The sheer brilliance of Paris is breath taking. Everything from its imposing architecture, its romantic and evocative atmosphere, its avenues, squares and gardens, to its cultural wealth and, of course, its flair and joie de vivre.
This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting visitors from far and wide to absorb the sights, sounds and heady atmosphere of the French capital.
There is a huge wealth of history in the capital. It is this historical evolution that has modelled the city into what we see today.
Paris is a place of monuments, beautiful architecture, vibrant shopping areas, world-renowned museums, some of the most outstanding art collections in the world.
You find luxury boutiques and an haute-cuisine that can be savoured in hundreds of restaurants around the city, all set against a backdrop of relaxing parks and gardens.
Planning your week in Paris France
At the outset of any visit, it needs to be understood that Paris, no more than any great city in the world, cannot be plumbed to any depth in a day or two. You’ll need all your seven days.
Your week in Paris should include a long, relaxing stroll down the Champs Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, maybe taking a coffee at one of the street cafés.
Just relax and enjoy the experience of strolling – the French invented to concept of strolling, Flâner, is the verb – just so that visitors would understand how to go about things, of course.
Wander across Pont Neuf to the Left Bank, and dine at one of the seafood restaurants serving fresh oysters and lobsters. Take a taxi up to Montmartre to watch the artists at work.
Or simply stroll along the Seine embankment. The Eiffel Tower, majestic and imposing as it is, invariably consumes much time in queuing, and if time is of the essence, do no more than pay it a visit for photographs.
Visit the Louvre and the nearby Musée d’Orsay, or, for something quite different, the Père Lachaise Cemetery and explore all the arrondissements by metro.
For something to do in the evening, culture vultures will visit the world renowned Opéra Garnier, while those of a less operatic persuasion might enjoy the evening’s entertainment at the Folies Bergère.
But, before you go to Paris, plan which attractions you don’t want to miss and pick up either the Paris Pass or the Paris Museums Card – both of which can save you hundreds of Euros (links below for more information).
Let’s look at those attractions we’ve mentioned (and many more) in more detail.
Major attractions in Paris (clickable)
The triumphal arch was erected by Napoleon in honour of his victorious Grande Armée.
In spite of the names of 128 battles of the first French Republic and Napoleon’s Empire being written on the walls beneath the vault, together with the identity of the generals who took part in them, the Arc de Triomphe is not so much a monument of glory to a great emperor, as a symbol of La France.
The Arc de Triomphe is accessible by the RER and Métro, with exit at the Charles de Gaulle-Étoile station.
Because of heavy traffic on the roundabout of which the Arc is the centre, pedestrians are recommended to use one of two underpasses located at the Champs Élysées and the Avenue de la Grande Armée.
A lift takes visitors almost to the top, where there is a small museum containing models of the Arc, and telling its story from the time of its construction. Forty-six (46) steps remain to climb to reach the very top, the terrasse, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Paris.
Noble in its grandeur, the arch exudes an almost religious quality, eminently suitable for great occasions such as the lying in state of Victor Hugo in 1885, before his body, attended by over 800,000 mourners was borne away on a simple hearse; or in 1919, on the 14th July, when a Victory Procession, led by Haig, Pershing, Joffre and Foch, passed beneath its vaulted roof.
Four sculptural groups at the base of the Arc represent great episodes in the life of a people who went to war in spite of their dislike of it.
They represent the Triumph of 1810, Resistance and Peace, and the finest of them all, Departure of the Volunteers of 1792, commonly called La Marseillaise, her wings widespread in allegorical representation of France calling forth her people.
Since the fall of Napoleon (1815), the sculpture representing Peace is interpreted as commemorating the Peace of 1815.
Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, interred on Armistice Day 1920, it has the first eternal flame lit in Western and Eastern Europe since the Vestal Virgins’ fire was extinguished in the fourth century.
Flickering in the breeze, it burns in memory of the dead of two World Wars who were never identified, and according to some accounts, has been extinguished only once – by a drunken Mexican football supporter on the night that France beat Brazil in the 1998 World Cup Final.
Arc de triomphe
Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris
Apr-Sep 1000-2300: Oct-Mar 1000-2230
1st January, 1st May, 8th May (morning), 14th July (morning),
11th November (morning) and 25th December
Tel: 01 55 37 73 77
The Eiffel Tower is located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. It’s both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world.
The tower is the tallest building in Paris, and the most-visited paid monument in the world; more than 7 million people ascended it in 2011. The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.
During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to assume the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. Today, it is the second-tallest structure in France, after the Millau Viaduct.
In 2014, the Eiffel Tower underwent a €30 million refit, that has modernised the pavilions on the first floor, introduced access to the outer platform with its spectacular panoramic views of the city to those in wheelchairs. A cinema room shows historic and recent film of the tower.
The project aimed to reduce the tower’s carbon footprint by repositioning glass panels to reduce air-conditioning costs in summer, introducing solar panels, installing a rainwater collection system, and using LED lighting.
