Your Ultimate Guide to Paris Travel
Hailed as one of the most romantic cities in the world, France’s capital of the city is often known as the ‘City of Love.’ It’s also known as the ‘City of Lights.’ Call it whatever you’d like, for you’re not alone in venturing there, along with around 45 million others every year.
Paris has a splendidly rich history that begs to be discovered through its countless landmarks. The cobblestone streets make it easy to embark on walking tours all around, popping into cafés here and there for pastries and tasting the most renowned cuisine on the planet. With outstanding wines, foods, sights, and beauty, Paris is a city you’ll certainly want to discover with your whole heart.
Paris’s Top 5 Most Famous Attractions
Because Paris has so many extraordinarily famous landmarks, it’s very hard to choose which to see first. But if you’re only in town for a short while, you simply can’t miss out on these top 5 most famous attractions in Paris!
- The Eiffel Tower
It’s the most visited attraction in Paris, designed for the Paris Exhibition of 1889 by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. An elevator makes it easy to get up to the top of the Eiffel Tower or take the stairs to the first level – 360 total – and then 344 more of them up to the second level. For the top level, you’ll have to get into the elevator.
Hang on if you’re afraid of heights. The second floor is home to a Michelin-starred restaurant, Jules Verne Restaurant, where you can feast on gourmet meals with a stunning view. Buy your tickets in advance, especially during the high season
- Musée du Louvre
While Paris has many spectacular museums, the Louvre is surely the most famed of them. After all, it’s where the Mona Lisa resides. It was once a palace that was home to the kings of France but now it hosts royalty of another kind…some of the greatest treasures in the art world.
In addition to Leonardo da Vinci’s most famed painting, you’ll also find the Venus de Milo sculpture, the Wedding Feast at Cana painting by Veronese and countless more. When you’re done marvelling inside, step outside to the Jardin des Tuileries, one of the most beautiful parks in the city.
- Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
One of the most famous landmarks of Gothic architecture anywhere, the Notre-Dame is in the heart of Paris. While it started in 1163 by King Louis IX, it took over 150 years to fully construct this historic landmark. Because of this span of time, it features both Early Gothic and Late Gothic styles, making it truly a sight to behold.
Despite the fire that broke out, the cathedral has reopened and is a must-see, especially when you consider some of the most treasured aspects of it somehow escaped harm in the fire!
- Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Tourists certainly flock to the Champs-Elysées, but few of them know it was once but a marshland even up to the 16th century. Elegant by design, it features a lovely park, the Petit Palais museum of fine arts, luxury shops, restaurants, hotels, cafés, theatres and cinemas. You’ll find Tiffany’s here as well as other indulgences.
At the very least, pop in for pastries at one of the French pâtisserie shops, and if you can, arrange to dine at one of the legendary fine dining establishments like Le Fouquet’s or L’Atelier Étoile de Joël Robuchon.
- Seine River Cruises
Paris has so much to see that even if you were to spend a week or two there, you’d still not see it all. If your trip is even shorter than that, you must get aboard the Seine River Cruises to attempt to see more of it, and from a different perspective.
There’s nothing like cruising down the river where you can see the bridges, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre. By day you can see the monuments with ease, but for a more romantic experience, take the evening cruise.
Even if romance isn’t on your agenda, an evening cruise allows you to experience the beautiful illuminations of the landmarks after dark which looks absolutely magical. Cruises that include dinner are also available and another way to discover the best of Paris.
Best Hotels in Paris
Paris’s Top 5 Local Things to Do
How do Parisian locals spend the day in the City of Lights? You typically won’t find them at the top 5 attractions, but more likely, at these top 5 local things instead.
- The Catacombs
While it might sound macabre, the Catacombs of Paris are rather serene despite the skeletal remains of over 6 million people crammed in there. It’s stunningly silent and peaceful and while not every traveller will appreciate it, it does see its share of tourists, however, locals also come to remind themselves of life’s own fragility.
The Paris Sewers are also fascinating and less travelled but will be closed for renovations until 2020. If you’re not planning to visit until then, you may opt to choose that adventure instead to skip the long lines and wait times at the Catacombs.
- The Saint-Ouen Flea Market
Paris is one of the best cities on the planet for shopping, but if you truly want something unique, make sure you visit the Saint-Ouen
- Drink in Luxury
With an array of luxury hotels and palaces that exude complete and utter refinement, even if you can’t afford to stay at one, you can certainly afford to drink in one. The Ritz Paris, for example, was where Ernest Hemingway himself liked to have a drink. Have a glass of bubbly and toast to your blissful travels!
