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Paris, the French capital that has been attracting visitors for centuries. Having had the good fortune to visit this city on numerous occasions including last month, today I bring you your ultimate travel guide to Paris!
Best times to visit: July-September if you want to enjoy the beautiful city at its best and warmest.
Currency: Euros – like most other European countries.
Language: Everyone speaks in French, very few speak English. Make an effort to speak in French by greeting them with bonjour (hello) and saying merci (thank you), and you’ll find that they’ll do their best to help you in whatever way possible. Expect to use a lot of sign language if you don’t know how to speak in French.
Best transport system: Train/ Metro. Paris is a very busy city, and taxis operate by meter which is a bad combination. If you’re in the city for more than a day and expect to do a lot of sight-seeing, then I’d recommend you get a Navigo Découverte Pass (weekly Navigo pass). When I visited Paris at the beginning of last month, this pass cost 22.90€ and it covers you for 5 days (from Monday 0.00 am to Sunday 23.59 pm. So, for example if you purchase it on Wednesday, it will only be valid till the end of Sunday. Also, you can only purchase the pass for the current week until the end of Thursday, so if you were to purchase the pass on Friday, then you wouldn’t be able to use it till the following Monday). An additional 5€ is charged for the physical card which is non-refundable, but even then, you’ll be saving A LOT of money (a single ride from the airport to my friend’s hotel cost her 38€!). Make sure you take a passport sized photo with you as you have to stick that on the back of the pass (they accept photos printed on normal paper too, so you can print it in advance at home without having to spend money having one taken at a booth). The Navigo pass basically covers you for trains, metros, trams and buses in Paris. If you’re only staying for a day or visiting Paris over the weekend, there’s the Navigo Day Pass. However, unlike the weekly pass, day passes have to be bought according to the zones you’re travelling and can be priced from 7.50€ to 17.80€. Both types of passes can be bought from any train or metro station in Paris.
Where to Stay
$ If you’re on a tight budget: Hotels in Paris aren’t cheap, so if you’re on a budget, I’d recommend staying in the outskirts and purchasing a weekly Navigo pass to travel around. Places such as Choissy-le-Roi, Aubervilliers, Saint Ouen and Vitry-sur-Seine host nice hotel rooms without charging you through the rooftops.
All Suites Appart Hotel Choisy-le-Roi
Accommodation: Apartment/ hotel
This is a budget hotel/ apartment where each room features a kitchenette so you could self-cater if you wanted to. The hotel offers the option to purchase breakfast, alternatively, you can choose to follow the life of a Parisian by purchasing fresh croissants and other French delicacies from the patisserie/ boulangerie across the road. The interiors of the hotel are very clean and modern, and it is a 2 minute walk from the train station.
$$ If you’re on a budget but don’t want to travel too much: Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements, and arrondissements 11-13 are pretty close to the attractions, while some of the hotels aren’t that pricey. La Défense, which serves as the city’s main business area is also a very nice place to stay as it’s only a short metro ride away from all the major attractions.
Hotel ibis budget Courbevoie Paris La Défense 1
Location: La Défense
A semi-budget hotel which is located very close to the centre of Paris. Expect a typical Ibis budget hotel experience which includes clean rooms and friendly staff. There are some supermarkets nearby so you can pick up snacks if you wish. The metro station is a 5 minute walk away.
$$$ If you’re after luxury and/ or want to stay right in the centre: 7th or 8th arrondissement is your place to be, right by the Eiffel Tower!
Four Seasons Hotel George V
Location: 8th Arrondissement
Located just off the famous Champs-Elysées, this is the hotel you want to stay at to experience the heart of Paris. Friendly staff, clean rooms, the best location, a luxurious stay… this Four Seasons chain hotel offers all of that in one package!
What to See
Eiffel Tower – Well… duh!
You can’t visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel can you? The 19th century structure is the main landmark for Paris and rightly so! Most of Paris’ visitors can be found by the tower, taking photos of the landmark from all possible angles. You can purchase tickets to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower to see Paris in all its glory, but expect very long queues.
Pro Tip: If you want to take the best photos against a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, go to Place du Trocadero. Sitting across the river Seine, this place is the most popular for taking photos of and with the Eiffel Tower. What’s even better is that the Trocadero metro station is located right beside it so it’s very easy to access.
Louvre Museum – The home of the Mona Lisa.
If you’re a fan of museums, then this is the ultimate place for you. You’ll find 35,000 pieces of art and numerous structures and archaeological findings within this 60,600 square metre building. Once you’re done admiring the inside, you have the famous Louvre pyramids waiting outside to present to you the most magnificent backdrop for your photos.
