Image: Biking in Paris (Velib')
© Henri Garat / Mairie de Paris
Perhaps more than anything else, the bike movement has transformed Paris's streets. Velib' (a French contraction for "bike freedom") debuted in July 2007. There's now a citywide fleet of almost-free bikes, which you can rent at any of the dozens of stations and return to any other station. You can ride 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
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updated 1/3/2008 3:59:27 PM ET 2008-01-03T20:59:27

With the dollar under the kind of pressure that would make even the crispiest crème brûlée crumble, this may not seem like the ideal time for a Paris fling. But there's so much to see and do in the City of Light—and so much that's new—that it almost seems unfair to let the Parisians have all the fun.

Paris is still cheaper than many international cities like London, or even Moscow. In fact, the number of Americans traveling to Paris annually hasn't dropped off so much as their spending habits. The French Government Tourist Office's Patrice Doyon says "the depressed dollar" has slowed growth, but Americans are still visiting—they're just spending less. "They might go to a three-star hotel instead of a four-star hotel," he says. "Or do less shopping." But why not go against the grain—after all, the French have made a national sport out of doing just that—and go all out?

Few cities are as well-positioned for an exercise in indulgence as Paris, which is for many still the standard of luxury and culture against which other cities are measured. That said, if you know where to go, you can get more for your inflated euro in the French capital than you might think. Because Parisian luxury is not merely a tale of flamboyance and creature comforts, as in Las Vegas or Dubai, but about quality and authenticity of experience.

Case in point: Hotel Fouquet's Barriere, the newest hotel in Paris that falls into the "palace" category, and the only wholly French-owned one at that. That may be one reason flirty French President Nicolas Sarkozy chose to party there the night he won the election. Post-election, it's the place to see and be seen: With its butler service and exclusive U Spa (complete with underground swimming pool), it may discourage you from leaving to take that walk on the nearby Champs Elysées.

There are other recent boutique hotels that have put in a chic appearance—the Hotel Particulier Montmartre is a charming example—as well as a slew of upscale bistros and restaurants. The past few years have also been marked by a rollout of grandly refurbished museums, such as the Grand Palais, and the addition of a major new one, the dramatic Musée du Quai Branly.

There are new stores, too. A unique one mainly for men is the Gus Concept Store, designer Stéphane Plassier's funky alternative to what he calls the "rather austere universe of masculine consumerism." This bi-level store in the up-and-coming Sentier district is where you'll find everything from stylish Cardone motorcycle helmets to Plassier's own line of ergonomic French underwear.

Image: Gus Concept Store
© Gus Concept Store
America has Barney's, France has Gus. This bi-level men's emporium is the brainchild of designer Stéphane Plassier, who wanted to create an alternative to that he describes as the "rather austere universe of masculine consumerism."
You can even start your Parisian adventure in a newly elegant way by traveling on L'Avion, an all-business class airline that links Paris and New York. There are daily departures in either direction from Newark Liberty International Airport and Paris Orly—the latter a closer and more convenient airport for transfers into central Paris than the busier Charles de Gaulle airport. The refitted 757 cabin, with just 90 seats instead of the usual 220, will have you rubbing shoulders (at a comfortable distance) with the kinds of French and Franco-American movers and shakers who do lunch at Drouant, the famous literary restaurant recently given a posh makeover, and work off the calories at Paris's most glamorous gym, L'Usine (where a day pass can be had for $65).

Mix and match our Paris picks to experience the best of what's new in Paris now. After all, better to indulge your inner Parisian now than wait around until the real ones go on strike again. So go ahead, make the first move: Paris is such a flirt.

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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