Known as the City of Lights, Paris is stuffed with history and iconic architecture that is known worldwide. The city, known for its delicate cuisine and shopping, is a symbol of Europe. Sitting at an alleyway café, your eyes will fixate on the subtly detailed sculpting of French architecture as you hear a couple conversing at the table next to you in one of the most romantic languages in the world. A lot of travelers believe that planning a trip to Paris on a budget isn’t possible, but that’s not true. Some of the best things to do in Paris; whether you are a history buff or an art enthusiast, are right around the corner a part of the top ten things to do in Paris!
But there’s more to Paris than delicious pastries and name brand clothing stores. Have you ever seen a Hollywood movie based in Paris? Take a walk down the narrow streets of Paris city center and find hidden gems that only Parisians know exist. Anything from its rapidly growing art scene to quaint cobblestone roads, to the Eiffel Tower and a very eclectic nightlife, you will notice that your Parisian itinerary will be packed!
France is a country geographically placed in central Europe. It borders its German neighbors to the east, Spanish neighbors in the south, and shares a bit of its border with four other European countries. It is, truly, very well-located for any American tourist backpacking through Europe routes. Paris is located only an earshot away from London.
If you will be in Paris for more than a few days, I can’t advise you more to purchase the Paris Card at the beginning of your stay. It saved me tons of time and money while I was in the City of Lights.
I’ve been traveling and living in Europe for almost three years and it has given me the ability to see over half of the continent. Along the way, I’ve picked up some knowledge on how to travel in Europe efficiently and on a budget. I’ve written a series of guides for Flying and Travel to help you get the most out of your trip abroad.
Best things to do in Paris Travel Guide
There are plenty of things to do in Paris that will keep you craving more. A Paris one day tour is simply not enough. A one day itinerary Paris will allow you to see almost nothing. You’d be better off with a Paris one week itinerary.
It’s impossible to see the entire city. There is too much to experience and it doesn’t matter how often you visit; there will always be something new to experience. – that’s part of the reason Paris makes an excellent stop on anyone’s ‘Euro Trip’.
What to do in Paris France: The must see places in Paris
Musee d’Orsay – One of the most extensive art collections in Paris. The Musée d’Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. A few hours in the museum is one of the best things to do in Paris.
Eiffel Tower – The heart of Paris. The Eiffel Tower is a wrought iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. It’s the most infamous attraction in the city and certainly tops the list of top ten things to do in Paris.
Museum of Louvre – Home of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The Louvre Museum is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st arrondissement.
Notre Dame Cathedral – This is the Notre Dame Cathedral. . . you know, the one from the Disney movie? You won’t be hard-pressed to find the Notre Dame Cathedral location. It’s on the Île de la Cité in the fourth district of Paris. Hearing the evening bells chime is certainly one of the top ten things to do in Paris.
Sainte-Chapelle – The Sainte-Chapelle is a royal chapel in the Gothic style, within the medieval Palais de la Cité, the residence of the Kings of France until the 14th century, on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris. The Sainte-Chapelle is certainly one of the top ten things to do in Paris.
Luxembourg Gardens – The Luxembourg Gardens or Le Jardin du Luxembourg, are located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, was created beginning in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France, for a new residence she constructed, the Luxembourg Palace. You must check out the Luxembourg Gardens as it is one of the best things to do in Paris.
Palais Garnier – The Tuileries Garden is a public garden located between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde in the first district of the city. Taking a stroll through this work of pure art is one of the top ten things to do in Paris.
River Seine – The Seine is an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France that extends over 480-miles-long. A walk along the banks, shopping all of the traditional used book pop-up shops is one of the top ten things to do in Paris.
Basilica du Sacre-Couer de Montmartre – The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacre-Couer Basilica is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Hearing a service in the French language has to be one of the best things to do in Paris.
Musee de l’Orangerie – The Musée de l’Orangerie is an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings located in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens next to the Place de la Concorde. There is enough to do in this area that it makes it one of the top ten things to do in Paris.
Best time to travel to Paris
Paris is a great place to travel year-round. With over 18 million visitors annually, it’s the third most visited city in the world behind Bangkok and London.
