Paris is a city of such renown that every person on the planet has a pretty clear idea of what they think you can expect to find here (there’s even a syndrome named for then the city doesn’t live up to a traveler’s ultra-high expectations). We aren’t here to argue; 7.9 billion people can’t be wrong. But each person’s concept of Paris is only part of the whole picture.
If visions of gothic spires, romantic walks along the Seine, and cute-as-a-button cafes are commingling with the imagined aromas of garlic and butter in your mind right now, you’re absolutely right. If you’re thinking of a fast-paced startup industry, rule-defying architecture, and a sardonically good-humored outlook on life, you’re right, too. Paris will always be the City of Love, a city that’s been the muse for many of the best artists in history. But it can also be something different to each person, and part of the thrill is finding out what Paris is to you.
Before you go, check out our guide to the history and culture of the City of Light.
Romantic getaways, families, backpackers, anyone with a bucket list reserved just for restaurants, fashion devotees, scholars, art and literature lovers retracing the steps of the greats
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that’s certainly true in Paris. French food is exquisite, which is reflected in the prices of just about everything from the Michelin-starred eateries to the quaint cafes serving time-honored recipes prepared with dozens of ingredients each. Up to $300/day is not an unreasonable budget for Paris, as a good hotel is $100-$150/night, and you could easily spend $100/day on food.
The good news? If you’ve bought a bottle of wine in Paris for more than $20, you’ve wasted your money. Great wine is amply available for $10-$12/bottle. Plus, heavenly pastries and simple ham-and-butter sandwiches cost only a few dollars.
Paris is a pretty safe city to visit. Petty theft and pickpocketing are a real threat here, particularly for tourists, but diversity and inclusion are pillars of Paris, so while you might fall victim to a sleight of hand if you aren’t careful, you can relax knowing that Paris is welcoming for all, including Black and LGBTQIA+ travelers. Solo women will also feel at home, though there are of course pockets of the city that might seem a bit dodgy late at night. Stick to the hip neighborhoods and you’ll be fine.
On paper, Paris weather is pretty temperate all year round. Summer average highs range from 74-78°F. In practice, however, summer can be a lot hotter, especially in July and August when heat waves can push temps well above 90°F.
Winter in Paris is also, technically, pretty temperate with average highs ranging from 46-48°F and dipping into the high 30s at night. While grey days and rain can make it feel a bit colder, snow is a very rare occurrence.
April-early June and September-October are the ideal time to visit. Crowds are fewer than in peak summer, costs are lower, and the weather is generally lovely. Summer can be hot and sticky (though it’s fun to cool off at beaches and swimming spots set on along the Seine river), and in August a lot of shops and restaurants close down as locals head out of the city for summer vacation. November through March can be cold and wet but the trade off is few lines, even at the most popular spots.
Look for free days. Many museums, including the Louvre, are free or have reduced admission costs on certain days. The Louvre is free the first Sunday of each month from October to March. The Musée d’Orsay has reduced admission after 4:30, on Thursdays, and the first Sunday of each month.
Get the set menu. Restaurants often have a menu of the day or prix fixe menu that offers three courses for a reduced price. And it’s usually delicious.
Check out free activities. Lots of Paris’s best attractions are free, including the Musée d’Art Moderne, Maison de Victor Hugo, and the Jardin du Luxembourg.
No two ways about it: French food is absolutely divine. Unlike in Italy, where the cuisine is simple, consisting of only a handful of high-quality ingredients, the cuisine in France is all about nuance. Recipes contain dozens of ingredients and a dizzying number of techniques. Terroir is of utmost importance to the country’s exquisite wines. The result is food that’s so perfect you could weep. It isn’t cheap, but you won’t care after your first bite of whatever’s in front of you.
An array of Parisian neighborhoods make great places to stay, but before we get to that, we’ll tell you that the city is broken up into what are known as arrondissements, a numbered series of neighborhoods that begin with 1st Arrondissement in the city center (where you’ll find hot spots like the Louvre) and spin clockwise out in a spiral design from 1 to 20. The 1st is a great place to stay to be near the top spots on every tourist’s list, as are the 4th (famous for nightlife) and the 8th (famous for shopping). For a more authentic stay, check out the 7th, the higher-end option, and the 18th, Montmartre, for an affordable spot.
Set right at the foot of the famous Eiffel Tower, the 7th is quintessential Paris and great for first timers. It can feel a bit touristy, but it’s still packed with lots of great restaurants and cafes.
3rd and 4th Arrondissement
Known as Le Marais, this lively, trendy area has great bars and restaurants, tons of charming, narrow streets to wander, and gorgeous Parisian architecture. Plus, it’s well connected to the rest of the city by metro. One con: it can be a bit loud at night.
5th and 6th Arrondissement
St. Germain and the Latin Quartier are two more neighborhoods that look exactly like what you picture in your mind’s eye when thinking about Paris: tons of cute cafes with people lingering over a coffee (possibly arguing about Sarte or debating Voltaire), single-lane streets perfect for strolling, and major attractions like the Musée d’Orsay and Luxembourg Gardens nearby.
