For first-timers to Paris this is my list of things to do. I've given it to many friends who have visited the City of Light and on their return have commented how useful it was. It has slowly grown with each visit I've made and it's also had a couple of additions thanks to a French friend of mine:

  • L'Open Tour - Before you do anything buy yourself a ticket on the L'Open Tour bus. It's the best way to gain a sense of direction, see the top tourist spots, and learn about Paris, its history and culture. You can hop on and off at whim which makes it an inexpensive mode of transport.
  • Art galleries - naturally the Louvre is probably going to be your first port of call. It is a must for all art lovers but for those of you who don't have the time to spend at the Louvre (a day isn't enough) then consider my favourite gallery Musée d'Orsay (great on rainy day) closely followed by Musée Rodin (wonderful in springtime).
  • Stroll through the Palais Royal and the garden of Tuillerie leading to the Pyramide due Louvre - on the right bank. Grab a Perrier water at Le Cafe Marly, a cafe outside on the left side of the pyramid - it's beautiful; if you're hungry or want a drink with a hit then pop into Le Fumoir which is at the back of the Louvre near the church. You'll find Le Fumoir at 6 Rue Adival-de-Coligny M. Louvre Rivoli. this spot up perfectly: "Smoother than Sacha Distel's underwear, you won't be surprised to discover this handsome bar and restaurant has a definite 'smoking room' feel. Conveniently close to the Louvre you can reward yourself for soaking up some culture with a long Pastis or one of the many excellent cocktails. The chic leather chairs are great to unwind in and there's also a selection of international newspapers to peruse should the fashionable regulars not keep your attention!" Salute.
  • Chic boutiques: Even if you don't have the money to splash out on haute couture you must take a walk along Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoree for delicious window shopping. Nearby is Avenue these two streets you'll find the best of the best...Hermes, D&G, Versace, Chanel, Lanvin, Dior, Vuitton, Bulgair...need I write any more names?
  • Luxe hotels: While you're wandering along Saint-Honoree look out for L'Hotel Costes. The decor is truly sublime - it's Napoleon III. There is a great indoor garden as nice as the one at the Ritz or Georges V.
  • Les Halles: Slip into your comfy walking shoes and make your way along the little pedestrian streets in the first and second districts from Places des Victoires to La Bourse and Rue Reaumur Sebastopol to the Halles district - it's full of life and you're bound to find concerts by the church.
  • Pompidou Centre: While I contend this building is ugly you have to see a Perrier rondelle (with lemon)'ll be looking at Paris from the middle of it!
  • Panoramic Parisian views seen from iconic structures: The Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) will give you the best view...but you will have to stand in a long queue and, depending on the time of year you are there, wait for a very long time. If that's not on your agenda then go one step down the tourist ladder and enjoy views from a less lofty spot on top of the Arc de Triomphe which stands at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (also known as the Place de l'Étoile). You'll feel giddy just watching the Parisians drivers navigating their way along the twelve major avenues leading to the Place de l'Étoile and the busy roundabout in which the Arc stands.
  • Panoramic View that won't cost you a euro: One of the best views of Paris was from the rooftop terrace of Samaritaine near Pont Neuf. Sadly when I was there last the department store was closed indefinitely. An equally good view is from terrace restaurant in the Printemps and it's free! It's in the Printemps de la Maison section of the Printemps department store (Boulevard Haussmann). Take the lift to the 8th floor then the escalator to the 9th - it's here you'll find the restaurant and beyond the glass doors a bird's eye view of Paris from the rooftop terrace. Manifique!
  • Le Marais: Whatever you do, don't miss out on the Marais district. It's breathtakingly beautiful all the way to La Place des Vosges and Rue des Francs Bourgeois. Very cool shops!
  • Place de la Bastille: Turn left away from the river and walk to the Canal St Martin - it's a total mix of French and Northern African with a great mix of cafes and family bistros. The old French fellows play Petanque along the canal.
  • Café  de Flore: If you want to do the touristy thing then walk along the Left Bank to Café de Flore, at the corner of the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the Rue St. Benoit. It's one of those places you have on your list and need to tick-off just like Les Deux Magots (6 place Saint-Germain-des-Prés)...the latter cafe was known as the rendezvous of the literary and intellectual élite patronised by Surrealist artists, intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, and young writers, such as Ernest Hemingway.
  • Sorbet at Bertillon: You'll find Bertillon at 31 rue St-Louis-en-l'Ile.  The sorbet is the very best. Sit on the river bank looking back at the Notre Dame; walk along the side and middle of the island - this area is so old and splendid, it transports you back to the 15th century.
