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Free WiFi Hotspots in Paris
Coming from Estonia, where the internet has been declared a human right, connecting yourself to get news from home or to share this wonderful city with your friends seemed particularly backwards and outdated. With the new decade the situation has started to improve quite fast, especially for people on longer stays where you have time to get a relatively cheap phone contract including illimited 3G or even 4G connection. But if visiting Paris for only few days or weeks it remains quite of a task.
Here's how to get back online in the order of the ease of access:
The biggest network of free Wifi hotspots is maintained by the American chain McDonald's. All of the McDonald's restaurants, despite belonging to different franchises have free unlimited hotspots. Luckily, McDonald's is huge in France and the restaurants are all over the place. Even if you're not a great fan of their cuisine, it's a great idea to find out addresses of closest McDonald's restaurants from your hotel, there's always at least one McDonald's less than 10 minutes walking distance from wherever you find yourself in Paris.
Visiting McDonald's during your trip to Paris is not as sinful as we might believe - their menus always consist a few special items available only in France such as burgers with French bread, traditional sauces (Béarnaise, French mustard sauce and others) and French cheeses instead of classic cheddar - brie, comté, blue cheeses and goat cheese.
Although there's quite big odds that its cold, windy and raining during your stay in Paris, you might still get lucky - if that's the case then there are some more good news for you. Since 2011 the City of Paris has started a project to create more free hotspots in Paris, under this project one in four public parks, gardens or squares had an hotspot installed. Currently in 18 arrondissements (municipal districts) out of 20 there's over 110 parks with "Wifi oasis" installed in them.
Here's a list of all public parks with their addresses where you can connect yourself to the internet. (Opens in a new tab)
Other Public Hotspots
Besides the parks and public gardens you also find hotspots in city halls of arrondissements, museums ran by the City and libraries. Here's a link to a map with all the public hotspots installed by the local government.
Once again, an American chain is making sure the Parisians would be tweeting about their coffee-flavored hot milk. You might have guessed I'm not a big fan of Starbucks myself, so I have never been there for their internet connection but I know quite a few friends who have been saved by the green mermaid. You don't need any usernames or passwords to connect yourself but be ready for a few glares if your computer is not of the pomaceous kind.
Wifi in Hotels
Limited, slow, often paid service and always accessible only with long and complicated usernames and passwords, the wifi supplied by hotels does not get a good spot in my eyes. We add the fact that most probably a hotel room in Paris reminds more of a big closet with a small window and walls under strange angles - I would say you'd be better off finding a cafe or my favorite - taking a trip to the Pompidou Centre's library to connect yourself to the internet.
Freewifi, SFR, Bouygues & Orange
Finally, the densest network of Wifi hotspots is provided by the French big four telecom companies, Free, SFR, Bouygues (pronounced "bwig") and Orange. It is quite frustrating to see "FreeWifi" or "SFR Wifi Public" appear in your list of available networks, only followed by bitter discovery of login screens. Despite its name, Freewifi is all but free service, especially after later developments where the number of simultaneous accesses authorized per username was reduced to four, this effectively rendering username and password sharing websites and forums useless. Until this January 2013 it was quite simple to find logins from the internet but now your best bet would be to call a Parisian friend who could "borrow" you their login for a few days.
That's also the main reason why despite having thousands of hotspots on each street corner and 9 cafes out of 10, none of the wifi hotspots supplied by the French telecommunications giants isn't of real interest for someone just arrived to the city.