Paris, France travel guide and things to do: 20 reasons to visit

1 EAT - LE GRENIER A PAIN

Imagine the scent of freshly baked goodies wafting from virtually every street corner. That's Paris for you. Whether you desire buttery croissants, melt-in-your-mouth pain au chocolat, or warm, crunchy baguettes, boulangeries are an irresistible slice of the Parisian cityscape, attracting queues for breakfast, lunch and "le gouter" (the afternoon snack). Standards are generally superb, but Le Grenier a Pain in Montmartre is extra-special; it won Paris' 2015 'best baguette' contest. See legrenierapain.com

2 SEE - ART MUSEUMS

Paris' legendary art institutions are upping their game. The Louvre, the world's most-visited museum, is undergoing an $80 million revamp to make its labyrinthine galleries easier to navigate. Holding more than 5000 works from the Spanish-born master (and long-time Parisian resident), the Picasso Museum reopened in 2014 after a five-year renovation doubled its exhibition space. Monet, Cezanne and Renoir are among the Impressionist icons showcased in the jazzed-up Musee d'Orsay, and its sister attraction, Musee de l'Orangerie. See en.parisinfo.com.

3 SEE - FONDATION LOUIS VUITTON

Like your art accompanied by avant-garde architecture? Resembling a cross between a giant glass handbag and a sailing vessel, Fondation Louis Vuitton hosts revolving contemporary exhibitions in a spectacular new Frank Gehry-designed venue. In a revamped Seine-side warehouse, with a glass "plug-over" that lights up at night, the City of Fashion and Design has become one of Paris' hippest cultural hubs. Centre Pompidou remains as arresting as ever, with its exterior escalators, coloured tubing and prized modern art collections. Prefer glitzy high-rises? The Gherkin-esque Tour D2 has sprouted in La Defense, Paris' financial district. See fondationlouisvuitton.fr; centrepompidou.fr/en; en.parisinfo.com.

4 DO - BOIS DE BOULOGNE

The Vuitton eye-catcher looms in Bois de Boulogne, an ex-royal hunting ground in Paris' west. Like Bois de Vincennes, on the city's eastern edge, this giant park lures leisure-seeking Parisians, especially at weekends. There are picnic-friendly lawns, boating lakes and wood-fringed cycling trails. Make use of the Velib scheme (rent bikes, from Euro 1.70 ($2.50) per 24 hours, from more than 1800 docking stations across Paris. Other enticing green lungs are hilly Parc des Butte-Chaumont, and Jardin du Luxembourg, where you can nab a chair beside a regal palace. See en.parisinfo.com; en.velib.paris.fr.

5 STAY - GRAND HOTELS

Many of Paris' grandest hotels are flaunting facelifts. To mark its centenary last year, Le Claridge on the Champs-Elysees restored its 110 rooms and apartments, where the likes of Coco Chanel and Marlene Dietrich once bedded down. Le Bristol, which marks its 90th birthday this year and counts Grace Kelly and Josephine Baker among past guests, looks more elegant than ever after a six-year restoration. Ernest Hemingway's decadent old hangout, The Ritz, will re-open in late 2015. See paris-claridge.frasershospitality.com; lebristolparis.com, ritzparis.com.

6 EAT - HAUTE CUISINE

Paris is paradise for Michelin aficionados. You could easily splash €300 ($453) per head - excluding wine - at three-starred affairs like Le Meurice by Alain Ducasse, Yannick Alleno's Le Pavillon Ledoyen and Eric Frechon's Epicure at Le Bristol, where tandoori-spiced frogs' legs tempt adventurous diners. Fancy gourmandising on the (relatively) cheap? Near the Rodin Museum, slick one-star restaurant Auguste does inventive three-course lunches for €37 ($55). Think: duck foie grae with pineapple chutney; pollack, sweet and sour carrots, turnips, blackcurrant and celery; and plum souffle. See alain-ducasse.com/en; lebristolparis.com; pavillonledoyen.fr; restaurantauguste.fr.

