If you are planning to visit Paris you will already know that, starting with famous attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, to the wide tree-lined avenues that seem to be made for walking arm in arm with the one you love, it is all too easy to let yourself be captivated by the romanticism of the city! And this even before you’ve found yourself in front of a boulangerie overflowing with hot and fragrant baguettes, or you’ve tasted one of the excellent macarons!
There is the risk of losing your mind within a few minutes … so make sure you leave prepared and organized. So, once you set foot in the beautiful French capital, you will only have to worry about fulfilling the dreams that have brought you here!
1. Getting to Paris: flights and airports
Whether you are looking for a flight from New York to Paris or a flight from Chicago to Paris, first check at which airport your flight will land between Paris – Charles de Gaulle (CDG), Paris – Orly (ORY) or Paris – Beauvais (BVA), because the way you arrive in the city center will be different.
The RER train from Charles de Gaulle picks up passengers at each terminal and takes you to the city center with several stops. The journey takes just over half an hour. There are also many buses that depart from each terminal and arrive at different points in the city; the journey takes between 50 and 75 minutes. Find the airport map and details here.
From Orly airport you can take the Orlyval train to Antony station, then change to the RER-B to the center, which stops in several destinations (about 35 minutes) or the Orlybus shuttle which takes you to the main one in about 30 minutes. Denfert-Rochereau metro and RER station. Airport map and details here.
Beauvais, on the other hand, is the furthest airport (located about 80km from Paris), and is mainly used for low-cost flights. However, this airport is also well served by buses which allow you to reach the Porte Maillot stop in about 1 hour and 30. However, the airlines recommend taking the bus about 3 hours before the departure of your flight, in order not to risk problems due to traffic.
2. The language
Even if you’ve never studied it, make an effort and learn some basic French phrases! And even if all you remember from school days is “bonjour”, try saying it and maybe continue with “parlez-vous anglais?”
Also remember to thank with some “merci”: most French people are very nationalistic, and so they will be much more willing to help you!
3. Where to stay
If you are visiting Paris for the first time, your main goal will probably be to visit all the must-sees of the city, such as the Louvre and Notre Dame: the ideal is therefore to stay in the 1st arrondissement. True, you will pay a little more for the convenience of being within walking distance of museums and attractions, but this area is the ideal base if you are short on time and experience.
If, on the other hand, you want to privilege tranquility and don’t mind moving, choose the Le Marais district, which crosses the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. It is central without being overrun by tourists; if you book an apartment here, you can experience the city like a real Parisian!
Saint-Germain-de-Prés was once the haunt of great artists such as Picasso and Hemingway. Now the classic Parisian vibe survives, but elegant boutiques and original restaurants have largely replaced its bohemian style. Instead, if you choose to stay near Canal St Martin, you’ll find yourself in the classic working-class neighborhood that is now an alternative starting point for emerging artists, and you’ll be spoiled for choice among a myriad of trendy bars.
4. The etiquette
It is said that Parisians are unpleasant and rude, but in my opinion, it makes a lot of difference what kind of attitude you have towards them. Of course, if you neglect to say hello to the waiter, the clerk or whoever helps you, the locals will probably think…. that those unpleasant are the Foreigners! So don’t be biased, always say hello and smile: we have often been offered help without even asking!
5. When to visit Paris
On this topic you will find different currents of thought. Some argue that summer is the ideal season to visit Paris, when the weather is hot and the Paris Plages (the artificial beaches that line the Seine between July and September) are perfect for relaxing between visits. Others, on the other hand, suggest winter, when the buildings are whitened by a light dusting of snow and the queues for the main attractions are shorter.
But … many Parisians in August abandon the sultry streets for the cool breezes of the coast, making the experience of a visit to Paris less authentic; and the freezing winter evening temperatures certainly do not favor romantic walks!