Every traveler dreams of stepping into the cobbled paradise that is Paris. The reputation of its grandeur is well-known. The photos do not lie. But travel is travel and visiting a place for the first time - no matter how lovely, can quickly turn into frustration if you’re poorly prepared. Learn how to set your expectations right and get your itinerary at least ironed out before you set out into the City of Lights. For first-timers, here’s our basic guide to visiting Paris for the First Time.
Paris is one of those places that you commonly see in “Bucket Lists.”
Fall in love in Paris.
Visit the Eiffel Tower.
Have a literary trip in the City of Lights.
The city of romance certainly has an esteemed position in the hearts of travelers. And who could not? Paris has its charm so often talked about in travel blogs. It’s all over Instagram. The modern world is as drawn to its beauty as its lovers from the past century. But a quick word of caution: it’s easy to lose the initial charm once you’re jet-lagged, confused, and don’t know which public transport to take to your AirBnB accommodation.
There’s your first mistake. Don’t spoil your own fun. So how exactly do you prepare right?
Our recommended Standard Operating Procedure: know where you’re going to. And yes, that means read, read, and read. The best proactive course against travel buggers is to be well-informed. And so, this is for you!
We can’t stress enough how important planning is to your trip, especially if you’re visiting Paris for the first time - or any place at that. If you’re staying for a definite number of days, it helps to know the basics. Read on the following:
It can be panic-inducing, not to mention time-consuming to plan impromptu. Not only are you prone to making expensive decisions, you are also at risk of not getting the best out of your precious Paris travel time. So read as much as you can and draft a plan. Modify them as often as needed. And if you feel like contacting some people for help such as friends who’ve been to city, a relative living in Paris, or a travel blogger you’ve found online, go ahead and do so. You may snag some important travel tips you’ll be thankful for later.
Rehearse your day 1 mentally. How do you expect to arrive? Are you going to take public transport? If so, are you confident enough that you’ll know how to get around despite being exhausted from your travel? Not to mention with your bags with you. It’s more convenient and less exhausting to take a cab or hire a car service. Hand over the card where you’ve written the address of your accommodation, apartment, or hotel and be sure you know the check in time. Once settled, it would be nice to have already reserved a place to eat. That, or, after resting, you can walk around the neighborhood for places to eat. Again, see to it that you know the time most establishments open and close. Get a good rest and prepare for your Paris days ahead.
Image Source: Headout Blog
And you’ll be thankful you did. Of course, only if you’re planning to visit the museums which you’d most likely do. A museum pass will allow you to avoid the long lines. But aside from saving you time, it also saves you money. Highly practical, a museum pass could cost 48 € for two days, 62 € for four days or 74 € for six days with unlimited access to more than fifty museums and monuments in Paris and the Paris region. IT does not however give you a free pass to temporary exhibitions or conference visits.
Below is a list of the museums accessible via the Pass Museum Pass:
Musée du Louvre, Paris 1st
Musée d'Orsay, Paris 7th
Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Paris 19th
Tours de Notre-Dame de Paris, Paris 4th
Crypte archéologique du parvis Notre-Dame, Paris 4th
Conciergerie, Paris 1st
Sainte-Chapelle, Paris 1st
Arc de Triomphe, Paris 8th
Musée de l'Armée, Tombeau de Napoléon 1er, Paris 7th
Panthéon, Paris 5th
Centre Pompidou - Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris 4th
Musée national des arts asiatiques - Guimet, Paris 16th
Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris 1st
Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris 3rd
Musée du quai Branly, Paris 7th
Chapelle Expiatoire, Paris 8th
La Cinémathèque française, Paris 12th
Musée national Eugène Delacroix, Paris 6th
Musée des Égouts de Paris, Paris 7th
Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris 5th
Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme, Paris 3th
Musée national de l’Orangerie, Paris 1st
Musée Rodin, Paris 7th
Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris 16th
Musée de Cluny - le monde médiéval, Paris 5th
Musée des plans-reliefs, Paris 7th
Musée de la musique, Paris 19th
Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris 8th
Les Arts décoratifs - Collection Mode et Textile, Paris 1st
Les Arts décoratifs - Collection Publicité et Graphisme, Paris 1st
Musée national Gustave Moreau, Paris 9th
Palais de la découverte, Paris 8th
Musée Picasso, Paris 3th
Palais de la Porte Dorée - Musée national de l'histoire de l'Immigration, Paris 12th
Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération, Paris 7th
Château de Versailles et Trianon, 78
Château de Vincennes, 94
Musée d'Archéologie nationale et Domaine national de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 78
Abbaye royale de Chaalis, 60
Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, 93
Musée Condé - Château de Chantilly, 60
Château de Fontainebleau, 77
Château de Maisons-Laffitte, 78
Musée national de Port-Royal des Champs, 78
Château de Rambouillet, Laiterie de la Reine et Chaumière aux Coquillages, 78
Musée national de la Renaissance - Château d’Ecouen, 95
Maison Rodin - Meudon, 92
Basilique cathédrale de Saint-Denis,
Villa Savoye, 78
Sèvres, Cité de la céramique, 92
Musée et domaine nationaux du Palais impérial de Compiègne, 60
Musée départemental Maurice Denis, 78
Château de Pierrefonds, 60
Musée national du Château de Malmaison, 92
Château de Champs-sur-Marne, 94
Purchase the pass beforehand and have them shipped to you if you don’t have the time to pick them up during your trip.
