Friends, this year we made it to Paris, and here’s what we loved most about our trip to the capital of France!
Paris is always a good idea! The city of light is one of the most romantic destinations in the world, French cuisine is probably the best there is, and there’s so much history and art in Paris, that a week spent here is simply not enough.
We had a lovely vacation in Paris and are happy to share what we’ve learned from our experiences.
How to get around the city
Paris is an enormous metropolis and one of the most visited cities in the world. It is a popular destination, and it’s crowded, so in my opinion, driving is not an option to get around the city. In my experience, the only efficient way to move around Paris is by public transportation.
Public Transportation Tickets In Paris
You can reach all the main attractions by metro and bus, and for tourists, there are affordable tickets that include all public transportation means. For your vacation, we recommend either the Paris Visite Ticket or the Navigo Week Pass.
With these tickets, you can easily move around Paris without worrying about further payments for transportation.
The difference between the two is that Paris Visite Ticket is valid for 1, 2, 3, or 5 consecutive days of your choice, while The Navigo Week pass is valid for one week, from Monday to Sunday. You’ll have to choose the pass that best suits your plans. For instance, if you arrive on a Saturday and stay for 5 days, Paris Visite will make better sense for your trip.
Paris is divided into 5 zones (center and suburbs), and the ticket rates vary on the areas you plan to move around. Most museums and attractions are in zones 1 and 2, so we recommend you get passes for these areas. Zones 3 and 4 are the suburbs of Paris, and unless your hotel is there, it’s unlikely you’ll go there as a tourist. Disneyland Paris, Versailles, and Charles De Gaulle Airport are in Zone 5, so choose the ticket that best fits your plans.
If you’re not planning to go every day in zone 5, get a pass for zones 1-3 and buy single-use tickets for your trip to Versailles, for example.
Whether you choose Navigo weekly or Paris Visite, you can buy your pass at the machines in the metro station. Note that you will have to validate it every time you enter the metro or the bus.
Use Google Maps To Get Around Paris
You can use Google Maps to find the best route to an attraction via public transportation. If you can choose between the metro or the bus, take the metro, as I found buses to be a bit unreliable in Paris.
The metro comes pretty often, while the times shown on Google Maps weren’t always the same as the ones at the bus stations.
Top Attractions In Paris
Let’s be honest. It’s Paris! All attractions are top attractions. Know from the start that it’s impossible to see everything, so choose the ones that tempt you the most. We’ll go over the ones we visited, and we’ll include all the tips and tricks we’ve learned during our trip.
Tip: Paris Museum Pass
If you plan to see a few museums in Paris, get the Paris Museum Pass. This tool will save you a lot of money and time, as it allows you to skip the long lines at ticket counters! It grants access to over 50 different museums and monuments throughout the city, including the Louvre, the Arc de Triumph, and the Palace of Versailles.
The pass is available for two, four, or six consecutive days and can be purchased online or at the ticket counters of participating museums. Note that some museums may require a reservation in advance.
1. Louvre Museum
The Louvre is one of the world’s largest and most visited museums, with a collection of over 35,000 objects covering thousands of years of art and history.
The museum is home to some of the most famous works of art in the world, including the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace.
It is one of the most important attractions in Paris, which means you can expect long lines.
Find this entrance!
It is less known to the public and you’ll get in right away. Then, with the Paris Museum Pass head straight to the wing entrance, where it will be scanned for admission.
2. Sacre Coeur and Montmartre
The Sacre Coeur is a stunning white basilica located at the top of Montmartre, one of Paris’s most charming and bohemian neighborhoods.
It’s one of Paris’s most famous attractions, and it’s worth seeing for both its beauty and the breathtaking views of the city. The entrance is free and you can climb the hill on foot, or you can take the funicular to the top. After you visit Sacre Coeur, take a nice walk and explore the winding streets and hidden alleyways in Montmartre.
3. Boulevard de Clichy
At walking distance from Sacre Coeur, you will find The Boulevard de Clichy, a bustling street known for its nightlife and entertainment. Even though I’m not a fan of adult clubs and shops, I enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere on this street. There are lots of bars, clubs, and theaters, but also many great restaurants.
4. Tour Eiffel
The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most iconic landmarks and a must-see attraction in Paris. You can take an elevator to the top of the tower for stunning views of the city, or simply admire the structure from below. If you decide to visit the tower, you’d better buy your tickets right away, as they sell out up to three weeks prior. Tour Eiffel sparkles every hour on the hour for 5 minutes, from dusk to 11.45 PM.
5. Trocadero Square
For a nice view of the tower, head to The Trocadero square. It’s located across from the Eiffel Tower and offers stunning views of the monument. It is a popular spot for tourists to take photos and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
The Palace of Versailles is a magnificent example of French Baroque architecture and was once the center of political power in France. Today, visitors can tour the palace and its stunning gardens, which are among the most famous in the world.
