Paris Travel Guide
The City of Light draws millions of visitors every year with its unforgettable ambiance. Of course, the divine cuisine and vast art collections deserve some of the credit as well. The gentle River Seine rambles through the city, flanked by stately museums, centuries-old churches, and blocks of Rococo- and Neoclassic-design architecture, further enhanced by charming trees and glowing streetlamps. Peppering the Seine's cobbled walks and graceful bridges are impossibly chic Parisians, probably on their ... continue»
- #1 Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris)
- #2 Musee du Louvre
- #3 Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
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The best time to visit Paris is from June to August, when the weather is just about parfait (perfect). Average highs are in the mid 70s and there are long days of sunshine. Unfortunately, summer is also the most crowded time — and the most expensive. For a significant drop in tourism, plan a trip in the fall or spring. To save some money on your flight and hotel, pack your most stylish heavy jacket (this is Paris, after all) and visit in the winter.Best Times to Visit Paris»
More than 1,000 square miles, Paris is split into two halves — the Right and Left banks — by the storied Seine River. The city is further broken into 20 numbered arrondissements (or neighborhoods), which twirl clockwise from the centralized 1er (or first) arrondissement.
Rive Droite (Right Bank)
Accessible via Palais Royal Musée du Louvre, Louvre Rivoli, Tuileries, and Les Halles métro stops.
As its name suggests, the 1er should one of the first places to explore. This neighborhood, which lies on the eastern banks of the Seine River, is home to the enormous Musée du Louvre — a royal palace-turned-art museum, which contains more than 35,000 works of art, including the Venus de Milo and the "Mona Lisa."
The Tuileries make a perfect plein-air retreat after hours of museum touring. Located right next to the Louvre, the gardens were designed by André Le Nôtre, the lanscape architect who also designed the Gardens of Versailles.
To the northeast is an area called Les Halles that got its start as a 12th century food market, which is perhaps why Émile Zola called it "the belly of Paris." Now, Les Halles is a vibrant cultural center, sheltering an underground mall, more than 200 boutiques and several movie theaters. And the neighboring Faubourg St-Honoré has been fashion central for centuries, with high-end/couture boutiques lining immaculate walks. You'll find a few hotels here, such as the Mandarin Oriental Paris and The Westin Paris, but since they're in the city center, expect room rates to be on the pricier side.
Accessible the Réaumur - Sébastopol métro stop.
Rubbing up against the 1er arrondissement to the north, this district used to house Paris' Bourse, or the stock exchange. A collection of theaters, including Théâtre Musical Populaire, also fills out the 2ème arrondissement.
3ème and 4ème
Accessible via the Cité, Hôtel de Ville and Arts et Métiers métro stops.
Known collectively as Le Marais, the French word for 'marsh,' the 3ème and 4ème arrondissements make up one of Paris' oldest neighborhoods. (Located southeast of the 1er arrondissement, this area used to be a boggy marshland, hence the name.) The trademark Notre Dame Cathedral and the gorgeous gothic Sainte-Chappelle, or Holy Chapel, are both located in the south of Marais on the Ile de la Cité, one of two islands in Paris' Seine River.
Don't miss out on touring this area's Centre Pompidou (Centre Georges Pompidou), a contemporary arts museum; or the Musée Carnavalet, which recounts the city's storied past. And if you're hungry, stroll along Marais' main thoroughfare, Rue de Bretagne, and purchase some fresh fruit at the city's oldest outdoor market, Marché des Enfants Rouges (Market of the Red Children). Then wander down to Place des Vosges and eat your snack in the city's oldest square.
Accessible via the Charles de Gaulle-Étoile métro stop.
Facing the 7ème arrondissement across the river, the 8ème is home to the famous Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Though the Champs-Elysees has recently seen a decline in its once posh character, existing as more of a mirror of New York's Times Square than an emblem of Parisian glamour, it's still a Paris must-see. Be sure to bid bonjour to Napoléon's self-tribute, the Arc de Triomphe. To get to the Arc de Triomphe, do not try and cross the busy streets of the roundabout; recent travelers recommend using the pedestrian underpass rather than risking a run-in with a fast-moving car. A number of museums also fill out this district, especially around Place du Trocadéro.
