Paris Neighborhoods, Travel Tips, Attractions & More
The City of Lights. Paris. It is arguably known to the world as the romance capital, the city of love. Everywhere you look, everywhere you are in the city, it screams romance, as if it was built from the ground up solely for lovers.
There is more to Paris than romance, however. One of the top culturally developed cities in the world, it is one of the leading cities in fashion, cuisine, film, photography, and art. Unsurprisingly, it’s not just lovers that flock to it – artist, chefs, filmmakers, fashion designers, and students gather in this city to immerse themselves in its amazing scenes.
Whether you’re going on your honeymoon or you’re looking to be a great artist, Paris is the place to be. See below all the info you need about Paris neighborhoods and things to do in the city!
Season Suitcase Essentials
City Logistics – Getting Around the City
Getting in, around, and out of the city is a breeze!
Paris, first of all, is served by three airports – Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Orly International Airport, and Aéroport de Beauvais Tillé, all of which are then served by commuter trains and buses to take visitors into the city.
Secondly, it is well connected to the rest of Europe by train. High speed and normal trains come and go through six different train stations – Gare du Nord, Gare d’Austerlitz, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare de Bercy, Gare St Lazare, and Gare Montparnasse. If you choose to travel by rail, simply find out what train station it’s arriving in and figure out your logistics from there.
Other options include traveling by car or hopping on buses like Eurolines, Megabus, and the luxurious IDBUS that also take you straight into the city from other European cities.
Getting around the city is even easier. Just like in many metropolitans, Paris has a great reliable underground Metropolitan railway called the Métro. It has 16 lines that service stations all over the city all day from 5 am to 12:30 am. There are a good number of rental shops that rent out bicycles, scooters, and motorbikes as well, especially for those who would like to be mobile and fast. Just make sure if you choose one of these options that you’re used to going around a city this way, as Paris is a very busy place. Additionally, there are taxis available but these are not a very good option in the daytime when the streets are busy.
The most ideal way to get around Paris is on foot. In fact, if you’re in no hurry and you’re not lugging behind heavy bags, it should be your only mode of travel. Everybody walks in Paris – Parisians, seasoned travellers, and even first time tourists. Walking is almost a religion there. Why? Well, first is because Paris is so small a city you can cross it from one end to the other within a few hours on foot. Second and most importantly, it’s the best way to really see, immerse in, and experience the city, especially at dusk just as it’s starting to light up.
And since walking is the best way to see Paris, summer is the best time to visit. Parisian winters are cold while springs and autumns are usually wet but summers are normally comfortably warm so you can walk at your leisure without getting too tired or too hot.
Where to Stay in Paris?
Yes, accommodations can be expensive in the City of Lights and if you’re looking to stay at a fancy place during your stay, you practically have unlimited options. High-end hotels like Le Meurice and luxurious boutiques located on either side of the Seine offer amazing double rooms from €130 and up.
If you’re on a budget, don’t despair. There are also a lot of great places to stay at in the city without you having to break the bank and sacrificing comfort. Mid-range options include Mama’s Shelter Paris Hotel, Hôtel Novotel Paris Bercy, Hotel du Champ Mars, Bonne Nuit Paris, and Hotel de la Mare. These offer rooms from €100 and up.
Last but definitely not the least is your cheapest option – the often charming and very comfortable hostels and budget hotels in the city like Absolute Budget, St. Christopher’s Inn Canal Hostel, Oops! Hostel, and Hôtel de la Herse d’Or, which sell rooms for as low as €30 per night.
Top Things to Do
As one of the greatest cultural destinations in the world, Paris pretty much caters to everyone, whatever they are interested in. Not only does it have gorgeous romantic spots, it also has amazing architecture, fantastic art, beautiful gardens, a contemporary fashion scene, and great culinary hotspots. You can literally spend two weeks in this city and it still wouldn’t be enough time.
If it is your first time visiting the city, however, you’d probably want to stick to the essentials, which include:
- Eiffel Tower. One of Paris’ most significant contribution to architecture as well as its most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower is even more stunning lit up at night. Go up to the top to see sweeping views of the city or sit down, relax, and enjoy the scene from Champ de Mars.
- Versailles. The Château de Versailles, 20 kilometers away from the city itself, was once the center of political power of the French monarchy. This means that it’s an icon of grandeur and splendor. With beautiful grounds, stunning halls, and magnificent décor, Versailles is a must see, especially when visiting Paris for the first time.
- Arc de Triomphe. This famous landmark, which stands at the western end of the city’s most famous street, Champs-Élysées, is a memorial for those who fought and died in the French Revolution as well as the Napoleonic Wars.
- Jardin de Luxembourg. Perhaps Paris’ most famous garden, this caters most to children with its merry-go-round, pony and boat rides, a playground, and the Marionette du Luxembourg, a classic French puppet theater.
- The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and other museums. As a major hub when it comes to art and culture, you shouldn’t miss this city’s numerous museums, starting of course with its most famous one, The Louvre.
