Paris's twin-towered lady, Notre-Dame, took 200-years to build, between 1163 and 1334. The west front remains a high point of Gothic art for the balanced proportions of its twin towers and rose window, and the Treasury contains ornate bishops' copes and reliquaries of Jesus's Crown of Thorns (which long sat in Sainte-Chapelle, see below). Needless to say, Notre-Dame throngs with tourists all year round, but you don't need to cling to the crowds to find the best places to eat and drink nearby - or indeed visit other decent attractions. Follow this guide to find out where the locals go; and click here for more information on Notre-Dame Cathedral. Around Notre-Dame... Attraction: La Crypte Archéologique Unbeknown to most visitors, immediate respite from Notre-Dame's queues can be found in the forecourt in front of the cathedral, where the underground Crtpte Archéologique reveals the city's past in layers of vestiges. You'll find bits of Roman quaysides, ramparts and hypocausts, medieval cellars, shops and pavements, the foundations of the Eglise Ste-Geneviève-des-Ardens (the church where Geneviève's remains were stored during the Norman invasions), an 18th-century foundling hospital and a 19th-century sewer, all excavated since the 1960s. It's not always easy to work out exactly which wall, column or staircase is which - but you do get a vivid sense of the layers of history piled one atop another during 16 centuries. Attraction: Sainte-Chapelle You certainly won't avoid tourists at the Sainte-Chapelle or the Conciergerie (below; dual tickets can be bought for both), but it's worth grinning and bearing it for access to such breathtaking architectural teasures. Devout King Louis IX (St Louis, 1226-70) had a hobby of accumulating holy relics. In the 1240s, he bought what was advertised as the Crown of Thorns, and ordered Pierre de Montreuil to design a shrine. The result was Sainte-Chapelle - a veritable medieval show of light. With 15m (49ft) windows, the upper level appears to consist almost entirely of stained glass. The windows depict hundreds of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, culminating with the Apocalypse in the rose window. Attraction: La Conciergerie The Conciergerie looks every inch the forbidding medieval fortress. However, much of the façade was added in the 1850s, long after Marie-Antoinette, Danton and Robespierre had been imprisoned here. The 13th-century Bonbec tower, built during the reign of St Louis, the 14th-century twin towers, César and Argent, and the Tour de l'Horloge all survive from the Capetian palace.The visit takes you through the Salle des Gardes, the medieval kitchens with their four huge chimneys, and the Salle des Gens d'Armes, an impressive vaulted Gothic hall built between 1301 and 1315 for Philippe 'le Bel'. After the royals moved to the Louvre, the fortress became a prison under the watch of the Concierge.The wealthy had private cells with their own furniture, which they paid for; others crowded on beds of straw. A list of Revolutionary prisoners, including a hairdresser, shows that not all victims were nobles. In Marie-Antoinette's cell, the Chapelle des Girondins, are her crucifix, some portraits and a guillotine blade. Museum: Musée National du Moyen Age - Thermes de Cluny Crowd avoidance lies a ten-minute walk from Notre-Dame in the national museum of medieval art, best known for the beautiful, allegorical Lady and the Unicorn tapestry cycle. There is also a worthy programme of medieval concerts in which troubadours reflect the museum's collection and occasional 45- minute heures musicales in a similar style. The building itself, commonly known as Cluny, is also a rare example of 15th-century secular Gothic architecture, with its foliate Gothic doorways, hexagonal staircase jutting out of the façade and vaulted chapel. It was built from 1485 to 1498 - on top of a Gallo-Roman baths complex. The baths, built in characteristic Roman bands of stone and brick masonry, are the finest Roman remains in Paris. The vaulted frigidarium (cold bath), tepidarium (warm bath), caldarium (hot bath) and part of the hypocaust heating system are all still visible. A themed garden fronts the whole complex. Recent acquisitions include the illuminated manuscript L'Ascension du Christ from the Abbey of Cluny, dating back to the 12th century, and the 