The renovated top of the Eiffel Tower, however, has a new attraction that is not for the faint-hearted or those with vertigo. Visitors can now stand on a glass floor and see straight down to the ground from a height of 57 metres, rather as they now can on the Aiguille du Midi above Chamonix, although in Chamonix the drop is rather greater.
20 facts you may not know about the Eiffel Tower
- The Tower was built in 1889. It was built as the star attraction for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair). This event was held to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution. The tower itself was completed on March 31, 1889.
- Incredibly the Eiffel Tower wasn’t intended to be a permanent structure.
- The tower was going to be demolished in 1909, but was saved because it was used as a giant radio antenna.
- The first visitors to the Eiffel Tower were the British Royal family and Buffalo Bill.
- Even then it made headlines – it was the world’s tallest man-made structure for 41 years until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930.
- The Eiffel Tower is 324 metres tall (including antennas) and weighs 10,100 tonnes. That’s about forty times the height of the Statue of Liberty. The height, however, varies by almost 6 inches due to temperature changes.
- Repainting the tower, which happens every seven years, requires 60 tonnes of paint, as much as 10 elephants.
- In 1960, Charles de Gaulle proposed temporarily dismantling the tower and sending it to Montreal for Expo 67. The plan was rejected which must have made a lot of people breathe a sigh of relief.
- A con artist, Victor Lustig, sold the Eiffel Tower to a scrap metal dealer.
- If you’ve ever been up the tower in the wind and thought it was moving – you’re probably right, it sways around six to seven centimetres (2-3 inches) in the wind.
- Every evening, the Eiffel Tower is lit up and literally sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour, thanks to 20,000 light bulbs. Energy saving projectors are used to light the “The Iron Lady”.
- Photographers can take pictures of the tower by daylight without problems, but a court has ruled that the light show using 20,000 light bulbs is a copyright design.
- The famous Beacon emits a light beam which reaches out for miles, scanning the skyline of Paris and reflecting the tower’s position as a universal and symbolic landmark.
- The Chamber of Commerce of Monza and Brianza (Italy) valued the Eiffel Tower at €434 billion in August 2012.
- Around 7 million people a year visit the tower (6.98 million in 2011), it is the world’s most visited, paid monument.
- When Hitler visited Paris, the French cut the lift cables to that if he wanted to reach the top, he would have to climb the stairs, all 1,665 of them.
- A woman, named Erika La Tour Eiffel, married the tower in 2007.
- In 2010, the tower had its 250 millionth visitor.
- Without its antenna, the tower is the second highest structure in France: the Millau viaduct is higher.
- There is a replica of the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada (half size), and in Tokyo, Japan (full size).
These are underground catacombs (ossuaries) are located south of the Place Denfert Rochereau, the former city gate (the ‘Barrière d’Enfer’), and hold the remains of about six million people in a section of caverns and tunnels that are the remains of historical stone mines.
The name of ‘Catacombs’ was given to this ossuary in reference to those of Rome, a name originally given to an ancient cemetery not far from the Appian Way.
The Cemetery of the Innocents (near Saint-Eustache, in the area of Les Halles) had been in use for nearly ten centuries and had become a source of infection for the inhabitants of the locality.
After numerous complaints, the Council of State decided, on November 9th 1785, to prohibit further use of the Cemetery of the Innocents and to remove its contents.
These disused quarries were the destination for the human remains, the transfer of which began in early April, 1786, and continued for two years, always at nightfall. Thereafter, until 1814, the site received the remains from all the cemeteries in Paris.
Since their creation, the ossuary has aroused curiosity. In 1787, the Count d’Artois, the future Charles X, made the descent, along with Ladies of the Court.
The following year a visit from Madame de Polignac and Madame de Guiche is mentioned. In 1814, Francis I, the Emperor of Austria living victoriously in Paris, visited them. In 1860, Napoleon III went down with his son.
1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris (14th Arrondissement).
Open: daily from 10am to 8.30pm, except Mondays and public holidays.
Because of a restriction on visitor numbers, you may have to wait to get in. A torch would be handy.
A degree of mobility is a requirement. Two steep, cut stone, spiral staircases, circa 1800, must be negotiated. The site covers approximately 2kms. The exit is a long way from the starting point.
Conditions and accessibility
Visitor numbers are restricted to 200 at any time. Admission may be delayed for a short time during busy periods.
Distance covered: 2 km. Duration of the tour: 45 minutes.
No toilet or cloakroom facilities available.
130 steps to go down and 83 steps back up to street level.
The tour is unsuitable for people with heart or respiratory problems, those of a nervous disposition and young children.
Not accessible for persons with reduced mobility.
Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
Formerly a field and a market garden, the Champs-Elysées is one of the most famous avenues in the world, and, according to many, la plus belle avenue du monde (‘…the most beautiful avenue in the world’).
