Paris is my favourite city in the world, so naturally, I have come to explore it. This is my ultimate city travel guide to Paris, complete with districts, accomodation, food, shopping and excursions suggestions.
PARIS: THE ULTIMATE TRAVELLERS CITY GUIDE
When someone asks where my favourite place is, Paris is there at the top of my mind. Of course, many people experience Paris in completely different ways.
Honestly my first experience was not the greatest.
My expectations were so high and I’d not done enough research to find the best places that were right for me. Over the years I have had plenty of people tell me they hated Paris. When I prompt them to find out why I soon discover that they ticked off a bunch of tourist highlights and didn’t find the charms of the city. Because of this, I have spent time researching places to stay, eat and spend time that I can recommend.
WHEN TO VISIT PARIS
June through to August is the high season in Paris. The main attractions get a LOT of tourist traffic and accomodation books up quickly. You have to be a little savvy. Want to go to the Louvre? There is a way to buy a ticket without waiting in line. (I’ll get to those tips!) Want to get a photo in front of a monument without a billion other people in it? There’s a trick to that too.
My first tip is not to try to fit a visit into a few days, particularly not the first time. Aim for five nights at least!
WHERE TO STAY
When looking for accomodation in Paris, it can get a little overwhelming. There are of course hotels for every budget, however, overall Paris is not a cheap city so taking time to do your research is something I highly recommend.
During my travels I have stayed in Paris’ biggest hostel, boutique hotels, very old hotels and apartments with Airbnb. The first thing I decide is which area I want to stay in. As Paris is broken up into twenty arrondissements, the first choice is to work out which is the best one for your stay.
FIRST, CHOOSE WHICH ARRONDISSEMENT TO STAY IN
The central arrondissements (1st through to the 9th), will cost more per night but I found that staying in some of the outer arrondissements meant I paid more in transportation on a daily basis. The cost of being further away from the places I want to spend time in often outweigh the extra costs in accomodation.
There are some arrondissements that I would avoid, namely the 1st or 7th, which, though close to the Eiffel Tower and Louvre is what I would call a potential tourist trap. If you are after a comfortable tourist catered experience it is not a problem. A lot of people want the convenience of the key sights within close walking distance.
Personally I love to stay in Le Marais, the 3rd and 4th. Alternatively, try the 5th or 6th- the Latin Quarter and Saint Germain, the 9th or 10th – Opera and Canal St. Martin. One of my favourite spots was to stay in Pigalle, to the North, near Montmartre.
LUXURY HOTELS VS BOUTIQUE HOTELS
There are a number of stunning luxury hotels to chose from, which can set you back a sizeable chunk of your travel budget, but can offer magical stays. We have all seen those incredible rooms with Eiffel Tower views, flower filled balconies and luxurious four poster beds.
Personally, unless I was stopping over for a night or two, I am not so likely to book into one of these luxury hotels. Paris has incredible boutique hotels that I would love to check off of my visit list little by little. Rooms are generally small, but the locations are central and the designs stunning.
Side Note: If you are heading to Paris from the UK or Holland via the train, you may consider booking accomodation within walking distance of the Gare du Nord.
MY PICKS OF THE BEST PARISIAN BOUTIQUE HOTELS
Hotel Particulier Montmartre, a dreamy hotel complete with gardens in Montmartre, Pavillon D, 23 Avenue Junot, 75018
Hotel Paradis Paris, half way between the Gare du Nord railway station and the prestigious Opéra Garnier in Paris, a boutique hotel, 41, rue des Petites-Écuries 75010
9Opera Hotel, I quite enjoyed our stay here, we were upgraded to a superior room, the facilities are nice. 14 Rue Papillon, 75009
Grand Pigalle Hotel, a boutique hotel and wine bar located in South Pigalle in the 9th arrondissement, 29 Rue Victor Massé, 75009
Hotel Panache, a chic new hotel in the 10th arrondissement perfect for exploring the opera district, 1 Rue Geoffroy-Marie, 75009
C.O.Q Hotel, stands for Community of Quality, a creative, laid-back, boutique hotel, 15 Rue Edouard Manet, 75013
Hotel Bienvenue, opening this month! Excited to see this one, owned by the same people as Panache and Paradis, 23 Rue Buffault, 75009
Grand Amour, another unique spot! 18 Rue de la Fidélité, 75010
Hotel Amour, South of Pigalle, for anyone who isn’t going to be offended by erotic photos and fun artwork, 8 Rue de Navarin, 75009
A GUIDE TO PARIS ARRONDISSEMENTS
ARRONDISSEMENTS AND WHAT YOU WILL FIND IN EACH
1st: The Louvre, Les Halles and the Palais Royal
3rd – 4th: Le Marais -old Jewish quarter oldest private house of Paris built in 1407 on rue de Montmorency, Les Archives Nationales, Centre Georges Pompidou, Hôtel de Ville, Le Marais, Notre-Dame de Paris, Saint-Louis-en-l’Île Church, Place de la Bastille (shared with 11th and 12th arrondissements), Place des Vosges (shared with 4th arrondissement).
