The Ultimate Guide to Paris for First Time Visitors

Paris, like many cities, is one that takes years to truly explore. Even though I’ve been to the City of Light several times, there’s so much I haven’t seen or explored.

Before visiting Paris for the first time, I’d heard it was a beautiful city, full of life.

Ornate buildings, cute bistros, an abundance of exquisite food, and history present on every corner were enough to convince me to visit for the first time years ago.

I’ll be the first to admit Paris can be tough for first time visitors, especially if you aren’t fluent in French.

Paris is a city that seems to evoke a strong reaction from most travelers – they either love it or hate it. After five days there on my first visit, I left with good memories, but wasn’t over the moon about the city. I loved the mix of culture and history, but had a hard time with the language barrier. It wasn’t until my second and third (and then fourth, fifth, and so on) trips to Paris that I really began to fall in love with the city.

To truly appreciate what Paris has to offer, I recommend a balanced approach- visit some of the top sites, but also leave some time unplanned to slow down and relax.

After my first few initial visits to Paris, I found myself visiting the city less to ‘see things’ and more to leisurely explore, with one or two ‘things’ planned for the day. While it can be tempting to over-plan your time in Paris, I’d recommend picking a few key activities for each day, and taking your time to linger or go off plan when it feels right.

How to Spend Four Days in Paris

You may have less time, or you may have more. The below itinerary can flex up or down, depending on the length of your total trip, and of course, what you like to do.

If I were re-doing my first visit to Paris though, I’d structure my time a bit more like the below to allow plenty of time for passive explorations, combined with sightseeing and indulging in great food and drink.

DAY 1:
Morning: Sunrise (or early am) at Jardins du Trocadero for spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower + walk toward the Eiffel Tower to see it up close. If you’ve gotten up early and have time, pop over to L’Arc de Triomphe for beautiful views of the tower from afar
Afternoon: Visit The Louve or Musee d’Orsay for a few hours. And, while you’re nearby, don’t miss a stroll through Jardin des Tuileries
Evening: See a show at the stunning Palais Garnier

DAY 2:
Morning: Start the day at Paris Catacombs, with a stroll through Jardin de Luxembourg afterwards
Afternoon: Wander the Latin Quarter + Île de la Cité (Norte Dame, Sainte Chapelle)
Evening: Stroll along the Seine, watch sunset from Pont D’Alma

DAY 3:
Morning/Afternoon: Day trip to Versailles
Evening: Slow, leisurely dinner and night sipping wine at sidewalk cafes

DAY 4:
Morning: Wander Montmarte and climb Sacré-Cœur
Afternoon/Evening: Head to Le Marais and passively explore- pop into shops; savour a cafe creme at a cafe; visit the Picasso Museum; or head just outside the area to see two of the most beautiful streets in Paris-Rue Crémieux and Cour Damoye, or one of the city’s best covered passageways- Passage du Grand Cerf

The above recommendations are just for sights or activities. I’d recommend creating a custom Google map so you can see which cafes, restaurants, and bars are nearby the things you plan on doing. There’s plenty to do in Paris. Most people tack on a few days as part of a longer trip to Europe, but really, even with a week or two in Paris, you’d only uncover a small part of what the city has to offer.

Below, I’ve included recommendations for additional activities that I didn’t mention in case you have extra time, or are more interested- such as, visiting Monet’s gardens.

What to Do

Visit the Norte Dame & Saint-Chapelle

With its construction beginning in the second century, Notre Dame is considered one of the best examples of medieval architecture. Even if it’s not reopened from the fire when you’re there, the beauty of the cathedral is powerful.

Afterwards, walk over to Saint-Chapelle. It’s a tiny chapel made almost entirely out of stained glass. If there isn’t a line of people outside waiting to get it, you can find it tucked away among the Conciergerie. If you want to visit the Chapelle, which I highly recommend, buy your tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line.

Before you leave the Île de la Cité, stop by Au Vieux Paris. It’s an adorable bistro tucked away on a side street. Nab an outside table, savor a glass of wine and relax for a few moments before heading to whatever is next on your agenda.

