Paris is called as the “City of Love”. This is not only about Eiffel Tower. Most people prefer to go there for their honeymoon. Its attractive language, cafes and restaurants, walking along the Seine River are just few examples for Paris deserving that reputation.
Paris is also a good start for starting travelling for the people who plan to go other countries, because there are many things to do to find out what makes you happy when you are abroad. It can be easiness of transportation, shopping, being a tourist, acting like local, museums etc… It is not an easy city to travel around Paris with no transportation. You may try, but it will be really hard as a person who generally walks 20-30 km daily.
Paris has no time and each month is different. However, winters can be cold if you prefer to walk a lot. If you want to go Disneyland, you will probably want to not go there when it is rainy. Summer season is more crowded and expensive but more comfortable. Most people are there for Christmas and it become more touristic during Christmas season. You may also catch a specific time where there are specific events in Paris.
If you are rich enough, you may want to fly Paris for an amazing dinner of course; but as a tourist if you are willing to discover Paris, 3 days is never enough. So try to extend it or go when you have more time…
I will tell a travel card where most people are not aware of its existence and buy very expensive cards instead of this. However, it has disadvantages and you have to be ready to buy it. First thing, you should know is this is a personal card which means you have to carry a valid photo matching for the specific area on the card (3 cm x 2.5 cm). In order to not make extra payment there, you may prefer to bring your own. Second thing is that you can buy this from airport. If you want to go destinations like Versailles and Disneyland Paris, your card will be also valid there in case you buy the correct card. You will just pay a 5 EUR for card itself and 22.15 EUR for travelling valid on all buses, metro, RER lines and trains (not TGV) in zones between 1-5. (Disneyland: Zone5, ORY: Zone4, CDG: Zone5, Versailles: Zone4). However, you can not use Orlyval train I mentioned in airport section.
The first bad thing about this card is it is a weekly card. So, if you travel on Tuesday and you will return on next Monday, you have to one buy 1 week card and then reload it for one more week for your Monday. You may also prefer to buy 1-day card but it will cost almost same. The second bad thing is that you can not buy that card everyday. It is one of the most weird things I see when I am travelling in Europe. If you arrive on Friday, you can not buy this card, because you are allowed to buy that week’s card only until Thursday midnight. However, still this card is your best option to buy, so find the ticket sales area at the airport and buy no card at all. You can keep that card and use it later if you to go Paris again.
Another option is buying a Paris Visite travel card which there are no constraints and you can buy for 1, 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days. It will also allow you to use special discounts in selected places such as Musee De L’armee and Musee Picasso. Price is around 60 EUR for 5 days. So if you think that option is better for you, it can be considered at least.
In Paris, RATP is the company responsible for transportation. They have one of the best applications about transportation which makes your life very easy. If you are using Apple Watch, you can consider to use it too. You do not have to give an exact metro or bus station name to find out your route. It will automatically find your location and then recommend the closest station for you. You will also see how long you will walk on the map. It will offer you 3 options: Fastest, minimum changes and minimum walking. You can check below screenshots to see how it looks like.
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements. This is something French where you can think each arrondissement is an administrative district. The interesting thing about these arrondissements is that they are arranged in a clockwise spiral. The starting point is the city center and the shape is similar to snail sheel. If you live there long enough, you may start to know at which arrondissement that place is in.
You may find out a map where all bus, metro, tram routes are shown in a single map, but you will not understand anything. There are 14 metro lines and 5 RER lines (A and B are the ones you will use most). RER is a rapid transit system. It is similar to metro (probably you will find out no difference between RER and metro), but it is faster and has less stops. If you are going to far places such as Disneyland Paris and Versailles, you will find RER lines available instead of metro. Metro lines have numbers and RER lines have letters in order you to not confuse it. Each line has also different color. Things can get complicated when you try to remember 19 colors, but for RER lines you can at least remember it: A-red, B-blue, C-yellow. Like in most countries, each line may have more than one last stop, so check whether train goes to your destination. You can also prefer using Bus lines more frequently in Paris compared to other cities in Europe.
