Paris Travel Guide

Paris

The city of romance is full of splendid charm, culture, atmosphere and magnificent sightseeing. It's impossible not to fall in love with Paris, the worlds most elegant and romantic of cities.

Paris City Breaks: Paris is simply stunning and makes an ideal cultural short break destination. Paris has a rich diversity of attractions, culture, scenic beauty and history making it a perfect holiday adventure for the whole family.

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Paris City Break: Start planning your short stay adventure now and you'll soon be enjoying the wonders of Paris - the global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture.

Paris Travel Guide

Introduction to Paris: You can visit Paris all year round as there is no 'best time' to visit the city, however the Spring and Autumn are cooler months and are very picturesque, the city seems to come alive in the spring, as if being reborn. Exploring Paris on foot is a sheer delight, you'll find many hidden squares, secret passages and wonderful unexpected views around most corners.

There's so much atmosphere to absorb when visiting Paris, from the bustling Boulevards and Legendary Cafés, the fascinating Sacré-Coeur and Quartier Montmartre - to simply chilling on the banks along the river Seine, so come prepared and plan your sightseeing time well.

With famous Paris landmarks like the Louvre, Notre-Dame, Champs-Élysées, Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe around every corner, it can often prove challenging choosing which attractions to visit, so to help choose which sites to add to your sightseeing itinerary we've listed a few of our favorite places we think you must see.

Paris Eiffel Tower

(1). The Eiffel Tower: Built in 1889 the Eiffel Tower symbolizes Paris and is one of the most-visited pay-to-enter monuments in the world, receiving over 6.5 million visitors annually. Visiting the tower is an absolute must, you can either admire the magnificent ironwork structure close-up at ground level, or for spectacular panoramic views of the city you can climb the 1,665 steps (or take the elevator) to the viewing platforms located at varying stages up the tower.

There's a choice of three viewing/observation decks, all of which can be reached by elevator. For the best and most thrilling cityscapes take the exhilarating elevator ride to the top level at 906 feet (276 meters) high.

Plan your visit to the Eiffel Tower in advance to avoid disappointment. You can buy tickets direct from the Eiffel Tower's online ticket office. Buying entry tickets in advance is highly recommended, especially if visiting the top levels, or if visiting during peak holiday periods (July & August).

Top Tips: (1). On the way up to the top levels stop off at level 1 to walk on the glass floor (this will help prepare for the dizzy heights at level 3). Take in the impressive view below your feet as you tentatively move around the transparent floor. (2). The best times to visit the Eiffel Tower are in early morning to avoid the rush, or at dusk to witness Paris light-up as night-time takes over the city.

Paris The Louvre

(2). The Louvre: The striking Louvre is one of the world's largest art museums and attracts over 8 million visitors a year. Located on the Right Bank of the Seine the museum was once a sumptuous royal palace and home to France's kings before moving to Versailles.

The Lauvre's main courtyard is home to two glass pyramids and a reflecting pool, built in 1989 these courtyard additions represent a stark but welcoming contrast to the ornate Renaissance architecture of the former royal palace. The principal entrance to the museum is via the glass pyramid, a dramatic entrance worthy of the hosing of the world's largest and most important art collections.

The art works on display range from antiquities to European paintings of the 15th to 19th centuries, including the The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese, plus the Venus de Milo (the Greek goddess) one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture, you'll also find the famous Winged Victory dating from the beginning of the 2nd century.

Planning your entry into the Lauvre can be a 'work of art' in itself, at peak times it can get unbearably busy. Top Tips: Consider buying one of the priority 'book in advance tickets', usually they included a guided tour and can help reduce entry and waiting times. In general do some research on the various tour and ticket options available. The tours maybe costly but they can save you time, plus the guides aur usually very informative and are likely to be proven art historians.

(3). Montmartre and Basilique du Sacré-Coeur: Montmartre is an elevated area of Paris that was once a medieval country village, it became an official district of Paris in 1860. Montmartre stretches from the grand boulevards by the opera, through to the lively Quartier Pigalle and the Clignancourt antiques & vintage markets to the Sacre Coeur Basilica. Montmartre is charming, colourful and unique, it's the district where artists, musicians and writers made their home over 120 years ago when rents were cheap.

