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Paris See And Do

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Bastille and Eastern Paris
Metro: Bastille

Over the last decade, hip Paris has been leaning farther and farther east, as mega-rehab projects transform what was a dowdy part of town. The Place de la Bastille, where the dreaded prison once stood and the 1789 Revolution began, is now home to the clunky modern Opéra Bastille (Place de la Bastille; 33-1-72-29-35-35; But far more indicative of the neighborhood's dynamism are the boîtes, bistros, and galleries that animate the web of streets radiating northeast. Behind the opera house on Avenue Daumesnil, the Viaduc des Arts—a restored 1850s railway viaduct—curves east for almost a mile, flanked by wide, tree-lined sidewalks. Under its arcades are dozens of craft shops and restaurants; on top, the Promenade Plantée, a linear park with roof-level views, spreads its trees, benches, and reflecting pools along a pedestrian-only path. Southeast of the Viaduc on the Seine at Bercy, 35-acre Bercy Park wraps itself around a handful of 200-year-old wine warehouses and equally ancient sycamores. The park links via a footbridge to the National Library on the Left Bank at Tolbiac—as a billion-dollar building, it's just too mediocre to be true (Quai François Maurice; 33-1-53-79-59-59; Back at the Bastille, head north toward the Place de la République. The Cirque d'Hiver, a handsome indoor circus built in 1852, is still used for circus performances as well as fashion shows and other events (110 Rue Amelot; 33-1-47-00-28-81; Here, too, adjoining streets like Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud are shoulder-to-shoulder with hipster hangouts.

Canal St-Martin

Long a working-class neighborhood with an edge, the Canal St-Martin is the latest quartier to be reinvented by artists and young bohemians. Built in the early 1800s for industrial transport, the canal is spanned by hump-back bridges and lined with cobbled banks, giant sycamores, and warehouses that are being converted into lofts. There are still some seedy surroundings and homeless encampments, but by day, blue- and white-collar locals plus a sprinkling of tourists add normality to the scene. By night, the hipsters take over. Galleries and boutiques are quirky and marginal. The bars, cafés, and restaurants feel like they've followed you from the similarly hip but older Bastille and Oberkampf areas. Near the canal's southern end, off Quai de Jemmapes and Quai de Valmy, you'll find Café l'Atmosphère (49 Rue Lucien Sampaix; 33-1-40-38-09-21), Le Poisson Rouge (112 Quai de Jemmapes; 33-1-40-40-07-11;, and l'Hôtel du Nord (102 Quai de Jemmapes; 33-1-40-40-78-78;—interchangeable hangouts with outdoor tables and an arty feel. Farther north are casual Le Chaland café (163 Quai de Valmy; 33-1-40-05-18-68), Quai Ouest, a cutting-edge new-music venue (167 Quai de Valmy and 1 Rue Alexandre Parodi; 33-1-40-36-54-30), and the laid back Opus Jazz and Soul Club (167 Quai de Valmy; 33-1-40-34-70-00). Further up, near the dicey Stalingrad Métro station, hopping local hangouts surround the mainstream MK2 cinema-theater-café-restaurant-bookstore complex which sits on both canal banks (14 Quai de la Seine and 7 Quai de Loire; 33-8-92-69-84-84;

Centre Georges Pompidou
Rue St-Martin
France 75004
Tel: 33 1 44 78 12 33
Metro: Châtelet-Les Halles or Hôtel de Ville

When it opened in 1977, the intention of this inside-out modern art museum—the staircases and pipes are famously exposed on its exterior—was to snatch back Paris's role as the art capital of the world, a title it lost to New York after World War II. The Pompidou fell short of that goal (the contemporary art scene in Paris remains puckish), but it has become one of the top tourist attractions in France. Beaubourg, as Parisians call it, has a permanent collection that runs from 1905 to the present and includes such "isms" as primitivism, Cubism, Fauvism, surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. Making the most of those riches, it mounts outstanding exhibits that cover everything from Andy Warhol to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The complex also includes an open-to-the-public library, cinemas, children's programs, and Georges, a trendy if expensive and slightly snooty restaurant with fabulous vistas from its top floor—it's great for lunch (33-1-44-78-47-99).

Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.

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Château de Versailles
France 78000
Tel: 33 1 30 83 76 20 or 33 8 92 68 46 94 for advance ticket sales
Metro: RER C5 or train from the Gare St-Lazare to Versailles-Rive Droite

People visit Versailles in the hopes of being absolutely dazzled by opulence. They're rarely disappointed. The palace is glorious, but unless you already have a good grasp of French history, it's a good idea to bone up, since the endless references to seemingly out-of-sequence kings and their queens, mistresses, and children can dull the magic if you can't keep up. Get here as early as you possibly can to avoid the tour-bus herds, and don't just troop through the most famous rooms—the Hall of Mirrors, the Grand Appartement where Louis XIV held court, and the queen's bedroom. The lavish private apartments of Louis XV, Louis XVI, and Marie-Antoinette give a glimpse of why the Revolution took place, and the Opera House and Royal Chapel tell you plenty about the gilded-lily, ancien régime lifestyle. Do check out Madame de Pompadour's gorgeously restored "secret" apartments, wander the sublime gardens, and visit the Petit Trianon, where Marie Antoinette futilely, fatuously, famously attempted to re-create the simple life of her subjects. Also stop by the Potager du Roi, the vegetable garden to the west of the palace that supplied the court. The palace compound is currently undergoing extensive renovations, which have added new must-sees to a visit, including the gilded salle de bain (bathroom) of Louis XV.

Open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. November through March; 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. April through October. Palace closed Mondays; gardens open daily.


Even if you speak no French, Paris is the world's best city for going to the movies. On any given night, hundreds of films, both new and classic, are screened—most in their original languages. Check Pariscope and l'Officiel du Spectacle, sold at newsstands citywide, for listings ("v.o." means version originale, or original version, "v.f." often means dubbed). Paris's loveliest vintage cinema is La Pagode, a Japanese pagoda built by a French architect in one of the city's toniest neighborhoods. Look for films shown in the Salle Japonaise, the resplendent faux-Japanese projection room. Also, the café here sells excellent brownies (57 bis Rue de Babylone; 33-8-92-89-28-92). Le Grand Rex, a landmark Art Deco cinema that opened in 1932, hosts movies, star-studded events, jazz and rock concerts, and a big-screen virtual-visit of the theater itself in its 2,400-seat auditorium (1 Blvd. Poissonnière; 33-1-45-08-93-58; Atop Montmartre, Studio 28 is a much-loved neighborhood spot from the 1920s—Luis Buñuel's surreal Golden Age premiered here in the 1930s. It's still an active movie house (and puts on art shows and theatrical events as well), and the interior is largely unchanged since its glory days (10 rue Tholozé; 33-1-46-06-36-07). Le Louxor, under restoration since 1987, is still closed—but take a look at the crazy neo–Ancient Egyptian facade from 1920 (170 Boulevard Magenta).

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Eiffel Tower
Champ de Mars
France 75007
Tel: 33 1 44 11 23 23
Metro: Champ de Mars–Tour Eiffel, Bir-Hakeim, Trocadéro or École Militaire

It's hard to imagine just how avant-garde this tower of cast-iron girders was when it was built in 1889 to celebrate the World's Fair and the centenary of the French Revolution. The great majority of Parisians loathed it, and the press brayed on about how it was an industrial pimple on the face of the city. But a century and then some later, the elegant slope-legged tower has become the quintessential symbol of the City of Light. Its latest attraction is a mantle of 20,000 flashbulbs, originally installed to celebrate the new millennium, that glitter for ten minutes every hour on the hour after dark. So, do you need to actually visit it? Well, yes, and not just if you happen to be proposing publicly to Katie Holmes. It's a fascinating example of early industrial architecture, and the panoramas really are swell. Go at night to skip at least some of the teeming masses. Or better still, book a table perched 400 feet up on the second level, at the Jules Verne restaurant. Now part of the Alain Ducasse empire, it attracts savvy local families and visitors alike with French classics (33-1-45-55-61-44).

