Paris Travel Guide
- Airport – Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport
- Currency – Euro (EUR or €)
- Language – French
- Population – 2.2 million
- GDP (France) – $2.4 trillion (6th overall)
Paris: The City of Cafés, Crêpes, Art & Fashion
Commonly referred to as the “City of Light,” Paris is the capital of France and a global center of fashion, art, food, and culture. The Seine River divides Paris into two main sections: the Left Bank (La Rive Gauche) and the Right Bank (La Rive Droite). A total of 20 arrondissements organize the city, and each has its own distinct personality and charm. Paris has a “je ne sais quoi” allure that is both indescribable and undeniable.
Keep reading to learn more about Paris’s most well-known attractions as well as its hidden gems. You’ll be planning your trip before you can say “bon voyage!”
Flights & Packing
While the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower might seem a world away, Paris is a reasonable seven-hour flight if going direct from JFK Airport in New York. The time in Paris is ahead of EST by 6 hours. In addition to your passport and a European plug adapter, bring a comfortable pair of shoes to navigate the streets of Paris.
When packing, try to choose multipurpose clothing with neutral colors. Neutral colors are a popular color palette among Parisians.
Once you arrive in Paris, you’ll want to start exploring the different parts of the city. On your first day, a bus or walking tour can help you become oriented with Paris and decide which areas you would like to visit during your trip.
Paris consists of 20 arrondissements, with the first one in the city’s center. The other 19 arrondissements spiral outwards in a clockwise direction, with most tourist attractions located in the first eight arrondissements.
The best advice for exploring the city is to roam the streets. Paris’s arrondissements have distinct personalities, and you never know what you will find as you are strolling around the city. You can also rent a bike from one of the many stations around the city if you are feeling more adventurous. To navigate the city efficiently, take advantage of the metro – you can move between most locations in Paris within 25 minutes.
The Eiffel Tower
No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the iconic Eiffel Tower. The line for this popular attraction can become long, sometimes up to three hours. Buy your tickets online up until the day before your visit. Not only can this trick cut your wait time, you can save the tickets to your mobile device or print them in advance.
Tip: If tickets are sold out in advance and you have to wait in line, get in the shorter line for stairs (instead of elevator) and then walk up to the 2nd floor and buy a supplemental ticket to take you via lift to the top!
Notre Dame de Paris, French for “Our Lady of Paris,” serves as one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture. Open every day, access to this cathedral is free of charge, and all masses and liturgical celebrations are open to the public.
Journey up the 387 steps to take in the incredible views and picture-ready gargoyles. This Tower visit costs a small fee, and a view of the archaeological crypt is also available.
This stunning basilica is a popular Parisian landmark located at the highest point in the city. Take the steps or ride the funicular to access one of the best views of the Paris skyline. After you take advantage of this wonderful spot for photos, you can visit the inside of the basilica for free. If you would like to your portrait done, head towards the nearby artists who have assigned working spaces in Montmartre.
Le Palais Garnier
Visit the inspiration for the Phantom of the Opera and the architect Charles Garnier’s crown jewel to marvel at the opera house’s opulence and Marc Chagall’s breathtaking ceiling. A self-guided tour costs 11 €, and there are guided tours available. Fun fact: An “underground lake” is situated in the bowels of the Palais Garnier.
When you finish your visit, shop on the Boulevard Haussmann, one of the best places to go shopping in Paris. Be sure to visit the Galeries Lafayette, a renowned department store, for its shopping, beautiful interior, and incredible view of Paris from its rooftop.
Paris is well-known for its many art museums. If you plan to visit multiple museums, you can buy the Paris museum pass to gain free entry and to bypass lines to over 50 museums and monuments. Remember to pay attention to the days that certain museums close: municipal museums, including the Musée d’Orsay, are closed on Mondays and national museums, such as the Louvre, close on Tuesdays.
Arguably the most famous museum in Paris, the Louvre houses the Mona Lisa and the title of the world’s largest museum. The Louvre is open every day except Tuesday and admission is 15 €.
Be sure to give yourself time to roam the museum and try to prioritize your top exhibits because the museum is enormous and often crowded.
Le Musée d’Orsay
Housed in a former railway station, the architecture and art housed in the Musée d’Orsay are nothing short of spectacular. Admission is 12 €, and the museum is closed on Mondays. Don’t miss its extraordinary collection of Impressionist art.