Paris Montmartre

Montmartre is full of history and character, perhaps the best place to start is the tourist attracting Pigalle district. Pigalle is renowned for its neon-lit red light activities, plus an eclectic nightlife ranging from the renowned 19th-century cabaret Moulin Rouge to chic cocktail lounges, trendy cafés, gastro-bistros and botique style hotels. The closest métro station is Pigalle, Blanche.

Set further up the hill you have the gleaming white Basilica of the Sacré Coeur, which is visible from most areas of Paris. In this area of Montmartre you'll find private boutiques, art galleries, art museums, traditional outdoor cafés, plus the quarter's bohemian past, a past with a maze of steep narrow winding cobblestone streets and pretty ancient squares. This is where you'll still find local artist's painting and selling their works (to both tourists and locals), especially around the Place du Tertre.

In its hay day Montmartre was particularly popular during La Belle Époque (a period of French & European history dating between 1890-1915). This was a time of important artistic and cultural development, a time when the Bohemian creative spirit was at its peak, and a time when Montmartre attracted the artistic community heavyweights such as the colorful Toulouse Lautrec and the great master Edgar Degas.

Top Tip: Visit The Musée de Montmartre, only a 3-min walk from Sacré Coeur. The museum consists of art works, buildings and the homes of several famous artists, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon (the first woman painter admitted to the SNBA) and the Fauvism artist Raoul Dufy. The museum also houses the Café Renoir with its delightful gardens, a perfect place to relax with a coffee and gateau after strolling the Montmartre.

Lastly don't forget to visit the Sacre Coeur Basilica located at the highest point of the city and built in the Italian Byzantine style. Worth viewing at the basilica is the magnificent ceiling mosaic, known to be the largest of its type in the world. Entry to the basilica is free, however there is a charge to access to the top of the dome for great panoramic views of the city.

Top Tip: Take the Montmartre funicular from the base of Montmartre to the summit where the Basilique du Sacré Coeur and the Place du Tertre are situated. The funicular has been in operation since 1900 and has been rebuilt and renovated several times since. The system transports over 2 million passengers a year, up a vertical distance of 36m (118 ft) with a journey time of just 90 seconds.

The alternative to the funicular is to walk up the 197 steps to the top, we suggest taking the funicular up and walking back down. The funicular is part of the Paris Métro network and operates a similar pricing. There are two Métro stations within easy walking distance of the lower station: Anvers on Line 2 and Abbesses on Line 12 and are both within a 350 metre distance.

Paris Notre-Dame Cathedral

(4). The Notre-Dame: The Notre-Dame Cathedral is a powerful symbol of Paris, the Gothic masterpiece was built between 1163 and 1345 with a seating capacity of around 6,000 people. Unfortunately a tragic fire took hold of the cathedral in 2019 causing serious damage to the roof and the main spire.

The cathedral remains permanently closed, however restoration efforts are continuing well and the magnificent cathedral is scheduled to reopen to the public by 2025. Once reconstruction work is completed visitors will once again be able to admire the Cathedral's three spectacular and enormous rose windows as well as the vast 7,800-pipe organ and the spectacular views of Paris from the top of its 226ft towers.

(5). The Palace of Versailles: Visit the 700 roomed Palace of Versailles one of the largest palace's in the world, famous for its royal french occupants from King Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette. The Versailles is best known for it's hall of mirrors, magnificent gardens, impressive art collections, lavishly decorated rooms and view of the Queen's apartments. The Palace of Versailles is one of the city’s top attractions, due to its cultural and historical importance and the unforgettable glimpse into French royal life through the centuries.

One of the Château de Versailles most interesting attractions is the magnificent grounds and gardens. The gardens are filled with smaller palaces, impressive outbuildings, statues, fountains, winding paths, beautiful flowers and an important array of tree species. Garden highlights include the Grand Trianon, a beautiful pink marbled palace commissioned by Louis XIV and built in 1687. Plus the smaller Petit Trianon, a Neoclassical style Château commissioned by Louis XV in 1758 and enjoyed by Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI and the last queen of France before the French Revolution.

Top Tips: (1). Plan your visit to Versailles carefully, the palace attracts large numbers of visitors especially during peak holiday dates. It's possible you may have to queue for up to 2 hours to enter and pass through security. Some ticket options guarantees access to the Palace within a set time, so plan and time your visit carefully. (2). The Palace grounds and gardens are wonderful to explore but they are huge, so take advantage of bike hire or ride the mini train that routes through the most interesting parts of the gardens at a leisurely pace. (3). Journey time to Versailles from Paris city centre is 50 miniutes by car and just over 1 Hour by train (including a 20 minute walk from Versailles-Chantiers train station to the Palace).

