Of all of the locations I have traveled, I have never been to a place that has as much to offer as the glorious city of Paris. The culture, the sights, the museums, the churches, so much fascinating history topped off with surreal sights, all of this packed into one incredible city that is absolutely worth a visit.
Now that is my personal opinion of course, but Paris was the only city that I’ve gone to where I was a genuine tourist, running around for over 10 hours a day, trying to fit in everything I wanted to see in the 7 days I was there, and I BARELY got to see everything I wanted.
Getting To Paris
If you are flying in to Paris from any major country outside of Europe, you will almost certainly fly into Charles de Gaulle Airport. If you happen to already be in Europe, that will save you a considerable amount of money since you can use one of the two discount airlines in Europe, RyanAir or Eazy Jet to get to the city. Eazy Jet flies directly into Charles da Gaulle but RyanAir (if you are not familiar read up on it in my Travel Tips section) flies into Beauvais Airport which is about 1 hour 20 minutes outside of Paris. As is the norm with RyanAir, you will have transportation direct from the airport to the center of Paris and most likely save yourself a bundle on airfare, so it is definitely worth it to look into this as an option.
As I said above, if you are fortunate enough to already be in Europe, you have quite a few money saving options you can use to get to this fantastic city. By land your cheapest option would be busses, and although they can take quite a while, they can save you a lot of money. The busses in Europe travel to every major city so you won’t have a problem finding a trip heading in to Paris. Depending on how far you are traveling from the prices will vary, but this is definitely the cheapest option.
Next you have the train, a bit more expensive but more comfortable. If you are a student, or under the age of 25, you have to read up on the Euro Rail Pass which is an awesome way to both save money and see lots of destinations all over main land Europe. If you are coming into Paris on the train, you are going to come in at one of six different train stations so make sure you do your research to see which one is closest to the place you’re staying. Depending on what country you are coming from, you will end up at one of these six stations: 1. Gare de l’Est, 2. Gare du Nord, 3. Gare Saint-Lazare, 4. Gare d’Austerlitz, 5. Gare de Lyon, 6. Gare Montparnasse. Train travel is more expensive than other methods, but more comfortable so you will have to weigh your finances vs. your comfort.
Here is where the prices start to go up. Paris, although gorgeous, is expensive and booking your accommodation will be your first taste of that.
Couchsurfing – FREE
Many of you have heard of the website Couchsurfing.com but for those who aren’t familiar, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A willing host lets you crash on their floor, couch, extra bed, futon, or whatever is available, for free. Trade off is you chat a little, meet some new people, and make some new friends from a foreign country who may be able to return the favor some day. It’s a novel idea and is used all over the world. It is somewhere to check for accommodation, you never know, you might find something and get a free place to stay. I would always say use your best judgement when looking for a place in order to keep yourself safe. Previous couch surfers leave reviews for hosts and vice versa, so read up on reviews before you send a message out to anyone.
Hostels – $40-70 per night (dorm) $75+ per night for a private room
Decent, clean hostels will run you between $40-75 per night. There are deals that come available sometimes, and there are prices that are lower than that per night, but the quality of the facility goes down very quickly and I wouldn’t recommend staying in a poorly maintained / dirty place or potentially in an unsafe area of town just to save a few dollars. For the most part the hostels in Paris are highly rated and it’s important to always exercise caution when staying in a hostel, locking all of your belongings away at all times.
Hotels – $170+ per night
Hotels are extremely expensive in Paris. Even if you have a friend traveling with you and can split it, it’s still a bit of a hit to the wallet. Thankfully though, the hotels are very well maintained for the most part and can be in great locations providing easy access to great tourist spots or near by subway stations.
Air BnB – $95+ a night depending on location
Air BnB for those who aren’t familiar is a website that allows you to book accommodation in private residences. Home or condo owners as well as apartment renters set a price to rent the extra bedroom (or sometimes the entire condo or apartment) for a night. This is a great way to meet locals and sometimes get some awesome tips of what to do or see in the city as well as great restaurant suggestions nearby (one of my personal favorite aspects of this). Renters and hosts both leave reviews for each other so you can see what kind of host you are booking, and as with Couchsurfing.com please exercise caution and go with your instincts when booking accommodation through this site. I have never had a problem in either renting or hosting people and have met some very kind individuals through this process.
What Should I Visit In Paris?
Now we are getting to what makes this city so fantastic. The list of sites to see is quite long but I would definitely encourage you to see as many places as you can. If you plan on seeing many places, I would definitely encourage you to look at the Paris Museum Pass as an option to save yourself some money. Then pass is well worth it because it will save you a considerable amount of time and money as it includes entry for over 60 main attractions as well as museums. It also allows you to skip the line and go through a designated museum pass line which, at most locations, will save a lot of time. The three options for the pass are $58 for 2 day pass, $76 for 4 day pass, $95 for a 6 day pass. The pass also includes multiple entries if you wish to go back and visit a location twice during the time you are using it.
Some of the top sites in Paris that I would highly recommend are:
- Eiffel Tower – Get there as early in the day as possible as the line gets extremely long for entry.
