Paris; Travel Tips from an Ex-Parisian

Paris; Travel Tips from an Ex-Parisian

Planning a trip to Paris, France can be overwhelming. There are so many attractions to visit, things to do and not enough time, especially if you travel from overseas and want to explore other European cities.

In this post, I share travel tips from my favourite places in beautiful Paris

When I first moved to Paris I was impressed with the creative design and aesthetics of the city; the decorated shops, the old architecture, the beautiful parks, fashionable Parisians and the tasteful lifestyle. Even at night, the city looks beautifully illuminated and invites to go for night scenic walks.

Parisians like to keep a busy social schedule; they tend to live in small apartments therefore, they enjoy life outside. Cafes and restaurants are filled with people enjoying long conversations and something delicious and beautifully presented to eat and drink. 

Long meals, good conversation, panoramic views, people-watching, good food beautifully presented and delicious wine are all part of the French culture…especially in Paris!

I’ve lived in Paris for more than thirteen years and I got to know the city and the culture very well.

Read about how locals get around the city, my favourite museums, scenic walks in the park, luxury shopping, beautiful city walks, panoramic views from above, tourist attractions and restaurant recommendations.

Getting around like a local

Unless there are strikes (which unfortunately happen,) the metro, express train (RER), tram and bus system is easy to use and efficient. RATP runs the public transportation system in Paris.

The bus

I personally like to take the bus because I get to see the city.

  • If you take the bus and want to sit down, go to the back of the bus. Avoid the priority seats at the front. These seats tend to be in high demand and the French are not shy when it comes to fighting for their rights. I’ve witnessed many heated arguments over seats in buses.
  • It’s easy to understand the bus maps at the bus stops. They show the bus stops in a straight line and use arrows to show the direction of the bus. Familiarize yourself with the maps and ride the bus like a local.
The metro

Line 1 of the metro (yellow) crosses Paris from east to west and stops at many of the main tourist attractions. Be careful with your belongings as this touristy metro line is more vulnerable to pickpocketing than others. Line 4 (dark pink) is another important metro line that goes from north to south.

Tip
  • Metro lines 1 and 14 are driverless trains. It’s really cool to travel on the first wagon next to the front window. You see panoramic views as it enters each metro station.
Personal anecdote
  • Some years ago, there was a public transportation strike in Paris and therefore, fewer trains and high demand for them. The metro stop was filled with people aiming to get on the next train no matter what. I was on my way to work with carry-on luggage because I was going away for the weekend after work. The driver on Line 6 saw me and realized that my chances of getting on that train were slim because of the luggage. He invited me to ride with him in the co-pilot seat. It was such a cool experience!
The RER express train

The RER is an express train connecting central Paris with suburbs and popular destinations like Charles de Gaulle airport, Versailles and Disneyland Paris.

A local ride-hailing application – Le Cab

A local ride-hailing application that works well and offers consistently good service is Le Cab.

Public self-service bicycle hire

Velib’ is a public self-service bicycle hire available all over Paris. Riding a bicycle in Paris has become safer than before. More and more people ride bicycles nowadays and it is encouraged by the city in order to decrease pollution. There are many bike lanes and it is a scenic and fast option to get around. If you don’t know your way around, use the GPS on your phone.

On foot

Walking is a good option to move around. You can find shortcuts through parks, hidden squares, narrow cobblestoned streets, and beautiful areas that you wouldn’t find otherwise.

Parisians’ preference

Parisians love to get around in scooters. It’s faster, they can still move in traffic and they avoid crowded public transportation.

Museums you shouldn’t miss

There is an array of museums to choose from in Paris. Here are the ones that I highly recommend in a city full of art and culture.

The world’s largest art museum and a historic monument

Museé du Louvre is an unmissable attraction in Paris. It is huge and therefore, impossible to see all the collections in one day. The most popular section is the Denon Wing where you will find the famous Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo Da Vinci; Italian, French, Spanish paintings, as well as Greek and Roman Antiquities.

Impressionist and post-impressionist paintings

The Musée de l’Orangerie, located in the Jardin des Tuileries is beautiful and not overwhelmingly big. You can easily spend a couple of hours enjoying the paintings inside.

French art – paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography

Musée d’Orsay is located by the river Seine in a beautiful building that used to be a railway station. It displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914. I particularly like the impressionism paintings section. I also like to sit in the main hall by the entrance and admire the building with high ceilings and beautiful decoration while I people-watch.