Reserving a restaurant table in advance allows you to eliminate the proverbial worry of where to eat next. Many restaurants in Paris receive reservations through email so there’s no excuse for you to not be able to. In case you forgot and you’re already in your hotel or you’re visiting Paris for the first time and want to get the best recommendation from the locals, ask in the reception for help in reserving for your favor.
Unless you’re specifically seeking out places to eat at, (Michelin restaurants perhaps?) you’d be better off ironing out this detail beforehand than give in to hunger after an exhausting day of touring around.
And by backup plan, that could either be: a) aimlessly roaming around, chilling by a quaint Parisian cafe, people-watching, or b) simply doing nothing to regenerate for your next soiree.
Don’t stress out over a missed point in your itinerary. After all, isn’t the goal of holidaying to be relaxed? Then relax you should. Either the reason is the bad weather or a missed bus, or you’re just too tired to go around anymore, you shouldn’t feel like you failed yourself. Sit down, feel the atmosphere, watch the pace of life happen in slow motion, take photos and enjoy the fact that you’re in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
Go either one day or two without doing anything or at least being spontaneous. You’ll be very glad you did.
Use tech to your advantage. There are plenty of Paris apps that allows you to seek out where to find the best pints in the city, get out of the touristy spots and explore least touristy neighborhoods, discover cheap places to eat, and even find where the parties are. If you happen to be visiting during the summer, you’ll have plenty of parties to expect - a great distraction from the Paris summer heat.
Being one of the - if not the most touristy spots in the whole of Paris, you’re gonna have to expect a long waiting line to get to the top of the iconic emblem. To avoid this, resort to our time-honored strategy of reserving a ticket ahead. Once you know when you will go, you should be able to make a reservation for a specific date.
And we’re not only talking about your passports here. We’re talking about debit card copies, reservation tickets, confirmation of your booking to your hotel, a copy of the confirmation of your flight, a copy of your itinerary, travel visas, health information, even the correspondence you had with your reserved hotel. Take all these into account. Make a checklist which will be handy when it comes time to pack.
If you’re planning to go by the metro throughout your stay, it would help you save to buy a book of tickets instead of only a single journey one. A single journey ticket costs around 1.90€ but if you buy a book of 10, you’ll only be paying 16€. It also saves you the time for buying a new ticket every time. Another important tip: Don’t throw your ticket away before you’ve left the station. Sometimes, there are random checks where you will be asked to show your ticket to the inspectors in the station. If you fail to secure the asked document, you will be fined with an on-the-spot fee.
Or you’ll end up either disappointed or too exhausted. When traveling, it’s important to keep a balance between adventure and relaxation, between being spontaneous and prepared. That’s why planning ahead is important. Know which places you’d have to prioritize and make a plan B. Do not rush. If you want your first Paris experience to be a blast, it’s important to know how to have a good time. And how else could you do that if you’re always thinking about getting to XXX at XX:XX? As the wonderful French saying goes:
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”