The neighborhoods from the très chic Faubourg St-Honoré to trendy Les Halles are a study in contrasts, with the Louvre in the midst of the bustle. The posh Rue Faubourg St-Honoré, once the stomping ground of kings and queens, is now home to the French president and assorted foreign ambassadors. Beloved by fashionistas for three centuries, it is as popular today as it was when royal mistresses shopped here—which explains the plethora of high-end stores (almost every luxury brand is represented). Not surprisingly, ritzy restaurants and haute hotels are located here as well.
To the east, Les Halles(pronounced leh-ahl) has risen from its roots as a down-and-out market district to become one of the city’s hottest, hippest neighborhoods. Vermin-infested cobbled streets have given way to trendy shops, cafés, and bars, centered on Rue Montorgueil; and a sweeping multiyear renovation of the former wholesale food market (which closed in 1969) is giving a much-needed face-lift to the plaza aboveground and the vast shopping mall below.
Between Faubourg St-Honoré and Les Halles, you can find some of Paris's top draws—namely the mighty Musée du Louvre and, next door, the majestic Jardin des Tuileries. The garden is home to the Musée de l'Orangerie, with its curved galleries showcasing Monet's Water Lilies, while nearby Les Arts Décoratifs is a must for design buffs. In Place Colette, the stately theater, the Comédie Française, is still going strong after 400 years, and at the edge of the square is the psychedelic sculpture—doubling as a métro entrance—of the kiosque des noctambules (kiosk of the nightcrawlers), designed by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel. Hidden just off Place Colette is the Palais-Royal, a romantic garden ringed by arcades with boutiques selling everything from old-fashioned music boxes to fashion-forward frocks. A stone's throw away is Galerie Vivienne, an exquisitely restored 19th-century shopping arcade.