Timeless and Chic: Your Guide to Planning a Trip to Paris, France
Baguettes, Art, Fashion and So Much More
When Audrey Hepburn said “Paris is always a good idea,” she definitely knew what she was talking about. The City of Lights holds an eternally romantic and ethereal air, with centuries of glamorous history and traditions behind it.
Every corner of the city is beautiful, from the elegant parks to the narrow, cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter to the benches alongside the Seine that are the perfect spot to enjoy a bottle of wine and a baguette. It’s unsurprising that Paris is one of the top luxury destinations for couples, especially.
Although there are plenty of beautiful attractions in France outside of the capital city, Paris is quite simply one of the most timeless travel destinations in the world. Here is what you need to know before you visit Paris.
What to Expect
You’ve probably already heard many stories, watched many movies and read plenty of books about Paris, so chances are you have a good idea of what to expect. Just in case though, here are some handy things for visitors to know.
- English is commonly spoken in touristy areas, but French people will be 10 times more welcoming if you try out your French with them. It doesn’t matter how broken it is — it’s the thought that counts. The “snobby Parisian” stereotype is usually only fulfilled when tourists insist on speaking only English, so even a “parlez-vous anglais?” can help endear you to them.
- Parisians take wining and dining seriously, so never sit down in a restaurant if you plan on rushing through your meal. Savor every sip and mouthful, true French style!
- Paris doesn’t disappoint as the fashion capital of the world. Everyone seems to be effortlessly chic, with a casual elegance that most people can only envy. Even if you’ll never be as fashionable as the French, you should still try to dress nicely when you’re walking around the city — try to avoid the cargo pants and running shoes ensemble at all costs.
- The city is massive, with 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods), but with an excellent metro system you’ll find it easy to get around. It’s worth buying a 10-trip ticket or a day pass for the metro, to help you zip from one landmark to the next.
- Paris is every bit as dreamy as it is in your imagination. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect though, so be prepared to take long queues at tourist attractions, the occasional dog poop on the sidewalk, and a less-than-pleasant-smelling metro in stride.
Top Things to See
Plan on spending at least a week in Paris — there is a never-ending list of things to do and see, with each quarter offering up something different. Pick one or two of these top attractions to see each day, and divide up the rest of your time between exploring the streets and checking out local eateries.
There are many different ways to view attractions in Paris, depending on what you are looking for. If you’re on a budget, downloading audio walking tours of landmarks can be a great way to get the history of an area for free.
On the other end of the spectrum, taking Paris private tours will give you an insider’s look at the city, with many perks that you won’t be able to get through group tour companies.
The Jewish Quarter is where you can find some of the best falafels and liveliest Sundays in the whole city.
The Louvre tends to take all the glory where Parisian art museums are concerned, but this glass-roofed exhibition hall is home to works just as fascinating as any in the Louvre.
Notre Dame de Paris
The gargoyles alone are worth visiting for.
You can’t (and shouldn’t) miss the white basilica sitting on top of the hill in Montmartre.
Arc de Triomphe
One of the most famous monuments in Paris, this is a prime selfie spot.
Stretching from Place de la Concorde to the square where the Arc de Triomphe sits, walking the Champs Elysees (and humming “oh, Champs Elysees” under your breath) is a must-do for any Paris visit. It’s especially fun to visit on Bastille Day, so be sure to stop by if your Paris trip coincides with this entertaining holiday!
Jardins du Luxembourg
Take a break from the rush of the city and enjoy the tranquility of this manicured park.
Some of the greatest secrets of Paris lie beneath the city in the mysterious, bone-riddled catacombs.
Fans of the film “Amelie” will recognize the quirky streets and captivating atmosphere of Montmartre instantly.
Quirky bookshops and markets overflowing with sumptuous morsels from the French countryside characterize the Latin Quarter.
When to Go
The weather in Paris is best during July and August, but as this coincides with holiday season, it’s also the busiest season. The best times to go are either side of this peak period, so you can still enjoy fall or spring sunshine without the crowds or the ramped up costs.
December is also a great time to visit if you don’t mind sightseeing in the cold. The whole city lights up for Christmas, with fairy tale light displays and markets selling cups of mulled wine alongside regional crafts that make perfect Christmas presents.
Paris isn’t a budget destination, although the fact that you can fly into the Charles de Gaulle Airport for a reasonable price does make it a good cheap destination in Europe, at least as a gateway to the continent. While there are many free or low-cost activities you can do around town, to get the most out of your visit you should be prepared to spend upward of $150 a day on a mid-range budget, or $70 on a low-range budget.
You can find good deals on accommodation if you stay slightly out of the city center or opt for an Airbnb over a hotel, but if you want a private room, prices start at about $70 a night.
Eating is one of the greatest pleasures of any Paris trip, and luckily you can get a taste of exquisite French patisserie by shopping for your lunches at any boulangerie you come across. You can also grab a baguette and a wedge of cheese from the nearest supermarket and settle in to the Champ de Mars or Trocadero for a budget-friendly picnic you can enjoy while gazing at the Eiffel Tower.
When it comes to dining out, though, decent meals start at around $15 and can go up into the hundreds of dollars, depending on where you dine.
Some of the best attractions in Paris are free to enter, including Notre Dame and the Sacre-Coeur. Others, like the Louvre and other museums, are free on the first Sunday of every month.
Meanwhile, strolling the Seine doesn’t cost a cent, and an espresso in a corner café where you can soak up the atmosphere of Paris will only cost a few euros.