses start blending with the Rembrandts, take a time-out in the adjoining Tuileries garden.

Eiffel Tower, 7th Arr.: Reaching the top of Eiffel's elegant tower can tax anyone's patience. There is no shame in appreciating it from ground level, but if you insist on going up, book tickets online and time your visit for late in the day, when the crowds thin and the lights start winking on across the city.

Notre-Dame, 4th Arr.: It is 387 steps to the top of the south tower, yet the dizzying climb is worth the effort; to experience the nave in all its Gothic glory, coordinate your visit with one of the regular concerts. A bellyful of Berthillon ice cream (available at several outlets on neighboring Île St. Louis) makes the high-season lines more bearable.

Where to stay: Set on the Rue de Rivoli in the central first arrondissement, facing the Tuileries, the venerable Hotel Meurice is, as Voltaire would have said, the best of all possible worlds. Rooms start at $807 per night, but if there's ever a good time to splurge, it's on your first trip to Paris.

See more tips for the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and the Musée d'Orsay in our Paris travel guide.

Next: If your knowledge of Paris is so last century >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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