Some say that Paris is the most romantic city on the planet, others come for the gastronomic delights or because of the fashion scene or shopping. There are so many excuses that you can come up with to visit this city which is why it is one of Europe’s most visited holiday destination.
Yes I am talking about Paris, France and not Paris, Texas. I’m sure you’d be disappointed if you ended up at the wrong one. Paris has many names and is often referred to as the “City of Light” or the “City of Love”. Paris is a popular destination for honeymooners and people in search of love and it’s not hard to see why.
The beautiful architecture of its building, from the Eiffel tower to palaces and museums. The River Seine idly-flowing through its center past Gothic churches and art galleries.
Whatever your reason for visiting Paris you’re guaranteed an unforgettable trip.
In fact there is so much to see in Paris that you should plan your trips very carefully ahead of time otherwise you’re likely to end up running out of time when you arrive.
Paris is divided into 20 neighborhoods (arrondissement) that spiral out from its center. They are numbered from 1 at the center to 20 on it’s outskirts. Each has it’s distinct personality and areas of interest so you may want to say in an area that better reflects your interests and goals for your vacation. The River Seine divides the city north to south and although it was once said that the right bank represented the sophisticated side of Paris and the left the bohemian divide this is not really true today.
The most popular districts are Quartier Latin (Latin Quarter), Bastille, Le Marais, Opéra – Grands Boulevards, Pigalle, Saint-Georges, Champs-Élysées, Montmartre, La Villette, Canal Saint-Martin, Montparnasse, République, Saint-Germain des Prés, Odéan, Père Lachaise and Menilmontant.
The Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement) is a popular student haunt with boutique hotels and markets and also known for its nightlife. St. Germain-des-Pres (6th arrondissement) is more upscale with art galleries and designer stores and one of the more expensive areas of the city. Montmartre (18th arrondissement) is set high on a hill with one of the best overall views of Paris. Dominated by the Sacre Coeur basilica and home to the Moulin Rouge it’s known for its wild nightlife, street artists and performers just beware of the pickpockets.
There are many wonderful districts to stay in Paris and for most people their budget and hotel room availability will be the deciding factor on where you stay. Cheap hotels can be found if you look hard and although they might lack in facilities such as televisions and Wi-Fi etc. they tend to be clean and comfy.
Most visitors to Paris don’t spend a great deal of time in their hotel rooms so you may just want to pick somewhere that is clean, comfy, safe and close to a Metro station and save your money for better things.
Like most European cities the high season runs from May until September due to long days and warm weather. This is the most expensive time of the year to visit Paris and also the busiest. If you arrive during this time then plan on visiting the major attractions either at the beginning or end of the day to avoid the largest crowds.
June through August is the warmest time of the year with long sunny days and temperatures reaching 25 C (76 F), perfect for walking outside but also the most expensive time to come. It’s also the school holidays for most kids so book early if you plan to come during this period.
Hotel prices start to drop from September to November as the weather starts to cool and the days become shorter. The lowest season runs from December to February when the temperature can reach freezing and you’ll need a warm jacket (a stylish one at that as this is Paris after all).
Then there’s March to May. As spring returns the prices start to rise as well as the temperature, but still below peak season prices. You may need an umbrella as the rains are more frequent this time of the year.
There are plenty of attractions to see in Paris, probably too many for a single trip so we’ve listed the Top Ten Paris attractions to get you started.
So you have all of your attractions sorted out but how can you make your trip to Paris even more special? Here are a few tips for things to do in Paris.
There are plenty of places to sit down and enjoy a little picnic with great views. The gardens of the Palace of Versailles is one of our favorites but if you prefer a view of the Eiffel Tower then head down to the Champ de Mars. Maybe you would like something a little more watery. If so then you’ll find plenty of great spots along the Seine River such as the Quai des Tournelles which has a fantastic view of Notre Dame .
See the major sights of Paris from the comfort of a double-decker open-topped bus. Companies such as Big Bus run hop-on, hop-off bus tours past famous landmarks where you can get off and on at your leisure.
Talking a slow leisurely stroll along the banks of the river Seine is a beautiful way to spend time with your loved ones. As beautiful as it is to see all of the monuments during the day it is even more stunning at night when they are all illuminated.
River boats cruise up and down the Seine all day long. Hop on, Hop off boats are popular for visitors wishing to see the sights in person but if you prefer a more relaxing time then one of the restaurant cruises may be more to your liking. Lunch and dinner tours are available inside air conditioned cruise boats. Prices don’t appear to vary much between companies and although they tend to have the same routes they do start and finish in different locations.
Just outside of Paris is the popular Disneyland Paris theme park and resort. If you have children then this could make a good day out for the whole family. The resort consists of two theme parks, the original Disneyland and the new Walt Disney Studios Park. You can purchase tickets to either one individually or together.
Public transportation is very good. Travel passes are available that will allow unlimited travel on the buses, Metro and RER such as the Paris Pass but walking has to be one of the nicest ways to enjoy Paris.
