First Time in Paris? Things to Know Before You Visit
First time in Paris? Lucky you! As someone who has visited many times, I know on paper your first trip to Paris can see a bit overwhelming. Here is everything you need to know before you visit the magnificent city of lights — a first-timer’s guide!
First Time in Paris: Things to Know Before You Visit
When to Visit Paris
Paris is truly wonderful year round (even during winter!), so it depends on what kind of trip you are looking for. For detailed information on Paris during each season, see The Best Time to Visit Paris.
How Long to Visit Paris For
As someone who continues to go back to Paris over and over again, there really is no amount of time that is too long to visit! There are endless things to see and do and one could never bore of this magical city. At the very least for your first time in Paris, plan for three days. You won’t see everything (not even close) but you will get a good taste of it.
Getting to Paris
Paris has two international airports, Charles de Gaulle, the largest, and Orly.
Charles de Gaulle is located 23 km north of the city. Public transportation from CDG to central Paris is easy via the RER train. This will take you from the airport to the city where you can then transfer to the Metro in order to reach your final destination. More expensive but certainly less of a hassle, Uber is available in Paris (use code “kbae3” to get your first ride for free!).
Orly Airport is 14 km south of the city. From here you can take the Orlyval shuttle train to the RER station, then follow the same as above. Again, if you are tired and looking to get to your destination as quickly as possible, call an Uber!
You can also get to Paris via train. Each train station is reachable by Metro line, so once you arrive you can hop over to the Metro to get to your final destination.
Getting Around in Paris
Getting around in Paris is very easy thanks to their wonderful Metro system! It takes you basically anywhere you want to go and is incredibly easy to understand, even if you are English speaking only.
Tickets to the Metro are sold as singles, in books of ten, as a day pass, and more. What you buy will depend largely on what you plan to do. Because I spend most of my time actually in the city (within what the Metro system refers to as “Zone 1”) and I do a ton of walking, for me the most logical thing is buying single tickets. Each ride is €1,90.
Do NOT buy a day pass without doing the math to see if it’s worth it. For example, currently a day pass for one adult is €12. Since each individual pass is €1,90, in order for that to make sense I’d have to be using the Metro more than 6 times a day. I personally use it 2-3 times per day at most.
Tickets do not need to be purchased in advance, but can be bought at the Metro station. Cash is accepted, as is card. To avoid waiting in line each time, I always buy a handful at once (or a book of 10 depending on how many I need).
Paris is also very walkable and, for the most part, pretty flat. There are also city bike rental services you can use if you prefer to explore on wheels!
Currency in Paris
Speaking of payments, Paris’ currency is the Euro. Almost everywhere takes cards but I always recommend having a fair amount of cash on hand in case of emergency. There are plenty of ATMs in the city should you need one during your trip, too.
Don’t forget to double check that your credit card has no foreign transaction fees before you go. My personal favorite credit card for travel is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Apply HERE and get 50,000 bonus points!
How Expensive is Paris?
According to the Paris tourism site, these are the average prices:
1 full-price museum admission: €7 to €12
1 sandwich: around €6
1 pizza: between €8 and €12
1 small coffee: €1 at the bar, €2 sitting down
1 full meal (starter, main dish, dessert, not including drinks): between €15 and €20 depending on the area
1 baguette of bread: €1
1 beer in a café: around €4
1 seat at the cinema: €10
Tipping in Paris
All prices displayed in Paris are inclusive already of taxes and service charge. Tipping in Paris is not as common as in the US, but if the service has been great then you are welcome to tip 5-10% (20% like in the US is not necessary or expected).
Language in Paris
The main language spoken in Paris is of course French. I have found that most people in the city do also speak English, so you don’t need to go all out and learn French prior to arriving. It’s not a bad idea to brush up on your Duolingo lessons prior to arriving, though!
Arrondissements of Paris
Paris is broken up into 20 Arrondissements (districts). Like the neighborhoods here in SF, each has it’s own unique personality and is loved for different reasons. The first Arrondissement, where the Louvre is found, is located in the center of the city. From there they spiral out in a clock-wise direction.
Read Everything You Need to Know About Paris’ 1st and 2nd Arrondissements and A Guide to Le Marais, The Best Neighborhood in Paris (the 3rd and 4th Arrondissement) for more info.
More detailed breakdown of the remaining arrondissements coming soon!
Where to Stay in Paris First Time
If you are wondering the best place to stay in Paris close to everything, I recommend the following:
LE PAVILLON DE LA REINE is a jaw-dropping five-star hotel located in the heart of Marais in Place des Vosges, once of my favorite spots in Paris. It is drenched in ivy and such a luxurious, wonderful gem tucked away from the hustle and bustle of le Marais. I have stayed here personally and highly recommend it. Click here to see the latest prices.
Read and see more about my stay: Where to Stay in Paris: Le Pavillon de la Reine.
THE HOXTON is another wonderful hotel I recommend. It’s located very centrally in the 2nd Arrondissement and is beautiful beyond words. Last time I visited I booked two nights here and ended up liking it so much that I extended to four. Click here to see the latest prices.
If you prefer a more local experience, click here for 8 Paris Airbnbs in Le Marais You Must Stay In.
