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Destinations: Paris, France

Here's your essential guide to getting the best out of a city-break in Paris.

 The Louvre
The Louvre

Fast facts:

Location nickname: La Ville Lumière - The City of Light

Don't miss:  Eiffel Tower

Best avoid:  Champs-Elysées

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Don't miss:  Crêpes, croissants and coffee

Best avoid:  Restaurants at tourist sights

1 Basilique Saint-Denis

Important as France's first Gothic cathedral, begun in 1163, all but three of country's monarchs from the 10th century to late 18th century are buried here.  That's 42 kings, 32 queens and 63 princes and princesses, including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  Off-the-beaten-track but well worth a Metro ride.

2 Canal St-Martin

If you've watched 'Amélie' then you've already seen Audrey Tautou musing and skimming stones from one the canal's iron bridges. Connecting Canal de l'Ourcq with the Seine, the route was instigated by Napoleon, opening in 1825.  Today frequented by a Bohemian crowd, the towpaths are punctuated by numerous intriguing shabby-chic cafes and bistros.

3 Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

Begun in 1163 and taking 170 years to complete, the cathedral is acknowledged as the best example of French Gothic architecture - it's the place for flying buttresses, gargoyles and chimeras.  Climb the 387 steps of the south tower, beyond the great bells of Emmanuel and Marie for lofty views over Paris.

4 Eiffel Tower

125-years ago Paris's famous landmark was envisaged as a temporary structure.  A little leg work - okay, 704 steps to Level 2 - cuts out much queuing and lends a sense of achievement when boarding the lift to the top.  Alternatively, chance the weather and go online to book a timed lift ticket from ground level in advance.

5 Jardin du Luxembourg

Dedicated by Napoleon to the children of Paris, this calm, green oasis of over 60 acres leads to the Palais du Luxembourg and has terraced gardens, cafes, fountains, boating ponds, puppet shows and pony rides, together with a multitude of movable green metal chairs.  Take a picnic and relax. 

6 Louvre

The Louvre opened to the public in 1793 during the French Revolution.  The gallery now contains pre-Impressionist French painting and sculpture up to the mid-19th century together with works of the Italian Renaissance, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo and vast displays of ancient art.  Buy tickets in advance to avoid queues.

7 Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves

Paris is famous for flea markets, though in truth many have evolved to become disappointingly sterile and expensive.  This weekend market stays true to the ideal, with curios, antiques and another monsieur's junk strewn across a jumble of stalls.  Enjoy rummaging and plan to arrive early for the best deals.

8 Montmartre

Once a low rent artists' quarter, haunt of Picasso, Monet, Modigliani and Van Gogh, parts of the district have since been lost to tat, dross and hustle.  However, beneath the unmistakable white Basilica of Sacre-Coeur those who wander the meandering back streets of small shops and cafes will quickly rediscover a genuine villagey charm.

9 Musee d'Orsay

Saved from destruction during brutal urban 'renewal' the museum opened in 1986 and occupies the former Gare d'Orsay on the Seine's left bank.  Exhibits date mostly from the mid-19th and early 20th century and include painting, sculpture, photography and decorative art.  An undoubted highlight is world's largest impressionist collection, featuring works by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Sisley and Degas.   

10 Versailles

Whatever TV ads promise, you can't get interior design like this at Argos.  Opulent doesn't come close to describing the gilded excess of the palace's 700 rooms.  Factor in its role as the seat of pre-revolutionary power during the Ancien Régime, and its part in the conclusion of WW1 with the Treaty of Versailles, and an equally rich history makes for a fascinating visit.

This article has been produced in association with www.talkholiday.com

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