Paris: The Louvre and Western Paris

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SEE Centre National de la Photographie
11 rue Berryer, 01/53-76-12-32
Exhibitions of iconic international and emerging French photographers in the neoclassical Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild town house. E4.60. Closed Tues.

SEE La Samaritaine
19 rue de la Monnaie, 01/40-41-20-20,
An art nouveau department store with eye-popping price tags. However, the rooftop's open-air observatoire offers a view of Paris for free. Just take the escalators to the top.

EAT Le Zinc d'Honoré
36 place du Marché St-Honoré, 01/49-27-05-00
The epitome of a Parisian sidewalk café: Marble tables are surrounded by rattan chairs and menus scribbled on portable chalkboards. The fine food includes dishes such as grilled lamb with hazelnuts seasoned with herbes de Provence.

EAT Angélina Salon de Thé
226 rue de Rivoli, 01/42-60-82-00
Don't let the belle epoque decor and waiters in tuxedos intimidate you: Jeans-clad travelers fit in just fine. The fluffy quiche lorraine and tart fruit sorbets have carved out a reputation, but the real treat is the warm, slurpy hot chocolate (chocolat africain), served with whipped cream on the side.

6 rue de l'Amiral de Coligny, 01/42-92-00-24,
"The Smoking Room," replete with leather armchairs and a library, has an expensive, ever-changing menu, which includes seared tuna and pistachio pie. (Try for a window seat for a view of the Louvre and the St-Germain-l'Auxerrois Gothic church.)

DRINK Buddha Bar
8 rue Boissy d'Anglas, 01/53-05-90-00,
The Buddha lives up to his rep. Join the smartly dressed hipsters imbibing away in the shadow of the famed 10-foot potbellied statue. Dinner is served, but the best vibes rev up after 11 p.m. on the upper-level bar.

SHOP Drouot
9 rue Drouot, 01/48-00-20-20,
France's oldest auction house sells everything from bottles of wine (from E30) to paintings (from E100). There's no charge to watch and anyone can participate. Multilingual booklets explain the rules-you can blurt out your bids in English, but understanding French numbers helps you follow the competitors. Auctions most days. Check online for schedule.

11 rue du Marché St-Honoré, 01/40-41-04-06,
An iconic lingerie boutique. Each Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., women (no men allowed) gather to sip free champagne and talk about sex, bra sizes, and the pros and cons of lace.

SHOP Reciproque
88-101 rue de la Pompe, 01/47-04-30-28,
Paris's largest luxury consignment shop, divided into seven boutiques, is your best shot at bagging Chanel or Dior without selling your blood. Although everything here is secondhand, it's rigorously selected.

PLAY Au Bec Fin
6 rue Thérèse, 01/42-96-29-35
This whimsical café-theater in a 1659 stone building stages comedies and thrillers by contemporary playwrights. Some are in English. With only 50 seats, there's not a bad one in the house. Dinner at the adjacent restaurant is optional, but cheap-here's an opportunity to sample garlic-sautéed frog legs. E14; E30 with dinner.

SPLURGE Mandala Ray
32-34 rue Marbeuf, 01/56-88-36-36,
A lounge-bar-restaurant, with a posh Zen look, that's partly owned by Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, and John Malkovich (each known to make an occasional appearance); it's a magnet for lower-orbit stars in need of a cooler image.

Flex your French or just enjoy the romantic stereotype of that quintessential Parisian cultural mecca: the intellectual café.

Café des Phares
7 place de la Bastille (Métro: Bastille), 01/42-72-04-70
People thirsty for cerebral stimulation gather at Paris's leading café philosophique on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A moderator chooses a subject on the spot, so you can't bone up to show off. Recent topics include "The Notion of Time" and "When Does Childhood End?"

Au Père Tranquille
16 rue Pierre Lescot (Métro: Les Halles), 01/45-08-00-34
At 8 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month, an expert lectures on anything from aerodynamics to women in physics. Debate ensues. Free.

Café Psycho
13 rue de Médicis (RER: Luxembourg), 01/43-25-21-81,
Guest lecturers discuss a subject (think obsessive-compulsive disorder) on Thursdays at 7 p.m. The bistro dinner is optional, but entrées are reasonable. Private "work rooms" are available after the talk-for discussion, not therapy.

Café de la Mairie
8 place St-Sulpice (Métro: St-Sulpice), 01/43-26-67-82,
The former owner of a matchmaking agency moderates a discussion about love on Mondays at 8 p.m. E5 plus one-drink minimum.

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