Where to Stay in Paris
Paris is a big city, covering over 100sq kilometres and comprising some 20 different neighbourhoods, or arrondissements, which are named by number, according to their administrative district. Each of these districts has something to offer, with the French capital’s vast array of landmarks spread throughout the urban area. For the classic tourist experience, the arrondissements of La Marie (2), Champs Elysees (8) and Hôtel-de-Ville (4) are where many of the city’s most iconic sights are to be found. Alternatively, Montmartre (18) is further to the north of the city but is notorious for its historic connection with artistic movements and today is the favourite neighbourhood for local painters to sell their wares.
La Defense, located to the western limit of the city, is Paris’s business and financial district. Covering 1.6 kilometres, it is the largest purpose-built financial district in Europe and the primary location for those visiting the French capital on business. Batignolles-Monceau (17) is the neighbouring arrondissement, which offers easy access to both the CBD and the more central landmarks of Paris.
Alternatively, those looking to avoid the busier parts of the city will find that the Latin Quarter, Bel Air and Croulebarbe are safe neighbourhoods that are just outside of the city centre. When visiting Paris, it is important to make the distinction between the arrondissements and the neighbourhoods, as there can be a great deal of variation within any one arrondissement.
Facts about Paris
Paris stands apart as a centre for culture, creativity and innovation. The epicentre of numerous artistic movements, as well as being one of Europe’s most historic cities, the French capital is notorious for its romantic allure underpinned by its stunning streets, grand architecture and the iconic Sienne bridges. With a history spanning over 2000 years, the City of Light - or La Ville Lumiere - hides many secrets to be discovered. Below are a few facts about this fascinating city:
- Paris was originally a Roman town called Lutetia.
- There are over 6,000 streets in Paris and the shortest one is less than 6 metres long
- The Eiffel Tower is the third most photographed location on earth
- Paris welcomed 23 million tourists in 2018
- The Grand Cafe was the site of the first ever public movie screening in 1895
Paris is also an important financial and commercial hub. The city is Europe's leading economic area, generating over 4.6% of the EU's combined GDP. In recent years, Paris has become synonymous with technological innovation - particularly in the utilities sector - and is now well on its way to becoming one of Europe’s leading tech hubs.
Being one of the world’s top destinations for tourists and business travellers, it is hardly surprising that Paris’s Charles De Gaulle International Airport is the second busiest in Europe and tenth busiest in the world, with over 70 million travellers passing through its terminals each year. Paris Orly Airport is the city’s second international flight provider, with long haul flights often connecting here.
Things to Do in Paris
Paris is a city that can be visited numerous times with no two experiences ever being the same. Its picturesque streets are full of curiosities, landmarks and attractions that make it a city begging to be explored. With so much to see and do, many first time visitors may find themselves overwhelmed with choice. Below are some frequently asked questions:
Q. What is Paris famous for?
There are a few things that most people think of when they think of Paris. Firstly, the city is famous for its stunning - and in some cases adventurous - architecture. There are few places in the world where you can walk past an 11th-century cathedral one minute, then marvel at a precision-engineered glass pyramid the next. France is also famous for its cuisine and many people visit Paris specifically to enjoy its wealth of dining experiences. Finally, Paris is known for being the city of romance, with numerous iconic locations offering couples the perfect photo opportunity.
Q. What are some free things to do in Paris?
One of the best ways to enjoy Paris is simply walking around and enjoying the incredible landmarks. Paris is also famous for its stunning cathedrals and many of these can be entered free of charge at certain times of the day. The city also has several ornate gardens that can be enjoyed for free during the summer months. Of course, there is also the option to enjoy some window shopping along the Champs Elysees.
Q. What are the most romantic things to do in Paris
Paris is often considered the romantic capital of the world and is, therefore, a popular destination for couples. An evening meal followed by a cruise on the Seine is the perfect way to soak up the famous romantic ambience, as is taking in the city views from one of the numerous viewpoints - the high points of Paris have in fact long been a favourite backdrop for marriage proposals.
Q. Are there many active things to do in Paris?
The French capital boasts a surprising amount of active and adventurous pursuits. Extreme sports enthusiasts can enjoy water skiing on the Seine, indoor skydiving or even try some guided - and safe - parkour sessions. Alternatively, thrillseekers can head to one of Paris’s theme parks. There’s even a high-wire zip line and an aerial assault course just outside the city.
Q. What is the best way to spend a day in Paris?
Paris has so many landmarks and attractions that people often find themselves making repeat visits to see the things they may have missed. However, there is a lot to be seen in Paris that does not take a great deal of time. Hiring a bicycle through the city’s Velib scheme is a great way to get between the major landmarks with minimal delay whilst enjoying the pathways that run alongside the river Seine. It is also possible to buy a City Pass that offers reduced entry to several landmarks on the day of purchase.