Open 9 am to 12 midnight between June 15 and September 1; open 9:30 am to 11 pm during the rest of the year.

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Île de la Cité and Île St-Louis
Metro: Cité

Midstream in the Seine, the Île de la Cité is Paris's birthplace, where a Celtic tribe known as the Parisii built their wattle settlement around 250 BC. The island is bound to the mainland by four bridges, including the city's oldest—the now mislabeled Pont Neuf ("new bridge"). To get a sense of what the island was like before Baron Haussmann totally redeveloped it, visit the archeological crypt (1 Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame; 33-1-55-42-50-10), the pretty Place Dauphine (Between Pont Neuf and Rue de Harlay), and the side streets on the north side of Notre-Dame. Sainte-Chapelle, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, is always mobbed for its stained glass; to beat the crowds, try going to an evening concert, especially in summer, when the days are long and the light through the stained glass is gorgeous until 10 p.m. (4 Blvd. du Palais). On the upstream tip of the island, behind Notre-Dame, the Deportation Memorial is a moving monument to French citizens who were deported and died in Nazi camps.

Developed in the 17th century as an exclusive enclave, half-mile-long Île St-Louis is lined by the mossy town houses of the old-money elite (the Rothschilds lord over the upstream eastern side). Plaques identify dozens of the artists, writers, and bigwig politicians who've lived here, from Charles Baudelaire to Georges Pompidou and Ernest Hemingway. Some of the richest, most irresistible ice cream anywhere comes from Berthillon, headquartered at 29–31 Rue St-Louis-en-l'Île (33-1-43-54-31-61;, and is also sold by a half dozen island cafés and restaurants. And if you want to learn to fly-fish or spin-cast like a true Parisian, head to century-old Maison de la Mouche, on the Boulevard Henri IV, the roadway bridge that crosses the island's upstream end (1 Blvd. Henri IV; 33-1-43-54-60-46). Head to the island's south side for a great view of Notre-Dame's flying buttresses from the Quai d'Orléans.

L'Atelier des Chefs
10 Rue de Penthièvre
France 75008
Tel: 33 1 53 30 05 82
Metro: Miromesnil

With a convenient location and well-equipped kitchens, this cooking school offers a two-hour, hands-on course taught by working chefs. You'll learn how to cook three dishes—perhaps vichyssoise, chicken breasts stuffed with foie gras, and roasted apricots with Mascarpone—then feast at a communal lunch with wine. Note that the class is in French, but you won't have trouble following along, and your chef may even speak English. For fluent French speakers, a variety of other classes are available, including different ways of preparing potatoes, cooking with flowers, and exploring international cuisines such as Cambodian. Book well ahead of time if you want to wow the gang back home with a gourmet dinner after your trip.

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Luxembourg Gardens
Entrances: Place Auguste-Comte, Place Edmond-Rostand, or Rue de Vaugirard
France 75014
Metro: Odéon

On that inevitable day when you don't want to go to a museum and you're sick of shopping, come to the Luxembourg Gardens. Quite simply, there's no better people-watching in Paris, and it changes all day long. In the morning, you'll see joggers, early tennis players, dog-walkers, and students; around 11 a.m. or so, a more mature crowd arrives—elegantly dressed women out for a stroll, men playing chess or checkers in the northwest corner—along with nannies pushing baby carriages and scolding toddlers. At noon, secretaries from the surrounding art galleries and publishing houses come to picnic, followed by academics carrying heavy books and heading for the park's quietest corners. By afternoon, all of Paris is present, and the genius of this park becomes undeniable—you can do everything from riding a merry-go-round or a pony to learning how to keep bees (a beekeeping school produces honey for the French Sénat, which occupies the palace on the park's northern flank). Just south of the park on the Rue d'Assas is in one our favorite little museums: Musée Zadkine, the former home and studio of Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine. Zadkine ran with the wild, absinthe-swilling Montparnasse crowd of the early 20th century; as interesting as his stylized figures in bronze and marble is the studio itself, which rambles around a leafy garden court and gives a glimpse of what the artists' colony of the Left Bank—made famous by Picasso, Modigliani, et al—was like (100 bis Rue d'Assas; 33-1-55-42-77-20;; closed Mon.).