The avenue is used for all the major celebrations. This is where Parisians celebrate New Year’s Eve, and where the military parades are held. Historic national events, like the Liberation at the end of the Second World War or the victory in the World Cup football were also celebrated on this wide avenue….and, of course, the conclusion of the Tour de France cycling race.
At its western end the avenue is bordered by cinemas, theatres, cafés and luxury shops, and described in a 1951 guidebook as possessing ‘…gown shops, covered arcades where one may take coffee, buy an evening gown or a goldfish, a Persian carpet or English cutlery.’
With its café terraces, cosmopolitan crowds and beautiful woman, this is a quintessential artery of Paris, a magnificent thoroughfare to which you would do less than justice if you did not walk from one end to the other.
Near the Place de la Concorde, where there are neither shops now great hotels, the street is bordered by the Jardins des Champs-Elysées, beautifully arranged gardens with fountains and grand buildings including the Grand and Petit Palais at the southern side and, at its northern side, the Elysée Palace, the residence of French Presidents since 1873.
The Place de la Concorde itself was consecrated to the glory of Louis XV, and the site where his successor was guillotined.
Here, too, fell the head of Parisian Lavoisier (1743-1794), a nobleman prominent in the histories of chemistry and biology, of whom the judge who condemned him said: ‘The Republic does not need scientists’, even though this particular scientist named both oxygen (1778) and hydrogen (1783), predicted silicon (1787), helped construct the metric system, put together the first extensive list of elements, and helped to reform chemical nomenclature.
Here it was, too, that Madame Marie-Jeanne Phlippon Roland (1754-1793), a supporter of the French Revolution, at her execution cried ‘Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name?’ And when the blood of the hapless and headless had been swilled away, and the rolling of the drums and the cries of the sans-culottes – the radical left-wing partisans of the lower classes – had died away, the Place was renamed…de la Concorde.
Today, it is one of the most beautiful places in Paris, ornamented by two Roman fountains, two neo-Greek temples and an Egyptian obelisk.
In the 16th century, this area was nothing but fields. In 1616, Marie de Medicis decided to create a long tree-lined path going east from the Tuileries.
The route was redesigned in 1667 by renowned landscape designer André Le Nôtre as an extension of the Jardins des Tuileries. The promenade, now called ‘Grande Allée du Roule’ or ‘Grand-Cours’ had become a fashionable place but was still isolated from the city with few buildings surrounding the area.
Twenty-seven years later the promenade was renamed to ‘Champs-Elysées’, or Elysian Fields in English, the place of the blessed dead Greek mythology.
In 1724, the Champs-Elysées was extended all the way to the Chaillot hill (known today as l’Étoile, the site of the Arc de Triomphe).
Its current form took shape in 1838 when French architect Ignaz Hittorf – who was redesigning the Place de la Concorde – created the Jardins des Champs-Elysées. He also installed sidewalks, gas lamps and fountains.
The Champs-Elysées started to attract more and more restaurants and hotels, especially after 1900 when the Paris Métro line reached the Étoile station.
The exceptional collection of stained-glass windows rivals Chartres cathedral, and make this one of the finest royal chapels to be built in France.
The chapel is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, built to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. These holy relics include Christ’s crown of thorns but the chapel is equally famous for its stunning array of stained glass windows.
The windows are 15 metres high and depict over 1,000 scenes from the old and new testaments. They really are a sight to behold and well worth a visit.
4, Boulevard du Palais
Tel: 01 53 40 60 80
Be aware that the opening times and conditions do change and priority access is given to visitors who book online. So, please do visit the website before you go to the chapel.
Visitors must queue to go through security
Sainte Chapelle has linked admission with the Concieregerie – a wonderful Gothic palace which was part of the Revolutionary Court and became the prison of Marie Antoinette.
Built to satisfy monarchic ego, the Panthéon is dedicated to Ste-Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. Since 1885, when Victor Hugo was buried here, the monument has been the final resting place of the country’s most illustrious people.
Think St Paul’s in London and you’ll understand the scale of the Panthéon. There are regular exhibitions held there but it’s Foucault’s Pendulum which most visitors want to see.
This amazing device illustrates the earth’s rotation and was first exhibited in 1851. The device in the Panthéon is an exact copy of the original which was damaged when on display in the Musée des Arts et Métiers.
Place du Panthéon
Tel: 01 44 32 18 00
At the top of Montmartre stands the glorious white church of Sacré Coeur, a supreme piece of 19th-century architecture built on a site of ancient worship, said to stretch back to the pre-Roman druids.
It’s quite a climb to get to the top, but the church itself is one of the most cherished Paris landmarks, and makes a truly romantic setting to get a stunning view of the city.
Wander the streets of Montmartre and admire, perhaps buy, the work of the many artists that throng the main square; it’s quite a remarkable atmosphere.
So huge is the Louvre that it would take over three months to see every piece of art, assuming you spent just 30 seconds looking at each, all day every day.
