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With major European cities looking more and more alike (you’ll find the same hotels, chain stores and Starbucks from Berlin to Barcelona), Paris stands gloriously apart. Perhaps the world’s most beautiful city, Paris is more or less off-limits to overzealous developers—from the French perspective, earning a euro is just fine, but beauty is priceless.

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Lay of the Land

“Paris was everything that I had dreamed...it should always be seen, the first time, with the eyes of childhood or of love.”
~M.F.K. Fisher

Paris is divided into a spiral of twenty arrondissements, or neighborhoods, that originate at the Louvre and run clockwise through the city. The 1st arrondissement encompasses the historic heart of Paris, including the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens and the Place Vendôme. The higher the number, the farther the neighborhood is from the center of the city. Meanwhile, the Seine River separates Paris into the Right and Left Banks.

Right Bank: 1st and 2nd Arrondissements: Centered around the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, this neighborhood encompasses much of Paris’s historic heart, which is characterized by elegant squares (Place Vendôme, Place des Victoires), formal gardens (Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Palais Royal) and grand arcades (Rue de Rivoli.)

Right Bank: 3rd & 4th Arrondissement: Also known as Le Marais, this charming neighborhood holds the medieval Place des Vosges, Picasso and Carnavalet museums and some of Paris’ best shopping streets.

Right Bank: 8th & 16th Arrondissements: The Champs-Élysées, which runs from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde is Paris’s most famous thoroughfare, with high-end shops, restaurants and hotels lining the streets that radiate off the main drag. Cultural attractions in this area include the beautiful 19th century exhibition spaces Le Grand Palais and Le Petit Palais and the opulent Second Empire-style Opéra de Paris Garnier.

Islands: Cite & St. Louis: The oldest part of Paris, Ile de la Cité was founded by a small Gallic tribe, known as the Parisii.  Nowadays it is the gothic cathedral Notre Dame de Paris that dominates the small island in the middle of the Seine.  The slightly smaller Ile St. Louis, is known for its peaceful narrow streets and famous French ice cream (Berthillon).

Left Bank: 6th & 7th Arrondissements: From buzzing cafés that were once stomping grounds of the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ernest Hemingway (Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore) to the tranquil Luxembourg Gardens, the area around St-Germain-Des-Près is one of Paris’s most beloved areas. Further west, the Musée d’Orsay, Rodin Museum, and the Eiffel Tower are not-to-be-missed.

Staff Quotable: “For all of its grandeur—sweeping grand boulevards, iconic monuments and gold-tinged bridges criss-crossing the Seine—there is something instantly intimate and familiar about Paris. The simple pleasures of a year-round culture of cafés and wicker-chair-lined terraces, the smell of passing by a boulangerie and the sky always within view, combined with the city’s many gourmet, artistic and shopping treasures conspire to make it the ultimate swoon-worthy destination. It’s the Parisians’ joie de vivre and slower pace of life that, for me, has spoiled every other city.” ~Marley Lynch, Travel Specialist

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