Open daily from dawn to dusk (but never before 7 a.m.).

Maison Européene de la Photographie
82 Rue François Miron
France 75004
Tel: 33 1 44 78 75 00
Metro: Saint Paul or Pont Marie

Paris was one of the pioneering cities in the birth of photography: It was recognized as an art form here long before anywhere else. This handsome 17th-century stone mansion in the Marais holds a collection of 15,000 photographs, prints, and films by artists from the 1950s to the present day (Robert Frank, Depardon, Salgado, and Cartier Bresson among them). Temporary shows are often based on the permanent collection or contemporary photographers. There might be a retrospective of VU magazine between 1928 and 1940, or works from the interwar period by Hungarian photographer André Kertész. There is also an extensive library, individual video viewing stations, and a film series.

Open Wednesdays through Sundays 11 am to 8 pm.


Since the 1990s, the focus of the city's cruising and schmoozing scene has been the Marais, especially the area around Square du Temple in the Third Arrondissement. It wasn't always so: Historically grubby (the name means "marsh"), the district was almost razed during the interwar years, replaced by a mass of skyscrapers designed by Le Corbusier. World War II stopped him, but postwar developer-visionaries tried to create a historical theme park out of the neighborhood. Instead, culture minister André Malraux designated the neighborhood a historic monument in 1962, resulting in blanket gentrification: Museums, administrative offices, and mansions now occupy buildings that once housed factories or tenements. Starting in the 1980s, the gay scene moved into the roistering Rue Vieille du Temple and engendered dozens of leisure and entertainment venues. And the small Jewish neighborhood that grew up in the 1800s around Rue des Rosiers is now a clutter of funky boutiques, kosher food stores, and falafel joints. In 1988, the Jewish History Museum opened in the masterfully restored Hôtel Saint-Aignan (71 Rue du Temple; 33-1-53-01-86-60;; closed Sat). Also nearby are the Musée Carnavalet; the superb and comprehensive Picasso Museum (5 Rue Thorigny; 33-1-42-71-25-21;; closed Tues); the Musée Cognacq-Jay, a small, personal collection of fine art (8 Rue Elzévir; 33-1-40-27-07-21;; closed Mon); and the Pompidou. The centerpiece of the neighborhood is Place des Vosges, where fountains and horse chestnut trees are hedged by symmetrical, slate-roofed pavilions of brick built in the early 17th century to house King Louis XIII's court. Visit the Victor Hugo house museum, on the square's southeast corner, to get an aerial view (6 Place des Vosges; 33-1-42-72-10-16;; closed Mon).

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France 75018
Metro: Pigalle, Blanche, Place de Clichy, or Lamarck-Caulaincourt

The bulbous white-stone domes of Sacré-Coeur (built from 1875 to 1919) are Montmartre's dreamy visual emblem, but its real appeal is far earthier. Lacking a port district as the usual venue for less-than-holy pleasures, mid-19th-century Parisians claimed this hilltop village as a place to escape from the pieties of bourgeois France. Taverns, dives, and dance halls opened—some, like the iconic Moulin de la Galette, occupied the old windmills that crowned this breezy outcrop—and artists (Toulouse-Lautrec, of course, but also Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, and Utrillo) followed in search of provocative and accommodating subjects. Today, nostalgia for the Belle Époque is an industry perpetuated in cafés, clubs, theaters, restaurants, bars, and boutiques centered on the Place du Tertre, the prototype tourist trap that's fascinating precisely for that reason: The Butte (as Montmartre is often called by locals) and the Pigalle–Place de Clichy area below it have been in the kitsch-entertainment business so long they've acquired a historic patina. For something more authentic, try the leafy Place des Abbesses, coiling Rue Lepic, or lower sections of the edgy Rue des Martyrs. On the far side of the hill near the Lamarck-Caulaincourt metro station, real locals hang out in atmospheric joints on serpentine streets. Nearby, the Cimetière de Montmartre is possibly the only cemetery in the world with a century-old viaduct flying over its tombs.