Among its 35,000 items there are about 7,500 paintings alone, displayed over nearly 15 acres, and divided into three main sections: Denon, Richelieu and Sully, which make up the two wings and Cour Carrée.
Obviously the thing to do is give each only ten seconds, so that you can get round in a month. But, tempting as that prospect may seem, reality has to come into the equation, and that invites focus, selectivity and repeat visits to Paris.
Well, no-one ever said that being a tourist was easy; cherry picking is the answer: Italian or French masters, Egyptology, Roman antiquities…
See the Mona Lisa at Musée du Louvre
This remarkable, world-renowned museum wasn’t always a museum, however. Built in 1190 as a fortress, it became a royal palace in the 16th century, and during Napoleon’s reign was renamed Musée Napoleon.
He significantly expanded the collection, but his acquisition techniques were exposed as dictatorial when, following his defeat, no fewer than 5,000 items were returned to their original owners.
On which note, it is also interesting to record that during World War II, the Nazis used the museum as a storeroom for stolen art. Today, there are over 380,000 items in the Louvre collection; just not all are on display. What is on show attracts more than 15,000 visitors per day, 70% of whom are foreign tourists.
It was in August, 1793, that the Musée du Louvre, first opened its doors to the public. For more than 600 years, the Louvre had been a symbol of the wealth, power and decadence of the French monarchy.
Among its most famous works, of course, is the Mona Lisa, a half-length portrait of a woman by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, acclaimed as “…the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world”.
The painting, in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel, is thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, and is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506.
Not everyone is so sure, and the identity of the woman has been disputed for centuries, some even suggesting that it was a self-portrait and an allusion to the artist’s presumed homosexuality; that would certainly go some way to explaining the smile.
The painting was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic. Its value is unimaginable, so much so that the insurance premiums were so high it was cheaper to improve the security system, placing it behind glass to protect her enigmatic smile from thieves, bullets, knives, spray paint, lipstick and society’s rich bag of assorted nutters.
In 1911 it was stolen by an Italian criminal who claimed his motive was the painting’s repatriation to da Vinci’s native lands—for two years, visitors to the Louvre were greeted by a vacant spot on the wall where the painting had once been.
In 2015, a painting by Picasso – Women of Algiers – sold for a record $160 million, but some valuations would put the Mona Lisa as high as $760 million, making it the most valued painting in the world.
Ironically, its size doesn’t match its price tag. At a mere 53cm by 77cm, it is not much larger than an A2 sheet of paper, but weighing in – if that valuation is to be believed – at an incredible $186,229 per square centimetre. Napoleon was so impressed by the painting that he took it and hung it in his private bedroom.
The most distinctive of the Louvre’s hallmarks, however, is not inside the museum, but outside: the glass pyramid, commission by François Mitterand, built in 1989 and standing 21 metres high.
It has been claimed that the glass panes in the Louvre Pyramid number exactly 666, “the number of the beast”, often associated with Satan, although simple mathematics disproves that – you don’t have to go and count them all.
Beneath it, however, if Dan Brown is to be believed, lie the remains of Mary Magdalene. Pure fiction, of course. But is that also true of the ghost, a mummy called Belphegor, who haunts the museum, or the man dressed in red who is said to haunt the Tuileries gardens nearby?
What is certainly true, is that the Louvre is seamed with culture, history and heritage, a place of enlightenment and inspiration.
Right in the centre of Paris on the banks of the Seine, the Musée d’Orsay occupies the sight of the former Orsay railway station. The museum displays collections of art from the mid-19th century to the start of the First World War.
Looking around the Orsay museum gives you a chance to admire the works of Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin and Rodin.
1 rue de la Légion d’Honneur
Tel: 01 40 49 48 14
Open: Tuesday-Sunday 0930-1800 (Thursday 2145).
Featuring, of course, the work of Rodin, this museum houses a superb collection of sculpture, drawings, prints, paintings, ceramics and photographs.
Housed in a splendid building set amid a peaceful garden.
79 rue de Varennes
Tel: 01 44 18 61 10
Open: daily except Monday 1000-1745.
Housed under one roof, the centre houses one of the most important museums in the world. It embraces the leading collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe including a massive reference library, educational activity areas, bookshop, restaurant and café.
Places Georges Pompidou
Tel: 01 44 78 12 33
Open: daily except Tuesday (and 1 May) 1100-2100
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame cathedral, is in the heart of the city, located on the Ile de la Cite, the small island nestled between the banks of the Seine. It is a masterpiece of Gothic architectural concept and design, while the banks of the Seine themselves are ranked as a World Heritage Site.
The cathedral is the true heart of Paris; in fact, distances from Paris to all parts of metropolitan France are measured from place du Parvis Notre Dame, the square in front of Notre Dame.
A bronze star, set in the pavement opposite the main entrance, marks the exact location of Point zéro des routes de France, from which all other distances are measured.
Unfortunately, because of the devastating fire in 2019 the cathedral remains closed to the public. However, the good news is that the massive restoration project is on course to be completed by 2024.