The Paris Métro (or Métropolitain) is the second busiest subway system in Europe and one of the best ways to get around town quickly. With over 300 stations you’re never going to be far from one.
There are a wide variety of tickets available including single ride tickets, books of 10 or 20, single day passes, multi-day passes, Monday to Sunday week passes, monthly passes and year passes. If you plan on using the subway a lot then opt for the books of ten tickets as you’ll save almost 20% off the regular fare.
Walking is probably one of the easiest ways to get around Paris. The center of the city is surprisingly compact but if you’re worried about getting lost or can;t read a map then there are also guided walking tours available from tour operators such as Paris Walks.
There are numerous companies offering cruises along the Seine river. Some of these are restaurant boats but if you’re in the mood for a little more freedom then get on one of the Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing boats. With these flexible all day tickets you’ll be able to get off and on at any of the nine stops along the river to enjoy such attractions such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum.
Paris is a great place to cycle and it’s easy to rent a bike to get you around. Vélib’ is a large-scale public bicycle sharing system operating in Paris. You’ll need to purchase a one day or 7 day ticket online but then you can just grab a bike from one of the many Velib’ stations and be on your way. When you’re finished just drop it off at your closest station.
One of Paris’ best kept secrets is its tram service. Probably not a lot of help if you’re in the city center but if you’re staying in the southern part of Paris and need to get to the east or west then the T3 line may be something worth considering.
January and February are probably the cheapest times to visit Paris after Christmas and New Year celebrations are out of the way. This is the lowest season and also one of the coldest so you’ll need to dress appropriately. You may also be lucky and get some hotel discounts in August as the peak season is starting to come to an end.
For tips on how to save money when you’re in Paris have a look at our tips below.
Eating out in Paris can be romantic but also very expensive so if you don’t want to break the bank then it may be time to forego on the restaurants and head to these alternative eateries.
That hotel breakfast that you paid so much for may turn out to not much more than a croissant, baguette, jam and hot drink so save yourself some money and take a walk down to the local bakery (Boulangerie) and pick up some fresh ones instead.
Find yourself a nice Café, grab an espresso and take a seat outside while you watch the world go by.
Look out for a Bistro, especially at lunch time, although some do offer dinner, they can be cheap and surprisingly good quality. If you want to eat some good quality healthy, mostly organic, food from star studded chefs then why not give Boco a try. They offer some tasty starters, main courses and desert from top chefs all served in glass jars. Eat in, take away or order online.
The french are big on their lunches, more so than their evening meals, and because of this you can get some great deals in you’re willing to eat your largest meal earlier in the day. Look for places that offer fixed prices for two or three course meals, some even include a glass of wine for around 20 euro.
Food trucks are starting to make their mark in Paris. Most are of the American style, offering fresh burgers and fries or tacos. They’re popular among young hip Parisians and while not exceptionally cheap, some charge 10 USD for a burger, this is fresh high quality and hand made.
Eating out in Paris can be expensive, especially if you have a large family to feed. On the other hand there are plenty of shops selling delicious breads, cheeses and meats cheap so why not make some sandwiches. Good cheap wines abound unless you’re buying in a restaurant so why not make a picnic of it.
Wine is one of the cheapest drinks in France, probably because the French drink it with every meal, and is even cheaper than many of the bottled waters available, think Evian. Paying a few euro’s for a bottle is not uncommon and a better deal than most other forms of alcohol.
If you plan on visiting a lot of attractions then you may want to consider getting a Paris Pass. Valid for 2, 3, 4 and 6 day duration this card will give you free access to top museums and attractions (some with a fast track entry) as well as free unlimited travel on the metro, RER and buses. Check out the prices here.
Paris has it’s own subway system to get you around cheaply. If you need to go further a field then use the buses or national trains. Taxi’s can be expensive for short trips as they have an initial starting tariff of about 7 euro.
The quickest & least expensive way from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport to Paris is by taking the RER B city train leaving from either CDG Terminal 2 or Roissypole (RER trains for CDG Terminal 1 and CDG Terminal 3). It’ll cost you around 10 euros.
While having a hotel in the center of Paris can save you money on transportation, if you don’t mind a little more travel each day then pick a hotel a little further afield for a better deal.
Many attractions offer savings of some sort whether it be by booking online, buying your tickets in advance or by visiting in the evenings. For example many attractions are free on the first Sunday of each month. Just check before you visit and remember that free normally relates to very busy so get there early.
Check out the local Pariscope magazine for listings to free concerts and shows.
If you have an unlocked phone (one that can accept a SIM card from any provider) then consider purchasing a SIM card for cheaper calls. If you can get a data package with it for your smartphone then better still as you can use messengers and call apps such as Viber and Skype to keep in touch with friends and family abroad for free.
You may find that some restaurants and hotels offer free Wi-Fi so make the most of that for checking the internet and using VOIP calls.
To save more on entrance fees then have a look around for free sights such as churches, parks and even some museums.
Shopping tends to be expensive in Paris so it’s probably best avoided.