Musée Carnavalet
23 Rue de Sévigné
France 75003
Tel: 33 1 44 59 58 58
Metro: Saint-Paul or Chemin Vert

Ignore the Mona Lisa's prima donna claim on the world's imagination. The first museum you should go to in Paris is this superb 140-room collection dedicated to the history of the city itself. Once you've been here, you'll have a rough historical scaffolding in the back of your mind and everything else about the city will make sense. The beautiful structure was built in 1548 and turned into a museum in 1866 by that famous architectural busybody Baron Haussmann (did he ever take a day off?). The story of the city begins with wooden canoes used by the Parisii, who fished the Seine in the Neolithic age. The Roman collections are outstanding, as are exhibits devoted to 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century Paris. Whatever you do, don't miss the Carnavalet's weirdest treasure—writer Marcel Proust's bedroom, cork-lined so he could write in silence.

Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Musée d'Orsay
1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur
France 75007
Tel: 33 1 40 49 48 14
Metro: Musée d'Orsay

Since opening in 1986, the Musée d'Orsay has become one of the most successful and beloved museums in the world. The grandiose limestone edifice was originally built as a train station to process the throngs who came for the World Fair of 1900. It stood idle for many years before Italian architect Gae Aulenti remodeled the interior without annihilating its original heritage; coats of arms on the main concourse's elaborate ceiling represent the cities served by the old station, for example. The collection represents that fruitful era from 1848 to 1914—approximately the incubation period of modern art and, as luck and late socialist president François Mitterand would have it, also concurrent with the birth and flowering of socialism. Politics aside, it's a great institution, with a terrific collection of Impressionist canvases, including Manet's famous Déjeuner sur l'Herbe and Van Gogh's first Starry Night. Don't miss the Art Nouveau furniture collection, or views of Paris from behind the glass clock faces on the Seine side of the building.

Open 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (9:45 p.m. on Thursdays). Closed Mondays.

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Musée du Louvre
Rue de Rivoli
France 75001
Tel: 33 1 40 20 53 17
Metro: Louvre–Rivoli or Palais Royal–Musée du Louvre

The world's most famous museum, originally a royal residence, usually elicits one of two strong reactions from those who've never been before—exhilaration or dread. The most reasonable response may be a mixture of the two, since it's a lot of work to see even a small part of it. What's needed is some strategy. Download a floor plan from the website before you show up, and arrive with a list of what you absolutely can't miss (Leonardo's masterpieces, Veronese's like-it-or-loathe-it Wedding at Cana, Caravaggio's superb Fortune Teller, Michelangelo's Dying Slave sculpture, etc., etc.). If you're coming in summer, buy your ticket in advance on the website, and use an alternative entrance instead of I.M. Pei's mobbed glass pyramid (the best access point for first-timers is the Porte des Lions entrance, which drops you off almost directly at the Mona Lisa). No matter how you find your way in, prepare yourself for crowds: Attendance at the Louvre has gone up by over a million a year since the release of The Da Vinci Code, which is the subject of the most popular tours and audio guides now, much to the chagrin of authentic art lovers and historians. Try to see the most famous pieces at lunchtime or during dinner on Wednesday and Friday, when the museum is open until 10 p.m. Keep in mind that some rooms are closed on a rotating weekly basis; if you have your heart set on seeing something beyond the traditional masterpieces, check the website to make sure it'll be accessible. And don't forget that your ticket is valid all day long—you're not a bad person if you want to go sit on a bench in the gardens of the Tuileries or the Palais Royal for a time-out.

Open 9 am to 6 pm (until 10 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays). Closed Tuesdays.

