Before sunset: six tips for short breaks to Paris

Short on time but big on ambition? Here’s how to maximise your time over a short period in the French capital, packing in as many of the must-see sights and experiences as possible

Louvre but don’t linger

It’s the most gargantuan and popular art gallery and museum on the planet but, if your time is limited, you’re going to have to pick and choose carefully what you see in the Louvre. If you only have an hour or two and want to see the greatest hits, then make a beeline for the first floor of the Denon wing where you’ll find a number of Leonardo Da Vinci paintings, including the Mona Lisa. Then head to the lower downstairs level of the Egyptian wing to meet the Great Sphinx of Tanis – complete with lion’s body and human head. Finally, make your way to room 17 of the Sully wing for an encounter with the museum’s most famous female resident: the Venus de Milo.

Sample the city’s ultimate gourmet street

Let’s get straight to the Parisian priorities: namely, indulging in the finest foods the city has to offer. If you don’t have time to zigzag across the city then the winding Rue Mouffetard, at the end of the Latin Quarter, has a daily street market (except Mondays) and myriad bricks-and-mortar stores that make for a perfect one-street taster of epicurean pleasures. Pay homage to the fromage at Androuet, with its immense selection of cheeses, then nibble at a jasmine macaron from master chocolate makers Mococha before finishing off with a superior caffeine fix at the atmospheric Verre à Pied café – barely changed since its opening back in the 1870s.

Grab your pass to Paris

The Paris Passlib (External link) is the easiest way to access the monuments, museums and metro without constantly rummaging in your pockets for more euros. Available in one- to five-day passes, the Paris Passlib’ gives you unlimited free travel on the metro, bus and tram networks and free entry to 50 of the leading museums including the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe. Best of all, if you’re in a hurry, there are major queue-jumping privileges, too. A two-day card costs €109 (£96). Buy at booking.parisinfo.com (External link) .

Views without queues

You don’t have to queue then clamber up the Eiffel Tower for great views of Paris. Far quicker to access (and without such onerous waiting times) is the Ballon de Paris Generali, a tethered helium balloon that bobbles 450 feet high. And oui, you can see the Eiffel Tower from there. The Printemps department store has a roof terrace where, for free, you can gaze out across the golden sandstone buildings of Boulevard Haussmann. High in the hills of the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (External link) , in the 19th arrondissement, you can sip a cocktail on the terrace of the Pavillon Puebla and gaze down at the verdant slopes with the city sitting serenely in the distance.

Take a left turn

The city’s traditional intellectual hub, Paris’s left bank invites you to do as Sartre and de Beauvoir did, and let the hours fall away in the boho cafes and bars while you discuss life, love and the universe. If time is of the (existential) essence, though, the must-see is Café de Flore, where waiters in long aprons serve aperitifs to a louche and languid crowd of regulars who compete for the much-coveted outdoor seats. Afterwards, saunter along the Les Berges de Seine (External link) , a recently pedestrianised riverside stretch complete with outdoor art exhibitions and climbing walls. Finally, visit the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation to glimpse one of their regularly changing photography exhibitions.

Party into the small hours

Pigalle’s array of bars, clubs and cabarets is a must if you want an added dose of hedonism on your trip. Start with a microbrew in the cosy La Brasserie Fondamentale before sipping a rum-based cocktail amid the bamboo furniture and Polynesian totems at Dirty Dick. Finally, get down and dirty amid the mirror balls and party people at Glass, where the cocktails include the likes of the famed Tattoo You – brimming with mezcal, ginger, grapefruit, lime and beer.

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