7 SHOP -  FASHION

It could be those entrancing shop-window displays - or all the chic, stylish characters you pass on the street. Whatever the motivation, Paris can inspire even the most reluctant shopper to release the purse-strings. Printemps, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, Galeries Lafayette and Le BHV Marais are esteemed department stores. For luxury brands - like Dior, Gucci and Chanel - mosey along Avenue Montaigne and Rue Royale. For quirky independent boutiques with lower price tags, forage the streets of Abbesses, Etienne Marcel and Rue de Charonne. See printemps.com; galerieslafayette.com; bhv.fr.

8 DO - PLACE DES VOSGES

Inaugurated in 1612, Paris' oldest - and most photogenic - planned square is a cocoon of tranquility between the bustling Bastille and Marais districts. Admire the setting from the square's central tree-shaded lawn, then potter through the arcades by the red-brick town houses framing the square. As well as smart shops, restaurants and galleries, you'll find Victor Hugo's old apartment. It's now a museum dedicated to the author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. See en.parisinfo.com; maisonsvictorhugo.paris.fr.

9 SEE - THE SEINE 

The Bateaux-Mouches that navigate the River Seine provide the quintessential tourist experience. On sunset/evening cruises, you'll get dinner, classic French tunes and postcard-perfect views of The City of Light, including the illuminated Eiffel Tower. Cruise boats also patrol Paris' intriguing, lesser-known waterways: canals Saint-Martin, l'Ourcq and Saint-Denis, in the city's north-east. See bateaux-mouches.fr/en; canauxrama.com/en.

10 DO - BE A FLANEU

The 19th-century Parisian poet, Charles Baudelaire, loved to dawdle, almost aimlessly, around his home city, observing snippets of daily life. He called himself a "flaneur" - "a gentleman stroller of city streets". Paris' 20 arrondissements are a boon for the modern-day flaneur. A few suggestions: swap Montmartre's tourist-thronged thoroughfares for its intricate, cobbled back alleys, and meander through the city's vintage passages (covered arcades), notably Verdeau, Jouffroy and Panoramas. You'll find quaint novelty stores and craftspeople beavering away in ateliers. See en.parisinfo.com.

11 EAT - CAFES AND BRASSERIES

There are few more pleasurable Parisian pursuits than plonking yourself on a terrace and watching the world go by. The cafe-lined towpaths of Canal St Martin are a nice spot, but for that authentic Left Bank vibe, Boulevard de Montparnasse is hard to beat. Its decorative establishments - Le Dome, La Coupole and La Rotonde - were cherished haunts of Picasso, Hemingway and their comrades. Nearby, the rooftop bar of Tour de Montparnasse has magnificent city vistas. See tourmontparnasse56.com/en; en.parisinfo.com.

12 SHOP - LES BOUQUINISTES

Stretching for around three kilometres along the banks of Seine are "les bouquinistes", the traders who sell used and antiquarian books (as well as comics and postcards) from their iconic dark green stalls. Granting hours of browsing potential and encounters with eccentric vendors, they run, on the Right Bank from Pont Marie to Quai du Louvre, and on the Left Bank from Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Malaquais. See en.parisinfo.com.

13 EAT - BISTRONOMY

"Bistronomy" has reshaped Paris' culinaryscape, offering foodies fine cuisine in a relaxed bistro environment (minus the frills and sky-high bills of the city's poshest restaurants). In charming St Germain district, Le Comptoir and its next-door tapas-style wine bar, L'Avant Comptoir, are helmed by Yves Camdeborde​, who's credited with kickstarting the bistronomy movement. At Le Caillebotte, chef Franck Baranger​ serves dishes such as steamed Roumegous oysters in lettuce bouillon, and beetroot soup with goat's cheese and fish eggs. You can lunch here weekdays - 8, rue Hippolyte-Lebas, 9th arrondissement - for €20. See hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com.

