From the magnificent iron structure of the Eiffel Tower to the gleaming domes of Sacre-Coeur, the gothic spires of Notra Dame and the glistening glass pyramid of the Louvre – it is easy to be intimidated by Paris.
On every corner come rain or shine, day or night this grand city, with sights you have seen a million times on film and in paintings, comes alive, but for visitors it can be difficult to know where to begin.
The best advice is to put down the map. There will be things you do not want to miss - the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Montmarte - but do not try to fit everything in.
To see every painting in the Louvre would take nine months – you see my point.
Since the Middle Ages this romantic city has been depicted by artists, (Monet, Renoir and of course Toulouse-Lautrec) and writers (Hemingway, Orwell and more recently Dan Brown) and as a result Paris’ magic is already embedded in many peoples’ memory.
Yet it is no longer just a living museum – yes there is history on every corner and enough culture to satisfy even the most hungry of tourists – but today it is a fun, cosmopolitan and (despite the reputation) friendly city.
Even on your first visit, you will have preconceived ideas about the city but try, if possible, to erase them.
The best way to get started is to find your bearings. The Seine runs through the heart of the city separating the Left and Right banks.
Both have their subtle differences and tourists soon find something they love about both.
The Right Bank north of the Seine houses the Louvre and Les Halles areas and to the east and southeast the Marais and Bastille districts.
Across the river banks via two small islands in the Seine – I’lle de la Cite and I’lle St-Louis – you will find the Left Bank, made up of the Latin Quarter, the traditional centre of learning and the leafy Jardin des Plantes.
If you want a general overview of the city before heading off on your own, take one of the organised bus tours.
The jump on, jump off system allows you to see everything even on a very brief visit.
But the best way to see the city is on foot. There are numerous walking tours to go on, but make sure you leave the stilettos for the evenings ladies and invest in some comfortable footwear – Parsians are chic, but they are also sensible when it comes to the cobbled streets.
A good way to see the whole city is to go up. Paris is relatively flat and views are excellent from the Eiffel Tower.
On a clear day the Centre Pompidou, Sacre Coeur and the Champs-Elysees can all be seen. The tower, named after its designer, Gustave Eiffel, is 324 metres high.
There are three levels open to the public: the first at 57m, the second at 115m and the third at 276m and tickets cost from €4.20. The Arc de Triomphe also has a spectacular viewing tower.
Alternatively see the city from the water. A river cruise operated by Bateaux Parisiens departs from the northwest of the Eiffel Tower and runs one-hour river circuits.
In the evening many companies also offer a three-course meal and an opportunity to see the capital by night.
But you cannot go to Paris without visiting a museum. The city has over 60, housing collections from Ancient Rome to postmodernism and every style in between.
If you only have time for one the Musee du Louvre is a must. With permanent collections including the Mona Lisa (Leonardo Da Vinci) and Raft of the Medusa (Theodore Gericault) to temporary works by modern artists, this spectacular building – the side facing the Seine is 700m long – features 35,000 works.
Getting in can be a problem, but rather than going in by the famous Grande Pyramide, designed by architect IM Pei, take a side entrance on the Seine side, and before you know it you will be facing the Mona Lisa without having queued for hours.
Another must is the Musee D’Orsay, a former train station facing the Seine on the Left Bank and home to France’s national collection of paintings, sculpture and 'objects d’art' produced between the 1840’s and 1914. It includes many paintings by impressionists including Monet, Renoir, Degas and Van Gogh.
It is open every day except Tuesdays and entry costs €7.50. For Picasso fans, take a trip to the Musée Picasso and be inspired by one of Paris’s best-loved art collections.
After hours soaking up the culture you will need a well-earned rest and when it comes to a finding a place to eat you will be spoilt for choice.
Whether you fancy a pastry, a sandwich, a three-course meal or haute cuisine the French know how to do food and there is no shortage of wonderful gastronomy.
During the day make a pit stop at one of the many boulangeries or patisseries where you can pick up a hot cheese croissant or delicious chocolate pastry for around €2.
In the evening head to the Left Bank to Le Petit Pontoise (9 rue de Pontoise) a charming bistro offering a blackboard of seasonal delights.
Choose the scallops with green beans to start, followed by the roasted chicken with mashed potato. For desert leave room for the grilled pineapple with glazed ginger pieces.
If galleries and museums leave you craving some retail therapy visit Rue Royale and Faubourg Saint-Honore – home to some of the most exclusive names in fashion including John Galliano, Lanvin, Chanel, Dior and Hermes.
While there take in the sights of the Madeleine Church and Place de la Concorde.
There is so much to see and do in Paris that it is easy to get carried away. Take time to stop during your visit, sit by the Seine and watch the world go by – it won’t be long before you fall in love with the city and just like the fabulous meals you will have, you will dine out on its memories for years to come.
Paris may be the home of culture but it is also the home of couture. Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
And no one is more spot on when it comes to fashion than Chanel.
Parisians take fashion in much the same way as they do food: very seriously. Just as every designer wants to show at the twice yearly fashion week, everyone also wants to shop there.
And despite the globalisation of trends, Paris is still the home of traditional, timeless style. A Hermes scarf, a Cartier watch, a black Dior dress are all staples in a stylish Parisian’s wardrobe.
And don’t think it’s just women who love fashion; Parisian men are stylish and elegant too. From a simple blazer and striped scarf for the weekend to a tailored suit for the office, a Parisian man’s wardrobe defines chic.
Everyone should try speaking a bit of French, it is much appreciated by the locals and in some places people do not, or won’t speak English.
Goodbye: Aur revoir
Good evening: Bonsoir
Thank you: Merci
I would like: Je voudrais
Please: S’il vous plaît
How much?: Combien?
Where is the Metro?: Où est la métro?
What is the time?: Quelle heure est-il?
Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous anglais?
Stay at: In order to get the most of all that Paris has to offer when it comes to designer shopping, stay at the Hotel Sofitel Le Faubourg on Rue Boissy d’Anglas, set in the heart of the designer district, close to Rue Royale and Faubourg Saint-Honore.
It is also close to the Champs-Elysees and beautiful Tuileries gardens.
The hotel offers a luxury hideaway for travellers who want something more than a chain hotel, and this chic and charming boutique is French style personified.
Inside you will find calm and tranquillity where businessmen, designers, diplomats and financiers sit alongside elegant guests and visitors to the capital.
Sip a café-au-lait in the stunning art-deco reception, then pop across the road for a cocktail at the famous Buddha Bar.
Prices start from €540 per night (including breakfast)
Hotel Sofitel Le Faubourg
15, Rue Boissy d’Anglas
Paris 00 331 44941414
Flights: Etihad Airways operates 10 weekly flights from Abu Dhabi to Paris Roissy CDG airport. Economy fairs start from: Dh2,520 and Business class fairs from Dh10,990 (excluding taxes).
In Paris CDG Terminal 2A, Etihad Premium Guests have access to the American Airlines lounge and in Terminal 1 at Abu Dhabi a new lounge officially opens on March 15, with dedicated areas for first- and business-class passengers.
To book call: 800 2277 (within the UAE) or log on to www.etihadairways.com
Day trip: If you fancy a day trip, head to the Chateau de Versailles – the enormous palace where Louis XIV lived between 1643-1725.
The famous Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) and the beautiful 900 acres of grounds alone are worth the metro ride. To get there take the RER line C5 from Paris’ Left Bank. Tickets cost €20 for train and entrance to the Palace.
Fall in love with the city of culture