Paris is the perfect holiday destination all year round. In fact, I enjoy my time in Paris outside of the crowded summer season so I especially like spring and autumn.There is also something beautiful about Paris during the cold winter. After my last trip to Paris I made a picture diary on the feel of the city and shared a few restaurant tips but within this post, I focus on the top things you can do in Paris, where to sleep and where to eat. So here you have it, a Paris travel guide!
Paris Travel Guide
Paris sights – the very least you should see
Paris is the kind of city that every one of us should experience it at least once as a true tourist. Some of the most amazingly beautiful and famous monuments can be found in Paris. On the other hand, it’s the best place to have a wander around the narrow alley ways and stop for a cappuccino and watch people go by.
Top things to do in Paris: Which sights are worth experiencing and how?
1. The Eiffel Tower
One of the top things to do in Paris is, of course, visiting the Eiffel Tower. The world’s most famous attraction was opened to the public in 1889. The 324 meter tower has been visited by over 240 million people. The Eiffel Tower is located in the park Champ de Mars which is situated in Paris on the south side of the river Seine.
Most people want to see the Parisian view from the third floor of the Eiffel Tower but in my own opinion, you can enjoy the tower at its best by walking along the river Seine. The view from the Eiffel Tower is not really anything special compared to the actual tower itself.I do recommend also seeing the tower after sunset as they light it up brilliantly and the lights sparkle every hour to add on to the romantic feel of the city.
I recommend purchasing skip the line tickets for all Parisian sights. Buy your skip the line tickets to the second floor if the Eiffel Tower.
If you would like to enjoy a very romantic evening with your loved one then I recommend spending your evening at the Eiffel Tower’s first floor restaurant. The dining menu includes three or four courses and a glass of champagne or wine. Book your romantic Eiffel Tower dinner here.
2. The Arc de Triomphe
Our Paris travel guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Arc de Triomphe, another classic Parisian sight and certainly one of the top things to see! The Arc de Triomphe was built by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806. The arch is located within the Place Charles de Gaulle square a stone’s throw away from Champs Elysee. Many travellers admire the triumphal arch from a far as it’s located in the middle of a roundabout but from the top of the arch you can see a beautiful view of Paris, especially during sunset. To get to the top there is a 50 meter spiral staircase with small steps to use – but it’s most likely worth it! Those with reduced mobility, please note that there is also an elevator to use!
3. Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris has always excited me more than any other attraction in the city. The mystical story of The Hunchback is both dark and intriguing. The gothic Notre-Dame is located on the Island of le de la Citén in the middle of the Seine river. The building of the cathedral started at 1163 and it was finished in 1345. There are 14 million tourists visiting the Notre Dame every year and the queues are very long all year round. Entering the cathedral is free of charge, however, as with other attractions, the skip the line -ticket is well worth it, unless you would like to spend hours every day in queues. You can buy the skip the line ticket to Notre-Dame de Paris here.
Pro-tip: The most interesting part of the cathedral are the balconies with their Gargoyle statues. If you would like to see the balconies and visit the clock tower, do not enter the long queue in-front of the cathedral at all. There is a separate queue for the balconies on the side of the cathedral. Download the free ‘DucktTheLine’ mobile app when in close to the Notre-Dame, and it will offer you the chance to book your own entrance slot to the staircase. You can have a sit and enjoy a coffee in the café opposite and let the mobile app tell you when it is your turn to climb up the clock tower.
Climbing up to the balconies will require some effort, as the spiral staircase is almost 400 narrow steps long. After just a few steps you will reach information, from where you can buy a 10 euro entrance ticket. Under 26 year olds can go up for free. Nowadays the balconies are equipped with iron netting, that slightly dampens the mood, but in my opinion the most interesting place of the cathedral is the balconies with its Gargoyles.
Sacré Coeur’s basilica is located in the romantic part of Paris on top of a hill in a place called Montmartre. I have never actually been inside the basilica but besides its great architecture, there is a fantastic view that opens up from the top of the hill over-looking the city’s roof tops. There is of course a lot to see inside the church as well, as on the ceiling is the world’s largest mosaic called The Sacred Heart of Jesus. There is also the world’s largest church bells that weigh-in a whopping 18,835 kilos.
If you came here to enjoy the fantastic views then in my opinion, the views are best seen during sunset. I like to walk up to the top by using the steps that can be found in between the sweet little alley ways of Montemartre but nowadays you can find your way up there by using the funicular. This stunning sight is not to be missed and is certainly high on my list of top things to do in Paris!
The Louvre art museum is Paris’ largest and is in fact a bit too big for my liking if you are only visiting Paris for a few days as it measures to about 160,000 square meters. The museum is situated within the heart of Paris which is on the right side of the river Seine between the first arrondissements of Rue de Rivoli (arrondissements are used to separate different parts of the city).
