Utlimate Paris Visitor's Guide!
Everything You Need To Know About The City of Lights
The Eiffel Tower is a huge structure that is the city's most popular landmark.
In the City of Love, there is a lot to love.
Paris is romantic, sophisticated but also simple, modern and at the same time historic. At night, with the lights from landmarks shimmering off the Seine, it glitters like a classic chandelier, as alluring as a dazzling French julie femme.
There's a reason Paris is called The City of Lights.
With massive museums, famous landmarks, cafes on every corner, fun bars and one of the world's most beautiful rivers at night, Paris is a prime tourist destination.
This site has all types of information on Paris, starting with getting to know the city, using the Metro, walking in Paris, top sightseeing attractions, the experience of dining in Paris and its best bars, clubs and nightlife.
Paris Key Travel Tips
More Info to Know Before You Go
The fountain at St. Michel is a central gathering place.
Here's are some interesting facts, information and travel tips about Paris:
CITY OF LIGHTS – Paris has earned this moniker because many of its structures light up at night. This includes the Eiffel Tower and all 36 bridges across the Seine.
HOTEL DE VILLE – Signs point to this landmark, which is where City Hall office are located. It's a large, beautiful building with a big courtyard.
TIPPING – Is is common to leave about a 10% tip on meals. Bar tipping, while certainly not discouraged, is less common.
TOURS – Red and yellow double-decker buses, and even barges, offer on/off tours of Paris' major sites. They provide an efficient way to visit the main areas, which you can later explore in more detail on your own. Plus, you can enjoy a ride around the city to establish bearings and landmarks.
WEATHER – Paris reaches a peak temperature of 25C in July; it can be humid, though this isn't the tropics. In May, the average is 19C, and stays warm thru October, which has an average daytime temperature of 16C (9.5 at night). The coldest month is January (7C and 2.6 at night)
Arrival & Orientation, Transportation and The Metro
Even Being Lost in Paris is a Pleasure
This park at the Louve is a place to relax in Paris.
People put flowers on the gravesite of Jim Morrison.
Paris has two airports. Orly and the disappointing Charles de Gaulle. We say disappointing because deGaulle was perhaps the greatest leader in French history yet the airport that bears his name is old, narrow and short on facilities. Many travelers have missed flights attempting to get from one gate or terminal to another, as this requires exiting the airport and re-entering through security.
Fortunately, escape to the city is easier to navigate, via the Metro (8 Euros, about 40 minutes to the central de Halle station; it's called the RER which means the suburban express), or Air France Bus (13, check for dropoff locations) or taxi (about 40 Euros). From Orly, the Air France bus takes about 25 minutes; there is no Metro but a RER bus trip is about 45 minutes.
Six train stations serve Paris. They have tourists offices, cafes and all connect to the Metro.
Upon arriving in Paris the first order of business is to obtain a map. Any hotel has them, and there are even maps posted on large billboards at key areas in the city. One thing the maps do not mark are the neighborhoods, so one could wander into, say, The Latin Quarter, without realizing it for a while.
Boats on the Siene, the river that cuts right through Paris.
Bridges cross the Siene to tourists can cross it several times a day.
Here's one reason Paris is so romantic; you can sit on steps at the Siene.
For orientation purposes, the Seine is an idea landmark; it basically cuts the city in half. It's many bridges encourage crossings, so it's a constant reminder of location. The signs and maps throughout the city are a nice touch but the weakness is that while they may points to a particular area, there are no follow-up signs letting tourists know when they actually arriv. But remember, even being lost in Paris is a pleasure.
The Latin Quarter, Rue St-Germain and many of the "typical Parisian" cafes are located on what is called the Left Bank. The Right Bank is more commercial with shopping (just walk down Rue de Rivoli as proof) as well as the Louvre and Champs-Elysées. If there is any such thing as a "main intersection" in Paris, it's at of Rue St. Micelle and St-Germain.
Outside of Notre Dame there's signs for navigation.