14 WATCH - PHILHARMONIE DE PARIS

The cabaret shows at Moulin Rouge, Le Lido and Paradis Latin are as well-attended as ever, but Paris' new high-brow mecca of twilight entertainment is the state-of-the-art Philharmonie de Paris. Its classical concerts and acoustics get rave reviews. Opera fans should scour the listings at Palais Garnier. If nothing appeals, at least do a tour of this sumptuous venue. Savour its gilded ballrooms, a Chagall ceiling painting, and discover myth and legends about the resident Phantom. See visitepalaisgarnier.fr; philharmoniedeparis.fr/en

15 STAY - SMART STAYS

Unveiled in 2014, the palatial 200-room Peninsula Paris has breathed new life into a handsome Haussmannian building on Avenue Kleber. On the same street, Citadines Suites Arc de Triomphe has 112 dapper rooms and apartments in a rejuvenated 19th-century block. Other notable new Paris boltholes include Cinq Codet, the Dupond-Smith and 123 Sebastopol, a cinema-themed boutique hotel with its own picture house. See paris.peninsula.com; citadines.com; hoteldupondsmith.com; le5codet.com; le123sebastopol.com.

16 WATCH - ALFRESCO FLICKS

From Funny Face and Frantic to Amelie and Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, the French capital has starred in dozens of movies. In summer, these classics - and other films, new and old - feature at the city's pop-up cinemas. The Cinema au Clair de Lune festival has open-air screenings in locations such as Place des Vosges and Place de la Republique. Parc de la Villette runs a month-long programme of movies in July and August. Films are free, with deckchairs to rent. See forumdesimages.fr; villette.com.

17 SEE - BOHO-CHIC NEIGHBOURHOODS 

Carrying the moniker "SoPi", the area south of Pigalle - Paris' long-time sex district - is achingly hip. There's street art, shabby-chic shops and trendy hubs, such as KB Cafeshop, an Australian-inspired caffeine den North of Pere Lachaise cemetery (resting place of Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf). You'll find cosmopolitan markets, cocktail bars and funky galleries in the emerging districts of Belleville, Oberkampf and Menilmontant. See en.parisinfo.com.

18 LISTEN - JAZZ

Paris' jazz scene probably peaked in the 1950s, when Sidney Bechet, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis worked their magic, but the city still has excellent live jazz. On gritty rue des Lombards, near Les Halles, Sunset/Sunside, Le Baiser Sale and Le Duc des Lombards draw punters for everything from retro bebop to contemporary jazz. Paris' annual Jazz Festival runs for six weeks each summer in Parc Floral, south of the Chateau of Vincennes. See sunset-sunside.com;  lebaisersale.com; ducdeslombards.com; parisjazzfestival.fr

19 DO - DAY TRIPS

Disneyland Paris, Europe's most popular theme park, is a great escape for families.  The Palace of Versailles has oodles of old-fashioned opulence and left-field contemporary art installations. An hour north of Paris by rail, Rouen makes a lasting impression, with its timber-framed medieval buildings and Gothic cathedral (which Monet painted several times). Monet's Garden at Giverny is a delight - especially if you buy an advance online ticket to skip the queues. See disneylandparis.fr; en.chateauversailles.fr; giverny.org 

20 SHOP - SUPERMARCHES 

They lack the romantic allure of the city's ornate delis and traditional produce markets (such as rue Mouffetard), but Paris' supermarkets are a godsend - particularly if you want picnic ingredients, or gifts to take home. Do as (most) Parisians do and shop in Carrefour Market Monoprix or Franprix. Your basket - or trolley - will bulge with absurdly good-value cheese, saucisson, wine and chocolate. See carrefour.fr, monoprix.fr; franprix.fr.

The writer's Paris visit was supported by Paris Tourist Office, en.parisinfo.com.

See also: The Peninsula Paris review: Paris hotel perfection
See also: How to see Paris the Assassin's Creed way

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