ou're better off without one. Many hotels charge for parking, and why risk the passion-killing traffic? Determined drivers need to steel themselves for the infamous périphérique ring road.
BMI Baby (www.bmibaby.com), British Airways (www.ba.com), Air France (www.airfrance.com) and EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport from the UK. Most major French regionals have flights into Paris Orly (www.airfrance.com). A taxi from Charles de Gaulle international airport to the centre costs about €50; buses and trains run regularly into town at a fraction of the cost. RER/TGV trains run from CDG to Gare du Nord every 15 minutes from 5.30am to 10.30pm, and take 35 minutes.
There are six main stations in Paris, all of which are central and link to the fantastic Métro underground system (www.ratp.fr). Eurostar is by far the best way to travel there from London: trains from Kings Cross St Pancras (and mainland Europe) arrive into Gare du Nord. From the Mediterranean coast, TGV services connect via Marseille or Perpignan and, in the west, Biarritz and Bordeaux (www.tgv.com).
Country code for France: 33. Paris: 1.
Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire; A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway; Paris: Capital of the World by P L R Higonnet; Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell; Perfume by Patrick Süskind. Three to Kill by Jean-Patrick Manchette; The Shoe Queen by Anna Davis.
Do go / Don't Go
Paris shuts down (and relaxes) in August, a national holiday. Go in spring, when the blossom's out, or autumn, not least for Nuit Blanche, an all-night culturefest.
If you only do one thing in Paris, let it be sipping a crème or a pastis at a boulevard bistro: whatever your wont (still-walking steak, croque monsieur, rillettes, warm chèvre salad or tarte tatin), it will taste immeasurably better eaten at a round alfresco table on a cane chair. Paris is also renowned for its dainty tea houses and French fancies - by which we mean mouthwatering millefeuilles, melting macaroons and buttery pastries. Ladurée is beloved of fashionistas for its pretty pastel macaroons; Mariage Frères is one of the finest tea rooms; and you'll often see a scrum queuing outside haute pâtissier Pierre Hermé on Rue Bonaparte in chic St Germain (+33 1 43 54 47 77; www.pierreherme.com). We love his praline-packed 2,000 Feuilles.
Can be hailed in the street if you're more than 100 metres from a rank (these are all over Paris and have phones if no taxi is waiting).
In bars, leave small change amounting to about 10 per cent. Restaurants usually state service compris, but it is polite to leave change.
Sunglasses, silk scarf, cigarette holder. An arrondissement city map (taxi drivers can be uncertain).
The Louvre (www.louvre.fr) houses some of the world's most famous art (open late Mondays and Wednesdays; closed Tuesdays and some holidays). The Musée National d'Art Moderne is on level four of the Pompidou Centre (www.centrepompidou.fr); Richard Rogers' radical architecture is another draw. Musée National Picasso Paris (www.musee-picasso.fr) occupies an old house in the Marais, and is full of the artworks Pablo couldn't bear to part with; the venue is as alluring as the art itself, also the case for Musée d'Orsay, a converted train station packed with arty treats (www.musee-orsay.fr).
Marvel at Paris' unique layout from atop the 200-year-old Arc de Triomphe, one of France's most iconic monuments and the epicentre of bravura city-planner Baron Haussmann's star of boulevards; it's worth clambering up its many internal stairs to peer down the Champs Elysées and enjoy photogenic views down to Place de la Concorde and up to La Défense. Open daily, 10am-10.30pm (11pm in summer), excluding 1 January, 1 May and 25 December. Tickets cost €8 and must be bought 30 minutes before closing.
For a serious fashion spree, the thoroughfares to scour in the 8ème are Avenue Montaigne and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. In the 1er, head to the Jardins du Palais-Royal for Marc, Stella, Acne and hip boutique Kitsuné. In the Haut-Marais, an amazing constellation of independent boutiques, explore Rue de Charlot, Rue du Poitou and Rue de Saintonge. Go to Porte de Clignancourt to browse the famous fleamarket for clothes and antiques, open Saturday to Monday until 6pm. Or have a selection of Parisian retro pieces brought to you by Ooh La La! Vintage (ring +33 (0)6 84 76 58 65 to arrange in advance of your trip). If you're a sucker for department stores, head to Le Bon Marché on Rue de Sèvres. Splurge with a healthy conscience at Merci (+33 (0)1 42 77 00 33) on Boulevard Beaumarchais; this hip luxury emporium donates profits from its Annick Goutal scents, Baccarat crystal vases, Stella McCartney and Yves Saint Laurent clothing and hip homewares to a children's charity in Madagascar.
Crowded but irresistible, the Eiffel Tower is open 9.30am-11pm (midnight in high season). If all that steel doesn't take your fancy, visit L'Institut du Monde Arabe on Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard in the 5ème (www.imarabe.org). As well as the amazing Jean Nouvel façade and Islamic art exhibitions, it has a top-floor terrace with great views across the Seine to Notre Dame and Ile de la Cité.
Follow in the footsteps of Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Amélie Poulain, wandering through Montmartre and up to the Sacré-Coeur for classic Parisian panoramas. Or visit Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust at one of the city's smartest addresses, the Cimitière du Père-Lachaise in the 20ème (www.pere-lachaise.com).
May Saint-Germain Jazz Festival gets the Rive Gauche swinging and tapping its toes (www.festivaljazzsaintgermainparis.com). May-June The French Open tennis championship brings grand-slam excitement to the City of Lights (www.fft.fr/rolandgarros). June La Fête de la Musique celebrates the start of summer and sees the streets lined with stages for live bands (www.fetedelamusique.culture.fr). June-July Paris Jazz Festival means free weekend concerts in Parc Floral (www.parcfloraldeparis.com). July Bastille Day, a public holiday with a huge parade down the Champs-Elysées on the 14th, is followed a week later by the opening of Paris Plages, the city's temporary urban beaches. August-September There's an open-air Classical Music Festival in Parc Floral (www.parcfloraldeparis.com). October The city stays up all night for the nocturnal arts party known as Nuit Blanche.