Regarded as the most romantic city in the world, Paris is definitely a wonderful place for couples to visit, although you don’t have to be travelling there with that ‘someone special’ to appreciate it. It is full of famous landmarks and museums, great places to eat and a host of buzzing bars and nightclubs. So even if you are going with some friends or on your own, you won’t find it hard to fill your days.
About Paris, France
There is one thing that strikes you the minute you begin to wander around the streets of the French capital – the Parisians are a very passionate race. From the way they dress, to the way they walk, right down to the way they guzzle coffee and scoff croissants, you can tell they have a zest for life. This tends to rub off on you the longer you are there. You won’t want to miss a thing, whether it be a monument, a museum, or a bar you may have heard about. You will want to see it all.
There is so much to see around the city that you won’t know where to begin. Culture is rich in the French capital with some of Europe’s best known and most popular museums here. If you want to fill a roll on your film on instantly recognisable landmarks, in Paris they are a dime a dozen. And if you want to see how the French really go about their daily routine, you can do so at one of the city’s many cafés.
Above all, Paris will never get rid of the stereotype that it is the city of lovers. Indeed, many happy couples get engaged on the Eiffel Tower, and hundreds of others are joined at the hip for their weekends away. But it doesn’t take anything away from the time the budget traveller can have there over the space of a few days.
Eating Out in Paris, France
France is where you can find some of the world’s most unique culinary delights. There is nowhere else on the planet (unless you are in a French restaurant of course) where you will see frogs legs or snails (known locally as ‘l’escargot’) on the menu. But there is more to the French capital than stereotypical French specialities.
The best way to eat in Paris’ restaurants is to get one of the set menus, or ‘prix fixe’. These include an entrée (appetiser), a plat (entrée) and a desert. They are always priced fairly reasonably and prices quoted include wine and a service charge.
Sometimes you may not want to go for a full meal, instead just grab a quick gap-filler during the day time. When this is the case, there is a wide range of boulangeries and bakeries which sell crepes and other small snacks.
Paris’ Food Markets
There are food markets scattered all over Paris. Montorgueil Market (Rue Montorgueil and Rue Montmartre, 1st) is good for both fresh fruit and pastries also. On Saturday mornings the market on Boulevard des Batignolles is also good for fresh fruits, and in particular organic produce. The Mouffetard Market (Rue Mouffetard, 5th) is where some of the city’s bakeries are found, while the Port Royal Market (Bd Port-Royal, 5th) has not only food produce, but cheap clothing also.
Restaurants in Paris
Quai Saint Michel, (across from Notre Dame Cathedral), Paris, France
This busy café just across from the Notre Dame Cathedral is full, basically 24 hours a day. Serving delightful crepes, it is frequented by locals along with tourists visiting the French capital’s famed cathedral.
Open daily 24 hours; average crepe €5.
Place Edmond Michelet, 4th Arr., Paris, France
This Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant just two minutes from the Pompidou Centre has adequate 2-course (starter and main course) meals for €6.
Open daily from 11am-11pm; closed Tuesdays.
5th Arr., Paris, France
Eating out in Paris can tend to be a tad expensive sometimes. When you don’t have an awful lot of Euro to your name, and are looking for something fast and efficient, this street just behind Quai Saint Michel is littered with fast food joints, most of which serve Persian cuisine.
71 Champs Elysées, 8th Arr., Paris, France
Eating on the Champs Elysées can be expensive. Very expensive. But you can’t leave without sitting down to a bite to eat on one of the most famous boulevards in the world, and this fast-food restaurant has a good selection of combo-meals, most involving baguettes.
Open daily from 11am-midnight.
30 rue des Cinq-Diamants, 13th, Paris, France
Chez Gladines is a cheap and typical Basque restaurant in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. There is a large choice of salads served in earthenware bowls which are very popular, along with South-western duck dishes and a daily €10 lunch menu. Try a pipérade with jambon de Bayonne or fiery red pimentos stuffed with salt cod purée in a spicy tomato sauce.
