A Guide To Visiting Paris For The First Time
Last month, I visited Paris for the first time and wow… I wasn’t disappointed! I’d heard about ‘Paris Syndrome‘ and that many think the city is overrated, so I was keen to see for myself. Well, I can see why it’s loved by people from all over the world. It’s a beautiful city and has plenty to see and do. If you’ve been dreaming of visiting Paris for the first time, what are you waiting for?
Here are my tips and recommendations for your first trip to Paris.
Things to see and do:
If you only have a few nights to spend in Paris, you’ll want to plan your itinerary carefully and prioritise what you want to do the most. Here are some of the main things to see and do:
- Eiffel Tower
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Arc de Triomphe
- Louvre Museum
- Palais Garnier
- Place de la Concorde
- Seine River Cruise
- Montmartre –
I managed to see/do all of the above in three full days in Paris. It was quite a full itinerary so if you want to go at a slower pace, I’d recommend either doing less or going for at least four days.
If you want to go up the Eiffel Tower and visit the Louvre, make sure you pre-book to avoid long queues. The Eiffel Tower gets booked up particularly fast during peak times (school holidays, public holidays, summertime…). You can either pay to go to the top which is 906 ft high or to the second floor at 377 ft. Generally, tickets to the summit sell out quicker. You can purchase tickets two to three months in advance, so get in there as soon as you can.
It costs more to go to the top than the second floor and I’m not sure it’s worth the extra pennies. I opted for a second-floor ticket and took the stairs (definitely got the steps in that day!). The view from the second floor was great and didn’t feel like I was missing out by not going to the top.
Besides, the views from the Arc de Triomphe and the Sacre-Coeur are just as good – if not better!
As for the Louvre, I’d recommend visiting early on in the day. Even when you have pre-booked tickets, there’ll be queues as people’s tickets get scanned and bags get checked. I arrived by 10 am when there were minimal queues but you can go as early as 9. Alternatively, the museum offers late-night openings until 9:45 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays. These have been suspended since the pandemic but if they re-start by the time you go, visiting in the evening could be a good option.
By the way, the Louvre is HUGE. It’s the largest museum in the world and displays over 35,000 works of art at a time. You should set aside a good amount of time when visiting the museum because there’s so much to see.
My favourite neighbourhoods in Paris were probably the Latin Quarter and Montmartre. The Latin Quarter sits by the side of the River Seine and is home to the Notre Dame Cathedral, Pantheon and much more. Montmartre has all the attractions I listed below it at the beginning of this post and is worth a visit if you have the time.
If you can, try to get up early one morning to see some of the sights without lots of other tourists being there. For example, I went to see the Arc De Triomphe around 8:30 am before going up the Eiffel Tower and it was so worth it! Paris looks especially beautiful early in the morning and it’s nice to experience the city at a more peaceful hour.
When to visit Paris:
The best time of year to visit Paris is either during Spring or Autumn. That way, the weather isn’t too cold but you still avoid the biggest crowds. Read more about the best time to visit Paris here.
But remember, ”Paris is always a good idea.”
Where I stayed: Les Piaules – Nation
There are many great places to stay in Paris but I couldn’t fault Les Piaules – Nation. Although it’s a hostel, there are also private rooms with bathrooms. It’s conveniently located right by a metro stop, has a rooftop bar as well as a supermarket next door. For myself and a friend, a private room worked out at about £45 each per night which isn’t bad for Paris! I’d happily stay there again.
Paris is walkable, but public transport will be much more efficient if you’ve only a few days there and want to see lots. I used the metro during my trip but there are also good bus services. You can purchase metro tickets at the stations and there are a few different options. For example, you can get unlimited travel for a specific number of days within specific zones. If you’re only planning on travelling within the centre of Paris where the main attractions are, you’ll only need a ticket for zones 1-3. A 3-day pass for these zones cost me 26.65 euros.
Where to eat:
Le Marais – The stylish district of Le Marais has streets jam-packed with restaurants and eateries. It’s also good for shopping and having a stroll around. As a vegan in Paris, I found that generally, the vegan options were lacking unless it was somewhere that catered exclusively for vegetarians and/or vegans. Here are some top vegan-friendly eateries in the Le Marais area:
Latin Quarter – The Latin Quarter is a lively neighbourhood and another good area for eating. Some vegan-friendly eateries here include:
Finally, Montmartre! Consider these vegan-friendly options if you’re in the Montmartre area:
How much it cost:
In total, the trip cost me around £430. This includes the Eurostar ticket, three nights’ accommodation, all of the activities and the spending money. This isn’t too bad considering Paris is on the expensive side. However, I could’ve done it cheaper by staying in a shared dorm room rather than a private room. Also, the Eurostar train could’ve cost less if I was able to be more flexible with the dates. See below for a full breakdown of my expenses.
|Transport (within Paris)||£24.10|
All in all, it was a successful trip! I’d love to return to Paris and spent more time in Montmartre, and take it easier now I’ve done a lot of the main attractions.
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