16th-century triptych Assomption de la Vierge by Adrien Isenbrant of Bruges. Bar: Le Teddy's Bar A ten-minute walk from Notre-Dame and you're in rue Mouffetard district, which seethes with Sorbonne students, college kids and tourists who pounce on anything beer-shaped after or between classes. Among the many bars strewn around here, we particularly like Teddy’s for its choice of beers and cocktails, its interminable happy hours (from 3.30pm til 8pm) and for its welcoming, low-key atmosphere. It’s good to curl up in the sofas and have one’s back tickled by the leopard-skin-covered walls while sipping the beer of the month, be it a cold Bavaroise or a Trappist Belgian variety. While you’re doing that, the student regulars will be seeking out the pub cat, René, who’s possessed of his own Facebook page, René Miaou, with 230 friends. René used to hang out at the bar next door, the Descartes, but he moved to Teddy’s and we know why – it’s hard to beat as a venue for being caressed and pampered by pretty girls. You could always try and give him a run for his money. Pub: Moose Bar & Grill For those bored of overpriced cafés and unfriendly waiters, the Moose is a great alternative. This Canadian sports bar serves a vast selection of beers and even some organic Australian wines. A friendly atmosphere and delicious burgers make the Moose a great place to kick off the evening. And if you fancy freeing your inner French-Canadian, order a 'poutine', Quebec's national dish of fries dowsed in gravy, melted cheese and smoked meat. Now loosen your belt! Restaurant: Ribouldingue This bistro facing St-Julien-le-Pauvre church is the creation of Nadège Varigny, who spent ten years working with Yves Camdeborde before opening a restaurant inspired by the food of her childhood in Grenoble. It's usually full of people, including critics and chefs, who love simple, honest bistro fare, such as daube de boeuf or seared tuna on a bed of melting aubergine. And if you have an appetite for offal, go for the gently sautéed brains with new potatoes or veal kidneys with a perfectly prepared potato gratin. For dessert, try the fresh ewe's cheese with bitter honey. Shop: The Abbey Bookshop Celebrating 20 years in business, the tiny Abbey Bookshop is the domain of Canadian renaissance man Brian Spence, who organises weekend hikes as well as dressing up in doublet and hose for a spot of 17th-century dancing.The tiny, narrow shop stocks old and new works, a specialised Canadian section, and highbrow subjects down the rickety staircase. Several thousand more books are in storage, and he can normally order titles for collection within two days. BHV (Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville) A five-minute walk from Notre-Dame and you're in homeware heaven: BHV even has a Bricolage Café with internet access. Upper floors also have a good range of men's outdoor wear, upmarket bed linen, toys, books, household appliances, women's clothes - and a large space devoted to every type of storage utility.
For some "oh la la" on (and off) the plate... Whether you want to impress, re-light the fire, or simply treat your heart's desire to a meal somewhere intimate, this pick or five romantic restaurants should have you lip-locked by dessert... Taillevent Taillevent’s first room, with its round, evenly spread tables, is gorgeous, but it lacks the intimacy required for a seductive tête-à-tête. We prefer the second dining room, which makes you feel like you’re in a secret club. La Tour d'Argent The views from La Tour d’Argent over Notre-Dame and Montmartre wow your eyes, while the food woos your stomach. This year, patissier Guillaume Caron has created a special Valentine’s dessert, “Mon ange chocolat-passion” (my chocolate passion angel). Delicieux! Restaurant Le Meurice In a sumptuous dining room, inspired by the Château de Versailles and reworked by Philippe Starck, you’re in for a sophisticated meal. Yannick Alléno’s subtle, refined cuisine is utterly inspiring and the setting is enough to make anyone go starry-eyed. Le Moulin de la Galette The Moulin de la Galette is set in one of two remaining windmills in Montmartre - both of which were immortalised by Renoir. After a meal signed chef Antoine Heerah (known for his fresh, minimalist cooking), take a stroll around the Butte’s romantic cobbled lanes. Angelina Angelina tea-room has two ways of inspiring love: A Mont Blanc meringue with chestnut cream and the most velvetine and naughty hot chocolate in Paris.
