Paris is an iconic city with romance, light, cuisine, style, and love abound. I personally associate Paris with my father. My parents and I have gone there together, but my dad and I went on a couple of occasions for weekends when the rest of the family couldn’t get away. It feeds into what Bruce Paltrow once said to his daughter Gwyneth as they were flying home from Paris, “I wanted you to see Paris for the first time with a man who would always love you, no matter what.”
Having visited Paris over one dozen times, I’ve collected some favorite places to dine, stay, and shop as well as other practical tips. I’ll admit that speaking French makes it easier, but I’ve found that after uttering my first sentence in French most Parisians are more than willing to respond and assist me in English. Don’t take it as an insult to your French, merely a gesture of hospitality. When traveling, it’s all about making an effort with the language and culture. It’s a sign of respect and gives you the chance to more fully experience a place. David Sedaris mentioned in an interview with Rick Steves that watching what others do is a great way to learn.
France enjoys a high context culture. One thing you may notice is that when you enter a shop, you are greeted and it is polite to respond with a ‘bonjour’. There is something so lovely about shopping in France since you are acknowledged. Knowing how to say ‘hello,’ ‘please,’ and ‘thank you’ can go a long way in France. Though I enjoy high context culture, it can be confusing and fatiguing for visitors. I suspect this cultural difference is one reason Americans have the misconception that the French are rude – or those spreading this ‘truth’ have been meeting all the wrong people.
If you don’t already know this, you’ll find Paris easier after learning that the region (or ZIP) code helps you learn a lot about a Parisian address. All Paris region codes start with ‘750’ and the final two digits are the arrondissement. When you see a number with ‘eme,’ ‘ieme,’ or ‘e’ after it that is the equivalent to a number with ‘nd’ or ‘th’ after it. Arrondissement can be abbreviated to ‘arr.’
Most Paris bookstores and many newstands sell the very useful Paris book of maps. It is a pocket-sized book containing maps by arrondissement and often an index with all street names. It is very helpful and won’t make you look like a tourist (the white sneakers and baseball hat will give you away long before any map). Try to find one that has good page layout because there’s nothing worse than trying to find a place that falls on a page crease. Waterproof is also a nice feature if you plan to use it a lot or during winter. Here is an old version of it to give you an idea.
Paris Metro is helpful in getting places within and in the immediate outskirts of the city. A Carte Orange gives the user unlimited use during a specific period of time. The TGV and SNCF serve a wider area and are known for high-speed trains.
Getting to/from the airport to the city can be less pleasant than your actual trip. One thing I’ve found to be very helpful is the Yellow Van Shuttle. Passengers share a ride to the airport from downtown Paris and are charged a flat-rate fee (aka tariff) starting at €25pp. The prices are per party/group, not per person, unless there’s just one of you. It is very cost effective when traveling as a family or small group since with five people the group price (€75) evens out to €15pp. Pets have special tariffs. If you stay in a hotel you can reserve through your front desk and, I believe, part of the tariff goes to the hotel and the other part to the driver. You can reserve online for an arrival lift or departure drop.
Useful Parisian taxi and rental car information available on TripAdvisor.
Paris has several train stations, so check into which one works best for your destination.
Best steak. Order “á point” for medium, never order well-done in France. Open for lunch and dinner and is even open on Mondays, when other restaurants are often closed. Opens for dinner at 19:00 (7:00 p.m.).
20 Bis, rue St Benoît, 75006 Paris, France
01 45 49 16 00
Delicious ice cream put on a cone in the shape of a flower.
5 rue Mouffetard, 75005 Paris, France
Neighborhood nightlife, deliciously creative dishes and drinks.
122, rue Rennes, 75006 Paris, France
01 45 48 70 66
Three-course fixed price meals at €10pp
31, Avenue Théophile Gautier, 75016 Paris, France
01 42 24 52 31
Known for their lamb dishes, a lively neighborhood spot.
2,rue Casimir-Périer, 75007 Paris, France
01 44 18 94 64
Hotel Aramis (Best Western)
Rates starting at under €100 per night in the heart of the 6eme.
124, rue de Rennes, 75006 Paris, France
01 45 48 03 75
Jewelry, accessories, and shiny sparkly things.
75, rue de Rennes, 75006 Paris, France
Fun household goodies, including lavender sachets, knife rests, reusable market totes, and much more. Friendly staff.
92, rue Saint-Antoine, 75004 Paris
85, rue de Rennes, 75006 Paris (I’ve gone to this one, closest to hotel above)
80, Boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris
79, rue Saint-Lazare, 75009 Paris
An American bookstore in Paris.
37, rue Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
+33 1 43 25 40 93
New York Times had a recent article about enjoying Paris on a budget, which seems like a clever idea given the economy.