Despite having seen a fair portion of Europe so far and even a couple of cities in France itself, my love affair with the City of lights only began in October 2017. And it was a love that consumed me, as it is safe to say that Paris has since been my favourite. I visited Paris for the second time in September 2020, and hopefully I will visit this amazing city many more times in the future.
Paris is always a good idea, as Audrey Hepburn once famously said, at any given season and even for a short stay. However, when planning a visit, one must come to terms with the fact that it would probably take a lifetime to see it all. Spending three or four days in the city is more than enough to fall head over heals in love, yet not nearly enough to scratch more than the surface of what this city has to offer. Keeping that in mind, focus on enjoying the city rather than worrying on missing out.
And don’t fret – you will be wanting to come back for more!
How to get there
Paris has three airports:
- the Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), also called the Roissy, is the largest international airport in France, located north of the city
- the Orly Airport (ORY) is the closest, located south of the city
- the Beauvais Airport (BVA) where low-cost flight companies like Ryanair fly to, is located outside of Paris
While CDG and ORY are approximately at the same distance from the centre (and quite easily accessible), the transfer from BVA to Paris will take approximately 90 minutes. In addition, it was even voted as one of the world’s worst airports, several years in a row. To avoid the lengthy transfer and any complications, I recommend flying to CDG or ORY (unless you manage to book really cheap flights to BVA).
For more information on airport transfer check here.
Getting around the city
Getting around Paris might seem challenging and intimidating, especially when planning your first visit, yet it is actually fairly simple once you understand its layout. The city is divided into 20 neighbourhoods (“arrondissements“) arranged in the form of a clockwise spiral that resembles a snail shell, starting from the historic centre. Each district has a unique feel, culture and points of interest (read more here). Neighbourhoods north of the Seine river form the Right Bank (Rive Droit), whereas the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) refers to the south part of the city.
Located mostly underground, the second busiest subway system in Europe is a great way for exploring the city with easy access to all main sights. The Métropolitain comprises 16 lines, which are identified by colour, number and direction of travel.
Save money by purchasing a carnet of 10 tickets for EUR 16,90 (an individual ticket costs EUR 1,90) or a weekly Navigo pass when planning a longer stay.
Download the free Next Stop Paris – RATP App or a similiar application for easier navigation.
If you want to truly experience Paris in all its glory, walking is the best (as well as the cheapest) option. Take the time to wander around the city, take millions of photos, explore the hidden gems and just take in all the beauty.
Taxis in Paris are pretty expensive, however, Uber is a much more affordable option.
Where to stay
As you can probably imagine, Paris can be quite expensive and your envisaged budget may well play a role in choosing both the location and type of accommodation. It’s also good to get acquainted with the arrondissements and their distinctive traits before booking a place to stay.
The 3* ibis Avenue de la République on 14 Rue Rampon is conveniently located on a quiet street at the cross of the charming Le Marais and the vibrant 11th arrondissement, just off the Oberkampf Métro station. Their hotel rooms, which come at very decent prices, are clean and quiet, however, don’t expect stunning views or huge suites.
The 4* Hôtel Les Dames du Panthéon on 19 Pl. du Panthéon is located directly next to the Pantheon, right in the heart of the Latin Quarter. Splurge on a room with a balcony overlooking the Pantheon.
Wining & dining
Paris is thought to be foodie heaven, so whether it’s grabbing a baguette from the neighbourhood’s local boulangerie (bakery) or sitting down in a fancy restaurant, reserve some time to indulge in delicious food and a glass of wine (or two).
Below you will find some of my discoveries and recommendations. While in Paris, don’t forget to try also the famous French crêpes and escargots.
Café de Flore
📍 172 Bd Saint-Germain, Saint-Germain-des-Prés
One of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris, celebrated for its famous clientele, which in the past included high-profile writers and philosophers.
Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole
📍 24 Rue Chanoinesse, Île de la Cité
If you have ever searched the hashtag #Paris on Instagram, chances are you have already stumbled upon this colourful little cafe and restaurant, located in a side street just of the Notre Dame. Undoubtedly very photogenic and possibly one of the cutest in the city.
L’Atelier des Artistes
📍4 Rue Rampon, Le Marais
Located just steps away from the abovementioned hotel, this French restaurant is a good choice for a dinner date: minimalistic, clean-lined interiors, friendly staff and good food ($$$$).
📍2 Place de la Contrescarpe, Quartier Latin
Enjoy a nice breakfast in this classic Parisian bistro before exploring the Latin Quarter.
📍36 Rue Marbeuf, Champs-Élysées
Inspired by Italian food, the Vapiano chain offers delicious pasta with fresh ingredients, salads and other delicacies. Big portions at moderate prices. Try the Carbonara!
Little Red Door
📍60 Rue Charlot, Le Marais
If you fancy some good music and a delicious, innovative cocktail, this speakeasy bar with fairly reasonable prices ($$$) is the perfect choice. Well-deservedly listed as one of the world’s best bars, the great atmosphere (literally) hidden behind little red door and architecture-inspired cocktails (chosen from the properly named “A menu of applied architecture”) won’t disappoint!
Le Chat Noir 1881
📍68 Boulevard de Clichy
The original Le Chat Noir (i.e. the black cat) is thought to be the first modern cabaret. It opened on 18 November 1881 on 84 Boulevard de Rochechouart, Montmartre by Rodolphe Salis and closed following Salis’ death in 1897.
During this time the cabaret changed sites and finally settled at the famous Boulevard de Clichy.
Today, it has been transformed into a modern hotel and restaurant, where you can grab some drinks and a bite to eat.
Favoured by the locals for their macarons, which might as well be crowned with the title of the world’s best. One of the shops can be found in the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. Take them to go – they taste even better with a view of the Iron Lady in the background!
📍226 Rue de Rivoli and other locations
Classy and elegant, this famous tea house is best known for its pudding-like hot chocolate. Splurge on some chocolat l’africain!
📍75 Avenue des Champs-Élysées
World’s second best macarons (see above)! When visiting their neatly arranged shop at Champs-Élysées, be prepared for long queues.
Le Français – the basics
When traveling, it’s always nice to learn a couple of basic words in the local language. In Paris even more so – the French will appreciate it.
Hello/Good day/Good morning – Bonjour
Thank you (very much) – Merci (beaucoup)
Goodbye – Au revoir
Yes/No – Oui/Non
Please – S’il vous plaît
Very good – Très bien
Excuse me – Pardon
To find out what to do and see in Paris, stay tuned for the next post!