Paris Travel Guide
Bonjour and welcome to our Paris Travel Guide. We're here to help you travel better in the City of Lights and learn about all the things to do in Paris.
The capital of France, Paris is a vibrant mix of fascinating history and cosmopolitan modernity, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. It's also commonly known as the City of Love, and is the perfect destination for a weekend of amour.
But before you head off on your Parisian holiday, we think it helps to get the lowdown on all of the city's hidden gems, such as where to get the best food in Paris and the best ways to get about the city. Fortunately, you're in the right place to be in the know and make the most of the things to do in Paris.
In our Paris Travel Guide, we'll cover:
- How to get to Paris
- The best ways to travel around Paris
- Where to eat in Paris
- How to make the most of your money in Paris
- What's the weather like in Paris?
- Do I need to be able to speak French to enjoy Paris?
- Top tips for visiting Paris
So grab your camera and phrasebook, and come with us on a tour of history, food, romance and all manner of continental charm!
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How to get to Paris
Of course, one of the great things about Paris is how easy it is to reach from the UK, and there are plenty of options available when it comes to transport. Let's take a look at some of the easiest.
How to get to Paris from the UK by Eurostar
You'll be pleased to hear that it takes less time to get from London to Paris by train than London to Liverpool, clocking in at about two and a half hours on the Eurostar. Trains depart from St Pancras International, stopping at Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International in Kent along the way. Trains start running at around 5:40am and run every 60 to 90 minutes until 8pm.
You'll need your passport and ticket ready to pass through airport-style security before you can board the train. However, you can take two bags and there's no weight restrictions to worry about. As for refreshments, there's carriage-come-café that sells hot food and drink, however we found the choices to be a bit limited and on the pricey side. Our advice? Stock up some snacks at St Pancras to keep hungry stomachs from rumbling or wait for a fresh baguette in France.
The Eurostar pulls in at Paris Gare du Nord station, which connects the rest of the city by a reliable metro system.
How to get to Paris from the UK by aeroplane
For those who prefer to take to the skies, there's plenty of aerial options when it comes to travelling to Paris. There are two major airports serving Paris: Charles de Gaulle airport to the north east and the smaller Paris Orly airport to the south. You can find routes to Paris from most major and some regional UK airports and you can expect a flight to take between 1 and 2 hours. Although this is a shorter journey as the crow flies, remember to factor in time to get through security and baggage claim. Check out our airport tips on how to get your holiday started as quickly as possible. And if you're really early, there's always the shops or an airport lounge to kill some time.
Book your airport hotel early
It pays to book your airport hotel or your lounge as soon as you book your flights. Prices usually go up nearer the date you fly, so the sooner you let us know your dates the more you're likely to save.Book my airport hotel today
How to get to Paris from Charles de Gaulle airport
To get into the centre of Paris from Charles de Gaulle airport you can take Line B of the RER (Paris' wider train network). It'll take about 35 minutes to reach Paris Gare du Nord where you can find connections to the Metro and other public transport to whizz you about the city.
How to get to Paris from Orly airport
From Orly airport you can connect to Line B of the RER line too, although you'll need to take the Orlyval Shuttle Service from the airport to Antony train station first.
However, we think the best way to get to Paris from either airport is by Air France's airport bus transfers. There are two lines from Charles de Gaulle into the city, one from Orly Airport and one line between the two. The buses run frequently starting from 5 in the morning until around 11:30 at night, with transfer times taking around an hour from Charles de Gaulle and around 30 minutes from Orly. We recommend you book your shuttle online before travelling to save yourself the hassle once you're here.
The best ways to travel around Paris
Now you've dropped your bags off at the hotel and with the bells of Montmatre ringing in your ears, it's time to start exploring all that Paris has to offer. Here's some of the best ways to get around the city.
Should I travel through Paris on foot?
As with all cities, we think that the best way to get around and truly experience Paris is on foot. You'll get a proper feel for the city and it's eco-friendly too. But just bear in mind that Paris is big. Like, really big. A non-stop walk from the Eiffel Tower to Notre-Dame will take about an hour. Fortunately, if you're limited on time then there are lots of really good public transport options.
Should I travel through Paris by public transport?
If you need to get about Paris quickly, you can't go wrong hopping on the city's extensive Metro system. The subway is split into the Metro and RER lines. Tickets will work across both so you can treat it as one big underground network. In our experience it's not the cleanest metro system we've used, but it's definitely the best way of getting around the city quickly and reliably.
The Metro has 16 lines, each with a different colour, while the five RER lines are assigned the letters A, B, C, D and E. RER and Metro trains run every day from 6am until half past midnight.
As for tickets, you buy them in euros and they cost around €1.80 (₤1.60) with a book of 10 costing around €16 (₤14). There are weekly and monthly passes available, but you'll need a passport photo for them and they're really designed for commuters rather than tourists. Instead we recommend picking up a Paris Visite card.
To help navigate Paris like a pro, keep an eye out for the maps at each Metro station and make sure to have an appropriate app loaded on your phone. CityMapper, one of our favourites, is available in Paris; it'll show which Metro lines to use, how long your journey will take and can even integrate with Uber to book you a car. We used it extensively during our time here and it worked excellently.
Should I travel through Paris by taxi?
Taxis in Paris work just like in any other major city, you can hail one in the street or take one from a taxi rank. Official taxis are easily to spot by a light up 'Taxi Parisien' sign on the roof, just remember that red means busy and green means the taxi is available. If a taxi does not have this and doesn't have a meter then don't use it. The minimum charge for a taxi is about ₤6, making it one of the pricer options for getting about Paris.