You can of course still gaze at the cathedral from either bank of the Seine so do take time to view it during your week in Paris.
Palace and gardens of Versailles
This extraordinary world heritage site is one of the jewels in the crown of the French capital. It’s an amazing place to visit and well worth a day trip on its own as part of your week in Paris itinerary. If you can cope with the long lines to get in of course.
The Palace of Versailles is around 12 miles from central Paris and you can reach it by train from Paris Montparnasse (disembark at Versailles Chantiers) or from Paris Saint Lazare train station (disembark at Versailles Rive Droite).
You can of course reach the palace by metro. Buy a Paris – Versailles Rive Gauche ticket from any central Paris metro station.
If you’re travelling by car, take the A13 motorway and exit at Versailles Centre.
Don’t miss touring the palace and seeing the Queen’s Apartments, the staggering Hall of Mirrors, and of course the Grand Apartments.
Don’t forget to wander around the superb gardens which are open to the very late evening in summer.
The Palace of Versailles is haunted by one of France’s most famous queens, Marie Antoinette, beheaded during the French Revolution. There are numerous reported sightings of her ghost wandering the gardens, or in her royal bedchamber.
Paris has many beautiful gardens but if you must visit only one make it the Luxembourg Gardens. Located in the 6th Arrondissement, the Jardin du Luxembourg, at 22.5 hectares, is the second largest of the Paris parks. The park is the garden of the French Senate, itself housed in the Luxembourg Palace.
These formal gardens, open to only royalty before the French Revolution, now serve as one of Paris’s most popular destinations for relaxation.
The garden is largely devoted to a green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and centred on a large octagonal basin of water, with a central jet of water; in it children sail model boats.
The garden is famed for its calm atmosphere and contain over 100 statues, monuments, and fountains, scattered throughout the grounds.
Surrounding the central green space are about twenty figures of historical French queens and female saints commissioned by Louis-Philippe in 1848.
The gardens are featured prominently in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables. It is here that the principal love story of the novel unfolds.
Place des Vosages
If you’re looking for a break from the hustle, and also to ease the strain on your bank account, a visit to Place des Vosages is highly recommended.
It’s one of the oldest squares in Paris, which doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it’s stunningly beautiful. Especially on a hot, summer afternoon.
If you’re looking for historical Paris a walk around the square is delightful. The central garden is lovely and the square is surrounded by beautiful buildings which were once among the most desired residences in Paris and home to, among others, Victor Hugo, Emilie du Chatelet, and Cardinal Richelieu.
Today you can wander under the arches, sit and enjoy a baguette from one of the artisan cafes, gaze at the amazing architecture, visit the various museums, and shop in the interesting shops around the square. And it doesn’t cost a penny to enter the square which you’ll find in Le Marais in the 4th arrondissement.
The Moulin Rouge
Probably one of the most famous names in the world and one that gave Paris, and the French, the saucy reputation which still endures.
The Moulin Rouge is of course a cabaret and where the can-can became famous. Tourists can still visit and be treated to entertainment and you certainly won’t fail to spot The Moulin Rouge. It has a huge red windmill on its roof.
Moulin Rouge is in Montmartre in the 18th arrondissment and its metro station is Blanche. Dinner and show in the famous cabaret is around €200 and it will be an experience you’ll never forget. You can book online here:
From one extreme to the other. Join the Parisian sophisticates at the Palis Garnier. This 2,000-seater opera house is a stunning building in its own right and of course home to the world famous Paris Opera company.
You can enjoy a performance by pre-booking or if you want to marvel at the building without paying for the opera itself, you can visit the public areas on a self-guided tour every day between 10am and 5pm.
However, you should note that, understandably, the tours are closed when afternoon performances take place so check the performance schedule before visiting.
Guided tours are also available at extra cost but self-guided tours cost from €10-14 with children free.
Tickets for the opera itself can start as low as
50 but most are in the €150-200 range.
Needless to say, you must book in advance. You’ll find Opera Garnier in the 9th arrondissement.
The Petit Palais is a free to enter fine art museum on Avenue Winston Churchill which is just off the Champs Elysees. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm.
There are permanent exhibitions and collections all of which are included in the free admission. There are also different temporary exhibitions held throughout the year. These however usually have an entrance charge.
The museum has many a famous painting to see including masterpieces by Cezanne, Monet, Rembrandt and more. The Petit Palais is one of 14 Paris city museums which you can access on your Paris Museums pass (see below).
The Latin quarter of Paris
For a change of pace and to experience student culture in Paris you should head for the Latin quarter.
This beautiful part of the city is on the left bank of the Seine can be found around the 5th and 6th arrondissements and is one of the oldest districts of Paris. It has a vibe and atmosphere all of its own and is fantastic to spend at least half a day wandering around.
Browse in the many wonderful bookshops or join the students from the Sorbonne for a coffee and pastry in one of the many cafes. Enjoy the botanical gardens or the National Museum of natural History.
