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Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Paris

Sep 16, 2011, 3:24 a.m.
An aerial view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Bastille Day July 14, 2011. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - The city of glamour, grande cuisine and the ghosts of the guillotined is one of Europe's most beautiful. Welcoming some 28 million visitors a year, Paris offers everything from some of the most famous museums and restaurants in the world to charming cobblestone alleys and boutiques galore.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a visit to the French capital. While 48 hours is not nearly enough for this beloved metropolis, it will whet your appetite for your next visit.

FRIDAY

5 p.m. Why not kick off the weekend with a "verre," or glass of wine, as the French do, or perhaps a licorice-flavored pastis aperitif. Paris cafes are the pride of the city, and the most famous are located on the Left Bank. After popping in to the Eglise de Saint-Germain-des-Pres, an ancient abbey with sixth-century roots, enjoy a "pause" at Les Deux Magots or Cafe de Flore. Between the two world wars and immediately after, both cafes welcomed writers, poets and artists from Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway to Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir.

8 p.m. Keeping with the literary theme, make your way south to Montparnasse, the neighborhood where intellectuals and artists flocked at the beginning of the 20th century. Splurge at Le Dome, an Art Deco institution featuring platters piled high with oysters and other fresh seafood. And remember the champagne -- after all, it's your first night in Paris.

10 p.m. You're close enough to stroll to the Montparnasse Tower for a spectacular view across the City of Light. The 689-foot office tower, completed in 1973, wins no prizes for beauty -- until you get to viewing area at the top from where, as Parisians like to note, you can no longer see it.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. Hop onto one of Paris' 20,000 Velib city bikes, rentable for a modest fee from docking stations all over the city, and head to Ile de la Cite for a first look at Notre Dame before the crowds descend. Count the saints carved out along the cathedral's facade and notice the gargoyles peering menacingly from the towers of the French Gothic masterpiece.

Nearby are Sainte Chapelle with its unforgettable stained glass windows and La Conciergerie, the former prison where Marie Antoinette spent her last months before meeting her grisly end at the guillotine in 1793.

11:30 a.m. Cross to the right bank via Ile Saint-Louis -- a picturesque island in the Seine where Paris' best ice cream, Berthillon, is sold -- and you find yourself in the Marais. Once swampland, the Marais became the fashionable place to live in the 17th century before falling into disrepair. In the 19th century it was the Jewish quarter and a tasty falafel with grilled eggplant can still be had along the Rue de Rosiers. The Marais is known today for its gay and lesbian nightlife and is home also to trendy boutiques, small art galleries, cafes and museums, including the Picasso Museum and the Musee Carnavalet, which documents the history of Paris.

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