(6). The Latin Quarter: The Latin Quarter stretches across both parts of the fifth and sixth arrondissements. The quarter dates back to the Middle Ages and was once the busiest and most lively area in Paris.

The name Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin) stems from when the original students of La Sorbonne University (who were also inhabitants of the neighborhood) used Latin as the language of study. The Latin quarter is full of authentic Parisian atmosphere and is located on the left bank of the Seine, its also one of the oldest districts of Paris. The area is home to some of Europe's most prestigious universities and learning establishments, including The University of Paris (La Sorbonne) and the Collège de France, it's also the creative beating hart of the city.

Roaming the Latin Quarter's maze of narrow cobblestone streets provides a glimpse of what medieval Paris must have looked like. Here you'll discover why the area became a popular meeting place for many artists, writers and scholars. Many of the quarter's famous cafes, tiny bistros and dusty book stalls still remain open and dotted along the tiny cobbled streets and passageways, which help retain much of the quarter's ancient feel.

It's all about soaking-up the atmosphere and bohemian charm of this historic academic quarter. Wander and explore the narrow winding streets and stop off at one of many tiny authentic bistros or reasonably-priced restaurants, and when recharged visit the following nearby top attractions to complete your Latin Quarter discovery: (1). The landmark Shakespeare & Company Book Shop, (2). The Jardin des Plantes botanical gardens, (3). The National Museum of Natural History.

Top Tip: Stop for a glass of wine or cocktails at Les Deux Magots or the Café de Flore, both located a short block away from each other in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Both brasseries are full of Parisian charm, they were the favorite meeting place for the master of Cubism Pablo Picasso, and in the 1920's the French philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre and the famous American novelist Ernest Hemingway were often seen here drinking well into the night.

(7). The Avenue des Champs-Elysees: Take a long walk up the glittering Champs-Elysees. The avenue is the most famous in France and extends from the lower side at Place de la Concorde to the higher side at Place Charles de Gaulle, which is also the location for the magnificent Arc de Triomphe. The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is a must see experience, created in 1667 by Louis XIV it's now considered one of the most important and prestigious luxury shopping streets in Paris if not the world.

At the Place de la Concorde (the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées) is located the largest square in Paris with fantastic views in all directions. The square is steeped in the history of the French Revolution. In 1792 the square was named 'Place de la Revolution' and became the main site for the guillotine, with the revolutionary government executing more than 1200 people. The victims of the guillotine would often be surrounded by cheering crowds that would flock onto the bloodied site, some of the sites most famous victims include King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette.

Today the square is famous for its 23m tall 3,300 year old Luxor Obelisk erected on the square in 1836. Interestingly the Obelisk was gifted to King Charles X of France in 1830 as a gesture of friendship and gratitude, the Obelisk once stood to the right-side entrance to the Luxor Temple in the reign of Ramesses II. It took 6 years to plan, dismantle and transport the Obelisk from Luxor to the Place de la Concorde in Paris, the left-hand obelisk was also gifted to France but remains in its original position at the entrance to the LuxorTemple.

At the higher side of the Champs-Élysées stands Napoleon's magnificent Arc de Triomphe. At 51 meters tall it sits proudly at the centre of several intersecting grand avenues, and is the starting point for most major French parades and the end point of the famous Tour de France. For a closer look and to access the Arc de Triomphe use the underpass tunnel that runs under the grand avenues оn thе north side, this will save you negotiating the constant high volumes of traffic circling the monument.

You can venture inside the Arc de Triomphe to the museum and learn more about its history, you can also pay a small fee to climb the steps to the monuments top viewing platform, here you'll be met with spectacular views right аlоng thе Avenue des Champs Elysees. Top Tip: Visit the Arc de Triomphe's top viewing platform at night to witness the shimmering lights аlоng thе Avenue des Champs Elysees, with the spectacular light show from the Eiffel Tower in one direction and the bright lights of the business district and the Grande Arche de la Defense in the other.

