Paris

Paris Travel Guide

Paris is an incredible mix of monuments, museums, history, shopping, cathedrals, cuisine, and culture.  With so many things to do in Paris, it is no wonder why it continues to rank as the world’s most visited city year after year.

Paris can be navigated easily, and there are plenty of places to stay in the city center, making it a top choice for both beginner and experienced travelers alike.  There are so many things to do in Paris, it is almost hard to narrow down to the list of “must see” attractions. Fortunately, most of the top sights in Paris can be seen in 3-5 days while still leaving time to enjoy the culture in this romantic city.

The Clear Travel Paris Travel Guide will help you see the top sights, save time, and save money on your Paris trip!

The Basics
Top Things to do in Paris
How to get Around in Paris
Insider Tips
Clear Travel Summary

 

The Basics

  • Recommended Time: 3-5 Days
  • Language: French, but English can get you by (so long as you first ask in French if they speak English)
  • Currency: Euro
  • Airports: Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY)
  • Train Stations: Gare du Nord, Gare di I’Ese, Gare di Lion, Gare Monteparse, Gare de Bercy.
  • Official Site for City Museum Pass and Transportation Pass. Highly recommended to get in to the city from either airport, see the top sights, skip the queues, and get around the city easily on the Metro/ RER (more on that later)
  • Link to get the Metro/RER map on the Official RATP Site – Metro and RER Map

Top Things to do in Paris

Eiffel Tower

The iconic Eiffel Tower dominates the central Paris skyline.  Built for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower has become one of the world’s most visited monuments.  The Eiffel Tower is one of the “must see” attractions in all of Europe.

Surrounded by green space; nothing beats a picnic lunch on a beautiful day with wine and cheese, taking in the atmosphere.  Location on Google Maps.

How to get there:

  • Like the rest of central Paris, it is easy to get around by utilizing the Metro (subway) or RER (regional train) lines that ruin throughout the city center.
  • Metro: Line 6, Bir-Hakeim Stop, or Passy Stop
  • RER: Yellow C line, Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel Stop

Ticket Information:

  • 25 EUR for an adult lift ticket from the bottom with a pre-booked time.  The Eiffel Tower is not included in your Paris Museum Pass that we recommend you purchase for the rest of Paris’ attractions.
  • Official Ticket Office

Insider Tips:

  • Pre-book your tickets.  The line for the Eiffel Tower is insane, and can be hours and hours long.  If you are interested in going to the top, you should pre-book your tickets.  Even then, expect to wait in line for a bit for the elevator, especially if you are visiting later in the day.
  • It can be a shorter line to walk to the second floor (704 steps) and then catch the elevator to the top with much less of a wait.
  • The Arc de Triomphe offers great areal views of Paris – and the Eiffel Tower – and is included in your Museum Pass.  If you want to save the 50 EUR and time in line (even with a pre-booked ticket) then it is perfectly OK to just visit the top of the Arc, and take in the views of the Eiffel Tower from the surrounding green space with a picnic lunch.
Louvre Museum

The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum with over 35,000 works of art on display.  The most famous of which, of course, is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.  Going to the Louvre is a “must do” in Paris, and there are so many great works to enjoy.  Location on Google Maps.

How to get there:

  • Like the rest of central Paris, it is easy to get around by utilizing the Metro (subway) or RER (regional train) lines that ruin throughout the city center.
  • Metro: Line 1 or 7, Palais Royal Musée du Louvre Stop

Ticket Information:

  • Included in the Paris Museum Pass.  With the pass you get to walk right in to the glass pyramid, past all of the people standing in line, and right in to the museum.

Insider Tips:

  • Get the museum pass and walk right past the line, which can be hours long in the summer.  Better you spend your time inside enjoying the famous art instead of standing in line.
  • If you are in to art, you could literally spend days in the Louvre and do little else while you are in Paris. If you are not really in to art, it is possible to enjoy the famous pieces in a couple hours if you plan out the pieces you want to see and move between them quickly.
Arc de Triomphe

Towering monument honoring the French Military, located at the intersection of Champs-Élysées and 11 other avenues in central Paris.  The Arc offers incredible views of Paris for those who climb the 284 steps to the top.  Location on Google Maps.