Arc de Triomphe – A structure that commemorates those who fought for the France Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
It looks much smaller in person than what you see in photos but it’s beautiful nevertheless. One thing I would suggest you do is to plan a trip there before it’s dark because when I was there in October, there were no lights to light it up and I was therefore unable to take any good quality photos of it. You are able to go to the top of the structure (which involves climbing up 40 steps) by purchasing tickets.
Champs-Elysées – Often described as the world’s most beautiful avenue.
It is a shopper’s paradise, which houses almost every luxury label you can think of as well as offering affordable options such as Zara and H&M. Be sure to check out Hermes for their world famous macarons when you’re there!
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris – One of France’s most famous landmarks.
Located on Île de la Cité, the cathedral stood the test of time not just once, but on many occasions but it still stands tall among a throng of people who admire it for what it is. Unfortunately, due to the fire last April, the cathedral has been shut down for restoration and there is currently no access inside. Like many other landmarks in Paris, Notre Dame also sits along the river seine which presents a beautiful view to relish.
Basilique du Sacré-Coeur – A Roman Catholic church located at the highest point of Paris in Montmarte.
Sacré-Coueur (sacred heart in English) is my second favourite place in Paris after the Eiffel tower. To get there, you have to ascend a very steep hill either by climbing 270 steps by foot, or if you’re lazy like me, you can choose the funicular for which you normally buy tickets unless you have the Navigo pass. A visit to this church is bound to give you a workout even if you take the funicular. Why, you ask? Well, the nearest metro station is about a 10 minute walk away, not forgetting the 90 steps you have to climb to exit that. Once up the hill, you have the beautiful Sacré-Coueur on one side, and the breath-taking view of Paris on the other. You can go inside the church, though photography is strictly prohibited. And for all you lovers out there, you can leave your mark with a love lock outside the landmark.
Luxembourg Gardens – One of the not so famous places to visit in Paris, yet so beautiful.
Paris has so much to offer that the lesser known places are sometimes completely ignored. Luxembourg Gardens is a beautiful park that has royalty written all over it. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for some time, then I’d suggest you head over to Luxembourg Gardens for a couple of hours for a truly beautiful, scenic experience.
Panthéon – A less than 2 minute walk from the Luxembourg Gardens.
Once a church dedicated to St Genevieve, today this domed building serves as the burial place for French heroes.
Le Marais – For a true taste of Paris.
Champs-Elyées is great for tourists, but if you want to see Paris from a Parisian’s point of view, head over to Le Marais. The street is filled with grocery stores, boulangeries, patisseries, clothes stores and more. You’ll find very few tourists here and that’s the main reason to visit. When you’re there, head over to one of the many patisseries, and once you’ve made the tough decision of picking out your pastry, grab yourself a seat outside and watch the Parisians get on with their everyday lives. Be sure to politely ask for plenty of tissues, however, as most patisseries won’t offer you any cutlery!
Disneyland Paris – Where dreams come true.
I mean, this place needs no introduction, does it? No matter what your age, you’ll love visiting this place. Disneyland Paris only hosts two parks, and you have the choice of purchasing tickets for one or both of them. I’d recommend you pick the Disneyland park for a true Disney experience. If you, like me have been to Disney World before, you’ll find this park rather underwhelming and small in comparison, but you’ll still have lots of fun, guaranteed!
Palace of Versailles – Sheer opulence!
Who doesn’t dream of visiting this place? Sadly, every time we visit Paris, we plan on visiting the palace and it never happens for one reason or another. Visit this place for beauty galore. I’ll say nothing more.
What to Eat
When in Paris, you ditch your diet! I mean, honestly, have you even been to Paris if you haven’t had croissants, pain au chocolat and pastries? Unlike many other western countries where we buy our loaves of bread from the supermarket, Parisians pay a visit to their local boulangerie (bakery) and patisserie (pastry shop) to purchase freshly baked bread and patisseries for their daily meals.
The most common item you’ll find at a boulangerie are baguettes, which are long and thin crusty breads that I’m sure you must already know of since it’s a very popular French bread you can find at many stores across the world. Baguettes in Paris come in different lengths and types and you’ll surely spot local Parisians casually munching on a plain baguette on the streets. Pain de campagne is another popular boulangerie item. It is thick crusty loaf that usually accompanies stews and soups.
Patisseries in Paris stock most of our French guilty pleasures which include croissants (of various types), pain au chocolat (chocolate filled croissants), pistachio chocolate escargot (escargot means snail in French. This is a soft, flaky pastry that’s swirled around into the shape of a snail, sort of like a cinnamon roll, but better), macarons, paris-brest (a bagle shaped pastry made out of choux pastry and cream), mille-feuille (a famous French pastry that is made of layers of flaky puff pastry with a cream filling), and many other types of cakes and pastries.
So that concludes my travel guide to Paris, and I hope you enjoyed reading it.