5 Minute Guide to Paris, France
From the airport:
I’m going to give you information on the two main airports that serve Paris: Charles de Gaulle/Roissy and Paris Orly.
Let’s start with Charles de Gaulle – There aren’t many places I recommend taking a taxi from the airport, but this is one of them (along with Hanoi, but for completely different reasons). A taxi to the centre will cost you about 50 – 60 Euros and take about 45 minutes if there’s no traffic problems. A bit expensive, I know, but other forms of transport aren’t really convenient, especially with luggage. There’s a train you can take from the airport to the centre if you prefer. It’s the RER B, and will take about 40 minutes for a bit more than 10 euros one way. Once in the centre, you’ll have to navigate the metro to get to your final destination.
Now, let’s go south to Paris Orly – There is a train at Antony station (RER B4) to the city centre, which you can get to using a shuttle train from either of the airport terminals. It will cost you just over 13 euros and take between 25-45 minutes. Once again, after arriving in the centre you’re going to have difficulties in the metro with your luggage. If you prefer a taxi from the airport, they’re available for about 40-50 euros (this is the daytime price, it can go up to 60 euros or more at night) and can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes (or more), depending on the traffic and which part of the city centre you’re going to.
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There are thousands of hotels in Paris for all budgets. It’s been years since I’ve stayed in a hotel in Paris, but I suggest jumping on to Booking.com and trying your luck! I use Booking.com for accommodation and if you use this referral link for your next booking on Booking.com we’ll both get a reward! I stayed in this hotel a couple of times. Although I was there more than 10 years ago, it still seems ok judging by their website, if not a little tired/dated. It’s in a great location, right near Bastille, and it was really quiet at night due to the soundproof windows.
Paris is a big city and you can’t go everywhere by foot or you’ll just run out of time to see everything. Take a bus and you’ll get a view of the city as you head to your destination. Or, if you’re in a hurry or just don’t want to risk getting stuck in traffic, the metro is reasonably reliable (unless they’re on strike the week that you’re there!). The metro can be a bit unclean in places, and, especially if you’re a woman, stay clear of Châtelet metro station in the evening/night when there’s less people about (there can be undesirables hanging around, and it’s not always a safe place – for anyone).
Where shall I start? Bread, croissants, pain au chocolat, steak tartare, onion soup, boeuf bourguignon, confit de canard, foie gras, gratin dauphinois, pissaladière and the list goes on and on and on… And if you don’t know what some of these dishes are –FIND OUT and try them!
And then for drinks, it’s got to be red wine. Unless you’re a wine snob, you can get by with spending very little on wine in France if you buy it from the supermarket. A decent bottle of red wine can be found for between five and ten euros. Probably best to stay away from ‘vin de table’, which is one of the lower qualities available in France.
Shopping in Paris – every girls dream. There are shops in Paris for everyone’s budget (even mine). Here is a great resource for shopping in Paris. Don’t forget that there is almost no opportunity to shop on Sundays – everything is closed except a few tourist shops.
One shop I can recommend, is WH Smith, right near the Louvre. When I was living in Paris it was a life-line to English language books and magazines.
If you like markets, flea or otherwise, there’s a great choice in Paris. But be careful, they have strange opening and closing times, and if you sleep in too late they might have packed up and gone home before you even get there. I found a great summary of some of the best Parisian markets in this blog.
Like the food category, this one can be an endless list. Let me give you my top 10 and you can take over from there.
- Opéra Garnier – go inside, even if you can’t get a guided tour, just buy a ticket and go inside
- Pont Alexandre III – it’s a bridge and it’s beautiful
- La Sainte-Chapelle
- Le Sacre Coeur
- Le Louvre – for art lovers and historians
- The Pantheon – go inside
- Notre Dame
- Pere Lachaise Cemetery
- The Eiffel Tower at night
- Place Vendome (home of The Ritz Hotel)
Oh yes, quirky Paris. Let’s look at the Catacombs – it’s an underground burial place for more than 6 million skeletons from the 18th century. The bones are arranged in patterns – very artistic. 29 euros will get you in there if you dare.
Paris is for everybody – families, couples, singles, lovers, young, old and in between.
Don’t worry about your waistband. Paris, and the whole of France, is all about food. Eat as much as you can while you’re there, it’s some of the best food in the world (in my humble opinion) and you won’t regret it.