A walk past some grisly Parisian relics View Time Out Paris walks: Dead famous in a larger map Paris has some of history's most influential characters buried on its soil; the Père-Lachaise cemetery alone shelters hundreds of writers, artists and politicians. But these are the lucky ones. Other famous figures did not always get to their final resting place in one piece. This itinerary uncovers some of the city's more macabre relics... Start on the Place du Palais-Royal in the 1st arrondissement. Turn your back on the Louvre and walk into the Comédie Française (2 Rue de Richelieu). In the foyer, look out for an old armchair inside a glass cage. It is believed to be the one from which Molière delivered his last lines at a performance of Le Malade Imaginaire in 1673. He died shortly after the curtain fell. In the same room, the statue of an old man regards theatregoers with a sarcastic smile. You may recognise Voltaire, the Enlightenment philosopher, immortalised here by sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. But this statue also serves as reliquary for the philosopher's brain, sealed inside its pedestal. After Voltaire's death in 1778, his brain and heart were put in boiling alcohol to solidify them. His brain finally ended up at the Comédie in 1924. In 1791, his heart was given to Napoleon III, who decided to keep it at the Imperial Library, now the Bibliothèque Nationale-Richelieu. So next, walk to the entrance of the Bibliothèque Nationale at 58 Rue de Richelieu, around the corner from the Comédie, and ask to see the salon d'honneur, an impressive oak-panelled room presided over by a statue of Voltaire identical to the one at the Comédie. The heart is enclosed in its wooden pedestal. The next destination is on the Left Bank – and gives you an opportunity to test out the Vélib municipal bike scheme, if you don't fancy a really long walk. There is a borne (bike docking station) opposite the library, at 71 Rue de Richelieu. From here, head south, first going along the Rue des Petits Champs. Cycle across Place des Victoires and turn right into Rue du Louvre. Follow the traffic down to the river, and then turn left on to Quai du Louvre. Carry on to Pont au Change. Once on the island, keep going south, and turn left on to Quai du Marché Neuf. Go straight ahead until you're facing Notre-Dame cathedral. Drop your bike at the borne beside the square, on Rue d'Arcole. Next, head south across Pont au Double. On quai de Montebello, walk around the small park in front of you and take Rue de la Bûcherie. Find rue St-Jacques at the end of Rue de la Bûcherie and walk down to rue Soufflot. The columns of the Panthéon should be clear to see on your left. The crypt gathers the shrines of over 70 illustrious Frenchmen, including Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and our old friend Voltaire, whose carcass – or what remains of it – can finally rest in peace here. A somewhat more sensational relic can be found in the Eglise St-Etienne-du-Mont, just around the corner from the Panthéon: a finger bone belonging to Sainte Geneviève, patron saint of Paris, in a glass reliquary next to her sarcophagus.Now retrace your steps towards Boulevard St-Michel for a particularly creepy rendezvous. You can pick up a Vélib from the borne at 174 Rue St-Jacques, or cross the Jardin du Luxembourg. From Boulevard St-Michel, take Rue de Médicis, then Rue de Vaugirard. After passing the Sénat, turn right into rue Garancière, then left into Rue St-Sulpice. Carry on along Rue du Vieux Colombier until you reach Rue de Sèvres. Here, find the Chapelle des Lazaristes, identifiable by its tall green doors next to no.95 Rue de Sèvres, and climb up the stairs to the side of the altar. Here lies the fresh-looking corpse of Saint Vincent de Paul, patron saint of the poor. While his skeleton was preserved in its entirety, his face and hands were covered in wax and moulded to resemble the deceased, giving the disturbing impression that he passed away only minutes ago. Back out into the fresh air, pick up a Vélib at the borne on Rue Vaneau and head north. Turn left into Rue de Babylone and then right into Boulevard des Invalides. Keep cycling towards the Seine, with the golden dome of