I was in paris in december, a perfect time for walking. The cold stings, but you’ll see many people – both tourists and locals – bundled up in scarves and jackets sipping an espresso or having a bowl of hot soup in the numerous restaurants and cafés. That’s one of the characteristics that makes Paris so wonderful – no hustling and bustling along crowded streets. Even tourists tend to follow the locals’ relaxed, Parisian nature of stopping through the day and taking the time to enjoy a hot afternoon drink or bite to eat.
Central Paris is actually fairly compact and, if you’re used to walking, you can access anywhere in the city by foot and it’s not a terribly hard city to navigate for the non-French speaking. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can take the Metro, Paris’ relatively compact but charmingly art nouveau subway. But there is something especially indulgent about staying in a hotel a mere croissant throw from your destination.
BASE: HÔTEL PLAZA ATHÉNÉE, AVENUE MONTAIGNE
The champs-élysées is paris’ most famous shopping street, but Avenue Montaigne is its most luxurious. Where the Champs-Élysées is now home to Gap, Virgin Megastore and Adidas, Avenue Montaigne remains strictly high end. The flagship stores of Prada, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Christian Lacroix are practically across the road from the Plaza Athénée, while Jimmy Choo, Dolce & Gabanna, Roberto Cavalli and the temple of French fashion, Chanel, are in the next block.
It may be a little touristy. but the Champs-Élysées is still worth a visit and it’s just 15 minutes walk from the Plaza Athénée. Bookended on one side by the Arc de Triomphe, it has more international chains and food options, if that’s something you’d take more interest in. I walked down the street around 8pm and it had a great energy to it with plenty of people out shopping and eating and having a walk in the brisk evening.
Plaza Athénée is a Paris landmark with bright red flowers adorning every wrought-iron window box, twinkling lights and a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. To add to its charm, the hotel’s inner courtyard becomes a tiny ice rink in December and January. The hotel is also home to Alain Ducasse’s three Michelin-starred restaurant, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée. And it has some fashionista credentials – this is where Carrie stayed when she moved to Paris in the final season of Sex and the City.
Rates: Rooms from €855 (about A$1,092) per night and suites from €1,255 (about A$1,603) per night.
Base: Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme, Rue De La Paix
there are upwards of 200 museums and galleries in Paris, enough to last you a lifetime, but there are a few must sees for even the shortest visit. The Louvre almost goes without saying but, even if you’ve been before, it’s always changing – the New Department of Islamic Art opened in September 2012 showcasing more than 3,000 works from the eighth to 19th centuries. A quick stroll through the Tuileries Garden will bring you to Musee de l’Orangerie, the permanent home of eight of Monet’s Water Lillies, then head across the Passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor to the Musee d’Orsay. The Rue de la Paix runs parallel to Place Madeline where one of the city’s newer contemporary art spaces opened in 2007. La Pinacothèque exhibits everything from Chinese terracotta warriors to Edvard Munch retrospectives in an intimate space where visitors can get close to the artworks.
The Park Hyatt is less than 500 metres from the famed Opéra National de Paris, home of the oldest national ballet company in the world. There are more than 300 performances each year with opera, ballet, concerts and recitals. In 2014 choreographer Benjamin Millepied of Black Swan fame will take over as the new director of dance.
One of Paris’ newer luxury hotels, the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme opened in 2003. Five buildings on the Rue de la Paix were joined together to make the 188-room hotel and the interiors were designed by renowned American architect Ed Tuttle. Rooms are finished in wood, silk and bronze, giving a warm clubby feel. If you don’t fancy walking the hotel’s bicycle valet can set you up with a bike and even organise a gourmet picnic basket for lunch in the Tuileries.
Rates: Rooms from E630 (about A$805) per night and suites from E1,120 (about A$1,431) per night.