Paris Louvre
The Louvre (Photo credit: Sam Walker)

Paris Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • The capital of France and its largest city, with a population of about 2.2 million.
  • The most popular tourist destination in the world, attracting 76 million visitors per year.
  • Known as one of the most livable cities in the world, with its unique and romantic charm.
  • Artists that worked and lived in Paris include: Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.
  • Nicknames: La Ville-Lumière (“The City of Light”), Paname, The City of Love.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Euro (EUR).
  • Spoken languages: French.
  • Best time to visit: from March to November. Paris has a mild, moderately wet climate.
  • Arriving via airport: from Charles de Gaulle Airport, you can take a free shuttle to Roissy rail station, from where you can take the RER trains to any major metro station in the city (9 EUR, trip duration 35-40 minutes). Alternatively, buses to the city depart every 15 minutes and cost 8.60 EUR. A taxi ride to the city will cost between 30 and 60 EUR.

WHERE TO STAY

Although the best hotels and apartments in Paris are located right in the city center, on the banks of the river Seine or close to the Champs Elysees, these are also the most expensive and usually crowded. Budget minded travellers should try to find cheaper hotels in Montparnasse, around Place de la Nation or Gare du Nord. Try to find accommodation close to a metro station.

GETTING AROUND

  • Paris has a very developed and extensive transportation system, with subway, buses and RER trains. The subway (metro), with 14 lines and around 300 stations, is by far the quickest and easiest way to see the city’s top attractions. The buses are also a good option, but these can get crowded and it is harder to figure out the routes. RER suburban trains are useful for longer distances (e.g. to the airport).
  • A single ride (on subway or bus) within the city costs €1.70. Save money by buying a bundle of 10 tickets (€12.70). If you stay for longer, you can try the travel passes (“Carte Orange”), valid for unlimited travel within a period of time. Do not forget to stamp your tickets and write down your details on the cards to validate them. A bus ticket is valid for 90 minutes.
  • Visitors should also consider buying a Paris Pass, which allows for unlimited travel (depending on the duration of the Pass) and includes plenty of other offers and discounts, such as a Bus Tour and free entry to almost all museums and attractions. A 2-day adult pass costs €110, while a 4-day pass is €160.
  • Some of the best known taxi companies: Taxis Parisiens, Taxis G7 and Taxis Verts (formerly Taxis Bleus).
  • Renting a car: unless you absolutely have to, do not drive in Paris. Parking spaces are very limited, and congested roads will end up wasting a lot of your time.

PARIS NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18, last call is 2 AM for bars (many night clubs stay open until dawn).
  • Note: Paris has some of the most vibrant and eccentric nightlife in the world, with countless clubs, discos and pubs.
  • Hip/local scene: Marais, Bastille, Montmartre, Pigalle.
  • Trendy scene: Trocadero, Champs Elysees, Palais Royal. 

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Note: If you intend to visit a lot of museums and attractions, invest in a Tourist Pass, which includes free entry to most of them. You will save a lot of money!
  • The Eiffel Tower, is the symbol of the city and one of the best known monuments in the world, standing tall at 324 meters since 1889. Make sure to go up tower, as the panorama over the city is magnificent. From the Eiffel Tower, take a walk in the Parc du Champ de Mars – visit the Chaillot Palace and admire the Ecole Militaire.
  • The Ile de la Cite is one of the two islands of the Seine inside Paris, and houses some of the city’s best landmarks. Build over 800 years ago, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is a masterpiece of gothic architecture and one of the country’s treasures. Close to the cathedral, you can also visit the Conciergerie, Hotel Dieu, as well as the little island of St. Louis.
  • The Louvre and Orsay museums contain of the most beautiful masterpieces of art in the world. Other attractions nearby: Tuileries Gardens, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Palais Elysees, Ecole National de Beaux-Arts, Hotel de Ville, Palais Royal, and Centre Georges Pompidou.
  • The Champs Elysees is perhaps the most famous boulevard in the world, stretching from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. With its wide sidewalks and upscale fashion shops, the street will captivate both shoppers and window-shoppers alike.
  • Located to the north, the Montmartre neighborhood is the more romantic part of Paris, with plenty of museums, art galleries and shops. Standing guard over this area is the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, one of the most beautiful churches in France.
  • Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Paris will continue to surprise you with its cornucopia of churches, parks, fountains, monuments and museums. Other notable landmarks in the city include: Opera Garnier, Luxembourg Palace, La Defense, Moulin Rouge, and Bastille.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • A stroll through Paris: starting from the Eiffel Tower, cross the Seine, continue through the Chaillot Palace up to the Arc de Triomphe. Continue on the Champs Elysees until you reach the Louvre Museum.
  • Walk around the two small islands: Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis.
  • Walk around the Montmartre quarter of Paris, discovering little known corners of the city.
  • Take a trip to the Versailles Palace and take a walk along its parks and grounds.
  • If you can stomach it, visit the Catacombs of Paris (a mass graveyard of a nameless six million people). Wear appropriate shoes, and be prepared for a long underground walk.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • A great way to take in the city is to take a cruise on the Seine. Evening cruises are especially captivating (and romantic), as you can see the city lights being turned on.
  • Paris is the world capital of fashion. Even if you’re just visiting, it’s a good idea to look your best.
  • While Paris is full of coffee shops, it’s hard to find a place without hordes of tourists. For a relaxing atmosphere, head over to a cafe in the side streets closer to Abbesses (metro).
  • The French are very proud of their heritage and language. Even if you don’t speak any French, try to learn a few key phrases before you arrive. The locals will appreciate your efforts. Try to impose your own language and culture on the locals, and you will experience the infamous Parisian snobbery.
  • Don’t miss this chance to try some traditional French food. Look for small restaurants and cafes around the city, and don’t forget to sample some of the country’s wine!
  • Where to find good cheap eats: in the Latin Quarter. Look for Moroccan, Lebanese or Asian restaurants. Also, try out the city’s crepe stands – these are delicious thin pancakes.
  • Dangerous areas: Paris is generally safe during the day, although the suburbs should be avoided by tourists (no real reason to venture there). At night, avoid the northern 18th and 19th districts, the area around Marx Dormoy, Porte de la Chapelle, La Chapelle, Porte de Clignancourt, Porte de la Villette and some blocks around “Porte de Montreuil” station.

RECOMMENDED PARIS GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 5-6 days


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Paris Travel Guide was last modified: September 25th, 2016 by Nick
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