A dedication to the work of Pablo Picasso

Musée National Picasso Paris in Le Marais district is located in a beautiful building with wonderful staircases and high ceilings. The art is beautifully displayed and the experience of the visit is uplifting. 

A dedication to the work of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin

Musée Rodin is located near Invalides, in the 7th district. It has Rodin’s art displayed indoors and outdoors, in the beautiful garden. Among the highlights is The Thinker statue. The garden is perfect for relaxing strolls and even for a picnic.

Art museum and cultural centre

Fondation Louis Vuitton is located in the west of Paris, next to a fun amusement park – Jardin d’Acclimattation. The building, the design on the inside and the outside, the art displayed and the exhibitions are wonderful. There are nice views of some parts of the city and the surrounding elegant 16th district.

Museum tips 
  • Most museums in Paris have an entrance fee however, they waive this fee certain days of the month. Check out this link with more information.
  • Museums usually close one day a week, generally Monday or Tuesday. To avoid disappointment, take a look at their website for opening days and times before you go there.

Beautiful parks to explore on foot

There are beautiful green areas in Paris. Here are some that I really enjoy visiting and walking around.

A majestic place created as the garden of the Tuileries Palace

Jardin des Tuileries is great to visit because of its beauty and surroundings. It is located between Place de la Concorde and Museé du Louvre with the iconic pyramid. There are statues, gardens, fountains, free chairs to sit on and enjoy the view and beautiful architecture around. Museé d’Orsay is located just across the river Seine. In summer, they have an amusement park in one area of the gardens and a Ferris wheel with great views from the top.

A large fountain, treeline walkways and flowerbeds

Jardin du Palais Royal is a garden where I like to go for a stroll and sit by the fountain to relax under the sun. There are great restaurants around the Jardin and a stroll is the perfect ending to a nice lunch.

The oldest planned square in Paris

Place des Vosges, located in Le Marais district is small and beautiful. It has a big statue in the centre and four green squares around with a fountain each. People like to have picnics and relax in the green areas by the fountains. There are also benches to sit on more comfortably under manicured trees.

If you plan to visit Le Marais district read my post Le Marais Paris – A Neighbourhood to Discover on Foot

A Roman colonnade, a pond of water lilies, antique statues and more

Parc Monceau is a wonderful park to visit for a stroll and for a picnic on the grass. There is a beautiful pond of water lilies where people have photo sessions, especially newlyweds. One entrance to the park has a beautiful panoramic view of the Arc de Triomphe.

Lawns, tree-lined promenades, flowerbeds and model sailboats on its circular basin

Jardin du Luxembourg is diverse and beautiful. There are different areas within the park including tennis courts, showers, ponies, a circular basin with a fountain in the middle, green areas, sculptures, flowerbeds, and free chairs to sit on and enjoy the view. I used to work nearby and loved to go to Jardin du Luxembourg for lunch under the sun.

Designed like an English landscape garden

Parc Montsouris is located in the 14th district in a quiet residential area. In this park, you’ll see more locals and students than tourists. The park has a lake, a cascade, wide sloping lawns, children’s playground and more. It’s a great park to explore on foot, have a picnic and relax.

Tourist attractions not to miss

Tip for first-time visitors

If it’s your first visit to Paris, I highly recommend taking the sightseeing bus and boat tour (there are many companies.) It’ll give you a good idea of the tourist attractions available in Paris and their location. Later, you can decide which attractions you want to visit at your own pace. It’s difficult to see everything on a first visit so don’t feel overwhelmed, prioritize and leave some activities for your next visit.

Place de Charles de Gaulle Étoile and its 12 radiating avenues

The Arc de Triomphe is at the centre of Place de Charles de Gaulle Étoile and its 12 radiating avenues. I recommend going to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to enjoy beautiful panoramic views of Paris.

One of the most recognisable avenues in the world

Avenue des Champs Élysées is a wide and busy shopping avenue, one of the main attractions in Paris and therefore, always crowded.

Tips
  • Looking towards the Arc de Triomphe, the left side of the Champs Élysées tends to be less crowded than the right.
  • Christmas time is when the avenue is the most beautifully decorated with a different design and illumination every year.
  • The beauty shop Sephora on Champs Élysées is worth a stop. It’s beautiful, big, smells like perfume and is a busy beauty haven.
A neighbourhood with an artistic and bohemian history

Montmartre is a picturesque neighbourhood where many artists used to live and socialize. It is located in the north of Paris, on a hill, overlooking the city.

