Sights, vantage points, nightlife – what you should not miss, what you can do without and which faux pas you should avoid committing when visiting Paris.
City travelers want to experience a lot and, if possible, discover locations that are not listed in every travel guide or travel app. So what is special about Paris, the city, and what distinguishes it from other cities?
One things is the contrast between the large, pompous boulevards and the small alleys with their boutiques, bars, specialty stores, galleries and antique stores in the Marais district, or between the Saint Germain Boulevard and the Île de la Cité. There is the imperial unity of many downtown districts with their Haussmann houses, the Seine river as part of the cityscape which mirrors the lights at night, the majestic, operetta-like and pompous architecture of the Garnier Opera, the Grand and Petit Palais and the Alexandre III bridge, the many, inviting terraces of the brasseries where guests eat outside under a heating mantle even in the coldest winter nights. All of that is Paris.
Sights you should not miss:
Notre Dame and the Ile de la Cité, Louvre and the masses of people surrounding the painting of Mona Lisa, Sainte-Chapelle, Jardin du Luxembourg, Montmartre, Saint Germain des Prés, Père Lachaise cemetery Galeries Lafayette with its Art Nouveau hall, especially beautiful when decorated for Christmas, the Tuileries Gardens with the Monet’s water lily paintings in the Musée de l´Orangerie. And of course, the Champs-Élysées and the Eiffel Tower, the Rodin Museum, the newly designed Musée d`Orsay with its impressionist paintings, the Place Vendôme, Place des Vosges and much, much more …
The blooming gardens of the Bois de Vincennes in spring, Saint Denis cathedral with the kings’ graves and the African market in front of it, the ethnological museum Musée du Quai Branly, which is also an interesting work of architecture, a visit to Paris’ underworld in the Musée des Égouts (not beautiful and odorous but interesting and a bit creepy, the satellite town Noisy-le-Grand with its architects’ dreams and nightmare, the Museum Nissim de Camondo (gorgeous, formerly private palace furnished in the style of the 18th century and with a moving family history, located at the dreamy Parc Monceau, the church Saint-Etienne du Mont, a walk along the Promenade Plantée (a revegetated, former elevated railway dam in the middle of the city), a bike tour along the Canal Saint Martin and much, much more …
Which districts should you definitely visit?
Saint Germain des Prés, Marais, Rue Mouffetard and surrounding alleys, 16th arrondissement with its gorgeous facades, Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré for window shopping.
You have the nicest view from …
No, not from the Eiffel Tower but from the Arc de Triomphe because the large boulevards start from here in a star like way and you can see the Eiffel Tower.
Things you can do without when visiting Paris:
Disneyland (much more charming, yet old-fashioned is the Asterix-Park); river cruise on the Seine (you do not see a whole lot because the quay walls are very high), Napoleon’s grave in Les Invalides (pompous, cold and artistically rather tasteless), the Boulevard de Clichy (it is more romantic but just as overcrowded up on Montmartre).
Transportation, eating and drinking
You should definitely take … bus number 72. This line resembles a sightseeing tour.
Never get off at the stop … Châtelet-Les Halles because it is one of the most overcrowded and most chaotic stops in Europe.
If you are hungry and thirsty, you should definitely try … scallops (Coquilles-Saint-Jacques; tastes nutty and a little bit sweet), the French sausage andouilette (tastes like entrails), champagne (has an unrivaled taste).
The most beautiful café? Café de la Paix (imperial-style, bombastic), Glacier Berthillon on the Ile Saint Louis (because of its ice cream and the view)
A snack to go? A crêpe to go is a typical snack. Take a break in the beer garden located in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Nightlife and etiquette
Nights in Paris are long. Where to start the evening, where to go next – and which questions you should never ask.
Typical for the Parisian nightlife are … the street cafes with their cozy terraces to see and be seen.
The evening starts here: On the terrace of the Café de Flore (very touristy, everybody knows it, but nevertheless it provides a great view of Saint Germain and Sartre and Picasso were here!)
Then you go to the restaurant Petit Palais in the Grand Palais to enjoy a culinary-trendy dinner and afterwards maybe into one of the jazz clubs at the Rive Gauche.
The best place to watch the sun rise is the square in front of Sacré Coeur on Montmartre, or the Trocadéro across from the Eiffel Tower. The latter is also a great place to be at night when the Eiffel Tower is lit up!
This sentence works everywhere: “Ne vous inquiétez pas.” (“Don’t worry.”)
What Paris is talking about: The (alleged) demise of good manners has been a main topic for centuries.
Beware – Faux pas you should avoid committing when visiting Paris:
Wearing flamboyantly colored clothes (Parisians prefer grey and black); asking for separate bills in the restaurant when dining with family and friends; broadly smiling at strangers (salespersons, waiters etc.) – that is considered American and, therefore, absolutely not considered “chic.
Discover Paris by bike
Les vélos libres – short: Vélib – have been a prominent feature of Paris’ cityscape for several years. Throughout town, 20,000 rental bikes are available to Parisians and tourists, distributed among more than 1,000 rental stations which are no more than 300 meters apart from each other. 24/7 and for a small fee, you can rent a Vélib there.
All you need is a credit card to buy a day or week ticket at the “bornes” (perking meters). The first half hour is always free. If you wish to ride longer, just turn in your Vélib at any station and take another one for another 30 minutes. Otherwise, the second half hour will cost 1 Euro and will automatically charged to your credit card.
Lots of freedom for a small amount of money
The system is very easy and very cheap. A day pass is 1 Euro, a week pass only 5 Euro and even the year-long pass at 29 Euro is worth considering, depending on how long you are staying. You should, however, avoid the large squares such as Place de la République or Concorde with your Vélib. Otherwise, you can easily manage riding your bike in the Parisian traffic since the construction of new bikeways is well on its way.
TIP: An upside-down saddle is a sign that something is wrong with the bike. Parisians use this sign to warn other users about broken bikes and to inform the bike rental company that it must be repaired.
For more information, go to www.velib.paris.fr
Means of transportation, museums or river cruises … Discover all of Paris with the Paris Passlib’
Do you want to spend a day, a weekend or several days in Paris? Paris’ Traffic- and Congress Office offers you to individually plan your stay in Paris with the Paris Passlib’. With this pass, you can easily discover the Parisian highlights while profiting from many practical advantages that ill make your trip to Paris even more pleasant. Paris Passlib’ starts at 40 Euro and is also available online.