Things to see and do - Paris
Unmissable tourist sites
Paris Leisure tips
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The City today
The City today
Paris is the centre of France’s political, administrative, economic and cultural life. In recent years, the city has attracted many multinational corporations and has become an important international business centre. In 1960, a century after Baron Haussmann’s large-scale urban restructuring, steps were taken to resolve some of the capital’s congestion problems; but much remains to be done.
Since March 1977, the Mairie de Paris has had an elected mayor, chosen by the 163 councillors who make up the municipal council; municipal elections are held every six years. With the exception of the police force, headed by a préfet, the mayor has the same status and powers of mayors of other municipalities.
The Paris municipal authority works closely with the town halls of the 20 arrondissements, which are the main units of local government. Paris being both a commune and a département, its Council sits as a municipal authority and a general, or departmental, council.
The city’s coat of arms features the boat motif from the armorial bearings of the watermen’s guild whose members were appointed by Louis IX in 1260 to administer the township. In the 16C a motto was added: Fluctuat nec mergitur (though buffeted by the waves, she never sinks).
The Île-de-France region is composed of eight départements (Paris, Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-St-Denis, Val-de-Marne and Val-d’Oise), each with its own prefecture, covering a total area of 12 011sq km/4 637sq mi with a total population of 10 073 053 (Paris: 105sq km/40sq mi; 2 176 243).
Paris’ historic, architectural and archaeological treasures have been safeguarded by the enlightened policy of André Malraux and his successors, who instituted a programme of cleaning, restoration, and revitalisation of whole areas such as the Marais and preservation of archaeological finds. Meanwhile, structural engineers and planners wrestle with today’s problems – traffic and transport (ring road, motorway, RER), supply (Rungis, Garonor), cultural centres (G Pompidou Centre), sports facilities (Bercy), commercial property development (La Défense, Front de Seine, Maine-Montparnasse) and urban renewal (place d’Italie, Belleville, Bercy); the emphasis being on the preservation and restoration of historic heritage.
Major cultural and architectural achievements include the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie and the Cité de la Musique at La Villette, the Musée d’Orsay, the Grand Louvre, the Opéra-Bastille, the Grande Arche at La Défense and the Bibliothèque Nationale at Tolbiac.
The transfer of the wholesale markets from Les Halles to Rungis, the division of the University into 13 autonomous parts, the decentralisation of the Higher Schools of learning, have all helped to relieve congestion in the city centre. Modern hospitals, both public and private, have been built. Green spaces (La Villette, André Citroën) have been created, old parks and gardens remodelled…
With over two million inhabitants, Paris is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Although the inner-city population is declining slightly, figures show a constant influx from the provinces and abroad. Some minority groups have adopted particular neighbourhoods over the years: Russians in Montparnasse, Spaniards in Passy, North Africans in Clignancourt, La Villette, Aubervilliers, Asians in Belleville, the 13th arrondissement etc.
But whatever their background, true Parisians are easy to pick out among the cosmopolitan crowd: hurried, tense, protesting, frivolous, quick-witted, ever ready to poke fun or play on words.
Each neighbourhood of Paris is a bit like a village unto itself. One of the joys of wandering around the city is that the transition from one district to the next is seamless, so that you are always in an interesting place. Here are some of the neighbourhoods (arrondissements) you are likely to want to visit.
Some neighbourhoods have retained their traditional association with a medieval trade or guild, thus preserving some of the atmosphere of past centuries: seed merchants on quai de la Mégisserie; publishing and bookshops in the Odéon area; cabinet-makers in rue du Faubourg-St-Antoine; antique dealers on rue Bonaparte and rue La Boëtie; art galleries on avenue Matignon and rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré; haute couture houses on rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré, avenue Montaigne and rue François-Ier; luxury goods in the Opéra area; stringed instrument makers on rue de Rome; porcelain, crystal and glassware on rue de Paradis; jewellers on rue de la Paix and place Vendôme. Meanwhile government offices line rue de Grenelle; financial institutions are located in the Bourse, Opéra, Champs-Élysées, and La Défense areas; students gather around their university buildings in the Latin Quarter. All of these blend in with the schools, workshops, warehouses and small shops which, along with the many large firms, make up Paris’ infinitely varied economy.
