Before you say Un Croissant s’il vous plait, you MUST LEARN the Metro, RER and the Bus system if you want to get around in Paris and Surroundings. Unless you are walking or taking the taxi everywhere.
- Paris, with its 20 Arrondissment (districts or quartiers), is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Or is it? Cliché as it might be, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Paris needs an entire site of its own! However, I am looking at sharing with you what is beyond Paris. But, it wouldn’t be right to at lease share a little bit of Paris & Surroundings! After 10 visits to Paris, I still have plenty to see.
- I suggest you start with the history of Paris, Musee Carnavalet, to learn about Paris.
- First time, 3rd time, or 10th time visitors of Paris always admire the Eiffel Tower…so don’t be put off by the zillion vendors with massive Eiffel tower key chains! Go pay your respect. Metro 6 Bir-Hakim exit will give you a side view to remember, and Metro 9- Toracadero drops you off at the front.
- Louvre, who can possibly see it all. Pick an exhibit, walk the courtyard, go to the café, see Mona Lisa and then decide how much more time you want to spend at the Louvre!
- If it is your first time, it is a great idea to take the boat on the River Sein, you get to see Paris in a really beautiful way. I have done dinner and day cruise on Bateaux Mouch and Bateaux Parisiene.
- Other museums- with so many beautiful Museums in Paris, it is hard to decide what to see. However, my favorites, which are very manageable in a few hours are :
- Musée Rodin (a villa and amazing sculpture of master Rodin),
- Musée de Mode in 16th (bonus garden gives you perfect view of Eiffel tower, and a few blocks away is Princess Diana’s golden flame of liberty memorial over the Alma bridge) ,
- Musée Orsay an impressive collection of impressionism housed in a beautiful museum ( an old train station), and a heavenly second floor restaurant as well as sweeping Paris view café on the top floor.
- Musée de l’Arme -Les Invalides, if you are fascinated by Napoleon and his mark on France’s history. Musée Picaso in the 4th, no description needed for this master!
- Musée national du Moyen Âge
Many museums are closed on Mondays and often do not open until 10 am. Advance purchase online is a great idea, specially during the summer. If you can buy your tickets for ahead of time, I highly recommend it, so you can avoid the lines.
- One of the best views of Paris, beside atop of Eiffel Tower, is from the garden of Butte Chamont in the 20th Arrondissment, Metro 2, 8 and 5 will get you to the transfer station of metro 7 and sorti (exit) Butte Chamont then follow the signs. To see the beautiful park you need a good half a day.
Ok, first let’s figure out the Metro!
- RER, Le réseau express régional d’Île-de-France, is the intercity train system that connects you and your dream of seeing Versailles, Fountain Bleu, and Banlieue (suburbs)! RER A,B, C
- Metro will take you from 1st Arrondissment to 20th and it is underground with so many up and down stairs and almost never an elevator.
- The bus takes you around the city and the near by Banlieue .
You can download the map of the metro here, study it and then start all over again when you get to Paris. It took me 6 visits to Paris before I was 90% comfortable with the metro directions, but then I have no sense of directions so I am sure you will do better!
Getting to Paris from the Airport
You have several choices:
- Take a taxi- fixed 50 Euros as of Feb 2017. Pricey but I always take it on my return flight.
- Take the RER B from the airport, Charles de Gaulle Terminal 1 and 3to one of the major connecting metros like Châtelet les Halles for 10 Euros. Follow the signs to SNCF . I really don’t like taking the RER for so many reasons, it takes 40 minutes, pickpockets’ and beggars are often on the RER.
- Take the Paris Aeroport Le – Bus Direct from Terminal 2 sorti (exit door) 32 for 17 Euros. Easy, plush, comfortable and safe.
I LOVE getting from city to city via the TGV/Trains. France’s SNCF is SUPER easy! Ranging from 10-90 Euros, depending on where and when go! Planning ahead can save you money, 3 months ahead planning will cut the price of your train ticket in 1/2 in most cases.
Where to Stay
My favorite Arrondissment are : 2nd, 8th/17th, end of 8th and beginning of 17th, parts of 3rd or 4th. I have stayed in 18th and 5th but I prefer the 2nd Arrondissment, maybe because it is my base in Paris, thanks to Laurence!
For Paris, I preferusing VRBO, vacation rental by owners. However, I have listed a few VRBOs and Airbnb homes here that I have personally stayed at:
- 8th- if you are traveling alone and on budget this place in the 8th on the very famous Rue Fabourgh Saint-Honere (15 minutes walk to the President’s palace and 2 minutes walk to see your first glimpse of Arc de Triomphe)has everything you need at an unbelievable price! Claude’s place is clean and convenient.
- 17th – traveling alone or with a friend, this middle of the road jewel of an apartment is everything you want in Paris! Fredric’s place is clean, comfortable, close to everything, and just lovely. Walk 500 feet and you are in a daily market.
- 4th – Marais is a chic, hip, trendy and artistic neighborhood in Paris that basically accommodates all budgets! Here are couple of lovely places:
- 5th- Latin quarter is a short walk to Notre Dame, Luxemburg Gardens and much more. In my opinion, this is one of the most touristy areas and I only stayed there once. This location was nice and typical small bathroom and kitchen welcomes you. Perfect for 3 people.
- For the best deal on high-end salons checkout this site, Beaute Privee, a French groupon style just for beauty needs!
- If you need shampoo and blow dry (I stopped bringing my shampoo flat iron/blow dry because it is SO inexpensive and nice to have someone wash and blow dry your hair) at an amazingly inexpensive price try Tchip Hair Salons. They are EVERYWHERE in France. Just put in your postal code to find the closest location.
- Laundry is a must, specially if you pack lightly, local Laveries (laundromats) are usually within a block or 2. Cost around 5 euros for a load, detergent, and dryer.
- Shoe repair is PRICEY! Either go buy a new pair or pay 20 to 30 Euros! Cordonnerie (shoe repair shop) aren’t in every corner like Boulangeries, so depending on which Arrondissment you stay, you might want to ask your hotel or Airbnb host.
- Nail! Pedicure or Manicures are a bit different in France. They file your nail, maybe buff it, and put varnish (nail polish) on it. Foot massage maybe extra. I found a FANTASTIC one in the 2nd Arrondissment on L’ongle Fantasie 183 Rue Saint-Denise, Paris 75002 that is totally worth going to.
- Your standard Monoprix, Carrefour, Franprix, Utile, and Bio (organic) Groceries are in every Arrondissement.
- Street markets are wonderful places to shop! Each Arrondissement has its own and some are every day and some only on Wednesday or Saturdays. Again ask your hotel or Airbnb host.
Remember: January and July. Your pocket book will thank you.
- Soldes, or the biggest sale of the year everywhere in France, happens in January and July. Like restaurants who serve only food that is in ‘Season”, the French fashion MUST always be in FASHION! So gone with the old and in with the new.
- Outlets! Outlets! You can go to Saint-Denise if you are interested in shopping at outlets. From Paris, take métro # 13 and exit at the stop (arrêt) Mairie de Saint-Ouen, exist the metro and then take bus #237 to the Ave Marques outlet.
- The old garment factories of Paris, 2nd Arrondissment Metro #3, exit Sentier, on Rue Saint-Denise sometimes have stores that sell to the public. It is worth checking it out.
- Off season, souvenirs are half the price! Every attraction has zillions of shops around it, plus what I call mobile vendors! 18th Arrondissement, Eiffel Tower, Norte-Dame, and 5th Arrondissment have the MOST souvenir shops. Walk around, look at what they offer and then go back to your favorite shop.