Salut de Paris! Dubbed both the City of Love and the City of Light, Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. According to the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, hotels reported 22.4 million arrivals in 2014. A trip to Paris is on most people’s bucket lists. Are you one of them? As Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea.” Read on for our comprehensive Paris travel guide.
Who should go?
Paris is for lovers: for those in love with art, sightseeing, food, big cities, and with each other. People flock to the city to see the iconic Eiffel Tower they recognize from photographs up close, to immortalize their amour on the rail of a bridge, to gaze at the Mona Lisa and contemplate her expression, and to savour a croissant from one of the quaint boulangeries. From leisurely walks along the Seine to lively cabarets, visitors get a glimpse into the simple joie de vivre France does best. Wake up and head to one of the crowded sidewalk cafes before hitting the museums and galleries and ending the day with a large glass of wine. In Paris, la vie est belle.
Eiffel Tower: Acting as the most prominent symbol of France and one of the best known icons in the world, the Eiffel Tower is the first must-see on any attractions in Paris list. From above, you can enjoy a beautiful panorama of the city. From below, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle on the hour is one of the most romantic moments you could have. Below, the Jardin du Champ-de-Mars is the perfect place for a picnic, where you’ll find people selling wine and champagne, food stalls, souvenirs, and lots of grass to claim your area.
Tickets to ascend the Eiffel Tower can be purchased the day of at the ticket office onsite or online at least one day before your visit. The tower is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., with peak season hours extending until midnight. Different admission rates apply, depending on your age, whether you’re visiting with a group, how far you want to go up, and if you want to take the lift or climb the 704 stairs from the bottom to the second floor. For example, adult lift admission to the second floor is 9 euros, stairs to second floor is 5 euros, and entrance to the top is 15,50 euros. Children under four years old visit for free. Inside, you’ll find shops, restaurants, a champagne bar, and most likely, crowds of people waiting to get their view of this inspiring city. Skip the line guided tour passes are available.
Arc de Triomphe: Located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle, or the Place de l’Étoile, is the Arc de Triomphe. Built between 1806 and 1836, the Arc stands at 163 feet tall and 150 feet wide and has the names of those who fought for France engraved on the inside. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I is in the interior chamber. Rates to ascend the monument are 9,50 euros for adults and free for minors under 18.
Champs-Élysées: This shopping boulevard located between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle (where the Arch de Triomphe is located) is 1.9km long. The famous strip is home to brand name shopping, restaurants, hotels, and the famous Maison Ladurée bakery. Venture off the main strip to the side streets and get a little bit lost as you stumble into more unique shops.
Montmartre: This historic hilltop community was once a place for artists like Picasso and Matisse to live and work. Now, the area still embodies a village-like charm and is home to a variety of quaint restaurants and shops selling mostly the same souvenirs, but also interesting paintings and curiosities. To get to the top, climb the stairs along the church or take the funicular. Buses and metros also stop in Montmartre.
- At Place du Tertre, artists set up their easels to sketch portraits of tourists. Choose to get yours done for a souvenir or watch from one of the restaurant patios surrounding the park.
- The Wall of Love in the Jehan Rictus garden square has the phrase I love you written in many languages, a good photo opportunity for lovers.
- Montmartre’s most famous attraction is the beautiful church, La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre which was constructed from 1876 to 1912. Its white dome sits at the highest point of the city. Steps leading up to the church are a gathering spot for people to relax on a sunny day and watch the buskers below.
- The Montmartre Cemetery and Musée de Montmartre are also places worth visiting.
Pigalle: Down the hill of Montmontre is the Red-Light District, also known as Pigalle. Here you’ll find nightclubs, strip clubs, sex shops, and the famous Moulin Rouge theatre. Moulin Rouge is a cabaret show comprised of 80 artists and elaborate costumes of feathers and rhinestones (and lots of topless ladies). Many people who visit Paris arrange their visit the iconic theatre and enjoy a glamorous dinner and show package.
Musée du Louvre: One of the world’s most famous museums, the Louvre is home to over 35,000 works of art, most notably Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the ancient Greek Venus de Milo sculpture. In addition to pieces by Rembrant, Vermeer, Rubens, and Michelangelo, the building is a piece of architectural mastery on its own. The Louvre became a museum in 1793 and now houses artworks dating back over seven thousand years. The glass Pyramid that acts as the museum’s main entrance was built in 1989. The museum is open every day (except for Tuesday) at 9 a.m. Tickets are 15 euros but there are certain visitor categories and days where the entrance is free so check out the website first. Skip the line guided tour passes are available.
