Discover Paris through the movies

From Amélie to An American in Paris, let classic films inspire you on a tour of the French capital

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Discover Paris through the movies
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Paul Jones

Take a stroll by the Seine

Start your day – or end your evening – with a walk along the banks of the river Seine. Begin your journey at Le Pont Neuf, (which, despite it's name, "new bridge", is actually Paris's oldest), where Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron performed their pas-de-deux to Our Love Is Here to Stay in American in Paris (1951) and follow the Left Bank to the Quai de la Tournelle, beneath Notre-Dame Cathedral, where Goldie Hawn found herself literally dancing on air with Woody Allen in Everyone Says I Love You (1996). 

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Visit the Louvre

Having studied the stunning antique exterior of the Louvre Palace, which houses the famous gallery, you might quite sensibly decide to take your time communing with some of the world’s most important works of art, ranging from Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to Raphael’s St Michael. Alternatively, you could follow the example of Anna Karina, Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 Nouvelle Vague classic Bande à Part and attempt to break the world record for running (or, within the rules, briskly walking) the length of the museum (RadioTimes.com takes no responsibility for the consequences of such an attempt).

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Take a dip in Piscine Pontoise

Built in the 1930s, this swimming pool on the Rue de Pontoise in the Latin Quarter was the scene of Juliette Binoche’s revelatory nighttime swim in Three Colors: Blue (the first in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s trilogy exploring the French idelas of liberté, égalité and fraternité). Visit during the daytime and the sunlight streaming through the glass ceiling will allow you to better admire the original Art Deco design and fittings, and the individual changing cabins that run along the balconies above the 33-metre pool. Note that you'll be required to wear a swimming cap ("bonnet du bain") which you can buy at the pool.

Piscine Pontoise - Club Quartier Latin, 19 Rue de Pontoise

Opening times: weekdays 7:00-8:30am, 12:15-1:30 pm, 4:30-7:00 pm (8:00pm Mon, Fri) except Wed 7:00-8:30 am, 11:30am-7:30pm. Sat 10:00am-7:00pm. Sun 8:00am-7:00pm

Have lunch at Café des 2 Moulins

The workplace of one Mlle Poulain, the "Two Windmills" café, is situated at the junction of Rue Lepic and Rue Cauchois in the picturesque district of Montmartre. Fans of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s quirky 2001 romance Amélie – starring Audrey Tatou as the eponymous matchmaking waitress – will enjoy stopping in for a lunchtime snack such as a croque madame, or a refreshing cocktail, in the café that, although not a shrine to the film, remains pleasingly recognisable inside.

15 Rue Lepic, Montmartre

Browse the books at Shakespeare and Company

In its early days during the 1950s, the English-language bookstore and reading library at 37 Rue de la Bucherie near Notre Dame was a hangout of Beat Generation writers such as Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs. More than just a bookshop, it contains sleeping areas and holds regular poetry readings and Sunday tea parties. Filmgoers may know Shakespeare and Company from Richard Linklater’s 2004 sequel Before Sunset, in which Ethan Hawke rekindles his romance with Julie Delpy, or from Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which sees Owen Wilson wallowing in ennui and literature after the end of his.

37 rue de la Bûcherie

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Visit the church of St Etienne du Mont

Talking of Midnight in Paris, not far from Shakespeare and Company is the church of St Etienne du Mont where Owen Wilson’s character Gil, disenchanted with his life and his relationship, becomes completely enchanted by Paris. The steps on the north side of the church are where, on the stroke of midnight, Gil is picked up by a carload of partygoers and finds himself transported to the 1920s to convene with some of the 20th century's greatest writers and artists. We can't promise the same thing will happen to you but if you visit during the day (see opening times below) you'll get to see the stunning interior, featuring 17th-century stained glass and wooden organ case and the chapel dedicated to St Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.

Rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève

Opening hours: Mon 12 noon–7:45pm. Tue–Fri 8:45am–12 noon, 2–7:30pm. Sat 8:45am–12 noon, 2–7:45pm. Sun 8:45am–12.15pm, 2:30–7:45pm

Have dinner at Restaurant Polidor - or Maxim’s

For reasonably-priced authentic French cooking, and equally classic decor, try brasserie Crémerie-Restaurant Polidor, near the Jardin du Luxembourg. Polidor (you may not be surprised to hear) is another location that turns up in Midnight in Paris, the venue for Gil's (Owen Wilson) late-night literary discussion with Ernest Hemingway. If you’re feeling a little more flush, or have something to celebrate, sample the upmarket cuisine and stunning Belle Epoque interior of world-famous restaurant-nightclub Maxim’s, which Quentin Tarantino fans will recognise from a key scene in his 2009 Second World War drama Inglourious Basterds (oh, and it's in that other film too).

Restaurant Polidor 41, Rue Monsieur Le Prince

Maxim's 3 Rue Royale

Listen to jazz at Caveau de la Huchette

Upstairs at this Latin Quarter jazz club is the relatively low-key lounge bar, but it's below ground – the "cave" part of Caveau de la Huchette – where the action really happens. The venue attracts top-quality musicians (in its time it's played host to greats like Count Basie) and the atmosphere on the often packed dance floor is heady (if not necessarily for the claustrophobic). In 1957 romantic comedy Funny Face, Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn went underground here, to send up black-polo-neck-wearing French existentialists.

5 Rue de la Huchette


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