Tips
  • Place du Tertre is the main square, it is surrounded by restaurants, creperies and shops. In the middle, there are many artists selling their paintings and making fabulous portraits of people.
  • The Basilique du Sacre Cœur is beautiful to look at and to visit inside. Don’t miss the panoramic views of Paris from the forecourt of the Basilica.
  • Rue des Saules, Rue de l’Abreuvoir, and other wonderful streets are worth wandering around. Get lost in the streets and enjoy the lively atmosphere.
Great view of the Eiffel Tower

Place du Trocadéro in the 16th district has wonderful views of the Tour Eiffel.

Eiffel Tower on a sunny day
Eiffel Tower view from Place du Trocadero *
  • When I go to Place du Trocadéro, I love to eat at Carette. They serve fine French delicacies for every meal, from breakfast until dinner.
Neo-classical style architecture inspired by a Roman temple

L’Eglise de la Madeleine is a beautiful church in neo-classical style architecture, atypical of that of a religious building. Someone who visited me in Paris referred to it as, “the church that doesn’t look like a church.” It is beautiful outside and inside but what I like the most, is the view from the top of the stairs at the entrance. You can see Rue Royal and behind it, Place de la Concorde with the Luxor Obelisk and as a backdrop the Assemblée Nationale – Palais Bourbon. This is a view you don’t want to miss. 

  • A good restaurant near Place de la Madeleine that opens until late is Chez Flottes.
One of the most famous opera houses in the world

The Opéra Garnier in the 9th district is a beautiful building to admire from the outside and to visit inside. 

Walking tips in the area
  • Walk on Avenue de L’Opéra coming from Rue de Rivoli towards the Opéra Garnier. 
  • Opéra is the financial district of Paris. During the week, at lunchtime, walk around Place du Marché Saint Honoré and sit for lunch at one of the many restaurants. You’ll see Parisian bankers going out for lunch. 
  • Walk from Place de L’Opéra to Place de la Madeleine on beautiful Boulevard des Capucines lined up with trees. 
  • Don’t miss a scenic and chic walk from Place de L’Opéra towards Rue de Rivoli on Rue de la Paix. This street is full of luxury jewellery shops such as Cartier, Boucheron and others, it crosses beautiful Place Vendôme where the Hôtel Ritz is located and ends up on Rue de Rivoli where Jardin des Tuileries is located.
Opera Garnier
Opéra Garnier seem from Avenue de l’Opéra
The flagship store of the French upmarket department store

The department store Galeries Lafayette (Haussman) in the 9th district, behind the Opéra Garnier, has become a tourist attraction. There are big buses full of tourists that arrive and drop them off for shopping and admiring the beautiful and colourful dome. My advice is to visit the #Glasswalk inside Galeries Lafayette, maybe have a drink admiring the beautiful dome and leave shopping for less crowded places if you like zen shopping as I do.

Paris City Hall

Hôtel de Ville is Paris City Hall and the building is beautiful to look at and photograph. It is located in the 4thdistrict, next to the river Seine. In summer, they have beach volleyball and other fun activities in the Place de L’Hôtel de Ville and in winter they have an ice-skating rink.

The Pedestrian bridge that crosses the River Seine

Walk on Pont des Arts to appreciate beautiful views of the river Seine, Île Saint-Louis, Palais Royal and Museé du Louvre and the Institut de France. The Eiffel Tower is also visible from a distance. Visit the Biblioteque Mazarine at the Institut de France, it is beautiful and free to visit.

Pont des Arts with the Institut de France on the other end
Pont des Arts with the Institut de France on the other end
One of the most extensive 13th-century stained glass collections in the world

Saint-Chapelle de Paris has wonderful stained-glass windows, especially on a sunny day. It is absolutely worth queuing to enter and enjoy the panoramic views of stained glass and architecture inside.

Famous cafes, bookstores, shopping and one of the oldest church in Paris

Saint-Germain-des-Prés is another beautiful area to wander around in Paris. Rue des Saints-Pères, Rue de Buci, Cours du Commerce Saint-André, and Rue Saint-André des Arts are only some of the streets to explore on foot. I suggest getting lost on the beautiful narrow streets in this district. The Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés is one of the oldest churches in Paris.

