The Beacon of Sophistication
The French mastered the art of living, and their capital showcases it with the utmost sophistication. While the Louvre may be the world's unparalleled museum and the Eiffel Tower one of the most recognized landmarks, what has made Paris the world's most visited city is precisely that French art de vivre. The real draw is the city itself, its elegant boulevards, charming cafes and markets, glamorous boutiques, fine dining, the Seine, romantic visions, and of course, the art.
Paris is pure hedonism, which is why becoming a flâneur is as important during a visit to the city as seeing any particular sight. Sit at a café or bistro for a café crème and croissant, window-shop, grab a baguette at a market, have an aperitif before dinner, and indulge in haute cuisine.
Paris is in many ways the perfect city, so who can blame it for seeming self-absorbed, self-important, perhaps even narcissistic? While many outside visitors often diagnose its confidence as a superiority complex, Paris in reality is a very open and welcoming city. Its multicultural population has given it a revived creative energy, with traditional French chefs experimenting with global cuisines, young designers following international trends but incorporating a certain French touch, and a new generation of musicians placing the French language into cosmopolitan sounds.
So a stroll through Paris is following the footsteps of artists, intellectuals, philosophers, and lovers... It is finding architectural gems, an enticing café or shop, and exquisite corners down Montmartre, Marais, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, or Bastille... In short, Paris is the beacon of sophistication and the joys of city life.
The French capital was also the founder of haute cuisine, and star chefs Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Alain Senderens, and Alain Ducasse turn their restaurants into destinations. But you don't have to splurge at the many Michelin-star restaurants in order to eat well in Paris. All over the city you'll find good options for all kinds of budgets and a variety of international cuisines.
The city is also known for its department stores, with the oldest being Le Bon Marché partially designed by Gustave Eiffel. Even with fierce competition, it remains the hippest and most elegant of them all. Avant-garde and designer fashions (including a good selection of French lingerie) are the big sellers here, although it's the enormous food hall that gets the most attention.
Coming in at a close second in the grands magasins competition, Au Printemps has a good range of designer clothing and accessories, cosmetics, and home décor. Before you leave, ascend to the sixth floor for the tea room and its lovely Art Nouveau stained-glass cupola.
The youngest of the big three is Galeries Lafayette, opened in 1894. Topped by a fantastic dome of steel and glass, it is a temple of Paris style, housing the main fashion labels, including an extensive lingerie collection and fine jewelry. Also pass by the excellent food hall and the 7th-floor terrace for its city views over the Opera to the Eiffel Tower.