Open 12pm-3pm and 7pm-12ma daily. Closed Aug. Average meal €15.
51rue du commerce,Paris 15 th, Paris, France
Reasonably priced old-fashioned restaurant located in an airy 3-tiered dining hall with a Mediterranean feel to it. The menu is varied and very impressive serving traditional French cuisine.
Open 12pm-12am daily. Average meals €17
4 rue St Benoit, Paris 6 th, Paris, France
Open since 1901, Le Petit-St-Benoît is a traditional French restaurant. The crowd of locals are attracted by authenticity and low prices. You could try some typical French dishes such as Hachis-parmentier or Cassoulet. The walls feature signed photos of distinguished former customers (Serge Gainsbourg, Paco Rabanne).
Open noon-2.30pm, 7-10.30pm Mon-Sat. Average €18.
19 rue Gustave-Courbet, 16th, Paris, France
This Alpine-themed, pint-sized restaurant is a haven of simplicity amid the sleek boutiques of the 16th century. The affable service and hearty food evoke the snowy Savoie: raclette valaisanne (melted cheese with boiled potatoes), tartiflette (a melt of potatoes, cheese and bacon) and fondue savoyarde (cheese fondue).
Open 12pm-3pm, 7pm-11pm Mon-Sat. Average main course €11-€14.
28 rue Vieille-du-Temple, 4th, Paris, France
Budget bistro with an interesting menu including spicy assiette de boudin antillais with cinnamon rice, or tuna rubbed with subtle tandoori spices. Inexpensive wines come by the bottle or glass. Also does a good steak.
Open 9am-2am daily. Average meals cost €15-€20.
Transport in Paris, France
By air: Paris has two major airports – Aéroport Charles de Gaulle and Aéroport d’Orly, which is only 14km south of the city. Most international flights arrive into CdeG. Trains connect both airports to the city centre and depart every 15 minutes. If you fly with Ryanair you will fly to Paris Beauvais which is 80 minutes from the city centre. There is a bus service into the city centre after every flight. The journey takes approximately 80-90 minutes.
By train: Paris has six stations where trains travelling from long-distance destinations arrive:
Gare d’Austerlitz: Loire Valley, Spain and Portugal
Gare de l’Est: Eastern France, Luxembourg, southern Germany
Gare de Lyon: South-eastern France, the Alps, Switzerland, Italy
Gare Montparnasse: Brittany, south-western France
Gare du Nord: Northern France, the UK, Belgium, northern Germany
Gare St Lazare: Normandy
By bus: Most buses arriving from long-distance destinations arrive in Gare Routière Internationale on the eastern side of Paris.
On foot: Paris is Europe’s second largest city after London. It is divided into 20 ‘arrondissement’ (districts) and getting around them on foot is no easy chore. You will probably have to use the Metro at some stage but landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe/Champs-Elysses, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame Cathedral are all within walking distance of each other. Just make sure to have a comprehensive map with you at all times.
By metro and train: The metro is integrated with the RER (the city’s train system) and, between them, operate throughout most of the city. Metros run from 5.30am-12am, while trains run from 5am-12am.
The metro is the most widely used mode by commuters. Opening in July 1900, the first line in operation ran from Porte de Vincennes to Porte Malliot. Today the system uses 199km of track and operates on 15 lines. They say that no building in the city centre is more than 500 metres from a metro station.
By bus: Buses operate between 5.30am and midnight, with night buses travelling on 18 different routes from 1am-5.30am.
Things To See in Paris, France
Where Icons Rest
Best known as the resting place of Doors frontman Jim Morrison, other icons buried on the cemetery Père Lachaise include Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Sandra Bernhardt. open daily from approximately 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free admission.
Attractions in Paris
Place Georges Pompidou, 4th Arr., Paris, France
Unique from all of Paris’ other museums thanks to its futuristic-like pipes which are exposed at the front of the building, the French capital’s museum of modern art houses works by Picasso, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp and other ground-breaking masters of modern art.
