Paris travel guide
Described as the most romantic city in the world, Paris is often number one on lists of the world’s best cities. With more landmarks and iconic buildings and museums than anywhere else, it’s no surprise the Paris is one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Art is a big deal to Parisians, and who can blame them? Firstly, they reside in one of the most picturesque cities of all time, full of style and atmosphere, it’s no wonder that there are so many artistes, watching the world pass by as they wait to get inspired by their surroundings. Walk through the narrow streets of Montmartre, in Paris’s 18th arrondissement and see these artists sketching in roadside cafés, conversing over pots of steaming coffee, and performing on the streets. Perhaps even more importantly, art is highly revered in Paris, which is home to some of the most impressive and famous museums and galleries in the world. The Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou, the list is endless.
If it’s fashion you’re after, you won’t have to look far, as you’re in the home of haute couture. Head to the Saint-Honoré district where the most chic of boutiques operate, selling one-off creations as well as high street designer fare. Paris Fashion Week is one of the fashion world’s biggest events.
Inspiring architecture is another accolade to add to Paris’s belt. From the gothic façade of Notre Dame and the so-ugly-its-pretty Eiffel Tower to the art deco and art nouveau buildings, metro boards and road signs.
And once you’ve exhausted yourself by exploring all the treasures that Paris has to offer, you may find that the real treasure is Paris itself. The city has an enchanting atmosphere that you can lose yourself in as you stroll up the Champs-Elysée to the bustling roundabout that encircles the Arc de Triomphe. Strolling through the winding backstreets may lead to many discoveries: a subtle architectural feature, a cosy café or intimate patisserie, a stylish and forgotten art deco fountain. Whatever you find, it is likely that you will never want to leave.
Paris has a continental climate, with temperatures reaching as high as 25°C in July/August and falling to as low as -15°C in January/February. Rain is common all year round.
Spring is the best time to visit Paris, as it will ensure the weather is warm so that it is pleasant to walk through the city but not as hot as high summer when the heat often emphasises the smells from the River Seine. It is also a good time to go in order to avoid the summer tourist peak.
Paris, however, is mainly an indoor city. There are so many galleries, buildings and museums to visit, that time spent outdoors can be kept to a minimum, making it possible to visit even in the colder, wetter winter months. However, if you’re looking to take in the atmosphere of the city, by strolling around and soaking up the culture, it is best to travel in the warmer months.
For the latest weather info use the Pampo weather forecast tool.
Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) is France’s main airport, situated 16 miles north-east of Paris. Paris-Orly Airport (ORY) is the country’s second busiest, with both domestic and international flights, located 13 miles south of Paris. Both of these have easy transport links to the city centre. Paris Beauvais Tillé Airport (BVA) is about 50 miles north of Paris. It serves several budget airlines flyin to Paris.
The Eiffel Tower. Gustave Eiffel’s masterpiece of architecture that dominates Paris’s skyline and remains one of the most iconic structures ever built. Originally shrouded in controversy over its modernist style, it gradually became accepted as a stunning success. It is France’s biggest tourist spot, often with extremely long queues. A night visit can be rewarding – not just for its magnificent 360° view of Paris’s lights, but for the shorter queues.
Place de la Concorde. At the start of the Champs-Elysés is this famous square with its Egyptian obelisk.
Jardin des Tuileries. After climbing the dizzying (and exhausting) heights of the Eiffel Tower itself (although there is an elevator), the Jardin des Tuileries are an exquisite place to relax: a lush splash of green amid the teeming, modern city, the park is a place of calm, natural respite.
Notre Dame. A magnificent example of gothic architecture, with frightening gargoyles and some of the world’s first flying buttresses. Notre Dame has a fascinating history, as well as a well-earned place in Paris’s culture.
Arc de Triomphe. Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 and completed 30 years later, the magnificent arch was built to commemorate the general’s victories. It is now also the site of a war memorial, housing the remains of an unknown WWI soldier.
The Louvre. Perhaps the world’s most famous museum, containing what is undoubtedly the world’s most famous work of art, the Mona Lisa, the Louvre can also claim to be a work of art in itself. With it’s iconic (and now famous, courtesy of Dan Brown) glass pyramids by the architect I. M. Pei, and with its galleries decorated by leading modern artists, including Cy Twombly and Joseph Kosuth, the museum lives and breathes the spirit of art.
Musée d’Orsay. An unusual and exhilarating museum experience, the Musée d’Orsay displays its spectacular collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art in an old railway station on the waterfront. Holding pieces that include Monet’s Blue Water Lilies and Degas’s L’Absinthe, it is another unmissable stop along the Paris art route.
Centre Georges Pompidou. One of the world’s most established and successful arts and cultural centres, the Centre Pompidou holds the Public Library and National Modern Art Museum and IRCAM, a music and acoustic research centre.
Monmartre. Paris’s artists’ quarter, Monmartre was home to the Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and the art nouveau scene of the late 19th century. It is now a bustling, exciting collection of winding streets, picturesque architecture, local art markets and busy cafés.
The Paris Metro system is expansive and efficient, probably the best way to travel from A to B. If you prefer taking in the sights of the city as you travel, buses are another option, although these of course are subject to traffic. Bus services are also significantly reduced on Sundays and public holidays. Your best bet in terms of tickets is to purchase either a combined travel pass, that allows unlimited use of the metro, RER and buses for set period of time.
Au Rocher de Cancale is an atmospheric restaurant established in 1846 and located in what used to be the old oyster market. Serving fresh oysters and good value wine, you can be sure of authentic good food.
Chez Marie is another out of the way treasure, nestles away in the 18 arrondissement. Decorated with theatre posters, this little restaurant serves simple, delicious French cuisine.
If, however, you’re looking for an upscale meal, The Blue Elephant is the place to see and be seen. Boasting an indoor rainforest, this famous restaurant serves spicy and delicious – is overpriced – Thai food.
Another of Paris’s popular eateries is the Brasserie Bofinger, where, seated under the glass cupola, you are just as likely to see Madonna as snippets of astonishingly normal Parisian life. L’Escargot is another hotspot, its green façade featuring a large golden snail. Serving first-class French cuisine, here is the place where you can be served snails, lobster and the perfect chateaubriand.