Let’s be completely honest: You can either love or hate Paris. There is no in between. I’ve heard so many mixed-up reviews about this city, and most of them were really negative. People told me that Paris is dirty and unsafe, and the French people are really rude. But let me tell you something – after being there for 5 days I seriously have no clue where are all this negativity is coming from! Paris is an absolutely wonderful city, so don’t let others discourage you to visit! Not convinced yet? Just go through this Paris Travel Guide and I’m sure by the time you finish you’ll be already searching for flight tickets!
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Table of Contents
The Ultimate Paris Travel Guide
Paris is the capital city of France, located in western Europe. It is one of the most visited city in Europe – Paris received around 23 million tourists in 2018. Shocking, right?
Paris is home to more than 2.1 million people. If you are a first-timer in Paris you might be surprised, but Paris is a really diverse city when it comes to the demographics. About 80% of the population was actually born in France, the rest are immigrants mainly from Asia and Africa. The first wave of international migration started back in the 19th century and Paris has always been a popular choice amongst immigrants ever since.
The official language of Paris is French. I bet you’ve already heard the stories that French people don’t really like to speak English. While this is mostly true for the rest of France, English is actually widely spoken in Paris. So you don’t have to stress if you don’t speak French, English will do just fine. On the other hand knowing a few French words or phrases are always helpful!
Most useful French phrases for travelers:
• Bonjour – Hello (used from morning until dusk)
• Bonsoir – Good evening
• Oui – Yes
• Non – No
• S’il vous plait – Please
• Merci (beaucoup) – Thank you (very much)
• Excusez-moi – Excuse me
• Au revoir – Goodbye
Currency & ATMs
Like in many other European countries, the Euro (€) is the official currency in France. You can easily find ATMs anywhere in the city and credit cards are widely accepted. However there is usually a minimal limit for credit card payments, like 10-15 Euros. Therefore it’s wise to have some cash in your pocket as well, just in case.
France is part of the European Union and the Schengen Area. That means if your country of origin is also a member of the Schengen Area you can enter France without a visa. There are many more countries that can enter visa free for a short-term stay, like the US, UK or Australia. You can check the full list on the Schengen Visa Info Website.
Best time to visit Paris
Paris is a true year-round destination. Seriously, there is something magical in each and every season, like cherry blossoms in spring or the colorful leaves in autumn. In this Paris Travel Guide I’m gonna tell you all the pros and cons for the different seasons. Let’s see!
During springtime (March-May) the maximum temperature is constantly rising from 12°C in March up to 20°C in May. The weather is still unpredictable in the beginning of spring and a light rain can occur almost any time during the season. Be prepared with an umbrella or a raincoat!
Late spring is one of the best times to visit Paris, especially because of the blossom season. The whole city will be covered with colorful flowers and green plants, so a beautiful backdrop is guaranteed!
The summer period (June-August) is not so hot in Paris, the average temperature ranges around 20-25°C. Generally this is the driest period of the year so with a bit of luck you won’t see any rain clouds above your head. The days are really long, the sun rises around 6am and sets around 10pm.
Although the weather is perfect for strolling around the city, unfortunately you are not the only one thinking that. Paris is always crowded with travelers but summer is the absolute peak season for tourism. If you don’t tolerate the crowd too well, it’s best to avoid the summer months.
The autumn months (September-November) tend to be windy and wet in general. During this period the maximum temperature gradually decreases from 21°C in September to 11°C in November. Make sure to pack some warm, waterproof clothes!
Despite the challenges in the weather, autumn – especially early autumn – is a really great choice for visiting Paris. In early autumn the locals are starting to return from their summer holiday and the tourist crowds are getting thinner and thinner. But the best thing about autumn is definitely the colorful changing foliage on the trees which makes Paris even more magical than it already is.