Open daily from 11am-9pm; admission €10, free first Sunday of every month.
62, rue de Lille, 7th Arr, Paris, France
Paris’ second most famous art gallery after the Louvre, this gallery on the banks of the Seine houses a large collection of collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art from 1848-1914.
Open Tues-Sun 9.30am-6pm (until 9.45pm on Thurs); admission €7.50.
Champs Elysses, Paris, France
Looming over the Champs Elysses since 1836 when it was completed after being commissioned by Napoleon thirty years previous, Paris’ Arc de Triomphe is the city’s most emblematic building in the city after the Eiffel Tower. Beneath the tower is the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’ along with an eternal flame commemorating the dead of both World Wars.
Visitors can climb to the top of the top of the arch for breathtaking views of the city.
Open April 1st-Sept 30th 10am-11pm, Oct 1st-March 31st 10am-10.30pm; admission €8.
Champ de Mars, 7, Paris, France
The Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris and was the tallest building in the world at 300m when built in 1889 for the Exposition Universelle on the centenary of the Revolution. Now, with its aerial, it reaches 321m.
The tower has three platforms. A restaurant called the Jules Verne (extremely expensive; reservations absolutely necessary) is on the second platform. The top platform has a bar, souvenir shop, and the (recently restored) office of Gustave Eiffel.
Lift open Jan 1st-June 15th 9.30-23.45 (steps until 18.30), June 16th-Sept 2nd 9.00-0.45 (steps until 0.30), Sept 3rd-Dec 31st 9.30-23.45 (steps until 18.30).
Elevator admission €4.20 (1st floor), €7.70 (2nd floor), €11 (top).
Stairs €3.80 for 1st and 2nd floor.
Place du parvis de Notre Dame, Paris, France
Considered a gothic masterpiece, the Notre Dame Cathedral was built between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries (1163-1345). At the end of the 18th century, during the Revolution, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. After the Revolution, the building fell into disrepair and was even used to shelter livestock.
Open daily from 7.45-18.45, admission to cathedral free; Towers open daily from 8.00-18.45; admission €5.50.
35 rue du Chevalier-de-la-Barre, 18th, Paris, France
After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, it was proposed to construct a church to the Sacred Heart on the butte Montmartre. The architect Abadie was chosen to design the basilique. The interior of the church contains one of the world’s largest mosaics, and depicts Christ with outstretched arms. Its onion dome is visible from almost anywhere in the city, and its 112m bell tower is the highest in Paris. From the top of the Dome, there is a panoramic view in all directions extending over 30 kilometers.
Open daily from 6.45-23.00; admission free (church) / crypt/dome admission €3 for one and €5 for both.
Palais royal ,1st, Paris, France
The origins of the Musee du Louvre date back to 1200 when Philippe August began construction of a fortress along the banks of the Seine.
The museum is organised into wings which stem off from the Sully (round the Cour Carrée), Richelieu (along rue de Rivoli) and Denon (along the Seine). In the Louvre you will see lot of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures most notably the Mona Lisa.
Open daily from 9am-6pm (until 9.45pm Wed & Fri); admission for permanent collection €8.50/€6 from 6pm-9.45pm, free the first Sunday of every month.
1 Quai de l’Horloge, Paris, France
The Sainte Chapelle was built by Saint Louis to house the Crown of Thorns which was bought in 1239 for 135,000 livres . Some of the most beautiful stained-glass in the world are contained there. Near the chapel, there is the Conciergerie, one of Paris’ most famous prisons; the queen Marie-Antoinette and Robespierre were imprisoned here during the revolution.
Open Apr-Sept 9.30am-6.30pm daily; Oct-Mar 10am-5pm daily; admission €6.
