A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Paris, France
“Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant.” -Honoré de Balzac. I mean, I kind of totally agree with you Honoré.
Paris is one of those cities that will forever be a dream travel destination for most people. The City of Lights is best known for its culinary, art, elite fashion, and architecture. There are so many things to do in Paris – have a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, head to a jazz club in Marais, get caught in the rain in Montmartre. It’s easy to wander around this romantic city and get lost in the beauty of everything that surrounds you. That’s why I’ve created this “First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Paris, France” to help you plan your trip to Paris.
When to Visit Paris
The weather in Paris is pretty mild all year but it’s best to visit during the fall when tourism is down and the temperatures are moderate. When booking your trip know that July & August are the hottest months as well as the busiest time to travel to Paris!
Things to do in Paris
This famous museum houses Da Vinci’s masterpiece Mona Lisa, among many other world-renowned art pieces. It’s a must-see when visiting Paris and I highly recommend visiting at night when the crowds are low and you can enjoy the art at your leisure.
Walk down the entirety of the Champs Elysees lined with stunning trees, and marvel at the beautiful storefronts make this one of the most fabulous shopping streets in the world. Make sure to pop into Laudree on your way to the Arc to indulge in a macaroon.
Notre Dame is one of Paris’ most iconic landmarks. I was lucky enough to visit before the fire and climbed the 422 steps to the gargoyle’s point of view at the top. I have no doubt in my mind that it will be restored to its original beauty but unfortunately, for now, there is no access to the bell towers until further notice.
The MOST iconic landmark in Paris and arguably the world. It’s situated in front of a lovely park that you can have a picnic in front of and marvel at its beauty.
If you want to climb to the top, book in advance so you are not waiting hours in line to get to the top (25 euro). If you’re on a budget, you can choose the ticket that takes you to the 2nd floor (10 euro). You can still see some stunning views from the 2nd level!
Take Pictures at The Colonnes de Buren
This courtyard is dominated by 280 black and white striped truncated columns created by artist Daniel Buren. It was one of my favorite places to visit in Paris and it makes for a perfect photo op!
Wander Around Montmartre
Montmartre is located on a large hill in Paris in the 18th arrondissement. It is well known for being an artists haven and is home to the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur. You can spend an entire afternoon exploring this gem of Paris.
Easily the best part of this guide is the breathtaking Palace of Versailles. A 17th-century palace full of opulence and surrounded by 2000 acres of beautiful garden displays. There is so much to see and do at the Palace of Versailles! I recommend spending the entire day here. We purchased our tickets from Viator and it included tours of all the palaces as well as lunch in the garden at La Petit Venise (pictured below).
Not only can you explore the main palace but there are several other palaces on the property…
The Petit Trianon
A gift to Marie Antoinette from her husband King Louis XVI. This smaller version of the Grand Trianon still boasts with stunning marble and opulent interior designs. The Temple of Love is located in the gardens (pictured above).
A retreat for King Louis the XIV and his mistress this porcelain Pavillion has some of the most stunning rooms I have ever seen. Not to mention the pink porcelain facade that is STUNNING!
The Queen’s Hamlet
Built for Marie Antoinette in 1783 this rustic retreat was built to resemble a common village so that she could live “the simple life”. It acted as a private meeting place for her close friends and still has a working farm to this day.
Best Hotels to Stay in Paris
Hotel Regina ($$$) — Location, location, location. Right across from the Louvre and some of the rooms have a view of the Eiffel Tower! It’s worth the splurge to be super accessible to all the main sights.
Hotel Le Bristol ($$$) — A luxury escape with a beautiful ambiance. The service is top-notch!
The Hoxton, Paris ($$) — Located in the 2nd arrondissement, The Hoxton is a new and noteworthy hotel that has an eclectic interior and located close to the main attractions.
Best Restaurants in Paris
Pink Mamma ($$) — (Pictured above) Amazing Italian food and a gorgeous ambiance. Prepare to wait for a table as they don’t take reservations!
Gambino ($$) — Hands down the best Italian food we have ever had. And we’ve been to Italy! We came back to this restaurant twice because of how good the pasta was. 10/10 would recommend!
Cafe de Flore ($$$) — This spot rivals Pink Mamma for most infamous cafe in Paris. It’s a great spot to visit for the ambiance and food!
Le Rooftop ($$) – Located inside the Peninsula Hotel, Le Rooftop has stunning views of the Eiffel Tower and a great place for cozy vibes.
Le Cafe Marly ($$$$) – Let’s be real, the reason why this restaurant is so notable is because of the Lourve views. But hey, it’s Paris! You have to splurge a little. This restaurant is located inside the museum and is best for lunch!
Best Bars in Paris
Bar Hemingway ($$$$) — Located in the Ritz Carlton, pricey albeit a great experience and ambiance. Ernest Hemingway used to sip his cocktails here so sign me up!
Gravity Bar ($$) — If you’re looking for a classy cocktail with friendly service (even to Americans) then this is your bar.
Moonshiner Paris ($$$) – Great little hideaway spot that is local friendly. The ambiance is always raved about and the cocktails are tasty!
How to Get Around Paris, France
There are 20 arrondissements surrounding Paris. Each arrondissement is a little unique and has its own vibe. A good starting point when traveling to Paris is the first arrondissement. It’s the center of the city with many main attractions in Paris.
Short for Métropolitain, this subway system is inexpensive and has over 300 stations to easily get around Paris. For more information including subway maps head to this post!
Vélib’ Métropole is a popular bike-sharing program all around Paris city center. Their kiosks are extremely easy to use (pictured above) and you can rent bikes by the minute. We had a little trouble finding a docking station around the 1st arrondisement during peak hours, However, I would highly recommend renting bikes to explore Paris.
Sure Paris is a HUGE city but in order to get a taste of the local life it’s best to walk and take in the sights. There is so much beauty to be seen here that if you’re in an uber you may miss some of the intricate details that make this city so beautiful.
I hope you enjoyed this “A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Paris, France” and it helps when planning your trip to Paris! If you enjoyed this, please share it with your friends and family. And for more of my travel guides head here!
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