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First time guide to Paris: Tips and tricks

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    Key takeaways

    • Be sure to keep euros on hand for cafés, markets and tipping.
    • Plan your itinerary in advance so you can get tickets to the attractions you want to see.
    • Familiarize yourself with the Paris metro, but also plan to stroll around the city to take in the sights and stumble across hidden gems.

    Paris is one of the most-visited cities in the world—and for good reason. There’s beautiful architecture, countless museums and endless bistros and cafés with authentic Parisian ambience.

    Read on to learn the best times to visit the “City of Love”, how to prepare for your trip and the most popular attractions.

    Best times to visit Paris

    June to August is considered one of the best timeframes to visit Paris due to the weather. You’ll get plenty of sunshine and the average high temperature sits in the high 70s.

    This is also considered tourist season, so popular attractions may be busier. However, many Parisians get annual leave from work in August, so there may be less local foot traffic during that time.

    There are pros and cons to any season in Paris, but here are some guidelines to help you plan your trip:

    • For potentially better travel rates and shorter lines to see attractions, plan your visit in the fall.
    • School holidays and weekends are much busier, so consider these dates when planning your trip and specific excursions to museums or monuments.
    • Buy advance tickets to museums and attractions so you can hit as much of your desired itinerary as possible.

    Tips for getting around Paris

    Paris is organized by different neighborhoods (called arrondissements). The first arrondissement—home to the Louvre Museum—is in the center of the city. The remainder are arranged in a clockwise spiral sometimes referred to as a snail pattern.

    Many of the most popular attractions are near the middle of the city, so many visitors start in the city center and work their way outward. It takes about an hour to walk from one end of the city to the other if you want to stroll and see where the day takes you.

    But if you do want to stick to a more structured itinerary, Paris also has an accessible metro system with over 300 stations across the city. The metro, buses, RER (high-speed) trains and trams all use the same ticketing system, with basic tickets costing about two euros per ride.

    Visitors can purchase a “Paris Visite Pass” from metro stations, which offers unlimited public transportation rides for up to five consecutive days depending on the pass.

    Things to do in Paris

    Whether you’re a history buff or simply want to indulge in Parisian cuisine, there are plenty of things to do in Paris. Below, we detail some popular attractions:

    The Eiffel Tower

    The Eiffel Tower is the quintessential monument to visit once you touch down in France. Located in the seventh arrondissement, the tower sparkles every hour on the hour after sunset, providing the perfect photo opportunity.

    Some visitors prefer skipping a trip up the actual tower due to longer lines. If you do want to experience the views atop the Eiffel Tower, you can buy advance tickets online to streamline the process.


    Notre-Dame is a medieval Catholic cathedral in the fourth arrondissement. It’s considered one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture, though many may recognize it primarily from Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (which is based on Victor Hugo’s book of the same name).

    The cathedral will be under renovation until December 8, 2024, due to a fire in 2019, but it’s still worth viewing the architecture and spending some time in Notre Dame square.

    Arc de Triomphe

    The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile in the eighth arrondissement is another one of France’s most famous monuments. It’s located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, a well-known avenue in Paris, and honors those who fought in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.

    After you explore the interior of the monument, you can visit the many theatres, cafés and luxury shops along the Champs-Élysées.


    Montmartre is a hill in Paris’ northern eighteenth arrondissement known for its artistic history and winding, cobblestone streets. Be sure to visit the white-domed Sacré-Cœur basilica while you’re there, as it’s free to enter and boasts impressive Mosaic artwork inside.

    You can visit one of the area’s many cafés or vineyards during the day before heading to the Moulin Rouge for a cabaret show at night. Montmartre is a well-known Paris nightclub district too, so there’s no shortage of things to do regardless of what time of day you visit.

    The Siene

    The Seine is the third-largest river in France. It flows through the heart of Paris along the border of 10 arrondissements and divides the “left bank” and “right bank” of the city.

    Both locals and tourists frequently spend time on benches or under trees along the Seine during the spring and summer. Start your morning with a coffee and a stroll along the Seine or have a relaxing afternoon with a picnic complete with French wine and cheeses.

    Paris museums

    There are so many museums to visit in Paris that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If you plan to visit at least a few of them, consider getting a Paris Museum Pass, which provides access to over 50 popular museums and monuments.

    You can opt for a two-day, four-day or six-day pass. Each pass provides free admission to a wide range of museums within that time frame (allows one entry to each site). Visit for more information.

    While it’s difficult to narrow down the best museums, here are a few you won’t want to miss:

    • The Louvre Museum for classics like the Mona Lisa
    • The Palace of Versailles for its impressive interior and beautiful gardens
    • Musée d'Orsay for its range of paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography
    • Musée Picasso art gallery for its extensive Picasso collection and the architecture of the Hôtel Salé
    • Centre Pompidou for Europe’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art

    French bistros

    A bistro is a small, casual restaurant that typically offers moderately priced simple food and drinks. Bistros offer a less formal, more authentic Parisian dining experience.

    A few must-visit bistros include:

    • La Fontaine de Mars: A popular option often recommended by guidebooks. Includes outdoor seating where you can see the top of the Eiffel Tower.
    • Le Bon Georges: A much newer bistro than many of the standby favorites. Offers traditional dinners, an elaborate wine menu and a dining room for parties larger than 12.
    • Les Parisiens: A low-lit establishment with gorgeous Art Deco-style mosaic flooring in the Pavillon Faubourg St.-Germain hotel.

    Don’t feel pressured to dine at the most popular options, though. There are plenty of hidden gems you can stumble upon strolling through the city.

    In summary

    Paris is a city with a lot to offer in terms of art, history and cuisine. It’s most crowded during the summer months, but there are upsides to visiting during any season thanks to its cozy winters and beautiful foliage the rest of the year.

    Be sure to bring euros, prepare to take the metro, and plan your itinerary in advance for the most stress-free trip possible.

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