Planning your first trip to Paris is exciting, but we know it can be a little overwhelming too. There’s so much to do, from finding accommodation to acquainting yourself with the public transportation system. As experienced travel bugs and local Paris pros, we have quite a few tried-and-true tricks for exploring a new city.
In our guide to how to plan your first trip to Paris, we’re helping you answer your biggest questions:
If you’ve never been to Paris before, it can be tough to know how much time you need to get a good feel for the city. We recommend spending no fewer than four days in Paris for your first time, although living here, we clearly think the longer, the better! When deciding how long you should stay in Paris, it can help to know what to expect in terms of budget. Travel costs vary widely, of course, depending on where you live — a flight from Denver to Paris obviously requires a bigger budget than a train ticket from London to Paris — but these on-location costs apply across the board:
Along with the number of vacation days you have saved up, you’ll want to take into account your budget, the weather, and any seasonal activities you might want to do. You can find all our insights into each season in the City of Light in our article When is the Best Time to Go to Paris. All that’s left is to pick a date and book that flight from Atlanta to Paris, or from wherever you may hail.
After transportation, accommodation is the next big decision to make when planning your trip to Paris. Instead of looking at hotels or apartments straight away, we suggest that you first find the Parisian neighborhood that’s right for you. This helps you narrow down your search and also ensures that you’re in a part of town that suits your needs. Picking the right area can save you a lot of travel time too, which means you’ll have more time to enjoy more fun aspects of Parisian life than le métro.
We’re all about connecting with a city in an authentic and personal way, which means that we aren’t ones for blanket bucket lists or telling you there’s a specific thing you have to do in Paris to make your trip valid. We are, however, more than happy to recommend places to eat in Paris as well as our favorite shops, sights, and spas. Here’s our advice for deciding what you should do in Paris in a way that ensures you have a wonderful experience that’s right for you.
It may seem obvious, but the best way to start planning your first trip to Paris is by listing all of the things that scream Paris to you, the things that you’d be a little sad or disappointed about not having done while in Paris. Maybe it just wouldn’t feel like you’d been to Paris if you didn’t at least see the Eiffel Tower or have coffee on a café terrace. Perhaps you really want to find a beautiful scarf to bring home as a souvenir and try a croissant from a bakery. No matter how little, cliché, or off-the-beaten-path, make a note! Then, you can start building your Paris itinerary around these activities.
Need some inspiration? Browse our Paris city guide to get some ideas.
Spend a little time looking into what’s on in Paris during your stay. Take an hour to check the city’s cultural calendar for once-in-a-lifetime events, French holidays, and current exhibitions, and then jot down one or two that pique your interest.
It may sound strange, but getting lost in Paris is one of our favorite pastimes. We love walking down random city streets and stumbling upon surprises. This art of wandering aimlessly, which the French call flâner, is an essential element of Parisian life. So take the time to close Google Maps, put away your phone, and roam les rues like a local. You’re sure to find interesting areas you would’ve missed otherwise.
It’s tempting to try to cram as much as possible into your Paris itinerary, but slow is the way to go! While a few museum visits and dinner reservations are certainly worth scheduling, make sure to leave time to truly savor each and every experience. Rather than rushing through the Tuileries Garden on your way from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe, take a seat on one of Paris’s iconic green park benches and simply soak it all in. Not only will your body appreciate the time to relax, but you’ll also get a better idea of the heart and soul of the city.
Before arriving in Paris, it’s a good idea to learn a bit about the local culture and customs. Check out our articles about Parisian culture for our insights into everything from saying “bonjour” or “bonsoir” when addressing someone to whether or not you need to tip at a restaurant. You can find more practical information like transportation to and from the CDG airport and how to take the Paris metro in our collection of Paris travel tips.
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