5th: The Latin Quarter – Sorbonne. The rue Mouffetard is a primary artery where you find shops, international restaurants and student bars and cafés. The oldest arrondissement in Paris. Jardin des Plantes and the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, Musée Curie, Musée de la Sculpture en Plein Air, The Panthéon, Quartier Latin, Musée du Moyen Age, Musée de l’Institut du Monde Arabe, Grande Mosquée de Paris
6th: Saint Germain – boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Jardin du Luxembourg, Medici Fountain, Pont des Arts, Pont Neuf, Pont Saint-Michel, Saint-Germain-des-Prés Quarter and former abbey, Saint-Sulpice church, Café de Flore, Les Deux Magots, Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Prés, home of Serge Gainsbourg.
7th: Eiffel Tower – The Eiffel Tower, the Musée d’Orsay, the Rodin Museum and the market street, Rue Cler
8th: Champs Elysèes – Avenue des Champs-Elysèes has lots of shopping and lots of tourists! Arc de Triomphe, Église de la Madeleine, Élysée Palace, Gare Saint-Lazare, Grand Palais, Parc Monceau, Petit Palais, Pont Alexandre III, Pont de l’Alma, Avenue Montaigne,
9th: Opera – Galeries Lafayette and Printemps
10th: Canal Saint Martin – the Gare de l’Est and the Gare du Nord
18th: Montmartre – village feeling, good vintage shopping, Sacré Coeur, incredible views over Paris.
20th: Belleville – an artistic alternative.
WHERE TO STAY - LE MARAIS
MY AIRBNB FAVOURITE
I feel like I am giving away a big secret with this one, but here is my favourite Airbnb to stay in so far in Paris. The location, to me, was perfect, in the heart of Le Marais. It is close to a couple of Metro stations, incredible options for cafes, shopping gardens and museums. Plus it is opposite a very cute bakery.
While it doesn’t have those apartment views, being on the ground floor, it is huge. Most places in Paris are not generous when it comes to space- people live in very small apartments and compare square footage. This one is different. The renovated apartment boasts 50 square meters.
50 SQUARE METERS ON THE ONE OF THE OLDEST PARISIAN STREETS
31 is located in one of the most ancient Parisian street (her neighbour at number 51 is the oldest house in Paris), Montmorency street. In a typical former Atelier Parisien, owned by designers, the space was once a showroom, but has been thoughtfully renovated with handmade furnishings and beautiful details. When I shared this space on my Snapchat it went into meltdown! Everyone wanted the details, so I am finally sharing them. For those that recall, this is the place with inlaid ceramic stars in the beautiful polished concrete floors.
I have so many memories of quiet nights here working away on my computer in the beautiful living space, and tucking into a coffee at one of the window seats.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Cafe Kitsuné, also Matcha and cookies, 51 Galerie de Montpensier, 75001
Boot Cafe, A hole in the wall with beautiful coffee, 19 rue du pont aux choux, 75003
Ob-La-Di, (opposite Isabel Marant’s flagship) 54 Rue de Saintonge, 75003 Paris, France
Honor, Okay, so I didn’t quite get here last trip, but a guy from my High School home class opened this coffee shop which I have it on good authority is one of the best in Paris! I will visit next time! Tell Dan that I sent you! 54 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008
Hotel Costes, 239-241 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001
I am not a big drinker, and in the past have wandered into random wine bars for a happy hour glass of Bordeaux, with no memory of where they were. If anyone has suggestions of drinks spots, let me know and I will update the directory! Beside this, wine is cheap, very good and you can pick one up along with picnic items and share in the park with friends.
Café de Flore, Sandwiches, salads, people watching, rich with history and entertaining waiters, 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006.
