Although Paris is located in the Ile de France region, which has less rainfall than other parts of the country, it can be tricky to navigate the weather systems that fall on the city. It’s a matter of preference as to when you want to visit – the summer months offer fine dry weather with clear blue skies, but can bring hot and stuffy days when temperatures soar and the city becomes simply unbearable. Winter can be absolutely freezing in the capital, but wrapping up warm will allow you to see the sights and enjoy a hot chocolate in one of the nearby brasseries. Like the famous song, Paris is best enjoyed by some in the spring time; however beware the frequent April showers.
You’re not alone in wanting to visit Paris; the city is incredibly popular amongst international travelers throughout the year. This means high prices in the popular months and periods surrounding major events and festivals. The summer, although offering some high temperatures, also offers some relief in that a large proportion of the population disappears to the country or coast to ride out the month of August. You’ll share the city with other tourists and those who need to work, leaving a less populated city which just might be for you. Or, you may prefer to come when the city is full and buzzing with life. Christmas and New Year, whilst expensive, offer a real buzz and beautiful city lights, but you may want to avoid the actual festival dates themselves for cheaper accommodation.
Paris, despite its size and population, is relatively easy to get around. You will likely stay within the boulevard periphique, which is full of metro stations at almost every street. The metro is by far the best way to get around the city, costing €1.40 per trip and offering other options – such as day or week cards at excellent prices. It will take you to all the best stops and sights, and right back to your hotel. Don’t even think about hiring a car, as you’ll spend 80% of your holiday in a traffic jam and will likely get a few dents and scrapes by some over eager Parisian driver. From the airport, there are buses, taxis and the excellent RER B train line which will bring you straight to the Gare du Nord in minutes.
The Eiffel Tower: Half an hour or 2 hours, depending on the queues
It’s the most iconic symbol in the French capital and certainly the one all the tourists want to see. Accessible from the Bir Hakeim metro station, the Eiffel tower is a fantastic example of engineering and offers some excellent views over the city. If it is a cloudy or rainy day it is probably not worth the queues to the top, so enjoy the might of the tower from below (it’s free!). Remember there are plenty of other places to get some excellent views over the city, so you don’t necessarily need to go to the top of the Eiffel tower. If you’re dead set on it however, you have 2 options – walk up (which is cheaper, less crowded but quite a hike) or take the lift. Make sure you’re doing this on a clear day to get the best of the views.
The Louvre: Half a Day (internal) or half an hour (external)
The Louvre not only houses the best art in one of the world’s biggest museums, the former fortress palace is a masterpiece in itself. The most visited art gallery on earth is housed here, and it is an excellent place for art buffs and those who only want to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa and other famous pieces, as well as Egyptian art. If, like me, you aren’t that interested in art but want to take in the fantastic network of buildings that are the Louvre Palace without forking out for a ticket then simply take half an hour to walk around the buildings and marvel at the scale of the former fortress.
Notre Dame Cathedral - up to an hour
The beautiful Gothic era Notre Dame Cathedral is situated on the banks of the Seine on the edge of theLatin Quarterand offers a fantastic example of French gothic architecture. Entry is free and you can pay a little extra for a guided tour. Beautiful.
Sacre Coeur, Montmartre - up to an hour or a whole evening
Climbing the steps of the gorgeous Montmartre area can be a bit of a workout, but it is certainly worth it once you reach the top. The gorgeous Sacre Coeur basilica is in itself a major tourist attraction which should be explored in about half an hour, with free entry. Remember to take in the massive organ, the frescoes and the architecture of the building. But perhaps the best part of the Sacre Coeur is the fabulous view offered over the city from the highest point inParis, just outside the Basilica. If you’re coming for the evening, bring some food and a bottle of wine and watch the sun set amongst the crowds, some of whom will bring guitars and music and start a party on the steps.
Montmartre – one evening to hangout
Head up to Montmartre for the evening and enjoy the atmosphere, quaint shops and great architecture on the quaint cobbled streets of this historic neighborhood. If you are coming here to eat, stay away from the overpriced restaurants on the Place du Tertre and head down the hill to the main streets along Rue Lepic and around – here are plenty of little bistros which are favored by locals, gorgeous boutiques, flower shops and bakeries.
