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Paris Travel Tips – What to Know Before You Go

Paris Travel Tips - What to Know Before You Go

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Paris. The City of Lights, or “la Ville Lumière“. The City of Love.  No matter what you call it, Paris is amazing. It’s unique. Spectacular. Beautifully magical in it’s own way. I’ve only been once (so far), but I was able to spend 10 glorious days exploring as much of they city as time would allow. I went here, I went there. I went everywhere! Paris lives up to all of the hype, but it’s not perfect. Paris is a very large city and you need to do a bit of research before packing your bags and hopping on a jet plane to the capital of France. But no worries, I’ve got you. Here are a few Paris travel tips – what to know before you go!

Navigating Paris

Paris is made up of 20 districts, or arrondissements, that are situated in the form of a spiral/circle, with the 1st arrondissement being in the center of the city and each subsequent number coming next moving in clockwise direction, spiraling outwards. Sounds sort of confusing, but I promise it’s fairly easy to understand the general geographical set up once you see it visually. Here are a couple of maps to refer to:

map of Paris, France arrondisments  

Each arrondissement may consist of several Parisian Quartiers (aka Paris Neighborhoods). Some locales may be referenced as being in a particular neighborhood (Belleville, Saint-Germain-des-Près, Bastille, Champs-Elysées, ‎Montmartre, Le Marais, ‎Canal Saint-Martin, and many more) and/or a numbered arrondissement.

The second map above shows the majority of the most famous sights in Paris, and if you have several days to journey, I would advise experiencing as many of the iconic spots as possible (more on that later). The history in this city is overwhelming, in an amazing way. I’m not sure that there is ever enough time to REALLY see EVERYTHING in Paris, but you can surely try! I know I did!

Paris Travel Tips: Once you arrive in Paris, pick up a couple of the free local pocket maps at the train stations and keep them handy. Once you arrive at your hotel, or other, take a few minutes to study the map(s) and get as familiar with the layout as possible.

Where to stay in Paris

So, now that you’ve seen the way Paris is laid out, you need to decide where you are going to stay. Depending on the length of your stay, you might want to choose an arrondissement that is convenient to your intended sights. Certain arrondissments are more touristy than others, and this should weigh in on your decision of where to stay. For example, if you want to stay in a major hotel close to the most popular spots, you might choose one of the more centralized arrondissments (1-7). This will make traveling to the major tourist spots less time consuming, but understand you will be among the millions of others staying in the very same areas. Prices will be higher, streets will be more crowded (and louder), but you will be closer to it all.

On the other hand, if you want to experience life more as a “local”, then you might look at options in the outer arrondissments (8-20). There are still several major attractions in the areas, but not the most touristy ones and the crowds are lessened because of it. Smaller boutique hotels and Air BNB type options are great to consider. We stayed in a penthouse apartment in the 11th/Bastille area and it was perfection. I felt safe walking at night, it was close to several metro stops, and there was several sights to see just down the street (Place de la Bastille, Paris Opera House, local open-air markets, restaurants, shops, etc.). A small market/grocery store was on the same block, and we were able to get groceries and snacks for the week super cheap.

Paris Travel Tips: Find something that is clean, convenient, safe, and within your budget. Unless you plan on spending all of your time in the hotel (or apartment/ABNB, etc.), you really just need a nice place to rest your head at night after all of the sightseeing and exploring! Who goes to Paris to spend time in their room anyway???

Top Attractions in (and outside of) Paris

This list is easy to compile, as there is more than enough to see and do in Paris to keep you busy for days on end. The Eiffel Tower and The Louvre museum are probably at the top of any first-time-to-Paris list, for obvious reasons. But the must-do list is longer than that, right? Oh yeah. Much, much longer. In fact, the list of top attractions in Paris is so extensive that we will not be able to mention all of them in this short post. Notre-Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Sacre-Couer, Centre Pompidou, Champs-Élysées, Musée d’Orsay, the Luxembourg Gardens or Le Marais are just a few.

I practically ran from sun up to well past sun down for 10 days and I know there were a few places on my wish list (outside of Paris) that I did not get to. The one I DID get to , however, was probably the most memorable attraction of all. The Palace of Versailles. Oh. Em. Gee. This is THE PALACE of all palaces. Words cannot sufficiently describe this one. We spent an entire day here touring the palace and grounds and I still feel it wasn’t enough. From The Hall of Mirrors and The Grand (and Petit) Trianon to the King’s State Apartments and The Gardens, this was one of the most spectacular experiences I have encountered. An absolute MUST SEE!

Versailles Palace Paris, France  Pompadou museum Paris, France

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris, France

Paris Travel Tips: Lines can get VERY long at the most popular attractions. Buy tickets ahead of time, when possible, allowing you to skip the majority of the wait time. Consider The Paris Pass or Museum Pass for Paris to help save you time and money on the major sights. Versailles also offers tickets online, and I highly recommend purchasing these tickets ahead of time!

For more detailed Paris travel tips, I suggest picking up a detailed guide on all things Paris here, or click one of the pictures below, and do your homework. These are all great resources, and trust me, this is the kind of homework you will enjoy!

     Frommer's Guide Paris 2018 Eyewitness 2018 Paris Guide

What to Pack for Paris

Two words. COMFORTABLE SHOES! Yes, I am fully aware that Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Yes, I know there are many who want to look picture perfect for those Instagram photos in front of The Eiffel Tower and such. This is all fine and dandy. However, the amount of walking you will most likely do in Paris almost REQUIRES that you have on shoes that can handle the task without killing your feet or giving you massive blisters. Trust me here. Wear comfortable shoes.

The weather will depend on the season you are visiting, so I always recommend checking the weather trends for that time of year, and double/triple check beginning 10 days before you arrive. Rain is always a possibility any time of the year, so pack a small, portable umbrella. Dress for comfort and in layers when you can so you can easily add or remove when needed. Comfort doesn’t have to be a fashion faux paux though. Cute and casual is always a good choice. I was in Paris in the month of March and it was fairly chilly. I needed a jacket every day, and some days needed gloves, a scarf, and ear warmers as well. Summer can get fairly hot, but having a light jacket as an option is always a smart travel tip.

Paris Travel Tips: Pack clothing items that are interchangeable. Don’t overthink it, and try not to over pack. The last thing you want to do is lug a massive suitcase around in Paris. Keep it light, keep it simple, and enjoy!

Getting around Paris

*Trains

The two most recommended ways to get around Paris are the metro and by foot (hence the need for comfy shoes, yes?), but we’ll start with trains. The metro is very efficient, reliable, cost effective, and safe..for the most part. You can purchase tickets at any station and there are options to buy single tickets, a book of 10 tickets, or a multi-day pass. Which option you choose will depend on your length of stay and how many sights you need to get to. Prior to your trip, determine the places you must visit. Based on where you choose to stay, and using the maps above, decide how many time you think you will need to ride the train and purchase tickets accordingly.

Paris Travel Tips: if you are staying for more than six days, absolutely buy the Navigo Weekly Pass/all zones. This allows you unlimited rides for the week and is well worth the money.

CAUTION: Always keep your train tickets in a safe place. Do not hold them in your hand for too long, put them in your pocket, or place them down anywhere. The tickets are small and easily misplaced. I recommend putting them in the exact same place immediately after every use (a wallet or secure pocket inside a bag). I was unfortunate enough to misplace mine in transit at one point and, sure enough, the transit police were there checking tickets on our way out. What happened you ask? I was fined on the spot and had to pay cash (50 Euro) before I could walk away. Had I not done that, I could have been arrested right there. The Paris Metro Police take this serious. Read more interesting and similar stories here.

