Long considered the epitome of style, Paris is the most glamorous city in Europe. It is at once deeply traditional, village-like and famously cosmopolitan. While such contrasts may be the reality of any city, they are the makings of Paris: the tiny lanes and alleyways of the Quartier Latin or Montmartre against the monumental vistas from the Louvre to La Défense; the city of street markets and old-fashioned pedestrian arcades against the giant underground commercial complexes of Montparnasse and Les Halles.
At times, Paris can feel inhumanly magnificent, the arrogance of its monuments encompassing the chilly pomp of the Panthéon, the industrial chic of the Eiffel Tower and the almost spiritual glasswork of the Louvre pyramid. Yet, it also operates on a very human scale, with exquisite, secretive little nooks tucked away from the Grands Boulevards and very definite little communities revolving around games of boules and the local boulangerie and café. And even as Paris's culture is transformed by its large immigrant populations, even as extravagant new buildings are commissioned and erected, many of the city's streets, cafés and restaurants remain remarkably, defiantly unchanged.
In the great local tradition of the flâneur, or thoughtful boulevard-stroller, Paris is a wonderful city for aimless wandering. Relaxed quarters such as the vibrant Marais, elegant St-Germain and romantic Montmartre are ideal for street-browsing, shopping and café-sitting, and the city's lack of open space is redeemed by beautiful formal gardens, by the pathways and pavements that run beside the River Seine, and by endless hidden or unexpected havens.
There are over 150 art galleries and museums in the city and an uncounted number of cafés, brasseries and restaurants lining every street and boulevard. The variety of style and decor is hard to beat, ranging from ultra-modern fashion temples to traditional, mirrored palaces, and from tiny bistrots where the emphasis is all on the cooking to bustling Vietnamese diners. After dark, the city's theatres and concert halls host inventive and world-leading productions of theatre and dance, while many classical concerts take place in fine architectural settings, particularly chapels and churches.