How to get there:

  • Metro: Line 1, 2, or 6, Charles de Gaulle Étoile Stop
  • RER Line A, Charles de Gaulle Étoile Stop

Ticket Information: 

  • Included in the Paris Museum Pass.  With the pass you get to walk right in to the Arc and climb the stairs

Insider Tip:

  • The Arc offers incredible views of central Paris.  The view is definitely worth the climb.  Great alternative to get a areal view of Paris without paying the extra money to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Champs-Élysées

1.2 miles of high-end luxury shops, restaurants, cafés, and theaters. Great if you have some time to shop or take in the view from a street side cafe.  A nice break between typical tourist destinations, and the street has something every traveler will enjoy.  Location on Google Maps.

How to get there:

  • Metro: Line 1 runs the length of Champs-Élysées.
  • Metro: Line 9 intersects Champs-Élysées at the Franklin
    D. Roosevelt Stop, about midpoint of the avenue.
  • Metro: Line 13 intersects at Champs Élysées Clemenceau Stop.

Ticket Information:

  • None needed
Musée d’Orsay

Stunning art museum in a converted train station; d’Orsay houses thousands of pieces of impressionist art.  Showcases classics by Monet, Degas and Van Gogh. Location on Google Maps.

How to get there:

  • Metro: Line 12, Solférino Stop
  • RER: Line A, Musée d’Orsay Stop

Ticket Information: 

  • Included in the Paris Museum Pass.  With the pass you get to walk right past the line and in to the museum.
Notre Dame

One of the most, if not the most, famous cathedrals in all of Europe.  Notre Dame is a 12th century cathedral located on the île de la Cité, essentially an island in the Siene river where the city of Paris started.  Location on Google Maps.

How to get there:

  • Metro: Line 4, Cité or St-Michel Stop
  • RER: Line A or B, St-Michel Notre-Dame Stop

Ticket Information:

  • Included in the Paris Museum Pass
Conciergerie

The Conciergerie was part of the royal palace from the middle ages, which was later converted to a notorious prison during the French Revolution. You can visit the dungeons, Marie Antoinette’s cell, and learn about the French Revolution.  Location on Google Maps.

How to get there:

  • Metro: Line 4, Cité or St-Michel Stop
  • Walking distance from Notre Dame

Ticket Information:

  • Included in the Paris Museum Pass

Insider Tip:

  • The Conciergerie is a bit of a hidden gem.  Not overly busy, included in your Museum pass, and very close to other tourist attractions in the immediate area like Notre Dame and Louvre.  Think of it as the French “Tower of London.”
Sacré-Cœur

Domed white church completed in 1914 on the highest point in the city.  Designed to be both a political and religious monument, it is one of the most unique basilicas in all of Europe, and one of the most visited monuments in the city.  Location on Google Maps.

How to get there:

  • Sacré-Cœur is a bit more challenging to get to compared to other top sights in Paris due to the topography and distance from a metro stop.
  • Metro: Line 2, Anvers stop, then a cable car or steps to the top of the hill.
  • Metro: Line 12, Abbesses stop, then a cable car or steps to the top of the hill.

Ticket Information: 

Insider Tip:

  • Sacré-Cœur is not immediately by other top sights in Paris, except for Moulin Rouge (if you were planning on seeing that as well.)
Day Trips to Versailles or Normandy
  • Versailles is an easy day trip from Paris on the RER C line.  The palace and gardens are incredible, and the town of Versailles is quaint with some hidden gems.  It is well worth the day trip from Paris.  Visit our page on Versailles.
  • Normandy, the site of the Allied beach landing during WWII is worth a day trip from Paris for WWII history buffs. The Normandy region is easily accessible by train from central Paris within about two hours.  SNCF Official Site for train timetables and tickets.

How to Get Around in Paris

To/From the Airport to Central Paris:

By Train:

  • CDG Airport to Central Paris:
    • RER Line B.  The journey takes around 40 minutes.
    • Cost: Included in Paris Visite transit pass if you get the pass that covers Zones 1-5.
  • Orly Airport to Central Paris:
    • Orlyval monorail, then change to RER Line B at the Antony station.  The journey takes around 25-30 min
    • Cost: Included in Paris Visite transit pass if you get the pass that covers Zones 1-5.