Musée d’Orsay: Housed in an old train station, the Musee d’Orsay has a remarkable collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, and art nouveau work from artistic greats like Monet, van Gogh, Manet, Giverny, and Cezanne. The museum is open every day (except for Monday) at 9:30 a.m. Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the museum for 11 euros (guests under 18 years old are free).
- Art enthusiasts may also want to visit the Musee Marmottan Monet and the Musee Picasso.
Catacombes de Paris: The Catacombs house the remains of six million Parisians buried here between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth century. In 1795, remains of the Cemetery of the Innocents were transferred here with concerns of graveyards affecting public health. Until 1814, all of the cemeteries in Paris transferred their remains here. The labyrinth is 20 meters below ground and filled with maxims, poems, and passages as well as a tableau of bones. Tours of the 2 km underground stretch usually takes about 45 minutes and requires participates to descend 130 steps.
- Paris is home to two famous cemeteries: Cimetière du Père Lachaise is the city’s largest at 110 acres and the 47-acre Cimetière du Montparnasse. On their grounds you’ll find the graves of Vincenzo Bellini, Frederic Chopin, and Oscar Wilde; and Charles Baudelaire, Simone de Beauvoir, John Paul Sartre respectively.
Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris: The construction of this gothic cathedral began in the 12th century and finally finished around 300 years later. Visit to attend a service or simply admire the stunning details in the sculptures and stained glass windows. The Cathedral is open every day of the year, free of charge. Guests who choose to climb the two towers (for a fee) can reach Esmeralda’s Cell (from The Hunchback of Notre Dame), gargoyles, the 13-tonne Emmanuel bell, and viewing platform.
Pont des Arts: On Paris’ pedestrian bridge over the River Seine, Pont des Arts, also known as the Love Lock Bridge, attracts the amorous to bring (or buy) their padlocks and participate in the ritual of writing or engraving their initials or love notes on the lock, attaching it to the bridge, and throwing away the key. Said to showcase a couple’s commitment, locking your love on the Pont des Arts has been a gesture made by tourists since 2008.
Now, with the overwhelming amount of locks affecting the bridge’s structure and safety (an estimated 700,000 in 2014), Paris authorities have removed panels of locks. But don’t worry, there are still some designated areas of the bridge where the tradition lives on.
Galeries Lafayette: This upscale department store has its flagship in Paris. With almost 350 brands and 14 restaurants (including a gourmet food market) spread over 10 stories, Galeries Lafayette is the place for all your couture needs. The store also hosts free fashion shows every week.
Eiffel Tower, Paris Moulin Rouge Show and Seine River Cruise: Visit all three attractions and choose whether you want to enjoy a three-course meal at the Eiffel Tower’s 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant and then enjoy a one-hour river cruise, or dine on board a Seine river cruise followed by a visit to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. Then, you’ll finish off the night with a famous Moulin Rouge performance.
Paris Pass: Great for first-time visitors, this sightseeing pass offers excellent value for your money and includes free admission with fast-track entry to many Paris attractions including the Arc de Triomphe, Musée d’Orsay, Musée du Louvre, and Tours de Notre-Dame. It also includes a hop-on-hop off tour and free use of public transport on the metro Zones 1-3.
Chateaux de Versailles: Take a small group tour from Paris with an audio guide to discover the palace and gardens on a full or half day tour. Discover the Royal Apartments, Hall of Mirrors, Queen’s Bedroom, and the Gallery of Battles. A full day tour of both Versailles and Giverny to see the gardens that inspired Monet’s impressionist masterpieces are also available.
For foodies: Paris is the place for cooking classes, food tours, and wine tastings. Does champagne tasting on the Seine River sound good to you? How about making sweet macarons or cheese tasting in a Paris cheese cellar? Your taste buds will delight in the culinary capital of Paris.
Disneyland Paris: Feel the magic of the characters you know and love like Peter Pan, Pocahontas, and Buzz Lightyear at Disneyland Paris. Go behind the scenes at studios, enjoy thrilling rides and attractions, and dine at one of 29 eateries.
Paris’ thriving neighbourhoods each offer something unique and distinctly Parisian. Whether you want to be in the heart of the tourist action or in a hidden spot favored by locals, Paris has something to suit your style, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels to trendy B&Bs. Here of some of Paris’ popular neighbourhoods:
- Montparnasse: Home to streets of great shopping and diverse pubs and restaurants, Montparnasse is known for its business centres and lookout tower, Tour Montparnasse.
