Jacques Brinon  /  AP file
A view of the Louvre Pyramid, and the southern wing of the Louvre building in Paris, April 4, 2006. The Louvre, once a royal palace complete with dungeon and moat, had a record 7.55 million visitors last year, more than any art museum in the world.
By
Special to msnbc.com
updated 4/4/2007 7:05:32 PM ET 2007-04-04T23:05:32

To misquote Dorothy, there’s no place like Paris. The food, the fashions, the architecture, even the quality of the light is exquisite, and trying to see it all in a mere 24-hours is a hopeless task. However, with the following itinerary you should get just enough of a taste of the city to leave you longing to return for more.

8 a.m. - 9 a.m. breakfast
Start the day elegantly at the city’s top “power breakfast” spot, the Hotel Plaza Athenee . Big time execs come to La Galerie des Gobelins here for their morning meetings not only for its deeply cushioned velvet couches and discreetly separated eating areas, but because just as with the other restaurants in the hotel, the food is overseen by top chef Alain Ducasse. He’s put pastry chef Christophe Michalak in charge and his creations are beyond scrumptious. No wonder, this is the chef who led France to victory in the 2005 World Pastry Cup.

9 a.m. - noon
Head directly to the world’s largest museum, the famed Louvre , but don’t waste your time in what can be the world’s longest museum line in front (at the glass pyramid). Instead, order tickets by phone in advance (08-92-68-46-94),pick them up at any FNAC store and enter via the Passage Richelieu, 93 rue de Rivoli. (If you don’t have that much forethought, simply enter through the underground shopping mall, the Carrousel du Louvre, at 99 rue de Rivoli, where the line will also be a lot shorter.) Once inside you have the entire history of art for the viewing, so choose wisely and pick up a map. Perhaps you’d like to ponder the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa, the supermodel form of the Venus de Milo or friezes lifted from the side of the Parthenon? Or how about a glimpse of Botticelli, Rembrandt, Rubens, Michaelangelo, Holbein, Durer, David and many, many others? All of the masters are here and represented in a sublime, if dizzying, array of great art.

A MORNING ALTERNATIVE
If you’ve had enough of the Old Masters, then go instead to the cutting-edge, often outrageous, Centre Pompidou . Reopened in 2000 after a serious overhaul, this inside out gem of a building (they purposely put the pipes on the outside) showcases the art of the 20th and 21st centuries, with one small but lovely annex recreating the studio of sculptor Brancusi. The Plaza outside the museum is a daily carnival, with entertainers of all sorts performing for euros well into the evening. 

Noon-2 p.m.lunch
Take your lunch where the likes of Salvador Dali, Josephine Baker, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway once did, at La Coupole , a classic Left Bank bistro. The food is simple, hearty and quite good and the people-watching is unbeatable.

2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Paris is arguably the most beautiful city on earth. Don’t believe me? See it all in one fell swoop by taking the classic tourist trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower . Yes, the lines can be long here, but on a clear day, when the sun is glinting on the church spires, there’s no other view like it.

AFTERNOON ALTERNATIVE
Though it might sound morbid, the Cimitiere (Cemetery) du Pere Lachaise supplies one of the most fascinating strolls in the city. Pick up a map at the gate and then spend an hour or two ambling past the ornate tombs of Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Moliere, Chopin and others. Be sure to seek out the graffitied grave of Jim Morrison; authorities are constantly washing off the paint,  but fans keep coming back to leave their marks.

5 p.m - 8:30 p.m.
Now is the time to do what the Parisians themselves do and take an evening stroll (the Marais is a particularly lovely neighborhood for this). Do a bit of shopping, or plop yourself down at a sidewalk café for some coffee or wine. As the sun goes down you should unwind too, and simply drink in the beauty of the Parisian streets. If you feel like you haven’t gotten in enough sightseeing, hop a Bateaux-Mouches Cruise , and drift down the Seine for an hour. You’ll get a wonderful view of Notre Dame this way.

8:30-10 p.m.
For possibly the most memorable dinner of your life, you should now stop reading this article and call Pierre Gagnaire to begin your fight for one of their hard to get reservations. Gagnaire earned his three stars from the Guide Michelin (the highest possible rating) by creating inventive, often astonishing food, served in a parade of small plates. You may find yourself dining on foie gras paired with mussels and bean sprouts; or tiny rolls of veal stuffed with veal liver; or crayfish tempura in a sweet and sour sauce. It may all sound odd, but it tastes exquisite. A pricey meal, but well worth it.

