Truly appreciating the beauty of Paris is a pleasure that can’t be hurried.
Take time to wander down its wide boulevards, savour every sip of strong, black coffee and resist the temptation to fall into step with the throng of tourists and sightseers. Our advice to anyone who finds themselves with 24 hours to spare in the French capital is to stop, breathe, appreciate and indulge. Start the day with a walk down the Champs-Élysées. For some, it retains the title of the world’s most beautiful avenue. For others, the road’s historical charm has been blighted by the arrival of global brands, traffic and tourists. Sunrise offers the history without the hurry. Take a leisurely stroll down its expansive pavements and look up for impressive architecture without fear of bumping into shoppers. Treat yourself to breakfast at one of Paris’ oldest tea salons. Ladurée was founded as a family business in 1862 and now appears in luxurious locales in London, Monaco, Switzerland and Japan. The original, Ladurée Royale on Rue Royale, doesn’t open until 8:30am (and later on Sundays), so for early morning pastries drop into the Champs-Elysees store which opens at 7:30am every day. The queues at Paris’ most famous art gallery, the Louvre, are notorious so impatient visitors are advised to go to the Musée de l’Orangerie, set in the historic Jardin des Tuileries. You won’t see the Mona Lisa, but the gallery does boast a collection of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. The queues are shorter the earlier you go and to really beat the crowds pre-book your time slot online. Head north to have your own images sketched by street artists in Montmartre, a former stomping ground for famous names including Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Drop into the Basilique du Sacré Coeur to pray, light a candle or simply enjoy the spectacular views over Paris.
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From there, visit Rue Lepic where you will find Café des Deux Moulins, where actress Audrey Tautou waited tables in the 2001 film “Amélie.” Note that when you ask for a coffee in France, you’ll automatically receive a black espresso. If you’d like something bigger and milkier, ask for a café au lait (already popular elsewhere) or café Americain (filter coffee) with milk (lait). Further down Rue Lepic you’ll find Au Virage Lepic, a quaint bistro dripping in traditional Parisian atmosphere. It’s usually crowded with locals so book in advance. Getting around is easy in Paris. Take a bus or the Metro or join the legion of cyclists on hugely popular Vélib rental bikes. Pick up your own bike at one of the service points scattered around the city. You’ll need a credit card to register for a one-day subscription, or to speed up the process pre-book a one-day ticket online. It’ll cost you one euro and the first 30 minutes of every journey for the next 24 hours is free. After than, any additional time will be charged to your credit card until you return the bike to any stand in the city. In the afternoon, walk — or cycle — down Boulevard Saint-Germain on the historic Left Bank. Discover your inner intellectual over a coffee or dinner at Les Deux Magots, a former meeting place for Paris’ great literary minds including Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. From Boulevard Saint-Germain, walk down Rue Saint-Sulpice, past Saint-Sulpice, a striking church founded in the 1646 and brought to a new audience as one of the buildings featured in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel (and subsequent film) “The Da Vinci Code.”
Wander further on to Rue de Sèvres where you can batter your credit card with some upmarket shopping at Le Bon Marché and La Grand Epicerie. In the evening, soak up some Parisian chic at the De La Ville Café on Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, or indulge in the opulence of Hotel Costes on Rue Saint-Honore. Both serve food and close at 2am. Treat yourself to a glass of champagne and start planning your next sojourn in Paris!