Paris has two main international airports with many flight options. Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport is Paris’ main international airport serving most flights, located about 30 km from the city center. Orly (ORY) is the other international airport, but is smaller and only about 18 km from the city center.
The metro system in Paris is very easy to navigate. There are different types of passes to purchase depending on how often you plan to use the Metro. I would recommend purchasing the 10 ride pass if you plan to use it a lot. As the city is very large, leveraging the metro can help save travel time and make it easy to see more of the city in a short time period.
We walked almost everywhere in Paris, but would not recommend this if you are short on time or do not enjoy long walks. The city is large so with limited time, it would be better to use the metro to reach places and then walk around various areas.
Ride sharing is an option in Paris and can be helpful when in a time crunch or when looking for a simple mode of transportation.
Paris is very large and is broken up into 20 arrondissements. Try to stay relatively central to make it easier to explore the city. We stayed in the 7th arrondissement, which was a very convenient location. I would also recommend looking even closer to the Latin Quarter, found in the 6th, as the Latin Quarter is a great area for meals with its assortment of restaurants, bars, wine bars, and more.
To visit the Eiffel tower, it is important to know that there are three different levels. The first level is one most people do not typically stop at when visiting, the second level provides a good view point, and the third level is the summit. You can buy different types of tickets (providing access to different levels). We purchased tickets in advance, but had to purchase our summit tickets on the second level during our visit because in the summer, the summit occasionally closes when it gets too crowded at the top. The summit then reopens when the area becomes less busy.
If you’re going during busy season, BOOK TICKETS IN ADVANCE. We waited too long so we had to book ours with a tour group. This worked okay, but then we had to wait to purchased tickets on the second floor to reach the summit.
There are two sets of security and the time waiting is largely dictated by security and also by the elevators. You CAN climb to the second level if you’d like. However, we decided to take the elevator up and walk down.
Park at bottom of Eiffel Tower. Sit on the lawn here to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night.
The arch is beautiful from the outside and visitors can also climb to the top for a view of Paris. To climb to the top, you must go underground to buy tickets; you are then brought back up to street level at the center of the roundabout. There are just under 300 steps to get to the top and it has a nice view. You can enjoy the view during the day or at night. Be sure to catch the Eiffel Tower sparkling for 5 minutes on the hour after sunset if you go at night.
Market street in wealthy district near Eiffel Tower
Beautiful Catholic cathedral in the 4th arrondissement. Unfortunately, in April 2019, the cathedral caught fire and a lot of the church burned and is now under restoration.
Commonly recognized for the giant pyramid outside, the Louvre is the largest museum in the world holding many famous pieces of art. When visiting, keep in mind that there are multiple entrances. The pyramid is the entrance most visitors use. For this reason, there will almost always be a line at the pyramid entrance. I would recommend taking your pictures at the pyramid as desired, and then finding the Carrousel entrance. When facing the large pyramid, this is just past the mini arch on both the left and right side. There are stairs that go underground; take these stairs and then follow signs to the museum. This will allow you to skip most of the long line. For us there was also a line inside to get through security, but definitely saved time.
Before visiting, be sure to check museum hours as they can vary (i.e. I believe Wednesday and Fridays it is open late, while it is completely closed on Tuesdays).
Consider downloading the app before visiting. This will help you navigate throughout the massive museum. We got lost multiple times without the app and did not find the hard copy museum map to be very helpful.
Mona Lisa: Leonardo da Vinci
The Wedding at Cana: Paolo Veronese [right across from the Mona Lisa]
Venus de Milo
The Winged Victory of Samothrace [found in staircase not far from the Mona Lisa]
The Coronation of Napoleon: Jacques-Louis David
Liberty Leading the People: Eugene Delacroix
Psyche Revived by the Kiss of Love: Antonio Canova
Le Couronnement de la Vierge: Fra Angelico
The Raft and the Medusa
Two of Michelangelo’s Dying Slaves
Park near the Louvre
Famous and large shopping street that leads up to Arc de Triomphe
Square near Sacre-Coeur where artists set up stands to sell their work. It has a nice vibe and some beautiful pieces of art
Large hill found in the 18th arrondissement and Sacre-Coeur sits at the top of the hill
The second most visited church in Paris behind Notre Dame
Gothic cathedral with beautiful stained glass windows on the interior
Medieval royal palace
First major monument in Paris located in the Latin Quarter
Church near Pantheon
Building complex consisting of museums and monuments in the 7th arrondissement
Beautiful park in Paris located in the 6th arrondissement
Fun area to walk around in and a great place for dinner and drinks. There are lots of restaurants and bars in the area making it an excellent place to stay if you want easy options at night.
