The historic gay district is Le Marais and it is one of the oldest in Paris. It is really nice with its narrow streets, its galleries, the place des Vosges, which is an old royal square. There is also the Jewish quarter around rue des rosiers where fallafels are delicious. To the east, it is bordered by Bastille with its opera and marina leading to the Seine river. Going north, the Saint Martin Canal locks will lead you to mythical Hotel du Nord.
Going South, you would soon reach Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, then the Cité island and the Notre-Dame-de-Paris cathedral. It is here, that Paris was founded and was then called Lutèce. More to the South, crossing the Seine, you reach the Latin Quarter and its student atmosphere around La Sorbonne which is the oldest university in Paris. The walk up to the Panthéon, dedicated to Glorious Men and Women. It is not far from Saint-Germain-des-Prés and its legendary Café de Flore and next to the big garden of Luxembourg.
The central Paris, west of Le Marais, consists of Beaubourg, Châtelet and Les halles. This is where the Centre Georges Pompidou is located. It specializes in contemporary art and is recognisable with its large coloured pipes and colourful creations of Nikki de Saint Phalle in the adjacent fountain. Les Halles are undergoing massive works and are bordered on the north side by the other gay district district, Montorgueil.
Continuing West, there is the Opera district, its grand boulevards and its department stores (Galeries Lafayette and
Printemps); place Vendôme where Paul McCarthy did not manage to install his huge anal plug during the Fiac; the Jardin des Tuileries and Concorde where the Champs Elysées start. You will need to cross the Seine again towards the south to visit the
Eiffel Tower, the symbol of Paris.
In the North, the Butte Montmartre with Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre, overlooks Paris. The Abbesses district is the haven of Bobos with many cafés, wine bars or organic shops. Not far from there, Pigalle, its Moulin Rouge and its sex shops have more the sulphurous side only they had previously. For a more exotic Paris, you will need to go to the Gare Du Nord and the Chapel to find yourself in the Indian and Pakistani district, towards Château Rouge for African atmosphere, Place d'Italie and Tolbiac for Chinatown.
Paris is a city with a neighbourhood life where it is lovely to walk, enjoy a terrace or a bench in a public garden. The metro will allow you to navigate easily between the various districts, but you should not hesitate to take the bus lines and the bikes available about everywhere.
For a first visit, here are the essentials:
First of all, the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of the city. It was built for the Universal exhibition of 1889, and was, from the top of its 313 m, the highest building in the world until the construction of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930. The ascent offers a wonderful view of Paris and some sensations on the new glass floor, on the 1st floor (57 metres above the floor!). When it begins sparkling at every hour sharp (for 3 minutes) from nightfall, it is really magnificent.
Let us mention the Louvre museum, its Mona Lisa and its Raft of the Jellyfish. This is where the collections of ancient Egypt until the middle of the 19th century are located. It is huge, so the best thing to do, it is to check the website in order to target your visit. Late evening openings on Wednesdays and Fridays give a particular atmosphere. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. Exit the museum by the pyramid and cross the Carousel (a very famous evening cruising spot) towards the Tuileries gardens, which leads to Place de la Concorde, the National Assembly on the left, its obelisk and fountains at the bottom of avenue des Champs Elysées. If walking up, you will cross the Grand Palais and Petit Palais on your left, Palais de l'Elysée will be on your right, then it will be a row beautiful boutiques up to the Arc De Triomphe.
Other museums not to be missed: the Musée d'Orsay, located in a former railway station, which houses the collections of the middle of the 19th century until the First World War: Van Gogh, Monnet, Renoir, Picasso... Late openings onThursday night, closed on Monday.
The National Centre of Art and Culture Georges Pompidou is located in the very modern colourful industrial-type building, which is between Le Marais and Les Halles. It houses the collections from the 20th century till nowadays. It is one of the largest collections of modern art in the world. Closed on Tuesdays. The Natural History museum has very fine collections and an impressive Gallery of Evolution. The closeby Jardin des Plantes is a very pleasant promenade spot.
Le Musée of Quai Branly along the Seine near the Eiffel Tower, is dedicated to arts and civilisations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. A fine collection and temporary exhibitions that are constantly renewed. The architecture of the building and its garden surrounding it are also worth the detour.
There is also the Conciergerie, palace of the kings in the Middle Ages, the Pantheon were heroes of the Nation are buried, the Invalides with its golden 105 m dome, which houses the tomb of Napoleon, the Rodin museum and the Thinker, the National Paris Opera or Palais Garnier with its Chagall ceiling, the Picasso museum which has just reopened after long renovation works or in another kind, the Musée Grévin.
Finally, opened in 2014, the Vuitton foundation is hosted in an astonishing building by Frank Gehri with the shape of a glass ship of glass in the heart of the bois de Boulogne. The exhibitions are dedicated to contemporary creations.
Religious buildings occupy a prominent place in the visits. There is the Notre-Dame-de-Paris cathedral which is a masterpiece of Gothic art with frightening gargoyles and beautiful stained glass windows, including the two 13 metres diameter rosaces. Nearby in the Palais de Justice compound, the Sainte Chapelle has extremely beautiful windows. The Sacré Cœur Basilica, recognisable by its white domes dominating the Montmartre hill, is less interesting to visit but the view of Paris from its front is very beautiful and the nearby place du Tertre is part of the classics.
There is also the big Paris Mosk whose minaret rises 33 m high, which is open to the public to have a tea or a meal. The hammam is now open only to women because the management found that the presence of homosexuals had become disturbing. There are plenty of worship places in Paris and they are all open to visitors for free.
In the surroundings of Paris, let us mention the unmissable Château de Versailles, with its sumptuous hall of mirrors and French gardens. It is close to Paris and easily accessible by public transportation. There are many people, so it is advisable to book tickets in advance. Closer and in the extension to the Champs Elysées, there is the La Défense district with its arch and skyline that has nothing to envy other cities. To the north, on the RER, there is also the Stade de France, worth visiting. Finally, to the east, there is Disneyland Paris where Mickey, Minnie mouse... and many prince charmings still parade.