Paris Travel Guide

For other places with the same name, see Paris (disambiguation).
Paris is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
Paris, the cosmopolitan capital of France, is - with 2.2 million people living in zone 1 (Central Paris) and another 9.9 million people in the suburbs (la banlieue) - one of the largest cities in Europe. Located in the north of the country on the river Seine, Paris has the reputation of being the most beautiful and romantic of all cities, brimming with historic associations and remaining vastly influential in the realms of culture, art, fashion, food and design. Dubbed the City of Light (la Ville Lumière), it is the most popular tourist destination in the world.


Districts
Central Paris is officially divided into 20 districts called arrondissements, numbered from 1 to 20 in a clockwise spiral from the center of the city (known as Kilometre Zero and is located at the front of Notre Dame). Arrondissements are named according to their number. You might, for example, stay in the "5th", which would be written as 5e (SANK-ee-emm) in French. The 12th and 16th arrondissements include large suburban parks, the Bois de Vincennes, and the Bois de Boulogne respectively.

The very best map you can get for Paris is called "Paris Pratique par Arrondissement" which you can buy for about €2 at any news stand. It makes navigating the city easy- so much that one can imagine that the introduction of such map-books might be part of what made the arrondissement concept so popular in the first place.


Each arrondissement has its own unique character and selection of attractions for the traveler:

1st (1er). The geographical center of Paris and a great starting point for travelers. The Musée Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries, Place du Vendôme, Les Halles, Palais Royal, Comédie-Française, and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel are all to be found here.
2nd (2e). The central business district of the city - the Bourse (the Paris Stock Exchange), Opéra-Comique, Théâtre des Variétés, Passage des Panoramas, Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens and the Bibliothèque Nationale are located here.
3rd (3e). Archives Nationales, Musée Carnavalet, Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, Musée Carnavalet, Hôtel de Soubise, the Former Temple fortress, and the northern, quieter part of the Marais can be found here.
4th (4e). Notre-Dame de Paris, the Hôtel de Ville (Paris town hall), Hôtel de Sully, Rue des Rosiers and the Jewish Quartier, Beaubourg, Le Marais, Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville, Centre Georges Pompidou, Place de Vosges, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Saint-Jacques Tower and Parisian island Île Saint-Louis can be found here.
5th (5e). Jardin des Plantes, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Musée de Cluny, The Panthéon, Quartier Latin, Universités, La Sorbonne, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Église Saint-Séverin, La Grande Mosquée, Le Musée de l'AP-HP can be located here.
6th (6e). Jardin du Luxembourg as well as its Senat, Place Saint-Michel, Église Saint-Sulpice and Saint-Germain des Prés can be found here.
7th (7e). Tour Eiffel and its Parc du Champ de Mars, Les Invalides, Musée d'Orsay, Assemblée Nationale and its subset administrations, Ecole Militaire, and Parisian mega-store Le Bon Marchee can be found here.
8th (8e). Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, le Palais de l'Elysée, Église de la Madeleine,Jacquemart-Andre Museum, Gare Saint-Lazare, Grand Palais and Petit Palais can be found here.
9th (9e). Opéra Garnier, Galeries Lafayette, Musée Grévin, and Folies Bergère can be found here.
10th (10e). Canal Saint-Martin, Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est, Port Saint-Denis, Port Saint-Martin, Passage Brady, Passage du Prado, and Église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul can be found here.
11th (11e). The bars and restaurants of Rue Oberkampf, Bastille, Nation, New Jewish Quarter, Cirque d'Hiver, and Église Saint-Ambroise can be found here.
12th (12e). Opéra Bastille, Bercy Park and Village, Promenade Plantée, Quartier d'Aligre, Gare de Lyon, Cimetière de Picpus, Viaduc des arts the Bois de Vincennes, and the Zoo de Vincennes can be found here.
13th (13e). Quartier la Petite Asie, Place d'Italie, La Butte aux Cailles, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), Gare d'Austerlitz, Manufacture des Gobelins, Butte-aux-Cailles and Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital can be found here.
14th (14e). Cimetière du Montparnasse, Gare Montparnasse, La Santé Prison, Denfert-Rochereau, Parc Montsouris, Stade Charléty, Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, and Paris Catacombs can be found here.
15th (15e). Tour Montparnasse, Porte de Versailles, Front de Seine, La Ruche and quartiers Saint-Lambert, Necker, Grenelle and Javel can be found here.
16th (16e). Palais de Chaillot, Musée de l'Homme, the Bois de Boulogne, Cimetière de Passy, Parc des Princes, Musée Marmottan-Monet, Trocadéro, and Avenue Foch can be found here.
17th (17e). Palais des Congrès, Place de Clichy, Parc Monceau, Marché Poncelet, and Square des Batignolles can be found here.
18th (18e). Montmartre, Pigalle, Barbès, Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, Église Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre, and Goutte d'Or can be found here.
19th (19e). Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Parc de la Villette, Bassin de la Villette, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Cité de la Musique, Canal de l'Ourcq, and Canal Saint-Denis can be found here.
20th (20e). Cimetière de Père Lachaise, Parc de Belleville, and quartiers Belleville and Ménilmontant can be found here.
La Défense. Although it is not officially part of the city, this skyscraper district on the western edge of town is on many visitors must-see lists for its modern architecture and public art.
Beyond central Paris, the outlying suburbs are called Les Banlieues. Schematically, those on the west of Paris (Neuilly, Boulogne, Saint Cloud, Levallois) are wealthy residential communities. Those to the northeast are lower-class immigrant communities with high delinquency; keep in mind, though, that this is a very general classification.

