April 20, 2012 Paris France Europe

Visiting PARIS: All You Need to Know

Guides from around the world. PARIS City Guide.

What can I say about Paris that has not been already said? It has often been described as a destination for lovers, a place for great fun with friends, and of course, a place to see some of the world’s most important art pieces and historical spots. I have been there 17 times already and in my opinion, equally important as its art and history, is its food.

Be it the Michelin-starred restaurants, or the traditional Parisian bistro on a street corner, food in France is always treated with respect and honesty so you will not go wrong no matter where you go.

WHErE To STaY in pariS? If you’re looking for something low cost, try Best Western’s La Tour Notre Dame. It’s a very nice and cosy hotel located in the middle of Paris’ university and pub area. It’s situated a few minutes from the enchanting market street Rue Mouffetard, which is must-visit for all tourists. The rooms are small, but clean. At the time of my stay, they were installing new LCD screens and refurbishing the rooms, so I imagine the luxury of the hotel’s accommodation has gone up. Breakfast is served in the hotel’s cave, a hall that maintains a very trendy atmosphere. It’s a three-star place, with a reasonable price and most importantly no surprises. Once you leave the hotel, you’re a leap away from the metro of Cluny - La Sorbonne, which will connect you with the city’s center.

A MorE luXuriouS opTion: But if you’re looking to splurge a bit, you can’t go far wrong with the Hotel Raphael in Avenue Kléber. One of the oldest hotels in Paris, it is located just a short distance from the Arc de Triomphe and the famous Champs- Élysées. Entering Hotel Raphael you discover the atmosphere of a private club: walnut paneling and generous seating areas line the vastly spaced gallery, which is hung with art and carpeted with Oriental rugs. Rococo describes the ambience of the high-ceilinged guest rooms, furnished with Regency, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Empire, and Directoire antiques, yet thoughtfully appointed with satellite television, direct-dial telephone with voice mail and modem port. The Raphael is a unique Parisian hotel, which can be likened to a lively club. Whether you are in the intimate atmosphere of the Bar Anglais, in one of the cosseted suites or in one of the vast bedrooms, you will be made to feel at home, with attentive personnel to satisfy your every need. On average, I visit Paris once a month and this was the first time that I chose a hotel that is not part of an international chain, and believe me The Raphael was worth it. The service, the hospitality, the location, the food, the free valet parking, the room service, the 30sqm room space, the huge bathrooms, the room lighting, and the English bar are a few of the things we tried that are simply perfect. The price might be a bit high but very adequate for what you get. I didn’t have the chance to experience the rooftop terrace, but I will surely do that next summer. A small tip: ask for a back view for a calm and relaxing stay, a front view to experience a lively view of Paris.

Hop on and off: Once you’ve made your choice concerning hotels, it’ll be time to pump it up and discover the city. The best way is to buy a “HopOn HopOff” bus tour from Les Cars Rouges (www. carsrouges.com) for only 30 Euros. You can use it for 24 hours to tour all the famous monuments from French history including the revolution. In the afternoon, for some shopping, Galeries Lafayette (www.galerieslafayette.com), the Bazard de l'Hotel de Ville (www.bhv.fr) or Printemps (www.printemps.com) are all ideal destinations for luxury shopping.

Walking around: Paris is known for its internationally acclaimed dreamy atmosphere. Go on a personal tourist adventure as you take a walk along one of the world’s most famous avenues, the Champs-Élysées, a place known for its luxury stores, its variety of restaurants and bistros, coffee shops and so much more. Stop by a sidewalk coffee shop, better known in Paris as a café trottoir and order a nice cup of hot chocolate or a cup of tea. Angelina (www.angelina-paris.fr) is a place you should not miss. Located on Rue de Rivoli, it is known for its famous Mont Blanc cakes, and it’s a great place to watch the stylish Parisian people walking by.

CulinarY EXpEriEnCE: As the sun begins to set and the nighttime falls upon you, it’ll be time for partying, or simply enjoying a nice meal depending on your personality. All possibilities can be found by searching the Internet or by visiting the “Guide Michelin” pages. I chose two restaurants that I would like to recommend. The first is a typical French brasserie and the second is run by an internationally renowned chef.

TYpiCal frEnCH BraSSEriE: Brasserie Lipp The Brasserie Lipp in Saint-Germain des Pre is known to be where the fashionable artists, intellectuals and politicians in Paris hang out. But don’t expect a Michelin-starred restaurant. You also probably shouldn’t expect to be seated away from other customers at a relaxing, well-dressed table since you’re the one that chose to have a meal in a typical French brasserie. It is one of the oldest brasseries in town where you will probably be served by the same waiter that served your father 20 years ago. The food is authentic and purely French. Lipp is famous for its choucroute, a dish of sauerkraut with sausages, pork and ham. It caught the attention of French chefs following the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and I certainly enjoyed it. Perhaps the worst thing, though, are the tables. Everyone is seated so tightly, that the customers might as well be sitting on each others' laps.

L’Atelier Etoile de Joel Robuchon For a higher price and a more mouthwatering menu, try L’Atelier Etoile de Joel Robuchon in the Champs-Élysées. Here’s a wonderful culinary experience and if I had to pick just one word to describe it, I would say it was simply “sensational”. Joel Robuchon has received 26 Michelin stars – the most received by any chef in the world. Enough said! The restaurant is pleasant and the seating is special: you can look at the team of 10 chefs preparing your food in the kitchen while you are seated on high stools. The food is gorgeous and a treat for all the senses. What was most memorable and continues to linger in my mind was the dessert, which was a dark chocolate tart with ice cream. If you get a chance to go there it would be foolish not to make sure that this pudding is among your choices.

MuSEuMS and arT gallEriES: I found it was terrific value to get a Paris Museum Pass (http:// en.parismuseumpass.com), which are available for two, four or six days. I got the latter so that I could see as much as I could in the week I spent there. You get access to over 60 museums, art galleries and monuments and at €69 it was a bargain. Given the Louvre (€10), the Pompidou (€12), the Musee d’Orsay (€8) and Chateau Versailles (€18) are all essential places to visit, and amount to €48 between them, you can see how it is well worth getting the pass.

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