Five Secrets of the World’s Most Romantic City: Paris, France
Ah, Paris. A city of mystery and romance, drawing travelers from all over the world who want to experience the finest in art, culture, food and fashion. And if the guidebooks and tourism brochures are to be believed, Paris consists of nothing but well-dressed people touring the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees, the Left Bank and the Louvre – as well as overpriced food that most people would never dream of eating otherwise.
And while certain landmarks and experiences should be enjoyed when you visit Paris – it’s nearly impossible to miss the Eiffel Tower after all – there is much more to the City of Lights than clichés and tourist traps. If you want to get the most from your time and money during your visit, keep these five tips in mind.
Photo credit: Anirudh Koul
More Stars Equal More Money
Paris is a world-renowned culinary destination, with more five-star restaurants per capita than anywhere else on the globe. Chefs from all over flock to Paris to study French cuisine and techniques at the legendary Le Cordon Bleu academy and under the tutelage of master chefs. As a result, some of the restaurants you’ll find are of the highest caliber. The problem? You’ll pay for such a gastronomic delight; the bill for dinner at a Michelin 5-star restaurant can reach upwards of $500 or more, putting a significant dent into your vacation budget.
Instead of overspending at a pricy fine dining establishment, get a table at one of the many bistros that dot the city. While they might not have as many stars as the fancier places, many of the bistros feature top chefs, or chefs trained by the best in the world. You’ll have a nearly identical meal for a fraction of the cost, in a cozier, more casual environment.
A True French Shopping Experience
Many visitors to Paris dream of strolling down the legendary shopping street Champs Elysees, soaking up the atmosphere and dreaming of a day when they can afford the designer goods showcased in the store windows. The only dilemma? Because the street has become a destination for travelers from around the world, the French character has largely been lost in favor of global brands that you can get in just about any shopping mall in the world. Is it worth battling the crowds to get the same T-shirt that you can at home – for a fraction of the cost?
Instead, plan to shop the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Avenue Montaigne or Rue du Fauborg Ste. Honoré, where you can find haute couture, as well as quirky boutiques selling everything from toys to antiques.
More than the Louvre
While the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are certainly worthwhile destinations, between the crowds and the sheer size of the galleries, you are probably only going to see a fraction of the collections. If you have your heart set on seeing the “Mona Lisa,” by all means, take a look, but don’t overlook some of the smaller, more intimate museums where you can also see the works of such artists as Monet and Picasso. The Musée Rodin, for example, features some of the artist and sculptor’s greatest works, including “The Kiss,” and the spectacular gardens offer some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower in the city.
Unlike other cities, where taxis are plentiful and relatively affordable, in Paris, taxis are more of an inconvenience than a viable mode of transportation. To get a cab, you need to make a reservation or find a taxi stand, and even then, the ride is bound to be expensive and slow, thanks to the city’s legendary traffic. Instead, walk, take the Metro, or bike around the city. Bike rental kiosks can be found around Paris, and hotels often supply bicycles or direct guests where to find one.
Have a Croissant – And More
Sure, it’s practically a requirement to have a croissant (or two or three) in Paris, but don’t limit yourself to those buttery pastries. Head to Ladurée and pick up some macaroons, delicately-flavored cookies with a ganache filling. You won’t be disappointed.
With a history dating back several centuries and some of the most beautiful streets, buildings and parks in the world, Paris is truly the world’s most romantic city. Keep these secrets in mind for your next visit, and you’ll fall in love with it all over again.
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