The market on Rue Mouffetard was beloved by Julia Child and is a great place to find all the provisions you need for a Parisian picnic.
The Latin quarter is easily accessible by train and the Dante metro station is only two minutes’ walk away. Other nearby by metro stations include St Michel and Saint-Jacques-Saint-Germain.
Pont Neuf means ‘new bridge’ which is ironic as the Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge still standing which straddles the Seine. It links the right bank to the left (via Ile de la Cité) with a length of just over 230 metres.
It was the first construction to fully bridge the Seine and the first bridge to be built without houses on it. It was also the first to be built of stone – lessons learned from the fact that wooden bridges kept collapsing.
Walking across Pont Neuf can be one of the highlights of your Paris vacation and from it you not only get a great view of the sweeping River Seine but also of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. It’s also one of the best ways to approach the Louvre.
Seine river cruise
There’s no better way to see the city than with a river cruise along the Seine. There are so many different tour operators offering sightseeing tours so you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Tours typically last for around an hour and a half though some operators offer longer cruises. You can expect to pay between €14 and €20 though of course prices will vary between operators and will depend on whether food and drink is served.
Be warned though. These river cruises are insanely popular and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to turn up and pay on the day. Always book in advance.
You can search online to find the cruise for you or try:
The Musee de I’Armee Invalides is open from 10am to 6pm and entry costs €14 and tickets must be booked online. The Hôtel National des Invalides is also open during those times.
This popular attraction hosts many fascinating collections from French military history including from both world wars and the Franco-Prussian War.
It’s a great place to visit and if you have even a passing interest in military history it should definitely be on your Paris itinerary.
The Army Museum is on Rue de Grenelle near the Champs de Mars. The nearest metro station is Balard – Créteil.
One of the best things about Paris of course is the food. And food tours are a great way to understand the culinary culture of the city.
There are so many to choose from and which is best for you will depend on what you enjoy. However, try the cheese and wine tasting tours which sometimes take place in historic cafes or even in traditional Parisian cellars.
You can even enjoy food walking tours of Marais district and sample cheese, meats, breads and other delights long the route.
Expect to pay anything from €50 to €100 for a typical tour which will probably last around three hours.
Fancy a walk beneath the beaten track in Paris? This guided tour reveals the underside of Paris from ancient times through to the 19th-century, the era of Belgrand the engineer who designed the sewer system in its current form.
In the underground tunnels awaits the chance to learn about the water cycle and the work of the Paris sewer workers.
The streets of Paris were first paved around the year 1200 by King Philippe Auguste. In the middle of the paving he had drainage gutters installed.
In 1370, a vaulted walled sewer was built on Rue Montmartre, leading to the Ménilmontant stream. The network was developed very slowly over the centuries. In 1850, with the arrival of Baron Haussmann, Prefect of the Seine, and engineer Eugène Belgrand, the sewer system was created and the water supply to Paris was assured.
What is the Paris sewer tour?
The tour lasts about an hour and goes through the tunnels of part of the sewer network. A large number of models or actual machines used are on display in all the rooms and corridors of the tour circuit.
Access: Pont de l’Alma, left bank, opposite 93 quai d’Orsay.
Tel: 01 53 68 27 81.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
The thought of a cemetery as a tourist attraction feeds the modern notion of ‘Black tourism’. But Père Lachaise is quite something, and well worth the diversion, even though it is still a functioning cemetery.
Père Lachaise is in the 20th arrondissement, and is reputed to be the world’s most visited cemetery, attracting thousands of visitors annually to the graves of those who have enhanced French life over the past 200 years.
It is also the site of three World War I memorials. Here, too, you will find the graves of Oscar Wilde, composer Georges Bizet, singer Edith Piaf, composer Frédéric Chopin, artist Camille Pissarro, and The Doors vocalist Jim Morrison.
Le Musée des Vampires
Le Musée des Vampires is possibly the only museum anywhere dedicated to vampires. It is a private institution run by vampirologist Jacques Sirgent, and is packed with grisly paraphernalia collected from some of the internet’s odder websites, as well as local flea markets and even some graveyards. Some of the finest (and scariest) pieces in the collection include a mummified cat and an authentic, 19th-century vampire protection kit.
This somewhat bizarre ‘tourist site’ is located in Asnières-sur-Seine, a commune in the suburbs just to the northwest of Paris proper. The Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques opened in 1899. This is the last resting place of dogs, cats, some horses, at least one monkey, a sheep, a hen and several other deceased pets.
Shopping in Paris
40 boulevard Haussman
Tel: 01 42 82 36 40
Open: Monday-Saturday 0930-2000 (Thursday 2100)
The most beautiful of the Parisian department stores, the Capital of Fashion, with many departments selling the very best in luxury goods. Incomparable selection of famous names in fashion, beauty and accessories: a top tourist attraction in itself.
