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Paris Cheat Sheet

by Christina Henry de Tessan

Paris à la Mode

It's all too easy to think of Paris as a shrine to the past—especially if it's been a decade or more since you last set foot in the city. Assuming you've already covered the basics, now's the time to explore the younger, fresher face of the city.

Centre Pompidou, 4th Arr.: Home to the largest collection of modern art in Europe—including including Matisse cutouts and works of Picasso—the Pompidou (pictured) is one of Paris' most popular museums. In part, we suspect, because riding the escalators of this inside-out building (a work of art in itself, designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers in the 1970s) never gets old.

Palais de Tokyo, 16th Arr.: While the city's bobos claim to come for the avant-garde exhibits—expect the surreal (a life-size elephant sculpture balanced on its trunk) and the whimsical (a pop-up restaurant in a glass cube on the roof)—that's often just a pretext for a night of drinks, dancing, and Eiffel Tower views on the terrace. A major expansion is in the works, and there's an impressive lineup of exhibits and events for 2012.

Musée du Quai Branly, 7th Arr.: The buzziest museum to open in Paris in the last decade is housed in a wildly experimental Jean Nouvel building perched on stilts, with cubes of various colors jutting from its facade. Within, you'll find the ethnic art collection of the Louvre. But some visitors consider the museum's most impressive masterpiece to be Les Ombres, the glass-ceilinged rooftop restaurant.

Historial Charles de Gaulle, 7th Arr.: This 2008 addition to the Musée de l'Armée may sound like a staid and dusty tribute to the former president, but it is, in fact, a shrine to high-tech wizardry. Upon entering, you're equipped with a headset and an iPod-shaped gizmo that triggers the audio tour automatically as you enter each room of the exhibition space.

Where to stay: Opened in a 1917 bank building near the grands magasins, the Banke Hotel is an opulent old-meets-new affair decked out in baroque red and gold decor and gleaming modern touches such as silver mosaic tile in the bathrooms. Rooms start at $280.

See more info about the Centre Pompidou, the Palais de Tokyo, and the Musée du Quai Branly in our Paris travel guide.

Next: If you want to be mistaken for a Parisian >

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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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