Walks along the River Seine

There are lively areas along the river Seine to enjoy a scenic walk, bicycle ride, rollerblade, sit down and have a drink, food and even have a picnic. There are two areas that I like the most:

The most ornate extravagant bridge in Paris & a scenic stroll on the left bank of the River Seine

The riverbank under one of the most beautiful bridges in Paris, Pont Alexandre III on the left bank in the 7th district is chic and has a great atmosphere. Walk along the River Seine on the left bank between Musée d’Orsay and Musée du Quai Branly.

Tip
Pont Alexandre III seen from the riverbank
Pont Alexandre III, seen from the riverbank *
The chilled atmosphere along the River Seine on the right bank

Another good area to go for a stroll, to people-watch and grab a drink and some food is the Quai de L’Hôtel de Ville on the right bank, in the 4th district. There are many restaurant and bar boats. One that I like is Les Maquereaux

A natural island, bridges, pedestrian street, panoramic views – Île Saint-Louis

Explore Île Saint-Louis on foot.

Tips
  • Cross Pont St-Louis from Ile de la Cité (where Nôtre Dame de Paris is located) and go down the stairs towards the river on your left-hand side, continue walking along the water and enjoy the panoramic views of the river Seine, the bridges and the right bank across the water.
  • Walk up the stairs and take Pont Louis Philippe to cross the river Seine towards the right bank, cross the Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville and continue on the pedestrian street Rue des Barres which has some restaurants and a church along the way. Continue straight ahead and cross Rue de Rivoli where I suggest getting lost in the beautiful streets of Le Marais, with shops, cafes, restaurants, cool street performers and a jovial atmosphere.
Rue des Barres
Rue des Barres

Panoramic views from the top

  • On the 56th floor of the Tour Montparnasse in the 15th district, you will find Le Ciel de Paris, a chic bar and restaurant with wonderful panoramic views of Paris.
  • On the 6th floor of the Centre Georges Pompidou, you will find Georges bar and restaurant with fantastic panoramic views.
  • Printemps (men’s store, 9th floor) the department store on Boulevard Haussman in the 9th district, near Galeries Lafayette has a great rooftop bar with great views of the Opéra Garnier and more.

Luxury shopping

High-end department store and supermarket – Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche
  • If you want to go shopping with great service, an array of brands and designers, in a stylish and zen atmosphere, I recommend the department store Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche located in the 7th district. 
  • If you are looking for French and international delicatessen, great wine and champagne and wonderful cakes, La Grande Epicerie de Paris, is the place to go.
  • There are wonderful places to sit for a coffee or a meal inside the department store, all with exquisite quality.
Chic shopping street surrounded by tourist attractions

Rue Saint-Honoré and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (same street divided by Rue Royale) is a long street full of luxury shops and nice architecture. Definitely worth going for a stroll.

Tips
  • The Village Royale is a small and beautiful passageway that you can’t miss. There are luxury shops, nice decorations and is worth seeing.
  • A nice place to stop for food and drinks is Hôtel Costes.
  • The bar and restaurant at The Mandarin Oriental have a beautiful setting, especially in the courtyard terrace.
Luxury shops and beautiful architecture

Avenue Montaigne is a luxury shopping street, not far from Avenue des Champs Élyseés and great for shopping or window shopping.

Peruvian gastronomic restaurant recommendation
  • A great Peruvian restaurant on Avenue Montaigne is Manko Paris, I highly recommend it. The bar is beautiful.
Shopping tip – Tax refund
  • In many European countries including France, non-European residents visiting for less than six months can get a tax refund from certain good purchased. Read more information about Tax-free shopping or ‘Détaxe’ in France and see if you are eligible to save some money and how to do it.

I hope you enjoy your stay in Paris or get inspired to book a trip to a city full of aesthetics, good food & wine, and beautiful illumination at night. Walking in the city at night is such a delight and can be very romantic 😉

Louvre Pyramid
Louvre Pyramid *

Note:
On this blog, all pictures are taken by me unless I state otherwise.
On this post particularly, the pictures marked with an asterisk (*) in the caption and the feature image were taken by my good American friend and great photographer Rhona Vogt. She visited me several times while I lived in Paris and she took great photos during our strolls in the city.

Read more travel tips from around the world here

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