Dreams definitely do come true…once upon a time Paris was just some far off place that I had read about…
And now after countless visits to the magnificent City of Lights, I would like to share some of my favorite moments, and places with you so that you can enjoy this magical city too with these super helpful Paris Travel Tips!
Happiness is Paris anytime of the year
Paris Travel Tips: Packing for Paris
I learned the hard way after having experienced being unprepared for unexpected weather in Paris. So lucky for you I am well-equipped to advise you on how to avoid being caught on a Paris City Boat Tour without a scarf!
As I mentioned above, the weather in Paris can be a little tricky, so it’s best to be as prepared for anything as you can be. I have experienced weather ranging from heat wave (une canicule) to ice (la glace) and snow (la neige)!
Don’t leave home without
- A scarf: This is without a doubt the single most important item that you can take along on your Paris trip. If you are a Douglas Adams fan, you might appreciate that my scarf is my towel. It can be used to keep the wind off your face, as a shoulder covering, as a light blanket, to sit on in a park for a picnic or even on public transport, or as a pillow while travelling by plane or train. If the wind picks up you can use it to keep your hair off your face. I often put my scarf down to perform my yoga headstands on.
- Comfortable walking shoes
- A Raincoat and/or umbrella
Paris Travel Tips: Travelling to Paris
There are 2 airports near Paris: North of Paris lies Roissy Charles de Gaulle and to the South you will find Orly. Most intercontinental flights arrive at Roissy CDG. Both airports are well positioned on train lines that connect to the centre of Paris, or you can take a taxi for either €50 or €55 depending on your destination.
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The European rail network is perfect for discovering many European cities. A train station in French is la gare. These are the major train stations in Paris:
- Gare de Lyon
- Gare du Nord
- Gare d’Austerlitz
- Gare de l’Est
- Gare Montparnasse
- Gare Saint-Lazare
- Gare du Bercy
You can book your tickets to Paris or the rest of France or Europe on online. They offer a very handy trip planner and you can book individual tickets (one way or return) as well as rail passes for one, two or many European countries. I have visited France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Monaco by train…and will definitely use Rail Europe again in future.
Read about some of my European train adventures.
Paris Travel Tips: Staying in Paris
As a top tourist destination there is no shortage of accommodation options in this beautiful city. You can choose between staying in a hotel or in a holiday rental. Each has it’s own benefits:
Hotels are great because they provide services to tourists which can be extremely useful when you are in a new city and need some advice. Some of these services include providing guests with a free city map and giving directions to the most popular tourist attractions, recommending restaurants and/or tours and making the necessary arrangements or reservations, calling a taxi and storing your luggage if you arrive at the hotel before the check-in time or if you have a late departure.
My absolute favorite hotel in Paris is Hotel Emile. It used to be a cute two-star budget hotel called Le Sevigne, but it was upgraded a few years ago into the stylish boutique hotel it is today. They serve a satisfying French breakfast in the morning and you just can’t beat the location! The rooms are small but comfortable and you are steps away from trendy bars and café’s, Metro line 1 (Saint Paul), the best shopping district (I think) in Paris, Le Marais, and walking distance to the Seine, Notre Dame, the left bank and Latin Quarter, Place des Vosges and the Bastille. Read on for more info on Le Marais and surrounds.
Paris Apartment or Vacation Rentals
Although one might miss out on some of the useful assistance that I mentioned above, I honestly prefer to stay in a rented apartment for a number of reasons:
- Apartments are often larger and more spacious than hotel rooms
- Having a kitchen allows you the freedom to prepare your own meals thereby saving you a lot of money
- I always feel more comfortable and at home in an apartment than in a generic hotel. Most hotels could be in any city in the world and it wouldn’t make any difference. An apartment will have (even if only a few) clues and insights into a bit of the local culture.
Flipkey by Tripadvisor is a great resource to find affordable rental apartments and read honest reviews by other travelers. You can search their site for rental types under categories: Beach rentals, Kid-friendly rentals, rentals with a pool or rentals with a hot tub.
Paris Travel Tips: Best times to visit Paris
Paris is the kind of destination that can be enjoyed any time of the year..so this is almost almost a no-brainer…
If you ask me honestly, when is the best time to visit Paris? My answer will be simply:
Anytime is Paris time
That being said, however, there are some things to keep in mind when planning your Paris trip
Weather and time of year
Winter can be absolutely beautiful in Paris and you may be lucky enough to experience the magic of Paris under the snow. But the wind chill can be brutal so dress accordingly. If you visit during December you will be able to enjoy the fantastic Paris Christmas market that takes place every year along the world-famous Champs-Elysses.
Summertime is a wonderful time to travel to Paris and you will have a chance to enjoy spending time outdoors and indulging in a traditional French pastime le picnic. There are also special Summer outdoor events and exhibitions, like music festivals and the Paris plage (when the banks of the Seine river are transformed into a faux beach and everyone who is anyone can be found sunbathing and enjoying the Summer vibe.
Paris can become very hot in Summer and you can expect prices of transport and accommodation to be higher because of the busy season. Longer queues for museums and crowded attractions can also be a bit of a disadvantage at this time of year.
