Posters for sale on the banks of the Seine – Copyright Informationfrance.

Paris became a royal seat as early as 888 A.D. when Robert the Strong led the resistance to Norsemen sailing up the Seine who wrecked the original abbey of St-Germain-des-Prés. St-Germain- des-Prés with its beautiful church has, however, survived with a colourful area of literary cafés, boutiques, restaurants, shops, antique dealers and the night life of its side streets. If you want to see Paris, go to the Sacré Coeur at the summit of the artists’ village of Montmartre and observe a panoramic view of the city spread beneath you. Degas, Monet, Picasso, and Dali were drawn to this spot. The city is divided into 20 ‘arrondissements’ which spiral out from the hub to the ‘Péripherique’ arterial road which rings the city. Eminently walkable, the city can also be explored by the excellent Metro system, by bus or by boat. With landmarks of outstanding beauty, every gilded piece glistening in the sunshine, this is as well as being one of the most romantic cities of the world, one of the most beautiful.


Paris is blessed with a total of 100 theatres and other venues devoted to the performing arts, many of them situated near the Madeleine and ranging from such famous names as the Opéra-Garnier, Opéra-Bastille and Comédie Francaise to the Moulin Rouge, Paradis Latin and Folies Bergère. There are 87 museums and over 100 art galleries. In the 5th and 6th arrondissements on the Left Bank is the Quartier Latin, named because Latin was the language of instruction in the venerable institutions there right up to the Revolution. The River Seine divides the city and is crossed by a plethora of bridges including the Pont Neuf, one of the oldest, giving access to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, on the Ile-de-la-Cité, the cradle of civilisation in Paris. This is one of the greatest achievements in the world of gothic architecture. Commenced in 1163 and completed in around 1345, it can accommodate over 6000 worshippers. Once two islands, the Ile- aux-Vaches ( island of cows) and the Ile-Notre-Dame, the islands were united in the 17th century to form the Ile-St-Louis and much of the architecture of this period remains to be admired to this day.


Shopping in the capital of chic is concentrated in a few districts. The Champs-Elysées has fashion boutiques, cosmetic shops and showrooms for luxury cars. The Rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré is the heart of haut couture and ready-to-wear clothing as well as furs, leather goods and perfume. For some of the best known names in jewellery, the Place Vendôme is the place to go with Cartier, Boucheron, Chaumet and Van Cleef & Arpels opposite the Ritz Hotel and Ministry of Justice. There are of course large department stores – if you want to find everything under one roof, such as Galleries Lafayette and Magasins du Printemps in the Boulevard Haussman. Gastronomically, Paris combines the best that France has to offer and is where the countless specialities of all the provinces are to be experienced and sampled. Fauchon is the Fortnums of Paris and one of many specialist shops selling divine food and groceries. At the other end of the spectrum there are myriad markets and smatterings of smaller shops, each paying the same attention to detail and to quality of produce for which France is so justly famed