- Montmartre: This hilltop neighbourhood has an air of history and romance, with its cobblestone streets, village feel, and picturesque plazas. Tourists get to explore the place where famous artists once lived and worked and seek hidden gems nestled between tourist sites.
- Bastille: Bastille is known as the hip spot to go out at night. Lined with nightclubs and pubs, the narrow streets are filled with people socializing between club hopping in the evenings. You’ll also find century old buildings and open-air markets with food stalls and bakeries.
- Champs-Elysees: This is the spot for high style and luxury flagship stores. Chic clubs and hotels embody the Parisian ethos, although there are still fast-food restaurants and chain stores lining the avenue.
- The Louvre Area: This area is more touristy than residential, and you’ll find many important sites like the Palais-Royal and Jardin des Tuileries. Here you can enjoy five star hotels, boutique shopping, and leisurely strolls along the Seine.
- Latin Quarter: Filled with students and artsy types, the Latin Quarter is celebrated for its ethnic food, cool nightlife, charming bookstores, record shops, cinemas, and dive bars, and the market on Rue Mouffetard. The University of Paris and a history of visitors from Ernest Hemingway to James Joyce give this area its literary edge.
- Eiffel Tower: Guests of this popular area can enjoy a picnic, photo ops, museums, sightseeing, high end hotels and walks along the Seine. The area is home to government ministries, sophisticated cafes, and gourmet food shops.
When to go and for how long?
Summer in Europe is high season, when temperatures average 25C and museums, attractions and sidewalk bistros are packed with people, though many Parisians leave to vacation during this time. Spring is a good time to visit when temperatures average 20C but nights can be chilly and you may experience some light rain. Visiting during springtime is perfect for exploring the beautiful gardens. Autumn is more crisp and some attractions may be closed, while wintertime has cold temperatures (rarely below 0 though), but attracts visitors for festive lights, winter events, romantic gentle snowfalls, and lower rates. Three to four days is sufficient to explore the city.
Many people visit Paris as part of a tour, where they will usually spend only 1-3 days here before moving on to visit other European cities. If the tour starts or ends in Paris, extending your vacation for a day or two is a good option. Other people who want their fill of the city purchase a Paris vacation package and stay for a week or so before touring other parts of France independently if they wish.
Most visitors to Paris arrive at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), one of the busiest airports in Europe located 23 km away from central Paris. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the city center from the airport and just 10 minutes to Disneyland Paris. Paris’ secondary airport, Paris Orly, is located on the opposite side of the city as Charles de Gaulle and is about 14 km away from central Paris.
Getting from the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to the centre of Paris is easy with the public transport system. Taxi terminals are located just outside the airport and fares range from 50-70 euros. The Metro costs 9,75 euros for the 35 minute ride, while buses cost approximately 6 euros and take 80 minutes. Most people use a coach or airport shuttle which range from 11 to 20 euros and take approximately 60 minutes.
The Paris metro consists of 16 lines and 300 stations. It runs from 5:30 a.m. until 12:40 a.m. and until 1:40 a.m. on weekends. Tickets can be purchased inside the station from a ticket window or vending machine. A single ticket is 1,80 euros for travel within Zone 1. Day tickets are valid for unlimited rides, priced based on the various zones you would like to travel to. Zones 1 and 2 are usually sufficient for travel within central Paris. A day ticket within these two zones costs 7 euros. Day tickets for zones 1-4 is 11.50 euros and includes rides within central Paris and to Versailles.
Hop-on, hop-off tours are a great way to see the city at your leisure for first-time visitors. Transfers and ground transport like private airport shuttles and transportation to Disneyland Resort Paris and Versailles are also available to secure in advance.
Flights: Non-stop flights to Paris average $1000.
Vacation Packages: Our vacation packages include round-trip flights and a hotel stay for the duration of your trip. Prices range from $1000-$2000 per person for a weeklong stay.
Hotels: Hotels range from $80 to $500 per night in Paris. An average quality hotel in the city center costs about $120-$230 per night.
Museums: Free to around 15 euros
Coffee: 2-3 euros
Two-course meal: 20 euros
Cocktail: 7-10 euros
Language: French, but English is widely spoken in most tourist areas
Electricity: 220-240 V