There’s nowhere else quite like Paris. No other city can match the allure of its rooftop vistas, café-lined boulevards and striking monuments. Paris’s ability to be at once a bastion of cutting-edge culture, classical arts and old-school romanticism are just a few of the reasons why we named it our top city to visit in 2017.
In the wake of the attacks of 2015, visitor numbers to the capital plummeted, but the tide is finally turning with a 20 percent year-on-year increase in arrivals at the start of 2017. Today, not only is the city as full of life as ever, but in the midst of an exciting period of evolution. Redevelopment schemes are transforming traditional quartiers, the restaurant scene has never been more exciting and nightlife is booming.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor, or want to discover a new side to the city, there has never been a better time to come. Here’s why Paris should top your travel plans this year.
1. There’s always something new going on in the east of the city
For the pick of the restaurants, bars, clubs and events, head to the 10 ème and 11 ème arrondissements. Not only do queues still form out the door for the bo bun at Le Petit Cambodge and big-name gigs book out the Bataclan, but seemingly every week there’s a new opening or creative pop-up.
During the day, coffee is a big deal: sip an espresso at La Fontaine, where they’re aiming to reinvent the classic Parisian café, or stop for the perfect flat white at Arômes Coffeeshop.
At night, things really come to life. Stake out a spot along the Canal St Martin with a bottle of wine. Bar hop along the much-loved dives on Rue Oberkampf. Soak up the last of the sun on the roof terrace at Le Perchoir. Or head to La Bellevilleoise for all-night events that might combine live jazz or cumbia with DJs and tattoo sessions.
2. The art scene is still second to none
Forget about the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay – it’s modern art you should be getting excited about in Paris. The Palais de Tokyo has long been the most forward-thinking gallery, and its progressive streak shows no sign of abating. Recent headline-grabbing performance pieces have included Œuf, where Abraham Poincheval lived in a glass box for nearly a month hatching a clutch of hen’s eggs with his body heat.
Head west for one of the city’s newest art spaces, the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne, where works by modern masters range from Rothko to Picasso. Alternatively, you’ll find exciting up-and-coming names at open studio events in Belleville, and everything from artist-led trips around chic galleries in the Marais to street-art tours with Airbnb experiences.
3. The nightlife just keeps getting better
While clubs in many big cities are being shut down, in Paris they’re being granted 24-hour licenses. Not only is Concrete now open for non-stop partying, it’s one of a host of awesome waterside venues in the 13 ème, including old-favourite bar-boat Batofar, new kid on the block Nuits Fauves and Le Petit Bain, where nights range from electro to metal.
4. The city is constantly reinventing itself
Mayor Anne Hidalgo is the driving force behind a raft of ambitious regeneration projects across the city, including a plan to halve the number of roads open to cars over the next few years.
Rewards are already being reaped along the river. Last month saw the completion of Parc Rives de Seine, 7km of walkable riverside, including the floating gardens, games and cafés of Berges de Seine. There’s nowhere better to bring a picnic on a warm day, or watch the sun go down with a drink.
In the city centre, the once grotty area of Les Halles – inauspiciously distinguished as the home of Europe’s largest metro station – is being transformed. A new roof, known as “La Canopée”, has literally allowed new light to shine onto the sprawling underground shopping mall, with a public garden soon to provide a much-needed place to relax.
5. The food remains the best in Europe
Few cities have preserved their traditional food culture while fostering some of the world’s most innovative chefs and restaurants. Yet in Paris this dichotomy is spanned with ease.
In the morning, local markets set up across the city, while nearly every neighbourhood still has a butcher and fishmonger. Bakeries such as Du Pain et des Idees have gained a cult following for their classically crafted escargots and pain des amies, while celebrity-run patisseries turn out modern takes on éclairs and gateaux that are little short of artworks – check out Desserted in Paris for the best.
When it comes to dining, the city’s neo-bistros are offering ever more inventive tasting menus, natural wine bars continue to shake up a once fusty wine scene and forays into street food are gathering pace with events such as Food Market.
6. It’s surprisingly affordable
Paris might not be known as budget-friendly, but hear us out. Coming from the UK websites such as Eurostar Snap make finding a cheap fare a breeze, while the city’s main international airports are just a short RER hop from the centre.
If you avoid astonishingly overpriced fine dining and opt for lunchtime formules (usually two courses for around €20–25) you can eat extremely well on a budget. A morning croissant should rarely cost you more than €1.20, while a glass of wine will set you back around €5.
In summer, there’s no greater joy than spending time outside. As well as the famous Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg, you’ll find sprawling oasis such as Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, where clear days offer great views across to the Sacré-Cœur. Need one more reason to come? Late July sees the return of Paris Plages – urban beaches that line the Bassin de La Villette and beyond.
Plan your trip to the French capital with The Rough Guide to Paris, and explore more of France with The Rough Guide to France. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.