Places to Visit in Paris
With such an abundance of iconic landmarks, it is advisable to plan an itinerary when visiting Paris - especially if only for a limited time. Below is a list of some of the most famous landmarks and sights of the city usually considered essential for the first-time visitor.
- The Eiffel Tower - Gustav Eiffel’s 320-metre high iron tower that is now the symbol of Paris.
- The Louvre - simply one of the greatest museums in the world and home to the infamous Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.
- The Arc de Triomphe - Napoleon’s monument to his imperial military victories. A striking building that offers fantastic views of the surrounding streets.
- Notre Dame Cathedral - famous medieval cathedral that is instantly recognisable due to its two-towered facade featuring resident gargoyles and grotesques.
- The Palace of Versailles - An exquisite former-royal residence and pristine example of Louis XIII style architecture.
- The Catacombs - a series of subterranean caverns that contain some 6 million skeletal remains.
- Montmartre- historically the bohemian quarter and today one of the most picturesque parts of the city.
- The Champs Elysees - the wide boulevard is the place to shop in Paris, with several high-end designer stores and boutiques.
- Les Invalides - a complex of 17th-century buildings originally supporting wounded veterans. It now houses a museum and the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Places to Eat in Paris
France prides itself on being the land of gastronomy and nowhere is that more apparent than in Paris. The city boasts over 70 Michelin-starred restaurants and is one of the best cities in the world for fine dining. Establishments such as Pierre Gagnaire, Le Pré Catelan, Arpège and Guy Savoy offer some of the best contemporary French cuisine to be had, whilst Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athénée, with its stunning interior, specialises in fine seafood.
Paris also caters to less formal dining and there are plenty of cosy, low-key establishments that still offer wonderful menus. L’Etage de Pastavino, for example, is described as Saint Germain’s best-kept secret and offers classic French dishes. Similarly, there’s Chez Louisette and Chez Ramona, which despite their unassuming exteriors, offer incredible European courses at very reasonable prices.
However, restaurants in Paris aren’t all sophisticated menus and fine dining. The city also has plenty of no-frills places to eat, from fast food restaurants such as Joe Burger and Burger and Fils, to grill joints such as Meating Corner and Harper’s Paris 17.
Street Food Paris
In a city like Paris, which has so much to see and do, a meal in a restaurant can be a little time-consuming. Fortunately, street food in Paris is usually of a high standard and can be found across the city. Rue des Rosiers, in the Jewish Quarter, is lined with restaurants and stalls offering a range of sandwiches and ethnic foods. Cantine California on Marché Saint-Honoré is an American-themed restaurant that also offers fantastic street food. Rue du Faubourg, Saint Denis also has a diverse offering of street food, including Turkish, Indian and Lebanese - Passage Brady, in particular, is a favourite for curries.
Shopping in Paris
Paris has a firmly established reputation as one of the fashion capitals of the world. As such it features a vast array of shopping opportunities, ranging from flagship designer stores to quirky independent boutiques. Famously, the best shopping in Paris is to be had on the Champs Elysees - a 1.9km boulevard lined with famous retail brands. However, the French capital covers a large area and has several other shopping zones. Boulevard St Germain is notable for its home decor and fashion boutiques, whilst Rue de Commerce offers some of the best cheap shopping in Paris.
Further to its famous shopping streets, Paris also has several malls and precincts, from modern complexes to ornate 18th-century walkways. Some of the most popular are:
- Carrousel du Louvre
- Forum des Halles
- Passage du Havre
- Bercy Village
- Galerie Vivienne
Transportation in Paris
Paris has one of the most extensive public transport systems in Europe. It is made up of the metro, overground trains, buses and a few tram lines - all of which offer a reliable and very reasonably priced service. Most visitors coming into the city by public transport will find themselves at Gare du Nord, which is the main train terminal, connecting Paris to Charles de Gaulle airport as well as other cities across the country. The other main terminals in the city are Gare de Lyon, Gare de l’Est and Gare de Bercy, all of which offer both long and short distance services. However, the Paris Metro is usually the more convenient means of getting around the central districts. What’s more, the Paris Visite travel pass, which costs €38.35, is a five-day pass which offers unlimited travel across the cities public transport. The Paris metro has over 300 stations, covering every area of the city. The major ones to be aware of are:
- Gare du Nord
- Gare de Lyon
- La Defense
Paris also has an excellent bus system, with 64 lines that are integrated with the Metro to ensure complete coverage of the city. There are also some 47 bus services that run 24 hours a day.
Weather in Paris
The weather in Paris changes according to the season. Winters can be cold, with temperatures in December and January often dropping to around 0 degrees, even pushing below freezing at night time. Typically, July and August are the warmest months for the city, with temperatures reaching over 28 degrees on average during the hotter periods. During the summer, it is advisable to find accommodation with airconditioning, as temperatures can stay high even overnight. Paris weather in September and sometimes October is often the most desirable, as during these months it is cooler than the height of summer but typically still dry, making this a popular time of year to visit the city.