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Paris is unique in that it is a major global city — home to more than 10 million people in the greater region — yet it manages to synthesize the rhythms of village life with those of a cosmopolitan world capital. Although the city is a center of European commerce, many shops are closed on Sundays, leaving time for lazy brunches or shopping excursions at a local market.

Paris is the capital of fashion, art, and people-watching; a city where Chanel-clad ladies walk poodles along grand boulevards; a place where the waiters might be rude but the food is délicieux. Paris is all of that and more. Your love affair begins once you look beyond the Eiffel Tower, explore the backstreets, and make Paris your own.

You can eat your way to nirvana in the city’s restaurants, gourmet food stores, and bakeries. The city is also home to some of the world’s greatest museums. And let’s not even get into the city’s concert halls, nightspots, parks, gardens, and cafes—at least not just yet. Even if you have time to see only a fraction of what you’d like to see, in the long run, it really won’t matter. What counts is that you’ll have been to Paris, sampled its wonders, and savored the experience—and that counts for a lot.

Things to Do

Comfy shoes are essential for this city of a thousand walks, landscaped gardens, and cavernous galleries. Reserve your ticket for speedy access to the Louvre, which sidles up to the sculpture-dotted Jardin des Tuileries. Across the Seine on the Left Bank, take your pick from Impressionist hangout Musée d'Orsay, Notre-Dame's Gothic grandeur and Musée Rodin's Kiss sculpture. Okay, you really can't leave without seeing Paris light up from the Eiffel Tower, open till midnight.

Restaurants and Dining

Good food is a birthright and its appreciation a rite of passage in Paris, where a meal — sometimes even coffee — can last hours. For a memorable splurge, book one of the city's opulent three-star palace restaurants, like Le Grand Véfour or L'Astrance, or book ahead for a table at one of the trendy bistronomiques that combine gastronomy with bistro pricing — Lazare, Les Petit Plats, and Spring are all hot right now.

Shopping

Parisians luxuriate in shopping — bidding shopkeepers bonjour and pausing to lèche-vitrines ("lick the windows," or window shop). Saunter the boutiquey Marais for home-grown fashion, or voguish rue Saint-Honoré, for more high-end labels. Where else can you find such palatial department stores as chic Bon Marché, Art Nouveau Printemps, or monumental Galeries Lafayette? Antiques, bric-a-brac, vintage Chanel — it's all at the charming Porte de Vanves weekend flea market; arrive early for bargains and stay for brunch.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Ballet and opera at the glittering Opéra Garnier, Molière classics at the Comédie Française, and cancan at the (in)famous Moulin Rouge — Paris nightlife reaches from sublime to borderline sleazy. A young, trendy crowd parties around the Bastille, gay Marais, and the effortlessly hip bars in Oberkampf, where DJs play at industrial-chic Nouveau Casino. Dress to the nines to slip past picky doormen in clubs around Champs-Élysées, and rock the Seine dancing to techno on moored party boat Batofar.