Flights To Paris

It is impossible not to fall in love with Paris. The city's people are stylish and flirtatious, its architecture seductive, its restaurants and nightlife devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and its streets are scattered with dreams.

There is no 'best time' to visit Paris; in every season the city is always alive. Summer days are spent lazing on the banks of the Seine, sipping coffee at a sidewalk caf�, or idling in one of the city's many gardens or forests. On autumn afternoons the brisk walk from the Eiffel Tower through the Parc du Champ de Mars and up to the glittering Champs Elys�es is accompanied with a carpet of leaves crunching underfoot. Winter nights induce a warm glow ice-skating in the outdoor rink at the Hotel de Ville. And in spring the passions of performers fill the air outside the Pompidou Centre and the nose is tickled with the subtle scents of flowering gardens.

There is an otherworldliness to this city, where beauty and elegance are favoured over purpose and practicality. Centuries of urban development have the appearance of having being mastered by a single hand with a strong sense of balance, contrast and aesthetics. The views from the Eiffel Tower or Sacr� Coeur reveal hundreds of iconic attractions for the snapshot visitor, but the best way to see this city is by tucking your map back in your pocket and allowing yourself to get lost on its streets and avenues, discovering the city for yourself.

However long you spend in Paris, on departure you will know you are sure to return.

Getting Around

Paris has an excellent public transport system. It is divided into five zones radiating out from the centre and ticket prices vary according to the number of zones required. Public transport consists of buses, an underground metro, and express trains (RER). Taxis are also available. The easiest way to get around is on the metro and the subways are generally safe at all times. It is possible to transfer between the metro and the RER trains at no extra cost. The bus system is also extensive, but is slower, less frequent and best used for getting to destinations the metro does not cover. Various passes are available for public transport and can be good value if staying for a longer period. The Paris Visitespass is valid for one, two, three or five days and also allows discounts at certain museums, shops and restaurants, but will not necessarily save money, depending on how much one travels. There is also the cheaper weekly or monthly Carte Orange(passport photo required), but this is technically only available for Ile de France residents. Both allow unlimited travel in the chosen zones on the metro, RER, buses and the funicular to Montmartre. The cheapest option if only in town for a day or two is the Carte Mobilis,which allows unlimited travel for a day in Zones 1 and 2. From May to September a passenger boat, the Batobus, offers sightseeing trips on the Seine stopping at the main attractions, and from April to September a Balabus bus service loops around most of the major sights in Paris every Sunday and on public holidays. A nightbus service, Noctambus, covers the city between 1am and 5.30am. Only think about renting a car if planning excursions from the city as aggressive driving, confusing one-way streets and impossible parking can be testing for visitors. Taxis are readily available and can be hailed or caught at taxi ranks. Vélib' bicycle rentals are also popular for getting round town - pick up a bike at one of 1,450 stations and return it at any other (from €1 an hour).

Nightlife

Paris' nightlife has a reputation extending back for hundreds of years, and it shows no sign of slowing down. While many tourists won't venture beyond the crowded and overpriced bars of the Champs-Elysées, there are many bustling nightlife districts in Paris worth exploring.

Bastille has a mixture of noisy nightclubs and bars best suited to twenty-somethings, including the bordello-themed Sans Sanz and the salsa club La Balajo. Oberkampf was the place to be in the 1990s, and still buzzes with hipster-filled cafes like Café Charbon and Au Chat Noir. The area around the Louvre is home to some of the most upmarket, and expensive, bars in Paris, including the Ritz's Hemingway Bar in Place Vendome, a piano bar frequented by the writer in the 1940s.

Montmartre is the home of the famous (or infamous) Moulin Rouge cabaret, which still presents glittering can can extravaganzas on a nightly basis, though the price tag is a bit higher than when it started in 1889. Nearby Pigalle is seedy, but offers some good rock music venues. Marais has another selection of bars and cafes, with a thriving gay and lesbian scene that includes Amnesia and the more sedate Le Central.

There is no end to the live music possibilities in Paris. Nouveau Casino hosts a variety of bands on most nights, and La Flèche d'Or is known as an indie-rock venue. Belleville's La Java hosts an eclectic mix of artists in the venue where Edith Piaf debuted. You can end your night with a visit to La Cithéa, which hosts jazz until early in the morning.

For a more sedate music experience, the Cité de la Musique hosts classical, jazz and traditional concerts in a network of concert halls. Paris is of course an opera paradise, and you'll find symphonies and operas at the Opéra Bastille, lighter opera at the Opéra Comique, and you might even spot the phantom of the opera at the grand Opéra Garnier, the home of the Ballet de l'Opera National de Paris.

Cafes and bars are generally open from late afternoon to 1am with some variation, and clubs don't open until 11pm on the weekends, staying open until 5 or 6am. It's not fashionable to arrive at a Paris club until well after midnight. The drinking age in France is 16 for wine and beer, and 18 for spirits.

Pick up a copy of the weekly Pariscope, or the English-language Boulevard for up-to-date entertainment listings.

Shopping

Paris is a shopper's paradise. Jet-setters will feel at home with the famous names of the haute couture boutiques found on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré: Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and others; while trend-setting fashions will be found in Rue Etienne Marcel shops. Sadly, the Champs-Elysées is not what it used to be with banks, fast-food chains and malls strategically placed to trap tourists. However, some good stores still remain - perfume from Guerlain Parfumerie is a classic Paris souvenir.