The RER train gets you to/from the airport and this is the same train that takes you to the amazing Versailles Palace. This train requires separate tickets from the metro mentioned above, and prices vary based on your travel routing and age (adult/child). All of the information you need can be found directly on their website here.

Trains (especially the metro) can get very crowded, depending on route and time of day. VERY. CROWDED. But it’s all good. Just squeeze it all in and keep still. Hold on to your purse, if you have one, and you will be at your destination before you know it. Be mindful of how many stops it takes to get to your destination, and pay attention. The metro is not the place to get into a deep conversation, or lost in thought, to the point you are not on top of your game. Be mindful.

*By Foot

As for walking around Paris, you just can’t go wrong. Well, hold that thought. Actually, yes you can. Always be safe by being aware of your surroundings and keeping your belongings close, but more on that next. Walking around Paris was the best overall experience for me. I discovered so many hidden gems by just roaming from one street to the next. I got “lost”several times because of the way the streets are laid out (everything is diagonal, not necessarily parallel), but I kept a map on my person at all times and I was able to find my way “home” every time. Exploring Paris by foot allows you to catch some of the boulangeries, patisseries, boutique shops, local galleries, and even street markets that you may not find if you are on the metro the entire time.

Getting lost wandering on the street of Paris was magical. One of my favorite memories. However, try to find your way to your next destination before the sun goes down. Navigating those streets in the dark without knowing your way around would be extra challenging. Doable, but challenging. I was out at night pretty much every night (by myself, for the most part), and everything was fine. Again, simple common sense precautions play well here. I did not drink while I was out, and I was aware of my surroundings. I walked swiftly and with purpose, appearing as if I knew exactly where I was going. And for the most part, I did.

Paris, France

What to Know Before You Go in Paris

Traveling to a foreign country is a wonderful experience, most of the time. In France, the language barrier can be an issue, but for the most part you can manage your way through Paris knowing the bare minimum of Bon jour (hell0), S’il vous plaît (please), merci (thank you), and Au revoir (good bye). Monsieur (sir) and Madame (ma’am) andbasic numbers are also good to konw. The Google translate app would come in handy as well. Paris is home to many people of many cultures, but knowing the basics of the French language is beneficial and shows respect to the locals.

*Keep your belongings close

Pick pockets are real, and you can find warnings about this issue in any Paris guide you read. You will also see/hear warnings all around the city. Be aware of groups of younger girls who ask for directions, petition signatures, or bump into you and start trying to get your attention in any manner. I witnessed two instances on the metro and both right around the Lourve metro stops. The trains were crowded and a group of girls tried to get something out of the pocket of a man standing right in front of me (unsuccessfully). These same girls moved up to the front part of the train and managed to take a wallet out of a ladies purse. The lady noticed it and began yelling at the girls in English, but they pretended to not understand and quickly took off running as soon as the doors opened at the next stop. There was nothing that woman could do.

Paris Travel Tips: Keep your purse completely zipped/closed at all times. Keep it close to you in the front of your body, and keep your hands over the top. Do not put wallets, phones, or anything valuable in any of your outside pockets (jeans, jackets, etc.). Be aware.

Paris Travel Tips

There are extensive resources with Paris travel tips all over the internet. In an effort to save you some time, I have included links to several great resources below. Research away!

US News – Paris travel guide
World in Paris
– Enjoy Paris like a local
Lonely Planet – A guide to all things Paris
Nomdaic Matt’s Paris Travel Guide – For budget minded tips
Adventurous Kate – 100 travel tips for Paris blog post

Paris is, by far, one of the most famous cities in the world. A trip here tops many travel bucket lists, and for good reason. The sights, the history, the food, the fashion, the museums, and so on, and so on. All completely amazing. The food experience deserves a separate post, for sure.  One day, I will get that going too!

Whether your first or next trip to Paris is officially scheduled, or you are only planning in your “dreams” for now, I hope you make it there one day and I hope these basic Paris travel tips give you a general idea of how to begin to prepare.

