Paris needs no introduction. The capital of France has been romanticized by artists from all kinds of genres and is at the heart of innovations in fashion, architecture, art, gastronomy and tourism. As far as travel attractions go, Paris has its pockets full. Take the 12th-century Gothic cathedral, Notre-Dame, or the SacrÃ©-CÅ“ur Basilica in Montmartre; the Catacombes or the PÃ¨re Lachaise Cemetery; the Palace of Versailles and its elaborately sculpted gardens; The Louvre or MusÃ©e d'Orsay; The Lido Show or Moulin Rouge; Arc de Triomphe or Place de la Concorde; or the river Seine dissecting the city with its poetic curves, there’s much to pick from. Amateurs may argue that the towering wrought-iron Eiffel is symbolic of Paris, but anyone who’s flirted with the corner cafes, quaint bookstores and charming rues of this beautiful city will fervently disagree. There’s much more to Paris than meets the eye in a travel brochure.
Multiple airlines service the route from Delhi to Charles De Gaulle airport every day. Flights with one stop en route can take upwards of 13 hours. Air India runs a shorter direct flight as well. You need to have your return tickets and all your hotel bookings in Paris done in order to apply for the visa. All Schengen visa applications are processed at the VFS Global centre at Shivaji Stadium Metro station in Delhi. The requirements and procedure for application are available at vfs-france.co.in. A uniform short-visit Schengen visa can come with a validity of anything ranging from one to three months, depending on your travel dates and at the discretion of the French consulate.
What To See & Do
Often called the most beautiful avenue in the world, the Avenue des Champs-Ã‰lysÃ©es is a 1.9-km-long artery that runs through the 8th arrondissement, connecting Place de la Concorde in the east with Place Charles de Gaulle in the west, where the Arc de Triomphe stands tall. Don’t miss the Egyptian Obelisk of Luxor at Concorde. If your pockets are loaded, the avenue is prime shopping territory besides hosting a range of restaurants, cafes and theatres.
The famous cabaret and burlesque show, Le Lido, is also located here (dinner and show from â‚¬130; lido.fr). The rival show, Moulin Rouge, located in Montmartre district has become an icon of Paris thanks to pop culture (dinner and show from â‚¬175; moulinrouge.fr).
The district of Montmartre, named after its hill, is also famous for its artistic roots. Artists like Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Salvador DalÃ, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, among others, once lived and worked in studios here. The area has retained its quaint, old-world charm. Painters can still be seen practising their art on tourists (for a handsome fee) on the streets, while musicians continue to dole out delightful tunes nearby. There’s also a museum here that houses artwork of Salvador Dali. Leave your maps behind, take a walk on the cobbled streets and get wonderfully lost. Keep walking uphill until you spot, at the very top, the impressive architecture of the SacrÃ©-CÅ“ur Basilica.
Then there’s the Eiffel Tower, of course, in Champ de Mars. Visit the famous monument at night for a glittery view of the iconic structure, use the elevator to go to its top floor for a unique view (toureiffel.paris). Another unforgettable sight of the Paris landscape, with the Eiffel standing predominant and radiating an ethereal glow, is available from the 59th floor of the Montparnasse Tower, which has been converted into an observation desk for panoramic views (tickets from 17 euros; tourmontparnasse56.com).
While you’re in Paris, you cannot afford to miss the medieval Catholic cathedral, Notre-Dame. On the banks of Seine, in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, Notre-Dame casts a stunning spell even after over 850 years and stands as a prime example of French Gothic architecture. Go to the top of the bell tower for a view of the beautiful city guarded by the gargoyles. See notredamedeparis.fr for details on timings.
A guide once said that if a visitor were to spend just 30 seconds with every artwork in The Louvre, located on the right bank of Seine, it would take them over three months to see everything on display, which is a small fraction of the total collection this museum has. Take a guided tour for a wholesome experience in which the most famous and significant paintings and sculptures are covered within 3-4 hours. See louvre.fr for details.
Just across the river from Notre-Dame, a charming pair of bookstores called Shakespeare and Company is a must-visit. The first floor has a resident cat and many cosy corners to write, read or even leave notes for missed connections. See shakespeareandcompany.com. You must also take a cruise down the Seine for a singular experience of the city.
A slightly morbid attraction is Les Catacombes, an ossuary 20 metres below ground that hosts the remains of reportedly over six million people. The bones have been arranged to present a macabre display of death and it is possible to walk through a small part of this underground network, around 1.5km, with an audio guide in tow. See catacombes.paris.fr
The PÃ¨re Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th arrondissement is famous for being the resting place for many famous and important people including Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Modigliani. Take a sombre evening stroll here witnessing the varied funerary art on the graves, and pay tribute to your role models.
If you have the time, a day trip to the Palace of Versailles and its opulent gardens is worth the money and effort. Go on a Tuesday or Saturday to enjoy the fountains (chateauversailles.fr)
Where To Eat & Drink
The streets, or rues, are lined with delightful little cafes at every corner. Try the variety of cheese on offer and, of course, sip on some of the finest wine in the world. You’re in the home of the original Pinot Noir.
Launched in 1946, Le Sancerre near the Eiffel Tower is an authentic wine bar that will give you a taste of local wines. Septime, on rue de Charonne, is a restaurant much in demand for its fine dining options. Book a table before you go.
If you want to save on your meals, the website, Les Petites Tables, lets you find good lunch or dinner for under â‚¬10 a head (lespetitestables.com). There are lots of stalls and hole-in-the-wall cafes that will offer their own versions of local specialties. Vegetarian and vegan food is not everywhere but it’s not a stretch either, for instance, La Guinguette d’AngÃ¨le near Louvre offers gluten-free, organic lunchboxes and many a vegetarian and vegan options as well.
While you’re at Shakespeare and Company, try their cafÃ© adjacent to the bookshops. Frenchie is a restaurant most people have on their lists, but reservations are tough to get. Try their wine bar, Frenchie Bar Ã Vins, and sample some food pairings with your bottle of French wine.
Don’t leave Paris without piling on the calories by savouring some of its famous pastries. Paris brest is a must-try. Don’t forget the light-as-clouds French macarons and don’t underestimate the clichÃ© Ã©clair found at nearly every patisserie here. Tarte au citron should be given a shot. CafÃ© Angelina inside The Louvre serves up a hot chocolate to kill for! Pair that up with one of their inventive pastries and you’re headed to heaven.
Where To Stay
For a swanky and luxurious, albeit expensive, stay, you could go to Le Meurice (from â‚¬ 695; +33 (0)1 44 58 10 09, lemeurice.com), located between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre. In the same league of elegance is Ritz (from â‚¬1,000; +33 1 43 16 30 30, ritzparis.com).
For a budget option with a convenient location, explore Eiffel Capitol (from â‚¬83;+33 (0)1 45 78 61 00,paris-hotel-eiffel-capitol.com) or Holiday Inn Paris Gare D'lest (+331 55 26 05 05, hotel-paris-gare-de-lest.com).
Even cheaper would be the MIJE youth hostels (from â‚¬33,50; mije.com); the association has three 17th-century buildings in central Paris.
If you prefer a self-sufficient flat to live in, check out Airbnb for options. Some charming rooms and flats are available in the heart of the city at surprisingly low prices. (airbnb.co.in)