You will eventually go Montmartre which is in 18th arrondissement. By knowing it is in 18th, you can understand it is not exactly in the city center. The popular Sacre-Coeur Basilica is in Montmartre. There you will find a funicular which is operated by RATP. It was opened in 1900 but now replaced with 2 modern cabins. It became a popular tourist activity to do in Paris. Every year around 2 million tourists use this. I say tourists, because locals prefer walking.
Some information about routes:
-Tour Eiffel: You can use BUS42/BUS82 or RERC lines to reach Eiffel Tower. Remember that the bus from Orly airport will leave you close to here.
-Sacre Couer: The closest station is Anvers where you have to use M2 metro line. Then you can either walk to reach top or use Funiculaire.
-Louvre: If you are heading to Louvre Museum, there are many buses passing from Louvre. In order to not wait too much, RATP app will offer you the best option for you. If you plan to use metro, M1 or M7 are the ones you have to reach.
-Arc de Triomphe: You have many opportunities to reach here. RERA or M1/M2/M3 are your best choices. This is also the top point of Champs Elysees. Station is called Charles de Gaulle Etoile.
-Moulin Rouge: Moulin Rogue is in Boulevard de Clichy. You can either take bus or use M2 line leaving at Blanche station. If M2 is not close to you, just know M12 and M13 can be also used to reach here by leaving at Pigalle and Place de Clichy stations respectively.
-Versailles: You can directly use RERC line. There are two last stops of RERC. If you want to walk less be sure that your last stop is “Gare de Versailles Château Rive Gauche”.
-Chateu de Fontaineblue: There is no RER line to reach out here. You have to take train. Most trains leave Paris Gare de Lyon and reach Fontainebleau Avon station in 40 minutes.
-Disneyland Paris: There is no station called Disneyland Paris, but RERA will take you there. Marne-la-Vallee – Chessy will be station you have to leave. Check out my Disneyland Paris post for more information.
Where to stay?
The simple answer is “it depends on you”. Paris is not a small city, so you will eventually use metro and bus to go popular destinations. So, from transportation side there is no possibility to stay somewhere you can reach everywhere only by walk. However, you may still consider to arrange your hotel in the center to reach places in short distance. Staying in arrondissements between 1 to 9 can be a good choice. Hotels with Seine River view are mostly more expensive. If you want to see a magnificent view when you wake up in your bed, hotels seeing Tour Eiffel, Sacre Couer, Seine can be a good choice for you.
You have probably watched many movies take place in Paris. You have a chance to stay at those hotels if you are willing to pay more. Hotel Regina is just an example of a five-star hotel where Matt Damon’s Bourne Identity had been shot. There are many guides which recommends you to stay in Rivoli if you are an art lover as just an example. However, I leave it that to you, because in Paris I believe price will be your first criteria to choose your accommodation.
What to do?
You can click on the map picture on left to see all places on the map. You can also check take away tab if you do not want to make your own plan. That take away plan is arranged in a way to see most of the places in Paris with just an overview. It is up to you for how to start your trip. First you should ask yourself whether you want to go Disneyland Paris too. If it is not in your interest too much, you can leave just one day and get the feeling about it. If it is in your interest you should leave at least 2 full days for Disneyland. If you can’t as I said before leave it to the next time.
Tour Eiffel will be probably your first stop in Paris. BUS42/BUS82 or RERC lines will take you directly there. I recommend you to go there on your first day in the morning, because you will want to see Eiffel at night. If you start your holiday with Eiffel and end with it, it may be a good choice for you. Tour means tower in French, so do not think you are in the ticket queue for a tour option. The only thing you will not see from Eiffel Tower will be tower itself. From mid-June to September, opening time is 9 AM to midnight meaning you have almost no constraints to visit there. I recommend you to go either early and skip the queue or go there when there is sunset. You may take better pictures. You can either walk or use the elevator to reach second floor. However, for reaching top elevator is your only choice. Going top was lastly 17 EUR. If you like walking many stairs, you also have a chance to buy a separate ticket at 2nd floor to reach top. You can find many river cruise companies offering commentary tour or lunch/dinner cruise on Seine River. If you want to sit near window and have dinner cruise you have to spend at least 80 EUR. It may be good to mention about Montparnasse Tower at this point. It is the tower which offers you one of the best views of Eiffel. You can either buy a single ticket or day & night ticket which is valid for 48 hours if you want to see Eiffel both in the morning at night from top of the tower. You can reach there by M4/M6/M12/M13 metro lines.