Jusqu’à la prochaine fois Paris,
Jessi(ca)

 

P.S. For more travel fun and information, click here!

Paris Travel Tips

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36 Comments

  • Kristy Wyatt

    Wow! Paris is on my bucket list and these tips are GOLD! I’m going to pin this for when I finally schedule my trip. Thanks for all the info and have a great time on your next trip there! 🙂

    April 13, 2018 at 10:50 am
  • Sheri-Ann

    Wow this is so detailed. I read to the end and I felt like I was there with you.
    The imagery is so vivid and exciting to read.

    April 13, 2018 at 11:02 am
  • Jessica

    Paris police really fine you and can even arrest you if you don’t pay for losing your ticket?? That’s crazy!!

    April 13, 2018 at 11:05 am
    • lifewithjessi

      Oh, don’t get me started. It was a very “interesting” experience, and one you do NOT want to be in! The fact that I am not fluent in French and they did not speak any English did not help at all. As long as you keep your ticket in a safe place until you completely exit the metro system, there should be no problems at all.

      April 16, 2018 at 11:01 am
  • Angela

    Somehow I never pictured Paris so big! Great tips, thank you!

    April 13, 2018 at 11:06 am
  • Jessica

    Did you receive my comment prior to this?

    April 13, 2018 at 11:07 am
  • Jessica

    Never mind, I see it didn’t 😛 I said the Paris police actually fine you or arrest you, if you lose your ticket? That’s crazy!!!

    April 13, 2018 at 11:08 am
  • Allie Guest

    This is such a great article! I loved visiting Paris, but I did not know there are 20 districts, this is very interesting. One cool thing we learned when we were there was that the Louvre has a back entrance, if you want to avoid the long entrance lines! I think it was the Lion’s entrance and we got right in. 🙂

    April 13, 2018 at 11:12 am
    • lifewithjessi

      We had the museum pass, so we were lucky enough to not wait in line for more than a few minutes. However, I do not think I knew about a back entrance. What a great tip! I will remember that for next time. Thanks for sharing!

      April 16, 2018 at 10:59 am
  • Alecia

    I would love to visit Versailles! I’ve never been that interested in the touristy side but I have huge soft spot for historical gardens

    April 13, 2018 at 11:13 am
    • lifewithjessi

      Alecia – the gardens of Versailles are beyond words! I have never seen anything so expansive. Pictures do not do the size justice. A view from the top floor of the main palace is the only way to begin to take it all in. Unreal and straight out of a fairy tale book! LOVE!

      April 16, 2018 at 11:26 am
  • Jet

    I love all the practical tips provided! I have not been to Paris but will definitely refer back to your post when I do.

    April 13, 2018 at 11:18 am
  • Julie

    Although there are things I’d like to see in Paris, it has never been a high priority. Your pictures are beautiful and I may make it there someday but there are definitely places higher on my list at the moment. Your excitement shows through though so I may have to move it up.

    April 13, 2018 at 11:36 am
    • lifewithjessi

      Thanks Julie. I have to know…what are your top five bucket list travel locations? Maybe I can share tips on those too! 🙂

      April 16, 2018 at 11:24 am
  • Nicole

    I dream of making it to Paris someday but I’ve never travelled internationally so there are great tips in here that I never would have thought much about. I’ve heard crime can be high in Paris so thanks for your very helpful tips. 🙂

    April 13, 2018 at 11:53 am
  • Ashley

    Wow! So informative and a great read! I visited Paris and this would have been nice info to have!!

    April 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm
  • Grace

    These are great tips! Comfortable shoes is a must. After this post, I am excited to see the sites around the outside of Paris as well! Thank you Jessi 🙂

    April 13, 2018 at 12:22 pm
  • Ashley Roberts

    Oh my goodness I would love to go to Paris! Your pictures are beautiful!