The future of the Champs-Élyséesis could soon undergo radical change. A multi million dollar project is being considered to overhaul large sections of the Champs-Élyséesis, with ambitious plans to refurbish and redevelop areas into pedestrian-friendly experiences, with less traffic, wider sidewalks, more family parks, outdoor cafés and new sports facilities.

(8). Other Paris Attractions: Alternative places of interest include: (1) The Pompidou Center - which contains the National Museum of Modern Art with a collection of over 100,000 pieces dating from 1905 to present day. (2) The Musee d' Orsay contains the best collection of impressionist art in the world. (3) Visit the Versailles with it's hall of mirrors, magnificent gardens and view of the Queen's apartments.

Top Tips: Stop off for lunch at Georges restaurant on the top floor of The Centre Pompidou. The rooftop restaurant has a unique and idyllic setting, it also features floor-to-ceiling windows with fantastic views across the Paris skyline, including great views of the Eiffel Tower, the Notre-Dame and Montmartre. (4) Try one of three fabulous cabarets, The Moulin Rouge - the worlds most Famous French cabaret revue based on typical Parisian style. The Lido - a spectacular show with an international flavor. The Paradis Latin - a fabulous revue, authentic and entertaining.

Paris Public Transport Options: Paris has an excellent public transport system consisting of: Underground Metro System, Regional Train RER (Réseau Express Régional) and Bus services. Conveniently all three main transport services are very well integrated, including the payment and ticketing system.

The state-owned Paris public transport network operator "Autonomous Parisian Transportation Administration" (RATP for short) is responsible for most of the public transport in the Greater Paris area including the Paris Métro, the Île-de-France tram and RATP bus network, plus part of the regional express rail (RER) network.

Paris Metro

The Paris Metro: Paris Metro stations are identified with the letter M or the words Métro or Métropolitain. The Paris Metro system has a total of 16 lines identifiable by number, color and end-of-line names (the name of the Line represents the last stop (end point) of the line). With over 300 stations and 136 miles of track the Paris Metro is a very extensive system, with virtually every tourist attraction being within easy reach of a Metro station.

When travelling around Paris you'll probably end-up using both the Metro & RER Regional Train Transport (the system that connects the centre with the suburbs). The two systems compliment and connect perfectly with each other, they also use the same ticketing and travel card systems.

The travel area in Paris is divided into five zones radiating out from the centre, with ticket prices varying depending on the number of zones you need to use or pass through. The majority of city centre tourist attractions and hotels are within zone 1. The Paris Metro system is mainly confined to zones 1 and 2. The Sacré Coeur is in zone 1, Orly and Versailles are in zone 4. Disneyland (Marne-la-Valee) station is in zone 5. The subway opens at 5:30am and closes promptly at 1am (2am on Friday and Saturday).

The Metro ticketing tructure is relatively easy to understand. A standard single-journey ticket is called T+ Ticket (also available in a carnet of 10), there is also a weekly travel pass and monthly travel cards and the popular Paris Pass for tourists.

The Paris Pass: For travelling around the centre of Paris the Paris Pass is the most convenient ticket option. The pass gives you unlimited travel for (2-6 days) in zones 1-3 on the Metro, RER, Bus and the Montmartre Funicular. The pass also gives you up to25% discounton certain tourist attractions including some museums and restaurants (see pass for details before purchase). The Paris Pass also gives you access to a 'hop on hop off' bus tour of the city stopping at over 20 major attractions (Big Bus Paris), plus discounts on a River Seine cruise or tour of the Palais Garnier. You can download the pass to your phone or print your pass and bring it with you.

Paris Bus Service: The Paris bus transport systemis one of the easiest and most convenient ways of getting around Paris. There are over 60 lines operating within the Parisian city limits with each line marked with a name and number. Tickets can be bought direct from the driver or you can use a T+ Ticket or Paris Pass. Like the Metro the bus will have a number and 'end of the line' destination marked on its front.

Paris Taxis: Taxis are readily available and can be hailed on the roadside or found at taxi ranks. Official licensed taxis have a "Taxi Parisian" sign on the roof and they all operate a metered fare system. Taxi scams can occur so always check you are entering an official taxi with a correctly displayed licence badge and a working fare meter.