Revel in the Eiffel Tower

As cliche as it is, this was one of my favorite parts of visiting Paris. We went once at night to see the sparkling light show (happens every hour), and once during the day to walk around and take photos.

You can’t escape the Eiffel Tower’s presence in Paris. If it’s your first time visiting, eat a picnic under the tower, or go to the top of it for an unforgettable view.

I chose to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe instead of the Eiffel Tower because I wanted a panoramic view of Paris, including the tower. However, I did take full advantage of a sunny afternoon to wander through the Champs de Mars (the lawn surrounding the Eiffel Tower), and snacked on brie and a baguette at Trocadero, while taking in the full view of the Eiffel Tower.

If you have time, visiting Trocadero at sunrise is amazing. The upper view is a short walk from the metro station, making it a great place to start in your Eiffel Tower explorations- see the tower from afar, then go closer.

On a warm day, you’ll spot dozens of people lounging in the grass at Trocadero, soaking up sunshine and classic Parisian views.

Go Shopping

Ditch the I heart Paris t-shirts and check out a few of the city’s galleries and concept stores for souvenirs worth buying. A few of my favorites:

  • ColetteDesign concept store with plenty of gifts you’ll want to take home
  • Merci: This store has everything, from fine jewelry to clothes and books and homewares. I’d be a regular visitor if I lived in Paris
  • Galeries Layfayette: No other Parisian department store is more impressive. We didn’t buy anything here, but enjoyed strolling around the center circle and admiring the beautiful dome
  • Pop in a French pharmacy: Before visiting Paris, everyone told me you can find the best beauty products at French pharmacies, and my findings didn’t disappoint. This round-up of genius French pharmacy products is spot-on

If you love shopping Paris’ covered passages are a sight to behold. 

In the 1700s and 1800s, there were over a 150 covered walkways in Paris. Today, only a handful of these passages exist. Three of my favorite passageways-

  • Passage du Grand Cerf: This collection of shops makes it onto the list of many travelers- and for good reason, it’s adorable. Loved the collection of cute shops selling trinkets, jewelry and housewares
  • Passage des Panoramas: The shops in here aren’t anything spectacular, but its design makes it a place to wander through if you’re in the area
  • Galerie Vivienne: Again, worth visiting more for the beauty of the space than the shops inside

See a show at Palais Garnier

Fancy a night at the ballet? You can’t go wrong at Palais Garnier. I actually visited Palais Garnier twice- once during the day (€10 admission) to allow time for reveling in its design, and once at night to see the ballet.

Designed by Charles Garnier, the Palais Garnier marked one of the final stages of Haussmann’s urban facelift of Paris. Here, in 1896, a fatal accident with a chandelier was the inspiration of Gaston Leroux’s novel, The Phantom of the Opera.

This place gets called the most beautiful place in Paris for good reason- its interior is stunning. The grand staircase is breathtaking, but it’s only the beginning- if you visit, be sure to look up at the ceilings and don’t miss the Grand Foyer- it’s spectacular.

As the home to the Phantom, the Palais Garnier held a special place in my heart before I walked inside for the first time. The Phantom of the Opera is one of my mother’s favorite musicals, and after seeing it numerous times, it has become one of my favorites too.

Words won’t even do justice to the ballet performance I saw here, featuring works by Millepied, Robbins & Balanchine. Just tremendous.

Relax at Jardin des Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens

The Jardin des Tuileries are gorgeous when they’re in full bloom. I woke up early one morning to run through them. They’re adjacent to the Louve, and easy to stop by before/after a museum trip. If you really want to make the most of your time in the area, grab a chocolate croissant and hot chocolate from Angelina (the best!), head across the street and sit on a bench in the shade.

And if you’re wandering around before/after visiting the Latin Quarter and Norte Dame, stop by the Luxembourg Gardens.  These gardens are said to be where Parisians come to enjoy a sunny day. After spending some time here, I can see why- it’s the perfect place to relax on a bench, eat lunch, or simply watch artists work and people stroll by. As an added bonus, the original Statue of Liberty is here, as well as a number of wonderful fountains.