- Join a Street Mural Workshop
Paris sparks creativity in the hearts of many, likely the reason why so many famed artists and musicians have come from this city. There are graffiti workshops where you can paint your very own street mural, helmed by local artists. You get to design your mural and then put it up on a wall in a designated place. Not a bad way to leave a lasting impression on Paris!
- Visit Jim Morrison’s Grave
The legendary musician who tragically joined the 27-club on July 3, 1971, resides forevermore at Père Lachaise cemetery. Other famed musicians, artists, actors, and writers have also been laid to rest including Oscar Wilde and Édith Piaf. Guided local tours can help you navigate the grounds and learn more about the lives of the people that are now buried there.
Paris’s Top 5 Foods to Try
With a long culinary history that sets the standard for gourmet chefs all over the globe, good food and spectacular wine abound in Paris.
Baguettes and croissants,
If you’ve had one in your homeland, perhaps from the local supermarket, it’s not even close to as exquisite. The same goes for the light airy croissants you’ll find all over town. Feel free to sample more
When it comes to desserts, Paris pushes a whole new level of decadence. Among the desserts to try, make sure you grab a colourful macaron or two. Little luxuries that they are, they come in bright colours and amazing flavours like raspberry and rosewater or salted caramel, plus much more.
Don’t forget to try one of the best desserts from Paris…the éclair. Again, this might be something you’ve had before but not in Paris. Here, it is made with exceptional airiness, making it even more fantastically indulgent.
- French cheese
It’s quite hard to go wrong with French cheese. You’ll be fine if you choose camembert or comet, but if you really want to get the full spectrum of French cheese on your stay, you should locate a local
If you’re a seafood lover, particularly of oysters, then you must try French oysters. With impeccable quality and a huge variety that comes from different parts of the coastline, there’s much to sample. Arcachon and Normandy’s oysters are some of the most prized. They’re not cheap, but they’re worth splurging on.
- Duck confit
A true French classic, duck confit is one of the best dishes you’ll ever taste, in Paris, or arguably anywhere. You’ll find it served in many places all over the city. Generally, the better the restaurant, the better the duck confit though many Parisians rave about Chez Dumonet so it might be best to get it there.
Paris’s 5 Quick Tips for Visitors
While they’re quite used to visitors in Paris, you should keep the following things in mind to enjoy your visit all the more!
- Choose centrally-located accommodations
Don’t let price be the only factor when you choose where to stay. Location is incredibly important in Paris. It’s divided into 20 neighbourhoods (called arrondissements) that you should consider.
Look for one that is rated as safe and is close to the things you plan on seeing. When you’re only in town for a short while, you don’t want to be so far removed from the sights that you have to waste time commuting.
- Dinner is later than you might be used to
If you’re used to eating dinner around 6 pm, you should make sure to fuel up on a snack mid-afternoon to keep from getting hangry. Most of the good restaurants won’t open until around 7:30 pm or later as Parisians typically eat dinner between 8 pm and 9 pm. Restaurants usually close between lunch and dinner but you can grab pastries and such from plenty of places to tide you over.
- Take the Metro
The Metro is quite easy to use once you figure out the different lines. Hold your ticket until you get out at your final stop and out of the entire metro system as police often check them inside the station.
Buying a pack of 10 tickets (a carnet) will save you money though for a longer stay, check out the Navigo Pass. Of greatest importance though is that many of the doors on the trains won’t open unless you push a button or lift the handle!
- August isn’t a good month to visit
It’s customary for Parisians to take off a full month in the summertime. Many businesses will close up in August for this reason. The tourist attractions will always be open, however, it’s those local boulangeries, restaurants, and private stores that won’t be open. If you want to fully experience the best of Paris, scheduling your trip for another time will be best.
Lookoutfor pickpockets and scammers
Like any place, Paris isn’t without its petty crimes. But in Paris, there are quite a number of them at the touristy places. It’s always wise to keep an eye on your things everywhere you go. Keep valuables in your sight and never put them in a backpack facing out.
Other scams abound too like asking you to sign a petition that happens to be fake and plenty of distracting techniques to try to snag your valuables.
Final Paris Thoughts
Believe it or not, Paris isn’t as expensive as most people expect. You can enjoy the city for a reasonable amount of money. And the people aren’t as snooty as you’ve heard either.
It’s a beautiful city with stunning history to behold, one that you may have seen in countless photos, though nothing is quite like seeing it with your own eyes, tasting the food with your own taste buds, or living the Parisian life, even if for just a few days.