The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Paris for the First Time

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 before visiting Paris for the first time 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 visiting Paris twice already, I seriously have no clue where are all this negativity is coming from! Paris is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe so don’t let others discourage you to visit! Not convinced yet? Just go through this post and I’m sure by the time you finish you’ll be already searching for flight tickets to Paris!

*Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*

No time to read now? Pin it for later!

Useful Info for Visiting Paris for the First Time

Location

Paris is the capital city of France, located in the northern central part of the country. The city is divided by the river Seine and it also includes two islands. Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité which is the oldest part of Paris and also home to one of the most famous landmarks in France, the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Population

Paris is home to more than 2.1 million people. If you’re visiting Paris for the first time this might surprise you, 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.

Tourism

Paris is one of the top dream destinations in the world so it’s no wonder that tourism is one of the main income sources of the city. Paris is not only popular among tourists but it’s also a major hub for business travel. According to a survey by Statista, Paris received 19.1 million international overnight visitors in 2018 which makes it the second most visited city in Europe after London.

The cathedral of Notre-Dame used to be the most visited tourist attraction in Paris but unfortunately since the fire in 2019 caused serious damages in the building, it’s not possible to visit it at the moment. The other most visited attractions are the Sacre-Coeur Basilica located on the top of the Montmartre hill, the world famous Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, located at the end of Champs-Élysées.

Language

The official language of Paris is French. I bet you’ve already heard stories that French people don’t really like to speak English and 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. However, most of the restaurants only have French menus and everyone prefers having conversations in French so knowing a few French words or phrases always comes handy.

Here are the 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
Pont Alexandre III in Paris

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 EUR (12-18 USD), therefore it’s wise to always have some cash in your pocket as well.

Visa

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 definitely one of the most beautiful cities in France and it’s 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.

Although many people choose the summer months for their first trip to Paris, the other seasons can be a great or an even better choice, depending on your interests. In the below sections you can learn more about each seasons with their pros and cons so you can easily decide which one is the perfect choice for you.

Spring

During springtime (from March to May) the maximum temperature is constantly rising from 12°C (54°F) in March up to 20°C (68°F) 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!

Girl in a pink-white striped dress standing under an archway of roses at Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France

Summer

The summer period (from June to August) is normally not so hot in Paris, the average temperature ranges around 20-25°C (68-77°F). 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, be prepared for huge crowds. 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.

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Autumn

The autumn months (from September to November) tend to be windy and wet in general. During this period the maximum temperature gradually decreases from 21°C (70°F) in September to 11°C (52°F) 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, especially if you’re visiting Paris for the first time. In early autumn locals are starting to return from their summer holidays and the tourist crowds are getting thinner and thinner. But the best thing about autumn is definitely the colorful fall foliage which makes Paris even more magical than it already is.

Eiffel Tower in autumn with colorful trees in the foreground

Winter

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 which means you will have plenty of time to adore the festive lights and decoration.

If you love Christmas decorations, you’re going to love Paris during the holidays as its always beautifully decorated. You can also find some Christmas markets in the city – don’t forget to visit the Tuileries Garden during the holidays where you can find one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.

The average temperature ranges around 5-8°C (41-46°F) during the day, which makes Paris a lot more warmer than other European cities. Although Paris is really gorgeous when the whole city is covered with white snow, unfortunately snow is not so common in winter but you can expect some rainfalls in exchange. If you are planning to visit Paris in winter, here’s a guide about what to wear in Paris in winter.

Snowy tree branches in front of the Eiffel Tower in winter

How Much Time Do You Need to Spend in Paris

Spending one day in Paris is definitely not enough, however, if you plan your itinerary well, you can still see a big chunk of the city. 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, I’d say go for it!

If you’re visiting Paris for the first time, it’s best to allow yourself at least 4 days in Paris to be able to properly explore the main sights. In 4 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 Musée du Louvre or Musée d’Orsay so if you’re a true museum lover, 4 days in Paris would definitely not be enough for you. In this case it’s best to stay in Paris for 5-7 days, depending on how many museums you plan to visit.

If you have some extra days in Paris, make sure to do a few day trips. Disneyland is one of the best day trips from Paris, 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 known as one of the most beautiful castles in Europe and it’s another famous day trip opportunity from Paris. It’s really easily to reach, it takes around 30 minutes by RER. Half a day is enough for visiting the Palace of Versailles but you can easily spend a full day there, especially if you want to visit the city of Versailles as well.

Entrance of Disneyland Park in Paris

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.