Climb the Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is part of a line of monuments that extends from central Paris to the cities west, between the Le Lourve and La Defense.

When the Arc was finished in 1836, it was dedicated to those who fought and died for France in both the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Look closely at the walls when you’re there- the names of French generals are inscribed on the surfaces.

For €9, I climbed 284 stairs to the top of the monument for iconic city views. Arguably the best view in Paris can be found here- we went mid-day, but I’m already planning to go back at sunset on a future visit.

Explore Montmarte

Most travelers head to the only hill in Paris to see the Sacré Coeur. Also known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, it’s one of the world’s most famous catholic churches. The Basilica towers over the rest of the city, offering beautiful views across Paris.

And while, the Basilica is stunning, half the fun of visiting Montmarte is getting lost in the maze of steep side streets.

Montmartre is talked about by Parisians the way true New Yorkers talk about the Village: It’s not what it used to be. Artists who gave the area its fame can’t afford to live there anymore, and now it’s overrun by tourists. As with New York, parts of this are true, but that doesn’t mean the place that nurtured most of the great artists living in France over the past century isn’t worth visiting.

I really enjoyed a few hours spent wandering this area, taking in the street art, painters and eclectic bistros. After working up on appetite on afternoon explorations, I enjoyed a fresh fruit tart from Biscuiterie De Montmartre.

Right before heading back to the city, I came across a bistro, Le Consulat, with a man strumming the guitar out front. Cue a wine break while watching the sun set over the city of light.

P.S. The Moulin Rouge is in this area of town, but I’ve never visited as I’ve heard it pretty much only exists for tourists nowadays.

Descend into the Catacombs

Interested in the darker side of the City of Light? More than 200 miles of tunnels sit underneath Paris, some of which are lined from the floor to ceiling and as far as the eye can see with bones.

By the 17th century, enough people had lived and died in the city that its cemeteries were overflowing. The decided upon solution was to put the bones in the old tunnels beneath the city, remnants of limestone query mines. In total, 6 million Parisians’ bones were laid to rest in the Catacombs. The tour of the Catacombs only shows ~10% of the total remains, which is astounding to think about considering the endlessness we witnessed.

I booked a skip-the-line tour in advance, which I decided was worth the price in convenience over time. I’ve heard from others that waiting in line to visit the Catacombs can easily take 2-4 hours.

Spend an afternoon at The Louve and/or Musee de Orsay

Goes without saying the Louvre is a must-see for most first-time visitors to Paris. And, I’ve heard nothing but spectacular things about the French art collection at the Musee d’Orsay.

I’ve actually never been to the Louvre, or Musee d’Orsay. Neither was a top priority on my first few trips to the city, and on my last venture there, when I’d planned a full day to visit both, I had a life threatening allergic reaction, and instead, spent the day in a hospital before going back to London.

I have been to the Picasso Museum in Le Marais, and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you’re a Picasso fan, consider it a must-visit to see a variety of the artist’s work.

Wander at leisure

As tempting as it may be to try and see everything Paris has to offer, plan some unplanned time. Some of my favorite memories are from strolling through different parts of the city, wandering down side streets as we wished.

One night as we were wandering, we noticed the sun was beginning to set and knew we were near the Seine. We headed to the river and watched the sun set over the city- a totally unplanned and magical moment. On the sunset note, watching the sun sink below the horizon with the Eiffel Tower in the backdrop from Pont D’Alma is pure magic.

And, if you love beautiful facades, you’ll enjoy wandering Le Marais at leisure, or walking down two of the most beautiful streets in Paris– Rue Crémieux and Cour Damoye.

Whether it’s your first visit, or seventh, I can’t recommend finding the time for this kind of ‘passive sightseeing’. It’s a wonderful reminder that, sometimes, the best parts of a trip aren’t seeing those famous monuments.

Take a day trip to Versailles

The stunning Palace of Versailles lies just outside Paris, and is easily accessibly by the metro.