Modern art museum
Historic site and museum
Bridge between Grand Palais and Hotel des Invalides
Famous square in Paris where the Bastille prison once stood
Largest square in Paris
Another famous art museum in Paris, not far from the Louvre with famous art pieces by Monet among others
Art gallery with impressionist and post-impressionist paintings
Oldest bridge in Paris across the Seine
Former love lock bridge
An elevated city garden running for about 3 miles on old train tracks located in the 12 arrondissement. There is an entrance near the Opera Bastille
Some colorful houses on this street (far away from most touristy sights aside from Place de la Bastille and one end of Promenade Plantee).
The Palace of Versailles is a common day trip from Paris. Visitors admire the interior and exterior of the palace, the rooms inside (especially the Hall of Mirrors), and the beautiful and extensive gardens. Note that the gardens are free some days, while you have to pay other days (pay on days where there is a fountain and music show).
If visiting in the summer, GET THERE EARLY, or be prepared to wait in long lines. We had tickets already and had to wait 1.5 hours just to get into the palace because the line to enter outside was so long. When we left, about midday, the line was shorter for entering the palace (probably about a 45-minute wait). If the line is long, consider trying to visit the gardens first and then access the palace when the line gets shorter.
Getting there: Take the RER C to Versailles stop (last stop). Then walk about 10 minutes to reach Versailles.
Village in Normandy region where artist Monet spent part of his life. The famous gardens he painted can be visited here
Region located in Northern France and is home to the famous site where the D-Day landing occurred during WWII
The city of Reims is the capital of the Champagne region in France. The surrounding area is the only place in the world where Champagne is made. In any other region, the beverage produced would be called sparkling wine. Epernay is a small town famous for hosting numerous Champagne company cellars.
We took an organized day trip from Paris, which included a stop in Reims and at two champagne producers. The champagne producers we visited were Mumm and Mercier, which were both very nice and included a tour and tasting. Our group was larger than desired so I would recommend booking a small group tour to make the experience more enjoyable. This gives you more time and can visit more places. It would also make the trip a more personalized experience.
Small city on the southwestern side of France known for its wine region
This region of France is known for its chateaux and wines. To make this an easy day-trip from Paris, we went through a guided tour group (Paris City Vision) and visited three castles. This was a long day as it started around 7:15 am and we got back to Paris around 19:45. We had a short amount of visiting time at each castle, but enough time that we did not feel rushed. The three chateaux we visited were Chambord, Chenonceau, and Cheverny, which were each different and unique. It was interesting to compare and contrast the various castles visited.
Small island off the coast of Normandy with a medieval monastery sitting at the top of the island
Very typical French restaurant with two different locations (we visited the one located in the Latin Quarter). There are no menus, no reservations, and often lines outside. You are first served a small salad. Then you receive some steak with a sauce and skinny fries, and then the waitress comes around again and gives you more of both. There is a menu for dessert, but that is it.
Excellent crepe place found in the Latin Quarter. It is small and often has lines later so try to get there early or plan to wait.
Cute Italian place (but more options than just Italian) set up like a house. It is located in the Latin Quarter, which is a fun area, so many people like just coming here for drinks as well.
Delicious Italian restaurant near the 8th and 9th arrondissement
Cute little Italian place
Variety of food options, located in Latin Quarter
Grab snacks and wine and bring them to the Eiffel Tower and night to enjoy and watch the Tower sparkle
Macaroon shop that also is a nice place to sit and have a tea
Desserts and macaroons
Macaroons with more exotic flavors
Consider buying the Museum Pass if you plan to hit a bunch of the major sights in Paris as it can help you skip lines and save money. Keep In mind, if you are an EU citizen, you can get into most Paris sights for free; bring your passport with you to get free access.
Paris is very large with lots to do. You could spend 3 days trying to pack the main attractions in and feel like you have seen what you like, or you could stay for a week and still have plenty to do. We stayed for 7 days and 8 nights; we explored the city and also planned 3 day trips (Reims, Loire Valley, and Versailles). Versailles is a must when you come to Paris, the others were extras that we were interested in visiting. We also considered visiting Normandy, but it was a bit further away (3.5 hours outside the city) so we decided to save that for another trip.
French foods to try: Croissants, Crepes, Baguettes, Duck, Macaroons, Champagne, French wine
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks