Paris
  Paris
Exploring

Île de la Cité
1st and 4th Arrondissements
This is the birthplace of Paris, where its initial fishing village was located. The monarchs of France first settled here, back when the island was still known as "Île aux Vaches" (Cows' Island).

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
Cité or Saint-Michel métro, www.notredamedeparis.fr
With its spectacular Gothic facade adorned with statues of biblical kings, this cathedral has been meticulously restored. The south tower affords an unparalleled view of the cathedral's gargoyles. Meanwhile, the crypt will take you back to the city's Gallo-Roman roots.

Sainte-Chapelle
Cité métro
This chapel was constructed in the 13th century under the orders of Saint Louis. Its extraordinary stained-glass windows cover a surface area of 600m2.

Conciergerie
métro Cité
The Capetian kings once lived here, but the Conciergerie is best known for having served as a prison. During the French Revolution its distinguished "guests" included Robespierre and Queen Marie-Antoinette.

Quartier Latin (Left Bank)
5th Arrondissement
A centre of intellectual activity since the Middle Ages, this area lies on the site of the ancient Roman town of Lutèce. This lively quarter is teeming with students and pedestrians.

Sorbonne
Cluny La Sorbonne métro
Founded in 1257 as a theological college, the Sorbonne was France's first university. Statues of its founders, staff and alumni can still be seen today.

Panthéon
Cardinal Lemoine métro
Since the French Revolution, all of the country's great leaders have been interred in this 18th-century church, situated just outside the Mouffetard area.

Jardin du Luxembourg
RER Luxembourg (line B)
The Luxembourg gardens, laid out in French style, are the loveliest green space on the Left Bank. They adjoin the palace that bears the same name and is now home to the French Senate.

Saint-Germain-des-Prés
6th and 7th Arrondissements
The country's intellectual elite meets in the brasseries and cafes of this rather posh neighbourhood, where many publishing houses are also located.

Catacombes
14th Arrondissement, métro or RER Denfert-Rochereau (line B)
If you're interested in exploring the secrets that lie beneath the Parisian pavements, descend the steps into these ossuaries, where bones are stacked in ancient quarries.

Musée d'Orsay
7th Arrondissement, RER Musée d'Orsay (line C)
Famous for its collection of impressionist paintings, this museum is located in an old railway station that was built for the 1900 World Fair.

Hôtel des Invalides
7th Arrondissement, Invalides or Varenne métro
With its signature large, golden dome, this structure houses four museums; most visitors, though, come here to see Napoleon's tomb.

Musée Auguste Rodin
Varenne métro
France's most renowned sculptor worked in this splendid hotel, especially in the garden where his most beautiful works are displayed today.

Tour Eiffel
Bir Hakeim metro or RER Champ de Mars (line C)
This monument is impossible to describe, but quick to take your breath away-especially if you climb its stairs on foot! You can always fall back on the elevator, though, which offers a more comfortable way to reach the spectacular view at the top. Below lies the Champ de Mars, a park graced with impressive fountains. When night falls, the "Iron Lady" is lit by 20,000 light bulbs.

Champs-Élysées
8th Arrondissement
Often called the world's most beautiful avenue, the Champs-Élysées links the Arc de Triomphe with the Place de la Concorde, traversing the most stylish section of Paris. Fashion designers are clustered around Avenue Montaigne, which crosses it, and the Palais de l'Elysée, the seat of the President of the Republic, lies just off this renowned thoroughfare.

Place de l'Étoile
métro or RER (A) Charles de Gaulle Étoile
With no fewer than 12 avenues radiating from it in a star-like pattern, the Place de l'Étoile is aptly named. The square is dominated by the Arc de Triomphe, which was erected under Napoleon to commemorate his army's victories. Visitors can enjoy a spectacular view from the top of the monument.

Place de la Concorde
Concorde métro
The enormous plaza that extends around this landmark is bordered to the east by the Tuileries gardens and their many statues and to the north by the splendid Hôtel de Crillon. The obelisk at the centre of the plaza once stood in Luxor, until it was offered as a gift by the viceroy of Egypt during the 19th century.

Around the Louvre
1st Arrondissement
One of the city's most historic districts, this area experienced the glory days of the French monarchy. The monumental classical architecture gives way to a number of lovely gardens.

Musée du Louvre
Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre métro
The Louvre's collection is so vast that you could easily spend several days here without having seen everything. The museum houses one of the world's foremost collections of works from the great European schools of painting and classical art-not to mention the famous Mona Lisa.

Place Vendôme
Pyramides métro
The remarkable architectural unity of the hotels that border it makes this one of the loveliest esplanades in Paris. Many of the city's top jewellers can be found here.

Grands Boulevards
9th Arrondissement
Galeries Lafayette and Galeries Printemps, two large department stores that originated at the turn of the 20th century, continue to draw tourists and Parisians alike. A number of covered passageways and galleries in the area recall the splendour of the Belle Époque.

Opéra Garnier
Opéra métro
Inaugurated under Napoleon III in 1875, this opera was designed by architect Charles Garnier. Its painted ceilings are truly remarkable.

Around des Halles
1st and 4th Arrondissements
The commercial hub of the Forum des Halles is a popular meeting place for young, hip Parisians. In summer, street artists congregate in front of the Centre Pompidou, and the crowded cafe terraces spill over onto the pedestrian streets.

Centre Georges Pompidou
Châtelet Les Halles métro
This "gas factory," as some Parisians still refer to it when disparaging its futuristic style, houses one of the world's finest museums of modern art. Temporary exhibits complement a superb permanent collection. Head to the building's fifth floor to enjoy a superb view of the surroundings.

Hôtel de Ville
Hôtel de Ville métro
Paris' lovely city hall was rebuilt at the end of the 19th century. Its facade is decorated with some 100 statues of famous individuals.

Marais
3rd and 4th Arrondissements
The Marais has retained some of the city's most beautiful examples of 17th-century architecture, with the charming Place des Vosges featuring a particularly elegant group of buildings. Today, the area is known for its hip bars and its gay and lesbian scene.

Bastille
11th Arrondissement, Bastille métro
Don't go looking for the famous prison where the French Revolution began: it's no longer there. Today, this esplanade is throbbing with traffic and flanked by the modern Bastille opera house and a wealth of restaurants.

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
20th Arrondissement, Père Lachaise métro
The last resting place of international celebrities such as Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Delacroix, the Père-Lachaise cemetery is a veritable institution with its profusion of monuments, some of which are quite extraordinary.

Montmartre
18th Arrondissement
Perched atop the northern part of Paris, the hill of Montmartre was immortalized in many French songs, with its narrow, sloping streets winding their way up to Place du Tertre. The area's only still-standing vineyard is ceremoniously harvested each year.

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur
Anvers métro
On a clear day, the silhouette of this basilica can be seen towering over all of Paris. Built at the end of the 19th century as a sign of repentance, the edifice becomes less impressive as you approach it. However, the view from the terrace and the approach via the stairs or the funicular make the excursion largely worthwhile.

Versailles
RER C
If you make only one excursion outside Paris, the Château de Versailles should be your first choice. Built by Louis XIV, the Sun King, the palace attests to the splendours of his illustrious Court, best exemplified by the Hall of Mirrors. The palace is surrounded by exquisite gardens.