Paris is often called the City of Light and there is no better season to experience the sparkling city lights than winter! The days are slowly getting shorter, in the darkest period the sun only rises around 8.30am and sets already at 5pm. That means you will have plenty of time to adore the festive lights and decoration!
The average temperature ranges around 5-8°C during the day, which makes Paris a lot more warmer than other European cities. Rainfalls are more frequent in winter than in the rest of the year. Although Paris is really gorgeous when the whole city is covered with white snow, unfortunately snow is not so common in winter. If you somehow manage to catch some snowy days in Paris, consider yourself very lucky!
How much time do you need to spend in Paris
Spending one day in Paris is definitely not enough, but on the other hand you can still see a big chunk of the city if you plan your itinerary well. And to be honest seeing only a few of the most famous sites and experiencing a little Parisian vibe is a lot better than having nothing. So if you have only one day to spend in Paris, then still go for it!
However if you want to see more of Paris, I would say allow yourself at least 3 days for exploring. In 3 days you can cover most of the must-see spots, visit a few museums and taste a lot of French sweets.
Paris is packed with many amazing museums like the Musée du Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay. If you are a true museum lover, 3 days in Paris would definitely not be enough for you. In this case I would suggest planning like 4-7 days depending on how many museums you plan to visit.
There are many great daytrip opportunities from Paris. Disneyland is a really popular choice, even if you are an adult you will absolutely love it! There are actually two different parks right next to each other: the Disneyland Park and the Walt Disney Studios Park. You can easily spend there 2-3 full days if you plan to try every ride, but both parks can be visited within a day as well.
Versailles is another famous daytrip opportunity from Paris. It’s really easily to reach, it takes around 30 minutes by RER. I think half a day is enough for visiting Versailles, but you can plan one full day for it as well.
Getting around in Paris
My favourite way of getting around in a new city is by foot. I love strolling around and getting lost on the streets! I truly believe this is the absolute best way to get to know the city. Paris is a totally walkable city, most of the must-see spots are close to each other and easy to reach.
However Paris is huge, and if you wanna make the most of your itinerary it’s inevitable to use some other ways of transportation. That’s where public transportation comes in handy and luckily Paris has a fantastic public transportation system!
Paris has 16 different metro lines with more than 300 metro stations. That means you can reach practically everything with a metro! If this wouldn’t be enough, there are 4 tram lines and countless bus lines as well. Of course you can find many taxis around the city but with a public transportation system like this you won’t really need them.
If you need to venture further away from the city you can use the RER, which is a train network with 5 different lines. You can reach the Charles de Gaulle Airport, Versailles and Disneyland with RER.
In this Paris Travel Guide I wanted to give you a quick overview about the different kind of public transportation in Paris. However there are many different ticket and pass types for tourists which can be a bit confusing. Therefore I’m planning to write a much more deeper guide about it. Stay tuned!
Where to stay in Paris
If this will be your first trip to Paris I highly recommend to stay at one of the below mentioned districts as those are the best for tourists!
Louvre (1st Arr.)
The 1st district of Paris is a real tourist heaven. You can find many of the most famous landmarks here like the Musée du Louvre, the Palais Royal or the Sainte Chapelle. If you wish to stay in walking distance from them, this is totally your place! On the other hand this is one of the most expensive district of Paris. If you are more of a budget traveler I recommend finding yourself another area to stay in.
Eiffel Tower (7th Arr.)
The 7th district is also one of the most touristic area of Paris. The Eiffel tower is located in this district along with many great museums, world-class restaurants and high-end shopping places. Of course all of this comes with a high price tag as well, so it’s definitely not a good place for a budget traveler.
Le Marais (3rd and 4th Arr.)
Le Marais is a really trendy and lively area in Paris. It’s not an independent district, one half of it is located in the 3rd district and the other half is in the 4th district. If you are looking for great nightlife with many clubs and bars, Le Marais is the perfect choice!
Bastille (11th Arr.)
