Before you even start reading this: if you have been thinking about going to Paris, BOOK THE TICKET. I promise you, it’s worth it! You can find great deals on flights throughout the year (especially in the off season from October-April). We have never paid more than $500 for a roundtrip ticket from Chicago. There’s a reason for the magic and mystique that shrouds this beautiful city – so don’t miss out! The best time to visit is whenever you are able to make the trip.
Strolling the streets will fill your heart and cheese and wine will fill your belly.
Wherever you are departing from, you will probably arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG). The easiest and cheapest way to travel to/from CDG airport to anywhere in Paris is the RER B train. You can buy a one-way ticket (cost is €11,40) from a touch-screen kiosk station – should you have any questions there are attendants that can help, but it will give you an option for English language. It’s relatively straightforward. If you are staying in Paris, you will need to buy a ticket that covers “Zone 1.” CDG is actually outside of the city, so depending where you are staying, it is usually around a 30 minute ride. The RER stations in Paris will have a Metro (Paris subway) connection, which will allow you to get anywhere in the city.
If you are traveling with a larger group of people, it may be easier and more cost-effective to hire a cab/Uber to drive you from the airport to wherever you are staying.
My preferred mode of transportation in Paris is my own 2 feet. Walking allows you to take in the sights, smells, and sounds of the City of Love – and there is a lot to take in! The architecture of the buildings and bridges, the beautiful gardens, the tree lined boulevards – it’s all part of the charm and magic of Paris. So you what better way to experience it than by walking through it all?!
If you need to get somewhere relatively quickly, or for traveling long distances in the city, the Metro is a great option. There are plenty of Metro stations throughout the city, so it is fairly convenient and easy to navigate wherever you need to go. You will really get a pulse of the city and its citizens when you take the Metro. The only downside is that you are traveling underground, so you don’t get to see as much of the city.
You can also take an Uber or cab to get around the city, but where’s the fun in that?!
Places to stay
Pricier: 2nd (Le Marais)
Ex-pat experience: 6th (or, for the more budget-conscience, the 14th).
For the more adventurous, artsy experience: Montmartre
Things to do
You literally can’t go wrong. Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Paris is just wander through the different neighborhoods without a plan. Stop at a corner cafe for a cafe au lait or glass of wine, go to a cheese shop, pop in a patisserie to grab a macaron, stop by another cafe to people-watch… I know there are tons of museums and monuments that you’ve undoubtedly read about (more on some of my favorites below), and you should definitely make time to see them, but try not to over-plan and cram too many things into a short amount of time.
Paris is a huge city and you’ll never see all the things you want to do (unless you are there for a year or 2). So I suggest when in Paris, do as the Parisians do – grab a baguette, a bottle of wine, head to a park bench in a garden, and embrace “la joie de vivre.”
The Louvre and Musee D’Orsay are both awesome. You could spend days in the Louvre and still not see everything! The architecture in D’Orsay is worth the price of admission, to me. And there are great views of the city from the beautiful window on the top floor. D’Orsay houses a lot of the impressionist classics. If you are really into art, I would say check out Musee de l’Orangerie. It’s across the river from D’Orsay in Jardin Des Tuileries (which is a great place to just have a stroll and picnic). L’Orangerie houses many impressionist works as well, including Monet’s famous “Water Lilies.”
If you’re an art lover (also, honestly even if you’re not!) you should take a trip to the Louvre. As I mentioned, it may take you a few days to get through. Really. It’s huge! There are pieces in here that will give you chills to see up close and in person. The Mona Lisa, Venus De Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, and Great Sphinx of Tanis are just a few of the incredible pieces in this museum. Zach and I even got engaged in the Cour Carrée courtyard! (pictured above)
I mean, if you’re in Paris you’ve got to see it, right? People will try to sell you things all over the place here just a heads up! There are different ticket prices for stairs vs elevator, but make sure to stop at the area halfway to the top for a nice hang and view!
Galeries de Lafayette:
This is essentially a big shopping mall from the 1600’s – very high priced items here, but it’s gorgeous to walk through! If you happen to be visiting during Christmas time, the decorations alone make it a worthwhile trip.
This building is beautiful and it’s near Galeries de Lafayette. It’s where the Phantom of the Opera takes place! Usually there are cool street performers/hip-hop dancers on the steps.
Montmartre and Sacre Coeur:
Sacre Coeur is one of the most beautiful churches you’ll visit. It’s also really cool because it’s on top of the hill in Montmartre with breathtaking views of the entire city. Montmartre is cool – the old artist quarter. There are still painters that paint in Place de Tertre. Fun to walk around! I would visit late morning/afternoon, because this is an area you may not want to hang around after dark! It’s a bit of a hike on the metro to get there, but it is worth it! Also, this is the area of the city where Moulin Rouge is located, so you can’t pass up a photo-op with the famous Red Windmill and signage!
The world’s most famous and iconic Gothic cathedral. It caught fire in 2019, but I recommend still stopping by to take it all in.
Avenue de Champs Elysees:
This is probably the most famous boulevard in the world. Filled with all of the most expensive stores you can imagine. We are talking the original Louis Vuitton and an enormous Tiffany’s! You’ve gotta walk it once. Pro tip – start at Arc de Triomphe and walk toward Place de la Concorde. It’s downhill. The other way is uphill haha!
Depending how long you will be in Paris, I would definitely suggest a day trip to Versailles. The palace is stunning and the grounds might be even more impressive. Plus, Versailles is a smaller town that gives you a break from the big city feel of Paris. Quick and cheap ride on the RER C leads right to city center and easy walk to the palace!
This is the restaurant we went to celebrate our engagement. We told the waiter what just happened and he said, “Happy Birthday”! It was so sweet. This place will fulfill all your Parisian Bistro dreams. There are only a select number of tables and it’s a very intimate dining experience, the type of place you know they put care and thought into each ingredient. It sounds scary if you haven’t tried it before, but their foie gras is AMAZING. Honestly, everything here is an incredible experience!
Bistrot des Campagnes:
Another AMAZING dining experience. They change their menu almost daily with specials, but I have had the best duck of my life here! Be sure to make a reservation because the seating is limited! Pick a bottle of wine off the wall and enjoy a night in Paris.
Paris is a big international city, so lots of folks speak English and are more than willing to help! Just might want to try to work on a few phrases like:
- “Bonjour” (hello)
- “Merci” (thank you)
- “Parlez vous l’anglais?” (do you speak English?)
- “Ou sont les toilettes?” (where are the toilets?)
- and probably the most helpful if you don’t speak French – “Désoleé, je ne parle pas le français” (Sorry, I do not speak french)
If you don’t speak French, no big deal (trust me, I’m not great!). It just helps if you have a couple French phrases at your disposal – the people are usually a lot more helpful/friendly if you try to speak a bit of French at them first. If you lock down those few phrases above, that should get you along just fine!
Nobody tips. Waiters don’t have to live off tips like they do in US, so it’s not expected!
Ask for “une carafe d’eau” at a restaurant to avoid paying an arm & a leg for water! This will be the free tap water.
Katy is our Community Support Specialist, which means she can be found chatting with you, all day every day. When she isn’t answering questions, offering up the latest style suggestions, leading our Ambassador program and sharing her most recent Amazon finds, you can find her doing what she does best – belting out her note-worthy vocals in her band, Maybe April. Katy loves a good outdoor adventure and crafting up a homemade latte in the morning.