Paris is the cosmopolitan capital of France and - with 2 million people living in the center and some 10 million people in the suburbs (la banlieue) - one of the largest cities in Europe (12 million total). Paris, located in the north of the country on the river Seine, the "City of Light", has the reputation of being perhaps the most beautiful and romantic of all cities, brimming with historical associations and remaining vastly influential in the realms of culture, art, fashion, food and design. Paris is historically one on the "world cities", such as New York, London or Tokyo.
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Walking in Paris is one of the great pleasures of visiting the City of Light. It's possible to cross the entire city in only a few hours, if you can somehow keep yourself from stopping at numerous cafés and shops. In fact within a few years walking combined with biking and the Métro will be the only way to get around the very center of Paris: The Mayor's office has announced plans to declare the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th arrondissements almost totally car-free by 2012.
The smartest travellers take advantage of the walkability of this city, and stay above ground as much as possible. A metro ride of less than 3 stops is probably best avoided since walking will take about the same amount of time and you'll be able to see more of the city. Just don't forget to keep your eyes open for the merde.
To get a great orientation of the city on foot while seeing many of Paris' major sights, you can do a West to East walk from the Arc de Triumph to the Ile de la Cite (Notre Dame). This walk takes about 2 hours without any stops. Start at the top of the Champs Elysees (at the Arc de Triumph) and begin walking down the Champs Elyees towards Place Concorde. On the way towards the obelisk at Place Concorde, you'll see all of the major stores and restaurants of Paris' most famous avenue. Once you've passed the main shopping area, you'll see the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais to your right. At Place Concorde, you'll have many of Paris' major sites in every direction. In front of you is the Tuileries, behind you is the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triumph, to your right is the Tour Eiffel and Musee D'Orsay, and finally, to your left is the Madeleine. Continue straight ahead and enter the Tuileries Gardens and take in the fountains, flowers and lovers in the park. As you continue straight ahead, and out of the garden, you'll see the pyramid entrance to the Louvre directly in front of you. With the pyramid directly in front of you, and the Tuileries directly behind you, turn to your right and walk towards the Seine. Now you can walk along the Seine (eastwardly) until you reach Pont Neuf. Cross Pont Neuf and walk through the Latin Quarter and also by the Notre Dame cathedral on Ile de la Cité.
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