Looking for an Eiffel Tower view? Click here for the Best Hotels and Airbnbs with Eiffel Tower Views.
Top Sights in Paris
While I much prefer off-the-beaten-path type of trips, there are a handful of very famous top sights in Paris you may want on your to-do list (side note - I would recommend buying tickets to these touristy things in advance if possible):
The Eiffel Tower — click here for summit or second floor priority access
The Arc de Triomphe — click here for skip the line tickets (you will definitely want to get these beforehand)
The Louvre — click here to reserve your timed entrance ticket (self-guided)
Notre Dame Cathedral — click here for guided tour tickets or click here for a guided tour of both the cathedral and the island
Sacre-Coeur — click here to tour both the basilica and Montmarte (the neighborhood)
Palace of Versaille — click here for skip the line tickets (VERY necessary)
Musée d'Orsay — click here for a reserved access ticket
Paris Catacombs — click here for skip the line tickets
River Seine Cruise — click here to reserve a one hour tour
But please do yourself a favor and also check out my list of 8 Things You Absolutely Cannot Miss in Paris for a better list of what to do while visiting :)
Paris is very popular so tours and activities are likely to sell out far in advance. Click below to see the latest prices and reserve your spot for popular Paris activities:
Best Day Trips from Paris
LOIRE VALLEY: take a day trip from Paris to the Loire Valley to see Chambord, Cheverny, and Chenonceau, some of the most famous castles! Click here to see the latest prices.
NORMANDY D DAY BEACHES: take a day trip from Paris to Normandy and the WWII D-Day beaches. Includes a guided tour of the Caen Memorial Museum, a visit to the American Cemetery in Saint Laurent, and more. Click here to see the latest prices.
MONT SAINT-MICHEL: visit the village’s medieval buildings and enjoy the beauty of the landscape as you explore the region! Click here to see the latest prices.
THE CHAMPAGNE REGION: visit and taste in a world famous champagne estate, enjoy a food and champagne pairing meal in a family-run winery, visit Dom Perignon’s grave and meet a local winemaker. Click here to see the latest prices.
GIVERNY: visit Normandy, the home of Claude Monet, and the Musee des Impressionismes. Click here to see the latest prices.
VERSAILLES: a half-day Versaille tour with direct hotel pick up and drop off! Click here to see the latest prices. Want something more unique? Click here for the Versailles murder and mysteries tour!
What to Pack for Paris
COMFORTABLE SHOES. You will likely (hopefully) be doing a lot of walking so this is very important! My very favorite are M. Gemi’s white leather sneakers. I literally never travel anywhere without them. Click here to see latest prices.
NO-SHOW SOCKS. To go with the above mentioned shoes! I have tried so many different ones and find that most fall down under your heel (ouch) but these do not. Click here for the ones I love.
DAY HEELS. Heels you can actually walk in? Yup! These Day Heels are heels you can walk in all day long. Tres chic. Click here to check availability (they sell out constantly, get them while you can!).
QUALITY BASICS. I think investing in quality pieces is important always, but especially when traveling. Why? Because you want the fabric to be breathable and durable and for the items to be well made and versatile. But at the same time you don’t want to overpay, which is why Everlane is my favorite place to buy basics! They make timeless products with transparent pricing — telling you exactly how much it cost to make, how much they’re selling it for, and how much competitors traditionally sell it for. I’ve been shopping here for years and so far everything has been great! Click here to see the latest prices.
LIGHTWEIGHT TRAVEL CARDIGAN. Barefoot Dreams’ circle cardigan is honestly one of the best travel-related purchase I have made. So warm and absolutely necessary, I’ve brought mine on every single trip since purchasing it. Also great for transit days and hotel lounging! Click here to see the latest prices.
CONVERTER ADAPTER. This one is universal and works no matter where you’re going so it’s a must. When going to the EU I also bring along this very inexpensive 6 pack so that I have extras. So much to charge these days! Need other recommendations? Click here to see 20 Must Have Travel Products from Amazon Prime.
Some more Amazon travel recommendations:
STYLISH CAMERA BAG… if you are bringing a camera! You can’t go to Paris with anything that isn’t chic ;) Since pickpocketing is a thing in Paris I bring GATTA’s Christie camera backpack (named after me) because it’s hands free, has a zipper AND a buttoned flap, and fully protects my camera yet is so cute no one will ever know it’s a camera bag. Click here to see the latest prices.
MAKEUP. My recommendations for travel specifically are:
SKINCARE. If you follow me on Instagram then you know I am a skincare fanatic. While I have an incredibly lengthly process while at home in SF, I try to keep it a little more low-key on the road. Click here to see more detailed skincare info or below for the items I believe are most essential for travel:
LUGGAGE. Away makes the best luggage, hands down. Their suitcases have an unbreakable polycarbonate shell (also scratch resistant), interior compartments, removable laundry bags, and built-in USB chargers and TSA approved locks (so fancy!). They are minimalistic yet contain everything you could need, all at a reasonable price point. Click here to check out their suitcases.
A FEW PARIS THEMED THINGS. I love bringing a few themed things to Paris, especially for photos! My current favorite options:
Other Paris Information
Assuming you are reading this because you are planning on visiting, I have a ton of helpful Paris content to ease your planning woes! Click below for…
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