The French Capital Reigns Supreme in the Condé Nast Traveller’s Reader Travel Awards 2015.
Another day, another poll and this one is devoted to Condé Nast Traveller’s 2015 Reader Travel Awards (UK edition) and the category of best overseas city. There were no great surprises in the top 20, with eighty percent of the top ten going to European cities, New York and Sydney being the only exceptions.
Topping the charts was Paris, a perennial favourite on the city break circuit, with another popular choice, Barcelona, pipped to second place by the Big Apple. Rome and Venice completed the quintet with the most appeal, whilst Sydney, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Berlin and Florence rounding off the top ten. Positions 11 to 20 meanwhile saw Dublin, Madrid and Lisbon sit amongst more long-haul favourites including San Francisco, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok, Cape Town, Singapore and Dubai.
Returning to the winning city however, it’s easy to see why Paris’ has such enduring appeal. A hop and a skip away from London or Kent by Eurostar or a quick flight from across the UK and you’ve reached the City of Lights. From the iconic sights of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower to the hidden treasures of the Marais and the Quartier Latin, Paris is a city like no other. From the ecclesiastical masterpieces of architecture such as Notre-Dame, Sacré-Coeur, Saint-Sulpice and Sainte-Chapelle to the artistic institutions of the Louvre, the Orsay, the Orangerie, the Centre Pompidou, the Jacquemart-André and the Marmottan Monet, to name but a very select few, there’s truly something for everyone.
A passion for fashion? Then head for the exhibitions at the Palais Galliera (also known as the Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris) or the Musée de la Mode et du Textile housed within the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, a mere stone’s throw from the Louvre. Prefer retail therapy? Then hit the grand department stores along the Boulevard Haussmann – Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are both located here – and the designer boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, renowned as the pulse of Paris fashion and design. And of course, the Avenue des Champs-Elysées is not to be forgotten for its mix of designer shopping and chain store fashion, alongside Les Halles and the Rue de Rivoli.
If it’s vintage, antique or artisan you’re after however, then head for the charming Marais quartier, or peruse the shops and stalls of the capital’s many marchés aux puces – flea markets to you and I – with the Marché de Saint-Ouen at Clignancourt the largest and most renowned for its array of antiques. Saint-Germain-des-Prés meanwhile is another area worth a visit for its collection of bookshops and home furnishing retail outlets.
Away from shopping, art, churches and landmarks, the French capital has many other famous facets. No Paris city break would be complete without a traditional cabaret experience at the Moulin Rouge, Lido or Paradis Latin, or even at the racier Crazy Horse. And, perhaps unusually, one of the city’s most popular attractions is its Père-Lachaise Cemetery, the final resting place to a wealth of well-known names including The Doors frontman, Jim Morrison and artists Pissarro, Modigliani, Ernst, Delacroix and Lalique. Writers, singers and musicians Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, Edith Piaf, Maria Callas, Bizet, Chopin and Rossini, are also all buried here.
Over at the Cimitière de Montmartre meanwhile, the roll call is almost as impressive, with the graves of esteemed writer, Émile Zola; the Russian dancer, Nijinsky; the composer, Hector Berlioz; and the celebrated artist, Edgar Degas, amongst many others, all situated here. And if you’re heading up to the hilltop arrondissement of Montmartre, absorb the atmosphere of this artistic enclave – Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Matisse and Dégas all resided here in the late 19th century – whilst strolling the buzzing Place du Tertre and taking in the architectural beauty the stunning Basilica du Sacré-Coeur.
Other architectural gems? Well where do you even begin? Be sure to take in the sumptuous Hôtel des Invalides, founded in the 17th century by the Sun King Louis XIV to house disabled and impoverished war veterans, today home to the Musée de l’Armée. The Hôtel de Ville meanwhile stands between the Centre Pompidou and the Cathedral of Nôtre-Dame, without doubt another Parisian architectural highlight, on the former Place de Grève, site of many an execution. There’s also the striking Opéra de Palais Garnier built for Napoleon III on the Place de la Bastille, famous as the starting point for the French Revolution in 1789, as well as the distinctive Greek temple, La Madeleine, close by. And one mustn’t overlook the grandeur of Place Vendôme, home to the Ritz Hotel, as well as the stunning Place des Vosges, Paris’ oldest square and arguably the city’s most beautiful.
Last but not least, its open spaces. Relaxing en plein air amidst the verdant landscapes of the French capital’s parks has to be a Parisian pre-requisite. There’s the grassy Champs de Mars at the foot of the imposing Eiffel Tower and the beautifully tranquil Jardin du Luxembourg, gifted to the children of Paris by Napoleon. You’ve got the well-known Jardin des Tuileries, the lesser-known Buttes-Chaumont in the 19ème arrondissement with its 30-foot waterfall, bluffs and bridges and the sprawling Bois de Vincennes on Paris’ eastern perimeter, affectionately referred to as ‘Paris’ lungs’. And finally, where better than to enjoy the myriad sights and sounds of Paris than a cruise along its most famous waterway, the River Seine.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” – Thomas Jefferson