A Paris summer brings with it budding nature, a typically cool climate, and a café culture that is a wonderful symbol of the persona of the city. In the winter, the city gains a completely new character with its high fashion wintertime dress and the infamous Paris Christmas market.
However, my favorite time to visit Paris is early fall. Particularly in September and October when there are fewer tourists, lower prices (in the traveling ‘off-season’), and less heat than the summer months. There’s a different ambiance in the city as the seasons change.
Best places in Paris to stay
Ideally, to maximize your time, try to stay near the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is one of the top ten things to do in Paris. I saw this area to be a very centrally-located place to stay. However, as summer months can be very busy around the city (especially if you don’t book your accommodation in advance), I found another great neighborhood to stay in is the Quartier Latin area. It is a relaxed area with lots of interesting places and less touristy than the center of the city. Plus, it’s a heavy student area so usually, food and shopping are a little bit cheaper if you’re planning a trip to Paris on a budget.
What to eat in Paris France travel tips
Trying out French cuisine is easily one of the top ten things to do in Paris. If you want a taste of the infamous local cuisine, try these traditional foods on your day trip to Paris itinerary:
Macarons are the supporting cast of French cuisine! They’ve gained worldwide fame and are slowly becoming the French signature. These little puffs of almond-paste-come-meringue-magic are one of France’s most prized culinary symbols. If you are planning a trip to Paris on a budget, however, these things are dangerously expensive!
Croissants – If macarons are the supporting cast, croissants are the lead role in France (Paris, specifically). If you go to Paris and don’t have at least one croissant, were you really in Paris. Live a little and get one with chocolate in it! If you’re planning a trip to Paris on a budget, you’ll find croissants and baguettes will be your best friends.
Crepes are thin pancakes with a variety of tastes and styles. I prefer mine to be fairly plain, however, you can add as many salty or sweet toppings as you’d like. Crepes are also a staple of French cuisine.
Cheese, cheese, cheese! – The French are crazy about their cheese. It is necessary to taste French cheese to understand it is nothing like what we call cheese in America. It’s stronger, prepare yourself. I don’t fancy it, however, many French natives tell me it’s an acquired taste much like the beer was your first year of college.
Café Hopping to the Eiffel Tower
I was visiting one of my French friends, Marianne, who is a Paris native. She spent a few days showing me around the best local spots and tourist areas. We spent a lot of time at her favorite cafes eating Parisian specialties.
One day, we set off in the late morning for a coffee. Many of the cafes in Paris have outdoor seating – it’s a part of what makes the atmosphere so special. We stopped at two cafes on our way to the most infamous spot in Paris. I am an advocate for dedicating some of your time to simply sitting outside a Parisian café. It’s one of the best things to do in Paris.
I had my “long way from home” moment while we were munching on our second baguette of the morning with the Eiffel Tower within view. I had been in Paris for a few days but hadn’t seen the Eiffel Tower yet. It was the first time that I’d ever laid eyes on it and there I was; sitting outside a café in Paris, eating bread and French cheese with a local, and eavesdropping on the beautifully romantic language of the conversations around us. It was a stereotypical French moment that I will always associate with my time in Paris.
The Tale of the Tape on Paris, France
Paris is the capital and largest city in the country of France with over 2.2 million residents within its city limits. Paris is known worldwide for multiple things. The world-famous Eiffel Tower – which is well-known by everyone, its delicate cuisine, and its romantic ambiance combined to make the capital of France a symbol of Europe. In addition, Paris has a reputation for its sophisticated fashion and class that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
How to get there/get around:
Paris has an excellent public transportation system, however, it can get confusing to navigate; at least your first few times on the metro. For most, a Single Ride Ticket or a 24-Hour Ticket Paris metro card will suffice, but there are other options available like a Week Long Pass or Paris City Tourist Pass.
Personally, I saw it fit to purchase a Paris Pass at the beginning of my stay with a Paris itinerary 5 days. With it, you’ll receive unlimited use of public transport, free access to 60+ museums and attractions, and a fast pass to skip the busy lines at many top attractions (especially important in the summer during the height of tourism in Paris) among many other benefits.
