We visited Paris for the first time in the summer of 2017 and found the city far too crowded for our personal tastes. Ever since then, we promised ourselves that we would return to Paris some late autumn so we could stroll at our own pace along the banks of the Seine, past the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, to have the romantic Parisian weekend we’ve always dreamed of (autumn holidays are the most romantic). So, five years later, thanks to a special occasion, we ended up in Paris for the second time. In these two short trips I learned some things (sometimes from my mistakes) and immediately I came up with the idea to write a little travel guide covering everything you should know if you go to Paris for the first time – from the best places to stay, to public transport, tourist attractions or restaurants, so you can have the best weekend in Paris. So here you have 7 Things to Know Before Visiting Paris.
7 Things to Know Before Visiting Paris
Best time for a city break in Paris
We visited Paris in two different periods, summer and autumn, and the best time for a city break in Paris is definitely autumn. Generally, Paris is crowded in the summer because it’s the season when the whole world goes on vacation, and since the French capital is everyone’s dream, you can imagine how crowded this city is between June and September. And not only is it crowded and you spend hours queuing at the museum, but it’s also a time when prices explode. Supply and demand, you know it!
So October and November are the perfect months to organise a city break in Paris. The city isn’t so crowded, and prices are a little lower. And Paris becomes even more romantic when dressed in autumn clothes.
If you’re also planning a visit to Disneyland, try to plan your trip during a time when there are no school breaks. Usually, every autumn, the kids have a one-week break, which makes Disneyland a busy place.
How do you get to Paris? – airlines, airports and cheap flights
Paris has three airports – Orly, Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais. The latter is not in Paris, but 85 km north of the capital, and is often used by the European low cost airlines, Ryanair and Wizz Air.
Although airfares can be cheaper and the flight is direct, I don’t recommend this option. Financially speaking, in addition to the airfare, you have to pay 35 euros for a round trip from the airport to Paris (16 euros each way) and spend at least an hour and 15 minutes on the bus (3 hours in total).
If Paris is your first stop in Europe, assuming you are coming from overseas, then you will most likely arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport.
How do you get from Charles de Gaulle airport to the city centre?
Charlles de Gaulle airport is 25 km from Paris and you have three ways to get to Paris city center.
- Taxi – the most expensive and quickest way of transport. If you are travelling with a group of friends or family (minimum 3 people), taxi is a good option. Last time we used Bolt (like Uber or Lift) because we couldn’t take the train, and the trip from our hotel to Charles de Gaulle cost us 40 euros.The hotel wasn’t right in the centre, so I presume from the central area it would have cost us a bit more. With the morning traffic, it took us 25 minutes to get to the airport
- Train – the cheapest and most practical transport option. The RER B train connects Charles de Gaulle airport to the city centre. It departs from the airport and goes to Gare de Nord. The journey takes about 45 minutes and costs €10.30.
- Private Transfer – if you don’t want the hassle, you can arrange a quick transfer through the biggest and best transfer service in the market
Best area in Paris for accommodation?
Paris, like any other big city, has many areas to avoid, especially after dark. That’s why, when choosing your accommodation, it’s important to pay attention to the neighbourhood in which it is located. You should also take into account that the hotel has a metro station nearby. Under the heading “Paris neighbourhoods to avoid” we should mention the following areas:
- 10th Arrondissement – Gare du Nord / Gare de l’Est
- 1st Arrondissement – Châtelet les Halles
- 19th Arrondissement – Northern areas
- 20th Arrondissement – Porte de Montreuil
- 16th Arrondissement – Bois de Boulogne
These areas are said to be the most dangerous, which is why it is not advisable to book a hotel here.
Not necessarily for safety reasons, but rather because of the distance from the main tourist attractions, I recommend avoiding the following neighbourhoods:
- Saint Ouen
If we have reviewed the areas where it is better not to go, let’s see which are the best areas in Paris for accommodation:
Personally, I recommend the 17th and 18th Arrondissement, the latter corresponding to the Montmartre area. Another perfect but also very expensive area is the 1st Arrondissement (Louvre), but also the 8th Arrondissement (Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde).