The Paris Metro is a great way to get around the city; it’s reliable, fast, and covers quite a lot of (under)ground, with over 300 stations, though it offers little in the way of accessibility. Walking is also a fantastic mode of transit and the best way to experience the city at its fullest; you might say that like New York City, the metro and the sidewalks are typically your best bets for affordable, efficient travel. (Also like NYC, you most likely do not want to drive here.) Taxis and Ubers abound, too, so you’re never too far from your next destination no matter how you get there.
Paris has three major airports connected to the city, though one is much further from the city center than the other two.
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) is the primary airport serving Paris, the biggest international airport in the country, and one of the busiest in Europe. It’s about 14 miles from the city center and the main hub for Air France. It’s also a focus city for EasyJet, Vueling, and Air France Hop.
Paris Orly Airport (ORY) is a bit closer to central Paris at just over eight miles away. It’s now a secondary Paris airport, though it was the city’s main airport until the mid-1970s when Charles de Gaulle Airport opened. Orly is also a hub for Air France, as well as a focus city for a number of budget carriers—including EasyJet Europe, Transavia France, Vueling, Twinjet, and Air France Hop.
Beauvais-Tillé Airport (BVA) is the third international airport that serves Paris, and it’s favored mainly by budget airlines. Although it’s often called Paris-Beauvais Airport, it’s nearly 55 miles away from Paris. Beauvais is Ryanair’s Paris airport, and it’s also served by Wizz Air and Blue Air among other low-cost carriers.
Only have a short time in the city between flights? Check out our layover guide to Paris.
De Gaulle Airport is connected to central Paris via the RER B train line. Ticket prices cost about €12 and the trips to Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les-Halles, or Denfert-Rochereau stations take between 25–35 minutes. RoissyBus operates a nonstop coach from CDG to the Paris-Opéra for about €14 and a travel time of about an hour. There’s a fixed rate for taxi transfers into the city (€53 for the right bank and €58 for the left bank) and rideshare options are Uber and Bolt. Expect rideshare fares to be at least €35.
Orly is connected to Paris on the RER B train line, just like De Gaulle Airport—the difference being travelers must take the OrlyVal shuttle from the airport terminal to the RER B station at Antony. The total cost is a little over €12 and the combined travel time to Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les-Halles, or Denfert-Rochereau stations is 25–35 minutes. Paris RATP city buses operate a line between the airport and Denfert Rochereau station in about 30 minutes at a cost of under €10. The fixed taxi fare between Orly and Paris is €32 for the left bank and €37 for the right bank, and rideshare options are Uber and Bolt with fares starting in the €25-30 range.
The most straightforward and cost-effective way to get from Beauvais Airport into Paris is with the Paris–Beauvais Shuttle. A one-way ticket is about €16 and the trip takes 75 minutes.
Take a 1.5-hour train to Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and full of gorgeous, well-preserved medieval architecture that can easily be explored on foot. It’s also got infusions of newness in the form of shops, cafes, and craft beer, and this place really comes alive at Christmastime.
Hop aboard a 1-hour-long train ride to visit Reims, the capital of the Champagne region where you’ll find a beautiful town, plenty of shops and cafes, and, of course, some of the best sparkling wine in the world.
Take a 1.5-hour trip to Dijon for a proper introduction to the incredible wines from the Burgundy region (and excellent mustard, of course).
Have a beach day at Deauville, a coastal down 2.75 hours from Paris on the train, the ideal way to unwind from the city without losing any chic points.
Visit Strasbourg, 2 hours from Paris on the train, a picturesque escape. Come here to try lots of incredible vins along the Alsace Wine Route.
Take a 1-hour flight to Geneva to experience the peerless Swiss Alps, a delight in summer and ski season alike.
Make the 3.5-hour journey to La Rochelle for a perfect summertime getaway where you can enjoy a long and lovely coastline, great for lazy days of riding bikes and sampling various bites of seafood throughout the city.
Head ~3 hours south via train to Marseille and Avignon for a sunny getaway full of sailboats and quaint neighborhoods, or go further afield to take advantage of the Provence region’s resplendent lavender season, and try some bouillabaisse while you’re in there, one of the city’s many culinary musts.
Explore Spain next. Madrid is a 2-hour flight southwest and a lovely complement to the Parisian experience.
Ready to be transported to Paris through movies, tv, or books? You’re in luck because Paris is one of the most popular destinations for a cinematic or literary backdrop.
Check out Amélie, Before Sunset, Moulin Rouge, Sabrina, The Da Vinci Code, Inception, Le Divorce, Julia & Julia, Marie Antoinette, Taken, or Midnight in Paris (just to name a few) for scenes of Paris then and now.
Most recently, there’s the Netflix show Emily in Paris which. And for something a bit more highbrow, there are hundreds, if not thousands of books written about or set in Paris. From classics like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables to modern novels like The Elegance of the Hedgehog and All the Light We Cannot See, books featuring Paris run the gamut of centuries and storylines.