When you tell people you live in Paris, they sometimes emit a wistful sigh. You are living their dream.
“That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me,” says Marion Cotillard’s character in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris.
Not everyone can join Marion as a resident of this city of 2.3 million, but many more than that drop in for a visit every year.
The French capital offers something special to each visitor – from those joining the scrum in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum to the lone intellectual tarrying at a corner café.
The Encyclopedia Britannica puts it succinctly: Paris “is appreciated for the opportunities it offers for business and commerce, for study, for culture, and for entertainment; its gastronomy, haute couture, painting, literature, and intellectual community especially enjoy an enviable enjoy an enviable reputation.”
Serious people have been known to gush. “Paris has history, it has art, it has wonderful architecture, it has literature, but much more important than all these, it has freedom!” said Turkish writer Mehmet Murat ildan. “The most extraordinary place in the world!” declared English writer Charles Dickens more than a century earlier. Anonymous summed it up without an exclamation mark: “A bad day in Paris is better than a good day anywhere else.”
Coming soon – we have some more great itineraries in preparation but until we get this content up and running, we’ve sourced a top itinerary from France Tourism. Meanwhile, to learn more about Paris visit this website.
To book a suitable hotel or other accommodation in, or near Paris, you can use the map below, which shows current prices for hotels and apartments. To book further afield, then just enlarge the map (+/-) to see more properties or, if you are headed for a particular region, enter your preferred city/town/village in the ‘Where are you going?’ box.
When to Go
Anytime, according to Cole Porter`s 1953 composition I Love Paris:
I love Paris in the springtime.
I love Paris in the fall.
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.
“It’s Paris. You don’t come here for the weather,” said Adrian Leeds, property consultant and communications professional.
If you want to avoid excessive crowds at the most popular tourist sites, skip the June-August high season. Forget major holiday periods such as Easter week. On the other hand, if you don`t plan on going to the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, or Disneyland, you might like it in August when Parisians evacuate the city for vacations in the countryside or at the beach. Some shops and restaurants will be closed, but there are always others. It is the only time of year when you are assured of getting a seat on the Metro.
Paris like most capital cities can be expensive so, if you are watching your budget, stay away from the restaurants on the Champs Elysées and Montmartre and try those in the less popular areas. While it is possible to find reasonably priced hotels in the centre it makes sense to choose your accommodation in the outskirts and use the Metro to get in and out of the City.
To see the sites why not consider a Paris Pass which is available on a one, two, three or day basis and, depending on what you want to do during your stay, it could be well worth it!
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in €.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 per person
Sleep — Out of town/rural
€ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €100 for a double
Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 for a double
€=> €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€€ => €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 per person
Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings. European operators such as easyJet, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Jet2, British Airways, flybe and Lufthansa offer an extensive range of routes in Europe.
Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping. All the major car rental companies such as Avis, Sixt, Hertz and Europcar operate throughout Europe but it is not normally possible to rent in the UK and take the vehicle to mainland Europe or vice versa. If you do hire a car from a Channel Port for your onward journey you won’t need it in Paris – in fact it would be an encumberance so drop it off as soon as possible and just use the excellent public transport.
Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) Europe goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical — Travellers within Europe from European Union member states should obtain an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) card which entitles them to healthcare on the same terms as citizens from the country they are visiting. This is a reciprocal agreement which means for example that EEA visitors to the UK will receive free care in NHS hospitals in the same way that UK residents do. Some countries e.g. France make a charge known as a patient contribution for GP visits or stays in hospital for both their own citizens and visitors from the EEA. Even so, travellers are well advised to have additional medical insurance to cover for example the cost of repatriation, mountain rescue in ski resorts and other emergencies.
For travellers from outside the European Union the cost of health services in Europe, while not as high as in the US for example, can be relatively expensive for the uninsured. For this reason it is essential to consider purchasing medical insurance. If you have a Health Care Plan back home it may cover you for most situations which arise abroad but you need to check this out and in any case additional medical travel insurance will cover you for private health care or other expenses.
Some countries outside the European Union have a reciprocal agreement for healthcare with certain European countries. For example Switzerland has an agreement with all European Union countries and Australia has agreements with the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and others. It pays to check before leaving home.
Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travellers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip is expensive it’s essential and even if it isn’t it’s certainly a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Your English or other European language skills are also crucial because insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework — check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
In Europe the largest insurers are Allianz, Axa and Zurich but there are many smaller providers such as insureandgo and Direct Line.
Pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition or charge an additional premium related to the condition. Some companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
The currency of France is the Euro which is currently used in 25 countries a few of which are not even EU members.
Euros come in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 notes. They vary in size, from 120mm x 62mm (€5) to 160mm x 82mm (500), and colour, so it is easy to differentiate between them. All feature European architecture throughout the ages. (Smaller businesses may not accept the larger notes, so plan to have €20s or smaller notes in hand)
There are eight denominations of euro coin: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent plus a €1 and €2 coin. All have a common side and a national side. Remember to spend all coins before you leave – they can’t be exchanged!
Many travellers like to have a small amount of local currency when they arrive in a country but this is becoming less and less important as ATMs and Bureaux de Change appear everywhere especially in transport terminals.
The good news for travellers in Europe is that you don’t need to get stressed about tipping – you don’t have to do it and when you do it really should reflect good or excellent service rather than be something you are expected to do. On the whole workers in tourism are reasonably well paid and don’t depend upon tips to make up their wages. In some cases over-tipping can be embarrassing for all concerned.
Many restaurants include a ‘service’ charge in the price so check and, if it isn’t mentioned, then a tip of between 5 – 10% is quite enough. Even where it is included but you feel that you’ve had really excellent service then the same amount is adequate but ensure that your server receives this by handing it directly to them.
Other methods are to add a euro/pound for each member of the party or round up the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 euros.
In the UK many restaurants add an ‘optional’ amount to the bill when you are paying with plastic, but in many cases the servers don’t receive any of this and it simply becomes an extra profit for the owner. The server won’t mind if you decline to do this!
With taxis, just round up to the next euro or pound for a short journey or, for a long ride, to the nearest ten. Again 10% is the maximum you should consider unless of course the driver carries your bags into the hotel or airport when a little more will be appreciated.
You may wish to give the porter a euro for each bag he carries but, while it will be appreciated, it is not normally expected. Similarly you may wish to leave a small tip for the housekeeping staff, especially if they have been particularly helpful, but this is completely up to you.
Getting Your Bearings in Paris
Paris is divided into 20 districts, called arrondissements, which have a certain amount of political independence. In the center, the first arrondissement includes historical landmarks such as the west end of the Île de la Cité (once downtown Lutetia, a city conquered by the Romans), Les Halles (a former market area dating to the Middle Ages), the Louvre Museum, and the Tuileries Gardens. The other arrondissements spiral out in what is often described as a snail shell. The 20th trails off in the easternmost end of the city. Parisians invariably identify the location of their homes and hangouts by their arrondissements. Be ready to know that of your lodging. Someone will ask.
Another defining feature is the River Seine. It flows through the city for about 13 kilometers, touching upon half of those 20 arrondissements. People sometimes imagine it as cutting a line straight through town, but in fact it loops up from the southwest and back down through the southeast. A now outdated concept used the Seine to split the city along sociological as well as geographical lines. Looking at the map from the right (eastern) perspective (for whatever reason), the southside would be on the left and the northside on the right. The Left Bank, which among other things features the Sorbonne University, once attracted bohemians and intellectuals, some of whom became famous writers and artists (e.g. Camus, Sartre, Beauvoir and Picasso); not to mention political exiles such as Trotsky and Lenin. Meanwhile, the Right Bank seemed to be occupied by rich capitalists. With the gentrification of the Left Bank, this distinction no longer makes sense.
The real division in Paris is between the West (wealthier) and the East (somewhat less wealthy). For most visitors, that won`t make much difference. Unless you want to visit the zoo, which is in the southeastern 12th arrondissement.
Getting Around in Paris
Paris is a great city for walking. You can cross town in a few hours. The French term flâneur (adopted into English without the accent mark) describes someone “who saunters around observing society,” according to the online version of the Oxford Dictionary. The most iconic flaneur was the 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire. He was neither the first nor the only big name to sing the praises of strolling through Pairs. “A walk in Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and the point of life,” said Thomas Jefferson, one America’s founding fathers. Hundreds of years later, American film director Wes Anderson provided a contemporary view: “Paris is a place where, for me, just walking down a street that I’ve never been down before is like going to a movie or something. Just wandering the city is entertainment.”