- *Notre Dame – (Museum Pass can be used for guided tours but is otherwise free to enter)
- *Arc de Triomphe
- *Musée du Louvre
- *Musée D’Orsay
- *Musée Rodin
- *Palace of Versailles
- Basilica of the Sacré Cœur
- Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens)
- Tuileries Garden
- Catacombs Of Paris
- Palais Garnier
- Pont Alexandre III – The bridge that connects Champs-Élysées quarter and the Eiffel Tower quarter
- Parc des Buttes Chaumont
- Île de la Cité
- Île St-Louis
- Montparnasse Tower – For a stunning view of the city from the 53rd floor
Any locations above marked with a * indicate that you can use the Paris Museum Pass at these locations.
If you happen to be going to Paris during the months of January, February, or March, the overwhelming majority of attractions and museums offer FREE ENTRY on the first Sunday of each of those months which is a great way to see some amazing places while saving some money.
How Do I Get Around In Paris?
Paris has a great infrastructure and the subway there is absolutely fantastic. Covering every corner of the city, you can easily access countless attractions both quickly and cost effectively. The cost for a single ticket (called t+) is €1.70 (appx $2.30) per trip, but I would recommend getting a one, two or 3 day pass depending on how long you are in the city (they have 5 day as well) because it gives you the freedom to travel when you like and it also saves you money getting all around the city. The price breakdown is:
- Book of 10 t+ tickets – €13.70 ($19) Can be used over multiple days
- 1 Day Pass (zones 1-3) – €12 ($16)
- 2 Day Pass (zones 1-3) – €19.40 ($26)
- 3 Day Pass (zones 1-3) – €26.50 ($36)
Or if you plan on venturing farther out into Paris, you can get a pass covering more zones, such as:
- 1 Day Pass (zones 1-5) – €25.15 ($34)
- 2 Day Pass (zones 1-5) – €38.20 ($51)
- 3 Day Pass (zones 1-5) – €53.55 ($73)
Hop on – Hop off Bus Tour
Another way of getting around Paris is the hop on hop off bus tours. The up side is that they cover the whole city in a short period of time, the down side is that they stop running in the evening so if you want to see any sites at night (which I would highly recommend) you are out of luck.
One company that I found, Worldwide City Sightseeing offers a one day pass for €29 ($39) and a two-day pass for €33 (45). The tour route takes 135 minutes to complete and has 9 stops along the way at major tourist sites. You are free to “hop on” or “hop off” at any stop, and the busses pick up every 10-15 minutes at each stop throughout the day. Although I have to admit, when we did the tour, it was closer to a 15-25 minute wait, depending on traffic in the city. This is a good option to see the city since you actually get to drive through it and appreciate the atmosphere of things instead of being underground in a subway. Both this and the subway are efficient ways of getting around, it just depends on how many days you are in Paris and how many sites you want to visit.
An absolutely fantastic (and healthy) way to see the city is renting a bicycle. Vélib’, as it is called, is Paris’s bike rental program which boasts over 20,000 bikes at 1,800 docking locations around the city. The rental process is very simple, just a quick registration and a swipe of a credit card (for a deposit to ensure the bike is returned and working properly) and you are off! You can rent it for any variation of days that you want, and if you just need it for a quick ride, anything less than 30 minutes is free! It’s really a great program and is a fun way to get around the city. Now there are a few down sides to this, the first being that the program does not provide helmets, which I would strongly encourage in such bustling city. Also, there is the issue of what to do with the bike when you arrive at a destination but want to keep using it for the day. I would say your best bet is to dock it again after any time you stop (for example, lunch, or to go into a museum or sight-seeing location). It would be a pretty costly mistake if the bike were to be stolen, so that is a bit of a nuisance to have to go lock it back up at a docking station again but if you plan your route / day well enough it shouldn’t be a problem. Rates are as low as €1.70 a day! More information can be found on the Vélib’ Website along with maps and locations of docking stations.
When In Paris You Must…
Paris has so many beautiful, amazing, delicious, thought provoking, and engaging things to experience. These are just a few of the generic things you have to do when you’re there:
- Eat crepes, lots of them, they’re delicious in any form you can get them in
- Actually, eat all the pastries you can get your hands on, they are all pretty amazing
- Drink wine, lots of it, some of the best wine in the world is made in France and is extremely cheap to enjoy
- Visit as many tourist spots as you can, the city has so much to offer, go out and experience it!
- See things at night, because the city is just as beautiful, if not more so, after the sun goes down
- Walk the Seine River, which flows through the city with countless beautifully designed bridges crossing over it
With a city that has as much to offer tourists as Paris, I surely missed some things, so what are YOUR favorite things to do in Paris? Leave me some comments of your favorite sites to see or restaurants to eat at!
This article hardly scratches the surface of all that this incredible city has to offer. For first time travelers however, I think this is a great reference to start with. Paris has a lot of intriguing and culturally rich attractions to appreciate, I would highly encourage anyone to just get there and experience this one of a kind city.
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