I just got back from my first trip to Paris, and it was an absolute blast! Before I went, I knew very little about where to stay or what to do. The planning seemed endless and overwhelming. So I decided to put together a travel guide to help first-timers plan their Paris trip a little easier. Here is what I’ve learnt and tips to make your trip to Paris the best that it can be!
What to Expect
Language: The spoken language in Paris is French. While most of the people I interacted with could speak a little English, not everyone could. As long as you have google translate on your phone though, you should be fine exploring Paris without knowing the French language.
Currency: The currency throughout France is the Euro.
Credit Cards and Banks: Most places in Paris accept credit cards, but some smaller retailers may no. So you’ll want to have some cash on you just in case. There are ATMs throughout most tourist areas and hotels. You’ll want to let your credit card and debit card companies know you will be out of the country, and be sure check on their transaction fees for international purchases.
Where to Stay
If you’re planning a trip to Paris, the first thing is to decide where to stay. Paris is made up of 20 different districts called arrondissements, and it can be very overwhelming trying to decide which district to stay in. Whenever I travel, I try to choose a hotel that’s both affordable and has good reviews. My countless hours of researching hotels and different districts lead me to one hotel, Hotel de Suez.
Hotel de Suez is located in the Latin district and is within a 10 minute walk to multiple bus and metro stations. It’s also just a short walk away from Luxembourg Gardens and the Notre Dame. I loved how Hotel de Suez was surrounded by plenty of restaurants and bakeries. I also felt completely safe staying in this hotel as they require every person to buzz to be let in, along with a 24 hour receptionist.
Room tip: Ask for a room that doesn’t face the street. The one I stayed in faced away from the main street and was very quiet.
How to Get Around
Most top tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Couer are spread out throughout the different districts, so you’ll want to take advantage of public transportation to get around. Thankfully, as long as you have Google Maps on your phone, it’s very easy to navigate the transport system.
Tip: Invest in an unlimited international data plan before your trip. You do not want to be in Paris without enough data to navigate the city (or pay the expensive overage fees).
For both the buses and metro, you’ll need the same type of ticket. Each ticket costs €1.90 and is good for a one-way trip to anywhere in central Paris (Zones 1 and 2) However, I recommend purchasing the book of 10 tickets (what they call a “carnet”) for €16. Not only is the cost of each ticket cheaper that way, but you’ll want to have that many tickets so you don’t have to keep repurchasing single tickets every time you need to go somewhere.
They sell the tickets at the metro stations, and you purchase them from a machine. Keep in mind when using the buses, you cannot purchase tickets at the bus stops and they do not take cash. Yet another reason to purchase the book of 10 tickets.
Tip: When visiting Versaille or Disneyland Paris, you’ll have to purchase separate tickets that include Zones 4 and 5.
How to Get to Disneyland Paris
When visiting Versaille or Disneyland Paris, you’ll need to purchase separate tickets that include Zones 4 and 5. A one-way ticket to Disneyland Paris is €7.60 & a one-way ticket to Versaille is €3.65 .
The rides from central Paris to Disneyland Paris are about an hour. So be sure to factor that into your schedule. Also, Disneyland Paris is the very last stop for the metro, so you don’t have to worry about missing your stop.
Tip: Go ahead and purchase two metro tickets (one for the ride there and the 2nd for the ride back) before you head to Disneyland Paris. Once Disneyland Paris closes, the lines to purchase metro tickets are EXTREMELY long! I waited about 20 minutes to buy a ticket. So go ahead and purchase 2 tickets to skip the line on the way back.
Where to Eat
58 Tour Eiffel– If there’s one place I could recommend eating at in Paris, it’s the 58 Tour Eiffel which is a restaurant located inside the Eiffel Tower. The restaurant is located on the first level of the Eiffel Tower and is surrounded by windows overlooking the City of Love. Lunch at the Eiffel Tower was probably the highlight of my Paris trip. Even though the lunch is a bit pricey (around €40), it is 100% worth it. Lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel includes an appetizer, main course, dessert, and a drink. Everything that I ordered was absolutely delicious, and the view of Paris was absolutely breathtaking. You’ll want to book your reservation as soon as possible as lunch does tend to get sold out, but I highly recommend lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel during your Paris vacation.
Fuxia– Pasta in France? Yes please! This Italian restaurant is great for those looking for an alternative to traditional French cuisine. Fuxia is located right beside Luxumberg Garden, and is a great lunch spot while sightseeing in Paris. I sat outside with a glass of wine and a plate of pasta and enjoyed the view of Luxumberg Garden. Who doesn’t love Italian food, right?
