Paris. The city of love, the city of lights. If you’re looking for tips for visiting Paris and it’s your first time, I have you covered. Paris is the city where fashionistas go to buy everything from high-end fashion to unique and affordable finds. Paris is for foodies, for people that enjoy museums, art, people watching, and everything in between.
I was in Paris in 2015 and was lucky enough to go again this year for my 40th birthday. My first trip was with my high school French class when I was in 11th grade. Since then, I knew I would go back. Although it took me 20 years, the city was just as beautiful as I remembered it but planning the trip was like going for the first time.
If you’re planning your first trip to Paris I have some traveling tips for you below.
My trips to Paris included mornings of espresso, Quiche de’jour, and french bread. Our days were filled touring the city’s most historic sites stopping only for some more coffee and a quick bites on the go. In the evenings we grabbed champagne cocktails and dinner before we headed back to our apartment to plan the next day.
Oh yeah, we planned the next day’s excursions over our dinner and cocktails. Paris is just one of those cities full of new or timeless experiences. You could map it all out months and weeks before you get there or you can buy a Paris Tour Guide Book like I had and know that someone has already done all the planning for you. All that’s left for you to do is decide which adventure you plan to explore while you are there. But before your Paris adventure begins, read this list for tips on visiting Paris for the first time.
Tips for Visiting Paris for the First Time
- Learn to navigate the Metro. If you are on a budget, using the Metro will save you a lot of money. If you prefer to travel by car, skip to the next section and plan to get an Uber. Now for Metro goers. Good news for Washingtonians. If you are accustomed to the D.C. Metro, the Parisian system will be a breeze. It is almost the same. You follow color lines and direction. Nearly all the Parisian hot spots are close to a metro or within walking distance. The Metro is reliable and runs early morning to late at night. You could even take it to Versailles as we did. Get a Metro map or download the app and you are good to go. And if you are lost or confused, not to worry. An attendant or friendly local will be happy to help you if you have questions. By the first night in Paris, we were completely mobile. Metro passes in hand, we were able to get where we needed to day or night.
- Uber everywhere. Uber is easy and even less expensive than I thought. Most of the drivers speak enough English to get you around if you have questions. We opted for the Uber most of the time during my last trip and it was just as safe and easy as in the U.S.
- Renting Bikes. Just like in many big cities, you can rent bikes in Paris and drop them off or swap them out at nearby locations. You can rent the bikes by the hour or by the day. Bonus, the first 30 minutes are free!
- The Louvre Museum. You do not want to miss the Louvre museum during your trip. Plan at least three hours but preferably five or more if you are really into art. There is a cafe inside that serves very good food but you can also plan to eat nearby. See below.
- Parisian hot chocolate. After the Louvre, walk to Angelinas for hot chocolate and macaroons. This place is simply amazing and is said to serve the best hot chocolate in town. In my opinion, yes, it was fantastic. The chocolate is so thick and rich. Not like your American hot chocolate. Be ready for it!
- Palace of Versailles. You can take the metro then the train from Paris city center to the Palace of Versailles. This is an entire day so plan on it. We spent the day in the palace, shopped, and before we knew it, it was already dark.
- Best time of year to visit Paris. I have been in the summer, fall, and spring. My favorite time was my most recent trip in March. The weather was not too cold or hot. Because I love fall fashion, I didn’t mind having to wear boots and a light jacket. I would probably go in April when it’s a little warmer but tickets were so affordable in March that I didn’t mind. Plus March is Paris fashion week. The city was full of fashion week related events and celebrities.
- The Eiffel Tower. Of course you will go and take a lot of pictures there. But did you know you must make a reservation to visit the top? I sure didn’t. So make sure you make a reservation to go to the third level and do this several weeks in advance. Otherwise, expect to wait many hours to see the view of the city.
- Money. Most places take credit cards, even the farmers market (which by the way, have the best food at the best prices). You will want some cash for tipping or if you plan to do some small purchases. Some of the locally owned cafes and bakeries won’t run your card for purchases less than 10 euros so have cash ready. Speaking of which, plan to eat croissants and order coffee at the local shops as the experience is so much better and so are the prices and the taste!
- The not so obvious must visit places in Paris. I wrote about the ten best places recommended to visit while in Paris before my last trip. But after going, add these to your must-visit places while there.
- Hemingway’s Bar – in the back of the Ritz Carlton. It’s always crowded, and tiny. We went the first time and met some fun Americans that were frequent visitors. Had a blast!
- If you go to the Louvre, sit outside at Café Marley afterward and have a drink and watch all the tourists walk around taking selfies in front of the glass pyramid.
- For a luxury experience, make a reservation at Champagne Bar at the top of the Eiffel.
- Dancing at Club VIP. We had sooo much fun there. Great DJ, great people. Enough said!
- Dinner at Bonvivant, a locally owned restaurant and wine bar serving local folks. Soooo good.