Les Invalides on your left – it's the last resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte. The emperor could easily win the title of most scattered cadaver in history. While his heart and innards are in Austria, you will need to travel to New York to get near his penis, bought at auction by a urologist for $3,800 in 1977. Next, from Quai d'Orsay, cross the Pont Alexandre III and turn left on to Cours Albert I. At Place de l'Alma, take Avenue du Président Wilson on your right. Carry on to Place du Trocadéro. You can dispose of your bike at the Vélib borne on avenue d'Eylau, third right on the roundabout.The Musée de l'Homme (17 Place du Trocadéro, 16th, currently closed for refurbishment) is home to philosopher René Descartes' skull. The rest of his body is buried on the Left Bank, at the Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which makes the perfect start to another trek. For now, take a pew on the steps of the Trocadéro and enjoy one of the best views there is of the city. Chances are you've never felt more alive. Guided walks around Paris Culinary walk Think Parisian dining is just about snooty waiters and haute cuisine? Think again. John-Paul Fortney's Culinary Tours of Paris are designed to introduce you to the living, local and greedy reality of eating and drinking in Paris.His Montmartre tour includes three restaurant stops within a broader walking tour that explains the history of the area, famed for its artists and writers and their spectacular partying in the early 20th century. The tour price includes charcuterie, main course and dessert, and their matching wines. A walk through Arab Paris Though this fascinating and unusual tour might not be first on everybody's list of things to do in Paris, it should be. Culture from the Arab world has been a key element of Parisian life for centuries, a fact celebrated by the brilliant Institut du Monde Arabe by the Pont de Sully. Their weekly guided walks (every Saturday at 3pm, reservation advised) introduce you to some of the 5th arrondissement haunts of key figures in the cultural exchange between East and West in Paris.Starting with the first Arabic lessons at the Sorbonne in the 18th century, the tour then takes in the ancient sites of worship of Christian Arabs, and some of the major Arabic-language printers and publishers in Paris. It then finishes up with an exploration of the Grande Mosquée, with its tea room and domed hammam. Free guided walks One of the best ways to see a city is on foot; even better, let a local show you around. The guides at Discover Walks will show you Paris for nothing more than tips, a brilliant opportunity to get intimate with the city.The (English language) walks run every day except for 24 and 25 December, and there are several themes to choose from: Paris landmarks, Montmartre, the Marais, Notre Dame and the heart of Paris, the Left Bank, and a romantic evening river walk. For a fee, they can also arrange private tours and selected 'Paris Adventures', including a spell at a flea market and a boat cruise, games of boules and photo workshops. A chocolate walk through Paris The long-term expats at Paris Walks have been guiding visitors to the city since 1994. Their inspired 'Chocolate Walks' introduce the history of dark chocolate in Paris, complete with tastings, through visits to some of the city's finest chocolatiers.The tour runs several times a month. Visit the Paris Walks monthly programme for full details.
Everyone knows what the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame look like, but have you seen the classics that hide beyond the city's traditional tourist circuits? Try some of these... Cimetière du Père-Lachaise Père-Lachaise is the celebrity cemetery - it has almost anyone French, talented and dead that you care to mention. Not even French, for that matter. Creed and nationality have never prevented entry: you just had to have lived or died in Paris or have an allotted space in a family tomb. Sainte-Chapelle Devout King Louis IX (St Louis, 1226-70) had a hobby of accumulating holy relics. In the 1240s, he bought what was advertised as the Crown of Thorns, and ordered Pierre de Montreuil to design a shrine. The result was Sainte-Chapelle. With 15m (49ft) windows, the upper level appears to consist almost entirely of stained glass. The windows depict hundreds