- Resting places. Because many famous people had lived and are buried in Paris and because the city’s resting places are reverently and hauntingly beautiful, places like the Catacombs, the Pantheon (final resting place for Marie Curie, Voltaire, and Victor Hugo), and the Père-Lachaise Cemetery (final resting place for Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison) are also great stops during your visit.
- Churches in Paris like Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacré Coeur, and Sainte Chapelle are impressive and exquisite inside and out so make sure to spend some time breathing these in.
- Other architectural marvels like the Grand Arche de la Défense and Opera Garnier are also great stops during your explorations.
The banks of the Seine (Les Berges de Seine), which are UNESCO World Heritage riverbanks, have undergone major changes. The right bank is now more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly with its newly incorporated bicycle paths and walkways while the left bank is completely car-free and dotted with restaurants, bars, a bazaar, and floating gardens.
Free Stuff in Paris
There’s no denying that Paris is an expensive city but that doesn’t mean you have to splurge during your stay. If you know where to look, you’ll still find the city equally enjoyable sans the spending.
- A great way to know the city and it’s history is by going on one of Sanderman’s New Europe free walking tours, which runs for 3.5 hours. They offer these tours everyday from 11 am to 1 pm.
- Every first Sunday of the month, many of Paris’ best museums, including the Louvre, offer free admissions to people of all ages.
- The city lights, the famous landmarks, and the lovely water reflections are the main attractions for walking along the banks of the Seine at night. Best of all, it won’t cost you a single cent.
- Around Place de la Concorde are many street entertainers and performers. Enjoy a couple of hours watching the free entertainment and just watching the rest of the city go by.
- Galeries Lafayette, a famous department store in the city, play host to free 30-minute fashion shows on the 7th floor every Friday at 3 pm. It’s a great and inexpensive way for fashion lovers and aspiring designers to soak up the city’s fashion scene.
Explore Paris Neighborhoods
Despite its size, there’s a lot to see in Paris and it may prove daunting especially if it’s your first time there. It’s important therefore to do your research and get to know the best of the city’s 20 districts, which they call arrondissements, so you can figure out where best to go during your limited time there.
- 1st Arrondissement. The Tuileries, the romantic lovelocks at Pont des Arts, the Louvre, and the fashionable Rue de Rivoli are all located in this district.
- 2nd Arrondissement. Textile shops and cafes line this smallest district in Paris.
- The Marais (3rd and 4th Arrondissement). An affluent neighborhood in Paris, the Marais is an area of contrasts – luxury shops intermix with secondhand shops and high-class restaurants stand side-by-side casual local haunts.
- Latin Quarter (5th Arrondissement). It’s in this charming district with it’s old-world feel where many students from universities usually hangout.
- Saint Germain-des-Prés (6th Arrondissement). Home to Descartes resting place, this neighborhood used to be the center of the existentialist movement in Paris and was the popular haunt of many Parisian intellectuals.
- 7th Arrondissement. This classic-looking district is home to the Eiffel Tower, Napoléon’s final resting place, the left bank of the Seine, and Musée d’Orsay.
- 8th Arrondissement. Marvel at the lavish expensive houses in the city’s most affluent neighborhood.
- Oberkampf (11th Arrondissement). Perhaps the city’s most engaging district, this arrondissement is a popular area for night life.
Paris Shopping Trips
Paris is right up there with Milan, London, and New York when it comes to fashion. Not only is it one of the most fashionable cities in the world, but also many of the biggest names in the industry either started or are based here. This means that Paris is also one of the biggest shopping cities in the world. Everything from thrift and vintage to high-end and contemporary can be found here so it’s basically a paradise for fashionistas and shopaholics.
If you came to Paris to splurge on brand names and high-end couture, make a beeline for Louvre-Tuileries and Faubourg Saint-Honore, Le Bon Marché, Champs-Elysées (where you can also find the more affordable brands), and Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés where you can find the best names in fashion.
For bargain shoppers, spend your money wisely in one of Paris’ flea markets. Both Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, Marche Rétro d’Oberkampf, and Marché St Pierre feature antiques, second-hand retro clothing, and vintage goods that you can purchase for a steal!
And remember to stop by Galeries Lafayette, a famous department store and one of the largest in the world, during your shopping excursion.
Foodies – Where to Eat & Drink
Parisians have an exquisite taste in cuisine and the city is brimming with places that serve amazing food – from snacks and sweets to main courses to drinks – therefore it’s hard to sum up a list of the best restaurants in the city. While there will be a good number of great places that might not make it to our humble list, we can tell you for certain that those that did come highly recommended.
- If seafood’s your best friend, then the cozy Huitrerie Regis in Saint Germain des Prés is your best bet. They serve fresh and wonderful oysters, clams, sea urchins, and prawns here at affordable prices.
- Les Tablettes offers delicious contemporary French cuisine for those who have a bigger food budget during their stay.
- Le Bistrot Paul Bert offers retro French bistro ambience with their amazing affordable menu that include steak tartare and marinated herring.
- For a traditional French bistro experience that include amazing and reasonably-priced food, A la Biche au Bois is c’est magnifique.