That said, Paris is a big city so if you want to make the most of your time 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 and ride-hailing companies such as Uber 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 RER, which is a train network with 5 different lines. You can easily reach for exapme the Charles de Gaulle Airport, Versailles and Disneyland with RER.

Where to Stay in Paris

Paris is not only one of the most beautiful cities in France but it’s also one of the most visited ones in whole Europe. Therefore you will find a wide selection of accommodations in the city, starting from cheaper hostels and guesthouses to 5-star hotels and luxury apartments.

Are you dreaming of waking up to the view of the Eiffel Tower? Then you need to check out my posts about the best apartments in Paris with Eiffel Tower view and the best Paris hotels with Eiffel Tower view.

Paris is divided into 20 different neighborhoods, otherwise known as arrondissements. The best arrondissement to stay in Paris completely depends on what you want to do as a tourist and how much time you have in hand. If you’re visiting Paris for the first time, you will probably like to stay near the Seine River (1st to 7th arrondissement), where the major tourist attractions are located.

Each neighborhood has different characteristics, below you can read about them in more detail.

Louvre (1st Arr.)

The 1st district of Paris is a real tourist heaven. You can find many of the most famous landmarks here like Musée du Louvre, Palais Royal or 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 so if you’re more of a budget traveler, it’s best to find yourself another area to stay in.

BEST HOTELS IN THE LOUVRE ARRONDISSEMENT

The courtyard with the glass pyramids at Musée du Louvre in Paris

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. If you are planning to book a place from where you can see the Iron Lady, this is the district where you will find plenty of hotels with Eiffel Tower view. Of course all of this comes with a higher price tag as well, so it’s definitely not a good place for a budget traveler.

BEST HOTELS IN THE EIFFEL TOWER ARRONDISSEMENT

Eiffel Tower with roses from Champ de Mars

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’re visiting Paris for the first time and you’re looking for great nightlife with many clubs and bars, Le Marais is the perfect choice for you!

BEST HOTELS IN LE MARAIS

Typical Parisian architecture in Paris, France

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. If you don’t want to spend a fortune on accommodation but you still want to stay close to the central area, Bastille is the perfect choice for you.

On my first trip to Paris I stayed in the Bastille area at Hotel Paris Bastille Boutet and absolutely loved everything about the hotel and the area as well. If you’re interested to know more about the hotel, here’s my complete review of Hotel Paris Bastille Boutet!

BEST HOTELS IN BASTILLE

Entrance of Hotel Paris Bastille Boutet

Montmartre (18th Arr.)

The district of Montmartre is quite far from the other other main attractions, however, if you want to 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 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 HOTELS IN MONTMARTRE

Typical Parisian cafe in Montmartre, Paris

Best Things to Do in Paris

See the iconic Eiffel tower

If you’re visiting Paris for the first time, seeing the Eiffel Tower must be on your itinerary. 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!

If you want to know where to find the best views of the Eiffel Tower, check out my article about the most instagrammable places in Paris which includes 9 different locations from where you can get an amazing view of the Iron Lady!

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!

The courtyard with the glass pyramids at Musée du Louvre in Paris

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. If you need a break from the city life, strolling around the beautiful gardens is definitely one of the best things to do in Paris.

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.

Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre, Paris

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 (1.2 miles) 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 these Parisian sweets are to die for! There are countless cute cafes around the city with many different desserts to try.

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 trip to Paris, you might be interested in reading a list of the common mistakes of a first-time visitor.

Macarons in Paris

Final Thoughts

Paris is undoubtedly one of most beautiful cities in the whole wide world. The world-famous sites, amazing museums, cute little streets, incredible restaurants and delicious french dishes will definitely make your first trip to Paris unforgettable.

I hope you liked these tips about Paris and this guide will be useful for you when visiting Paris for the first time. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email, I always love helping you out! Have you already been to Paris or is it still on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo, Kriszti


Related Posts

Eiffel Tower in Paris at sunset

The Perfect Paris in 4 Days Itinerary

View of Paris in spring with the Eiffel Tower

15 Best Hotels in Paris with Eiffel Tower View

Girl in a red dress sitting at Trocadero in front of the Eiffel Tower

25 Most Instagrammable Places in Paris

Want to read more about Paris?


What Camera Gear Do We Use?

If you want to read more about what is in our camera bag, check out my detailed post about our travel photography gear!


Pin It for Later!

4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Paris for the First Time”

  1. Eiffel tower is such a nice place to explore for everyone. I am from Delhi, India and i love to read your blog everyday. I have visited 2 times to this place and every time it is the same and beautiful. Love your blog.

    Reply

Leave a Comment