The Louvre is known for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting and many would like to see this just once in their life time. Even though the art museum is wonderful to walk around and take your time in, the fact is the museum is such a huge complex that if you would like to get more out of it then I suggest taking the two hour tour with a guide. Buy a tour here.
In my opinion, a more interesting art museum in Paris is in fact Musée d’Orsay.
Another top place to see in Paris is, of course, Versailles. The palace of Versailles offers a lot to see but I don’t feel the need to visit this place again if I travel to Paris. If the opulent history interests you then you should definitely visit. The gardens behind the palace are actually moreof interest to me than the palace.
To visit the palace like the other popular sights of Paris, I recommend buying a ticket to skip the line. You can buy a ticket to Versailles here.
7. Moulin Rouge
I do hope that every traveller gets to experience at least once in their lifetime a cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge. Moulin Rouge is a famous symbol of Paris’ bohemian life and of course is known to many for the movie made within its surroundings.
Many travellers walk by the Moulin Rouge and just take a photo, but I strongly recommend booking an evening show. You can even buy a ticket including champagne. It’ll truly be a highlight of your trip, and one of the most memorable things you’ll get to do in Paris!
Paris Travel Guide
Where to eat in Paris: Restaurant tips for Paris: my very own favourite places
Indulging in the French cuisine should certainly be on your Paris ‘to do’ list. The choice of restaurants and cafes will get your head spinning, so I’ve put together a little guide into the best places to eat while in the French capital.
Paris is one of those cities where you should look up restaurants in advance through for example TripAdvisor or Instagram’s @topparisresto. Cafés, on the other hand, are on every little corner of Paris and every one of them offers a perfect Parisian experience. On our last trip to Paris, we managed luckily to only visit really good restaurants.
Oriental evening – Shouk
Shouk is a relatively new oriental dining restaurant near the Saint-Martin canal. It is strongly advised to make dinner reservations in advance, however if you arrive early there is often room for a small party of two or three people. The French enjoy dinner usually later than us Finns. At Shouk I would recommend ordering several dishes to share with the whole party. Special cocktails are also definitely worth trying!
59 Rue de Lancry
+33 9 87 57 87 68
Perfectly French atmosphere and crepes dessert of your dreams: Lulu La Nantaise
We walked into the small and sweet Lulu La Nantaise perfectly by accident, but ever since it has been a place that I refuse to miss on any trip to Paris. A small local restaurant with red walls and dim lighting with jazz playing in the background is a moment of perfection in French ambiance. Lulu La Nantaise serves both sweet and salty crepes. My personal favourite is sweet crepes topped with whipped cream and roasted almonds.67
67 Rue de Lancry
+33 1 42 41 39 71
Breakfast dream for the Millenial Instagrammer: Ob-La-Di
Ob-La-Di is a small coffee shop with Japanese owners, that is unlikely to be missed by accident. On top of the trendy interior and menu, all the pastries and breads are baked on the spot and they have also put some serious focus on the quality of the coffee, which makes it worth visiting for breakfast on your trip to Paris. In the cultural sense though breakfast is usually no more than a croissant and an espresso.
54 Rue de Saintonge
The trendy brunch dream: Season Paris
I asked my Instagram followers for tips on where to eat in Paris before my trip and almost everyone recommended brunch at the Season. Season Paris is another very photogenic trendy place which serves smoothie bowls, avocado toast and deliciously sweet pancakes. The restaurant is really popular with the locals as well as tourists so be prepared to queue at the most busiest hours. You should think about benefiting an early weekend to visit here as Parisians are never up and about too early.
1 Rue Charles-François Dupuis
+33 9 67 17 52 97
Perfect dinner restaurant: La Bécane à Gaston
La Bécane à Gaston I can whole heartedly recommend for the traveller who is hoping for an authentic experience. The family owned restaurant makes all the food from scratch both for the stomach and soul. The restaurant is tiny so you will need to make a reservation in advance. There was just the two of us and we were really lucky to get a table without a reservation. We enjoyed our delicious pasta dishes before we had the best tiramisu of our lives.
24 Rue Lucien Sampaix
+33 9 80 73 22 98
Aamiainen: Season Paris
Where to eat in Paris: Restaurant tips for Paris: from a local’s perspective
A New York fashion designer called Nicole has called Paris her home for years now and she kindly wanted to share her own recommendations for cafés, bars and restaurants with my readers. On this list are a lot of unique places which are definitely worth a visit!
- Where the movie Amelie was filmed: Café des Deux Moulins
- Bar where you get to sing old French songs: Au Lapin Agile
- Instagram friendly cafe: Peonies
- Trendy cafe and breakfast spot: Republique of Coffee
- Zia Paris
- Le Pavillon des Canaux
- Lone Palm
- Speak-easy:: Lavomatic
- Le Comptoir Général (can be hard to find)
- Best rooftop bar: Le Perchoir du Marais
Where to stay in Paris? Tips for every budget!