of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, culminating with the Apocalypse in the rose window. Palais de Chaillot This immense pseudo-classical building was constructed by Azéma, Boileau and Carlu for the 1937 international exhibition, with giant sculptures of Apollo by Henri Bouchard, and inscriptions by Paul Valéry. The Palais houses the Musée National de la Marine and the Musée de l'Homme (closed for renovation until 2012). In the east wing are the Théâtre National de Chaillot and the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine. Tour St-Jacques Loved by the Surrealists, this solitary Flamboyant Gothic belltower with its leering gargoyles is all that remains of St-Jacques-La-Boucherie church, built for the powerful Butchers' Guild in 1508-22. The statue of Blaise Pascal at the base commemorates his experiments on atmospheric pressure, carried out here in the 17th century. A weather station now crowns the 52m (171ft) tower. La Conciergerie The Conciergerie looks every inch medieval. However, much of the façade was added in the 1850s, long after Marie-Antoinette, Danton and Robespierre were imprisoned here during the Revolution. The 13th-century Bonbec tower, the 14th-century César and Argent towers, and the Tour de l'Horloge all survive from the Capetian palace.The visit takes you through the Salle des Gardes and the Salle des Gens d'Armes, an impressive vaulted Gothic hall built between 1301 and 1315 for Philippe 'le Bel'. Petit Palais Despite it’s elegant, Belle Époque allure the ‘Little Palace’ is overshadowed by its big brother, Le Grand Palais, just across the road. But ignore it and you’ll miss out on one of Paris’s loveliest fine arts museums, with an extensive mish-mash of works by Poussin, Doré, Courbet and the impressionists, as well as other paintings and sculptures from the Antiquity to 1900. The building, built by Charles Girault for the 1900 for the World Fair, is lit entirely by natural light and sits around a pretty little garden - a plum spot for coffee and cakes. Place des Vosges Paris's first planned square was commissioned in 1605 by Henri IV and inaugurated by his son Louis XIII in 1612. With harmonious red-brick and stone arcaded façades and steeply pitched slate roofs, it differs from the later pomp of the Bourbons. Laid out symmetrically with carriageways through Pavillon de la Reine on the north side and Pavillon du Roi on the south, the other lots were sold off as concessions to officials and nobles (some façades are imitation brick). It was called place Royale prior to the Napoleonic Wars, when the Vosges was the first region to pay its war taxes. 104 (Centquatre) 104, described as a 'space for artistic creation', occupies a vast 19th-century building on the rue d'Aubervilliers that used to house Paris's municipal undertakers. The site was saved from developers by Roger Madec, the mayor of the 19th, who's made its renovation the centrepiece of a massive project of cultural and urban renewal.There aren't any constraints on the kind of work the resident artists do: 104 is open to 'all the arts', but finished pieces have to shown in one of 104's annual 'festivals'. La Grande Mosquée de Paris Some distance removed from the Arabic-speaking inner-city enclaves of Barbès and Belleville, this vast Hispano-Moorish construct is nevertheless the spiritual heart of France's Algerian-dominated Muslim population. Built from 1922 to 1926 with elements inspired by the Alhambra and the Bou Inania Medersa in Fès, the Paris mosque is dominated by a stunning green-and-white tiled square minaret. On la rue Geoffroy-St-Hilaire, La Mosquée café (open 9am-midnight daily) is delightful - a modest courtyard with blue-and-white mosaic-topped tables shaded beneath green foliage. Observatoire de Paris The Paris observatory was founded by Louis XIV's finance minister, Colbert, in 1667; it was designed by Claude Perrault (who also worked on the Louvre), with labs and an observation tower. The French meridian line drawn by François Arago in 1806 (which was used here before the Greenwich meridian was adopted as standard) runs north-south through the centre of the building. You'll need to apply for an appointment at the Observatoire by letter, but it's also worth checking the website for openings linked to astronomical happenings - or visit on the Journées du Patrimoine.