Visiting a new city is exhilarating, but even more so when you feel like an insider. Here are some tips and tricks that will make your next trip to Paris parfait!
First thing’s first: deciding when to visit. Though Paris is picturesque year-round, there are definitely specific months of the year when the City of Light shines brightest.
During the summer, temperatures average in the mid-70s (Fahrenheit), and sunshine is abundant during the months of June, July, and August. However, note that this is also the city’s busiest season, so you’ll be met with an influx of tourists and inflated prices. Not to mention, the month of August is notoriously slow. Instead, wait until fall, when the foliage is the main attraction. September and October can be a respite from high prices, and the weather is a bit cooler — perfect for strolls along the Seine!
Experiencing a Parisian winter wonderland is always a possibility, but keep in mind that December is the rainiest month in the French capital. The city dries off in February in preparation for spring. Those who head to the French capital in March and April will still experience chilly temperatures, but the avenues will be vibrant with new blooms. May might just be your best bet for a Parisian journey — sunshine, blue skies, and flowering lawns.
After you’ve chosen when to visit, you’ll need to draft up an itinerary of what to see.
While Paris inspires spontaneity, it’s best to plan your sightseeing ahead of time. If your trip is short, consider purchasing a Paris Pass, which will allow you to skip the line at over 60 museums (i.e. the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Palace of Versailles, and more). In addition, you’ll be able to ride the metro, city buses, and trams as often as you’d like. The Paris Pass is available for a stay of up to six days, and will cost (at most) $240.
Apart from planning an itinerary, there are a few important things to know before arriving in Paris.
Make sure to check out a map of Paris’ arrondissements. There are over 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods) in the capital city, and it can be a challenge to remember which is which. Be sure to research the neighborhood you’ll be staying in before you book. We recommend the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th arrondissements, as they will put you in close proximity to great historical attractions.
Given that France is an E.U. member, Paris uses the euro. Once in town, bank ATMs are the most practical method for getting cash, as currency exchange desks often charge a large commission to exchange your money. Most shops and restaurants will accept Visa and Mastercard, though some smaller vendors will only take cash. Always tip in cash, and keep in mind that it would be unwise to try to pay or tip in any kind of currency other than euros.
Manners matter in France. Even if you don’t speak French, make the effort to say “Bonjour!” when you enter a café or store, and always say, “Merci, au revoir!” on your way out. Knowing a few key phrases can get you a long way.
Once you’re there, make sure to keep these things in mind to make the most of your time in Paris.
If you want a four-star dining experience without breaking the bank, go for lunch! Lunch menus tend to be less expensive, but equally delicious. And be sure to partake in Parisian café culture as well by spending an afternoon people-watching at one of the cafés along the Seine!
Can’t imagine skipping the Eiffel Tower? We don’t blame you. Bypass long lines by buying your tickets online ahead of time. And if you want your skyline view to include the Eiffel Tower, head to Montparnasse or Montmartre.
We suggest walking whenever possible, but the metro is the preferred mode of transportation for longer journeys. Tickets can be purchased from machines inside the stations. If you’re going to opt for a taxi, know that the cars with white lights are available, but the orange lights indicate that vehicle is already taken.
Finally, if you have a longer stay in Paris, consider heading outside the city for a day-trip. Versailles, Giverny, and DisneyLand are all great options, but there are also plenty of towns nearby that can be reached in a single day. Check out our day-trip guide for inspiration.
Header image by Stephanie Colpron