Paris,1st, Paris, France
This square was designed by Jules-Hardouin Mansart in 1687 and the last house was built in 1720. Standing tall in the centre of the square is a large column with the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte standing on top dressed like Caesar. Today The Ritz, one of Paris’ most luxurious hotels, is located here.
Paris , 2nd, Paris, France
Opened in 1875, the interior of the building is decorated with Gobelin’s tapestries and a six-ton chandelier. The ceiling was painted by Chagall in 1964. Since 1989, the Garnier has been used mainly for ballets. There are also a library and a museum here on the history of opera and dance.
Paris,8th, Paris, France
Constructed between 1757 and 1777 as a monument for Louis XV, this place soon became the Place de la Revolution where the guillotine severed more than 1,343 necks. After the terror the place was renamed Place de la Concorde (Place of Harmony) and is now the biggest place in Paris. Situated along the Seine, it separates Tuilerie Gardens and Champs Elysées. In the centre of the place there is the statue Obelisque de Luxor, offered to Charles X by the Viceroy of Egypt in 1829. At night the Obelisk and the fountains are illuminated and well worth a visit.
Entertainment in Paris, France
There is a big café culture in Paris, rather than a pub one. During the summer months, sitting outside one of them watching locals go about their night out can make yours.
The city’s bars aren’t as relaxed and casual as the cafés, so don’t wear whatever you find stuffed in at the top of your backpack. Parisians take a lot of pride in their appearance so wear the best item you can and give it a quick iron too! This way backpackers don’t stick out as much.
Around the Latin Quarter, and ‘Elysee Montmartre’ and ‘La Cithea’ are some great live music bars frequented by students and a young trendy crowd. And another popular areas for nightlife are around Place de la Bastille.
Entertainments in Paris
16 Rue des Dames, 17th Arr., Paris, France
This small bar just around the corner from Place de Clichy is one of Paris’ coolest bars. Plant yourself on to a stool during the week and you’re guaranteed to meet a local, while enter it on the weekend for a far livelier night. The English speaking staff are also extremely friendly.
Open daily from 4pm-2.30am.
13 Rue Daval, 11th Arr., Paris, France
How many bars do you know where pictures of the Pope, God, the Virgin Mary, and other religious figures dangle from the walls? Not many, I know. Well now you know one. Aside from its pious tendencies, this bar in the extremely lively Bastille area has cheap beer and a great ambience.
Open daily 7pm-1.30am.
Quai des Grands Augustins, 1st Arr., Paris, France
Irish bars are all over Paris although there is something very un-Irish about a lot of them. Across from the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Galway is an authentic Irish bar with plenty of Irish spirit and Irish staff.
Open daily from midday-2am and until 5am Fri & Sat.
2 Place du Palais Royal, 1st Arr, Paris, France
If you want to go to a nightclub, but still want to be able to segregate yourself from the rest of the clubbers when the going gets too much, Le Cabaret was designed for you. Veer away from the dancefloor you will find beds full of cushions in corners of the club.
Open Mon-Sat 9am-6am.
184 rue St-Jacques, 5th, Paris, France
This Antipodean bar has a wide range of Australian beers, wines all served by friendly staff. A nice mix of French and expats make it a popular café. Mock aboriginal cave paintings decorate the walls and quaint Aussie mementoes fill the corners.
Open daily from 4pm-2am.
10 rue des Capucines, 2nd, Paris, France
The décor is imported from Ireland, as are the Guinness and Kilkenny. Packed with bankers early on, the atmosphere becomes more relaxed later, with a mix of Irish, English and French.
Open daily from 9am-2am.
65 rue Montmartre, 2nd, Paris, France
Good crowd here with budget prices. You can also grab a light meal to soak up the beer and good selection of spirits.
Open 8am-2am Mon-Fri; 4pm-2am Sat.
facing 11 quai François-Mauriac, 13 th, Paris, France
This nightspot is a combination of bar, club and concert venue, catering for all audiences. One of Paris’ more unique haunts as it is a lighthouse boat from the Irish Sea renovated into a nightclub, now planted firmly on the River Seine.
