Whatever your passion - from the Mona Lisa to Hermès - the Stylist team has devised a day of dreams in Paris.
10am: Chic start
Begin with a stroll up the Champs-Élysées, and check out the Arc de Triomphe to the north-west and the gold tipped obelisk of Place de la Concorde to the south-east. Swing left on Avenue George V, one of Paris’ most prestigious addresses. Windowshop the likes of Kenzo and Hermès, and fantasise about a stay in the Hôtel George V, built in 1928 and considered one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. (The Beatles had a pillow fight here in 1964, and more recently the hotel has entertained Angelina Jolie and Kylie as guests.)
Avenue George V takes you south to the Seine. Hop on a Vélib (the Paris version of London’s so-called Boris bikes) and follow the cycle path north-west until you reach The Pont d’Iéna bridge. The Eiffel Tower will be right in front of you across the Seine. Most tourists gather in the Champ de Mars just beyond the tower, but Stylist suggests you grab a crêpe from a vendor and head to the northernmost foot of the tower and nab one of the well-positioned benches in the shade. Just keep your voice down; when we visited, we saw a Parisian gentleman proposing to his femme from the bench on the small hill (tour-eiffel.fr).
11.30am: Bike ride
Hop back on your bike, and cycle along the left bank of the Seine. By now you’ll be ready for some culture, so pop into the Musée d’Orsay (62 Rue De Lille; musee-orsay.fr), a former railway station which houses an unparalleled collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections. Don’t miss Degas’ ballerina statues on the upper level, or the terrace showcasing Rodin’s The Bronze Age exhibits. (FYI: On the first Sunday of every month, most museums including the Musée d’Orsay and The Louvre allow you to enjoy the exhibits for free.)
A trip to Paris without macaroon from Ladurée is unthinkable.
1pm: Essential sights
Head to Cafe Les Deux Magots (6 Place St Germain De Pres; lesdeuxmagots.fr). Similar in atmosphere to the nearby Café De Flore, this institution was once a gathering place of the intellectual elite, such as Sartre, de Beauvoir and Giraudoux. Try a croque monsieur better than any other we’ve tasted.
Continue your cycle until you reach Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge across the Seine. Stroll around the medieval streets of the Île de la Cité, which is where Paris began, back in 300BC. Marvel at the Cathédrale Notre Dame, a Gothic masterpiece with free entry. Cross Pont Neuf to the upper bank of the Seine, and now work your way back. Even if you don’t fancy joining the other 15,000 tourists who visit the Louvre daily, it’s worth walking through the courtyard of the Palace, which for centuries was the site of the French Court. Desperate to see the Mona Lisa? Buy your tickets in a department store (louvre.fr) to skip the queue.
Grab a croissant and café au lait from the Patisserie Paul stand in the Jardin du Carrousel outside the Louvre.
Stylist suggests strolling to the western end of the Jardin des Tuileries and reclining in one of the free green chairs dotted around the park, inhaling the lavender from the flowerbeds outside the Musée de l’Orangerie (museeorangerie.fr). Then from the Place De Concorde, catch the number 72 to Montmartre. It used to be a village on a grassy hill, but now it’s one of Paris’ most romantic quarters.
A trip to Paris without macaroon from Ladurée is unthinkable. Avoid the hordes of tourists who snake in front of the Ladurée store on the Champs-Élysées by using the side door to Ladurée Le bar (75 Avenue Des Champs-Élysées; laduree.fr) instead. Try the macaroon cocktails (yes really!), and tuck into an iced macaroon: chewy on the outside, ice cream on the inside.
8.30pm: And relax
Le Royal Monceau (37 Avenue Hoche; leroyalmonceau.com) is the perfect base for those looking for a truly Parisian experience. This grand hotel has a dark bar playing jaunty French music and all the old-school elegance that Paris does so well. The restaurant, La Cuisine, is an absolute must. Like eating in a modern art gallery, giant lights that look like space shuttles hang from the ceiling and the bar is made from coloured wine bottles. The duck foie gras with apple and quince, onion compote and sangria reduction is pure Paris and we loved it when the waiter gave us a choice of seven knives for our Rossini-style spit-roasted pigeon. It boasts the most helpful sommeliers we found in Paris.