First Timer's Guide to Paris, France
24 Apr 2018
Who hasn’t dreamt of going to Paris?
The city of Paris has remained a favorite among tourists all over the world for its unique and timeless beauty. Everywhere and anywhere you look, the city is bursting with rich history and culture. So whether it’s your first time, or your 27th time, we’re sure Paris will surprise you one way or another.
There is so much to see in Paris, and it can definitely get overwhelming. But with the One Country Eurail pass, finding your way around the city is now a lot simpler! Check out our specially curated list of activities to get ideas for you Paris itinerary.
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Any trip to Paris is incomplete if you don’t make time to see The Eiffel Tower - whether that be a glimpse from the street, watching it sparkle from the Trocadero at night, or going up to see the view from the top of the city.
The Eiffel Tower was built in the 1800’s and was intended to stand for only 20 years. However, it later became an important structure for radio and communication, and was spared demolition.
Arguably the most iconic structure in the world, the Eiffel Tower’s construction was actually petitioned against by locals all over the city. But today, it’s quite difficult to picture Paris without the Iron Lady - which draws in an average of seven million visitors per year!
Known as the largest art museum in the world, the Louvre houses nearly half a million art pieces in total. Tourists usually go to see Mona Lisa, the Seated Scribe, or Venus de Milo, but the art museum contains a variety of pieces ranging from Western art from the medieval ages to Egyptian antiques.
The Louvre also happened to be the home of the French Royal family before relocating to the Versailles. It is said that Louis XIV made the decision to leave the Louvre as it lacked extravagance for a king. Today, a statue of the Louis XIV is seen right at the entrance of the courtyard by the famous pyramid.
Klook Tip: With the amount of artworks and exhibits the museum has, it isn’t possible to see the everything in just one day. Get to the museum half an hour before opening hours with your Skip The Line pass. Once you’ve gone in, locate the pieces and exhibits you want to view first to avoid any large groups of tourists.
In honor of the French Army, French Emperor Napoleon commissioned the construction of the Arc de Triomphe in 1806. Though the emperor did not live to see the complete structure, the names of more than 600 soldiers were engraved on the monument walls. Underneath the Arc, an unknown soldier is buried and every night, the eternal flame is lit in his honor.
The Arc de Triomphe stands at the intersection of twelve avenues in Paris as a symbol of pride and honor. Additionally, it offers magnificent views of the city. Entry to the top of the Arc is free, however, prepare yourself for long waiting times as viewing times are regulated.
The Musee D’Orsay may not be as popular as the Louvre, but this art museum is favored by tourists and locals for its more mangable art selection. It houses an impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by artists like Monet, Degas, and Van Gogh to name a few.
Klook Tip: Avoid going on a Tuesday. Since the Louvre is closed, there are more tourists making a trip to D’Orsay than usual.
Before the inception of Musee D’Orsay, the building was actually a railway station built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. Undeniably, the building itself is a work of art and was declared a historical monument in 1978.
Klook Tip: Up in the top balcony of the museum, you’ll see amazing views of the Sacre-coeur Basilica through a giant transparent clock the museum is well known for. That said, tourists take quite some time in this area, so we recommend working your way down from the balcony to avoid the crowds.
Over by the east of the Seine River stands the Notré Dame, a French Gothic Cathedral that draws in an average of 13 million visitors per year. This UNESCO World Heritage Site had to be restored in the 19th century due to damage caused by the French revolution. Despite reconstruction, the cathedral remains a top tourist attraction due to its intricate architecture and marvelous stained glass windows.
The Notre Dame also offers beautiful, unobstructed views of Paris from the top level. Visitors can queue up for these views and as well as the tower’s bells - seen in Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame”.
Tourists often visit the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, but skip out on seeing the area around it. The small area of Montmartre is well known for being the Art Quarter of Paris - it’s common to see local artists setting up their stations at the center of Montmartre. Back in the day, famous artists like Matisse, Pissarro, and Degas resided in this district. However, after the area garnered more tourists, local artists have found it difficult to afford living in the area.
The best of Montmartre is in its details. From the cobblestone streets, its local cafes, and charming apartment windows. Tourists can get a glimpse of the everyday life of Parisians in this charming part of town.
Spend an afternoon at the beautiful Luxembourg gardens and live among the locals! This park, which is situated by Saint-Germain and the Latin Quarter, is a favorite among the Parisians as it offers relief from hectic city just outside the garden gates.
At the center of the park is the Palais du Luxembourg, which was previously the residence of Marie de Medici, whos nostalgia of Florence inspired the construction of the gardens. At the present time, the palace houses a museum people can pay to visit.
If you’re looking for a place to unwind and be around friends and family, this park is a great place to visit. Read a book, have a picnic, people watch or simply take a stroll through the breathtaking gardens - this is the best place to enjoy a quintessential Parisian afternoon.
Located just outside of Paris is the extravagant Château de Versailles. This palace was home to the French Royal Family up until the French Revolution, which forced them out of their residence.
The palace features the royal apartments, the famous hall of mirrors, a chapel, the Royal Opera and of course, the elaborate gardens and park. The palace architecture boasts an incredible baroque and neoclassical design that exudes elegance only fit for a royal family.
Explore the lavish grounds kings and queens like Marie Antoinette walked on and plan your trip early in the morning so as to avoid the crowds and to cover much ground as possible. Remember to wear comfortable shoes on the trip - the tour of the 2,300 apartments takes at least two hours alone! It makes us wonder how much the royals have seen of the place...
Another grandiose attraction in Paris is the Palais Garnier, commonly known as the Paris Opera. Though its exterior boasts elegance, the interior of the Opera is on a whole other level of extravagance. The Opera features a grand marble staircase, glass chandeliers on nearly every ceiling and column, and gold furnishing which seems to have been designed by King Midas himself.
An unfortunate incident in 1986 inspired the novel, film, and musical The Phantom of the Opera, which is set in the Palais Garnier. Fans of the masterpiece can get a glimpse of box number 5, and as well as the Phantom’s lake.
No matter how much you’ve seen of Paris, if you have not been, a visit to the Palais Garnier will amaze you. Its stunning architecture is a sight to behold, and is considered one of the most romantic and elegant structures in the country.
If you are only limited to seeing one district in Paris, the best option would be Le Marais. Locals say that if tourists want to see Paris in their eyes, this is where to go. Considered the trendiest neighborhood in the city, Le Marais is filled with art galleries, vintage shops, local boutiques, and french patisseries, restaurants and bars.
Le Marais was once home to some of the most influential people of France - Victor Hugo, Cardinal Richelieu, and even King Charles V. Though the majority of Paris was ordered development in 1800s, the small district of Le Marais was spared renovation, which is one of the reasons why it is called the historic area of the city.
The best way to explore Le Marais is to walk. You’ll be surprised by the beautiful gardens, streets and boutiques hidden in small alleyways. This is also the perfect place to see a Parisian’s daily routine.
Klook Tip: Start off in Place des Vosges, a small park surrounded by restaurants and boutiques. From here famous landmarks like Hotel de Sully, the Picasso Museum and Saint Paul Cathedral are just a walking distance away.