Le Musée Rodin
A “hidden gem” in Paris, this 18th-century mansion and sculpture garden displays many of the sculptor Rodin’s famous works, including “The Thinker.”
Open every day except Monday, this museum boasts both beautiful architecture and sculpture. Stop by its late night opening on Wednesday to have your night at the museum (until 8:45, that is). Admission is 10 €, a small price to pay for access to the museum and the picturesque sculpture garden.
Le Centre Pompidou
Named after Georges Pompidou, the President of France who commissioned the building, this museum is renowned for its vast collection of modern art and unique architecture. The exposed skeleton of the building consists of brightly colored tubes that lend the museum an instantly recognizable appearance. A ticket to the museum costs 14 €.
Cooking classes are a fun way to learn about French food and, of course, to sample your tasty creations. La Cuisine Paris, L’Atelier des Gâteaux, and other cooking schools offer classes in French and English on a range of topics. If you have a sweet tooth, you can learn to make French macarons and other pastries.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Take a break from your fast-paced tour of Paris to relax in this garden. Located in the 6th arrondissement, this garden is easily accessible and known for the monumental Medici Fountain, Luxembourg Palace, and countless flowerbeds. The garden is centered on a basin of water that is a popular site for children to sail model boats. This garden serves as a getaway from the bustling streets of Paris.
Day Trip to Giverny
Take the train to Giverny, the village where the painter Claude Monet lived and worked for 43 years. Visit Monet’s gardens and home to feel as if you stepped inside of a painting. Some of Monet’s most famous works are of his gardens, including his famed water lily series. After seeing Monet’s breathtaking gardens and home, be sure to check out the Musée des impressionnismes to learn about the history of the movement. Simply put, this trip to the heart of impressionism is certainly worth the train ride.
Boat Cruise on the Seine
Don’t leave Paris without taking a scenic boat ride on the Seine. You can choose to take a dinner cruise or a scenic cruise to rediscover the magic of Paris. A boat cruise will allow you to view Paris from a different perspective as you glide under bridges and spot famous monuments.
Crêpes and Cafés
Nutella and strawberries, ham and cheese, sugar and butter. My mouth waters from thinking about the variety of crêpes. Crêpes are simply delicious and perfect as either a snack or a meal. With both sweet and savory options, you can eat them around the clock. Countless crêperies dot the streets of Paris, so you can satisfy your craving for crêpes easily.
Cafés form a central part of French culture. To immerse yourself in Paris, stop by local cafés, leisurely sip your coffee, and partake in the “café culture.” Don’t miss Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore, two famous cafés that served as the rendezvous of French intellectuals and that are located in Saint-Germain-des-Près.
If you are a fan of the French film Amélie, be sure to stop by the Cafés des 2 Moulins, which was featured in this classic film.
Meals play an important role in French culture, serving as breaks in the day and moments for lively conversation. Be aware that Parisians eat small breakfasts and later dinners than most Americans. Dinners are often several courses and can last longer than typical dinners in the United States. While it can be difficult to go wrong with Parisian restaurants, check out some of my favorite spots below and remember to save room for dessert!
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte
Visit this restaurant for the best steak-frites in Paris. It has a set menu: a house salad followed by two servings of delicious steak and fries. Their top-secret green sauce tops off steak that is cooked to perfection. Beware of lines: this spot lives up to its popularity.
Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie
For classic French food and friendly servers, stop by Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie in the 1st arrondissement. This restaurant is well-known for its foie gras dishes. If you are feeling adventurous, be sure to try the foie gras ravioli in cream and truffle sauce. Save room for their incredible desserts! This restaurant is a gem in Paris, and you can make reservations online to reduce your wait time.
After visiting Notre Dame, head over to this ice cream shop to sample their mouthwatering ice cream flavors. The unusual flavors, including fig and pineapple basil, make this ice cream worth the price and the wait.
Make sure to bring cash because this shop does not accept credit cards. Eat your ice cream by the Seine for the full experience!
With countless sights and sounds, your trip to Paris will be nothing short of spectacular no matter where you choose to visit.
“Paris is the only city where you can step out of a railway station —and see, the Seine with its bridges and bookstalls, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Tuileries Gardens, the Place de la Concorde, the beginning of the Champs Elysees—what other city offers as much as you leave a train?”