48 Hours In: Cinematic Paris

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The French capital has been immortalised in hundreds of films, from A Bout de Souffle to Amélie. Aoife O'Riordain guides you through the film-maker's favourite set

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Travel essentials

Why go now?

Paris earns its City of Light epithet not just for the Age of Enlightenment and early implementation of gas lamps: it was here that Auguste and Louis Lumière patented the cinématographe in 1895, and held the first film screening soon after. Ever since, Paris has been an inspiration to filmmakers; each year more than 650 films are shot around the city, utilising its evocative streetscapes and grand landmarks. Woody Allen's soon-to-be released Midnight in Paris is one of the latest examples – a thinly disguised love letter to the French capital.

The Paris Cinema International Film Festival runs until 13 July with 250 screenings around the city ( pariscinema.org).

Touch down

Take the Eurostar (0870 518 6186; eurostar.com) from London St Pancras, Ashford and Ebbsfleet to Paris Gare du Nord (1), which has featured in films such as Patrice Leconte's Monsieur Hire and The Bourne Identity. The majority of flights from the UK arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport, 25km north-east of the city, which provided the inspiration for The Terminal. Six RER trains (ratp.fr) per hour provide links to Gare du Nord (1), as well as Châtelet-Les Halles (2) and St-Michel (3) in the centre (€9.10).

A taxi to central Paris costs about €50.

The city's second airport is Orly, from where you can take the Orlybus (€6.60) to Denfert-Rochereau station.

Get your bearings

Central Paris is scattered with landmarks immortalised on the silver screen. In the animated film Ratatouille, the protagonist, Remy the rat, knows he has realised his dream of reaching the French capital when he catches his first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower (4).

Paris' 20 arrondissements, or districts, curl out like a roll of film clockwise from the centre near the Louvre (5). The River Seine splits the city in two; its Left Bank or Rive Gauche is best appreciated through the lens of Jean-Luc Godard in his 1959 classic A Bout de Souffle (Breathless). To the north is bohemian Montmartre with the gleaming white Sacré-Coeur church (6) presiding over the quarter's atmospheric streets that provided the backdrop for Amélie, starring Audrey Tautou; Jules Dassin's cult classic Du Rififi chez les hommes; the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose; and the inspiration for Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge.

The tourist office (7) is at 25 rue des Pyramides ( parisinfo.com). Open daily 10am-7pm, Sunday 11am-7pm. For more information on cinema in Paris, see cinema.paris.fr.

Check in

Woody Allen chose Le Meurice (8) at 228 rue de Rivoli (00 33 1 44 58 10 10; lemeurice.com) for scenes in Midnight in Paris such as the fabulous Belle Etoile Suite complete with jaw-dropping 360-degree views of the city. Doubles start at €720, room only.

The 10-room Hôtel Les Rives de Notre Dame (9) at 15 quai St-Michel (00 33 1 43 54 81 16; rivesdenotredame.com) has two claims to fame – it featured in A Bout de Souffle and was also home to John Steinbeck. Doubles start at €179, room only.

In Stanley Donen's 1963 film Charade, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn check into the Hôtel Saint Jacques (10), 35 rue des Ecoles (00 33 1 44 07 4545; hotel-saintjacques.com) in the Latin Quarter. Doubles start at €152, room only.

Day one

Take a view

Almost every film that has been shot in the French capital features the Eiffel Tower (4) ( tour-eiffel.fr). It has been the subject of its own film, the 1949 The Man on the Eiffel Tower, with further appearances in hundreds of movies including Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows and Paris When it Sizzles starring Audrey Hepburn and William Holden. It affords magnificent views of the city from its top floor viewing platform. Until 28 August it opens daily from 9.30am-midnight. Admission €13.40.

Take a hike Woody Allen and Goldie Hawn danced along its banks in Everyone Says I Love You and in Ratatouille Remy jumps across several of the Seine's 37 bridges. Start on the Left Bank at the Quai de la Tournelle (11) – below you is where Jason Bourne wakes up to his first day in Paris in The Bourne Identity, and Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) board a Bateau Mouche in Before Sunset. Continue downstream to the oldest and most famous bridge of all, the Pont-Neuf (12), built in 1607 and the setting for Les Amants du Pont-Neuf; one of the most expensive French films ever made tells the story of a love affair between two young vagrants played by Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant.

Continue along the Left Bank passing the green booths of the bouquinistes (booksellers), which line the river as far as the Quai Voltaire. The Pont des Arts (13) is where Anne Hathaway's Andy rushes across the bridge on the phone to Meryl Streep's Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada.

Scenes from Midnight in Paris were shot on the elaborate Pont Alexandre III (14), which was built in 1900 for the Exposition Universelle. It won't unfold spectacularly as it did in Christopher Nolan's Inception, but finish your riverside ramble at the double-decker Pont de Bir-Hakeim (15), which also graced the screens in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris; Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colours: Blue; and Louis Malle's Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud.

