When I started thinking about where I wanted to go in Europe this year, planning a trip to Paris was at the top of my list. After all – a country known for croissants, cheese, and champagne? Sign me up. Paris consistently ranks as one of the top tourist destinations in the world thanks to its famous landmarks, but this city is so much more than just the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
Planning a trip to Paris means taking time to research the different neighborhoods (or, as they’re known in France, “arrondissements”), knowing what’s considered “local” food (we LOVED the escargot!), and maybe even taking a mini day trip (I would TOTALLY recommend the Palace of Versailles). If the City of Light is also on your bucket list, this post will highlight everything you need to know for planning a trip to Paris.
For a day-by-day itinerary, check out my other post: 3 Days in Paris: The Itinerary.
This blog post is part of a series of 3 destination posts that encompasses my 2022 Eurotrip to Paris, London, and Madrid. I planned all 3 destinations for me and my friend Kelly, who accompanied me on this journey!
Planning a Trip to Paris:
Table of Contents
Website Disclaimer: I visited Paris in July 2022. Although everything is accurate as of the publication of this post, it is important to keep in mind that prices, attractions, and other things may change with time.
Getting There / When to Visit / Getting Around
The largest (and only international) airport in Paris is Charles de Gaulle, which is located about an hour outside of the city, depending on traffic. Traffic is often HORRIBLE in Paris, so make sure to allow for extra time when traveling via car.
You are also able to take the metro to and from Charles de Gaulle (see “Tips for Taking the Metro” below!), although I opted not to do this due to the amount of luggage I was carrying!
When To Visit
Paris is going to be the most crowded in the summer months (June-August). If you want to avoid crowds, it is best to go in the fall (September-October) or spring (March-April).
- I went to Paris in July, and although it was crowded, I did not feel like it was overwhelming. It also wasn’t exceptionally hot, although I may have gotten unusually lucky with the temperature.
Paris will be cheaper during the off-season (November-March), although the weather will be colder and potentially not as nice. I was also told by a local that you cannot rely on weather apps, as the weather can change at a moment’s notice (this is moreso directed towards the possibility of rain during the warmer months).
There are many transportation options in Paris. The easiest way to get around Paris is to either walk, depending on where you want to go, or take the metro.
- Paris is largely a walkable city – we found most places we wanted to go to be roughly 20-30 minutes walking distance from each other and/or from our hotel.
- The only time we took an Uber was to the Palace of Versailles and to/from the airport.
Tips for Taking the Metro – Buying Individual Metro Tickets vs. Passe Navigo Card
When you get to the metro station, you are able to purchase individual metro tickets at a time, which is what we did and what I would recommend, especially if you are staying < 3-4 days.
- Individual trips on the metro cost €1.90 each.
- We would buy anywhere from 1-4 tickets at a time, depending on where we were trying to go and how many days we had left. Since we were only there for 3-4 days and knew we were going to do a lot of walking, this saved us more money than buying a Passe Navigo card.
Passe Navigo Card
Depending on your travel plans and length of stay, the Passe Navigo card may be your best option.. Some things to know if you decide it is worthwhile/more cost effective for you to choose this option:
- Costs €5 to activate; can purchase weekly or monthly cards
- Must be used in full weeks (ex. Monday – Sunday)
- Must show photo identification
- The cost of your Passe Navigo card will depend on what zones you are trying to visit.
- Typical tourist things are in Zone 1.
- You can also take the metro to Charles de Gaulle airport using the Passe Navigo card, but you will have to purchase a pass for Zones 1-5.
Planning a Trip to Paris: What to Wear
Even though Paris is considered to be one of the top fashion capitals of the world, aesthetically speaking, we saw a little bit of everything.
I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t see quite as many “fashion-forward” people as I was expecting. To be fair, a lot of people were likely tourists. (BUT STILL…I was expecting…I don’t know…Vogue??)
Regardless, I still decided to embrace the city’s “romantic reputation” and bring a lot of pink, a lot of dresses, and a couple pairs of heels, just in case. I also saw a lot of tennis shoes paired with cute dresses and skirts, if you are planning to be there in warmer months.
During the winter months, it definitely gets cold, and the weather is incredibly unpredictable year-round. It tends to rain even when the forecast is not calling for rain. Summers are usually hot, but we were there in July, and the mornings were a still little chilly.
Overall: comfortable walking shoes, a light jacket, sundresses (if in season), jeans, and trendy tops were the main fashion trends I saw.
Paris Arrondissements and Where To Stay
One of my TOP TIPS for traveling is to have your hotel/AirBnB/hostel etc. be as centrally located to the things you want to do as possible. I find this especially important for cities that are walkable but still have attractions that can be decently far apart from each other.
