PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours in Paris? The city of revolution and love has endless things to do. If it’s the end of a busy business week and your first time then throw yourself into the heady mix of heritage, culinary delights and entertainment.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a visit to the French capital.
5 pm - So where best to start than overlooking the city. Perched 130 meters above Paris, Montmartre in the north will give you ample scope to build your appetite. From Pigalle metro wander up to the Basilique de Sacre Coeur, a Byzantine-inspired cathedral originally planned as a memorial for the lost soldiers of the Franco-Prussian war. The views from the top will give you a taste of what the city is all about. Head north to Place du Tertre to encounter artists sketching away, bustling cafes and a rabbit warren of cul-de-sacs with aging edifices.
7 pm - At the steps of Montmartre in the red-light district of the boulevard Clichy, lies the infamous Moulin Rouge. While a little touristy these days, the once favorite hangout of French society has a pricy menu that includes foie-gras trimmings, the finest bubbly and, of course, the famous dancers.
8 am - It’s an early start, but how often are you in Paris? Exit your hotel, enter the first bakery, pick-up a mix of croissants, pain aux raisins and a brioche and take a seat in a cafe. Enjoy a creme or noisette with people-watching.
9 am - It will be a long day, but well worth it. Take a metro to Bir-Hakeim. Book your ticket online to avoid the hordes of tourists at the Eiffel Tower and then, be it by lift or foot, head up the 324-meter high structure. Originally supposed to be a temporary fixture for the Universal Exhibition in 1889, the tower remains the emblem of France.
11 am - Time for a cruise along the Seine river. Pick your transport. The options depend on your level of laziness: City bikes (Velib) are spread across the city and are much like a hop-on-hop-off system. The Batobus or traditional Bateaux Mouches moored by the quay at the foot of the tower stop at major sites along the river. Or go on foot to give yourself versatility to roam.
11.30 am -Head along the river’s edge by the Quai Branly. The museum of the same name on the right hand side and a pet project of former president Jacques Chirac offers collections from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Wander about 10 minutes further down on the right to Les Invalides. The complex of buildings houses museums and monuments relating France’s military past, including the tomb of Corsica’s most famous son Napoleon Bonaparte.
Continue along the Quai d‘Orsay past the Foreign Ministry and the Assemblee Nationale (Parliament) before turning left and crossing over the Louis 16th-built Pont de la Concorde on the Right Bank. From here enter the Jardin des Tuileries and amble through the gardens leading up to the Louvre Museum.
If you fancy a slight shopping detour, turn left at rue de Castiglione. The Westin hotel has an antique-styled courtyard for a tea or a glass of fine wine, while a bit further down toward the Place Vendome and rue Saint Honore the fashion conscious have a chance to experience the likes of Christian Lacroix, Hermes or Pierre Cardin first hand.
If shopping isn’t your thing, then carry on through the gardens to the Louvre and its controversial glass pyramid. Remember queues are often long and it’s best to pick one or two exhibitions of the time or select a specific collection such as the jaw-dropping ancient civilizations of the Near East.
Favorites such as the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo will mean hours of queuing no matter how early you get there and for many De Vinci’s smiling ‘La Jaconde‘is often a disappointment.
3 pm - Time for a late lunch. Cross the Pont des Arts at the end of the Louvre, where the lovestruck often attach padlocks on to the bridge showing their deepest affections. You’re now in the St Germain des Pres area. Stroll along the river and then turn right heading toward the Notre Dame metro.
On rue Saint Andre des Arts is the Creperie Saint-German. A cozy atmosphere with an eclectic selection of music welcomes you to a world of sweet and savory pancakes and a goblet of cider.
4 pm - Cross over Paris’ oldest bridge the Pont Neuf dating back to the early 17th century and made famous by the film Les Amants du Pont Neuf starring Juliette Binoche. It takes you on to l‘ile de la Cite, one of two mini islands home to some of Paris crown jewels.
About 200 meters ahead on the left is Sainte Chapelle with its unforgettable stained glass windows, while on the right is the Cathedral of Notre Dame tracing its history back to the 12th century. Behind the cathedral, its gardens lead to the second island l‘ile Saint Louis where often the bridge linking the two islands will have accordion players and a raft of free entertainment. Have a seat and soak in the atmosphere.
From here head north into the Marais district. The heart of Paris’ Jewish community includes the Picasso museum, lots of trendy craft and fashion boutiques and an increasingly vibrant Chinese community. Once at the rue des Francs-Bourgeois, turn left toward rue Rambuteau and the futuristic Pompidou Center. The vibrant Beaubourg area is a den of restaurants, cafes and bars so the choice is vast for an evening out, but for dinner why not try something completely different on the rue Quincampoix - Dans le Noir? (In the dark?). The restaurant, bar and lounge offers top notch food served entirely in the dark. The waiters are blind and without their help you’re not allowed to move anywhere within the restaurant.
9 am - A trip to France wouldn’t be complete without seeing the finest food on display. Take the metro to Denfert Rochereau in the 14th and amble through rue Daguerre. From oysters to horsemeat and the fruits of the season, some of the freshest foods are delivered to this market street often ahead of their local communities. Try some of the delicacies.
11 am - A stone’s throw away from rue Daguerre is the entrance to the underground Catacombes, an ossuary that fills a section of caverns and tunnels that once were Paris’ mines. Skulls, bones and tombstones adorn kilometers of passages.
1 pm - Keeping to the same theme, once out of the Catacombes take the metro to the north east to Pere Lachaise. Paris’ biggest cemetery is home to the likes of Oscar Wilde and Doors lead singer Jim Morrison and its multiple alleyways offer the odd pastime of tomb-spotting. Just a few hundred meters away on rue du Chemin Vert is a little Kurdish restaurant Zagros. It offers simple, but tasty food from a family whose offspring starred in the 2009 film “Welcome” about a Kurdish refuge looking to swim across the English channel to reach his El Dorado.
4 pm - One last port of call -- the world’s most famous avenue the Champs Elysees. Why not drop into the Citroen showroom, the first new building on the road in more than 30 years. If cars aren’t your thing, then fight the hordes to get into Laduree to taste the creative pastries of some 40 chefs and where most walk away with at least a box of macaroons.
Editing by Steve Addison