Paris Travel Guide for Beginners
Traveling to Paris is everyone’s dream. The City of Love is one of the largest agglomerations in Europe. It is the capital city of France and it has a population of 2.2 million in the Central districts and 12 million in the entire metropolis. It is the most famous city in the world and people from all walks of life call it the City of Lights and Love. As a beautiful city boasting of famous architectural landmarks and tasty French cuisine, Paris has been dubbed the most romantic city in the world. Everyone just loves to celebrate romantic moments on the famous Eiffel Tower. What more? Paris is the Capital of Fashion. It is the place of the most famous designers in the fashion industry like Chanel, L’Oreal, Clarins, Dior, Saint Laurent, Guerlain, Yves and Lancôme who are renowned for the best and finest fashion quality in the world.
The Seine River, where the city is situated at the northern part, is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. An array of authentic and world-famous French restaurants lined the city’s walls. Paris remains as one of the most influential icons of fashion, historical significance, architectural ingenuity, and culinary excellence. It also contains the second largest collection of Michelin restaurants in the world while Tokyo has the number one spot.
Paris is the most visited tourist destination in the world. It has a whopping 45 million tourists from all over the world annually. The Eiffel Tower is the most visited landmark in the world along with the Louvre museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, Moulin Rouge, and The Arc de Triomphe to name a few.
Climate and Transportation
Paris is gifted with very nice climatic conditions. It is generally cool during winter with a temperature barely exceeding the freezing point at 6 °C. Even in the month of January which is the coldest month of the year in Paris, the weather is not too cold. Precipitation is common in the form of drizzles to mild rain all year round. Snow is not an everyday thing during the winter season. It only falls quite a few times a year. During summer, the weather is relatively warm with a temperature reaching 23 °C which is a pleasant treat to everyone who loves to bask in the sun. Fall and spring seasons are normally wet and cool.
If you are going to Paris, there are three international airports that serve direct flights to Paris. They are the following: Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Beauvais and Orly International Airport. You can also go to Paris by train, by bus or by car. There are trains from major European cities that connect to Paris however they don’t have central stations to Paris. Buses are also plying the route but during rush hours expect heavy traffic and buses are usually full. The latter however, is not recommended because parking in the city is very difficult as the parking slots are usually full plus there are traffic jams everywhere in the city. If you are not familiar with old-fashioned roads, then I suggest do not go to Paris by car.
When to Visit Paris?
Summer is the best time to visit Paris. During the months of April, May, June and September, the weather is ideally warm and perfect for sporting your summer bikinis.
Going around Paris:
On Foot: This is the cheapest and the best way to travel around Paris. Through walking, it is possible to go around the entire city in just a few hours. The government is working towards making it entirely free from population so it would be more or less car-free. If you ever get lost, just look for the main/major boulevard and you’ll find the metro stations underneath it…You won’t be lost that way.
Metro-train: It is an underground rail transit that travels around the city. Do not confuse it with the RER (Regional Express trains Network). Just look for the M sign on the train and you will be able to get around the metro without any problem. Heavy luggage owners should take the bus or taxi instead of the train because it can be very inconvenient. Trains normally travel from the first station to the last stopping at different sub stations. But there are times when they terminate before the last stop so be aware of that. The driver will announce if they are culminating before the last stop in French. A regular subway train may be taken around the city but there is a need to purchase another ticket for the turnstile to enter between the RER and the subway. There’s a fine imposed when traveling outside the city without a valid ticket.
Cycling: Instead of driving a car in getting around the city, it is better to ride a bicycle instead. It is the safest and the most practical alternative to a car to travel around the city. There are many riverside places perfect for cycling within the city proper. Roads are narrow and others which are smaller are also one way so it is recommended that unfamiliar travelers bring a map with them. If you don’t have a bike there are rentals found within the city for reasonable prices. A security deposit is necessary be it a one day or seven days usage. Credit cards are accepted and cash payments.
Bus: It is not commonly recommended but bus trips are good if you want to see more of the city. Bus systems in Paris are tourist-friendly and they are pretty simple to understand. It uses the same mechanics with that of the metro.
By Boat: There are boat cruises that travel along the Seine River. These are relatively cheap and they offer a very scenic view of the city. The route starts from the Eiffel Tower and passes along the Botanical Gardens, Notre Dame, Louvre Museum, then to the other side of the river bank. It is primarily recommended for a romantic evening cruise when all the city lights are turned on within the city.
Traveling with children:
Paris is child-friendly. Children below 4 years can travel by bus or metro without a fee and older than 4 years old can get discounts. There are also passes known as the Paris-Vistess which gives unlimited travels for children for half the price for 1-5 days within the city.
Where to Stay in Paris?
