Vast numbers of tourists go to France each year and naturally spend the majority of their time in the historic, vibrant capital city. Mention to your friends that you’re visiting for a weekend and they’ll very likely smile excitedly and bombard you with a list of places you absolutely must visit; the charming boulangerie “Du Pain et des Idées” where you’ll find the lightest, flakiest croissants; “Harel” on the Avenue Montaigne for gorgeous shoes on a par with Christian Louboutin but that none of your other friends will have; the Musée Baccarat which not only houses a stunning collection of crystal but also the world-class “Cristal Room” restaurant, where you can dine from a wonderfully eclectic menu and drink wine from the finest crystal.

If you’re a foodie and you want to see incredible produce, forget about the food hall at the Galeries Lafayette and head instead to the “Marché St-Quentin” in the 10th District where you’ll find thirty or so covered stalls selling everything from cheese, fruit and vegetables to meat and fish, all of it completely fresh. It’s a real market frequented by locals and not exactly on the tourist trail so you can go there knowing that you’re a bit of a touristic pioneer. A wonderful introduction to Paris food markets can be found at Paris Paysanne.

You might be thinking of going to the Moulin Rouge for a show, but why not look at a lesser-known alternative, the Theatre Marsoulan, which stages different spectacles throughout the year, most notably the classic “La Vie Parisienne”, first performed at the end of the 19th Century. They even offer shows aimed at a younger audience, such as Robin Hood and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer! Perfect for an exciting family excursion. For details of what’s on see their website Theatre Marsoulan (Théâtre Musical Marsoulan is temporarily closed).

La Tour Eiffel vue de la Tour Saint-Jacques
La Tour Eiffel vue de la Tour Saint-Jacques | Photo Credits: Yann Caradec via Flickr

Hotels in Paris will comprise many of the little gems that your friends will tell you about. Many are tiny and hidden from view, others large and better known. One of the best of these is the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome, a five-star hotel located on the Rue de la Paix, the absolute heart of chic, luxury Paris. Its location means you can stroll to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay in the morning, have lunch at a café overlooking the Seine, followed by some high-end shopping on the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, then walk back to the hotel for a cocktail followed by dinner in the Michelin-starred restaurant “Pur”, or perhaps another of its four restaurants.

The end of many a trip to the City of Light is likely to involve a visit to the Gare du Nord, and if this is the case for you then you could do a lot worse than prepare for your journey home by feasting at “Terminus Nord”, on rue de Dunkerque just opposite the station. Art Nouveau and Art Deco combine to make it the perfect space in which to fill up on a plateau de fruits de mer or escargots before your trip home, where you can reflect on the unique trip you’ve just enjoyed. Yet another gem of your time in the City of Love and Light.

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