Paris is one of the world's most visited cities. Travellers love the city's iconic landmarks (like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre), its rich history and culture, amazing cuisine, and, of course, the romantic ambience that pervades the city.
In fact, chances are that the capital of France is already on your bucket list.
And honestly, Paris is very easy to visit: it has more interesting activities and sights than you could possibly fit into any schedule, it's convenient to get around, and it's surprisingly small when you get to know it.
That said, there are still a few things you should know before travelling to Paris.
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements. The numbered districts follow a clockwise spiral starting in the very centre by the Louvre. Even though the area around the Louvre is, of course, the geographical centre of Paris, it doesn’t mean that that is where everything happens - rather the contrary.
Each arrondissement has its own centre - and often more than one - with plenty of restaurants, bars, shops, theatres and its very own flair.
If you are wondering where you should stay in Paris or looking somewhere to go out, check around for a major Metro connection - for example Montparnasse, Place de Clichy, Place d’Italie, République or Bastille.
It is really not difficult to find good food in Paris, just avoid the touristy places around Saint Michel and restaurants that offer a view of a landmark.
My personal index is always how busy their terrace is around lunch - the majority of their clients are people who work close by and they wouldn’t visit if the food wasn't good.
Apart from this, you get the best falafel in the Marais and the best Asian food on Avenue d’Ivry in the 13th arrondissement. If you are looking for casual dining and nightlife, head to the Quartier Latin (the student quarter).
Many travellers look for a hotel right by the Eiffel Tower, mistaking its location with the centre of the city. Unfortunately, it's not.
Even though the landmark is still somewhat central, it's not the best area to stay if you are looking for the typical Paris buzz.
While there are a few museums around and good transport connections, the Eiffel Tower area is very upscale and isn't known for restaurants and shops.
If you are travelling to Paris in August, you will find an empty and laidback city, but you'll miss out on the typical Parisian flair.
Most Parisians are not originally from Paris but came to town for studies or work, and end up staying.
In August, however, everyone leaves the city if at all possible, escaping the hot summer to rural family homes by the sea. Hence, many restaurants and shops are closed, and everything happens a tad slower.
There is the saying that you either live in Paris or in Province (not to be mistaken with the region Provence in the south of France) - in other words, everything that is not Paris is countryside.
Of course, it’s a bit controversial, but when you consider that almost 20% of France's population lives in the Paris region, you start to realise that many things happen in Paris: work, culture, politics etc. However, if you only travel to Paris, you’ve been to the capital, but not really to France.
There are many day trip destinations around Paris: Versailles, the Loire Castles or Reims, but most of them just keep you in the same tourist bubble as Paris. Alternatively, you can rent a car for a road trip to Normandie or do an organised tour - it’s very close by and small enough to see a lot in a day.
My favourite though is to take a gare to gare hike. It’s quite simple... just take a suburban train for 30-40 minutes out of town and hike to a different train station, mostly through little villages, forests, and fields.
Last Updated 1 December 2023