By plane
Paris is served by three international airports - for more information, including arrival/departure times, check the official sites.

Charles de Gaulle International Airport (Roissy ICAO: LFPG, IATA: CDG)to the north-east of the city is one of the major hub airports of Europe. It's notoriously confusing, so allow plenty of time for transfers. There are three terminals: Terminal 1, Terminal 2 (which is huge and subdivided into 2A through 2F), and Terminal 3 (formerly T9). Terminal 1 and 3 are next to each other, whereas mass Terminal 2 is in another building. The free CDGVAL shuttle train connects the terminals together. Everything at this airport is very expensive, especially the basics such as food. There are also hardly any benches around, and don't even consider looking for an outlet to charge your cell phone or laptop.

When you arrive at CDG, you should write somewhere on your itinerary what terminal you arrived at (2A, 2D, etc.), because when you come back to the airport to depart at the end of your trip, the RER subway train makes two stops at CDG to cover the three terminals, but there are no indications of which airlines are at which terminals. (Nor are there such signs inside the airport itself.)

For getting to or from Paris, the RER subway train, line B, has stations in T3 (from where you can take the free CDGVAL shuttle train to T1) and T2; trains to Paris (the stops are Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les Halles, Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, Luxembourg, Porte Royale, and $$$D$$enfert Rochereau) leave every 15 minutes, and there is an express train every hour. Tickets cost €8,50 (or €5,50 for a child's fare) each and take around 40 minutes (or less if an express train), making this the fastest and cheapest way to connect. Buy tickets with credit cards or euros at the "Billetes" machines, or you can get in line to buy them from a human cashier. From the trains area, stations 11/12 are where the RER to Paris stops; you may want to ask to make sure this has not changed. You're in the right place if there's a sign saying "All trains go to Paris". When using the ticket to the airport (and with tickets to zones outside of Paris) use it to enter and exit the train. Always keep the ticket handy as the SNCF officials sometimes check for tickets, and if you are without one you will be fined a hefty fare of €40.

Alternatively, the Roissybus service connects all terminals directly to Opéra Garnier in central Paris, but it's subject to traffic jams and rush hour, so it averages 60-90 minutes even on a good day. There is also a TGV station in T2 for high-speed connections, mostly towards Lille and Brussels, but there are also some trains that head south to eg. Rennes and Nantes, bypassing Paris.

Orly International Airport (ICAO: LFPO, IATA: ORY) [3] to the south-west of the city, and served by a southern branch of the RER-B line that heads in the direction of Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse (not Robinson). This older international airport is used mainly by Air France for national lines, and other international carriers in Europe. Orly is roughly forty minutes from Paris via the OrlyBus, which departs from Métro Denfert-Rochereau (ligne 6); the price is €6. Another option is bus 285 that takes you to the Métro Villejuif - Louis Aragon(ligne 7) in 15 minutes. Bus 285 costs €1,5 and runs every 10 minutes, stopping at airport level -1.

The Orlyval light rail connects both terminals to the RER B line at Antony. It runs every 4-7 minutes and cost €9.30 for transfer to Paris. The RER B from Antony runs through Paris to Aéroport Charles de Gaulle.

Beauvais (Aéroport de Paris Beauvais Tillé ICAO: LFOB, IATA: BVA) [4] to way north of the city, is a smaller regional airport that is used by some low-cost carriers such as Ryanair (list flights). The airport operates a shuttle service connecting with the Métro at Porte Maillot station. Buses run even during the wee hours of the morning (~ 6 am). Buses leave 20 minutes after each flight arrives, and a few hours before each flight departs. Exact times can be found on the Beauvais Airport website. The journey will take about an hour in good traffic conditions, and costs €13 each way (as of April 2008).

