Everything you need to know before visiting Paris
Updated: Apr 13
Paris was the place that started it all for me. Over anywhere else in the world, it had always been my dream destination. I grew up borderline obsessed with the likes of Marie Antoinette and the history of the court of Versailles. Even though I had never physically visited Paris, I felt homesick for it. To me, being able to travel there represented the chance to enter a portal into a different era that had far passed. I needed it like I needed oxygen; to walk through the halls that kings and queens once did, to see the art of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in person, to drink coffee at the same cafés as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. It was all I ever thought about. Naturally, when the chance arose to go to Europe, I immediately knew Paris had to be on my list.
I think so many people build places up in their head. They create a fantasy of what a destination should be, and it often disappoints. Fortunately, Paris was not one of those places for me. Paris is authentically charming, memorizing at every angle, and oozing with antiquity. When you walk through the gardens of Versailles, you can nearly see what it would have been like to be there during the 18th century. When you step into Notre Dame, there's a chill that runs up your spine having known that the doomed Mary Queen of Scots once walked down that aisle on her wedding day. In Paris, there is an unlimited supply of things of not just to see, but to feel.
As cliché as it is, every time I'm in Paris, I fall more madly in love with the City of Lights - and here's how you can make your next trip to Paris as memorable as mine have been...
Where To Stay
Montparnesse is great for its old café charm and proximity to the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens. You can also get some of the best views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower from the Montparnesse Tower's observatory.
We stayed at the Hôtel A La Villa Des Artistes in Montparnesse and it was beautiful. They have an amazing outside patio where you can enjoy breakfast and the the staff is incredible.
Grenelle is the perfect base for midnight champagne by the Eiffel Tower and afternoon picnics in the Champ de Mars. It's located on the Southwest edge of Paris between the 15th and 7th arrondissement, providing its residents with exciting outdoor restaurants, tapas bars, and access to all of the major sights by either foot or Metro.
The 1st and 8th arrondissement are also popular places to stay, but I find that they're more expensive and touristy. However, Paris has an extremely efficient metro system, so you'll have access to all the main attractions no matter where you stay in the city.
What To Do
As the largest art museum in the world, this place can be overwhelming. I've been here on two separate occasions and still feel as if I only saw a small portion of everything inside. I would limit your time here if you're not an art or history lover; you want to see the main pieces, such as the Mona Lisa and Liberty Leading the People, but you don't want to become bored and therefore develop a distaste for the place as a whole.
Pro tip: Every Friday after 6pm, admission is free for anyone under 26 years old.
People rave about this museum above all others in Paris. In a breathtaking mansion (once the Hotel Biron) situated right in the center of Paris, the works of Auguste Rodin are showcased. This museum also has a beautiful garden holding more of Rodin's sculptures.
The Musee d'Orsay holds Paris' more modern art, exhibiting work created between the late 1840's and early 1900's. Although not as large as the Louvre, this museum can still can take up a large portion of your day if you want to see the whole thing.
Although not a traditional museum, the Palais Garnier is worth a trip for the architecture alone. They offer self-guided and guided tours, along with entrance to their current art exhibitions. In order to get the full experience, see an opera or ballet!
Note: Make sure to purchase your tickets beforehand online for every museum in order to avoid long lines.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
As most of you probably know, Notre-Dame is temporarily closed as they repair the damage caused by a fire that occurred in April of 2019. However, this is one of my favorite cathedrals in Europe and is a must-see if you're visiting Paris after it has reopened - whenever that may be.
Basilica of Saint-Denis
This is one of those places in Paris that may only be important to me - but I feel as if it's something I must share. The Basilica of Saint-Denis is an abbey about thirty minutes outside of the center of Paris where the royal families of Paris have been buried for centuries. From Clovis to Louis XVI, the remains of France's kings and queens are within the Basilica's tombs. As for me, the significance of this church lies with Marie Antoinette, who has been buried here since her reburial in 1815 .
I recommend doing a sunset Seine cruise on your first day of arrival in Paris. This is a great opportunity to pass by historical buildings, bridges, and sights by water, letting you decide what you want to visit by land during your trip. I've done a simple sightseeing cruise by Bateaux Parisiens twice, however there are multiple other options for lunch, dinner, and cocktail cruises.
There are multiple ways to experience the Eiffel Tower while in Paris. In my opinion, the best views of the tower can be found at...