Accessible via the Chaussée d'Antin-La Fayette métro stop.
These days, the resplendent Palais Garnier, which is the setting for the tragic "Phantom of the Opera," and Les Grands Boulevards, gives the 9ème district its elegant identity. Today, Les Grands Boulevards house two of France's favorite department stores: Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.
Farther north, visitors experience a lesson in contrast. Place Pigalle — nicknamed "Pig Alley" by American soldiers during WWII for its congregation of less-than-virtuous women and watering holes — is still filled with brothels, sex shops and questionable clientele after hours. Visitors should be on their guard when touring this area, which is located north of 2ème and east of 8ème — especially after dark.
Accessible via the Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est and Château d'Eau metro stops.
East of 9éme and north of 3éme, the 10éme neighborhood is one of the least desirable arrondissements for sighseeing, dining or otherwise. However, the nearly 3-mile Canal St-Martin makes for a lovely walk or boat ride along the canal's nine locks, through tunnels and under bridges.
11ème and 12ème
Accessible via the Bastille métro stop.
The 11ème and 12ème arrondissements sprawl to the east of the 3ème and 4ème arrondissements and contain the Place de la Bastille, or the site of the infamous storming of the Bastille in 1789. Today, the Opéra Bastille, known as "the people's opéra house," rises from the ashes of this historic locale and has helped rejuvenate the area.
Accessible via the Rue de la Pompe métro stop.
Across the Seine from the 15ème, the 16ème arrondissement is where well-heeled Paris lives. But visitors should take a peek because this district is near the Trocadéro's sweeping views of the city, as well as the Bois de Boulogne forest, which affords a perfect primeval retreat — though only in the daylight. After dark, it tends to be a home base for prostitutes.
Accessible via the Rome, Villiers and Malesherbes métro stops.
This district, located to the northwest of the city, is mainly residential and doesn't provide too much in the way of tourist attractions.
Accessible via the Anvers, Abbesses, Pigalle, Blanche and Marcadet Poissonniers métro stops.
The Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre (Sacre-Cœur) stares down from the highest point in Paris, in an area of Paris called Montmartre, located in the northern Paris' 18ème arrondissement. A brilliant white castle of a church, the Sacré-Cœur affords a fabulous view of the city below, but you'll have to work to reach it. A steep hill and dozens upon dozens of steps await all those who seek to tour it.
As you follow the cobblestone streets down from the Sacré-Cœur, you'll find streets lined with cabarets and strip clubs, including the legendary Moulin Rouge, made famous in the paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec and the movie-musical by the same name. You'll also run into another famed cemetery, the Montmartre Cemetery (Cimetiere Montmartre), in which impressionist painter Edgar Degas is buried.
Accessible via the Porte de Pantin, Laumière, Ourcq, Corentin Cariou and Danube métro stops.
East of the 18éme neighborhood, this district once contained Paris' meat-packing districts and, similar to other major cities, it has undergone revitalization. The formerly meat carcass-strewn district is now covered in green space — from the Park de la Villette, complete with canals and a Grande Halle that hosts live performances and films to the Promenade des Gardens, whose series of gardens are a favorite among youngsters (trampolines, slides and even a roller coaster).
Accessible via the Père-Lachaise métro stop.
Perhaps the most famous of Paris' many cemeteries is the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetière du Père-Lachaise), located in the western 20ème arrondissement. Home to a number of famous people — Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison — the cemetery is a work of art, too, with sculptured tombs and serpentine paths.
Rive Gauche (Left Bank)
Accessible via the Saint-Michel or Cluny-La Sorbonne métro stops.
Situated on the Left Bank of the Seine, directly across from Le Marais, the 5ème arrondissement, also called the Quartier Latin, is loaded with universities, including La Sorbonne, École Normale Supérieure and Collège de France, as well as little cafes and book shops ideal for studying. Sidling along the Seine, the Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore is a cozy shop stacked with books that is hugely popular among expats (dating back to the early '50s), as well as among English-speaking tourists today. Be sure to check out the Rue Mouffetard for a vibrant open market accompanied by accordion music. The 5ème also contains the historic Panthéon, a church that doubles as the final resting place of notables like Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Marie Curie, as well as the Roman-era amphitheatre, Arènes de Lutèce.