Lunch on the run

Amélie's heroine worked as a waitress in the charmingly retro Café des 2 Moulins (16) at 15 rue Lepic (00 33 1 42 54 90 50). Even 10 years on it's still a must-see for the film's admirers, but it's also an ideal spot for a bite. Nab a pavement table, order a croque monsieur (€8.20) and observe the hustle and bustle of Montmartre – just make sure you finish off with the obligatory crème brûlée (€5.80).

Window shopping

One of the classic cinematic images of Paris is Jean Seberg sauntering past the boutiques of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, wearing a "Herald Tribune" T-shirt. Later, she can also be seen gazing wistfully through the window of Christian Dior (17) at 30 avenue Montaigne – the go-to street for the city's acclaimed haute couture. More affordable purchases can be found at filmmakers' favourite, bookshop Shakespeare & Company (18) at 37 rue de la Bûcherie (00 33 1 43 25 40 93; shakespeareandcompany.com), which has had cameos in a number of films including Before Sunset and Midnight in Paris.

An aperitif

The bar of the fashionable Hôtel du Nord (19), Canal St-Martin, 102 quai de Jemmapes (00 33 1 40 40 78 78; hoteldunord.org) is fittingly decorated in an homage to the Paris of the 1930s when the location was immortalised in Marcel Carné's 1938 classic of the same name. Order a Lillet and soak up the scene.

Dining with the locals

Featured in the final scenes of Something's Gotta Give, starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, Le Grand Colbert (20) (00 33 1 42 86 87 88; legrandcolbert.fr) is a set-worthy archetype of the fantasy Parisian brasserie. Tucked down a narrow street close to the Bourse, on 2 rue Vivienne, it has tiled floors, leather banquettes and a buzzing atmosphere. Keaton's character raves about the roast chicken, which is a house speciality (€24).

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

Paris' leading place of worship is the sprawling Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (21) (00 33 1 42 34 56 10; notredamedeparis.fr). Built in the 12th century, this is one of the high points of Gothic architecture and also the location for Victor Hugo's novel about Quasimodo and Esmeralda. The book spawned several film versions starring the likes of Gina Lollobrigida and Anthony Quinn. International mass takes place at 11.30am on Sundays. It opens daily from 8am to 6.45pm, until 7.15pm at weekends.

Take a ride

Some unforgettable cinematic moments have taken place in the Paris Métro ( ratp.fr). There was Luc Besson's 1985 Subway starring Isabelle Adjani and Christophe Lambert; Alain Delon's cool-as-a-cucumber assassin in the 1967 Le Samouraï; and Jean-Paul Belmondo's daring stunt on top of a Métro carriage in Henri Verneuil's Peur sur la ville. Catch Line 4 in the direction of Port d'Orléans and get off at St-Germain-des-Prés.

Out to brunch

Sitting in the sun at a pavement café with a coffee and croissant is a tradition. In A Bout de Souffle, Michal and Patricia make a beeline for Le Select (22), 99 Boulevard du Montparnasse (00 33 1 45 48 38 24). Tourists have largely replaced the intelligentsia, such as Henry Miller and Luis Buñuel, who used to gather here, but it's still a Left Bank classic.

Cultural afternoon

As well as its appearance in The Da Vinci Code the halls of the Louvre (5), at rue de Rivoli (00 33 1 40 20 84 58; louvre.fr), are no stranger to film crews. Part of Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence was filmed here, as was the scene from Funny Face where Audrey Hepburn comes running down the staircase in front of the Winged Victory. Open Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 9am-6pm and Wednesday and Friday until 10pm; closed Tuesdays. Admission €10.

In Midnight in Paris, Owen Wilson's character, Gil, and Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, get a cultural fix among Claude Monet's stunning Nymphéas, in the Musée de l'Orangerie (23), Jardins du Tuileries (00 33 1 44 77 80 07; www.musee-orangerie.fr; open daily except Tuesday, 9am-6pm; admission €7.50 but free on the first Sunday of the month).

A walk in the park

The 2006 Paris, Je T'Aime is a collaboration of the work of 20 filmmakers who were each given five minutes to tell the story of an amorous encounter in the capital of romance. In Alfonso Cuarón's vignette, Nick Nolte and Ludivine Sagnier walk and talk around the Parc Monceau (24), which straddles the smart 8th and 17th arrondissements. Dotted with follies, rare plants and a dazzling display of flowers, this verdant expanse was created by the Duke of Chartres in the late 18th century. In summer it opens 7am-10pm.

Icing on the cake

From 19 July to 21 August, the Parc de Villette (00 33 1 40 03 76 92; villette.com) plays host to a programme of open-air film screenings from a range of home-grown and international talent (free; Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm).

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