Montmartreis a great place to head for some chilled out nightlife, a meal amongst friends and a few glasses of wine in a bistro. For something a little edgier head down hill to Pigalle, home to the famous Moulin Rouge and a great place to take in a cabaret show with dinner. For some lively bar entertainment you should head to Rue Oberkampf where bar hopping is all the rage, whereas the Latin Quarter offer laid back nightlife amongst the students.
Famous for its designer boutiques, Paris does not lack plenty of shopping areas. Head to Rue de Faubourg St Honoré for the top designer stores and a shopping experience amongst Europe’s rich and famous. Boulevard Haussmann offers the great Galeries Lafayette (which also boasts some excellent views over the city from the top) and of course the Champs Elysées is full of designer and high street stores. The city also has some great markets, such as the Saint Ouen Flea market.
Paris is expensive, there is no getting around the fact that the world’s richest tourists come here and demand the highest quality, whilst pushing prices up for everyone else. A decent 4* hotel in Paris at a reasonable price is hard to find, and if you are watching the finances you will likely have to choose between top location or a decent hotel. Staying a little out of the centre is a solution to this problem – areas such as Montmartre or the Latin Quarter offer cheaper accommodation and are easily accessible by the metro to the major attractions. In fact, the things you want to see in Paris are so spread out that location is not as important. What you want is to find a hotel with a decent sized room – that may be the tricky part. Another option is to rent an apartment which can be a great way to get the space you desire at a decent price. Paying a week’s rental on an apartment for a family of four will save you loads when comparing to a hotel that charges €100 a night per person.
It’s hard to list some of the best restaurants in Paris, as there are so many catering to all tastes. For traditional French taste, try le Stella on Victor Hugo which is an excellent brasserie, or the old French world Le Meurice for top French luxury glamour. The Latin Quarteris full of great restaurants for all budgets. The Mansouria restaurant on Faidherbe is an excellent example of the top Moroccan restaurants on offer in Paris.
It’s easy to fall into the odd tourist trap in Paris, and there are a few things to watch out for. In Montmartre, watch out for the Africans who will try and have you fall into a trap or two by tying bracelets around your arm and then charging you €20 for the pleasure. Around the Eiffel tower, make sure not to donate any money to the poor, deaf children who will approach you with a sheet of paper detailing their plight. They’re not deaf, and if you feel a pull on your conscience, better donate to a registered charity.
Proposed things to do plans
Aside from the above major tourist attractions, you’ll quickly discover part of the charm of Paris is simply wandering around the streets, popping into cafes and brasseries when you fancy it, looking at the boutiques and shops, and people watching those with the most effortless cool fashion sense around. Stroll through the Jardins de Luxembourg and amble down the streets of Montmartre and simple absorb the atmosphere.
The Parisians may have a reputation for being rude and stuck up, but if you make a little effort on the French language you will find them surprisingly funny, open and ready to help. Make sure you say bonjour (or bon soir) on most occasions – from entering a shop to a lift or even to a room full of people. If it is you entering the room/shop/bar/lift make sure you’re the one doing the ‘bonjour-ing’. Don’t expect the waiter in restaurants to be all over you, asking how the meal is and checking up every ten minutes. You’ll be left alone to enjoy your meal.
Off the Beaten Path
There’s plenty to see in Paris away from the crowds. Local markets are a great way to rub shoulders with the locals, as are some of the more obscure attractions. Try the airplane museum at Le Bourget, or a tour of the fantastic Stade de France. Take a walking ghost tour of Montmartre or a bus trip to Versailles for some great sights away from the crowds.
Nouveau Festival International de Danse de Paris: Take place in October.
Festival d’Automne: Held form mid-September to mid-December.
Glad Stone Fest: Held early in march and october.
Paris Burlesque Festival: Held in Paris.
MaMA Festival: Held early in october.
Never Say Die Festival: Held in October.
Festival International des Jardins: Tale place every year from April to October.
FestiVal de Marne: Every year in October.
All Saints’ Day - Toussaint: Take place in November.
Festival d’Automne: Take place from mid-September to mid-December.
The Brain Festival: Take place every year sept. to nov.