In addition to public transport, Air France operates shuttles between Charles de Gaulle and Paris (€10 - €12), Orly and Paris (€7.5) and between the two airports (€15). Note that if you have connecting Air France flights that land and depart from different airports, you would still generally need to fetch your luggage after landing, catch either the Air France shuttle or a taxi (readily available at all airports) to the other airport and check-in again. This altogether could take up to 2 hours particularly if traffic is at its worse. It is also common to lose time during disembarking, as passengers often need to get off at the tarmac and get on buses which will bring them to the terminal building. Be sure to have sufficient time between flights to catch your connection. Note that check-in counters usually close 30 minutes before the flight departs, longer if flights are international carriers.

If you arrive to CDG Airport at night you'll need a Noctilien bus to get to the city center. The bus stops in all three terminals (in terminal 2 it will be the second level in departure section - it is very difficult to find, but it really exists). The bus leaves every 30 minutes after 00:30 (see timetable). The buses you'll need are N121 and N120; the price is 7 Euro.

By train

Paris is well connected to the rest of Europe by train. There are several stations serving Paris. You will probably want to know in advance at which station your train is arriving, so as to better choose a hotel and plan for transport within the city.

Gare du Nord, (10th), Métro: Gare du Nord - TGV trains to and from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Cologne, Germany (Thalys), and the United Kingdom (Eurostar) and regular trains from Northern Europe.
Gare d'Austerlitz, (13th), Métro: Gare d'Austerlitz - regular trains to and from the center and southwest of France (Orléans, Limoges, Toulouse the long way), Spain and Portugal and arrival of majority of the night trains.
Gare de l'Est, (10th), Métro: Gare de l'Est - ICE/TGV to and from Saarbrücken, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart in Germany and Basel and Zurich in Switzerland.
Gare de Lyon, (12th), Métro: Gare de Lyon - regular and TGV trains to and from Southern and eastern France: French Alps, Marseille, Lyon, Dijon, Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne and Italy.
Gare St Lazare, (8th) Métro: St-Lazare - trains to and from Basse-Normandie, Haute-Normandie.
Gare Montparnasse, (15th), Métro: Montparnasse-Bienvenüe - TGV and regular trains to and from the west and south-west of France (Brest, Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse the fastest way and Spain).
The SNCF (French national railway authority) operates practically all trains within France excluding the Eurostar to London and the Thalys to Brussels and onward to the Netherlands and Germany. There are also a few local lines of high touristic interest which are privately owned. All SNCF, Eurostar and Thalys tickets can be bought in railway stations, city offices and travel agencies (no surcharge). The SNCF website is very convenient to book and buy tickets up to two months in advance. There are significant discounts if you book early. To get the best rates you should book at least four weeks ahead. Surprisingly, round trip tickets (aller-retour) with a stay over Saturday night can be cheaper than a single one-way ticket (aller simple). A very limited selection of last minute trips are published on the SNCF website every Tuesday, with discounts of more than 50%.

There are a number of different kinds of high speed and normal trains:

TER. Regional trains and normal day or night trains (no special name) operate to and from most cities in France and are usually your best bet for destinations all over France. These are the trains you'll find yourself on if you have a Eurail pass, and don't want to pay extra for reservations.
TGV. The world-famous French high-speed trains (Trains à Grande Vitesse) run several times a day to the Southeast Nice(5-6h), Marseille (3h) and Avignon (2.5 h), the East Geneva (3h) or Lausanne, Switzerland and Dijon (1h15) , the Southwest Bordeaux (3h), the West Rennes (3h) and the North Lille (less than 1h). Eurostar to London (2h15) and Thalys to Brussels (1h20) use almost identical trains.
Thalys. A high-speed train service running daily to/from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany - it can be a bit expensive compared to normal trains.
Intercity. Intercity trains leave for all parts of Europe, including overnight trains to San Sebastian in Spain, Porto and Lisbon in Portugal.
Eurostar. The Eurostar service connects Paris with London directly and Brussels indirectly, as well many other destinations indirectly through the various west European rail services. Travel time between Paris and London St Pancras International currently averages at 2 hours 15 minutes, following the opening of a new rail link in late 2007.

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2 Responses
  1. nimzoindy Says:

    I always wanted to go to best romantic city on earth (Paris).
    nimzoindy


  2. koekoeh Says:

    I wish I could be there someday...