Merci Café, Sit in the library section (shop here as well, see below for shopping guide!) 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 75003
Chez Hannah, Falafel at a good price near great shopping in the Marais. 54 Rue des Rosiers, 75004
PNY Marais, for the best burgers and shakes in a cute pale pink and blue cafe, 1, rue Perrée 75003
Café des Deux Moulins, where they filmed Amélie in Montmartre, 15 Rue Lepic, 75018
Frenchie To Go, Mostly hotdogs! 9 Rue du Nil, 75002 Paris, France
Bob’s Juice Bar, fresh juices, smoothies 15 rue Lucine-Sampaix 75010
Bob’s Kitchen, pancakes, smoothies, salads, soups, veggies, super friendly. 74 Rue des Gravilliers, 75003
Le Mouff’tot Mouff’tard, a fun spot with very friendly service! 71 Rue Mouffetard, 75005
Miznon Paris, One of the best meals I have ever had! Tel Aviv’s Chef Eyal Shani’s Parisian branch of Miznon. Pita with slow-cooked juicy lamb, roasted chicken, or vegetarian-ratatouille or choux farci are delicious, and you have to try the roasted cauliflower!! 22 Rue des Ecouffes, 75004
Chez Julien, Classic French bistro, also featured in episodes of Gossip Girl, 1, Rue du Pont Louis-
Frenchie, read about this place and you will be wanting to book a table. 5, rue du Nil 75002
Cafe Constant, lunch – traditionally French, 139 Rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 Paris,
Spring, highly in demand restaurant, monthly set course menu. 6 rue Bailleul, 75001
L’Arpège, dinner – nouveau cuisine restaurant, 84 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris,
Septime, dinner, 80 rue Charonne, 75011
L’Eclair De Genie, the best eclairs! 14 rue du pave, Paris
Pierre Hermé, macarons, 133 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008
Blé Sucre, croissants, 7 rue Antoine Vollon 75012.
The Grande Mosquée de Paris, after visiting the Natural History Museum, stop in for mint tea and Algerian pastries. 2bis Place du Puits de l’Ermite, 75005
Pain De Sucre, pâtisserie that people have been raving about for years. 14 Rue Rambuteau, 75003
La Droguerie du Marais, The best late night Crêpes from a very sweet maker! 56 Rue des Rosiers, 75004
Marché President Wilson, these fresh food markets run every Wednesday and Saturday morning, from about 7am to 2:30 pm. Walking distance to the Eiffel Tower, these markets are excellent to experience. The farmers are super friendly, offering beautiful fresh food, pastries and flowers. Pick up breakfast to eat in the gardens under the Eiffel Tower. Avenue du Président Wilson 75016
WHAT TO DO IN PARIS
Jardin du Palais Royal, My favourite! Also for Acne, vintage shopping and Cafe Kitsune, 6 rue de Montpensier, 75001 Place des Vosges.
La Promenade Plantée, an elevated urban park / walkway running the width of most of the 12th arrondissement. 1 Coulée verte René-Dumont, 75012
Place des Vosges, One of the coolest squares to hang out in! Place des Vosges, 75004
Jardin des Tuileries, One of the most beautiful places in the world. 113 Rue de Rivoli, 75001
National Archives, A trip to the Marais would not be complete without a stroll through this stunning courtyard. 60 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75003
Jardin du Luxembourg, another favourite spot for picnics and wandering. 6e Arrondissement, 75006
CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL MUST SEE MUSEUMS AND LOCATIONS
Shakespeare and Co., one of the most iconic bookstores in the world, (stop in at the cafe next door as well!) 37 rue de la Bucherie, 75005
Musee D’Orsay, most incredible museum/ gallery, you may have seen the giant clock! Tip: open till 9:45pm on Thursdays. 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007
Musee Rodin, worth visiting for a quiet moment in the gardens to read about these stunning and moving sculptures. 79 Rue de Varenne, 75007
Palais De Tokyo, contemporary museum with changing exhibits. Tip: regularly open until midnight, making a great evening activity, 13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116
Musée d’Art Moderne, 11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116
Musée L’Orangerie, go for Claude Monet’s water lilies alone, Jardin Tuileries, 75001
Centre Georges Pompidou, modern museum was very controversial when it first opened, it definitely stands out, the clear escalators up to the top floor offer amazing views of the city. Tip: Open till 9pm everyday (Closed Tuesdays). Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004
Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, Housed in one of the most incredible buildings in Paris, this is one very cool way to spend an afternoon. The exhibits are like no other. 36 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75005
Petit Palais, go for the staircase inside and the court yard garden alone, Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008
Musee Des Arts Decoratifs, the bookstore is just as worth the visit as the museum. Located just next to the Louvre along Rue du Rivoli Tip: open till 9pm on Thursdays. 107 Rue de Rivoli, 75001
La Musee De La Chassee Et De La Nature, heart of the Marais, this “hunting museum” is a different stop! 62 Rue des Archives, 75003
Pont Neuf and Place Dauphine, recognisable from movies too, an excellent spot to people watch, 75001 Paris, France
Eiffel Tower, No need to say much about this one. Tip: Just take the stairs and avoid lining up to use the elevators.
Pont Alexandre III, the most beautiful bridge in the world.
La Piscine de Pontoise, up for some night swimming?! In the heart of the Latin Quarter, the pool is overlooked by rows of open walkways with old-fashioned cabins, pool is lit up with cool lights. They have even done movie nights where you can sit on a floatie and watch Wes Anderson movies! Built in 1933, this place is stunning! Tip: Open late Monday to Friday, 8.15pm-11.45pm. 19 rue de Pontoise, Quartier Latin, 75005
Musée de l’Armée, Napoleon’s tomb, weapons, a historical look at military items, 129 Rue de Grenelle, 75007
Le Marché Paul Bert, those beautiful markets you may recall from the film Midnight in Paris. 110 Rue des Rosiers, 93400
TIPS FOR THE LOUVRE (HOW NOT TO WASTE TIME IN LINES)
Louvre, It is visited by almost 10 MILLION people each year! But there are a few secret tricks to getting tickets and walking in without lining up. I have never lined up to get in or buy a ticket!
HERE IS THE SECRET TO AVOID LINES / CROWDS:
Don’t love crowds? Try going on Wednesday or Friday evenings when it’s open until 9:45 pm.
Prefer to go during the day? Avoid the super long lines to get in through the glass pyramid by entering via the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall, off of Rue de Rivoli and the Palais Royale Musee du Louvre metro station. You still go through a security checkpoint, but without the crowds.
TICKETS: Either book them in advance online (includes a booking fee) or, take the completely EASY option on the day and buy them from the Tabac shop that sells them with no line.
Head to the ground floor of the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall, turn right on Allee de France, at the end you will find the La Civette Du Carrousel Tabac store (it even has a sign that reads ‘MUSEUM PASS TICKETS’), and buy your tickets with no line.
Head to the entrance of the Louvre and look for the sign reading “avec billet” which means “with tickets”.
You can walk by and wonder why people would line up for hours to buy a ticket. They also sell the Paris Museum Pass and tickets for Muse D’Orsay, L’Orangerie, as well as for Chateau Versailles.
THE PARIS MUSEUM PASS
The Paris Museum Pass gives you access to more than 50 attractions in Paris and nearby. With the card you have access to places without having to pay entry fees again and again. It is one option if want to check out a few of the best museums and attractions in town. You can buy for either 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days, so you can choose to fit a lot into a couple of days, take your time or check a lot of attractions off of your list. They are €48 for 2 days, €62 for 4 days and €74 for 6 days.
- Musée D’Orsay, 1, rue de la Légion d’honneur, Paris 7e
- Centre Pompidou Musée national d’art moderne, Place Georges Pompidou, Paris 4e
- Musée des Arts décoratifs, 107, rue de Rivoli, Paris 1er
- Musée du Louvre, Palais du Louvre, Paris 1er.
- Arc de Triomphe, Place Charles de Gaulle, Paris 8e.
- Musée Gustave Moreau, 14, rue de la Rochefoucauld, Paris 9e
- Tours de Notre-Dame, Rue du cloître Notre-Dame, Paris 4e
- Musée de l’Orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries (on the Seine site), Paris 1er
- Panthéon, Place du Panthéon, Paris 5e
- Musée national Picasso, Paris Hôtel Salé, 5, rue de Thorigny, Paris 3e
- Musée Rodin, 79, rue de Varenne, Paris 7e
- Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, 78 000 Versailles (Yvelines)
- Musée de l’Armée, Hôtel national des Invalides, 129, rue de Grenelle, Paris 7e
- Conciergerie, 2, boulevard du Palais, Paris 1er
VIEWS OF THE EIFFEL TOWER
Champ de Mars 2 Allée Adrienne Lecouvreur, 75007.
Trocadéro opposite the Eiffel Tower. Metro: Trocadéro Arc de Triomphe Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008.
Le square Rapp, 75007. Don’t miss the Art Nouveau architecture nearby at: 3 square Rapp, 29 avenue Rapp, 33 rue du Champ-de-Mars, 151 rue de Grenelle walk around to see some of the most beautiful facades in Paris.