Before continuing with Louvre, Sacre Coeur comes as one of important places to go in Paris. It is the most important basilica in Paris. First warning: 300 steps and no lift. If you are planning to access to dome, you have to climb 300 steps. You may come here with M2 metro line and leave at Anvers station. Then you will have to walk little to reach Square Louise Michel. Later is up to you. You can either take the funicular or walk some stairs to reach Sacre Coeur. The price for funicular is same with the metro ticket if you don’t have any, but I recommend you to walk to catch better shots.
Louvre Museum is probably the second on your list, but it is definitely the place you will spend many hours. As a person who does not like reading every detail in the museum, I had to spend more than half a day at the museum just to see everything. You may face with longer queues. So, why not go early in the morning? Just remember, it is closed on Tuesdays. Entrance was 17 EUR. You will not regret your experience in Louvre. The building itself is a historical one, but inside is really modern and it has easy access both by lifts and stairs. Louvre has many entrances, but the most popular one is the Pyramid entrance. It is reachable by metro lines M1/M7 and by many bus lines. Most people go Louvre only for Mona Lisa. So, you may see lots of people running to 1st floor Room 6 in order to take the best picture. You may not get too close to painting and will see Mona Lisa painting being protected in a special glass. The only thing that can make you dissatisfied during your Louvre visit may be the Mona Lisa. It will not be because of Leonardo da Vinci, it will be because you just increased your expectations about it too much beforehand. Don’t forget you can find many sections from Islamic art to Egyptian Antiquities.
After visiting Louvre, there are many places you can go by walk in both directions. The closest one is Pont des Arts. Pont means bridge in French. This is the bridge where you will see many love locks. Lovers write their first names on love locks and then throw the key into Seine river after locking it on the bridge. This became a very traditional romantic gesture in Paris. Have you ever imagines how will be the weight of that bridge? The answer is more than 50 tons. Eventually, this creates damage. So, Paris city council is trying to find a solution for it in the recent years. The bridge was used in the final scene of 2013 film Now You See Me.
After crossing Pont des Arts, you may want to walk little more to reach Notre Dame Cathedral. This cathedral is a typical French Gothic architecture example and one of the most well-known spots in Paris. It is located on the small island on Seine River. You will find beautiful rose windows inside the cathedral. You may want to see the cathedral also at night, so it may be good for you to go on your first day like I recommended also for Eiffel Tower. But, the entrance is closed at 18:45. The admission is free, but be sure you are not carrying big baggages. Palais de Justice de Paris is also located on the same island. There is a popular street you may want to visit close to Notre Dame: Rue de la Huchette. There are not many bars here, but interestingly it became a very touristic street.
If you have time left, you may spend time at gardens near Louvre called Jardin des Tuileries. This is a public garden located between the Louvre Museum and Place de la Concorde. Jardin means garden and Place means square in French. You will see an arch called Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Don’t confuse it with Arc de Triomphe. It is located on Champs-Elysees. Do you remember the “arrondissements” in Paris? Now, you are the 1st one. There is only 1 km from Louvre to Place de La Concorde. You will see small lakes in the garden. There also chairs around these lakes where many people rest. When you arrive Place de la Concorde, you will see one Obelisk and two fountains. That Obelisk was moved from Egypt to Paris.
If you continue to walk on the same way, you will reach Champs-Elysees. It is a 2 km Avenue. The shops start at Franklin Roosevelt station (M1/M9 metro lines). Before you arrive Franklin Roosevelt station, you will see two palaces on your left. They are called Grand Palais and Petit Palais. If they are in your interest, you may prefer to visit there. Grand Palais is so big that it served as the military hospital during World War I. You can check exhibition details on their website to find out whether it is in your interest or not. Even if you are not planning to any palaces, I recommend you to enter that street (Avenue Winston Churchill) and cross the famous Pont Alexandre III on Seine River. This is the most popular bridge in Paris. You will find many fames and nymphs on the bridge.