The fountain park and Metro stop at St. Michel at the entrance to The Latin Quarter is a central gathering place and Notre-Dame is just across the Seine. Backpackers and a similar crowd gather on the Right Bank at the Place Beaubourg. It's on Rue Burger; the main cross-street is blvd. de Sebastopol. The hideous Centre Pompidou is here.
A typical street scene in Paris, bikes on a curb in front of a cafe.
St. Michel is one of Paris' major thoroughfares.
Paris has one of the world's best public transportation systems, The Metro. It goes everywhere one would need go to in town and is easy to use. The Metro operates from 5:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Tickets are valid for up to two hours after departing a station. Daily and weekly passes are available.
Taxis are plentiful, though it's often best to grab one at a taxi stand. There is a small additional charge after 5 p.m. The drivers are generally trustworthy, but have at least a knowledge of where you are going; occasionally, drivers like to go in circles to run up the fare.
Best of all, Paris is a great walking city. There are so many interesting streets, sites and areas to explore; one could easily head out intending to spend a couple of hours and wind up being gone all day. Cafes are everywhere and there are several parks and benches, so pauses are plentiful. Just be sure and take along bottled water, especially in warm months.
At night, starting at about dusk, the strolling is at its most spectacular. Parisians come out for casual walks and barges crawl down the Seine. It's peaceful, romantic and leaves no doubt that one is indeed in Paris.
It must be noted, though, that while many of the landmarks may appear to be close, indeed they are not, so what might seem to be a short strol coult take half an hour or more.
Accommodations & Where to Stay
Rooms Can Be Found Any Time of the Year
Because Paris is such a great walking city, PubClub recommends staying as close to the attractions travelers find most attractive. For us, that's in the Latin Quarter/St.-Germain or Bastille areas. The former is centrally located to cafes, sites, the Seine and close enough to walk to Bastille (or a 5 Euro cab ride).Price ranges are 70-200 Euros a night. More budget-minded travelers should try the other side of the Siene, off Rue de Rivoli.
For those who arrive in Paris without reservations, don't sweat it. It may take a bit of investigating, but rooms can be found at any time of year in all price ranges. The Office de Tourisme de Paris is at 127 Champs-Elysées, open 9 a.m.-8 p.m., with satellite offices at the Eiffel Tower (May-Sept.) and in the train stations.
The Sites: Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees,
Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, The Louvre
Looking up at the towering Eiffel Tower.
There's a lot of activity at the Eiffel Tower.
No trip to Pairs would be worth the journey without seeing the Eiffel Tower. But it's hardly the only landmark in the city. It would be equally foolish not to step inside Notre-Dame, walk down Champs-Elysees, see the Arc de Troumphe and at least look at the Louvre (seeing the Louvre and actually going inside are two different things; it's usually impossibly crowded)
The Arc de Triomphe contains an excellent WWII museum.
ARC DE TRIOMPHE – Commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate French victories in battle, it proudly stands at the end of the Champs-Elysées. It is in the middle of a roundabout where 13 roads come together! Getting to the actual structure requires navigating a series of crosswalks to an underground tunnel. Climb to the top for a great view of the city (it's 8 Euros to visit to the structure); there is also an excellent WWII museum to explore. The Germans, in what has to be one of the darkest moments in French history, marched by the Arc de Triomphe after taking the city in 1940. Four years later, the German commander thankfully ignored Hitler's order to level Paris prior to the allies' liberation. On 14 July – the French National Day, which is called Bastille Day everywhere except in France – a military parade down the Champs-Elysées begins here. Metro Stop: Charles de Gaull- Etoile.
The scene along Champs-Elysees, Paris' most famous street.
AVENUE DES CHAMPS-ELYSEES – The world's most exclusive shopping street, this massive (multi-lane) road is lined with luxury shops, as well as cafes and cinemas. It's not as polished as one might think – for starters, too many Parisians are grabbing quick lunches at fast-food burger joints rather than at the low-paced cafes – but it's worth a look. A grand tree-lined park is on one end, the Jardins des Champs-Elysées.