The palace is stunning, it’s literally opulence upon opulence with mirrored halls, intricate ceilings, and gold details everywhere. There’s more to see at the Palace than the main chateau. The gardens are expansive- you could easily spend a few hours wandering them and the canals. There are also two smaller palaces, the Grand and Petit Trianons and the adorable Queen’s Hamlet.

Before our trip, a friend recommended we consider a bike tour of Versailles to truly appreciate the enormity of what it has to offer. Our Fat Tire Bike Tour left Paris early in the morning and was the perfect way to appreciate the majesty of the Palace and surrounding town.

Upon arriving in Versailles, we went to a local market to pick up picnic supplies. Once everyone loaded up on baguettes, cheese, olives, fruit and wine, we biked to Versailles and spent some time exploring the Queen’s Hamlet. Then, it was time to bike the Grand Canal and picnic on its banks.

After a leisurely lunch, we biked to the gardens, and finally headed into the Palace to explore the inside. I read quite a bit about Marie Antoinette as a teenager and have to say, my expectations were exceeded in every way possible. It was truly a perfect day- I’d recommend the bike tour to anyone who wants to see as much of the palace as possible in a short time.

Visit Monet’s Gardens Outside of the City

Being a long time garden and Monet lover, a trip to Monet’s house and gardens at Giverny sounded perfect. Monet’s house and gardens are located in Giverny, a small village just outside of Vernon, about an hour drive from Paris.

Although you can get there by train and bus (train from Gare Saint Lazare to Vernon), I opted to do a half day tour  to help save time. Our tour operator had pre-purchased tickets, so we were able to walk right into the gardens. There are two gardens you’ll want to visit- the cottage-style garden called Clos Normand in front of the house, and the water garden.

The first garden I decided to spend time in was the water garden. Upon walking into the water garden, you’ll instantly see the famed water lilies. I lingered in this part of the garden for quite a while, letting groups come and go so I had bits of peace.

The other set of gardens were a surprise- I hadn’t expected them to be so gorgeous. Although I visited in early October, we had a warm, sunny day and the gardens were bursting with beautiful flowers in bloom. Monet’s gardens are like his paintings- untamed and bright.

Post-garden wandering, you’re able to tour Monet’s pretty pink home. Now a museum, it’s furnished as when the artist lives there. Monet’s love of color is prominent throughout the home. The yellow dining room is huge, design to fit Monet’s family of ten. And, the blue kitchen plays a great compliment to the dining room- loved the blue tiled walls and shiny copper pots and pans.

The house and garden are open from April – November from 9:30 am – 6:30 pm. Although I went with a self-guided tour group, my advice would be to go early- we arrived at ~9:30 am, and within 45 minutes, the gardens were packed.

Where to Eat

Even though I’ve been to Paris several times, I’ve only scratched the surface of great places to eat and drink. In fact, I love some of the below places so much (denoted by an asterisk*), that I’ve returned several times.

