Paris is made for dreaming and dallying, swooning and strolling.
The only way to truly appreciate its all-encompassing, knee-weakening beauty is on foot, winding through time-worn cobblestoned streets, ambling along grand boulevards and meandering around pretty garden paths. The flâneur – that classic character who loafs about town with no particular aim in mind – could only have been invented in Paris, a city of live-in-the-moment pleasures. Of course, eating, that other much-loved Parisian pursuit, goes hand in hand nicely with walking. But food is not merely fuel; locals live to eat, trekking far and wide for the perfect éclair or crottin de Chavignol (goat’s cheese). Because, as Ernest Hemingway – one of the city’s famous wanderers – well knew, Paris is a moveable feast.
Chocolate for breakfast? It’s a Parisian must-do, as is Angelina, on rue de Rivoli, where the chocolat chaud is thick and velvety and the salon de thé still glows with golden Belle Époque grandeur.
Pop over to the Musée de l’Orangerie in the Jardin des Tuileries for another masterpiece of that period, Monet’s Water Lilies series, then traipse around the ponds and parterres of the garden, which was one of the Impressionists’ most beloved spots in Paris.
Across the road, go downstairs to the quai and saunter east along the Seine, soaking up the panoramic perspective of riverside Paris. Cross the Pont Louis-Philippe to Île Saint-Louis and explore this miniature City of Light preserved in 17th- century stone splendour. Buy a baguette and some cheese and picnic under the plane trees at the western tip while swans glide by. Still hungry? The island’s Berthillon ice-cream (29-31 rue Saint-Louis en l’Île; +33 1 43 54 31 61) is legendary for good reason.
Cross Pont Saint-Louis, admiring Notre-Dame’s flying buttresses, and head to the Left Bank. Just beyond Square René-Viviani, order a box of choux à la crème at Odette (77 Rue Galande; +33 1 43 26 13 06) then continue to the majestic Jardin du Luxembourg. Once you’ve walked up an appetite here, pull up a wagon-green chair by the basin and enjoy your cream puffs – and the deliciousness of the moment.
Stylish Saint-Germain-des- Prés is perfect for window-shopping – or lèche-vitrine (window-licking), as the French say, probably because their chocolateries and pâtisseries are so tantalisingly merchandised. Be sure to compare the macarons at Pierre Hermé and Ladurée, both on chic rue Bonaparte.
As magic hour soaks the city in syrupy gold, find a nook on Pont Neuf and sigh at the scene before you. When the ambient light turns a moody, Monet-esque lilac, l’heure bleue (the blue hour) is gorgeously captured in Place Dauphine, a triangular “square” across the way; enjoy an apéro en terrasse while you watch locals play pétanque among the chestnut trees.
Afterwards, take a riverside stroll westwards, past grand Left Bank façades, and cross at the flamboyant Pont Alexandre III. At Minipalais, the restaurant of the Grand Palais, dine in style on the terrace among lofty columns and palms.
After sunset, the Eiffel Tower twinkles on the hour so cross the Seine again to admire the light show. Then continue the sparkly theme at Les Ambassadeurs bar in the luxurious Hôtel de Crillon. Nothing caps off a beautiful day in Paris – or captures its scintillating essence – like a crystal flute of shimmering champagne.