Champ de Mars
For those looking for the best experience of the Eiffel Tower from within, grab lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel, dinner at Le Jules Verne, or stop by their 3rd floor champagne bar for a cocktail overlooking the city.
Note: As someone who is deathly afraid of heights, I prefer the Eiffel tower from below. I had lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel and can safely say I won't be back up in that tower in my lifetime (this is purely a reflection of my inability to get over irrational fears and not one of the Eiffel Tower).
I have not done the Catacomb tour, however, my sister has. As per her advice, it is definitely something to see, yet keep in mind that the line can be treacherous as there are limited people allowed inside at once. That being said, this is an amazing historical site displaying the horrors of the Reign of Terror.
Note: This is not for those with claustrophobia.
Take the funicular up to the top of Paris, giving you access to the bohemian neighborhood of Montmatre. Get a great photo of the Paris skyline from Sacre Coeur, tour the streets filled with art vendors, and if you have a free night, don't miss a show at the famous Moulin Rouge.
Directly in front of the Louvre is the beautiful Tuileries garden, the perfect place to read a book and enjoy the essence of Paris. This is also a great place to grab lunch or a cocktail at one of their outdoor garden restaurants - don't skip the desserts at Café des Marronniers.
Depending on your amount of time and activity schedule in Paris, consider buying a Paris Museum Pass. You can save a ton of money and time in ticket lines as this includes entrance to most major attractions.
Where to Eat
I've had such a hard time finding good food in Paris and I've found that I'm not alone in this regard (shout out to Girl Gotta Eat!). However, here are some of the places worth going to:
Tour 58 Eiffel (The food wasn't life-changing, but this was such a cool dining experience)
Les Sopranos (Try the White Truffle Risotto)
Favorite Food Market
Marché Grenelle (Wednesday & Sunday)
Day trips from Paris
Versailles is the perfect day trip from Paris, taking about 45 minutes to arrive by the RER commuter train. You can spend the whole day touring the Palace of Versailles, the Queen's estates, and of course the famous gardens.
After seeing the Palace stop by the Bar Galarie's terrace at the Waldorf Astoria for a picturesque cocktail hour.
I unfortunately have yet to make it out to Giverny, but it's definitely on my list for the next time I'm in Paris. About 45 minutes outside of Paris by train is the village that gave Claude Monet his inspiration to paint his famous waterlilies and garden paintings. You can even still visit Monet's old home and tour the gardens that have remained virtually the same since he lived there.
Champagne is another day trip I missed out on while in Paris, but from what I've heard, it's one you should definitely consider. Like Tuscany is to Florence, Champagne is Paris' go-to winery excursion. I would recommend taking a day tour here as it will give you a better opportunity to fully experience the area and give you an enhanced sense of what you're drinking.
To learn more about this day trip, visit Whiskied Wanderlust's post on tips for visiting Champagne from Paris.
Things to know
Best time to visit:
Paris weather is seasonal, so be mindful that it will be cold if you visit during the winter. I've visited both times in late May-early June and it was perfect weather, around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Fall is another great time to visit Paris as the weather is fairly mild and the summer crowds have dissipated.
(1 euro = about $1.11) Get an up-to-date conversion here.
In order to avoid expensive international surcharges and roaming fees, get an international sim card at Orange after arriving in Paris. There are multiple stores around the city. However, if you're not leaving France to move onto another European country and/or will be staying over two weeks, buying a Free Mobile sim card online before traveling may be a better option for you.
If you're coming from another European country and looking for a phone plan there, check out Vodafone. Their plans still give you service in France, they just don't sell the sim cards there.
Types C and E
The Paris Metro system is the easiest and most efficient way to get around Paris. I'm always in awe on how simple it is to travel by the metro in Paris comparative to the subway system in NYC. When traveling farther outside the city boundaries of Paris, you may have to take an RER train. This is how you travel to places like Versailles, Disneyland, and the airports.
For some reason I rarely find myself taking buses while traveling, however, I frequently took the bus while in Paris as they have an amazing public transportation system and you can usually get to places more quickly by utilizing this transport.
Uber and Taxi services are also available in Paris. However, I found that drivers rarely speak English, so if there is a language barrier, be mindful of communication errors.
Pro tip: Pick up a Paris Transport Travel Card for a flat rate on most public transportation if you think this is something you'll frequently use. We used these when in Paris for five days and it was a life saver for getting around.
Also make sure to download a Paris Transportation app. I recommend
What are some of your insider tips on Paris? let me know in the comments below!