If you’ve never been to the French capital before, you’re in for a treat. Paris practically lives and breathes culture, from its landmarks to its fashion to its culinary scene and there’s always something to do around the corner. If it’s your first time in Paris though, wrapping your head around your arondissements can be a bit of a nightmare so we’ve put together a little guide, whether it’s your first time in Paris or you’ve been here before but need a bit of a refresher.
While it’s easy enough to navigate Paris’ numerous arondissements by foot, sometimes you’ve got to suck it up and jump onto the metro. Tourists are best off buying a Paris Visite Pass which is an all-inclusive travel card that allows you to jump on most forms of Parisian transport: the metro, tram, bus, RER and SNCF. It covers all the big spots in Paris with durations of 1, 2, 3 or 5 day consecutive travel.
Did we mention it comes bundled free with the Paris Pass? You know, just a thought.
Arc de Triomphe
One of the most iconic monuments in France, the Arc de Triomphe is a triumphant masterpiece of architecture, sculpture and design. Built between 1806 and 1836, it’s instantly recognisable and deeply evocative of the military history of France, the Arc de Triomphe provides a glimpse into France’s social past as well as spectacular views across central Paris.
While this latticed tower was intended to be a temporary fixture, it’s persevered decades on to become the most iconic Parisian sight. Whether you’re clambering its metal stairs to the top or drifting by in a river boat, you need to see it in person at least once to round off your travel experience. Tip: grab a bottle of wine, cheese and bread and park yourself in the green space in front of it for a chilled out day. It’s also one of the best photo spots in Paris if you’re trying to up your Instagram game.
This eerie cathedral is heralded as one of the most impressive surviving examples of Gothic architecture, with its high arching ceilings and gargoyles standing sentinel from its towers. It’s always filled with people craning with cameras and well worth visiting regardless – if only to see the place where Victor Hugo and Disney’s Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame came to life. Enjoy free entry with the Paris Pass!
Day or night, the sight of the Moulin Rouge’s massive windmill blades whipping through the sky are a sight to behold. We love heading over there in the evenings when it’s all lit up with neon lights – if you have some deep pockets, it’s worth booking in to see a performance. Better brush up on your Can Can.
Paris is split up into twenty neighbourhoods called arondissements, each of which have their own unique charm. Some are more relevant to tourists than others, here’s a quick list of the most popular ones on the tourist trail below:
The home of Tuileries, Pont des Artes, Rue di Rivoli and the most breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower from across the river.
The Eiffel Tower is here. Kind of speaks for itself.
With sights like Sacre Coeur and the Moulin Rouge, the eighteenth is always at the top of everybody’s list. Take things slow and wander the eclectic Montmartre neighbourhood, which is packed with cute boutiques, restaurants, patisseries and that one Amelie cafe if you’re a fan of French cinema.
Paris is packed with amazing culinary delights and it’s hard to have a bad meal in the French capital. Whether you’re stopping off at a roadside boulangerie to grab a freshly baked baguette, slipping off to Laduree for one of their famed rainbow macarons or heading to the local marché to stock up on an array of delicious local cheese. there’s always something to snack on and it’s worth checking out our ultimate guide to Parisian food.
For steak frites, make a reservation at Le Relais de l’Entrecote (which is highly regarded as one of the best places to get your fix) and wash it down with a bottle of red wine or two. For cutting edge gastronomy and a sky high date night, head to three Michelin starred restaurant Epicure but don’t forget to fix up and look smart otherwise you’ll be turned away at the door. Paris is a city of culture and history so lucky for you, there are plenty of historical restuarants scattered around the City of Lights, some of which have been serving happy diners for centuries, check out our guide for a comprehensive list! If you’re on a budget and want a more laid back experience, give our guide to the best cafes in Paris a go.
Paris’ choice of accommodation is undeniably eclectic and there’s something for everybody (and every budget). If you’re splashing out, Sofitel Paris Le Fauborg is the height of luxury situated in the heart of Paris with sights like the Seine, Tuileries Garden, Louvre and Musee d’Orsay nearby. Major Wes Anderson fans can head over to Hotel Raphael, a five star hotel where his short Hotel Chevalier was filmed, while Generator Hostel attracts the coolest crowds with its modern design aesthetic and stunning rooftop bar.
As with any major city, you’re going to want to keep your valuables close – especially when you’re on a crowded metro or at famous landmarks. Pickpocketing is probably the biggest issue in Paris, though easily avoidable if you keep your wits about you. So don’t keep your bulging wallet in your back pocket or leave your bag hanging open, there’s no point in inviting disaster.