Visiting Paris France
Views from the Paris City bus
Getting around Paris
Paris - the city of elegance, beautiful food, bustling streets, history, innovation, romance, art and literature. Whether you are young or old, a family, alone or on honeymoon Paris is a beautiful place to be.
The many famous landmarks of the city can be seen from open topped tour buses. However I am an old fashioned traveller and believe in quality rather than quantity sightseeing. If you don't manage to see "everything" on your first visit then you will be sure to return and soak up the missed wonders.
On arrival purchase a travel pass for the number of days you will be staying in Paris. This will save you several Euros and can be used on both metro and bus routes. Travel passes are available for one, two three or five days. Children over 12 are full price but check out a reduced rates on weekends when they may get a student rate.
There are several buses that go crosstown in different directions and you can pick up a free metro and bus route map when you purchase the travel cards. Travelling by bus you will get to see Paris sites as well as be amongst Parisians going about their day to day business. This tells you more about Paris than being part of a tour bus.
Most of the staff at the metro customer ticket window speak English and are very helpful. A Berlitz french phrase guide will also also be useful throughout your trip.
Uisng the metro to travel is very simple and extremely safe.
Places to Visit
Paris is so choc full of historic sites it is a good idea to decide which sites are most important to you to see before you go. The pace of the city is busy but the Parisian style is to take service and food seriously. Give yourself lots of time to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy cafe au lait, beer or wine in the abundance of cafe's.
The Gold Guide to Paris by Giovanna Magi (available at most tourist stores) suggests 13 different itineraries in Paris and the Versailles Palace and includes a street map and metro map . Publisher: www.bonechi.com. Cost 10 Euros.
On our recent five day visit to Paris which included two travel days to and from the city via Eurostar we included a visit to The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Montmatre and Le Sacre Couer, San Germain, Shopping and Notre Dame. Travelling with two teen girls shopping was a key highlight and I divided the days into culture and shopping with restaurant and cafe breaks.
Parisian's eat dinner later than in North America which means you have a lot of the day to explore and soak up the atmosphere. Walking along the Seine or sitting outside Notre Dame and listening to the street performers is a relaxing, interesting and free way to spend some time.
You can also browse in the many local stores serving everything from posh frocks, tourist knick knacks, breads and pastries to chickens, dogs and cats.
Hotels in Paris
Depending on your budget choosing a hotel on line in Paris is like opening a box of quality truffles or chocolates that has no guide to the fillings. The city of elegance can be a trifle lax on cleanliness especially in bathrooms and toilets. We chose to stay 4 star and found a good deal combining Eurostar travel with the Novotel at Montparnasse. The room we had was functional, clean and suited us perfectly well for sleeping. The staff were friendly and helpful and we enjoyed coffee, tea and croissants at the bar in the morning for less than 12 euros (for three people) which was very good value. The hotel also offers cooked and continental breakfast for 15 euros per person.
If you are flying directly to Paris or using Eurostar my suggestion is to combine your booking with the airline or Eurostar for the best deal as well as some reassurance that the accommodation will be clean and comfortable.
Montparnasse was a good area for us - it offered great transportation and we felt very safe walking or busing home late at night.
If you do select Novotel one tip is to exit the station at Montparnasse 4 which is closest to the hotel. However if you go wrong walk along the side street to the back of the station - about 7 minutes.
Dining Out in Paris
Where to Eat
There are good local restaurants all over Paris but we also managed to find one very bad one - so be aware of tourist "traps" and look for more locally populated restaurants. The central tourist area restaurants will be the worst value for money and also you will find some excellent restaurants on side streets in those areas.
We absolutely loved Cafe de Flore in San Germain where we ate our final lunch - the food was simple, well cooked and the atmosphere was excellent. It is a little on the higher price side but in our opinion well worth it.
In most average restaurants you can expect to pay between 12 and 15 euros per head for lunch and 15 to 20 euros per head for dinner. Wine is excellent value and for the most part I went with the house vin rouge or vin blanc - which did not disappoint. Of course, for the gastronomes or when not travelling en famille, michelin starred and speciality restaurants will cost far more and you may have to book up to several weeks before your trip.
Links for travel and hotels
- Virgin Vacations
- Hotel Novotel Paris Gare Montparnasse: travel, stay or vacation, holiday at PARIS
- Eurostar : Tickets, Bookings, Timetables, fares and offers
Eurostar (Official Web site): Train ticket, short break, city break, weekends. Travel to Paris, Brussels, Lille, Disneyland Paris, Bruges, Avignon and more than 200 Destinations form Waterloo or Ashford Station