    April 13, 2018 at 12:40 pm
  • Shelley

    I have never been to Paris but I think I may like to go. Scary about the transit tickets. Good advice fir others

    April 13, 2018 at 1:58 pm
  • Natalie @ FullGreenLife

    Oh, I WISH I could visit Paris after reading this! It’s on my bucket list. All of your practical advice in this post definitely makes it feel a little more achievable!

    April 13, 2018 at 2:04 pm
  • Sam

    Sam-Thiswaymommy.com

    Jessi, as someone who is not from the US, it is always refreshing to get someone’s take on countries abroad.

    I like that you mentioned the clothing and the different modes of getting around.

    You are so right, who needs to sleep while in Paris?

    April 13, 2018 at 2:11 pm
  • Bianca Dunstan

    Some great tips there, thank you. I have been to Paris once and squeezed as much as I could in a weekend (definately not enough time!), Versailles was one of my favorite spots and I agree one day is definately not enough the place is huge and there is so much to see. Can’t wait to get back to Paris! Au bientot.

    April 13, 2018 at 2:55 pm
    • lifewithjessi

      Versailles is unreal, right? It’s hard to take it all in, but we surely tried! What an amazing experience! What was your favorite part? Honestly, I can’t pick just one!

      April 16, 2018 at 10:58 am
  • Paula

    Pick me! Pick me! I want to go to Paris and use all these great tips! How romantic and exciting.

    April 13, 2018 at 4:19 pm
  • Mohan

    Paris is very beautiful but it’s also costly. I was there 2 times. Once with my batchmates and another time with my wife. It is very romantic and you never get bored of the city.
    Your guide to Paris is awesome with travel tips!

    April 13, 2018 at 4:55 pm
  • Sarah

    Wow, sounds like this covers everything! I would imagine it’s extremely crowded there, but it’s definitely a place I would like to visit. And that’s interesting how it’s organized geographically! I’ve never seen a place that’s like that 🙂

    April 13, 2018 at 5:48 pm
  • Maia

    Paris is still on my bucket list. I will keep this guide handy!

    April 13, 2018 at 6:28 pm
  • Kelsey

    Paris is awesome! And it’s definitely much larger than any other city in Europe – so yep comfy shoes are a must! Thanks for sharing!

    April 13, 2018 at 6:45 pm
  • Tawnya

    Wow! What a detailed and helpful post! I would love to go to Paris at some point in the future, but unfortunately it won’t be for awhile. Despite that, I did really enjoy the article because I learned a lot of things I didn’t know, and I will definitely save this and refer back to it for my future trip 🙂

    April 13, 2018 at 6:54 pm
  • EscapeWriters

    Street of Paris are wonderful. Yes, I need comfy shoes to roam around as such there are lots of destinations you mentioned to visit!!!

    April 13, 2018 at 7:42 pm
  • Jessica

    So informative. I don’t travel outside of the US but maybe someday. Of course Paris is in my top 5 places I’d like to go and this post made me want to go right now! It would be such a lovely trip.

    April 13, 2018 at 8:05 pm
  • Jana

    So much great information! Some day I really would love to go to Paris, after reading this it does not seem so out of reach

    April 13, 2018 at 11:44 pm
  • Jet

    Great practical tips! I haven’t been to Paris but will definitely reference this post when I do!

    April 14, 2018 at 2:03 am
  • Skaiste

    Paris is my most favourite city in the world! I’ve been there multiple times and I can say this article was so on point: very informative and great pieces of advice!

    April 14, 2018 at 5:06 am
    • lifewithjessi

      Thank you! Paris is such an incredible place. It really is. I can’t wait to return, again and again! 🙂

      April 16, 2018 at 11:21 am
  • Ingrid

    I hope I can see Paris the city of love but I can only do in a budget. I think I would like to experience Paris however as a local and not as a tourist. That means I would explore the the outer arrondissments. Place de la Bastille, Paris Opera House, local open-air markets, restaurants, shops and so on.

    April 14, 2018 at 5:28 pm
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