Rest of the Champs-Elysees is the main shopping street in Paris. You will find almost all shops there. The popular macaron store Laduree is also here. If you are planning to buy movies, games, cds FNAC has a big store here. Popular French car companies also have their store here. If you are looking for popular French department stores, they are not in this street. If you are looking for the luxury stores, they are mostly not in this street. If you are at the Franklin Roosevelt station, there is another street called Avenue Montaigne. Most luxury stores such as Chanel and Dior are here. When you reach to top, you will see the famous Arc de Triomphe. You will that arch almost in all pictures in the historic events. It is also called to be Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile. Etoile means star. If you check the map, you will there are 12 avenues connected to where arch is located. That’s why it is called to be the arch of star.
Catacombes de Paris is an interesting experience, but I don’t recommend for everyone. It has two main reasons. Firstly, you have to go into a small tunnel in underground where it may be little hard for everyone to go deep that much and breath there. Secondly, you will see remains of 6 million people. When I say remains, I refer to skulls and bones of those people. So, not all people may want to see that. It only costs 5 EUR to enter which will take your 30-45 minutes. The entrance and exit of the catacombs are different. Be sure you go to correct point. The closest metro station is Saint-Jacques by M6 line or Mouton-Duvernet by M4 line. If you are looking for the ticket office and entrance, just find the long queue in the area. I went there very early in the morning and preferred to have my breakfast while waiting. You will find one of PAUL French chain of bakery cafes very close to Catacombes.
Shopping is one of the activities most tourists do in Paris. Paris is popular with its luxury department stores. You may find similar shops in other cities in Europe, but being in Paris and being in that elegant environment makes you feel better. Galeries Lafayette and Printemps are the two department chain stores in Paris. They have more than one store in Paris. Both of them are located in Boulevard Haussman. They are not just one building, so you may find their different stores on the same road but in different buildings such as Lafayette Gourmet. If you are not willing to buy anything, you should still visit them. The best souvenirs I find were there. Their terrace has also amazing view of Paris. In Printemps you will also see a remarkable cupola in the store which was installed in 1923, then removed in 1939 in order to prevent damage during war and restored in 1973 finally.
If you are close to Galeries Lafayette, you are also close to another popular point in Paris: Opera. Metro lines M3/M7/M8 all cross at this point. The building is called Palais Garnier which is actually 2000 seat opera house. Not just the exterior, interior of the building offers you a lot. With 12 EUR, you can discover the theatre and more of it. If you are planning to attend an opera event, be sure that your ticket is not Opera Bastille, but Palais Garnier. Opera Bastille is in another location. If you are at the wrong location with M8 line, you can travel between each opera house. Some major stores are also in this region. Pierre Herme, Laduree have both sales stands in above department stores and they have their own stores close to region. La Cure Gourmande which you love their cookies and biscuits has a store close to Opera. There is an official Apple Store near Opera if you are looking for. If you are looking for toys, there is a small village called Le Village Jouéclub where you can find probably whatever you are looking for. From here keep in mind that Louvre area is just 15 minutes walk away. On your way you may find a small passage called Galerie Vivienne. Don’t expect to see well-known shops in this passage. It is a very small passage and only few shops and restaurants are located.
One of the nights, you may want to go Moulin Rouge. It is a cabaret in Paris and one of the most expensive activities you can do. There are 3 shows daily: 7PM, 9PM, 11PM. The most expensive one is at 7 PM. It is a dinner show and generally you have to pay at least 200 EUR for single person. In each slot, you have also option to buy a VIP ticket. When you buy a VIP ticket, you can use the cloak room free, half bottle of champagne and macaroons will be served. The closest metro station is Blance by M2. I preferred to use bus instead of metro, but I had a chance to check M12 and M13 metro lines were also in walking distance.