Where to eat in Paris
Forget what you think you know about French food, it's much more than the cliches of frog legs, baguettes, cheese and fine wine (although you can find all of those if they take your fancy). For a voyage of culinary discovery and delight, we can't think of a better destination.
How important is food in Paris?
In Paris, food is a massive part of the culture. In fact, there's more Michelin star restaurants here than any other European city, so regardless of your tastes or dietary requirements, you're sure to find somewhere delicious to eat in Paris. We can think of worse ways to impress someone on a date!
Where do we recommend to eat in Paris?
One of our favourite restaurants in Paris is La Bouteille d'Or, on the south side of the Seine, next to Notre-Dame. They pride themselves on only using local ingredients to give their gourmet menu a homemade twist that makes for what we think could be the best dinner in the city. If you're a fan of seafood, you just have to try the cod. Thank us later.
How to make the most of your money in Paris
The currency here is the Euro, and while Paris considered cheap the prices are about in line with what you'd expect in any other major city. Here's a breakdown of our costs:
- Eurostar - ₤87 return
- Three-bed Airbnb - ₤333 (for 2 nights)
- Eiffel Tower:
- Adults - €17 (₤15)
- 12-14 year olds - €14.50 (₤13)
- Under 12s - €8 (₤7)
- Under 4s - Free
- Adults - €17 (₤15)
- Under 18s - Free
- Three-course meal - €25 (₤22)
- Omelette - €5 (₤5)
- Coffee - €4.80 (₤4)
Can I pay with card in Paris?
You can of use all debit and credit cards in Paris, just remember to tell your bank before you travel. Alternatively, if you're unsure about using your card or carrying a lot of cash, it might be a good idea to pick up a currency card, such as the FairFX money card before you leave. You can load the card up with your travel money before you set off for Paris, meaning all your funds are readily accessible wherever you are. You can even manage your money on the go via the FairFX app, available on iOS and Android. Pas de problème.
Should I tip in Paris?
Tipping in France is not generally expected, and restaurants will add a service charge to the bill. By all means tip if you think the service has been exceptional, but you don't need to feel compelled to do so. Similarly, tipping after a taxi journey isn't expected either although we would generally round up the fare to the nearest Euro.
What's the weather like in Paris?
The weather in Paris is very similar to that in the south of England - meaning that winters are cold and summers are warm (maybe even a little warmer than what we can expect on our side of the Channel). That being said, much like British weather, you can never really predict the weather in Paris, so pack a brolly and some extra layers just in case.
Do I need to be able to speak French to enjoy Paris?
We found that most restaurants and tourist attractions in Paris spoke English, so you don₤t need to become fluent in French overnight. With that being said, people here are not as keen to use it as in many other countries, so it's a good idea to learn a few key phrases and words to help immerse yourself in the culture and authentically enjoy all the things to do in Paris. It also never hurts to show off your linguistic skills to friends and family!
Here's some top words and phrases to get you started:
- Hello - Bonjour
- Yes - Oui
- No - Non
- Please - S'il vous plaît
- My name is - Je m'appelle
- Do you speak English? - Est-ce que vous parlez Anglais?
- A table for two please - Une table pour deux s'il vous plaît
- Can I have the bill please? - L'addition s'il vous plaît
- How much is it? - C'est combien
- Thank you - Merci
- Goodbye - Au revoir
Top tips for visiting Paris
Now we've covered everything you need to know before visiting Paris, here's a few top tips to make the most of your trip.
What's the best way to get into the Louvre?
The Louvre is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris, and is home to arguably the most famous painting of all time, Da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa'. But what many don't know is that the Louvre has a secret entrance. The main pyramid entrance often has long queues, but head to Porte des Lions near the bank of the River Seine and you'll find another way in with just a fraction of the wait time.
How to get fast track entry into the Eiffel Tower
Is there anything more quintessentially Parisian than the Eiffel Tower? Like Big Ben for London or the Empire State Building to New York City, you haven't really 'done' Paris until you've climbed the wrought iron structure. Rather than queue for hours to tick the tower off your list, if you book a table at the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant, you'll get to join their dedicated fast track queue and beat the long lines.
How to understand French menus
We've all been there; you try your best to understand a foreign menu, only to accidentally order something that you didn't expect. That's why we recommend the Google Translate app, which will translate any text to English on your screen in real time. Bon appetit.
Book a walking tour in Paris
If you're looking to experience Paris in the most authentic way, we think it's a good idea to book a walking tour with Discover Walks. They're fun and know loads about the city, plus they're English is spot on, making them the best guides around.
How to get to the Palace of Versailles
If you fancy a trip to the Palace of Versailles, use the RER Line C. It's about 45 minutes from the Eiffel Tower, and just keep in mind that you'll need a separate ticket which costs about ₤6.
The Palace of Versailles was the site of the Paris Peace Conference (1919), an event that helped shape the course of 20th century history, making it a fascinating place to visit and one worth heading out of the city centre for.
And that's a wrap on our time in Paris. We hope we've given you a taste of just some of the amazing things to see and do in this iconic city. But reading about it and experiencing it first hand are two very different things, so treat yourself and travel better to Paris. If you enjoyed this, why not check out our travel guides to other top destinations from around the world, including Vancouver, Copenhagen and Venice.
Next article: Planning winter sun in 2020
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