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A whirlwind tour of Paris' cultural hotspots

By Susannah Palk for CNN
  • A whirlwind tour of Paris' cultural highlights
  • Sites include The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, CentQuatre and jazz club Caveau de la Huchette
  • Follow in the footsteps of literary greats including Victor Hugo and Ernest Hemingway

(CNN) -- Proud of its title as a cultural capital, Paris boasts some of the world's most iconic monuments.

Littered with ancient obelisks, gothic churches, classical bridges and modern masterpieces, the city has for centuries cultivated an extraordinary array of artists, writers, philosophers and architects.

The end result makes for a city of unparalleled beauty, which revels in its cultural heritage.

But with more than 400 parks, 134 museums, 143 theatres and 242 floodlit churches, statues, fountains and national buildings, it's virtually impossible to see all the cultural highlights Paris has to offer.

So, for a quick fix of Europe's most fashionable, exclusive and elegant city, follow our 24-hour culture vulture guide.

It's a whirlwind tour packed with the "must-dos" on the cultural trail -- giving you a true taste of Paris' cultural life, past and present.

Start your day at Le Corbusier's modern architectural masterpiece, Villa La Roche. Built in 1925 to house Swiss banker Raoul La Roche's large avant-garde art collection, its groundbreaking design is considered a blue print for contemporary modern architecture.

From here, leg it across town to the new star of Paris' contemporary art scene, CentQuatre. Formerly Paris' funeral parlor housing millions of the city's dead, it is now a thriving arts center with artistic workshops, resident artists and exhibition spaces. Flooded with light thanks to its stunning glass ceiling, the building is open to the public seven days a week.

From here take the metro to another modern must see -- the extraordinary "inside-out" architecture of the Centre Pompidou. Housing the biggest collection of modern art in Europe, the center has over 30 major art exhibitions a year and a permanent collection including Picasso, Miro and Warhol.

After a morning of modern masters, take a well earned break in the oldest planned square in Paris -- the Place des Vosges. Built by Henry IV in 1612, it is set in the ultra chic area of Le Marais and is full of stunning apartments, smart cafes and elegant shops.

If you have time, pop into house number six on the square, the Maison de Victor Hugo. Here you can view the rooms where the famous French author penned his epic novel, "Les Miserables."

From here it's a short walk to the "museum among museums," the Musee du Louvre. Set in a former palace, it could take days to view the Louvre's 35,000 works of art. Enter through the famous glass pyramid and take in the highlights, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.

If you've got longer, be sure not to miss the ancient artifacts from Egypt and Mesopotamia as well as the Napoleon III apartments.

After the Louvre, make you're way across the Pont Neuf, one of Paris' best known and most beautiful bridges. Connecting the right and left banks, the bridge also leads right to the center of the city's medieval heart, the famous Ile de la Cite.

The tiny island, straddled by the Seine, is home to some of the city's most stunning architecture, including the famous gothic cathedral, Notre Dame. Immortalized by Hugo's great novel "The Hunchback on Notre Dame," the cathedral, complete with gargoyles, flying buttresses, stained glass windows and its five famous bells, does not disappoint.

As the sun starts to set, leave the island and wander across to the Left Bank, famous for bohemians, book sellers, writers and philosophers. If you have time, pop your head into the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, which houses young writers, who in the past have included Henry Miller and Allen Ginsberg.

With evening fast approaching find a cafe or wine bar in the area of St-Germain des Pres and watch the world go by over a coffee or glass of wine. Now a rather upmarket part of town, it was once a draw for writers of all literary shades, with the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Joyce patronizing its many cafes.

After dinner stop off at one of the many jazz clubs along the Left Bank. The Caveau de la Huchette is highly recommended. A mainstay of the jazz scene for 60 years, the club resides in a medieval cave, once used as the meeting place for secret societies. Music starts at 10pm and goes on into the small hours.

By now it will be late, but if you walk along the Left Bank, you see Paris' most iconic sight, the Eiffel Tower.

Built for the Universal Exhibition in 1889, by night the tower puts on a magnificent display, using 20,000 light bulbs to make her iron beams sparkle in a glittering shower of light. What better way to end your whirlwind tour of "The City of Light?"