Having a centrally located hotel will save you SO MUCH TIME (and so much money in transportation!).
The Different Neighborhoods in Paris are Called “Arrondissements“
- Each arrondissement is numbered, and there are 20 total.
- Arrondissement #1 is in the center of the city, with the numbers increasing in a clockwise spiral pattern the further out of the center that you get.
- Many of the tourist attractions are in different arrondissements. For example:
- The Eiffel Tower is in Arrondissement #7.
- The Louvre is in Arrondissement #1.
- Notre Dame is in Arrondissement #4.
Arrondissement #8 – Where I Stayed in Paris
Kelly and I stayed at the Hotel Alison in Arrondissement #8.
- Location-wise, this was an extremely ideal place for us considering our itinerary and the proximity of our hotel to where we wanted to go.
- Almost everything was a 20-30 minute walk or a metro ride away from our hotel.
- A lot of people want to stay near the Eiffel Tower, especially if it is their first time in Paris. Although we did not stay in a hotel with Eiffel Tower views, we were easily able to walk by and see it multiple times throughout our trip.
- In hindsight, I would absolutely recommend this hotel and this area for first-timers who want to see the top tourist attractions.
Montmartre – Where I Want to Stay Next
Montmartre (in Arrondissement #18) is known as being the most romantic Parisian neighborhood, and was my favorite neighborhood of Paris that I walked through. Having checked all the “tourist things” off of my bucket list, if I went back to Paris I would definitely stay here.
You can read more about my experience in Montmartre in my Paris Itinerary post, linked at the top of this page. It is important to note that Montmartre is a decent bit north of the city center and therefore further away from the ideal “tourist attractions.” For this reason, I don’t usually recommend staying here for first-time visitors.
My Top Itinerary Tip When Planning a Trip to Paris
If you want to see the best things that Paris has to offer, I HIGHLY recommend downloading the Paris Pass from the Go-City app on your phone.
- This is discussed in more detail in my “Why You Need the Paris Pass” post
- If an attraction requires a reservation, make sure to book well in advance. Things can and will sell out, especially during peak tourist season.
- Certain things require the Paris Museum Pass, which is also discussed on the Paris Pass post mentioned above.
Food in Paris: My Favorite Restaurants
In my opinion, the food in Paris is amazing. If you love bread, cheese, champagne, and wine as much as I do, you really can’t go wrong.
Cultural foods that Paris is known for and that I would recommend trying include:
- Croissants (plain, almond or chocolate)
- Smoked salmon
- French onion soup
- Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame (essentially a ham and cheese sandwich; the Croque Madame has a fried egg on top)
- Cheese/charcuterie boards (+ a glass of wine or champagne)
- Authentic champagne (not as expensive as you’d think!)
- For dessert: Macaroons or crepes
Things to note when dining in Paris:
- Paris, like much of Europe, has a “take-your-time-and-enjoy-your-meal” mentality.
- While they are quick to wait on you and offer you a seat, you have to flag them down and ask for the check when you are ready to go. European restaurants are unlike American ones in the sense that you could sit there all day if you wanted to.
- In Paris, you can also get a table just to drink (in fact, that is one of the questions you will sometimes get asked when a host seats you: “do you want to eat or just drink?”).
- Brunch isn’t really a “thing” here. Most places serving brunch have 3-4 things on their menu.
- For the few restaurants that DO serve an advertised Sunday brunch, I would recommend making a reservation. We tried to get in to a few places on Sunday and were unable to due to them being full.
- Tip is included in your meal, so no need to leave extra Euros as a tip.
My Favorite Restaurants:
- Le Boissy d’Angles – this was close to our hotel & our first breakfast in Paris. Their Croque Madame sandwich is amazing!
- Les Deux Palais Paris – near Notre Dame/Saint Chapelle. We got escargot, and they also give huge glasses of wine!
- Cafe du Trocadéro – located near Plaza del Trocadéro, this will give you Eiffel Tower views!
- Les Deux Colombes – hole in the wall restaurant in Le Marais. We got the Buddha Bowl and it was AMAZING.
- La Mascotte – near Eiffel Tower. Chocolate croissants are €2
- Le Vrai Paris – a bar/restaurant in Montmartre (also included in the “favorite bars” section of my itinerary)
- La Cave de Abbesses – hole in the wall wine shop in Montmartre. We got their charcuterie board and loved it!
- Make sure to try the jambon de bayonne, (the French version of prosciutto), and the Brie de Meaux, the most famous cheese in the Paris region.
- Cave Vino Sapiens – this is another good wine shop where you can get charcuterie and sit outside. Shout out to our friend, Alexis, for this suggestion!