Paris

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The Best of Paris in a City Break
To celebrate our ten-year friendship, I headed with my two best high school friends for the city of love, jazz and “la bonheur”: Paris. We had five days and many different interests, but after lots of debate over glasses of wine we managed to make an itinerary that I think would suit any first timer in Paris: we visited all the important landmarks, but also got a taste of the Parisian social life, all in less than five days. So I decided to make a short guide about how to make the most of a short Parisian experience. This a 41 square miles city with more than 15 million international visitors per year, so planning ahead is essential. For some museums, you will need a reservation, especially on weekends. One of the great things about visiting museums of Paris is that you can take a stroll through the history of visual art. Start with the Louvre, which exhibits masterpieces of the Ancient world and art from the medieval era, continue with Musee d’Orangerie, home of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces and then immerse yourself in the art of the 20th and 21st centuries at Centre Pompidou. However, plan one museum a day because all of these are gigantic and you will also spend some time admiring the architecture. After the Louvre, I spend half a day laying on the mattress, enjoying French cheeses and pastries.

We were lucky to find a cozy affordable apartment in Montparnasse, a quarter with many small parks, street-corner cafes and a buzzy restaurant and bistro area. Here you can enjoy a coffee at La Rotonde or The Dome, the places where Modigliani and Picasso spent their evenings. Renting an apartment is the best option in Paris; it allows you to save a lot of money while being close to the center. As for eating on a budget, you fill find lunch or supper “formule”, which is a three-course menu with prices varying from 10 to 18 euros.

You can also search for museums for specific artists, like Rodin, Salvador Dali, and Picasso. Depending on your interests, opt for the French Cinematheque, the European House of Photography, the former houses of Balzac and Victor Hugo or the Curie Museum.

Museums are less crowded in the afternoon, as large organized groups usually arrive in the morning. So it's best to plan strolls at the start of the day or in the evenings. You walk along the Champs Elysee Boulevard and window shop the works of international fashion and automobile designers and arrive the Arc de Triomphe, where you can enjoy one of the best panoramas of the city. You can also take a boat cruise on the Seine to admire its historic bridges and all the fabulous landmarks located on both sides and disembark at the Eiffel Tower.

A popular thing among Parisians is to take the lunch break by the riverside or in a local park. Locals love outdoor socializing in the warm season, so grab a bottle of wine and share it with friends near the iron footbridges of Canal St. Martin. This area is close to Marais, the medieval quarter home of the famous Moulin Rouge. Around here you will discover bars and bistros, quirky boutiques and cafés and also thriving nightclubs.

If you find the time, walk on the twisted streets of Montmartre and visit the imposing Sacre Coeur cathedral, admire contemporary art in the galleries of Bellville, visit the Notre-Dame or rest in The Luxembourg gardens.

Paris is often taken into consideration for romantic trips, but it is also a great place to travel to with a group of friends, as you will find suitable activities to fit the taste of the most demanding of tourists.
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Paris, France