  • Frenchie / Frenchie Wine Bar / Frenchie to Go: I’ve had the tasting menu at Frenchie (incredible), and eaten at Frenchie Wine Bar (the low-key wine bar outpost serving up phenom eats), and can confidently say either should be at the top of your list. If you’re looking for a more indulgent (and expensive) meal, try to have lunch or dinner at Frenchie (be sure to make a reservation!). If you’re out exploring and looking for a great meal to end the day with, pop into Frenchie Wine Bar or Frenchie to Go (try the lobster roll). The wine bar is a bit pricey, but I can honestly say I’m always blown away by the quality of food- each bite is unbelievable, and I love it so much, I visit every time I’m in Paris
  • Hollybelly: American breakfast done right in Paris. If you’re not there early, prepare for a wait. The seasonal fruit pancakes and hash browns are awesome
  • Breizh Cafe: I didn’t realise I hadn’t had proper crepes until coming here. Come during brunch or dinner, and order a savoury buckwheat crepe to start, and a sweet crepe (my fav is the salted caramel pear) for dessert. Whatever you do, don’t forget the carafe of cider
  • L’As du Falafel: Some of the best falafel I’ve ever had. And, coming it at €6 for a wrap packed with cabbage, slaw, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, falafel and tahini, it’s a good, cheap eat. If there’s a line when you visit, don’t worry- it moves quick
  • Ober Mamma: Authentic Italian food, easily some of the best pizza in Paris. This place gets busy, but if you’re traveling solo or with one other person, you’ll likely be able to find a seat at the beautiful bar
  • Cafe Oberkampf: Fab avo toast and shakshuka with feta- basically, the stuff brunch dreams are made of
  • Cafe Charlot: A quaint French bistro with plenty of patio seats and a rotating menu. I’ve been here for breakfast a few times, and loved noshing on croissants, boiled eggs and fresh juice while watching the city wake up
  • Angelina: The hot chocolate, thick and decadent, is famous for a reason. The pastries are also beautiful- the salted caramel eclair sure didn’t disappoint. The pain au chocolat is also super good. If you don’t want to wait for a table, there’s a takeaway counter inside the front of the restaurant- grab your goods and head to the nearby Jardin des Tuileries
  • Berthillon: Known as the ‘best ice cream in Paris’, because it is. Order the salted butter caramel and one of the fruit flavors. The fruit flavors are so good, it’s almost better than eating the real thing
  • Ble Sucre: Come for the croissant (voted the best in Paris), and stay for dessert. The croissant shells are crispy on the outside, and inside, there’s nothing but buttery layers. You’ll see what I mean about the desserts when you get here- they’re gorgeous
  • Pierre Herme: No dessert list in Paris is complete without a mention of macarons! Yes, Laduree is famed for having ‘the best’ macarons, but I’m preferential to Pierre Herme for their inventive flavours (my favs: rose, salted caramel butter, salted caramel apple, carrot cinnamon, strawberry rhubarb and dark chocolate)
  • Liberte: The croissants and pain au chocolat are both great, but the citrus tart was the real standout for me. Also dug the aesthetics of this bakery- it’s unlike any other patisserie I’ve been to in Paris
  • Boneshaker Doughnuts: Thick, fluffy doughnuts coated with great flavours- I’m particularly a fan of the salted caramel
  •  Du Pain et des Idees: The fruit flavored and rum raisin escargots are ah-may-zing. They’re known for the pistachio and chocolate escargot, but I wasn’t able to try that because #nutallergies
  • Eclaris at L’ Eclair de Génie are both beautiful and delicious

Where to Drink Coffee

One of my favourite things to do in Paris?

Find a lovely cafe, and enjoy delicious coffee and delicate pastries while watching the world go by.

Sure, the Eiffel Tower is special, but observing locals drop by their favourite cafe, while you sit with a croissant, cafe creme and good book is a beautiful way to start to understand the rhythms of Paris.

10 Pretty Cafes in Paris, Perfect for Any Morning

  • Boot Cafe: My favourite cafe in Le Marais, perfect espresso makes for a perfect cafe creme. What Boot lacks in size (it’s tiny), it more than makes up for in a cozy, ‘feel at home’ vibe. Mornings started here, cafe creme in hand, are the absolute best
  • Fragments: One of the best places for aeropress in the city
  • Telescope: Coffee purist’s heaven. The espresso is some of the best in Paris, and it doesn’t hurt the banana bread is killer, too
  • Ob-La-Di: Much like Boots- a small, cozy cafe. The avo toast and cafe creme are the makings of an excellent start to the day
  • Loustic: Loved this uber-cute cafe in Le Marais. Plenty of big, comfy cushions, great cafe cremes, and soft, relaxed vibes
  • Cafe Suedois: Naturally, I found a Swedish cafe in Paris (Scandinavian at heart). No surprise you’ll find good espresso drinks here, but the real reason to visit? The huge, lovely garden- it’s the kind of place that makes it easy to get lost in a book on a sunny afternoon
  • Liberte: The croissants and pain au chocolat are both great, but the citrus tart was the real standout for me. As with any Paris bakery, get an espresso to go with your savoury breakfast
  • Hollybelly: American breakfast done right in Paris. If you’re not here early, prepare for a wait. The wait will be worth it though- the seasonal fruit pancakes and hash browns are ace
  • Cafe Oberkampf & Cafe Mericourt: Another brunch meets coffee contender, Oberkampf and its sister cafe, Cafe Mericourt offer the best of both worlds for out of this world shakshuka, followed by wonderful coffee in a cafe teeming with succulents
  • Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole: Situated on Île de la Cité, Au Vieux is located on one of the only surviving medieval streets in the city. This quintessential Parisian cafe is the perfect spot to stop for a coffee pick-me-up while sightseeing

Where to Have a Drink

Paris is brimming wine sidewalk chic wine bars, and some seriously great craft cocktail spots.

A few of my favorite places to grab a drink in the City of Light:

  • L’Avant Comptoir: French tapas and lovely wine. Pro-tip: The creperie next-door is turning out some seriously great dessert crepes in case you need a snack post-drink
  • Le Wood: Love this wine bar in the heart of Le Marais, pull up a seat at an outdoor table and savour a few glasses of wine while people watching
  • Le Barav: Another cute wine bar tucked down a side street in Le Marais. Perfect for people watching or whiling away a lazy afternoon
  • Colonel Moustache: Normally I wouldn’t recommend a wine bar near the Eiffel Tower because I think they’re all too touristy, but this place is a bit further back from the tower and usually pretty chill. I like having a glass of wine here, then popping in a market to pick up picnic essentials before visiting Trocadero to lounge on the lawn while enjoying a great view of the tower
  • Experimental Cocktail Club: Credited with the cocktail resurgence in Paris, the drinks are ECC are eclectic and delicious. I’ve had the Old Cuban and Los Feliz, both were fantastic. Also love the area ECC is in, it’s nearby other good cocktail bars, Lockwood and Jefrey’s, as well as Frenchie
  • Le Mary Celeste: Tapas, oysters and cocktails, what more could you need?
  • Candelaria: Hidden in the back of a taco (!) shop, you’ll find a lively Mexican bar. The tacos are great and the cocktails don’t disappoint either
  • Little Red Door: Much like ECC, this place is turning out cocktails as good as the ones I’ve had from world-class mixologists in New York. The perfect place for a nightcap, although it can be crowded so be prepared to wait, especially on a Friday or Saturday night
  • Danico: Situated in the back of the bustling Daraco restaurant, this beautiful cocktail bar has a fun, quirky menu and expertly made drinks. This is nearby Frenchie and ECC- a great place to stop on your way to dinner or before settling in for a few drinks at ECC

Extra Paris Travel Tips

Language: French. Many shopkeepers and the waitstaff at restaurants know conversational (if not fluent) English, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be willing to speak it. In Paris (more than other destinations in Europe), it’s important to make an effort. 

  • Speak as much French as you can, the French definitely appreciate you trying. Even simple phrases, such as hello/goodbye, and knowing how to ask if someone speaks English in French go a long way
    • Parlez vous Anglais?: Do you speak English?
  • Greet shopkeepers when you walk in with a simple, “Bonjour Madame/Monsieur” and say goodbye when you leave, “Au Revior, Merci”
  • If you’re American (or from a culture that tends to speak loudly), watch your speaking volume. Often, I’m mistaken for Canadian when travelling, and it’s usually because I try to be respectful of local customs, and speak at a softer volume than I would in the States

Safety: I’ve never felt unsafe in Paris, even during late nights wandering home after an evening out. Keep your wits about you, and you’ll be fine. As you would in any other major city, keep an eye on whose around you, and keep your bag / valuables in front of you (no iPhones in back pockets).

Currency:  The Euro.  Even though I usually pay for most things with card, I always carry small bills (usually up to €50) on me for stores that are cash only or street-side purchases. 

Budget: Paris is by no means one of Europe’s budget destinations, but as with any trip, there are ways to cut costs. 

When I visit, I try to book Airbnbs weeks in advance to have a good selection in the area I want to stay at a good price. I also pre-reserve any tours I want to go on to ensure I’m not paying last minute mark-up.

And, in terms of meals, I tend grab breakfast from a cafe or pastry shop, which is affordable. For lunch, I gravitate toward quick and easy if I’m on the go- whether it’s grabbing a crepe or falafel sandwich. For dinner, I prefer a sit down restaurant, but even then, it’s rare my meal exceeds €20-30 (including glasses of wine).

You can certainly spend a lot in Paris, but you can also do things like walking/taking the metro, and opting for bakeries/street food vs. eating every meal as a sit down experience.

Getting There: If you fly into Charles de Gaulle, you can take a taxi or train (to save money) to Gare du Nord, which will connect you with tons of metro lines. And, if you take a train (from London, Brussels, or Germany), you can easily hop on the metro from Gare du Nord. 

Getting Around: Depending on where you’re heading in Paris, you can walk, take the metro, or hop in a taxi/Uber.

Normally, I walk if the distance is under 20-30 minutes.

I’ve only taken a taxi once in Paris- most drivers only speak French, so be prepared to have your end location either written in French (if it’s not a major tourist site), or know how to correctly pronounce it. While I’ve avoided taxis, I have taken Uber several times while in Paris, in part because it’s easy to avoid any confusion about where I’m headed, or cost for the trip.

Most of the time though, if the distance is further, I opt for the metro, which is clean and easy to use. You can buy tickets either individually or in packets from the machines at underground stations. Be sure to hold onto your ticket until the end of your ride, as you’ll need to scan it to exit the metro. And, if you’re caught without it at any point in your journey, you could be fined upwards of €30.

Luggage Storage. Several times in Paris, I’ve needed to store luggage while waiting for check-in to an Airbnb or for an evening train to London to depart. Gare du Nord is easy to access (in terms of location in the city), and has plenty of storage units on the ground floor.

Where to Stay: Le Marais is my favourite area to stay in the city, it’s rare you won’t find me staying in an Airbnb or hotel there there on any jaunt to the City of Light. I love staying in Le Marais because the streets are historic and beautiful, and it’s central in relation to so many of the city’s sights- either via walking, or metro.

When to Visit: I love visiting Paris in the fringe seasons, between spring/summer, and summer/fall. There are often less visitors at these times, but the weather is still pleasant. If you get the chance to visit Paris during cherry blossom season in April, do it. The views of the Eiffel Tower framed by pink blossoms are incredible. 

Tipping: Tipping is polite, but most restaurants include a service charge, making anything extra discretionary. 

WiFi Access: Some chains (Starbucks) and upmarket restaurants or major tourist attractions (The Louvre) will have WiFi, but don’t count on having it everywhere. Best to have an international plan, roaming hotspot, or pick up a SIM upon arrival. 

What to Wear: Try your best to look presentable- it’s rare you’ll see French in workout clothes or loungewear while out and about. Normally, when I’m in Paris, I tend to wear leggings with a long sweater or top, often dressing in all black as I normally would. With all the walking I do, I usually wear sneakers, but my ‘less discreet’ ones, like my all-black Nikes or grey Allbirds.

Have you been to Paris? Is it on your list of places to visit in the world one day?

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2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Paris for First Time Visitors

  1. Thank you for mentioning the galeries: they aren’t often known by visitors when visiting Paris, but they’re incredibly stunning. I’ve been to many of the restaurants and cafes you’ve mentioned, and I’m especially thrilled you mentioned Du Pain et des Idées: their escargot pastries are perfection! Personally, I’m Team Ladurée than Pierre Hermé (#sorrynotsorry), but we can’t deny that macarons are a delightful treat. I’d also recommend getting free views of Paris from the top of Galeries Lafayette or Printemps Haussmann, as well as touring the dazzling beauty of the Palais Garnier (besides just seeing an opera). There’s so much to Paris that you could return millions of times and still not see everything. Thanks for making your list: I did a similar one, too:

    • Reading your comment, and drooling over the thought of pastries from Du Pain et des Idées- breakfast perfection for sure!

      Great shout of the free rooftop views- that’s something I still need to do in Paris. You’re absolutely right in that every time I visit, there’s somehow even more to see than I realized on my last visit. 🙂

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