With a history spanning centuries, fabulous architecture from the medieval and baroque periods to the modern day, and a multracultural society that offers art, music and theater, endless sporting opportunities and high cuisine, Paris beckons all. For the 2 million-plus residents it offers a great lifestyle, but even if you are visiting for a weekend, it can be magical. For those who simply want to relax and absorb the atmosphere for a few days, enjoy the public parks, shop for designer fashions or study the architecture, Paris will not fail to enchant you.
The thoroughly multicultural, cosmopolitan city of today is a far cry from the Paris of centuries past, when it started life as a tiny community nestling on what is now the Tie de la Cite. One of the greatest cities in the world, it is a place that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. If you can, you should return to the city time and again to experience it at different times of the year. Each season has its own special charm in Paris.
Springtime brings the locals out in droves, sipping coffee at pavement cafes, jogging or taking a stroll in the great parks, such as the Jardin du Luxembourg or the Jardin des Tuileries, both a hive of activity on a Sunday morning. Summer, when most Parisians head for holiday homes by the sea, brings out-of-town visitors keen to see the sights, while in autumn the parks turn a subtle shade of gold, and winter brings frosty mornings and Christmas in this magical city. The Charnps-Elysees dressed in white festive lights in winter is a stunning sight that will remain in the memory long after the visit.
The visitor to Paris today will find glorious ecclesiastical buildings from the great Notre-Dame, seat of the Archbishop of Paris that has stood on the Tie de la Cite since the 14th century, to the even earlier but little known Romanesque-style Eglise Saint- Gerrnain-des-Pres, which dates back to the 10th century. The latter is located amid the vibrant hustle and bustle of the busy Left Bank. The main sites that everyone who visits Paris will want to see are, without doubt: the Tour Eiffel standing proud and serene watching over the city; Les Invalides, site of the tomb of Napoleon I; the neo-Romanesque-Byzantine Sacre-Coeur, on the hill at Montmartre; the Musee du Louvre, home to over 35,000 priceless works of art; the Arc de Triomphe, which is directly in the line of sight from the Musee du Louvre; the Place de la Concorde; and the futuristic La Grande Arche at La Defense on the outskirts of the city. Museum enthusiasts will be enthralled by the works of Auguste Rodin in the Musee Rodin and Pablo Picasso in the Musee Picasso, and the contemporary exhibits housed in the Musee d'Orsay on the Left Bank, or in the overtly modern, brightly colored Center Georges Pompidou . Further afield, the mighty Chateau de Versailles, former home of royalty, or Chantilly, with its outstanding reputation for horse racing, are absolute musts on the sightseeing agenda.
Paris is not a museum, however. It is an exuberant place where residents and visitors alike enjoy life to the full. There are art galleries that stay open all night during special annual events, and restaurants offering food from all corners of the world, including Oriental, Mexican, Italian and Indian, in addition, of course, to the finest French cuisine.
There are numerous cultural events and festivities to enjoy in Paris, such as the great Fete de la Musique, during which Parisians and visitors of all ages party on the streets. Then, of course, there are the world's greatest fashion houses. Head for the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, not far from the Opera Palais Gamier, to indulge in major designer names such as Versace, Gucci, Karl Lagerfield and Herrnes to name just a few. Add to this walks in the great parks, Sunday mornings in marketplaces full of animated conversation, watching street performers or taking one of the bateaux for a leisurely trip along the Seine and you will discover why the city is so special. Most visitors come to Paris to see its world renowned historic landmark buildings, which have survived revolutions, attacks and wars, to see stunning modern architecture, or simply to enjoy the lively atmosphere, if only for a weekend. No matter how many times you visit, the city never ceases to inspire. Romantic, historic, theatrical, artistic, architecturally fascinating, an art lover's dream, and a gourmet's delight – Paris has something for everyone.