A perfect weekend in Paris
Forget all the film scenes, all the preconceived notions and expectations. Set out without a tour guide and discover Paris on your own: its streets, its boulevards, its old winding lanes, its serene interior courtyards. There's much to find in this city that people think they already know so well. But don't leave it all to chance: first read our tips for a few perfect days!
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A gentle and balmy breeze often circulates in Paris, apparently starting at the river, which may indeed have brought it into town. The breeze rumples hair and rustles the newspapers of the people sitting at the sidewalk cafes.
It peers around corners and blows in gusts down the Champs-Elysées. It streams through the Arc de Triumphe, swings under the Eiffel Tower, and provides tailwind to the tourists clambering up the broad flights of stairs to Sacré-Coeur.
Like these tourists, the breeze also visits the adjacent Place du Tertre, where portrait artists with little grey Toulouse-Lautrec beards offer their services to the tourists.
Ducks, concerts and picturesque domes
Sightseeing in a 2CV:
The Citroën 2CV or "Deux Chevaux" (made from 1949 to 1990, originally with a 2 HP engine) is still remembered fondly in Europe as the poor person's car of days gone by, and in Germany as the vehicle of choice of the young. For many, it was as much a part of growing up as lake shore campfires, singing "Stairway to Heaven" to guitar accompaniment, or watching Saturday Night Fever on a small-town movie screen. Today, the "2CV" is as rare in France as in Germany. But a company calling itself "4 roues sous 1 parapluie" ("4 wheels under 1 umbrella," a 1960s advertising slogan for the 2CV) has refurbished a small fleet of these vehicles and uses them for sightseeing tours along the Seine. The drivers are college students, who can tell their passengers a lot about Paris.
22, Rue Bernard Dimey, Tel. +33-6/67 32 26 68, www.4roues-sous-1parapluie.com
This is the Carnegie Hall of Paris, the top venue for classical music. Four years and many millions of euros have transformed the Salle Pleyel into the best concert hall in the city. The leading orchestras of Paris take turns playing here. During the main season, there's a concert practically every day.
252, Rue du Faubourg- Saint-Honoré, Tel. +33-1/42 56 13 13, www.sallepleyel.fr
When in Paris, you're bound to pay at least a short visit to this famous department store, and while you're there, you should by all means have a bite to eat in the brasserie of Printemps Mode. You'll find yourself in a gigantic restaurant under a romantic cupola where you'll get a tasty meal at a digestible price. There's also the self-service restaurant Déli-Cieux on the roof of Printemps Beauté/Maison with an unforgettable panoramic view. We recommend it more for quick refreshments, however.
64, Boulevard Haussmann, Tel. +33-1/42 82 58 84, www.printemps.com
Impressive museums and hotels that seem to have stepped out of a child’s dream
Musée du Quai Branly:
Here, it's easy to forget you're in Paris. The new leading museum in the French capital opened in 2006 and displays around 3,500 objects of non-European art in a building on the banks of the Seine with curved and arching rooms and hallways. It seems like a world in itself and gives visitors the sense of strolling through a subterranean metropolis of clay and earth. The gardens are also impressive.
37, Quai Branly, Tel. +33-1/56 61 70 00, www.quaibranly.fr
Hôtel Jays Paris:
Small and distinguished – and it's been around a while. Every corner of this 1850 building testifies to the splendor of the era. The hotel was completely refurbished a few years ago and offers a good example of the appealing interiors that Parisians so often create by combining tasteful modernity with timeless elegance. In this hotel, you'll feel at home the minute you set foot in your suite. Conference rooms are also available for business functions.
6, Rue Copernic, Tel. +33-1/47 04 16 16, www.jays-paris.com
Hôtel du Petit Moulin:
What does it look like? It's what you'd expect to get by asking the designer Christian Lacroix to recreate a childhood dream in which price is no object. This gaudy hotel is one of the trendiest in the city, a delirium of colors and styles somewhere between the Starship Enterprise and the cave of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, with 17 rooms containing 1,007 "Did you see that?" surprises that flood your senses. In a word: magnifique!
29–31, Rue du Poitou, Tel. +33-1/42 74 10 10, www.hotelpetitmoulinparis.com
pictures: Jupiterimages; PR (6)