You can purchase a ticket directly from the bus driver when hopping on or find passes at most tobacco shops and metro stations all around Paris.
American Survival Guide
Traditional French Meal
A traditional dinner near the heart of Paris will cost you a pretty penny; $15-$25 will usually cover a delicious traditional entrée at a fairly affordable price.
A Night Out
A beer in the heart of Paris nightlife isn’t exactly cheap, but you probably expected that. A pint of beer in Paris will run you about $5.80-$9.30 per.
A baguette can be purchased almost anywhere with an array of toppings and spreads among other variables. Expect to pay less than $3 for most options. Eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel Tower must be one of the top ten things to do in Paris.
Bus or Train
Public transport is fairly consistent in Paris when compared to other cities on a backpacking itinerary. It costs $2.20 for a single ride ticket. Alternatively, different priced weekly packages can be purchased from Paris Public Transport for the duration of your stay depending what zones you’re traveling in/out of. You will have no time for day trips from Paris, however, if you do, Versailles is typically the most popular city to tour in a day.
An all-inclusive Paris Pass is the ideal offer to see this city in its entirety. The card is available for 2,3,4, and 6-days of validity. It offers free access to museums, attractions, public transportation, guided tours, and even discounts at some restaurants. It covers all of the top ten things to do in Paris and saves you money! Perhaps the most important part of the Paris Pass is that it gives you Fast Track access and lets you skip long lines to top tourist attractions. This is extremely important if you have 2 days in Paris itinerary or even if you need to find the best things to do in Paris in 3 days.
AirBnB Paris France
AirBnB Paris has a fairly wide selection. Generally speaking, you can usually find an entire apartment near city center for anywhere from $90-120 on a nightly basis.
For an individual room, one person can normally find a bed for less than $40 per night.
However, if you journey outside of the heart of the city just a bit, prices drop dramatically and you can find a bed for as cheap as $30.
Parisians are French speakers. Check out this basic French language guide before you go! However, without any knowledge of the French language, you could find yourself struggling to communicate with locals in most parts of France. Speaking French with locals has to be one of the top ten things to do in Paris.
If you want cell service, it’s important to check with your provider about international charges. In addition, it’s always a good idea to alert your provider (and your bank) that you’ll be traveling internationally.
Credit Card Transaction Fees
It’s important to check your credit company’s policy on international transactions before using it abroad. There are plenty of credit cards available that advertise “No International Transaction Fees”. If you want to get a new card before leaving, find one like this.
Things to have before you arrive
It’s not imperative; however, I’ve always found travel much more relaxing when you arrive without a dire need of any essentials. Here are a few of them:
- Electrical Adaptors
- Power Bank
- Offline Map (app)
- Directions to your accommodation
Paris – or France, in general – is a country a part of the European Union – which means Americans are granted 90-days in a 180-day period to travel freely throughout the E.U. This means if you plan to be in Europe for longer than three months, you should take a look at this.
There are a lot of stereotypes that Americans have adopted over time. There are, also, a lot of stereotypes we have made about Europeans that just aren’t true.
With that being said, there are some cultural differences in everywhere you go. Embrace those – they’re the best part about traveling because those differences educate you.
In France, tipping is neither common nor uncommon. There are no secret rules to tipping etiquette in France. If you believe the service deserved a tip, leave a tip. If not, don’t. Both are normal and widely accepted. A 10% tip is an acceptable amount as waiters tend to make a higher salary in France if you so choose to leave a tip. Be careful that gratuity isn’t already included on your bill!
Discover Paris Travel Tips and Top Ten Things to Do Paris
Paris shocked me. I never thought I would love this city as much as I did enjoy it. I never had the desire to explore the French culture until I tested it. I will certainly be back to Paris backpacking in the near future to explore more of the top ten things to do in Paris.
If you want to find out more about how to travel Europe on a budget for your Paris packing list, and all that it has to offer, click on over to our Europe travel blog page dedicated to tips for backpacking Europe! You will find these to be informative, giving you excellent insight into planning a trip to Paris on a budget and through the rest of this multi-cultural continent.