Palais-Royal – St-Roch 1st arrondissement
The Palais-Royal gardens are among the finest in Paris. Treat yourself to an ice cream in the Muscade tearoom at the far end, or to window-shopping along the gallery for lead soldiers, medals or antiques. Note the old-fashioned feel. Pause by the sophisticated window display in the Salons du Palais-Royal Shisheido, the old bookshops, or the delightful little music box shop in the Beaujolais arcade on the corner with one of the passages leading onto the street of the same name. Saunter along the street from place des Victoires, a mecca of high fashion (Kenzo), towards avenue de l’Opéra past the countless little restaurants, costume-jewellery or interior design shops, and a Japanese delicatessen (Kioko).
Beaubourg – Les Halles 1st-2nd-3rd arrondissements
Much of the erstwhile atmosphere of the “belly of Paris” went when Baltard’s pavilions were removed. The Forum des Halles tunnels its way below ground like a rabbit-warren between the rotunda of the Bourse du Commerce and the brightly coloured tubes of the Centre Georges-Pompidou. Renovation of the area has opened up the space around the church of St Eustache, and the Stravinski Fountain brightens up the square outside St-Merri church.
The modern neighbourhood continues to bustle with people of all kinds converging upon the shops, sometimes from the provinces, drawing buskers, mime artists, and eccentrics of all kinds. During the day, the main crowds collect in the Forum, thronging place des Innocents, rue Pierre-Lescot and the narrow streets lying perpendicular to it (rue des Prêcheurs, rue de la Grande-Truanderie), which are lined with shops selling jewellery, postcards and posters, shoes and clothing. At night, the crowds move towards the bars and clubs of the Rue des Lombards and Rue Quincampoix.
Le Marais 4th arrondissement
This old district was saved from destruction by the novelist and Arts Minister André Malraux. It accommodates both a well-established Jewish community in rue des Rosiers and a younger gay set around Rue Ste-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie. Trendy bars and coffee shops have flourished and off-beat fashion designers operate from around rue des Francs-Bourgeois. More traditional shops survive by the rue St-Antoine. The delightful place du Marché-Ste-Catherine is surrounded by cafés. At the end of the gardens in the Hôtel de Sully, a doorway leads to the place des Vosges, where arcades shelter antique shops and art galleries. The grassy square in the centre is a popular place to relax on nice days. The north end of the Marais is quieter, with a large number of museums and art galleries. Further north still is the Temple district, the mecca for tailored leather and wholesale jewellery shops.
Île Saint-Louis 4th arrondissement
Its aristocratic 17C residences provided inspiration for Baudelaire who stayed in the Hôtel Lauzun. A stroll along the river banks or quaysides on the island is one of the most romantic walks in Paris.
Latin Quarter 5th arrondissement
The student quarter boasts many cinemas, bars, cafés and restaurants drawing people from all walks of life. The Boul’ Mich (boulevard St-Michel) is a colourful succession of boutiques, cafés, sandwich and kebab bars, of pizzerias and Moroccan restaurants. Crowds loiter around the Fontaine St-Michel. Rue St-André-des-Arts, now rather touristy, leads to the Odéon district with its many cinemas (go through the picturesque Cour du Commerce St-André). The statue of Danton is another traditional meeting place.
The narrow pedestrianised streets on the east side of boulevard St-Michel, around rue de la Huchette, are packed with gaudy Greek restaurants catering almost exclusively to tourists.
A quieter atmosphere pervades place Maubert and rue Dante where all the specialist strip-cartoon dealers have their shops. Back towards the Panthéon, rue de la Montagne-Ste-Geneviève and rue Laplace are popular student haunts. The historic place de la Contrescarpe leads to the rue Mouffetard (la Mouffe), one of the most charming market streets in Paris.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés 6th arrondissement
The oldest bell-tower in Paris, across the square from the terrace of the Deux Magots, keeps watch over a district that ceaselessly hums with activity. The intellectual ferment of the golden days of the 1950s and the Existentialists may have gone, but the charm lives on. The ambience is sustained by famous cafés and brasseries on boulevard St-Germain, jazz clubs in rue St-Benoît and rue Jacob, pubs in rue Guisarde, rue Bernard-Palissy and rue des Canettes, and the late-opening bookshops peppered about. Upscale designer shops, antique and art galleries lend a decidedly Left Bank elegance to the old streets, picturesque crossroads and tiny squares such as place de Fürstemberg. The main focus of the bustle is carrefour de Buci with its street market, boutiques and fine traiteurs or gourmet delicatessens.
