Irresistibly romantic, the City of Light never fails to enchant and is a wonderful destination for a pre- or post-cruise stay, says Cruise International Editor Liz Jarvis
It’s impossible not to fall in love with Paris; just walking along the Left Bank by the Seine at twilight, with the Eiffel Tower in the distance on a balmy summer’s evening is enough to seduce you. What makes Paris so special is that whenever you cruise there, it’s the perfect city to stroll around.
Of course, it’s not all about romance: the French capital has been the battleground for multiple global conflicts, including the French Revolution and First World War.
In the 17th century, as the Age of Enlightenment was born, Paris also became known as a centre for philosophy and learning with such eminent thinkers as Voltaire and Diderot. The architectural influence of Michelangelo and Raphael is still evident all over the city, a prime example being the enchanting Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris. Famed for this grandiose architecture, its tree-lined boulevards, and grand fountains, Paris is one of those cities that always leaves you wanting more.
One of the best ways to get a feel for the city is to take a river boat ride along the Seine; often you’ll be accompanied by the music of Édith Piaf or other French artistes, and you’ll be treated to glorious views of Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower along the way.
Another great vantage point is the Sacré-Cœur, close to Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge. The Arc de Triomphe is also a feat of Parisian architecture, as is The Louvre, boasting world-famous artworks including Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
The Eiffel Tower offers breathtaking views of the city (though if you’re not good with heights or open spaces it can be slightly nerve wracking). And if you have time, it’s worth taking a trip to Versailles, which is 30 minutes outside the city, with its spectacular château and gardens. The Jardin des Champs-Élysées is the ideal spot for a coffee or picnic – and you’re within easy walking distance of the iconic Arc de Triomphe.
And if you’re interested in a historical gastronomical experience, the world-famous Les Deux Magots in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area is a must-try, and you’ll be following in the steps of Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre, Hemingway, Camus, and Picasso.
Start off at Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann, in the 9th arrondissement; as well as being beautiful to look at, with Art Nouveau detailing, it’s achingly stylish and has stores including Chanel and Dior as well as more affordable brands. Paris is known for its flea markets; the most famous of these is Les Puces de Saint-Ouen at Porte de Clignancourt. It has a dizzying array of vintage and antique treasures, and it’s also a great place to enjoy a café crème and watch the world go by.
Where to stay
Located in one of the most prestigious areas of Paris, a stone’s throw from the Champs-Élysées, the Sofitel Paris le Faubourg is a chic, luxurious, discreet haven. Inspired by haute couture (it’s situated in the former Marie Claire magazine headquarters) and decorated in soothing tones of yellow, soft French grey, turquoise, silver, coffee and cream, the hotel’s design merges 18th-century elegance with sophisticated contemporary flair and there are little touches paying homage to French fashion.
There’s a charming conservatory for al fresco dining, a cool bar, restaurant and spa. Rooms offer supremely comfortable Sofitel beds and Hermès products in the bathrooms. From £315.88 a night, room only (sofitel-paris-lefaubourg.com/en).
GETTING THERE: Cruise lines that go to Paris include Uniworld, Viking, Emerald, Oceania, Avalon, Scenic, Princess.