A stroll through Paris is always a good idea
Paris in springtime is like something out of a film: couples sit on the banks of the Seine dangling their feet over the river. Intellectuals sit on benches in the parks and read Proust. The little café tables with their red-and-white checked cloths are under siege by Parisians enjoying the fresh air and spending their free time socialising. Joie de vivre! If you find yourself in Paris at this time of year, take advantage of the spring weather and enjoy a stroll through the French capital.
Do you believe it's possible to experience the authentic Paris despite the hordes of tourists flocking to the most romantic city in the world? You will find a hint of medieval Paris in the historic Le Marais district, a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets and baroque architecture nestled between the Pompidou Centre and the Bastille. Look up: the wonderful façades tell of the wealthy inhabitants of this district in the time before the French Revolution. Visit Paris's oldest square, the vast and elegant Place des Vosges, where Victor Hugo once lived, then wander through the little streets of Le Marais. This picturesque district is also Paris's most famous Jewish quarter, in which tradition and culture are closely interwoven with the everyday life of the metropolis. Here you will discover antique shops where you will forget about time, tea rooms with old wooden panelling and exotic aromas that will send your thoughts floating off to the mystic Orient, traditional wine bars and hip boutiques where haute couture and sophisticated fabrics rub shoulders with vast piles of vintage clothing. Admire the windows of the local chocolatiers, filled with delicate filigree confections, and indulge in a heavenly but sinful delight, or bite into a slice of quiche, hot from any corner bakery. Plant a beret on your head and wrap yourself in a big scarf, slip into a discreet café booth with a copy of Camus or Sartre in your hand and slowly sip your a café au lait, and you will dazzle everyone with your nonchalant Parisian chic.
On the left bank of the Seine, rising up towards Montparnasse, lies the Latin Quarter. This teeming warren, that only quietens down in the hours just before dawn, is home to several prestigious French universities and institutes, among them the great Sorbonne, after which the district takes its name, since the students of that institution once spoke Latin. A walk through the Latin Quarter begins on the Île de la Cité, the island in the middle of the Seine where the city was founded in the eleventh century. The island is also the site of the world's most famous cathedral, Notre-Dame de Paris, an imposing Gothic masterpiece that is also the symbolic heart of the city. Cross the bridge and enter the noisy Rue de la Huchette, which really starts to buzz after sunset when the cinemas, theatres and clubs open. Browse the souvenir shops for an attractive gift, and treat yourself to lunch in one of the backstreets. If you're in the mood for a French classic, you could go for boeuf bourguignon and a glass of red wine; or if you're feeling bold, you could try a plate of escargots – snails. After lunch, climb up to the Panthéon, the mausoleum that houses the remains of distinguished French citizens from the fields of history, philosophy, science and the arts: Voltaire, Hugo, Zola, Marie Curie (a Pole by birth), Rousseau and others. It will take you less than 10 minutes on foot to get from the Panthéon to the Jardin du Luxembourg, a spacious park where you can join the students resting on the green lawns and admire the view of the Luxembourg Palace.
This hill rising 130 metres above the roofs of the city has two completely contrasting characters. The first is noisy and hedonistic, characterised by neon lights and cabarets, the most notorious of which is of course the Moulin Rouge. But Montmartre is also dreamy, tranquil and tender: this is the district that awaits you at the top of the hill, which you can reach by funicular, by walking up steep narrow streets or by climbing the endless steps that you have already seen countless times on postcards and in films. Here the charm of Paris will really suck you in. At the top of Montmartre stands a white temple, the giant basilica of Sacré-Coeur, from where an unforgettable view of the city opens up. On a warm evening, you can sit on the steps in front of the temple and admire the great city spread out below you as you listen to a chanson or a group of young people with a guitar.
"Paris is always a good idea," commented Sabrina, Audrey Hepburn's character in the eponymous film. How right she was – but Paris in the springtime is the best idea of all.