10 p.m. on …
Swing and be-bop are alive and well at Paris’ own ‘jazz cave” called Le Caveau de la Huchette . Though the style of music may be older, the crowd is young, energetic and friendly. If you prefer more modern rhythms, drop in on Les Bains Douches ,a hot techno and house music dance club set in a former Turkish bath. It’s a late night club, though so don’t show up before midnight.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer Guidebooks which will be debuting in bookstores this July.

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Hotel Plaza Athenee: 25 Ave Montaigne, 8th Arrondissment; 01-53-67-66-65; daily 8 a.m. -11 a.m. for breakfast

Louvre: Musee du Louvre, 34-36 quai du Louvre, 1st Arrondissement; 01-40-20-53-17, 01-40-20-50-50; www.louvre.fr;  8 euros for adults, free for children under 18;  Mon and Fri 9 a.m.-9:45 p.m.; Thurs, Sat, Sun, and Wed 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Parts of museum begin to close at 5:30pm

Centre Pompidou: Place George Pompidou, 4th Arrondissment; 01-44-78-12-33; www.centrepompidou.fr; 10 euros  for adults, 8 euros  for students, free for children under 18; Weds-Mon 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

La Coupole: 102 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 14th Arrondissment; 01-43-20-14-20; daily 8:30 a.m.-1 a.m.

Eiffel Tower: Champ de Mars, 7th Arrondissment; 01-44-11-23-23; www.tour-eiffel.fr; Sept-May daily 9:30 a.m.-11:45 p.m.; June-Aug daily 9am-12:45 p.m.; Admission to 1st landing 4.10 euros, 2nd landing 7.50 euros, 3rd landing 10.70 euros.

Cimitiere (Cemetery) du Pere Lachaise: 16 rue du Repos, 20th Arrondissment; 01-55-25-82-10; www.pere-lachaise.com; Mon-Fri 9am-6pm; Sun 9 a.m. -6 p.m.

Bateaux-Mouches Cruise: Pont de l’Alma on the Right Bank; 01-40-76-99-99; www.bateaux-mouches.fr; 7 euros for adults and 4 euros for children 4 to 13; May to October, tours leave daily at 20- to 30-minute intervals, beginning at 10am and ending at 11:30 p.m.; November to April, there are at least nine departures daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a schedule that changes according to demand and the weather.

Pierre Gagnaire: 6 rue de Balzac, 8th Arrondissment; 01-58-36-12-50

Le Caveau de la Huchette: 5 rue de la Huchette, 5th Arrondissment; 01-43-26-65-05; cover 11 euros

Les Bains Douches: 7 rue du Bourg l'Abbé; 011 33 1 48 87 01 80; cover 20 euros

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer Guidebooks which will be debuting in bookstores this July.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Photos: Perfectly Paris

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  1. Mood lighting

    The Eiffel Tower and the Hotel des Invalides are illuminated at dusk with in Paris. (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Heart of the Louvre

    The intricate ceiling of the Appolo Gallery at Paris' Louvre Museum is reflected in a display case in the foreground. Built in 1661, the gallery was not fully completed until 1851. In all, over twenty artists worked on the decoration. The Appolo Gallery gallery contains more than two centuries of French art, and houses such wonders as the French Crown Jewels, including the famous Régent (140 carats) and Sancy (53 carats) diamonds, as well as the 105-carat Côte de Bretagne ruby. (Joel Robine / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. To the heavens

    The Sacred Heart Catholic church (Basilique Sacré-Coeur) is seen on Paris' highest point, in Montmartre. The view at the top of the dome is excellent -- 271 feet above Montmartre Hill -- and is the second-highest viewpoint after the Eiffel Tower. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Looking glass

    This elaborate stained-glass cupola (dome) inside Magasins du Printemps department store is located above the main restaurant in the store. Installed in 1923, it is composed of 3,185 individual pieces of stained glass. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Keeping cool

    Tourists soak their feet in a reflecting pool at Place du Trocadero, an area of museums and gardens. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Sights from the Seine