If you are a real foodie then Bastille is the best choice for you. The 11th district of Paris is packed with amazing restaurants and you can find practically everything from trendy hip cafes to expensive Michelin-star restaurants. Bastille is located just outside the central area. Therefore prices are more affordable but you can still reach the city center within minutes. I think this is a really great choice if you don’t wanna spend a fortune on accommodation but still wanna stay close to the central area. We also stayed here at Hotel Paris Bastille Boutet and we absolutely loved everything about the hotel and the area as well!
Montmartre (18th Arr.)
The district of Montmartre is quite far from the other other main attractions. However if you wanna experience the real Parisian vibe this is definitely your place! The 18th district is full of charming cobble-stoned streets and cute multi-colored houses. Oh, and the view is absolutely amazing from the top of the hill! The price of the hotels are much more reasonable so it’s also a good choice if you travel on a budget.
Best things to do in Paris
See the iconic Eiffel tower
What kind of Paris Travel Guide would this be if I don’t encourage you to see the Eiffel tower as many times as you can? No pictures do justice how incredible the Iron Lady is in real life! You can see it from almost everywhere in Paris and it’s really fun to search for different views and angles. Don’t forget to go back after nightfall to adore the sparkling lights dancing on the tower!
Since it is the most iconic landmark in Paris the surrounding area can get pretty crowded. Luckily Paris is not just about the Eiffel Tower and there are many other interesting places to see! You might be also interested to read a guide about sightseeing in Paris beyond the Eiffel Tower.
Explore the incredible artworks in the Louvre
To be honest with you I’m not much of a museum kind of girl and it’s really rare when I decide to actually go in a museum. But visiting the Louvre is definitely a must-do in Paris! The whole place is extraordinary and not just the artworks, but the internal design of the museum as well. I’m really glad we decided to visit in the end, it was such a bucket list experience!
Visit at least one of the amazing city parks
Paris has many gorgeous city parks: Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin des Plantes, Le Jardin du Luxemboug, just to name a few. All parks are free to enter and every park has its own characteristic. Strolling around the beautiful gardens is one of the best things to do in Paris if you need a relaxing break.
Get lost on the buzzing streets of Montmartre
Montmartre is one of the most charming and romantic district of Paris. The area is full of cute narrow alleys, talented street artists and amazing cafes and restaurants. I was absolutely obsessed with Montmartre, it has such a strong Parisian vibe! You definitely need to visit the Sacré-Coeur and the Moulin Rouge but apart from that, getting lost on the buzzing streets is one of the best things you can do in Montmartre.
Shop til you drop on Champs-Elysées
Almost every big city has its own world-famous street that is packed with high-end fashion shops, luxury boutiques and fancy restaurants. This is the Champs-Elysées for Paris. The avenue is 2 km long and it runs from the Place de La Concorde to the majestic Arc de Triomphe. Don’t worry if you don’t have a fortune to spend! It’s still an amazing place for window-shopping and admiring the architecture.
Eat as many Parisian sweets as you can
Croissants, pain au chocolate, crepes, macarons, madeleines.. Do I have to continue or are you just as hungry as I am now? Ditch your diet for a few days while you are in Paris because you have to try these Parisian sweets! There are countless cute cafes around the city with many different desserts to try out. Try to visit as many as you can, you won’t regret it!
I know it sounds like a cliché but it would be a big mistake to skip it. If this will be your first visit to Paris you might be interested in reading a list of the common mistakes of a first-time visitor.
Paris is one of the most famous cities Europe – and for a reason! The whole city is just magical, I loved everything about it. The world-famous sites, the cute little streets, the nice people, and oh those delicious french dishes!
First I thought having 5 days there would be more than enough, but it turned out there is no such thing that enough time in Paris. I’m already thinking about visiting Paris again – hope I don’t have to wait for so long!
Have you ever been to Paris? How did you like the city, what were your favourite and not so favourite things? Let me know in the comments!