The municipal bike sharing scheme Vélib is open to visitors. You can get a single day or a week-long pass. While the city is gradually expanding the number of bike lanes, cyclists still have to jockey for position with parked and moving cars in many parts of the city. The bicycle as we know it was perfected in the 1890s. In the decades before World War I, Paris was overtaken by cyclists. Celebrity pedalers included actress Sarah Bernhardt and Renoir, the impressionist painter, who broke his arm in a bike accident. The most notorious cyclist was Alfred Jarry, author of Ubu Roi, a still popular play described as a grotesque farce of epic proportions. Jarry rode around in the bike racing gear of the time, a tight shirt and loose pants, with a large bell from a tramcar fixed to his bicycle, while packing a couple of revolvers. Dada artist Marcel Duchamp produced the first version of his readymade sculpture Bicycle Wheel in Paris in 1913.
The Metro, the subway system, serves most major sightseeing spots. It is easy to navigate, and you can choose between single trip tickets and a day pass. Just don`t stay out too late. Exact times vary by station, but the official closing time on weekdays is midnight; on weekends, 1 a.m. Paris Metro Tales is a collection of 22 translated short stories set in places you can visit by subway. Paris Je t’aime is a compilation of short films that includes Tuileries, depicting a tourist`s bad day on the Metro by the Coen Brothers.
If you miss the last Metro or don`t want to bother with public transportation, your best option is Uber. In the bad old days, conventional taxis were notoriously hard to flag. Drivers would sometimes refuse your custom if your destination failed to suit them.
Paris inevitably earned a string of nicknames. The origins of even the best-known remain murky.
Topping the list is The City of Light (La Ville Lumière). Most sources attribute it to the role Paris played in the Age of Enlightenment, roughly corresponding to the 18th century, when influential European philosophers advanced notions of freedom, democracy, and reason. Others trace it to the installation of gas lights on main boulevards and streets in the 1860s. The earliest explanation seems to date to the 17th century, when King Louis XIV`s police chief decided to combat rampant crime by lighting up dark streets and alleyways with lanterns and torches.
Paname is somewhat dated French slang, consecrated by a song of that name released in 1960 by Léo Férré. Both Paname origin stories date from the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. One emerges from a financial scandal related to the funding of the Panama Canal that involved sundry French bigwigs, including a prominent engineer and architect named Gustave Eiffel, who had just designed a tower for the 1889 Universal Exposition. The other refers to the Panama hats that became popular in Paris in the early 20th century.
Romantic Pairs: The City of Love
They have removed the love locks from the Pont des Arts, the pedestrian bridge over the Seine where honeymooners would symbolically fasten together their mutual fates.
The bridge could have fallen into the river due to the extra weight.
Irrational as ever, lovers started latching locks all over the place. Spotting can be a game, a physical version of Pokémon Go, rivaled only by efforts to find those Space Invader mosaics that have dotted the Parisian landscape since an earlier epoch of pop culture. Meanwhile, Pairs and, especially, the Eiffel Tower remain favorites of the proposal planning industry.
That notion of Paris as The City of Love reverts to another European cultural and intellectual movement, one known as Romanticism, which sprung up in the late 18th century. The “Father of Romanticism” was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a philosopher from Geneva who lived in Paris for a time. The 19th century French writer Victor Hugo (Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) became an emblematic figure. The term “romantic” immediately conjures up thoughts of “love” in our contemporary minds, but Romanticism covered far more ground. It “emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
While most historians place the decline-and-fall of Romanticism somewhere between 1850 and 1914, its influence over our notions of personal relationships and marriage remain strong. According to David Downie in his book A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light, some argue that “the Romantic spirit never died, that it overflowed, spread, fractured, came back together again like the Seine around its islands, morphed into other isms, changed its name and address dozens of times as Nadar and Balzac did and, like a phantom or vampire or other supernatural invention of the Romantic Age, it thrives today in billions of brains and hearts. The mother ship, the source, the living shrine of Romanticism remains the city of Paris.”
Which leads us to quotes from books such as the one from Samantha Schutz’s I Don’t Want To Be Crazy: “Even the pigeons are dancing, kissing, going in circles, mounting each other. Paris is the city of love, even for the birds.” The 20th century singer-songwriter Georges Brassens gave us lovers on public benches who ignore the “oblique looks” of “honest passers-by” in his composition Les Amoureux des Bancs Publics.
Not everyone finds romance in Paris. Its absence has been cited as one of the triggers of a transient mental disorder known as the Paris Syndrome. Viewed as a severe form of culture shock, it has been described as a “psychiatric breakdown” resulting from a disconnect between the idealized and romantic Paris visitors had imagined and the more scruffy and cold reality they experience.
My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home. Author: Lisa Anselmo. Publisher: St Martin’s Press. (ISBN: 9781250067470)