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Musée du Quai Branly
37 Quai Branly
France 75007
Tel: 33 1 56 61 70 00
Metro: Iéna, Alma-Marceau, Pont de l'Alma or Bir-Hakeim

After a decade of dithering, Parisian star architect Jean Nouvel's $300 million Seine-side complex finally opened in June 2006. Built to embody President Jacques Chirac's politically correct dream of French multiculturalism, Quai Branly is a provocative architectural and cultural statement, and the city's latest must-see. Imagine a comic-strip cargo ship with rust-red and yellow containers jutting from one side, the rusty louvers of a tobacco-drying barn on the other, and a freeway underpass below. That's the main building. Plants cascade junglelike from adjacent twin office towers; behind high glass walls, sinuous garden paths coil toward the dark, tangled, Halloween nightmare within. Wild proliferations of artwork and objects (masks, totems, sculptures) from the non-European world are swirled, stacked, or hung with apparently methodless madness (though they're actually organized by geographical region and date). Many are gorgeous, others downright disturbing—a 19th-century Nigerian headdress made from a skull and human hair, for instance. Intense spotlights cast shadows everywhere, and multimedia pods add acoustic confusion. Of course, it's all intentional: By observing yourself and others struggling to make sense of it all, you become a player in Nouvel's neo-mannerist game. The final challenge is to find the one unqualified success here: glass-domed Les Ombres restaurant, where talented young chef Arno Busquet turns out innovative Franco-world meals made from fair-trade ingredients. (There's a separate, badly marked entrance at 220 Rue de l'Université; 33-1-47-53-68-00.) The indoor-outdoor café is also a good place to snack or lunch, and to watch others hunt for the entrance. Go clockwise; you'll find it eventually.

Open 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (until 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays). Closed Mondays.

P.S. Take a virtual spin around the museum in our "24 Hours in Paris" video.

Musée Marmottan Monet
2 Rue Louis-Boilly
France 75016
Tel: 33 1 44 96 50 33
Metro: La Muette

Only in Paris could the world's single largest collection of Monet paintings (along with works by Pissarro, Sisley, and Renoir) be overshadowed by other museums. But don't ignore this little-known gem, tucked away in the leafy, residential 16th Arrondissement. Housed in an atmospheric old hunting lodge—the area was once wooded—the ballast of the collection came from two bequests. The first was a trove of canvases donated by the daughter of Georges de Bellio, Monet's doctor; the second came from Monet's son Michel. The real prize here is Impression Soleil Levant, a magnificent work from 1873 recording Monet's impression of a sunrise at Le Havre.

Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Musée National du Moyen Age
6 Place Paul Painlevé
France 75005
Tel: 33 1 53 73 78 00
Metro: Saint Michel, Cluny–La Sorbonne or Odéon

The best museums in Paris awe with beauty or provide a deepened understanding of the city. The Musée National du Moyen Age (also known as the Musée de Cluny) does both, but perhaps due to its slightly great aunt–like appearance and personality, it's not as well known as other museums. That means you'll often have this former home of the bishops of Cluny to yourself. The star attraction is the magnificent Lady and the Unicorn tapestry cycle, and though the word "tapestry" is a surefire yawn-puller, the delicate beauty of these six late-15th-century Flemish works depicting allegories of the five senses is very moving. The 12th-century illuminated manuscript The Ascension of Christ, which was produced at the Abbey of Cluny, is another must, though it's the mundane medieval objects like tools, dishes, and shoes that have a way of making a remote slice of history immediate.

Open Mondays and Wednesdays through Sundays 9:15 am to 5:45 pm.

Musée Rodin
79 Rue de Varenne
France 75007
Tel: 33 1 44 18 61 10
Metro: Varenne, Invalides or Saint-François-Xavier

Rodin's powerful bronze and stone sculptures would be stunning even if they were displayed in a parking lot, but here, they're housed in a 1728 private mansion, just across the boulevard from the Invalides. The gorgeous grounds are studded with old trees and amazing roses circled by winding paths, and the handsome salons are filled with the furniture, art, and objects Rodin collected (including works by Monet, Renoir, Camille Claudel, and Van Gogh). More than a half million visitors troll through the house and garden annually, but its openness means that you rarely feel crowded when contemplating the master's sketches, plaster casts, waxworks, and finished statues. There's a nice little snack bar under the trees, plus a boutique and bookstore out front.

