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Paris Travel Guide: Top Tips for First-Timers

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

What goes through your mind when somebody mentions Paris?

Personally, I picture awe-inspiring architecture, quaint backstreets and cutting-edge fashion.

And I think of history, art and romance.

After all, Paris is known as the City of Love.

With Paris Fashion Week fast approaching on February 24, it got me thinking of my time there in November 2017. And how I fell in love with the place.

Whether you’re heading to the French capital sometime soon or plan to in the future, I’ve got you covered. Read on for my Paris travel guide and top tips for first-timers.

How to Get to Paris

Paris travel guide 101: you need to know how to get there.

From Vancouver, you can catch a non-stop flight to Paris-Charles De Gaulle airport via Air France in just under 10 hours.

The rest of the world is also well-connected to CDG with several international airlines offering direct flights, which makes the journey pretty straightforward!

Where to Stay in Paris

Paris has an abundance of accommodation options available, from hotels and hostels to Airbnb and home rentals.

That said, I’ll always opt for a central hotel when I visit Paris.

Why? Well, because it’s more convenient for exploring, of course!

The following three hotels are where I’ve stayed previously:

Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel - this classic Parisian building is a 3-minute walk from the Richelieu-Drouot metro station, a 10-minute walk from the Louvre Museum and a 25-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower

C.O.Q Hotel Paris - this neoclassical building is a 4-minute walk from Place d’Italie metro station and a 20-minute walk from Notre-Dame cathedral

Hotel Le Pavillon - this quirky, artsy hotel is in the heart of Paris and its a 10 minutes walk to the Eiffel Towel. Super central and close to everything!

How to Get Around Paris

Getting around Paris is easy thanks to the smart metro system.

In terms of public transportation, you can also rely on buses, boats and trains.

My girlfriend and I used Uber if we were in a hurry while we were over there. However, the majority of the time, we chose to walk.

After all, because there’s so much to do and experience, you can see more of the city on foot.

What to Do in Paris

Perhaps the most important part of a Paris travel guide is what to do and see while you’re there.

If you did all of my suggestions below, it would probably take you around 10 days.

Therefore, you might want to prioritize accordingly!

Eiffel Tower

Let’s be real for a sec: it would be totally unacceptable if you visited French capital without stopping by the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Spoiler alert: it’s not overrated at all. Swoon.

2. Disneyland Paris

Similarly, you can’t go to Paris without spending a day at Disneyland Paris. It takes just 40 minutes to get there from the city centre via train.

And you get to see Mickey Mouse!

3. Notre Dame de Paris

Even though the inside of Notre Dame is temporarily closed after the fire broke out in April 2019, you can still go and marvel at the beauty of its French gothic exterior.

Originally built in 1163, it’s totally worth it.

4. Musee du Louvre

I spent over five hours in this amazing art museum that’s considered the world’s largest — and even saw the Mona Lisa!

Having said that, the painting was a lot smaller than I thought it would be.

5. Musee d'Orsay

This mesmerising museum is situated on the Left Bank of the River Seine in a building that used to be a Beaux-Arts railway station.

Its variety of French paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography makes it a must-do!

6. The Palace of Versailles

Located in Yvelines, which is approximately 13 miles from the centre of Paris, the Palace of Versailles was the royal residence of France from 1682 until 1789.

And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

7. Pont Alexandre III

Considered the most ornate, extravagant bridge in the city, the Pont Alexandre III spans the Seine and connects the Champs-Élysées quarter.

Full disclosure: it’s a must-see.

8. Galerie Lafayette

Some say that the Galerie Lafayette is the best shopping mall in Paris — and I might have to agree!

Situated on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, it features luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Prada.

9. Champs-Élysées

Often described as ‘the world’s most beautiful street,’ the Champs-Élysées is 1.2 miles long and runs from the Place de la Concorde to Arc de Triomphe.

It’s versatile, historic and full of stores that will satisfy both budget and luxury travellers.

10. Arc de Triomphe

Speaking of the Arc de Triomphe, you have to venture to one of the most globally-renowned monuments in Paris.

Did you know that it was formerly named Place de l’Étoile because of the étoile or "star" that was formed by the twelve surrounding avenues?

I know, pretty cool —right?

11. Panthéon

Located in the Latin Quarter, the Panthéon was initially built as a church dedicated to the patron saint of Paris, Saint Genevieve.

It’s now a popular tourist attraction for all ages.

12. Jardin du Luxembourg

The Jardin du Luxembourg (or Luxembourg Gardens in English) is a captivating complex that sits in the 6th arrondissement of Paris.

Created in 1612, it has 106 sculptures that make it feel like an open-air museum. You can enter the gardens for free, but the Musee du Luxembourg will cost you a fee.

Still have time to spare after all the above activities?

You might want to check out one of the most magical views of Paris from the Montmartre hills. Just saying.

What to Eat in Paris

Finally, you have to take advantage of the famous Paris cafe culture.

Even if you’re on a budget, sample the city’s heavenly French bread, cheese and pastries.

They’re SUPER DELICIOUS and not to be missed!

In fact, I recommend that you stop by as many cafes and pastry places as possible while you’re there. I did this during my visit and it sure made it a trip to remember!

A Paris Travel Guide Disclaimer

Whatever you decide to do, wherever you decide to stay and whatever you choose to eat, you’re bound to have the best time in the City of Love.

And once you’ve fallen hard the first time, your love affair with Paris will last a lifetime.

Personally, I’d go back again in a heartbeat.

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