It’s one of my favorite museums, and I couldn’t imagine going to Paris and not seeing Versailles. It’s a one-hour trip by train from Paris to Versailles, and the train ticket is included in the passes covering zones 1-5. If your pass only covers zones 1-3, you’ll need an extra train ticket.
The ticket to Versailles however, is included in the Paris Museum Pass, but you are required to reserve a time slot on their website. If you’re not sure when you will arrive, you can also get the time ticket from the counter but do expect long lines.
7. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is a triumphal arch, built to honor the soldiers who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Located at the end of the Champs-Elysees, the arch is a symbol of Paris, and one of my favorite spots in the capital of France. You can climb the stairs up to the top of the arch and enjoy some magnificent views.
8. Pompidou Center
The Pompidou Center is a museum of modern and contemporary art located in the heart of Paris. Its unique architecture, with its exposed steel structure and brightly colored pipes, makes it one of the most distinctive buildings in the city. In this museum, you can see the work of several famous artists like Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Frida Kahlo.
9. Musee de l'Armee and Napoleon's Tomb
The Musee de l’Armee is one of the world’s largest military museums and is home to an extensive collection of weapons, armor, and military memorabilia. I was particularly surprised to see Napoleon’s staffed horse, among other interesting objects. It also houses the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, which is one of the most visited sites in the museum.
The Champs-Elysees is one of the most famous avenues in the world and is lined with luxury shops, cafes, and theaters. Visitors can stroll along the wide sidewalks and take in the stunning views of the Arc de Triomphe at the far end of the avenue. On the first Sunday of each month, the street is closed to cars, which allows pedestrians to enjoy a nice walk on the famous boulevard.
11. Notre Dame
The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most famous Gothic cathedrals in the world and has been an important religious and cultural site in Paris for over 800 years. The cathedral suffered significant damage in a tragic fire in 2019, and it’s been under repair ever since. Even though you can’t visit the church, you can still admire it from the outside. I saw her on my trip to Paris and wished her to get well soon.
12. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is a neoclassical building that was originally built as a church but later became a mausoleum for famous French citizens. It houses the remains of many famous figures, including Voltaire, Rousseau, and Victor Hugo. It’s an interesting attraction worth seeing if you’re in Paris.
Practical Tips For Your Trip To Paris
1. The Paris Museum Pass.
The Paris Museum Pass will save you a lot of money and time, too. The access tickets can cost a lot, and there are long lines to the sales offices. This pass allows you to skip these lines, and visit more than 50 museums and cultural sites. I recommend you start your visits with a less crowded attraction, go to the ticket office and, instead of an access ticket, ask for The Paris Museum Pass. Once you have it, you can use it as an access ticket to all the attractions included in the pass.
2. Tipping in Paris.
At most restaurants and cafes, service is already included in your check, so tipping is not expected in Paris. If your bill mentions the service not being included, you can leave 10% of the check. Know that you won’t be able to add it to the card payment, so it will have to be in cash.
3. Wear comfortable shoes!
You will walk a lot in Paris. In Louvre alone you’ll walk for a few hours, so make sure you bring the most comfortable shoes you own. In case you need to find cheap, walking shoes while you’re there, look for vendors at the subway, or find a Decathlon store.
4. There are no extra taxes at the store.
If you’re traveling from the United States, know that in Europe, the price you see at the store is the final price you’re going to pay at the register. There are no extra taxes.
5. Watch out for pickpockets and scams.
Watch out for pickpockets and scammers. Leave your passports in the safe at the hotel, you don’t need to have them on you. Don’t carry a lot of cash, and watch your backpack or purse at all times. Scammers will try to get your attention by tying a so-called friendship bracelet on your hand, or through other creative means. Ignore them and walk away.
6. If you speak French, use it in Paris.
If you speak French, go ahead and use it in Paris. In many restaurants, we felt that we received better treatment because my husband paid attention to the French classes in school. Even if your French isn’t perfect, they will appreciate you trying.
7. Book a hotel near the metro station.
You don’t have to stay in the city center, as long as you’re close to the metro station. You’ll find nice, affordable places that are a bit farther from the center, but still 10 minutes away by metro.
8. Food service times.
In Paris, there are two distinct service times: Lunch is typically from around 12 until 2:30, and dinner is around 7:30-11 p.m. Many restaurants are closed in between, and some only serve drinks, coffee, and some aperitifs. If you get hungry between meals, you can always step into a patisserie or boulangerie.
9. Try the local specialties.
Sometimes we’re tempted to only eat the foods we’re accustomed to, but the French cuisine is so amazing, it would be a pity to spend your vacation eating the same things you can always have at home. Try everything: the cheese, the wines, and my favorite – the foie gras.
10. On the 1st Sunday of the month, many museums are free.
On the 1st Sunday of the month, many museums in Paris open their gates for free. This means you can save some money on attraction tickets, but it also means you can expect long lines. Note that even though it is free, for some attractions, you’ll need to reserve a ticket online.