It’s the City of Love, the City of Light and the capital of the land of good wine and stinky cheese. Paris is a proud city, for good reason. It’s brimming with beauty, brains and history, and some of the most well-dressed people on the planet. What more could you want? I’ve been to Paris four times now and I still am nowhere near seeing everything I want to see, but I’ve made a good start. This guide is a collection of all of my Paris posts, as well as some extra tips. Bon appetit!
I’ve made this destination page to make it easier for my readers to find what they need to know about Paris on Wanderbug. It’s a work in progress, and new posts will get added to this page.
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When to go
I’ve been in Paris in December, January, July and August. To be honest, I’ll take Paris any time of year, but there are a few things you might want to consider if you’re choosing between summer and winter.
Paris in winter
Paris in winter is absolutely beautiful and in early January, the cold was not that bad yet. The Christmas markets are so beautiful and there are much shorter queues for everything. I found Paris in winter much more romantic, possibly because I got up before the sunrise (around 8am), so I saw beautiful light shows every day from our apartment window.
The downside is that none of the fountains are on and the gardens aren’t at their best. Accommodation and flights will be cheaper, yet Paris is just as beautiful. A great time to go for budget travellers, or those who seek a more romantic Paris.
Paris in summer
Of course, there will be more tourists. July is busier than August, when more French people take holidays. I noticed a few more places were closed, but I wasn’t inconvenienced at all. Berthillon, the famous gelato shop, is supposedly closed in August, but it was open in the middle of August when I went!
The gardens in Paris are really special, so I’m glad I saw them in summer. The downside to Paris in summer is being crammed in on a packed metro, stuck standing under the armpit of a sweaty Frenchman.
Paris under blue skies is pretty spectacular, and I know places like Place des Vosges would not have been as brilliant in winter.
Lay of the land
Paris has twenty arrondissements, which are numbered one to twenty and spiral out from the centre of the city, like a snail shell. They also have names, but you’ll normally hear them referred to by their number – i.e. the 16eme is the posh 16th arrondissement, Passy. Whenever you see a Parisian postcode, the last two digits indicate the arrondissement, which makes things really easy. i.e. 75016 is the 16th. 75007 is the 7th.
The River Seine runs diagonally through the heart of Paris. Two islands, Ile de Cite and Ile Saint-Louis sit on the river, with the left bank and right bank on either side. The right bank is home to most of the major tourist sights and has a reputation for being wealthier, while the left bank is painted as the bohemian artist hang out of days gone by.
There’s still some truth in these stereotypes, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a starving artist type in the gentrified left bank neighbourhood of Saint Germain and not all of the right bank is wealthy. The area around Montmartre, particularly the Pigalle area, is crawling with pickpockets and shady characters.
You can easily get from Charles de Gaulle airport into the city using the RER B, the blue line. The RER runs through Paris just like the Metro, but goes much further into the outer suburbs and to the airport, and has less inner city stops.
Paris is very easy to navigate by Metro, so it is worth buying a multi-day metro pass. Don’t keep the pass in your wallet next to your credit cards, or it stops working.
I love the Metro Paris Subway app (free), it makes getting around a breeze.
For my biggest lists of things to do in Paris, see my post below “50 Things to do in Paris.” Other favourites are listed below.
Paris arrondissements are numbered from 1-20 and spiral outwards from the city. As a result, 20 can be next to 11 and 8 is next to 16.
Neighbourhoods often overlap arrondissements, with no particular boundaries. For example, Saint Germain overlaps the 6th and 7th, Montparnasse overlaps 14 & 15, the Marais overlaps 3 & 4, Montmartre overlaps 18 & 19 and Belleville on the city outskirts overlaps 10, 11, 19 and 20.
I’ve written three guides so far:
Bateaux Mouches Seine Cruise
Out of all the European cities I stayed in last year, finding nice but affordable accommodation in Paris was the hardest. I think we really got lucky with Hotel Eiffel Segur in Montparnasse, because it was small but very clean and modern, and in a lovely neighbourhood.
I think it can be harder to find really good budget accommodation in Paris because sometimes the French have a different idea of good hospitality than other cultures do. For example, finding cheap but lovely accommodation in Italy is a breeze because Italians just seem to be naturally wonderful, welcoming hosts!
Now that I’ve found Hotel Eiffel Segur, which I love, I’ll stay there again and again.
I had the pleasure of studying at IESEG Business School’s International Summer Academy in the summer of July 202. I still haven’t got around to writing about this experience, but it was easily one of the best things I have ever done in my life.
IESEG’s school is underground, underneath La Grande Arche in La Defense, Paris’ business district. I stayed at Cite Universitaire, an old university in Montparnasse converted into international student accommodation. My room was tiny (and very hot!) but I loved every minute of it.
I’ve been to Versailles twice; in winter and in summer. The gardens are my favourite part of the trip. I’d recommend spending 2/3 of your time in the gardens and the first 1/3 in the palace.
The Champagne Region
I booked a day tour with Paris Vision to tour the Champagne region, including the capital, Reims, and the towns of Epernay and Ay. A great way to see gorgeous little French towns, beautiful Reims and of course, endless vineyards of champagne. The tour included a visit to Moet & Chandon’s headquarters and caves. It was one of the best day trips I’ve ever done!
No holds barred – here’s what I honestly think about parts of Paris and Parisian cliches.
Paris – Edward Rutherford
Almost French – Sarah Turnbull
La Seduction: How the French play the game of life – Elaine Sciolino
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Victor Hugo
The Phantom of the Opera
A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway
The Sweet Life in Paris – David Lebovitz
The Dud Avocado
Midnight in Paris (2008)
Before Sunset (1994)
Moulin Rouge (2001)
My Wife is an Actress (2001)
Le Divorce (2003)
French Kiss (1995)