Champs-Élysées 8th arrondissement
A facelift in the late 1990s has reinstated the world-famous avenue’s prestige. Stroll the high street shops (open until midnight), people-watch from a café terrace, or see a newly released film.
By day as by night, tourists mingle with visitors to the capital to dine out in a neighbouring street, enjoy one of the spectacular revues at the Lido or the Crazy Horse or while away the hours until dawn at a famous club.
Grands Boulevards and Opéra 2nd-9th-10th arrondissements
This district basked in fame from the 19C through to the 1950s, providing prestigious locations for the headquarters of major banks (CLC, BNP, Société Générale). The boulevards are busy throughout the day, drawing shoppers to Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, who might break for a drink on the terrace of the famous Café de la Paix before going on to one of the neighbourhood’s many cinemas, including the Grand Rex and the Max Linder. At the end of the day, people meet in one of the brasseries for a bite maybe before a performance at the Opéra, the Folies-Bergère or Olympia to hear a favourite singer.
Bastille and Faubourg- St-Antoine 11th arrondissement
The Opéra Bastille has brought lustre to a district that had become rather run-down over the years, though never lacking in character. Furniture and clothes shops abound alongside contemporary art galleries and artists’ studios in the labyrinth of little streets. The Bastoche is again a lively and popular neighbourhood. With its numerous brasseries, in particular Bofinger which was established in 1864, place de la Bastille has become a central meeting place between the Marais on one side, and rue de Charonne, rue de la Roquette, rue de Lappe, rue St-Sabin and rue Keller on the other, where restaurants, cafés, beer cellars, wine bars and dance halls proliferate. Tequila, claret or Valdepenas may be quaffed with tapas in a Spanish-style bar, or look for Japanese, North African, American and Thai speciality restaurants alongside French mainstays.
Gobelins – Butte-aux-Cailles – Tolbiac 13th arrondissement
Like all the buttes or hills in Paris, Butte-aux-Cailles has its own distinctive character. The streets (rue Samson, rue des Cinq-Diamants, rue de la Butte-aux-Cailles) have the comfortable feel of a place where people still greet neighbours and shopkeepers, even though the high-rise developments at Glacière and in Chinatown beyond the place d’Italie have multiplied the population density.
Montparnasse – Port-Royal – Alésia 14th arrondissement
At the turn of the 20C, this rural district was favoured by the artists of the Paris School; between the two World Wars its bars were frequented by the Lost Generation of American writers; today, it is dominated by the huge Maine-Montparnasse complex and its skyscraper.
The streets of Montparnasse are busy day-in-day-out. Rue de Rennes is an artery for traffic and shoppers between St-Germain and Montparnasse; rue de la Gaîté is lined with theatres and peep shows; rue Montparnasse and rue d’Odessa accommodate endless crêperies selling pancakes to travellers coming through the Gare Montparnasse, the terminus for trains arriving from western France and Brittany. Big bins of shellfish on ice stand outside brasseries and brightly lit posters attract film-lovers to the cinemas. The quieter part of the neighbourhood is beyond the cemetery along rue Daguerre, rue Didot, rue Raymond-Losserand and avenue du Général-Leclerc.
Batignolles-Ternes 17th arrondissement
The village of Les Batignolles, which was made famous by Verlaine and Mallarmé, marks the boundary between the working-class commercial neighbourhood of the 17th arrondissement and its residential sector. Shops line rue des Dames and rue des Batignolles off the delightful place du Docteur-Lobligeois dominated by the distinctive white columns of the church of Ste-Marie-des-Batignolles. Further east, beyond avenue de Clichy is the Cité des Fleurs (rue Cardinet), lined with some of the finest townhouses in Paris.
West of Les Batignolles, on the other side of the railway tracks, the main attractions are the chic shops in rue Lévis and rue de Tocqueville, place and avenue des Ternes and rue Poncelet.
Montmartre-Pigalle 18th arrondissement
In the late 19C, shortly after the village was incorporated into the city of Paris, a journalist wrote: “The local bars have closed, the lilac trees have been cut, the hedges replaced by stone walls and the gardens divided into building plots. However, of all the suburbs, Montmartre has its own special brand of charm, a varied and complex charm that is a combination of good and bad things”. Many faces of Montmartre still exist today, glimpsed occasionally in what remains of the old provincial village.