- B&B HOTEL Paris 17 Batignolles* (17th Arrondissement) – clean rooms, free mini bar for “Comfort” rooms, Porte de Clichy metro station is right in front of the hotel. Prices for a double room start from 100 euro/night.
- Petit Madeleine Hôtel* (8th Arrondissement) – boutique hotel, clean rooms, 300m from Miromesnil metro station. Prices for a double room start from 200 euro/night.
7 Things to Know Before Visiting Paris
The Public Transport in Paris Explained
The public transport in Paris is very well set up and even cheap, if we talk about a city as expensive as Paris. So, I’ll tell you from the start that no matter which area you choose to stay in, you’ll be riding the metro quite a bit. I leave you below a map of the main tourist attractions in Paris, so you can see how widespread they are. But first I want to talk in more detail about public transport in Paris.
- a metro ride costs 1,90 euro
- here is a map of the metro lines in Paris
- the mobilis card (day ticket) is the best option – you get unlimited travel for a whole day, for 7,50 euro, for zones 1 and 2 (the card is valid from the first use until 00:00). The mobilis card does not include the transfer from the airport, but does include the funicular ride to Sacre Coeur.
- There is also a version called Paris Visite. This card can be bought in advance and has several options:
|Adult Zones 1-3||Adult Zones 1-5||Kids* Zones 1-3||Kids* Zones 1-5|
|1 day||12 €||25,25 €||6 €||12,60 €|
|2 days||19,50 €||38,35 €||9,75 €||19,15 €|
|3 days||26,65 €||53,75 €||13,30 €||26,85 €|
|5 days||38,35 €||65,80 €||19,15 €||32,90 €|
Visit Paris for free access to most tourist attractions
The Paris Pass is a card that gives you free access to the most beautiful and famous tourist attractions in Paris for 2, 3, 4 or 6 days. If you want to see how cost-effective this card is – the price is quite high – I recommend making a list of all the activities you want to do and their prices. This way you can make a comparison and find out if this card gives you an advantage.
What attractions are included (see this list):
- Eiffel Tower Guided Climb to the second floor
- 1 Day Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
- Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise
- Petit Train de Montmartre
- Breakfast at Café Louise
- Paris Aquarium
Free entrance to museums and monuments
If you’re under 26, you get free entry to most museums in Paris, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Château de Versailles. Some museums also offer free entry on certain days of the year or month. Here’s a list:
- The Louvre Museum offers free admission on 14 July
- Centre Pompidou offers free admission on the first Sunday of every month.
- Musée Orsay offers free admission on the first Sunday of each month.
Avoid the restaurants located in tourist areas
I’m not a big fan of French cuisine, but it seems that restaurants in Paris haven’t made us love French cuisine either. As a city visited by millions of tourists every year, it’s hard to find a place that doesn’t fall into the tourist trap category. Every time we walked into a bistro or stopped at a cafe, we were met with tasteless food, dry croissants or soda pop mixed with water and ice. Besides, just as you don’t find delicious pizza in all of Italy, you don’t find good croissants everywhere in Paris.
If you’re dreaming of a delicious dinner, like Emily in Paris, you need to do a lot of research beforehand.
7 Things to Know Before Visiting Paris
Paris is a jewel of a city, no wonder it is visited by millions of people every year. It’s the city that boasts great architecture, fascinating museums, history, palaces and cathedrals. However, it is not 100% the city we see in the movies or in Emily in Paris, nor is it as many people portray it – a dirty, dangerous and smelly city. Paris is a city that brings together millions of people from all over the world, and like any big city it has aspects that could be improved. However, now, five years after my first visit, I can say that I have discovered a cleaner and quieter Paris, a Paris with many neighbourhoods where you enjoy wandering even more. And it would be totally wrong not to mention that the biggest disappointment was the rats I saw near the Eiffel Tower which spoiled the image of the romantic picnic I could have had there. But beyond that event, I found a city that I fell in love with, that took me into a beautiful story…a city that I hope to visit again and again.
I hope you find my article useful and I also hope you have a fairytale city break!