Pâtisserie Viennoise– If you’re looking for a spot for coffee and pastries, Pâtisserie Viennoise is a great choice. They offer so many sweet treats (most of which I couldn’t recognize) lol. But that’s the fun part about trying this local bakery. I asked the ladies who worked there for their favorites and ended up enjoying some delicious and unique desserts!
What to Do
There are so many things to do and see in Paris that it can be hard to narrow it down when you have limited time. Moreover, you have to decide which you should book a tour for or just see on your own. The choices can get overwhelming! So here are the top things I recommend seeing in Paris.
Eiffel Tower- The Eiffel Tower is definitely a must-see! It’s even more beautiful in person than I ever imagined. When choosing Eiffel Tower tickets, you have to decide which level of the Eiffel Tower you want to tour. There are 3 levels to choose from each differing in price. What I recommend, is booking a lunch at the Eiffel Tower’s restaurant, 58 Tour Eiffel, which includes access to the 1st floor. I think it’s more worth it to spend your money on lunch than on a ticket to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Booking lunch at the Eiffel Tower also allows you access a separate entrance for lunch reservations, so you can avoid the long lines (and believe me, they are long!)
Tip: Be sure to check out the Eiffel Tower during both the day and at night. Once the sun goes down, the lights on the Eiffel Tower come on and there’s a light show that comes on for 5 minutes every hour. You don’t want to miss it!
Sacre Couer- The view of Paris from Sacre Couer is absolutely breathtaking! It makes for beautiful pictures, and it’s free to tour the inside of the church. Just be prepared when visiting Sacre Couer that there are A LOT of steps to get to the top! Just some cardio to burn off all the delicious food, though, right? 😉
Arc de Triomphe- Arc de Triomphe is another stop I would add to your list. Walking around it or under the arch is free. If you want to climb the 280 steps to the top, though, that costs €9.50 . I decided to skip paying the extra money because there are so many other free spots to take in the view of Paris (such as Sacre Couer). I also didn’t want to walk up the 280 steps. lol
Louvre- Paris, I Louvre you! Okay, you can’t NOT make that pun! lol The Louvre was one of the top things to see on my list. Let me start by saying though… IT. IS. MASSIVE. I knew beforehand that it was a huge museum, but I was not prepared for its size. While I’m glad I visited the Louvre, I’m going to be honest that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had planned on. It was VERY crowded, and I got lost and couldn’t find my way out. Kind of an introvert’s nightmare lol. I would still recommend visiting though if you’re a fan of museums. Just mentally prepare yourself for large crowds, and I would only plan to stay a couple of hours.
Tip: I highly recommend purchasing your ticket ahead of time on the Louvre’s website. You’ll select the time you want to visit, which will put you in the much shorter line when entering the Louvre.
What to Pack
Depending on the time of year you visit Paris, you’ll need different types of clothing. But some things are necessary to pack for Paris regardless of when you visit. So here are my top items to include in your packing list.
- Universal Adapter– You’ll definitely have to pack an adapter when visiting Paris. I recommend this universal adapter from Amazon, which I was able to use in both London and Paris (they have different outlets).
- Portable Phone Charger– You will definitely be relying on your phone’s GPS while navigating Paris as well as taking tons of pictures of the Paris sights. So I highly recommend investing in this portable phone charger that charges your phone up to 3 full times before needing to recharge.
- Packing Cubes– In order to stay organized and fit everything you need into your suitcase, I recommend purchasing these packing cubes. I don’t know why it took me so long to buy them, but they have definitely been a game changer for me when it comes to packing. I’m able to fit so much more into my suitcase!
- Locks– If your suitcase doesn’t already come with a locking system, I would bring these TSA suitcase locks with you. Not all Paris hotels have a safe in the room for you to store your valuables while you explore the city (and you definitely don’t want to carry them around with you). So be on the safe side and lock your valuables in your suitcase while you’re out and about.
- External Hard Drive– If you haven’t already invested in an external hard drive for your phone, you are missing out! For those of you who take tons of pictures and videos on your phone, you’ll know the storage struggle is real. This external hard drive plugs into your iPhone and has been a lifesaver for me! Do yourself a favor and invest in this storage.
I hope this guide to Paris has helped you plan your next trip! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section. Bon Voyage, my friends!