Between place Clichy, one of the most crowded squares in the capital with its large number of restaurants and cinemas clustered around the unmistakable Wepler brasserie, and place Pigalle, the streets are populated with concert venues, theatres, nightclubs and sex shops. Along boulevard de Rochechouart you will find the forever-crowded Tati discount store and the noisy, cosmopolitan Barbès district.
At the foot of square Willette, the extraordinarily busy St-Pierre Market provides an opportunity to find fabrics and clothing at rock-bottom prices. On the other side of the boulevard, the Goutte-d’Or district proffers Arab and African fabrics, wholesale food shops, hardware, luggage and jewellery shops.
Belleville-Ménilmontant 20th arrondissement
Like Montmartre, the Belleville and Ménilmontant neighbourhoods nestling on a hillside were annexed by Paris during the 19C. The urban redevelopment launched by Haussmann brought large numbers of working-class people to the area; these have been followed by thousands of immigrant Jews, Russians, Poles, North Africans, Turks, Yugoslavs, Pakistanis, and lately Asians. Most of the exotic restaurants are concentrated in rue de Belleville.
The district is slowly being rebuilt in concrete, with new buildings standing alongside the old houses of rue Ramponneau, rue des Envierges and rue des Cascades. To the north lies the romantic, English-style Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, which owes its steep hills to the former gypsum quarries on which it stands.
Paris is a cosmopolitan city with a large number of communities from outside France: Caribbean, African, Slav, Far-Eastern, Latin-American, Jewish, Indian, Pakistani… It is a pleasure to eat an exotic meal, to search for ethnic music recordings or find fabrics from the far corners of the world.
African and West Indian communities (18th arrondissement or along the north side of the Paris ring road) have given us zouk music (a combination of African and West Indian musical rhythms), which evolved during the early 1980s. Radio Nova (on 101.5 FM) fashioned the concept of “world sono” which finally took off under the English name of World Music.
Books and Music – L’Harmattan at 16 rue des Écoles (5th arr) and Présence africaine at 25 bis rue des Écoles (5th arr). For tropical music, the FNAC Forum has a broader selection than other FNAC stores.
Art – Musée du Quai Branly at 37 Quai Branly (7th arr). Permanent collection and contemporary exhibitions. The Musée Dapper, at 50 avenue Victor-Hugo (16th arr), is a tiny, intimate museum that organises biannual exhibitions of exquisite African artefacts, painting, textiles, carvings… accompanied by excellent catalogues.
Dealers specialising in African artefacts are grouped around Bastille (rue Keller) and St-Germain-des-Prés, including: Argiles 16 rue Guénégaud (6th arr); Galerie de Monbrisson 2 rue des Beaux-Arts (6th arr); Mazarine 52 rue Mazarine (6th arr). For printed fabrics sold by weight or by the yard, try Chez Toto 50 rue Polonceau (18th arr) and other locations around town; the prices can’t be beatEN.
Special shops – Izrael 30 rue François-Miron (4th arr) is perhaps the best-known exotic grocery store in Paris and it is stacked high with goods, like Ali Baba’s cave; Marché Dejean rue Dejean, between rue des Poissonniers and rue du Poulet (18th arr). sells fish, meat and fresh or ready-prepared African specialities sold by women from their market stalls – Saturday mornings only; Spécialités antillaises 14-16 boulevard de Belleville (20th arr) has all the ingredients you need to make a fine Caribbean meal.
North African and Middle Eastern community
Many writers and journalists have made Paris their home, keeping abreast of both their indigenous culture and that of their adopted land: Tahar Ben Jelloun, the comedian Smaïn, the singer Cheb Khaled, and dramatists Moussa Lebkiri or Fatima Gallaire are all an integral part of the Parisian cultural scene.
The metro line linking Nation to Porte Dauphine (no 2) crosses several important concentrations of Mediterranean culture: Barbès and Goutte d’Or (18th arr), Belleville (19th and 20th arr). The Strasbourg-St-Denis district between rue de Hauteville and passage Brady is predominantly Turkish, Indian and Pakistani.
