A First-Timer's Guide to Paris

By Michelle Yastremsky

Planning your first trip to Paris? From starting mornings off with some of the world’s most amazing freshly baked bread to cruising down the river Seine, there are so many things to do, see, and experience in the City of Light.

Paris Packing Tips

Pack light! Some hotels in Paris don’t have elevators, so you don’t want to be lugging your 20-pound (or 9 kg) suitcase up and down the stairs.

Some neighborhoods in Paris are lined with those picturesque cobblestone streets, so bring a pair of comfortable shoes along with your fancy footwear.

Adapter – bring a standard European adapter for Paris.

You can however, avoid acting like a typical tourist in Paris by leaving that beret at home.

Paris: Food & Drink

You might be surprised to find that in Paris, an entrée is an appetizer, and a plat is a main dish. “Menu” is not an actual menu, but rather a combo (usually food + drink + dessert) meal - keep this in mind when ordering a meal at your favorite Paris bistro!

Iconic Food Places in Paris

  • Crepes - Breizh Cafe, 109 rue Vieille du Temple, 3rd arrondissement
  • Macarons - Pierre Hermé, 18 Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 4th arrondissemenet
  • Croissants - Blé Sucre, 7 Rue Antoine Vollon, 11th arrondissement
  • French Baguettes - Le Grenier à Pain, Le Grenier à Pain, 38 Rue des Abbesses, 18th arrondissement
  • Ice cream - Berthillon, 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, 4th arrondissement

Tips for Planning Your Paris Itinerary

Avoid over planning – pick 1-2 major attractions per day, leave the rest of the time for dining in bistros, searching for Paris speakeasies, or strolling through the city’s picturesque gardens.

Top Paris Must-Sees

  • The Louvre
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Sacre Coeur
  • Champs Elysees
  • Arc de Triomph
  • Luxembourg Gardens
  • Latin Quarter
  • River Seine
  • Montmartre District

Bonus: A trip to Versailles is a must while in Paris! Leave a day free, hop on the RER train, and make your way to this charming town and its iconic palace and gardens. Check out other incredible day trips from Paris here.

How to Save Time on Major Attractions

Avoid peak times by checking the Internet for the attraction’s most popular visiting times and working around those.

Fast-track tickets – many attractions will offer a skip-the-line option so you can just show up and avoid the wait.

Out of the Line App- Some attractions, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral towers have virtual queues. Download the “out of the line” app and pick the time for your visit.

Paris: Getting Around

You can walk or use a taxi if you wish, but Paris is extremely well connected via its metro system, which is the largest in Europe. Uber is also available in Paris.

Helpful Apps

Paris Metro
City Maps 2 Go (Offline maps app)

Useful French Phrases

  • Hello - Bonjour
  • Excuse Me - Excusez-moi
  • Thank you - Merci
  • Goodbye - Au revoir
  • Where is the bathroom? - Où sont les toilettes?
  • Yes - Oui
  • No - Non
  • Please - S'il vous plaît
  • More wine, please - Plus de vin, s'il vous plaît

Paris is just the beginning of your wonderful vacation to France. There is so much to do and see around Paris. Don't wish to rent a car? Do not fear! For inspiration, read our travel editor's recommended day trips from Paris by train guide for more tips and ideas.

Explore our Paris Vacations

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