Open 9:30 am to 4:45 pm, October through March; 9:30 am to 5:45 pm, April through September. Closed Mondays.

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Notre-Dame de Paris
Place du Parvis-Notre-Dame
France 75004
Tel: 33 1 42 34 56 10
Tel: 33 1 53 10 07 02 (towers)
Metro: Cité

Faith may have helped Bishop Maurice de Sully get Notre-Dame underway in 1160, but ceaseless toil is what finished the job by the end of the century. Despite severe damage during the Revolution of 1789 and clumsy 19th-century restorations and additions (including the faux-medieval spire, much of the statuary, and the stained glass), this great Gothic masterpiece ranks among the most moving and important Christian sites in the world. After a ten-year, largely successful restoration (finished in 2002), the blond-stone facade is again free of grime. In high season, you'll have plenty of time to admire the exterior as you wait to get in. And wait again, if you want to gaze down on Paris with a 230-foot-high gargoyle's-eye view: The 400-step climb up the north tower, passing the cathedral's giant bells and Gallery of Chimeras, is worth the effort—and the long lines. Your best chance to beat the queue is to avoid Sundays and holidays, and arrive before opening hours or at the end of the day. On weekends in July and August, the towers are open until 11 p.m., so do the interior first then get in line for the climb. Notre-Dame's buttressed back is best seen from the adjoining Pont de l'Archevêché or the Quai d'Orléans midstream on the Île Saint Louis.

April 1 through June 30: 9:30 am to 7:30 pm.
July 1 through August 31: 9 am to 7:30 pm (11 pm Saturdays and Sundays)
Sept. 1 through Sept. 30: 9:30 am to 7:30 pm.
October 1 through March 31: 10 am to 5:30 pm.

Palais de Tokyo
13 Avenue de President Wilson
France 75016
Tel: 33 1 47 23 54 01
Metro: Iéna, Alma-Marceau

After lying dormant for several years, this Art Moderne gallery burst back onto the scene under the edgy aegis of curators Nicolas Bourriaud and Jérôme Sans. They've reinvented the place as a sort of art incubator specializing in shows that might not otherwise get a look from the city's rather tradition-bound establishment. Stripped down to its functional gizzards in the idiom of the Centre Pompidou, the venue works a charm for installations, including video or sculpture shows, fashion events, and performances. The curators take particular pride in the links they've created to emerging art scenes in Asia, especially Beijing and Shanghai. Last but not least, the café here is a fun place to clock the young movers and shakers of the local art world.

Open noon to midnight. Closed Mondays.

Palais Royal
France 75001
Metro: Palais Royal

The Palais Royal is just across the Rue de Rivoli from the mobbed Louvre, yet surprisingly few people wander into the compound's quiet, colonnaded courtyard. The 18th-century palace itself—which has a blood-soaked history but now houses numerous government offices and lavish private apartments (Colette and Cocteau both lived here in the 1950s)—is off limits. But the garden is the ideal place to recharge after the Louvre. In the 1990s, American designer Mark Rudkin revived the courtyard's 1730 layout and added small "scented sitting rooms" within earshot of the fountain; you can also wander around and view the controversial fountain-art installation Les Deux Plateaux by Daniel Buren (under the Culture Minister's windows). The elegant arcades enclose cafés, restaurants, and shops.

Paris Walks
Tel: 33 1 48 09 21 40

The best approach to seeing the French capital is with a lot of shoe leather and a good guide, which is why it's so much fun to join a Paris Walks tour. Owned and run since 1994 by Peter and Oriel Caine, a charming British couple, the tours are exceptionally well-priced and easy to join. Reserve by phone, fax, or e-mail, or just show up at the appointed place and time as announced by flyers found in many Paris hotels. Themes range from Hemingway's Paris to The Da Vinci Code (yes, still) to a "Saints and Sinners" tour of the Marais, each offering a lively mix of history, art, and local lore delivered by highly qualified Anglophone locals. Each tour lasts about two hours. Paris Walks also offers private tours to Paris neighborhoods, museums, or out-of-town destinations such as Monet's house and gardens in Giverny, or the D-day beaches of Normandy.