La Grande Mosquée – 1-2 place du Puits-de-l’Ermite (5th arr), has been used for countless films. Mint tea is served in the Moorish café annex; the traditional baths are open on alternate days for men and women.
Art and culture – The Institut du Monde arabe (1 rue des Fossés-St-Bernard, 5th arr) at the edge of the Latin Quarter, has a particularly useful library and reference section; other facilities include interesting temporary exhibitions, and an expensive roof-terrace restaurant with an excellent view.
Books and theatre – Avicenne (25 rue de Jussieu, 5th arr), is the best Arabic bookshop. For contemporary theatre from North Africa and the Middle East, check the programmes of the Théâtre du Renard (rue du Renard, 4th arr), Théâtre de l’Arcane (168 rue St-Maur, 11th arr) and Théâtre du Lierre (22 rue du Chevaleret, 13th arr).
Markets – Marché d’Aligre on place de l’Aligre (largest of all the Arab markets; Tuesday–Sunday); Marché de Belleville (Tuesday and Friday mornings); Marché de Barbès (Wednesday and Saturday).
Historically, the Jewish quarter was the Marais (4th arr), a community that was decimated during the German Occupation but whose numbers have swelled again with the arrival of North African immigrants; these have settled in the Sentier (2nd arr) and Belleville (19th arr).
Synagogues – Liberal Synagogue, 24 rue Copernic 16th arr, Synagogue La Victoire, 44 rue de la Victoire 9th arr, or 17 rue St-Georges 9th arr.
History and culture – The most significant commemorative monuments are the Shoah Mémorial (rue G.-L’Asnier, 4th arr) and, in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery, the Monument à la mémoire des déportés de Buna, Monowitz, Auschwitz III by Tim.
The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme (71 rue du Temple, 3rd arr) is in the Hôtel St-Aignan in the Marais. The collection centres around North African religious articles, models and casts and includes paintings by Chagall, Lipschitz, Mané-Katz and Benn.
Pastries – Kosher and other speciality shops and restaurants abound on rue des Rosiers, in the Marais (4th arr); try the strudel at Sacha Finkelsztajn’s.
Until 1975, the predominant waves of immigrants came from Southern China; the latter-day arrivals come from post-war homelands in Indo-China, Malaysia and the Philippines. Although not as famous as the Chinatowns of New York or San Francisco, the 13th arrondissement (in the triangle of avenue d’Ivry, avenue de Choisy and rue de Tolbiac) boasts 150 restaurants and shops piled high with exotic produce. The district, its modern high-rises visible from afar, has succeeded in making a name for itself in tourist guidebooks. The Chinese population, the largest concentration in Europe, is particularly busy around the Chinese New Year (end of January–beginning of February).
In Belleville, there is a smaller group of Asian restaurants (including the huge, and hugely fun Nioulaville 32 rue de l’Orillon 11th arr) and stores. A plaque on the wall of no 13 rue Maurice-Denis in this neighbourhood pays homage to the 120 000 Chinese who came to France during World War I, 3 000 of whom decided to stay in Paris at the end of the war, forming the first Chinese community near the Gare de Lyon.
Books – Le Phénix (72 boulevard de Sébastopol 3rd arr) has generalist books on the Far East with a specialist section on China and Japan and You Feng (45 rue Monsieur-le-Prince 6th arr) is the largest specialist bookshop on China.
Art – Paris is home to a number of pre-eminent collections of Oriental art, including the Musée des Arts asiatiques-Guimet 6 place d’Iéna and its annexe Hôtel Heidelbach- Guimet 15 avenue d’Iéna (Asian art from the Caucasus to Japan); the Musée Cernuschi 7 avenue Velasquez (Chinese antiques).
Shops – Tang Frères 48 avenue d’Ivry (13th arr) and at 168 avenue de Choisy (13th arr); Paris Store 44 avenue d’Ivry (13th arr) and at 12 boulevard de la Villette (19th arr); Mandarin du marché 33 rue de Torcy (18th arr); Hang Seng Heng 18 rue de l’Odéon (6th arr); Odimex 17 rue de l’Odéon (porcelain and ceramics); Phu-Xuan 8 rue Monsieur-le-Prince (6th arr) specialises in Chinese herbs and medicinal products.
The Japanese community (businessmen, employees of Japanese firms, students and artists) is concentrated in the area around the Opéra and rue Ste-Anne where opportunities abound to taste sashimi, sushi and tempura.