Taxi Fare Payments: For short distances cash is often the preferred form of payment, for longer journeys (to the airport) credit cards are usually fine. Always check with the driver if cards are accepted before entering the taxi, especially if you're carrying a small amount of cash. Top Tip: Not all taxi drivers speak english, if possible load your destination and route onto your digital device and show the destination address to the driver.

** End Transport / Start Nightlife **

Paris Nightlife: Paris Nightlife is very much centered around the bars, cafes, bistros and restaurants, with each Paris neighborhood (arrondissements) catering for different styles and tastes. The charm of the Parisian Bars, Bistros & Brasseries are what most Parisians and tourists favour so we've listed below the different districts of Paris we think provide some the best nightlife options:

(1). The Latin Quarter: This district is full of charm and Parisian character and is popular with all age groups, with students packing the cheaper bars while the older folk enjoy street-side dining, established cafés and authentic wine and jazz bars. The Latin quarter is full of centuries old character, with traditional cozy Parisian bars tucked-away down a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways. Top Tip: When in the Latin Quarter ask a local for a bar or cafe recommendation, Latin Quarter regulars are usually very friendly, and asking a local could save valuable time in finding that perfect bar. For more lively cafés and restaurants head to the Place de la Contrescarpe (an area where Hemingway once lived) and the famous Rue Mouffetard.

(2). Pigalle & Montmartre: The Pigalle district: The Pigalle Quarter is located in the north of the city at the foot of Montmartre hill. Pigalle is known for its long strip of trendy and seductive bars, restaurants and theaters, including the world-famous cabaret the Moulin Rouge, historically it was once the main red-light district of Paris and remnants of adult entertainment still very much remain in the area. If you like Electro Dance Music head to La Machine du Moulin Rouge, a great venue for dancing into the small hours with live music and renowned guest DJ's.

(3). Montmartre: Montmartre is a special part of Paris, situated above Pigalle at the top of Montmartre hill. At Montmartre you'll find a more relaxed atmosphere, with traditional bars, quaint restaurants and cafés dotted along the narrow winding cobblestone streets. Although not overflowing with entertainment there's still plenty to keep you occupied. The typical laid back Parisian ambience is favored by locals and tourists alike, making Montmartre a perfect location to enjoy the company of friends and for drinking quality French wine into the small hours. Top Tip: Dine at La Part des Angesout, a small & friendly gem of a restaurant, serving excellent French cuisine and located just off the tourist track at 10 Rue Garreau.

(4). Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Although the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés are right next to each other, Saint Germain has a slightly more grown-up feel with it's established jazz lounges, English pubs and famous cafés such as the Cafe Les Deux Magots, Cafe de Flore and Patisserie Laduree (a typical cozy and intimate Parisian brasserie serving tradition French delicacies, specializing in French macarons).

(5). Le Marais: Le Marais, also known as SoMa (South Marais) is located on the Right Bank and is filled with high and low fashion boutiques, trendy bars and art galleries. Nightlife in Le Maris is stylish and exciting, it's where you'll find fashion and good wine mixing with gay clubs and lesbian bars.

(6). Bastille: A real serious mix of nightlife can be found in Bastille, with a variety of music bars, Jazz & Techno clubs and Latino venues, plus traditional cafes and classy nightclubs. You'll find lots going on well into the early hours. Wander around the old cobbled streets and you'll find many trend setting bars and clubs packed along the narrow streets of historic Bastille. The downside - it can get overcrowded (from early evening onwards), especially on weekends with younger peeps looking for lively partyland.

Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG). The airport is located 14 miles (23km) north east of Paris.

Airport Transport and Shuttle Services:
Airport Train to Paris: For transfers from CDG airport to city centre, the quickest and least expensive method of travelling into the city is by train. The RER B city train is a direct rail link from CDG airport to Denfert-Rochereau, Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame, Châtelet-Les-Halles and Gare du Nord. A free CDGVAL shuttle connects airport stations with airport terminals. Frequency of RER trains is every 10-15 minutes on weekdays, with a journey time of approx 30 min's.

Airport Bus Shuttle: The Charles de Gaule to Paris city centre airport bus service is operated by RoissyBus Shuttle. RoissyBus shuttle provides direct bus services between CDG and Paris (Paris-Opéra). Frequency is every 15 min's during the day with a journey time of approx 60 minutes.

Car Hire: All major car rental companies are represented at Paris airport, including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt. Car journey time from CDG to Paris is approx 58 min drive via the A1.

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