Whiling Away an Afternoon in a Parisian Café
The cafes are where passionate meetings of writers, artists, philosophers, thinkers, and revolutionaries once took place -- and perhaps still do. Parisians stop by their favorite cafes to meet lovers and friends, to make new ones, or to sit in solitude with a newspaper or book.
Taking Afternoon Tea à la Française
Drinking tea in London has its charm, but the Parisian salon de thé is unique. Skip the cucumber-and-watercress sandwiches and delve into a luscious dessert such as the Mont Blanc, a creamy purée of sweetened chestnuts and meringue. The grandest Parisian tea salon is Angélina, 226 rue de Rivoli, 1er (tel. 01-42-60-82-00).
Strolling Along the Seine
Such painters as Sisley, Turner, and Monet have fallen under the Seine's spell. On its banks, lovers still walk hand in hand, anglers cast their lines, and bouquinistes (secondhand-book dealers) peddle their mix of postcards, 100-year-old pornography, and tattered histories of Indochina.
Spending a Day at the Races
Paris boasts eight tracks for horse racing. The most famous and the classiest is Hippodrome de Longchamp, in the Bois de Boulogne, the site of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and Grand Prix. These and other top races are major social events, so you'll have to dress up.
Calling on the Dead
You don't have to be a ghoul to be thrilled by a visit to Europe's most famous cemetery, Père-Lachaise. You can pay your respects to the resting places of Oscar Wilde; Yves Montand and Simone Signoret; Edith Piaf; Isadora Duncan; Frédéric Chopin; Marcel Proust; Jim Morrison; and others. Laid out in 1803 on a hill in Ménilmontant, the cemetery offers surprises with its bizarre monuments, unexpected views, and ornate sculpture.
Window-Shopping in the Faubourg St-Honoré
In the 1700s, the wealthiest Parisians resided in the Faubourg St-Honoré; today, the quarter is home to stores catering to the rich, particularly on rue du Faubourg St-Honoré and avenue Montaigne. Even if you don't buy anything, it's great to window-shop big names such as Hermès, Dior, Chanel, Gaultier, Vuitton, Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent. If you want to browse in the stores, be sure to dress the part.
Exploring Ile de la Cité's Flower Market
A fine finish to any day (Mon-Sat) spent meandering along the Seine is a stroll through the Marché aux Fleurs, place Louis-Lépine. You can buy rare flowers, the gems of the French Riviera -- bouquets that have inspired artists throughout the centuries. On Sundays, the area is transformed into the Marché aux Oiseaux, where you can admire rare birds from around the world.
Going Gourmet at Fauchon
An exotic world of food, Fauchon offers more than 20,000 products from around the globe. Everything you never knew you were missing is in aisle after aisle of coffees, spices, pastries, fruits, vegetables, and much more. Take your pick: Scottish smoked salmon, preserved cocks' combs, Romanian rose-petal jelly, blue-red Indian pomegranates, golden Tunisian dates, dark morels from France's rich soil, century-old eggs from China, and a creole punch from Martinique, reputed to be the best anywhere.
Attending a Ballet or an Opera
Take your pick between the rococo splendor of the majestic Opéra Garnier or the more modern Opéra Bastille, France's largest opera house. Established in 1989, the Opéra Bastille presents opera and symphony performances in its four concert halls (its main hall seats 2,700). The Opéra Garnier is the home of the Paris Opera Ballet, one of the best companies in the world, and it hosts opera, classical concerts, and ballet performances inside its stunning gold and red velvet auditorium. Dress for the occasion, with pomp and circumstance.
Sipping Wine at Willi's
Back in the early 1970s, the first-timer to Paris might have arrived with a copy of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and, taking the author's endorsement to heart, headed for Harry's Bar at "Sank roo doe Noo." Harry's is still around but now draws an older, more conservative clientele. Today's chic younger expats head for Willi's Wine Bar, 13 rue des Petits-Champs, 1er (tel. 01-42-61-05-09). Here, the waitresses and long-haired young bartenders are mostly English. The place is like an informal club for Brits, Australians, and Yanks, especially in the afternoon. Some 300 wines await your selection.
Checking Out the Marchés
A daily Parisian ritual is ambling through one of the open-air markets to buy fresh food -- perhaps a properly creamy Camembert or a ripe plum -- to be eaten before sundown. Our favorite market is the Marché d'Aligre. During mornings at this grubby little cluster of food stalls, we've spotted some of France's finest chefs stocking up for the day.
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