Martin Bureau  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Residents and tourists refresh in the Trocadero fountains in July in Paris.
updated 5/24/2006 2:28:04 PM ET 2006-05-24T18:28:04

Meeting the Natives
There will be no page number to turn to for guidance here. You're on your own. But meeting the Parisians, and experiencing their cynical metropolitanism, is one of the adventures of traveling to Paris -- and it's free. Tolerance, gentleness, and patience are not their strongest point, and they don't suffer fools gladly but adore eccentrics. Visitors often find Parisians brusque to the point of rudeness and preoccupied with their own affairs. But this hard-boiled crust often protects a soft center. Compliment a surly bistro owner on her cuisine, and -- nine times out of ten -- she'll melt before your eyes. Admire a Parisian's dog or praise a window display, and you'll find a loquaciously knowledgeable companion for the next five minutes. Ask about the correct pronunciation of a French word (before you mispronounce it), and a Parisian might become your language teacher. Try to meet a Parisian halfway with some kind of personalized contact. Only then do you learn their best qualities: their famed charm, their savoir-faire -- and, yes, believe it or not, their delightful courtesy that marks their social life.

Trailing Les Américains
At 35 rue de Picpus, a few blocks from the place de la Nation, is a spot over which the Stars and Stripes have flown for more than a century and a half. It lies in a small secluded cemetery, marking the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette -- the man who forged the chain during the American Revolution that has linked the two countries ever since. Col. Charles E. Stanton came here to utter the famous words, Lafayette, nous voila! ("We are here!") to announce the arrival of the World War I Doughboys on French soil. At the Pont de Grenelle, at Passy, you'll find the original model of the Statue of Liberty that France presented to the people of the United States. One of the most impressive paintings in the Musée de l'Armee shows the Battle of Yorktown which -- however you learned it in school -- was a combined Franco-American victory. And throughout the city you'll keep coming across statues, monuments, streets, squares, and plaques commemorating George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt, Generals Pershing and Eisenhower, and scores of lesser Yankee names.

Attending a Free Concert. Summer brings a Paris joy: free concerts in parks and churches all over the city. Pick up an entertainment weekly for details. Some of the best concerts are held at the American Church in Paris, 65 quai d'Orsay, 7e (tel. 01-40-62-05-00; Métro: Invaliders or Alma-Marceau), which sponsors free concerts from September to June on Sunday at 5pm. You can also attend free concerts at Eglise St-Merri, 78 rue St-Martin, 4e (tel. 01-42-74-59-39; Métro: Hôtel-de-Ville). These performances are staged based on the availability of the performers, from September to July on Saturday at 9 p.m. and again on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Hanging Out at the place des Vosges
Deep in the Marais, place des Vosges is more an enchanted island than a city square. This serenely lovely oasis is the oldest square in Paris and the most entrancing. Laid out in 1605 by order of Henry IV, it was the scene of innumerable cavaliers' duels. In the middle is a tiny park where you can sit and sun, listen to the splashing waters of the fountains, or else watch the kids at play. On three sides is an encircling arcaded walk, supported by arches and paved with ancient, worn flagstones. Sit sipping an espresso as the day passes you by. It's our all-time favorite spot in Paris for people-watching.

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Viewing Avant Garde Art
Space is too tight to document the dozens of art galleries that abound in Paris, but the true devotee will find that not all great art in Paris is displayed in a museum. There is a tendency, however, for owners to open galleries around major museums, hoping to lure the art lover in. This is especially true around the Musée Picasso and the Centre Pompidou, both in the Marais. Our favorite gallery in the Marais is Galerie 213, 58 rue de Charlot, 3rd (tel. 01-43-22-83-23; Métro: Filles du Calvaire), which is devoted not to painting but to the art of some of France's leading photographers. A real treasure is Galerie Yvon Lambert, 108 rue Vieille-du-Temple, 3rd (tel. 01-42-71-09-33; Métro: St-Sebastien Froissart). Its owners are hailed as the discoverers of minimalism and conceptual art. The more traditional galleries are found in St-Germain-des-Prés, with Galerie Adrien Maeght, 42 rue du Bac, 7e (tel. 01-45-48-45-15;) being the market leader.

Seeing Paris from a Bus
Most tours of Paris are expensive, but for only 1.30 euros ($1.70) you can ride one of the city's public buses traversing some of the most scenic streets. Our favorite is no. 29, which begins at historic Gare St-Lazare (Métro: St-Lazare), subject of Monet's painting La Gare St-Lazare at Musée d'Orsay. Featured in Zola's novel La Bête Humaine, the station also has a bus line. Aboard no. 29, you pass the famous Opera Garnier (home of the Phantom), proceeding into the Marais district, passing by Paris's most beautiful square, place des Vosges. You end up at the Bastille district, home of the new opera. What we like about this bus is that it takes you along the side streets of Paris and not the major boulevards. It's a close encounter with back-street Paris and a cheap way to see the city without commentary.

Strolling the World's Grandest Promenade
Pointing from place de la Concorde like a broad, straight arrow to the Arc de Triomphe at the far end, the Champs-Elysées (the main street of Paris) presents its grandest spectacle at night. Guidebook writers to Paris grow tired of repeating "the most in the world," but, of course, the Champs-Elysées is the world's most famous promenade. For the first third of the stroll from place de la Concorde, the avenue is hedged by chestnut trees. Then it changes into a double row of palatial hotels and shops, movie houses, office buildings, and block after block of sidewalk cafes. The automobile showrooms and gift stores have marred the Belle Epoque elegance of this stretch, but it's still the greatest vantage point from which to watch Paris roll by.

Cooling Off in the Jardin des Tuileries
Right Bank Parisians head to the Tuileries to cool off on a hot summer day. The park stretches from the Right Bank of the Seine from the place de la Concorde to the doorstep of the Louvre. This exquisitely formal garden was laid out as a royal pleasure ground in 1564 but was thrown open to the public by the French Revolution. Filled with statues, fountains, and mathematically trimmed edges, it's a bit too formal for English gardeners who like their green spaces a little wilder. Its nicest feature is a series of round ponds on which kids sail armadas of model boats. Stand on the elevated terrace by the Seine, enjoying panoramic views over Paris, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Cour Napoléon of the Louvre. The sculptures by Rodin aren't bad either. Food stands or cafes with refreshing drinks await you.

For more on what to see and do in Paris, visit our complete guide online at www.frommers.com/destinations/paris.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

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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