Accessible via the Saint-Suplice or Théatre de L'Odéon métro stops.
To the east of 5ème arrondissement is the 6ème, home to the beautiful and sprawling Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg). These formal gardens, in the shadow of the Palais du Luxembourg — which now houses the French Senate — also contain rose gardens, a pool and a number of sculptures.
The city's oldest theater, Théâtre de L'Odéon and the historic churches — Église St-Suplice and the Église St-Germain-Des-Prés — are also located in this district. The Boulevard St-Germain, which slices through the 6ème district, used to shelter France's intellectuals in two classic cafes: the existentialists in Café de Flore and the surrealists in Café Les Deux Magots. Now, the boulevard is known for its high-quality eateries with comparably priced coffee and a bounty of shops and boutiques.
Accessible via the École Militaire or Bir Hakeim métro stops.
Located in the curve of the Seine River, on the Left Bank and directly east of the 6ème, is the 7ème arrondissement, home to what was once considered as a gaudy, assemblage of metal and is now a national symbol: the Eiffel Tower. A favored activity among young lovers, (friends and families, too), is to find a seat on the long tree-bordered Parc du Champs de Mars (Field of Mars park) and watch night fall over the Eiffel Tower.
Also in this area are the gold-domed Les Invalides (which contains Napoléon's grave), the outdoor-indoor Musée Rodin and the Musée d'Orsay (which houses an impressive amount of the world's greatest Impressionist works).
Accessible via the Tolbiac métro stop.
The 13ème arrondissement, which faces the 12ème across the Seine, is quite multicultural and it's known for its 12-block Chinatown. Also in this district, you'll find the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France) as well as the popular Place d’Italie, surrounded by cobblestone streets and a variety of restaurants and shops.
Accessible via the Raspail and Edgar Quinet métro stops.
Counted among its many allures are the extensive museums, the romantic neighborhoods, the divine restaurant scene, and amazingly enough, the cemeteries. In the 14ème arrondissement, which is situated south of 5ème and 6ème, is the famed Montparnasse Cemetery (Cimetière Montparnasse). If you're partial to any of the cemetery tenants, which include Jean-Paul Sartre, Charles Baudelaire, Simone de Beauvoir and Guy de Maupassant, among others, you can pay them your respects or otherwise enjoy a peaceful stroll among the statues and graves.
In the early 1900s, many of this area's cafes — especially along Boulevard du Montparnasse — played host to expat literati like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as the French artists Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp. Sadly, only the faintest glimmer of this early 20th century intellectual center survives. Crowds and chain stores have all but erased its vibrant past.
Accessible via the Montparnasse Bienvenüe métro stop.
Located to the west of the 14ème, the 15ème arrondissement is mainly a business and residential district. However, if you're searching for a great photo opportunity, snap a picture from the top of the Tour Montparnasse, or the Montparnasse Tower, which rises 59 stories tall and offers a 360-degree photo opportunity. In this district, you'll also find a copy of New York's Statue of Liberty.
Paris is fairly safe, though you should be wary of pickpockets, especially on the metro and around the most popular tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Visitors should also be very alert while at the Gare du Nord train station: Pickpocketing tends to be pretty common here. Thieves also tend to target tourists on their way from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), so pay particularly close attention to your luggage and bags while taking public transportation to and from CDG.
The best way to get around Paris is on foot — the elegant arrondissements are practically made for pedestrians. Still, Paris is very big, so you should take the efficient metro system (Métropolitain) to travel long distances. The Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens or RATP system, which runs the métro, also offers several bus routes around the city. Those traveling to Paris via air can arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), about 15 miles northeast of the city center, or Paris Orly Airport (ORY), about 12 miles south of the city. Buses, RER trains and the RoissyBus service CDG airport, while the ORLYVAL shuttle train links Orly airport to a RER suburban train stop that travelers can take into the city or to transfer to the métro. Taxis are another option, but can be quite costly averaging anywhere from €30 to €50 EUR ($40 to $70 USD); driving is not recommended.Getting Around Paris»