Choosing a place to stay in Paris can be tricky. Paris is a large city where the distances are long. There is no exact centre in Paris as the city has been divided into 20 arrondissements. The arrondissements start from the center of the city with number one and from there to number seven are located the most known monuments. My own personal favourite areas in Paris are the romantic Les Marais and Montmartre, the trendy Belleville and Oberkampf as well as the first arrondissement with its monuments.
Hotels in Paris aren’t cheap and many average priced hotels can be quite dissatisfactory and for this reason I stayed in a hostel. If you’re still trying to decide where to stay in Paris, read my accommodation recommendations below!
3 x hostel tips in Paris:
1. Generator Hostel: Nowadays while travelling within Europe, I stay at the Generator hostels more than any other chain of hostels that are around. Generator is a trendy and affordable hostel chain which are usually situated in the capital as close as possible to where everything happens. While staying in Paris, we stayed here but not in a dorm, but in a premium room with a balcony which cost around 80 euros a night. This hostel is listed as the number one hostel on numerous travel guides.
2. Les Piaules: Founded and owned by three Parisian travellers, this trendy hostel is situated within the trendy area called Belleville. Belleville is full of lovely cafés situated at every corner you turn. At this hostel you can find dorm rooms as well as private rooms. Also, this hostel has a roof top where you can see over Paris’ roof tops.
3. St Christopher’s Inn Paris: St Christopher’s is one of the cities most popular hostels and its location is very practical. The hostel is situated near the Gare du Nord station. You can find reasonably nice dorm rooms as well as private rooms. However, this hostel is most definitely the cities most party central hostel, so if you are looking for a peaceful time then I recommend choosing one of the two above.
3 x average price hotel in Paris:
1. Esmeralda: Esmeralda is located a stone’s throw away from the Notre Dame and for just its location, its an excellent choice. The hotel has an old French feel to it but its over the top rosy wallpaper and old tiny beds might not be to everyone’s taste.
2. The cat friendly Hotel Vivienne: I think of the Vivienne everytime I visit but still I have not yet stayed there. The Vivienne is a stylish hotel where a fe sweet cats stay as well. The hotel’s price and quality are at an excellent rate. The hotel’s location is great and is next to a metro stop.
3. The Hoxton: Extremely stylish and modern Hoxton is an excellent choice for a friend of the arts as the hotel is at walking distance from the Louvre. Here you will really get your money’s worth.
3 x luxurious hotels in Paris:
1. Hôtel Ritz: Historically this hotel is probably the most significant hotel in Paris for example it was Coco Chanel’s home for some time. The hotel also has a Michelin star restaurant. I, myself will probably never be able to afford to stay here but one can always dream.
2. Four Seasons Hotel George V: These are a chain of hotels that you can always rely on for their extravagance. Not the most usual luxurious hotel as it’s Europe’s only hotel that holds 5 Michelin stars at its restaurants. The reason why I would stay here would be for it’s 50 000 bottle wine cellar… I’m just saying.
3. Shangri-La Hotel Paris: If you are one of many who dream of looking out their hotel room’s window and seeing the Eiffel Tower, then Shangri-La would be the perfect choice for you. The hotel’s room rate starts at 500 euros a night. You can also enjoy the view from the hotel’s rooftop.
Getting around Paris: taxis and public transportation
Getting around Paris is in my opinion, much easier than what it seems when seeing the metro map for the first time. I recommend using Google Maps to help you figure out the public transportation routes.We travelled almost exclusively by metro around Paris, but occasionally we took an Uber which also works brilliantly within the city — except during rush hour.
For using the metro, you should buy a 3-7 day card so that you are not queueing at every trip you take for a ticket. At every station there is an automat where you can buy a card. The metro card is chosen by zones and for most tourists, zones 1-3 are enough and for 3 days it will cost you roughly 27 euros.
From the Charles de Gaulle airport, the fastest way into the city is by train, but try and choose the train that doesn’t stop every now and again between the airport and its last stop. Unfortunately, outskirts of Paris are some areas that are not safe for travellers and some trains stop at these places which can make your trip unsafe. I often use the Blacklane service so I can prebook myself a lift from anywhere around the world. Find out more on Blacklane service here.
How expensive is it to travel to Paris? Paris price range
Paris is a pricy destination, but also with a lot of budget options for eating out and public transport. The largest expense in Paris has to be accommodation as especially during the summer, the cities hotel prices shoot up extensively.
Accommodation prices per night range at 80-400 euros. Dining at a restaurant is cheaper than at home, for example the price on beer is roughly around 5.50 € and a meal 13 €.
And there you have, a guide to my top things to do in Paris, complete with a list of mouth-watering restaurant options and places to sleep, perfect for every budget.