There are many other museums, but if you have only one option to choose Musée de l’Armée will be the one probably you will decide. It is a national military museum. Opening time is 10 AM and it costs 11 EUR. You can go there by M8 metro line and M13 metro line leaving at La-Tour-Maubourg and Varenna stations respectively. Museum also offers an official application which will guide you during your tour. There is another department store by 15 min walk here: Le Bon Marche. It was more expensive compared to Printemps and Lafayette. By another 20 minutes walk, you can reach Luxembourg Palace and its gardens which is greater than Jardin des Tuileries. If you don’t want to walk, bus will be your only choice because all metro stations will be far away. Again RATP will be your helper at that point. Pantheon which has no similarity with the one in Rome is also close to here.
I try to give brief information about the places to go in Paris, but Paris is more than it. Each time you go, you will find different places to go. Place des Vosges is one of the squares I wasn’t aware of. It is the oldest square in Paris. You can go there going to Bastille station with M1/M5/M8 metro lines. By chance, I found myself right there on my last day. It is not possible for you to go all museums in 1 week. So, it is better to prioritize what you want to do and leave others for the next time. Musee d’Orsay is one of the museums I couldn’t go so far. It is located on the left bank of Seine. Largest collection of masterpieces in the world can be found in this art museum. Works of Monet, Manet, Van Gogh can be found here.
Where to eat?
If you like wine, you are at the right place, but if you are one of the people who can’t easily decide what to choose, you may spend hours to select among huge collection. Have you tried any tapas when you are in Spain? If yes, you will find a good selection of Tapas in L’Avant Comptoir with the best selection of wines. This place is close to Luxembourg gardens.
A must go restaurant is Relais de l’Entrecôte Saint-Germain. Most restaurants are closed between lunch and dinner time. So, you will see longer queues waiting in front of popular restaurants. That’s because they are closed, but the bad thing about this is if you go at 7 PM and the queue is very long, you will not find a place and you will have to wait for the first person to complete his/her dinner. But I guarantee you will taste the best steak and fries in Paris. It is in Saint-Germain area which means you will have plenty transportation options to reach there. If you will use metro, M4 is the correct line.
Le Bouillon Chartier is another restaurant you may try only if you are very interested in to try best Escargots. Escargot is a food not everyone willing to try, however it is really a good experience. I wasn’t expecting to like it, but it really tastes good. You should give at least one chance for it. This is not an expensive restaurant, so even if you don’t like it, you may have no regrets. You can go there with M8/M9 metro lines. It is just 2 minutes walk from Grands Boulevards station.
Do you like caramels? I don’t. In Paris, you may start to like it like me. If you have a chance to go Jacques Genin or Patrick Roger, you will find the best caramels there. There are many other variations for chocolate too. Like in Italy, France offers you the best breads and baked goods. I tried different baguettes during lunch time. After your Louvre tour, Angelina or Eric Kayser can be a good choice for this. It is just in 5 min walking distance. They have special French names for it; just try all the things look like croissant. You may want to try French cheese. In each shop, they really have their experts or consultants. You may go Laurent Dubois, because they have an option for you to take your home.
Paris is also popular with its macarons. There are two popular macaron shops –Laduree and Pierre Herme– and each of them is really good, but the most known one is Laduree. They have a large store in Champs-Elysees. Each of them have stands in popular department stores, but if you want to try, learn and talk with the macaron experts, I recommend you to go their own stores; because in other stores, you will have less time and sales people will put pressure on you to buy. Check my memory tab for how I had to buy macarons. If you are planning to buy as a gift, just tell so that they put it on a special box. It will look like a Paris souvenir. Crème Brulee and Souffle are the other deserts you have to try when you are in Paris. I recommend you to try them on your first days, because if you try it on your last day and like it, it will be hard to forget it. I liked Crème Brulee so much that I bought Crème Brulee flavored chocolate in Lindt shop near Opera. La Cure Gourmande is another store where you should try on your first day. It is little expensive but you will probably find the best biscuits and cookies there. Don’t expect someone to fill box for you, you have to take a nylon glove and fill your box yourself. I thought this store was only available in Paris. When I find it also in Nice, it really made my day.
