A beginner’s guide to Paris
If you’ve never been to Paris before, here’s a quick guide on how to get the most out of your visit.
- The metro system is easy to use, tickets are available from multi-lingual machines at each station.
- Hire bikes are also readily available and a popular option.
Where to stay
Make sure you’re staying somewhere central – it’s great if you can walk to a lot of the places you’ll want to go, but at a minimum you need easy access to the metro.
- Le Marais is where a lot of the nightlife is, other good options include Republique, Bastille, Opera, or Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Private rentals are readily available – through platforms such as Airbnb - and are a sensible option if you’re travelling with a group of friends or staying for a number of days.
There’s a huge range of hotels available, whatever your budget - location is key, and budget hotels will be very basic.
- Hotel du Vieux Saule – Popular, great-value hotel in the heart of Le Marais.
- Little Palace Hotel - Set within a 1920’s building on Boulevard de Sébastopol, Little Palace Hotel is located 10–15 minutes’ walk from the cafes and bars of Le Marais.
- L’Empire Paris – L’Empire is in a prime location, just moments from the Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries.
- Le Relais du Marais – A consistently popular budget hotel with a great central location in Le Marais.
See the sights
- Some of the key attractions that will probably feature on your itinerary include the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and Sacre Coeur. There can be big queues for hot-ticket items such as the Eiffel Tower, so do a bit of forward planning to see whether you need to buy tickets in advance.
- Try not to cram too much into each day - make a list of the big-ticket items that you want to experience, and then see what else is in that area so you can immerse yourself in a neighbourhood rather than rushing from one side of the city to the other.
- For example, you could combine a visit to Sacre Coeur with a couple of hours exploring the backstreets of Montmatre. Or a visit to Notre Dame goes well with coffee in Saint-Germain-des-Prés and a picnic in Jardin du Luxembourg.
- The bread and pastries of Paris are worth embracing. The locals insist that they normally start the day just with some baguette and jam, but any opportunity to feast on fresh croissants should not be passed up. Chain bakeries such as Paul or Le Pain Quotidien are often where the locals shop, but keep your eye out for local bakeries that look popular. The Parisians take their bread seriously.
- The pavement cafes might seem like a bit of a cliche, but they’re the perfect place to enjoy a coffee or a drink and watch the world go by. One of my favourites is La Palette on rue de Seine in Saint-Germain-des-Pres.
- It’s hard to resist the macarons of Ladurée. Ladurée can now be found in a number of locations across the city. You don’t have to queue for a table, you can select a box of colourful macarons from the take-away counter and eat them in the park or beside the river.
- On our most recent visit, we shared a spectacular Cote De Boeuf at Café des Musées near République.
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