EIFFEL TOWER – The symbol of Paris, this 276-meter metal structure towers above the Siene and offers the best views of the city. More than six million people visit annually and in the summer, it seems as if they are all in line in front of you waiting to ride the elevators to the top (10.70 Euros to the summit, 7.50 to the second level and 4.10 to the first level). An alternative is to climb the stairs (3.80 and lines are considerably shorter), or walk to the second level and take the elevator from that point. The best time to go is an hour before sunset. There is an excellent restaurant mid-level. In addition to the tower itself, there is a large park for reading and relaxing. While swarming with tourists, it thankfully is not overwhelmed by tacky souvenir stands. Metro Stop: Bir-Hakaem.
The famous Mona Lisa in the Lourve.
The Musee du Lourve is the most visited museum in the world.
THE MUSEE DU LOUVRE – The largest, oldest and most visited museum in the world, The Louvre has art and artifacts from eras and cultures throughout mankind. It's huge, so grab a visitor's guide in the bookstore and have at it. Among its collections are the Mona Lisa. The Louvre is more popular even than the Eiffel Tower, so lines to get inside can be almost as enormous as the museum itself (8.50 Euros). Visiting the Louvre is an all-day adventure.
The cutoff point for the Louvre's collections is 1848; the Musee d' Orsay has art between 1848-1903 and the Pompidou has art starting in 1904. As relief after walking through its massive interior, the Tuileries and Carrousel gardens provides a spacious area for relaxing in the park or by two ponds. Metro Stop: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre station.
Being inside Notre Dame Cathedral is an inspiring experience.
At the alter of Notre Dame Cathedral.
Notre Dame Cathedral is on the banks of the Siene.
CATHEDRALE NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS – A captivating cathedral, Notre-Dame sits in the center of the Siene and is one of Paris' most spectacular structures. .Built between 1163 and 1361, it features rose windows with the Infant Jesus in the arms of Mother Mary and the Last Judgment plus plenty of pews for individual prayer and meditation. .It is open every day from 9:15 a.m.,-6 p.m. (free) and at night, its courtyard is a gathering place for hundreds. Free organ recitals are held every Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Notre-Dame is the top tourist site in Paris with 10 million visits annually. Metro Stop: Notre-Dame.
THE SEINE – Nothing says "Paris" as much as a stroll along the Seine, the river cutting through the heart of the city. Whether seen from the side Quays, along its banks, on steps leading down to the banks, along one of the many bridges, or even on the river itself, the Seine is Paris' calming force. The views, particularly at night with the lights shining from the buildings and barges, cause people to pause to literally reflect on the day behind them and the night ahead. It is this unhurried attitude in an otherwise hurried city that slows down the Paris experience, putting it all into perspective. Pont Nuef is the oldest bridge in Paris, dating to 1607.
The view of Paris from Sacre Couer.
Dining in Paris
Regardless of the waiter's pace, they all say, "Bon Appetite"
Dining in Paris is a lot like being on a sailboat: Getting there is half the fun.
There are so many excellent restaurants, brassieres and cafes in Paris, it's difficult to pinpoint which specific ones to choose. So enjoy the experience. Stroll around to find a restaurant. Read the menus. See where others are dining and what they are eating (many tables are on a patio or directly on the sidewalk).
Where to look? Start the stroll down St. Michel. Turn down St.-Germain; it's practically one cafe after another.
Just about any choice will prove to be satisfactory. The food is outstanding, the wine excellent and the waiters are not rude. Some do, however, move at the speed of a Metro train, racing from table to table as if their car is about to get towed. Regardless of the waiter's pace, they all say, "Bon Appetite" with each dish they deliver. It's a very nice touch.
For lunch, we recommend Cafe Panis (21 Quai Montebello) with a view of Notre-Dame out the door and the open-air windows. The Toasted Country Sandwich has ham, frommage and goat cheese for 7 Euros. Soups, sandwiches and entrees are also on the menu.
Dinner time is anytime, but cafes are most crowded from 10-midnight. Despite the pace of some of the waiters, the pace of the diners is slow. Eating out in Paris is an experience, a destination in itself. Most places take credit cards, but tips are in cash.
In addition to the restaurants, there are many local shops selling pastries, sandwiches, frommage and other satisfying choices, which provide a perfect picnic in a park or along the Seine.