Today, a hotel concierge can do a lot more than score tickets to a sold-out show or book a reservation at the hottest restaurant in town. The best are destination experts with in-the-know advice for savvy travelers. Here are some sightseeing tips from concierges in three neighborhoods (arrondissements).
David Volet, Head Concierge, Renaissance Paris Vendôme (4 rue du Mont Thabor; tel. 01/40-20-20-08; www.renaissanceparisvendome.com). This delightful hotel, in an elegant section of town, has a secret lap-pool in the basement.
Best Caffeine Fix: Café Verlet (156 rue Saint Honoré; tel. 01/42-60-67-39; www.cafesverlet.com). Enjoy a selection of fresh-ground coffees and aromatic teas from around the world in this lovely shop that's been in business since 1880.
Best Bookstore Browsing: Librairie des Jardins (Place de la Concorde, main gate-Jardin des Tuileries; tel. 01/42-60-61-61; www.louvre.fr; Metro: Tuileries or Concorde). You don't need a green thumb to appreciate La Librairie des Jardins (The Garden Bookstore), in the Tuileries gardens in a space beneath the terrace of the Jeu de Paume. There are thousands of garden-related books -- everything from practical landscaping guides to tomes on garden poetry and philosophy.
Best Place to Wine and Dine: Le Rubis (10 rue du Marché Saint-Honoré; tel. 01/42-61-03-34; Metro: Tuileries). In this posh neighborhood, the kitschy wine barrels outside and well-worn red banquettes inside let you know you've arrived at an authentic Paris wine bar. Stand at le zinc (bar) with a glass of Beaujolais and a plate of their charcuterie (cold cuts).
Abdou Sabara, Premier Concierge, Paris Marriott Champs Elysées (72 Champs Elysées; tel. 01/53-93-55-04; www.marriotthotels.com). If you've always wanted to stay on the famous boulevard Champs Elysées, this hotel is smack dab in the middle.
Coolest Ride: Left Bank Scooters (tel. 06/82-70-13-82; www.leftbankscooters.com). Scoot around Paris on a Vespa and experience the city in a completely different way. Take a scooter tour or ride around on your own, breezing past the notorious traffic jams.
Most Amazing View: Paris Hot Air Balloon (Ballon Air de Paris, in the center of Parc André Citroën, 2 rue de la Montagne de la Fage; tel. 01/44-26-20-00; www.ballondeparis.com; 15th arrondissement, Métro: Javel or Balard) Cost: Adults €12; Teens (12-17 yrs) €10; Children (3-11 yrs) €6. See Paris from 500 feet in the air. The "flight" in this tethered balloon lasts 10 minutes and goes up all year, weather permitting. Check the forecast on the website or call beforehand. In addition to the balloon ride, enjoy the gardens in this park on a former Citroën car site.
Xavier Vigreux, Destination Expert Manager, Renaissance Arc de Triomphe (39 avenue de Wagram; tel. 01/55-37-55-68; www.renaissancearcdetriomphe.com). You'll get a kick out of this hip hotel that's just a few blocks from the Arc de Triomphe.
Prettiest Park: Parc Monceau (Blvd de Courcelles; Metro: Monceau). Back in 1769, one of the most charming parks in Paris was the Duke of Orleans' private garden, which Napoleon III then opened to the public in 1861. As you jog along the park's track, admire the English-style garden that has a pond -- and a windmill, pyramid, pagoda, and Corinthian columns.
Best Market Scene: Marché Poncelet (Rue Poncelet & Rue Bayen; Metro: Ternes) Open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. One of oldest open-air markets in Paris feels like a market street in Provence. Rue Poncelet overflows with stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, and fish. Allow plenty of time to chat with the merchants and linger in the cafés along the way.