You may find many places to go from Paris as a day trip. Provins is a commune just 90 km away from Paris. It is also in the UNESCO World Heritage list. If you want to go far away, Rouen is another city. It is close to Le Havre. If you are planning to UK, you can go Portsmouth from Le Havre. On your way to Roeuen, you can make a stop at Giverny. France is also popular with its castles. Chateau de Fontainebleau is one of them and you can reach there with just one train from Paris city center.
Airport & Transportation
- Charles de Gaulle Airport – http://www.parisaeroport.fr/en
- Orly Airport – www.airport-orly.com/
- RATP – http://www.ratp.fr/
- SNCF – www.sncf.com/
- Navigo Pass – www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_20585/travel-passes-and-fares/
Places to Go
- Tour Eiffel – www.toureiffel.paris/
- River Cruise – www.bateauxparisiens.com/en/cruise-tours.html
- Montparnasse Tower – www.tourmontparnasse56.com/en
- Notre Dame de Paris – www.notredamedeparis.fr/en/
- Les Catacombes – www.catacombes.paris.fr/
- Galerie Vivienne – www.galerie-vivienne.com/
- Sacre Coeur – www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/english/
Museums & Palaces
- Louvre – http://www.louvre.fr/en
- Grand Palais – http://www.grandpalais.fr/en
- Petit Palais – http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/
- Palais Garnier – www.operadeparis.fr
- Opera Bastille – www.operadeparis.fr
- Musée de l’Armée – www.musee-armee.fr/accueil.html
- Musee d’Orsay – www.musee-orsay.fr/
- Moulin Rouge – www.moulinrouge.fr
- Printemps – www.printemps.com/paris-haussmann
- Galeries Layafette – www.galerieslafayette.com/
- Le Village Jouéclub – villageparis.joueclubdrive.fr/
- Le Bon Marche – www.lebonmarche.com/
Restaurants & Cafes
- Angelina – www.angelina-paris.fr/en/6-the-pastries
- Cure Gourmande – curegourmande.fr/
- Laduree – http://www.laduree.com/en_int/
- Pierre Herme – www.pierreherme.com/
- Jacques Genin – jacquesgenin.fr/fr/jacques-genin/
- Relais de l’Entrecôte Saint-Germain – www.relaisentrecote.fr/
- Bouillon Chartier – www.bouillon-chartier.com/en/
BUYING MACARONS IN PARIS
Buying macarons may sound an easy thing, but it was not for me. I thought I was the unlucky guy, but after hearing same story from many people, I realized the fact about how hard buying a macaron can be. Firstly, macaroon and macaron are not same. Here, I refer to confections filled with ganache or jam between two small cookies. You can find macarons with a huge variety of flavors and this creates a problem. If you plan to buy as a gift, it is harder, because they have many gift boxes.
When you are in Paris, you will probably want to taste the best macarons. This means you will either go Laduree or Pierre Herme. At this point, you should know you will have to spend at least 70 EUR for just 30 macarons. When you try to buy from Laduree’s website, you will see 12 different variations. Best ones I have tried were rose petal and pistachio. You may find more variations in the store too.
The problem I and many people had is the pressure of buying in store. Next time, I will order via mobile and pick-up at the store. The biggest store of Laduree is in Champs-Elysees. It is not just a store, so you can go there and have an enjoyable break, but many people go there to buy macarons, so don’t be surprised to see longer queues. Store is little small, so you do not have a chance to check what kind of variations and gift boxes are available beforehand. I tried to check them behind the queue and I got a warning by 2 different people to get in the queue. When my turn comes up, I was requested to make my order. After 10 seconds, I got my second warning to be quick. Next, I showed behind the glass some variations to be added. In my culture and I guess probably in many cultures, showing with finger –not a person of course- is the standard way of selection, but in France I was told to not show macarons with finger.
That was one of the rudest behaviors I have witnessed. On following days, I decided to go other stores in different regions for both Laduree and Pierre Herme. They are less crowded and macaron experts guide you and also offer you to taste it to decide the best one if you are buying as a gift. They also make gift box recommendations to make it look like a Paris souvenir. So, my advice: Go and try macaron stores early in the morning and not in Champs-Elysees…