Forum des Halles and Rue de Rivoli
101 Rue Berger
Tel: 01 44 76 96 56
Open: daily 1000-2000
Forum des Halles is a massive subterranean shopping centre connected to Les Halles underground station. The place is filled with many French High Street shops. Right next door is the Rue de Rivoli, one of the busiest shopping thoroughfares in Paris.
The Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré
The Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré is one of the most fashionable streets in the world, a narrow road behind the Rue de Rivoli, packed with high-end boutiques. Make sure you’ve got a big balance on your credit card when you shop here.
Les Puces de Saint-Ouen
Les Puces are flea markets; these are in northern Paris, and a perfect place to find bargains and, maybe, something just a little bit different.
Pick up something to remind you of your stay, from vintage clothing to antique furniture – I wouldn’t be surprised if you could get a pink elephant in there.
Hugely busy, lots of crowds, with plenty of hustle and bustle.
Public transport – getting around Paris
Paris has an excellent Metro service that links all the arrondissements. They are fast efficient, and inexpensive. With their famous Art Nouveau station entrances, the Metro covers the whole of the city, across 16 lines, and with the stations very close together it is generally the easiest way to get from A to B in Paris.
The Metro is the fastest and most practical way of getting around: 15 Metro lines and 5 RER lines criss-cross the city and suburbs – ask for a free map at any ticket counter.
The five lines (A, B, C, D and E) of the RER (Regional express network) cross Paris and the Ile-de-France during the same times as the metro.
Please note that outside Paris ticket charges are not the same. Check Metro Ticket price changes at http://parisbytrain.com/paris-metro-tickets.
Trains run between 5.30am and around 12.30am. Later than that, you can choose between taxis and “Noctambus” night buses operated by Noctilien (http://www.transilien.com).
But for those staying in the centre of Paris, and with the energy to spare, then strolling the streets, stopping for coffee, lunch and a chance to meet the locals is by far the best way of proceeding.
Taxis in Paris
For quick trips across the city, take a taxi, but, note, it is not the custom, certainly among the older taxi drivers, to jump in next to the driver.
It’s just one of the many quirks of travelling around the city. There are more than 16,000 taxis at your disposal. You can get information about taxi rates at www.taxis-de-france.com/tarifstaxis.php.
All taxis apply the same rates, no matter what type the car is. Rates depend on the area, time of day, distance travelled and number of passengers for each trip.
NOTE: You cannot hail a taxi if it is less than 50m from a taxi rank; it is in a bus lane, or if it is already reserved (signal box is white)
Since 2007 in Paris, a unique number to call (01 45 30 30 30) has been in place allowing you to call taxis equipped with a terminal.
Through an automated assistant, you can choose which arrondisement and station is the nearest to you. If the station then doesn’t respond, you will be automatically connect to a second or third in proximity.
You can equally reserve your taxi through internet and phone taxi services.
How to spot spot fake taxis in Paris
The Prefecture de Police de Paris is trying to help tourists avoid getting ripped off by fake taxis. You will usually find them hanging around airports and train stations, but some even have the nerve to wait in genuine taxi stands throughout the city.
There are two things you need to know:
- Bona fide taxi drivers don’t walk up to you asking if you need a taxi, and there is always a meter in legitimate taxis (low down on the dashboard below the radio).
- There will be be a TAXI sign on the roof and the meter should be ON. There will be a sticker on the passenger window with the driver’s permit number (handy to note down should you have any problems or accidentally leave something in the car).
Fixed-rate taxis to/from railway stations
Those busy bees at SNFC, the French Railway Network, continue to work at improving their services. One of the newer ideas is the Porte-à-Porte taxi service to and from certain train stations (currently Paris: Gare de Lyon, Montparnasse, Gare de l’Est, Austerlitz and Bercy) for a pre-paid, fixed price for up to 4 people including bags.
All you need to do is complete the form online with your address and train info and it gives you the price (click on ‘Nos Tarifs’ to get a quote without train info). The driver will send you a text message just before your pick-up, and will wait if your train is delayed.
As it’s a fixed rate and pre-paid, you both avoid waiting in line or getting overcharged. Book the day before your trip no later than 8pm.
Note: At the moment this service seems to exist only on the French website, not on the English site. https://idcab.sncf.com.
A fleet of ‘tuk-tuk’ taxis operate in Paris offering tours and transfers. You can pre-book tours for up to six people and last for between two and eight hours. It’s certainly a unique way to see the city at a more sedate pace.
You can take a tuk-tuk as an alternative to a taxi. However, do be aware that it can get expensive and there is a minimum charge of 45€. So as a different end to a romantic meal it’s an option – but just for getting around the city stick to taxis or the metro.
Paris Airport Taxis – from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport – are expensive if you are travelling on your own, but proportionally cheaper for more people.
The advantages of taking a taxi from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport into the centre are obvious.
You dump your luggage into a taxi at the airport, sit back, relax, and let the driver take you directly to your hotel – and, if you get a chatty driver, you could learn a lot on the way.