By Bus:

  • CDG Airport to Central Paris:
  • Orly Airport to Central Paris:

By Taxi:

  • CDG Airport to Central Paris:
    • Transit time: Around 50 minutes
    • Cost: Rate of 60 EUR
  • Orly Airport to Central Paris:
    • Transit time: Around 30 minutes
    • Cost: Rate of 35 EUR

Insider Tip: 

  • It is a bit of a stereotype about French working culture, but there are frequent transit strikes in France, whether by train workers, metro/bus workers, or taxi drivers.  Check before you arrive whether there is an ongoing or expected strike during your trip.  If you are flying into Paris, and there is an RER strike, it can be very disruptive and you will need to adjust the way to get in to the city.
How to get around in central Paris:

Central Paris is very easy to navigate between the top sights by the Metro/RER, and buses.  Purchasing a Paris Visite transit pass for Zones 1-5 can offer you the ease and convenience of covering your airport to city center transit, and all of the Metro/RER and bus lines within the city.

By Metro/RER:

  • There are dozens of lines connecting the suburbs with all of the top sights in central Paris.  Our experience is that the metro system is easier and more reliable than the bus system.
  • Your Paris Visite transit pass will cover unlimited rides on the Metro/RER lines.
  • Official RATP Site – Metro and RER Map

By Bus:

  • There are also dozens of bus lines connecting the main sites, and a good option if you do not need to go far and want to stay above ground to enjoy the views.
  • Your Paris Visite transit pass will cover unlimited rides on the bus lines.
  • Official RATP Site – Bus Map

Tickets:

  • Purchase a transportation pass online ahead of your trip (it is mailed to you) along with your museum pass.  Just validate the ticket the first time you use it, and hold on to it for the duration of your trip.

Insider Tips for Paris

  • The Museum Pass will save you hours by allowing you to skip the queues.  Being able to walk past the lines at the Lourve, and d’Orsay, plus the flexibility of being able to walk in to any of the other dozens of monuments and museums makes the Paris museum pass well worth it.  We are all for pre-booking or buying city passes that allow you to skip the queues.  Above all, time is your most important resource when you are on vacation.
  • Make sure your transit pass is for Zones 1-5 if are planning on taking the train to Paris from the airport, or planning a day trip to Versailles or Paris Disneyland.  While more expensive, the extra zones will pay off when you factor in the airport transportation and not needing to purchase separate tickets to Versailles or other places just outside of the city.
  • Where do I “love lock” in Paris? Unfortunately for aspiring “love lockers”, Paris has tried to make the process more difficult by replacing metal railings with glass railings on the original love lock bridges Pont des Arts and Pont de l’Archevêché.  However, there are multiple other bridges where people currently “love lock.”  The bridge Léopold Sedar Senghor right by d’Orsay museum is one, and “love lockers” have been creative in finding small spots on most other bridges on the Seine.
  • As always, try and limit time with luggage. Stay close to a metro/RER station in central Paris. There will be plenty of hotel/Airbnb choices around primary stations.
  • How do I avoid having everyone be rude to me while in Paris?  Politely ask in French if they speak English, before asking them your question... “Bonjour, parlez-vous anglais?” If you start like that you will usually get a “yes” and find the local you are talking to is quite friendly.  If you just walk up to them and start asking your question in English, assuming they do, watch them pretend they don’t understand what you’re saying.  Watch other tourists make this mistake and smile that you know better…

Paris Travel Guide Summary

Paris is an incredible city and absolutely a “must see” for anyone interested in traveling to Europe.  Although there are dozens of monuments and museums, you can see the top sights in Paris in 3-5 days.  Buying the Paris Museum Pass will allow you to skip the queues at the top things (besides the Eiffel Tower elevators.)  Selecting the Paris Visite transportation pass that covers Zones 1-5 will cover your airport transportation, rides within in the city, and a day trip to Versailles.  Staying at a hotel/Airbnb within a short walking distance from a Metro station can provide a convenient ‘home base’ for your trip to Paris and help you move throughout the city easily.

In conclusion, Paris is an incredible city with so much to offer to those that love art, shopping, cuisine, and theater.  Or, just those that want to enjoy some French culture while sipping wine on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower.

 

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