Paris is the most visited city in the world so it is expected that many hotels and other accommodations will be ‘normally’ fully-booked when you arrive without a prior arrangement especially during the peak season. Every accommodation in Paris observes the off-peak and peak-season policy. So book ahead if you want to stay in a good hotel when you arrive. If in case the hotel is fully booked, they normally recommend another hotel nearby that has some rooms available to accommodate the tourists. So if you are planning to stay in Paris for quite some time, it is more practical to rent a fully-furnished apartment. Be careful when selecting apartments. Make sure there’s an insurance policy which is normally offered to the tenants for their guaranteed safety. If you are traveling with someone else and wishes to have separate rooms, it is recommended to just get two separate rooms than 2 separate hostel beds. It is cheaper to find it in Paris.
Luxurious Hotel Stays: Luxurious hotels abound in Paris. If you are traveling on a very special occasion like honeymoon or important celebration, luxury hotels in Paris are certainly recommended. These luxury hotels are the very places where you can meet famous world celebrities and most important people in the society. Some of the wealthiest are often staying on these hotels when in Paris. Some of the best Five Star Hotels in Paris are: Hotel Plaza Athenee (Sex and the city used it as a backdrop and it has 3 Michelin stars), Hotel Le Meurice (Queen Victoria used to frequent this hotel due to its old-fashioned service), and Hotel de Crillon (Overlooks the Egyptian Obelisk and it is where Madonna and Yasser Arafat stayed in).
Three-star and Quality Hotels: If you want a very nice stay in a quality hotel, you can definitely find lots of this kind all over Paris. But you have to determine first the district and the area that is best for your goals and travels. Whatever district you are in you will be able to find a quality hotel that range from 3-star to independent hotels. Most famous and most recommended are: Mercure, Novotel and Kyriad Brands.
Budget-friendly Hotels: The farther you go from the central district, the cheaper the accommodations get. This means that if you look for hotels in the suburbs area as well as the ones outside the city proper, you’ll find hotels that are relatively cheaper. There are still chain budget hotels found on the outskirts of the city which are 2-star hotels like Otap, Formule 1 and Ibis hotels.
Hostels and Apartments: Student hostels are usually attached or in closed proximity to universities in the area. If you want to rent an apartment it is also advisable for a few days so it is more practical and convenient especially if you plan to stay in Paris for a while.
If you are only traveling in the city for a short time, it is best to stay within the city. There’s more time for traveling and no need to commute and attractions are just closed at walking distances. But these accommodations near the city are more expensive and are usually fully booked during peak season. If you like to try the cheaper accommodations, you will find them outside the city...
1. Catacombs: Located at the 14th district. It is where the unearthed bones from the excessively full cemeteries of Paris are stored. There are a limited number of people allowed per visit. Only 200 people are allowed to enter at a time. A person can only go in when someone exits. The tour takes 45-60 minutes so it is advisable to go there before it opens. The catacombs hold 6 million 18th century bones stacked together in every halls and alleys.
2. Arc of Triumph: Its grandiose offers a nice view of the central city from the top.
3. The Eiffel Tower: This is the symbol of Paris so it is a landmark that should never be missed. There is only limited number of people allowed per visit so it is important to go there very early.
4. Chateau de Versailles: This majestic palace of Versailles id one of the best tourists spots in Paris. It is where you can find the most astonishing garden that you will never forget for the rest of your life. This was the former house of Antoinette and King Louis XVI and is accessible by train.
5. Notre Dame Cathedral: Along the 4th district lies the famous gothic cathedral of Notre Dame. The high ceilings and the one of a kind stained glass windows are a must see for tourists from all over the world.
6. Opera Garnier: This houses the Paris Opera which was built by King Louis XIV. The Opera Garnier is located at the 9th district and is an architectural masterpiece built by Charles Garnier in the 19th century.
7. The Pantheon of Paris: If Rome has its own Pantheon to boast, Paris has its own too. The Paris Pantheon is a church in structure but a mausoleum in function. It serves as the memorial place for popular people like Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, and Voltaire who were heroes of the French Republic.
8. Saint Chapelle: This 13th century old chapel is actually more spectacular than the famous Notre Dame Cathedral with all its stained glass and intricately designed ceiling.
9. Pére-Lachaise Cemetery: This is the perhaps one of the most visited cemetery in the world. Tourists flock here to visit the tombs of great people in history like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Frederic Chopin among others. Elaborate grave stones and trees lining the pathways are among the reasons why this cemetery is a must see for tourists.
10. Sacré Coeur: This is also famous among tourists. It is a church that is situated on the highest point of Paris. If you want to have a panoramic view of the entire city, you need to go here. Behind the church is an area for the artists.
The Louvre Museum: One of the most popular and magnificent of all the museums in the world. This is very huge and it cannot be toured in just one day. This is the home of the Mona Lisa and other important religious relics in history. It is located at the first district and it contains one of the largest collections of arts and artifacts in the world.