The downside is cost: the fare is probably €60 to €85. In terms of cost per km, however, the taxi fare from CDG to central Paris is much less expensive than many other European cities.
Also, depending on traffic, the taxi can take longer than the RER train, and time-wise might be no quicker than the less costly Air France bus or RoissyBus.
Whether or not to use a taxi will also depend on how close your destination is to an RER Line B train station, Métro station, or airport bus stop.
If its close to a station, you might save time—and will certainly save a lot of money—by taking the train and Métro, or an airport bus.
If your destination is a distance from an RER Line B train or Métro station, or from the Air France bus or RoissyBus stops, you may still have to take a taxi in central Paris.
There is much to be said for using a taxi. Sure, it’s costly, but it’s very direct, and can be quite exciting.
Hop On Hop Off bus
This is an agreeable and affordable way to take your first steps, to make a first contact, locate monuments or places you would like to return to by yourself. There are several bus companies, but Opentour is the biggest, offering four different routes (more than 40 stops), all included in your pass for one or two consecutive days.
Free earphones are provided for commentary in eight languages: French, English, Spanish, Japanese, German, Russian, Italian and Chinese.
Walking, leisurely, is certainly the best way to see the heart of Paris, or any of the surrounding arrondisements. But, of course, walking means taking it easy, and not trying to do too much.
Plan on exploring just one small district, or no more than two, in a day; relax, have a coffee, chill out, take in the atmosphere…you will learn so much more this way about Paris, and the way of life in this pulsating capital city.
And, if walking doesn’t allow you to see everything you wanted to see, the answer is simple…come back!
One of the best value tickets around. The Paris Pass can be (should be) purchasedin advance of your vacation and you can choose from a 2,3,4 or 6 day pass.
The pass gives you access to over 80 muesums and attractions in the city including many we’ve already discussed.
Enjoy visits to the Louvre, Arc De Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, the Paris Aquarium and so many more. It even includess hop-on hop-off bus tour and a Seine River Cruise.
And, if you’re ready for a drink wine and Champagne tasting are included.
You can save hundreds of Euros with a Paris Pass so I highly recommend you get one.
However, do take time to read all the terms and conditions before you purchase. there’s a fair bit of small print to get through. Find out more here:
Paris Museum Pass
Want free admission to over 50 Paris museums and monuments. The Paris Museum Pass is for you. Prices range from €52 to €78 depending on whether you want two or six day pass.
More info here:
Museums of the City of Paris Card
The Paris museums pass costs €40 though you can get a Duo Card for €60. For your money you get unlimited access to exhibitions held in the Paris City Museums (plus free entry every day) along with discounts in gift shops and cafes. The pass is valid for one year after purchase.
The museums covered by the pass include:
Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris.
Carnavalet museum -History of Paris
Cernuschi museum, Museum of asian art
Cognacq-Jay museum, museum of 18th century art
Archaeological crypt of the Île de la Cité
Palais Galliera, museum of fashion
General Leclerc museum, Jean Moulin museum
Petit Palais, museum of fine arts
Museum of romantics
Victor Hugo’s houses
Paris Airport RoissyBus guide and ticket info
If your 7 days in Paris begins with a flight into Charles de Gaulle Airport and you’re worried about the journey into the city – don’t be. The RoissyBus is a cheap, fast, and convenient way to get from the airport into the centre of Paris.
What is the RoissyBus?
The RoissyBus, operated by RATP, provides an inexpensive, non-stop airport shuttle bus between Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and Place de l’Opéra in central Paris.
The RoissyBus airport bus, a service of Paris’s RATP public transport system, shuttles passengers between Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (all terminii) and the corner of rue Scribe and rue Auber, near Place de l’Opéra and the Palais Garnier in central Paris.
The RoissyBus stops at all eight of the Charles de Gaulle terminals.
Journey time from the airprt to central Paris is about 1¼ hours and the fare is far less expensive than you would pay for a taxi or coach.
From Place de l’Opéra you can connect by Métro, city bus, or taxi to any other point in Paris including all the tourist attractions if you want to get your vacation underway.
What is the RoissyBus timetable?
CDG Airport (all terminii) to Place de l’Opéra
0600-2045, every 15 minutes
2045-0030, every 20 minutes
Place de l’Opéra to CDG Airport
0515-2000, every 15 minutes
2000-2200, every 20 minutes
2200-0030, every 30 minutes
The one-way fare is just over €13 which is an absolute bargain. You may purchase your ticket before boarding the bus at a ticket kiosk or ticketing machine.
You must then validate your ticket when you board the bus: insert your ticket in a validator machine, and it will stamp the date and time on the ticket.
Buying tickets for the RoissyBus
As we’ve mentioned you can buy your RoissyBus tickets at any of the many ticket machines but you can also purchase a ticket in advance online here (it may be slightly more expensive than purchasing a ticket at the airport)