Just about everyone dreams of spending time in the City of Light. Paris is a wonderful mix of now and then, not only in terms of architecture but also in social culture and entertainment. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to visit a city that hangs onto old-style music, traditional 19th-Century fine dining, and yesteryear's design of parks and gardens while at the same time moving fast through the early 21st century, Paris is the place to go to find this amazing blend.
Of course, planning the perfect vacation in Paris means doing some homework. Your tour agency can help with this, but the following information will get you started. Paris is a huge, bustling metropolis, and the most famous attractions are scattered all over the city. It doesn't really matter where you stay because the fine hotels are everywhere, not just in the central business district or along the Champs Elysees but also near the major train stations and even in the residential districts. Getting around Paris, seeing the top attractions, and soaking up the nightlife scene are topics discussed below.
How To Get Around
Paris is definitely a city that must be explored on foot. Of course, taxis, shuttle buses from the airport, and the Métro are available, and you'll need to utilize these means of transportation to get to some of the top attractions. However, walking along the historic boulevards underneath the maples, you'll really get a feel for the city's atmosphere.
Download a Google map app to your phone before you leave home. Even if you're without Wi-Fi or 4G connectivity during your visit, the GPS will still work, so don't worry about getting lost. Get to know the major walking routes, and highlight the attractions that are within walking distance of your hotel. During the daytime, Paris is a rather safe city. Just be sure to dress normally, not like a tourist.
The Paris Métro will get you from Point A to Point B quickly. The system isn't as crowded or dirty as you may have heard, and it's easy to locate major attractions by looking at the station maps. The route lines are color-coded just like they are in major U.S. cities. You can purchase 10-packs of tickets at any one of the stations. Check your Google map app to find station locations. You can also get a brochure that includes the system map. These handy brochures will be available at your hotel.
Public buses are another option. You don't have to buy tickets or passes ahead of time, but make sure you have exact change when you board. An app like Citymapper will help you locate the major bus stops, and you'll also get to see which lines run past the major attractions.
Paris is full of historic landmarks and museums. Perhaps the most famous of these attractions is the Notre Dame Cathedral. Located on a tiny island in the River Seine, this historic church, built over a 200-year period from the 10th to the 12th century, draws visitors from all over the world. Its majestic flying buttresses and beautiful interior make this one of the finest examples of Gothic cathedral architecture to be found anywhere.
The Eiffel Tower is located across the river from the Champs Elysees, and it's not far from the Arc de Triomphe. You can visit both of these landmarks during a self-guided walking tour. Many people aren't aware that the Eiffel Tower was originally constructed as a temporary monument, but the locals fell in love with it, so it remains a Paris landmark to this day. The Arc de Triomphe was constructed under order of Napoleon Bonaparte, and its position of being slightly off-center from the Champs Elysees is due to the fact that the emperor wanted the sun to rise directly over its center on his birthday.
The Louvre is one of the world's most famous museums. Here resides such great works of art as the Mona Lisa, The Raft of Medusa, and Liberty of Leading the People. You'll also see Egyptian mummy tombs and fine Grecian sculptures including the Venus de Milo. The Louvre can be quite crowded, but it's still worth an entire day's visit. It's not far from the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Bastille. If you'd like to visit other museums then you shoud check out this article.
Taking a short bus or train ride outside of Paris to Versailles is also a favorite tourist activity. The Versailles Palace is one of the world's most incredible structures, and the surrounding gardens are just as magnificent. The palace was the seat of French political power for a very long time, and that history is explored today by the millions who come to visit this one-of-a-kind tourist attractions.
The Paris Nightlife
The City of Light has no shortage of nighttime entertainment. Everything from classical music performances to street dancing and 70s disco is alive and well in this culturally-rich metropolis.
The Opera National is one of the most famous music theater venues on the planet. The glorious red and gold interior of the opera house, with seating for 22,000, is complemented by the Grand Staircase and Grand Foyer. Guided tours are available, but you really want to take in a live performance to enjoy this incredible opera house to the fullest.
The Au Lapin Agile has been around since the Bohemian heyday, and today it remains a top night spot in Paris. For a small entry fee, you get to pull up a wooden stall and sit around the piano for a full evening of lively entertainment. Audiences join in the singing all night long.
Le Duc des Lombards is for the jazz enthusiast. This venue-cum-restaurant is located right in the heart of downtown Paris and has perhaps the best indoor acoustics of any music-themed restaurant in the city. If you arrive after 11:00PM, entry is free. Here is where you'll savor the talents of the finest local musicians in the region.
Batofar is the place to go if you desire a night of lively pop, hip-hop, and jungle music. Located in the so-called Seine-side arts district, this venue promises upbeat entertainment well into the wee hours.
Don't Get Travel-Weary
The last thing you want while visiting Paris is a case of the travel burn-out. Don't try to see everything in one day - it’s just not possible - and make sure you plan your city tours and landmark visits in a way that leaves time for just sitting around on a park bench and soaking up the Paris scene. Do plan on at least a week in this historic metropolis in order to see all the things you came to see. Paris cannot be enjoyed to the fullest in just a couple of days, so plan ahead and prioritize what you want to see and do long before you pack your bags.
That’s okay if you don’t see everything. You’ll surely have a chance to go back to Paris one day!