Open Tue-Sun 8pm-2am; admission free-€10.
6 rue Fontaine, 9th, Paris, France
Keep your eyes open when socialising in here as the odd celebrity pops in here for a drink. Bus Palladium is generally known as a rock venue, but recently more up-to-date music like funk and disco has made its way through the speakers.
Open 11pm-dawn Tue-Sat; admission €15 (girls free Tue).
General Info about Paris, France
A valid passport is all that is required if you are an EU national. Same applies if you are from the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, but only for stays of up to three months. Nationals of many countries need a ‘Schengen Visa’.
To ensure you are aware of the full entry requirements contact the French Embassy in your local country.
The currency used in France is the Euro which is made up of 100 cent. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c and 1c.
Banks in Paris usually open between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday; some banks also open on Saturdays. All are closed on public holidays, and from noon on the previous day. Commission rates vary between banks, but the state ‘Banque de France’ usually offers good rates.
French is the official language in Paris. English isn’t spoken as widely as in other European capitals, although you will find most people in the service and tourism industry will speak some.
Winter can get very cold in Paris, with temperatures hovering around freezing a lot of the time. Typical pleasant sunny days reach 20˚C to 25˚C. Spring and autumn are pleasant and mild.
Visitors from EU countries are entitled to medical treatment under the EU Reciprocal Medical Treatment agreement, as are visitors from Scandinavian countries. Natives of Britain need to collect an E111 form from your local social security office. This form may also be obtained in post offices also. Travellers from non-EU countries are obliged to pay for any medical treatment required during their stay.
Paris is in the Central European Time (CET) zone which his one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
The vast majority of shops in Paris open somewhere between 9am-10am, then close between 6pm-7pm. Others open from 8am-9pm. Office hours are usually between 9am-5pm from Monday to Friday.
The main tourist offices are at 127 Ave des Champs-Elysées, 8th Mº Charles de Gaulle-Etoile and at the Eiffel Tower and Gare de Lyon. You can get brochures on attractions and events in Paris, buy phonecards, make hotel bookings and exchange foreign currency. Opening times vary between 9am-8pm, changing in the winter months.
As an EU member, France imposes VAT (TVA in French) on most goods and services. The standard for clothing, appliances, alcohol, perfumes and other goods is 19.6%.
When in Paris you can exchange foreign cash in any bank. They open from 9.00am until 12.00pm and again from 2.00pm to 4.00pm from Monday to Friday. Many major banks also open their exchange facilities from 9.00am until 12.00pm on Saturdays. Try and change your money at the biggest banks such as Crédit Lyonnais as they offer the most competitive rates.
All major credit cards are accepted in the bigger hotels, restaurants and shops but in smaller businesses you may have difficulty using this facility. Bankcards which are members of the bigger international networks such as Plus or Cirrus can be used where the ATM states they are acceptable.
Electricity in France operates on 220 volts AC.
To call abroad from France dial 00, then country code, area code and local number, dropping the 0 on the area code. If you are calling France from abroad the international access code is +33 and the city code for Paris is 01, but don’t forget to drop the 0 on the area code when dialling from abroad. For operator assistance dial 12.
Post offices (bureaux de poste) are open between 8am-7pm Mon-Fri; 9am-noon Sat. You can also buy stamps at tobacconists (tabac). The main post office is located at 52 rue du Louvre.
By law a service charge must be included in all restaurants, café and bar bills in France. If you feel that the service merits a further tip an amount between 5% and 10% is sufficient. In bars or cafés one or two euro is the norm. Taxi drivers are usually given a tip of between 10% and 15%. It is worth noting, however, that at no time is it essential to tip and is entirely at your discretion.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to Paris as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In France they take place on January 1st, Easter Monday, May 1st and 8th, Ascension Day, first Monday in June, July 14th, August 15th, November 1st and December 25th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.