TIP FOR TAKING PHOTOS IN THE ICONIC SPOTS WITHOUT TONS OF TOURISTS
So, the secret is that Parisians don’t tend to get up early. Neither it seems do many tourists. If you want a photo without a bunch of people in your shot, be up by 6am, head out and take photos before 9am. It gets busier later, but even most tourists seem to be in less of a hurry before 9am. If you want to experience something really special, get up before dawn and make your way to watch the sunrise over the Eiffel Tower from Trocadéro.
WALKING AND BIKE TOURS
To get your bearings, I can recommend taking a Paris city tour. While I am not big on group tours, I did find one useful. After my less than great introduction to Paris (on our first day we found ourselves in some dodgy parts of town and in some potential dodgy situations) my friend and I went on a free walking tour.
We took one of the original Sandemans tours starting at Place St Michel. This was a good way for us to learn a lot of history about Paris, see a lot and know where to come back to. It really did turn our first average day around. Unless you can find a friendly local to show you around, a tour is a good option.
Another company I can recommend is Fat Tire Tours. I have worked with the team at Fat Tire Tours profiling their day trip tour to Giverny, which you can find here. That day was a LOT of fun. While I have not taken the Paris bike tour, it would be an excellent way to see the city at a reasonable cost.
WHERE TO SHOP
CLAIMING VAT TAXES BACK ON GOODS
Everyone loves to shop! Paris has excellent shopping! The bigger department stores (like Printemps and Lafayette) have counters for claiming back VAT (Value Added Tax) on retail purchases. If you spend more than €175 in the same store on the same day (can be on multiple items) then you are eligible to claim the amount of tax that was added onto the product. The amount of tax on each item varies from around 2% to over 30% depending on what type of item it is.
The counters in the department stores can be busy at peak times, but weekday mornings are quiet and it can often be quicker than processing VAT claims at the airport.
Galleries Lafayette Haussmann, beautiful department store. Don’t miss the rooftop viewing platform. 40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris, France
Printemps de la mode Le Printemps De La Maison, Printemps also has a rooftop viewing platform. 64 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009
Le Bon Marché, big department store with iconic escalators! 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007.
Colette, cult retail store, complete with a water bar on the bottom level, 213 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001.
& Other Stories, One of those brands I WISH would come to Australia! 277 Rue Saint Honoré, 75008.
Merci, clothing, homewares, beauty and that little red car. Also a spot for food and books. 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003.
Cos, still one of my favourites! There is one in the Marais (near L’Eclair de Genie), 4 Rue Des Rosiers 75004
L’Appartement Sézane, not everything you can purchase right away, but you can try on, find your size to order online. 1 rue saint Fiacre 75002 Paris
GETTING AROUND PARIS
PUBLIC TRANSPORT TIPS
While I maintain that the best way to explore a city is to walk (read my post on this here), Paris offers an excellent public transport service. I tend to walk, use the Paris Metro network, or take an Uber if I really need to. Uber can be convenient when transporting luggage in the middle of the night for an early flight. Though, I have transported my suitcases on the Metro many times with no troubles.
PARISVISITE CARD & METRO GUIDE
If you are using the Paris Metro, the ParisVisite travel card is worth considering (purchase at the vending machines- you can use them in multiple languages). It’s valid for 1, 2, 3, or 5 days, and it covers public transportation in zones 1-3 or zones 1-6, depending on which version you buy. (Zones 1-3 cover the city and its immediate outskirts; zones 1-6 include CDG Airport and suburban destinations such as Disneyland Paris, Versailles).
If you are staying longer, you can opt for the week Pass Navigo Découverte, which is a plastic smartcard.
Most of the 300 Metro stations are below ground, they are very easy to follow for connections and you will find several street maps around central Paris if you need to check where you are. You can find yourself seeing and experiencing all sorts of interesting sights inside the Metro stations. Everyone has a good Metro story. A number of the stations are very beautiful as well, so it is worth using the network.
Want even more Paris? You can find some of the archives of my Parisian travels in these blog posts.
- A RIDE TO GIVERNY AND MONET’S GARDENS
- PARISIAN AFTERNOONS
- PALAIS ROYALE
- SPRING RACING
- PARIS THE HIGHLIGHTS PART ONE
- PARIS THE HIGHLIGHTS PART TWO
- VERSAILLES AND FRENCH VINTAGE
- WHERE TO EAT IN PARIS : PNY MARAIS
Trust me when I say there is more where this came from! I have another day trip post about Versailles, more details on markets and specialty spots to come. Plus if you ever have any questions or suggestions for me to add to the directory, please let me know! Please leave your Paris memories in the comments below, I would love to hear them!