- If you are looking for a fusion-type meal, then you definitely must try one of Le Baratin’s dishes of French, Spanish, African, and South American origins.
- The cozy Breizh Café, with its artisanal ciders, great menu, and amazing dessert crêpes, have outstanding reviews from locals and travellers alike.
- African cuisine is not easy to come by so when you’re in Paris, you must try the delicious African-French fusion cuisine at Le Palanka.
- Try authentic Vietnamese dishes like the pho or the bo bun from Cyclo.
- Brave the long lines at Ladurée because you simply cannot leave Paris without having to taste possibly the best French macarons in the world.
- Your Parisian holiday isn’t complete without having crêpes, the best ones of which you can get from Crêperie Josselin.
- Chocolate shops are ample in the city so you will most likely find yourself drooling in one. Michel Chaudun, with its collection of chocolate sculptures, is a great stop in your chocolatey hunt.
- For the best chocolat chaud (hot chocolate), stop by Angelina. They offer the most amazing variations of this popular winter drink.
- Grab a cup of coffee or even just a sample with a slice of Austrian cake from Cafés Verlet.
- Stop by for an afternoon break at Cafe des deux Moulins where Amélie Poulain, the quirky main character from the movie Amélie, worked as a waitress.
- La Caféothèque (The Coffee Library) is your best option if you’re a purist. Here they serve the finest coffee from small plantations.
Late Night – Nightlife in Paris
Parisians love to cap the night with drinks so it’s guaranteed that you will never run out of bars to go to after hours in the city. Perhaps the best of the best of these include Café Charbon, a household name, Le Connétable, where you can enjoy your ale with good music, Le Tambour, where they serve andouillette all day and all night, Le 138, a shabby-chic decorated bar, and Le Bonnie and Clyde, which is open until 6 am.
If there’s one thing you absolutely must do while visiting the City of Love, it’s to explore its most romantic spots. It doesn’t even matter what your current status is, whether you’re unattached, in a relationship, married, or newly-single, you must stop by one of the city’s most romantic spots and soak up the romance of it all.
- The art piece aptly named the “I Love You” Wall ( Le Mur des Je T’Aime) in Square des Abbesses is a simply adorable romantic spot that displays “I love you” in 250 different languages.
- The lovelocks at the Pont Des Arts Bridge make for unique displays of affection as well as great photo opportunities. If you’re with your loved one, you can buy a lock from a nearby vendor, write both your names on it, and seal your love by attaching the lock to the bridge and throwing away the key.
- Go for a nice romantic walk down the banks of the Seine at dusk, with the best views of the lit Parisian landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame sparkling against the dusky blue sky.
- Admire the sweeping views of Paris at sunset or at night at the top of the Eiffel Tower while sipping champagne.
- Enjoy a lovely and exotic gypsy-themed dinner at the Dame du Canton where you can pair up traditional French dishes with fantastic live gypsy jazz.
Paris Special Events
Parties never really end in Paris, it seems. There are many different events that take place here all year round, which is to be expected since the city and its locals have a long-standing love affair with arts and culture. Some of the biggest events that the city plays host to include:
- The Fashion Week, which happen twice a year in March and October
- Fête de la Musique, the city’s biggest free music festival
- Solidays, a 3-day music festival dedicated to the fight against AIDS
- Bastille Day, a French national holiday in July that celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution
- Rendez-vous au Jardin, a city-wide open house to many of the city’s gardens
- Le Nouvel an Chinois, the Chinese New Year celebrations held in February
- Tour de France, the world-famous cycling race
- Cinema en Plein Air, a digital or analogue outdoor cinema
- Salon International de l’Agriculture, a farming festival where you can sample the best agricultural products from the region
- and Rock en Seine, a music festival that draws in pop and rock stars from all over the world.
Best Day Trips Outside the City
The list of attractions within the city limits is basically endless but it’s highly recommended that you explore some of the best attractions outside the city as well. Not only are they a slight change in pace, they will also give you a chance to experience country life in France.
The town of Auvers-sur-Oise, for example, was a haven to famous artists like Manet, Renoir, and Van Gogh (who actually spent his last remaining days there) and is a great place to visit for artists and history buffs alike. Then there’s Fontainebleau, home to the 16th century Chateau de Fontainebleau, Napoleon’s residence; a great retreat for those who want to avoid the crowd at Versailles. Lastly, there’s Reims where you can enjoy exquisite champagne as well as explore the Gothic cathedral that witnessed the crowning of many French kings in history.
For a city that’s only 40 square miles in land area, Paris is surprisingly full attractions. The things you can do and the places you can see here are limitless and you’ll probably need to spend a lifetime exploring the entire city. Of course, unless you’re planning on spending the rest of your life there – a very attractive prospect to many of us, that wouldn’t be possible. So before you go, do your research and plan out your visit. Or better yet, you can be more spontaneous and just go wherever your senses lead you to.
If you have any additional tips or suggestions to make a holiday in Paris even more fun and exciting, we’d love to hear from you.