Les Halles is a subterranean shopping mall with over 180 stores where bargain hunters will be able to find cheap knockoffs and other trendy clothes. Mainstream department stores offer some great finds such as La Samaritaine, which prides itself as being the one where on trouve tout (one finds everything). Just outside the city, La Vallée Village offers designer goods at steep discounts... you may even spot a celebrity or two!

Bargains closer to town are in abundance at the three main flea markets situated around the old gates of the city. They are, however, teeming with pickpockets and shoppers should be on their guard. Les Bouquinistes, which consists of rows of bookstalls perched against the walls of the Seine River, is a great place for bookworms to browse and barter.

If you are determined to buy a plastic Eiffel Tower or other kitschy souvenir, then the rue de Rivoli is the place to go; if you are looking for something a bit different, however, visit the La Plaque Emaillées in Filles-du-Calvaire for a taste of turn-of-the-century Parisian Art Nouveau.

Traditional Parisians buy most of their food from specialty stores such as bakeries and butcheries with pastries, cheeses or pâtés to die for. The open-air markets are a fantastic place to find flowers, produce and clothing and are frequented by most of the locals. Paris also offers a wealth of window-shopping opportunities, making it the ultimate destination for the discerning consumer.

Sightseeing

With the quick train from London, Paris is now more popular than ever and is an easy weekend destination. Paris is fairly compact and easy to navigate and many tourists opt to walk or bicycle around to soak up the flavour of the city and take in the numerous iconic landmarks and parks or stop at one of the many pavement cafés. A cruise down the Seine is also a popular option as many of the city's greatest sights are on the river, including Notre-Dame, the Louvre, the Place de la Concorde and the Eiffel Tower.

Other things to see in Paris include the Basilique du Sacre-Cœur, which offers great views over Paris, and the Pompidou Centre, housing the Musée National d'Art Modern, while the square to the west of the building attracts a varied assortment of street performers. Stroll around the cobblestone streets of the Marais district with its mansions and museums, or visit the courtyards and antique shops of Ile St-Louis, which also boasts the former home of Marie Curie, Baudelaire, and Voltaire.

South of the river you can visit the Musée d'Orsay, the Rodin Museum and the Hotel des Invalides, the burial place of many great French soldiers, including Napoleon Bonaparte, or idle away an afternoon in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Further along you can stroll through the Jardin des Plantes, Paris' first public garden, created by Louis XIII's doctor for the cultivation of medicinal plants, or visit the National History Museum. The St-Germain-des-Pres neighbourhood, the former residence of existentialists Sartre and Camus, has retained much of its bohemian atmosphere with bookshops, art galleries and coffeehouses.

For free or discounted admission to many attractions in Paris, and the chance to bypass the queues, you can buy the Paris Museum Pass at many tourist offices, museums, or metro stations.

Kids attractions

Paris might be the most romantic city in the world but it's also very well geared towards children so parents will find there are endless activities and attractions to enjoy as a family.

Take a walk to the top of the Eiffel Tower and marvel at the views over this glorious city, or head down the Champs Elysées for a spot of shopping, but beware the tourist traps. Kids will love the miles of beach along the shores of the Seine River and playing in the sun and splashing in the river has become a popular activity for families and children during the summer months. The Jardin des Tuileries is a great place to take the kids for a stroll and to let out some of their pent-up energy.

Paris is a haven for carousels, and you'll find them at various parks around the city, including the Parc du Champ de Mars, the Jardin Des Tuileries, and Luxembourg Gardens.

When the weather turns bad and outdoor activities are not an option, visit some of the exciting museums and indoor playgrounds dotted throughout this exciting city, such as the Ludimax, a giant indoor playground situated near St Germain-en Laye and Versailles, and the Aquaboulevard indoor waterpark.

Of course, kids won't let their parents forget the proximity of the magical Disneyland Paris and there are other famous amusement parks to visit, like the Parc Asterix and France Miniature.

Dining

There is one word that symbolises Paris - gastronomy. The French, always appreciative of the finer things in life, have a unique tradition of famous restaurants and great chefs and anyone with a love of good food will find true happiness in this city. The style of cooking known as 'la Grande Cuisine' comes from Paris and it's hard to walk the streets without being tempted into every restaurant by its formidable aroma.

Paris is home to over 5,000 restaurants with traditional French bistros being the best value for money for those on a budget. Cafés and dive bars are an almost obligatory stop on the way to or from work for most Parisians, where an ordinary lunch can be enjoyed at a reasonable price. Grab a newspaper, order a glass of fine French wine and, while soaking up the picturesque surroundings, observe the city passing by.

From classic French cooking to Nouvelle Cuisine and French regional cooking styles, as well as many other international cuisines, there is something to satisfy every palate in Parisian cuisine.

Climate

Paris has a temperate climate. The city lies in the midst of the Ile de France region, which has France's lowest rainfall, however the city is known for its unexpected rain showers which can occur at any time of year. Spring, from March to May, is the driest season in Paris but rainfall is distributed fairly evenly throughout the other seasons. It is best to have an umbrella with you in Paris no matter what the season, but the rain showers are usually as brief as they are sudden. Snow is rare in Paris but the city does usually get a smattering in the winter months. Summer temperatures are mild to warm, with occasional heat waves, while winters are very chilly with temperatures hovering around freezing point. The average temperatures in Paris generally range between 41°F (5°C) during winter and 68°F (20°C) in summer. July is the hottest month of the year, although August can be almost as hot, and January is the coldest. November through January can be a little windy but generally wind is not a problem in Paris.

The best time to visit Paris is any time at all. Each season has its own joys and advantages. In August the locals themselves leave the city in droves for their national holiday and during this month some restaurants and shops close.