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Père-Lachaise Cemetery and Ménilmontant-Oberkampf
Metro: Père Lachaise

The winding, cobbled paths of Père-Lachaise spread over 100 acres in the 20th Arrondissement, knotting around thousands of historic tombs, giant old trees, flowerbeds, and romantic ruins. Most visitors come to see the famous residents: Abelard and Héloïse, Chopin, Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Proust, Piaf, Gertrude Stein, and, inevitably, Jim Morrison. The cemetery's southern edge is flanked by Boulevard de Ménilmontant, the spinal column of an up-and-coming, multiethnic neighborhood locals call "Ménilmouche," where bars, cafés, and North African, Asian, and kosher restaurants spill across wide sidewalks under arching trees. Intersecting Ménilmontant a couple of hundred yards northwest of the cemetery, Rue Oberkampf extends the hip zone by several city blocks—you'll find hot spots like Café Charbon (109 Rue Oberkampf; 33-1-43-57-55-13) tucked between Turkish eateries and hole-in-the-wall shops.

Hotel Photo
Tuileries and Orangerie
France 75001
Metro: Concorde

There is magic in the sycamore-lined Tuileries garden between the Champs-Élysées and the Louvre. Named for the roofing-tile factory that once stood here, this is Paris's oldest public garden, but recent replantings and the addition of a dozen works of modern and contemporary art have given it new life. There are four cafés, hundreds of comfortable garden chairs and shady benches, and two monumental pools with water jets. On the northwest terrace, the Jeu de Paume, originally a handball court, is now a photo gallery with great temporary exhibits (1 Place de la Concorde; 33-1-47-03-12-50;; closed Mon). On the Seine-side terrace is the Musée de l'Orangerie—an absolute must-see. Reopened in spring 2006 after a six-year, $36-million renovation, it displays a tour de force by Monet: eight huge water lily paintings, shown in two oval-shaped rooms under skylights that re-create the natural light conditions Monet knew in the 1920s. The remake has succeeded to excess: The other rooms, with their amazing canvases by Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, André Derain, and Chaim Soutine, fade in comparison. So visit twice—once for Monet, a second time for everyone else (33-1-44-77-80-07;; closed Tues).

Vaux Le Vicomte
France 77950
Tel: 33 1 64 14 41 90

If you don't have time to visit the Loire Valley châteaux, this gorgeous palace an hour from Paris by commuter train will give you a sumptuous taste of the genre (take the RER D train from the Gare de Lyon to Melun, then a taxi or the Châteaubus shuttle to the château). In its day, the beauty of Vaux le Vicomte, owned by French finance minister Nicolas Fouquet, was so talked about that it got under King Louis XIV's collar and propelled him to massively remodel Versailles, previously a much more modest hunting lodge. Although the castle is lovely, what's really magnificent are the surrounding gardens, a masterpiece of French formal landscaping by André Le Nôtre, who also designed those at Versailles.

Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March through November only.

Vedettes du Pont Neuf
Square du Vert Galant
France 75001
Tel: 33 1 46 33 98 38
Metro: Pont Neuf

Sure, a boat ride on the river is as touristy as an Eiffel Tower hat made of foam rubber, but the fact is that you get a completely different view of Paris, and a very romantic one at that, from the water. Several companies offer Seine cruises, but this one has the advantage of a charming, central, and easily reached location on the northwestern edge of the Île de la Cité, and the boats are smaller than the troop-carrier affairs deployed by most other companies. They don't serve meals, either, which is a good thing: The food on lunch and dinner cruises is unfailingly mediocre, and if it's harmless enough to be a tourist out in the fresh air, it's a sad business in an enclosed stock-pen of a dining room.

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