  • Le Jardin du Luxembourg: It is the largest public park located in the 6th district. The park is the garden of the French Senate, which is itself housed in the Luxembourg Palace. I've been here in the middle of summer with the park in full bloom; my boys played soccer while my husband, daughter and I chilled out under the canopy of one of the tree-lined paths. 
  • Le Bateau Mouche: Take a trip just before sunset. Travelling along the Seine in a glass-roofed boat is a great way to see Paris. Just make sure you check the route - the leaflet will say one thing but the routes are sometimes shortened; some boat companies are better than others.
  • Churches: My top three are the Notre Dame (of course), the Sacré-Cœur Basilica (naturally) and La Saint-Chappelle (a Gothic chapel on the Île de la Cité).
  • Montmartre: If you choose to vist the Sacré-Cœur, the walk up to this popular basilica will reward you well. It is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city.
  • Flea Market: The main one is Les Puces - you'll find antiques, trash and treasures, clothes and almost anything else. Access is via Porte de Clignancourt metro. Check the times when the market is would be devastating to to get there and find it was closed. You really do need to spend a whole day there. Try and choose a pleasant day - it's not much fun in the rain, trust me.
  • Versailles: Do, do, do take a train trip to Versailles for the day. Again it is advisable to check the opening times. Movie buffs will recall seeing Versailles in Marie Antoinette directed by Sophia Coppola and starring Kirsten Dunst. Versailles is grand and of epic proportions: "The Palace of Versailles was the official residence of the Kings of France from 1682 until 1790. It was originally a hunting lodge, built in 1624, by Louis XIII. It was expanded by Louis XIV beginning in 1669. He used it as a little lodge as a secret refuge for his amorous trysts with the lovely Louise de la Valliere and built a fairy tale park around it. Jules Hardouin Mansart, the king's principal architect, drew the plans to enlarge what was turning more and more into a palace from A Thousand and One Nights. The terrace that overlooked the gardens was removed to make way for the magnificent Hall of Mirrors, the Galarie de Glaces. It is here from which the king radiated his power and where the destiny of Europe was decided over a century. The French classical architecture was complemented by extensive gardens."
  • Sophisticated department stores: Galleries Lafayette and Le Printemps on Boulevard Haussman are major musts. check out their beautiful stained class domed-ceilings while you're there. Monoprix (also on Boulevard Haussman) is a great spot for a cheap lunch.
  • Night time walks:  stroll along the Champs Elysees and the banks of the Seine...illuminated at night it looks entirely different. You'll feel as you're at the centre of the universe.
  • Hôtel de Crillon - Salon de The: Enjoy lapping up the luxury of an afternoon tea French style.The Hôtel de Crillon in Paris is one of the oldest luxury hotels in the world. The hotel is located at the foot of the Champs-Élysées at No. 10 on the north end of Place de la Concorde.
  • Luxe Food Stops: Pop in Laudree - there are about six of them in Paris (including one at Versailles) - my favourite is the one on the Champs Elysées. Buy a box of iconic macarons - their colours alone will draw you in, their taste sensational! My pick: Pistache and Pétales de Rose.
  • One of the boys - Hotel des Invalides: Les Invalides is a complex of buildings in the city's 7th district "containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building's original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l'Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the burial site for some of France's war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte."
  • One for the girls - Sephora: the ultimate beauty destination ! This is the most amazing girlie haven laid out in a vast hall-like space...there are several outlets in Paris as well as around Europe and in the US. My favourie is Sephora at 70-72 Avenue des Champs-Elysées. It's mind boggling...there's a wall dedicated to women's fragrances - we're talking floor to ceiling EDT, Parfum and so on...while the opposite wall is packed with men's aftershave, fragrances etc. No-one misses out. There are stands showcasing make-up applicators (beautiful brushes of all shapes and sizes to ensure your make-up is Paris perfect), stands for hair appliances, stand-alone displays dedicated to the colour of your eye shadows, pink nail polishes, pink blushes, pink lipsticks...then think of another colour...yep it's there too. The colour spectrum is pushed to the max. Matisse would have been proud.
  • One for the kids - The Catacombs of Paris or Catacombes de Paris. The catacombs are a famous underground ossuary located south of the city's former "Barrière d'Enfer" city gate (at today's Denfert-Rochereau). The ossuary fills a renovated section of caverns and tunnels that are the remains of Paris' stone mines.