If I had a nickel for every time I saw a romantic movie scene shot in Paris, I’d be a millionaire! Seriously though, there’s something about Paris that resurrects the dormant romantic in you.
Paris travel plans are always exciting especially for the first timers who can’t wait to get up the Eiffel Tower. Traveling to a destination like Paris should be, in my opinion, smooth and surreal. It should feel like the dreams you’ve been having about a Parisian escape.
How to get to Paris
There are several ways to reach Paris by different modes. Best way to get to Paris is directly by flight. Another way is by Eurostar train if you’re coming from London or Amsterdam, Eurail from anywhere else. There are private bus services like Flixbus from various European cities but I wouldn’t recommend it based on my personal experience.
When to go
I’m partial to warm weather so I would say Parisian summers are amazingly relaxed if you don’t let the horde of people bother you. It is a peak season for tourism after all. Even though its nice and warm during day time, the air is a bit nippy at night.
With that being said, I wouldn’t mind spending a fine winter’s eve strolling the streets in Paris. The snow, the lights, the festive spirit stirring Parisian air. Sounds magical!
I don’t think a popular destination like Paris experiences an ‘off season’.
What to expect
Historic architecture, mind-blowing food and loads of crowd!
The old city of Paris is steeped in history. Every street, every building has its own story to share. The incredibly artistic sculptures at every nook and corner will leave you awestruck. Buying online tickets wherever possible will help you skip lines.
It’s easy to lose yourself amid all of that. However, keeping your belongings safe and close to you at all times should be priority number 1.
In no way do I mean to scare you folks but I cannot stress enough how important it is in Paris to be aware of your surroundings. Imagine wrecking your entire plan because of a mishap right on the first day of your trip.
Street vendors who sell souvenirs to tourist are often known to overcharge or cheat people. They also follow people and badger them into buying souvenirs from them. Just say a firm “Non, merci” and keep moving ahead.
Expect to see almost every board, sign, hoarding, menu in French and a little bit of English here and there. Google Translate saved my life!
Euro currency is accepted throughout Paris but having a travel credit card like Chase Sapphire turned out to be the best decision.
Where to stay
It’s an easy math to figure out lodging in Paris. The closer you get to the Eiffel tower, the pricier it will be. If splurging is what you’re here for, then take a look at Plaza Athenee or Shangri La Hotel. If you’re not into splurging but still wish to stay at a decent hotel, check out Holiday Inn, Marriott and other chain hotels. If you’re on a budget trip, I’d straight away say, book an Airbnb and for the solo travellers, hostel would be the way to go.
How to get around
Buy a day pass in Paris for each day to travel until midnight that costs €7.5 for zone 1-2. 90% attractions are in these 2 zones. For a day trip to Versailles, buy a separate ticket from your zone to zone 4, costs €2. Purchasing a Paris Visite Pass for 1,2,3,5 days is expensive. There are perks like discounts on certain attractions but it is value for money only if you’re planning to visit all of those attractions and are taking bus, metro to every place without planning to walk around at all.
Taxi and Uber are other modes of transportation available. First timers can take advantage of the Hop On Hop Off bus network.
What and where to eat
Croissants, Crepes, Coffee!
Get ready to titillate your taste buds with gastronomic pleasure if you’re anything like me. Pounce upon incredible pastries and sink your teeth in the best macarons at every chance you get. Any local bakery will serve fresh coffee and croissants. For the best crepes in town, locate the creperie on Rue de la Huchette and try their Nutella Crepes & Chicken Crepes. You will not regret it! Crepes are also sold by street hawkers right across the street from Arc De Triomphe. One of the most popular French restaurant we ate at was called Le Chartier. A pocket-friendly restaurant for the budget travelers who do not want to miss out on local cuisine.
We packed up a picnic one afternoon and spent the sunny day sprawled across the jardin (garden) Champ de Mars facing the Eiffel tower. Drinking Champagne, eating strawberries, baguettes and dark chocolate. It would’ve been ideal had we not been bothered by over a dozen beer vendors that carry buckets of beer bottles to sell to the thousands of people sitting all over the garden. Alas!
Top 5 things to do in Paris
- Eiffel tower for the first timers
There’s no Paris without the Eiffel Tower. If you’re visiting Paris for the first time, tick this off your bucketlist. Buy tickets online and make your way up to the tower by elevator and/or stairs to get a jaw-dropping view of the city skyline.
2. Evening at the top of Arc De Triomphe
Every night the Eiffel tower sparkles with a million lights for 5 minutes, once every hour until midnight. We wanted to witness this phenomenon from a distance to get a good view. That’s when we decided that the rooftop of Arc De Triomphe would be a perfect place to accomplish that. And boy were we right! I was speechless at the sight of the tower sparkling and shimmering for 5 whole minutes. Somehow it reinstates your faith in miracles. Or maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic.
3. A walk on Rue de la Huchette
Hands-down my favorite street in Paris : Rue De La Huchette. Come dusk this street thrums with the old Parisian spirit. Piano bars, cabaret shows, pubs, eateries, restaurants, it has it all. Not too touristy so you’re guaranteed to have some authentic experiences here. At one end of the street lies my favorite bookstore in the whole wide world that has withstood the test of time: Shakespeare & Company. Nothing would make me happier than spending days tucked away in one of the corners of this bookstore reading some battered as well as some shiny new copies of books.
4. Musée du Louvre
Former palace turned into an art museum that will blow your mind. The sculptures and carvings on the pillars leave you spellbound while the Louvre pyramid grabs your attention with it’s delicate beauty. I got to witness the Louvre in rain and it was an inexplicable sight. Dark skies reflected in the water and the Louvre standing illuminated in the center, an epitome of beauty.
5. Sacré-Cœur and Montmartre
Another historic monument that has seen Paris through ages, literally. Standing tall at one end, overlooking the entire city like a guardian angel. I could say the same thing about the sculptures, the architecture and beauty of every historic building in Paris and it wouldn’t change. Its incredible how good the artists were back then.
Montmartre village is a typical French part of Paris. Narrow alleys, pretty buildings, cute cafes, all up on a hill. Taking public transportation to Montmartre is wiser than going on foot because it’ll wear you out and strip you off of energy if you climb all the way up.
This is all that you should know about Paris if you’re visiting Paris for the first time. Another blog on my favorite romantic spots in Paris is coming up soon.