Welcome to the City of Light, regarded by many as the world's most extraordinary metropolis. Grand boulevards from the Belle Époque era connect fabled districts and landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Jardin des Tuileries. But with its cafe culture, exquisite restaurants and ultra-hip nightlife, Paris' atmosphere is perhaps its best feature.
Like any global city, the French capital can bamboozle those trying to traverse it for the first time. The metro sprawls across the whole of Paris with some 300 stations, and runs until 1am, or 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. Taxis are black with a white sign on top, and easy to flag down.
There is so much to experience in Paris that it would take years to partake of all its pleasures. It would be worth visiting the capital just for the museums, which are exceptional. The Louvre hosts many of history's greatest paintings, including Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, while the Museé d'Orsay is blessed by Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh and countless other greats. For contemporary art, the strikingly designed Centre Pompidou is head and shoulders above most galleries of its kind.
In terms of religious buildings, Notre Dame looms over the river Seine from its islet as the finest example of French Gothic architecture, while at the summit of Montmartre district is the white basilica of Sacré-Cœur, whose steps offer some of the best views over the city.
Paris isn't all about museums and sightseeing, though. Wander the crooked streets of the Latin Quarter, patronised by Orwell and Hemingway, and hit the cafe-bars of Saint-Germain-des-Prés once favoured by Jean-Paul Sartre and Picasso. Take in a cabaret show in the infamous Pigalle, Paris' enduring red-light district.
Despite being a throbbing metropolis, Paris is also a surprisingly green city. Don't miss immaculate Jardin des Tuileries, which dates back to King Louis XIV and the 17th century.
Everyone who's been to Paris knows about Les Invalides, the magnificent building erected for war veterans in the 17th century. But not everyone ventures inside to explore the military museum, which is a shame because they're missing out on Napoleon's overblown tomb in the basement, which has to be seen to be believed.
The Tuileries are more famous, but you can spend a whole day wandering Jardin du Luxembourg, the second largest park in the city and technically the garden of the senate. Then there's the idyllic Canal Saint-Martin, which offers one of the loveliest walks in Paris – 4km of tree and cafe-lined banks.
Blessed with some of the finest restaurants anywhere, Paris has long been known as a culinary capital. While there are numerous inventive chefs working out of glamorous old buildings in the city, there are also smaller local joints worth a look in areas like Montmartre and near Place St Michel.
Be sure to try Croque-monsieur – essentially a ham-and-cheese sandwich, but being Parisian, elevated to the ambrosial. Canard confit, duck cooked in its own fat, entrecote and foie gras are other Parisian essentials. And don't forget macarons. Paris is also home to dozens of trendy wine bars with bottles from every one of France's great wine regions.