Art – The Musée Guimet houses a rich collection of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas brought back to France by Émile Guimet; the Musée départemental Albert-Kahn 14 rue du Port, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt is also a must, with its Japanese garden, tea house and collection of autochrome plates.
Fashion – Japanese designers have acquired an international reputation. Most of their boutiques are located around place des Victoires and in the St-Germain-des-Prés district: Kenzo 3 place des Victoires (1st arr), 16-17 boulevard Raspail (7th arr); Comme des garçons 40-42 rue Étienne-Marcel (2nd arr); Yohji Yamamoto 47 rue Étienne-Marcel (1st arr) and at 69 rue des Saint-Pères (6th arr); Issey Miyake 201 boulevard St-Germain (6th arr), 17 boulevard Raspail (7th arr); Irié 8 rue du Pré-aux-Clercs (7th arr).
Books – Librairie Japonaise Junku (18 rue des Pyramides, 1st arr) for all the Japanese newspapers or a selection from thousands of bunko (paperbacks) and mangas (comic books); L’Harmattan also has books on Japan.
Food stores – Kioko (46 rue des Petits-Champs 2nd arr) is brimming with multi-coloured bags of cocktail snacks, sauces, sake and frozen raw fish.
Indian and Pakistani sub-continent
Most immigrants from the Indian sub-continent are not actually Indian but Pakistani, Tamils from northern Sri Lanka or recently arrived Bangladeshis. India in Paris runs along rue St-Denis (between the Gare du Nord and Porte de la Chapelle, around rue Jarry, passage Brady, and place du Caire). There are numerous food shops and restaurants in rue Gérando at the foot of the Sacré-Cœur, and beside the Lycée Jacques-Decours.
Art and Culture – Centre culturel Mandapa (6 rue Wurtz 13th arr) stages some 100 or more Indian plays, dance shows and music concerts every year. Maison des cultures du monde (101 boulevard Raspail 6th arr) features performances of traditional Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi music, dance and theatre.
Books – The Musée Guimet bookshop has an excellent section on India, its civilizations, the arts from the Gandhâra (Greco-Buddhist art from Pakistan and Afghanistan) and from throughout the Far East.
Food shops – Shah et Cie (33 rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette 9th arr) is the oldest Indian grocery store in Paris; Rumi (71 passage Brady 10th arr) sells Pakistani specialities.
Food and Drink
France may have a well-deserved reputation for the standard of its cuisine, but don’t assume that you will be guaranteed a high standard of cooking in all the restaurants of its capital city! Having said this, it is perfectly possible to eat extremely well at reasonable prices provided you choose carefully. Much depends upon the area in which you eat as well as the type of restaurant you select. For example, if you happen to be on the Champs-Elysées, it could be very expensive – even for a modest meal in a very ordinary establishment, but select a restaurant in the quieter streets of one of the less fashionable arrondissements, choose the set menu and you can eat very well for a very modest outlay.
As with many capital cities, there are not really any such things as specialities specific to the city. There is, however, a great variety of regional cuisine to be found depending upon your tastes – Lyonnais, Norman, Basquaise and Breton are just some of the regional varieties to be found. Other areas specialise in international cuisine - for example in 13e, the area to the south east of the Place d’Italie is known as Chinatown. Cuisine from around the world – from Greek to Spanish, from Japanese to Vietnamese and from West to North Africa – can be found in many areas of the city.
Apart from the actual cuisine, there are several types of eating place which are common to France. The traditional restaurant usually opens twice a day, from noon–2.30pm and again from 7pm or 7.30pm until 10.30pm or 11pm. Often reservations are necessary and while children and pets are usually welcome, they are expected to behave appropriately.
Brasseries – essentially a cross between a restaurant and a café – are open every day and normally reservations are not required. However, some are very popular and it can be quite difficult to get in at peak times. Originally from Alsace – the name means brewery – they tend to serve less sophisticated fare and it is possible to eat after midnight.
Cafés and bars are numerous throughout the capital. These are normally for enjoying a coffee, a glass of wine or pression (draught beer), but light snacks are often available. Many offer a lunchtime plat du jour, or dish of the day, which is normally good value. Some cafés like Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore are very famous and sophisticated but the great majority are inexpensive places to relax in and enjoy some refreshment while watching the world go by.