I would suggest that the best times to visit Paris are from April through June or in September. There will be less crowds and more affordable accommodation. But always be prepared for all sorts of unexpected weather…just in case.
Paris Travel Tips: Language and Etiquette in Paris
Remember that you are visiting this country as a guest, therefore making an effort with the language is very important for two reasons:
- It shows respect for the host country and it’s inhabitants
- For your own convenience and safety
Perhaps learning a new language seems tough, but a few key phrases will make you feel more confident and help you find what you need.
Here are some tips:
- Always greet people with “bonjour, madame” or “bonjour, monsieur” and a smile.
- If you need assistance, say “S‘il vous plait…” either before or after “bonjour…”.
- Thank them with “Merci, madame/monsieur”
- And always say good-bye: “Au revoir, Madame/Monsieur,” and a “Bon journee” will give you bonus points.
Learn these important words and phrases – you never know when you may need them in a hurry
Where is the – Où est…
- Toilet – la toilette
- Taxi/bus/train station – le taxi / le bus / la gare
- Hospital – L’hôpital
- Police station – la poste de police
- Tourist information – l’office de tourisme
- Entrance – entreé
- Exit/emergency exit – la sortie / sortie de secours
- Push/pull (on a door) – pousser / tirer
- Stop – arretez
- Warning – attention
- Forbidden (eg: smoking is forbidden) – interdit
- Pharmacy – la pharmacie
- Doctor – le médecin
- Pain – douleur
- Please help me – Aidez-moi s’il vous plaît
- Help! – Au secours!
Other helpful French phrases to use in Paris
- Leonardo’s Mona Lisa painting that you will find in the Louvre – La Jaconde
- Eiffel Tower – Tour Eiffel
- The underground train/subway – le metro
- Coffee orders: a short, strong black coffee is the traditional way to drink coffee in France…and you simply ask for un café. A double espresso is un double and a coffee with milk, will be café au lait, or with cream, café creme. If you would prefer a weaker coffee, you can order un café allongé.
My Favorite Neighborhood in Paris
Le Marais is without a doubt my favorite neighborhood (arrondissement) in Paris.
It is a melting pot of artists, hipsters, fashionistas, students and foodies.
You will find art galleries, designer clothing as well as vintage stores, the best falafel in Paris, trendy gay bars, and plenty of Parisians going about their daily lives.
The very first time I visited Paris I remember watching with bated breath from my hotel room window (Hotel Sevigne, now Hotel Emile) as two men argued over a woman. I felt as if I had been transported into a French soap opera…but this was reality. I was observing the locals in their natural environment! The passionate French words between the 3 parties on the street below were like music to my foreign ears and there was so much excitement that a scooter was actually knocked over, causing even more chaos! It was just like reality TV!
Le Marais Highlights
Eat in Le Marais: King Falafel Palace
Shop in Le Marais: vintage shops on Rue Rivoli
Picnic in Le Marais: Place des Vosges
Paris Travel Tips: Eating in Paris
There is an abundance of eating options in Paris. Don’t be afraid to venture away from the tourist spots into the quieter areas. Restaurants servicing the most popular areas of the city tend to be pricey and generic.
My favourite places to eat in Paris
- Saravanaa Bhavan: Indian restaurant near Gare du Nord (vegetarian) @ 171 Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis
- King Falafel Palace: Middle Eastern food in Le Marais @ 26 Rue des Rosiers
- Dragons Elysées – Chinese restaurant just off the Champs-Elysées (see image below) @ 11 Rue de Berri
Paris Travel Tips: Getting around Paris
The best way to explore Paris is on foot. But you can’t walk everywhere and you’re bound to get tired. If you are staying for a few days consider getting a Paris Pass. It’s valid for 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days and includes unlimited travel in Paris on the metro, RER, buses and tramway within central Paris, free entry to over 50 of Paris’ world famous attractions, including the Louvre Museum, Arc of Triumph, Notre Dame, Palace of Versailles, Musée d’Orsay, Tropical Aquarium, Grevin Wax Museum and more. You will also get a free Seine River Day Cruise with Bateaux Parisiens!
Paris Travel Tips: Paris Tours
Paris Travel Tips: Day Trips from Paris
Paris Travel Tips: Shopping in Paris
BHV – department store @ 52 Rue de Rivoli
Galeries Lafayette – department store @ 40 Boulevard Haussmann
Hunt down Vintage treasures along Rue de Rivoli
Splurge on designer clothes on the Champs-Elyseés or in Le Marais district
Not to be Missed in Paris
- Paris city tour
- Enjoy a Seine River cruise
- Visit Notre Dame Cathedral
- View the wonderful Eiffel tower
- Stroll the length of the Champs-Elyssés
- Place de la Concorde and Jardin des Tuileries
- Arc de triomphe
- Latin quarter
- Musée du Louvre and Musee d’Orsay – click here for 10% off Musée d’Orsay and Giverny Home and Gardens tour
Paris for Free
Pack a lunch and some water and see where you end up. Here are some of my favorite picnic spots in Paris:
- Square René Viviani
- Places des Vosges
- Eiffel Tower