    A "Bateau Mouche" tourist boat travels near the Paris Justice court. These boat tours are a popular, but relaxing way to view the sights of Paris along the Seine River. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Museum of masterpieces

    Originally a royal fortress for kings, and open to all since 1793, the Louvre is one the world's greatest art museums, housing 35,000 works of ancient and Western art, displayed in over 60,000 square meters of exhibition space. More than 6 million visitors see the Louvre per year. (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Shopper's haven

    Local art, food and other goods are sold in passage Jouffroy, across Boulevard Montmartre. Originally designed to protect pedestrians from mud and horse-drawn vehicles, the passages (shopping arcades), arre located between the Grands Boulevards and the Louvre. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Modern art

    A view of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Its 1977 factory style architecture contrasts with the surrounding buildings of Paris' oldest district near Notre-Dame cathedral. It has a public library, and the French National Museum of Modern Art. (Loic Venance / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Holy architecture

    One of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture is the Notre Dame Cathedral, attracting 13 million visitors each year. The name Notre Dame means "Our Lady" in French. (Stéphane Querbes / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Practical protectors

    The famous stone statues of Notre Dame. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Tranquil gardens

    The Jardin des Tuileries is Paris's most central garden. Its fountains, sculptures, cafes, formal gardens, and central location, make it a popular destination for visitors and locals. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Offi) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Tuileries Palace

    Tuileries Palace encloses the western end of the Louvre and the formal gardens that make up Jardin des Tuileries park, stretching from the Louvre to the Place de Concorde, and bordered by the Seine. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Moulin Rouge

    The cabaret Moulin Rouge was built in 1889, in Paris' red-light district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy. The Moulin Rouge is best known as the birthplace of the can-can dance. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Flowing with history

    The Fontaine des Mers at one of the main public square, Place de la Concorde. At 20 acres, it is the largest square in Paris. (Henri Garat / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Honoring warriors

    The Arc de Triomphe stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Elysees. The arch honors soldiers who fought for France. The names of generals and wars fought can be found on the inside and top of the arc. Underneath, is the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I . (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Coffee break

    People walk past a boulangerie (bakery) in the Montmartre district in Paris. (Michel Euler / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Paris blues

    A piece of renowned French Roquefort blue cheese is displayed in a shop in Paris. (Philippe Wojazer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Pricey real estate

    The Place Vendome is an octagonal square located to the north of the Tuileries Gardens and east of the Eglise de la Madeleine. The bronze spiral column at the center of the square was constructed in 1810 by Napoleon to celebrate the French army’s victory at Austerlitz. Within the square are apartments, and posh hotels and high-end retailers, including Cartier, Chanel, and Bulgari. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. French connection

    The high-speed rail network in France goes to several Parisian train stations, including Gare Du Nord shown here. The name was derived by the idea that travelers would be able to travel to Belgium, Netherlands, Northern Germany and the Scandinavian countries. It is the busiest railway station in Europe, and the third -busiest in the world. (Cate Gillon / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. The grandest address in Paris

    The Pere Lachaise cemetary (Father Lachaise Cemetery) on the eastern edge of the city, is named after the Jesuit Father Lachaise, King Louis XIV's confessor. Many famous people are buried here, including Musset, Chopin, Moliere, Oscar Wilde, Delacroix, Balzac, Jim Morrison. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Impressive collection

    The Musée d'Orsay is one of Paris' most popular museums, housed in the former railway station, the Gare d'Orsay. The museum houses an extensive collection of sculptures and impressionist masterpieces by Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Cezanne. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Grand design

    The Grand Palais (Big Palace) was built for the World Fair of 1900. The building is best known for its enormous glass-domed roof, making it one of Paris’ most recognizable landmarks. The Grand Palais was the work of three different architects, and is currently the largest existing ironwork and glass structure in the world. (Marc Bertrand / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Prestigious avenue

    The Louis Vuitton department store is located on the stunning Champs-Elysees, one of the world's most famous and beautiful streets. (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Le Pantheon

    Le Pantheon was originally intended to be a church dedicated to Saint Genevieve to fulfil a vow made by Louis XV while he'd fallen ill. It was used for religious and civil purposes until 1885 and now functions as a famous burial place. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
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