There are not enough superlatives, in the English language, which could accurately describe Paris; yet to be honest, what is utterly enchanting is not what Paris has, but rather what Paris is able to make you feel. There are cities which can and should be visited for their landmarks, historical importance and cultural attractions, and others which one does not visit but rather experiences. If you’re lucky enough to have visited New York or Venice, you may well understand what we mean. Paris has the ability to make you sigh with melancholy, make your heart flutter with lust and make you giddy with anticipation, within just a matter of minutes.
The French Capital has a spellbinding energy which infects all who dare enter her realm. The most dreamt-about holiday destination, and world’s most visited city, never fails to please. So whether it’s a romantic trip you’re planning to take, a museum tour de force, epicurean feasting or photographic mission, we dare say you’ve just found your Shangri-La.
The city of love, lights and iconic landmarks is divided in 20 arrondissements and, while they’re all worth visiting for one reason or other, some are much more interesting and captivating for visitors to stay in. Needless to say it should be almost illegal to leave Paris without visiting the main attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum or the Arc de Triomphe, yet make sure you leave yourself enough time to simply absorb the atmosphere of this enchanting city. Sit in an outdoor cafe, sip a cappuccino and watch the beautiful Parisienne world go by, or fill a picnic basket with creamy cheeses and a crusty baguette, and join locals on a wonderfully relaxing Sunday picnic by the river.
Paris Guide – The Ins and Outs of Paris
Ask anyone who’s been to Paris, and they’ll tell you whatever arrondissement they stayed in was by far the best. While the logical person may think ‘they couldn’t all be right’ truth is that, in fact, they could be.
Every corner of this city has its special charm and quirkiness, irrespective of its tourist attractions. The convenience of having a superlative Metro system at your beck and call makes any area of Paris the most convenient one to stay in! Staying near the Louvre in the city centre will certainly have you very close to the action, while picking a hotel a little further afield in hoods like Montmartre, Marais or Saint-Germain-des-Prés may offer a different kind of action, one full of arty cafes, interesting bookstores, and lots of cobblestone alleyways to get lost in. Nevertheless, you’re bound to get lost in this maze no matter where you stay so, at the end of the day, your hotel choice may well be simply dependent on budget. As logic would have it, the further you are from the city centre, the cheaper the accommodation gets, so plan your vacation accordingly.
Paris is served by three international airports, the most popular being Charles de Gaulle. While this airport is rated one of the least organised in Europe, negotiating your way around is really not all that difficult. It is a sprawling hub and not very well designed, so it is mostly just time consuming, and we believe the biggest problems arise when visitors don’t leave themselves enough time to catch their flight. Between the ‘navette’ (shuttle train), walkways and sign-posted exits, you will eventually manage to get in, or out. There are three terminals in total at Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2 being the largest and most used. Be aware that this terminal has seven gates (A-G), G being in a completely different building and reachable only by navette (shuttle).
Getting into Paris’ city centre from the airport is easy and inexpensive, as long as you don’t catch a taxi that is. For this convenient service, expect to pay anything between €30 and €60, which may be the only sane thing to do if travelling with young children or excessive luggage! Other than that, we can highly recommend getting acquainted with the city’s optimal Metro system, the RER. The airport is also serviced by buses, but considering the likelihood of bottleneck traffic jams etc, the RER is really the best way to go.
If you’ve never been to Paris before, continue reading the ‘Getting out and about’ section below, and take note of the airport link. We’ll try our best to keep this as clear and concise as possible!
Getting Out and About
The French capital boasts one of the best metro systems in Europe: it covers every nook and cranny of the wide-spread city, it is cheap as chips, safe, stops are insanely close to one another and trams run every two minutes, and keep going well into the wee hours of the morning. When it comes to convenience and ease of use, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The Paris Metro system is divided in zones, from 1 to 5; 1 being the very central Notre Dame area, 5 reaching out as far as Disneyland Paris and the Charles de Gaulle Airport. Have a look at this map to get an idea of what we’re talking about.
While a single ride, on 1 zone, costs only €1.70, most tourists will probably use the Metro at least 8-10 times on a very average sightseeing day (even more in winter), and will move consistently between zones 1 and 3. Aside the cumulated costs, buying a ticket each time is time consuming and quite annoying as not all stops are well staffed. Your best option to getting around is to buy a multiple-day, multiple-zone pass.
The two most popular options for visitors are the 3-day and 5-day Metro Cards. You can check out the price breakdown of the various passes here.
Nifty hint for the budget-conscious traveller: The lovely ladies at the info desk of the arrivals lounge at the airport will try to convince you to buy the Zone 1-5 pass, which is almost twice as expensive as the Zone 1-3 pass. They will claim that this is the only way to get to/from the airport, Versailles and to Disneyland…yet this is not entirely true.
What you really need from the airport is a single-trip ticket which will get you just inside Zone 3, (Le Blanc Mesnil if coming from Charles de Gaulle Airport) and from there, the normal (and much cheaper) Zone1-3 ticket will take over and will be sufficient. Same idea runs for other attractions in Zones 4 and 5, which are not many at all. It will still be cheaper to buy single-use tickets on the days you want to visit those, and use the 1-3 Card for the remainder of your stay.
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