How to Plan Your First Trip to Paris

Our Guide to Preparing a Successful Stay
How to plan your first trip to Paris How to plan your first trip to Paris
September 24, 2022
So you picked Paris as your next destination and can’t wait to get cracking on your travel plans? We don’t blame you! But before you start scouring the internet for everything from plane tickets to the proper way to greet someone in French, scroll down for our time-saving, insider tips on how to plan your first trip to Paris.
Portrait of Urbansider Paris author Alesa
by alesa

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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:

How long should I stay in Paris?

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:

  • The average tourist in Paris spends approximately 126€/day, excluding accommodation1
  • In 2022, the average cost for a hotel in Paris was 217€/night2

Sources: 1. Paris Ile de France Office of Tourism (2021) 2. Trivago Hotel Price Index 

Eiffel Tower seen from the river Seine

When should I go to Paris?

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.

Where should I stay in Paris?

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.

 TAKE THE QUIZ TO FIND OUT WHERE YOU SHOULD STAY IN PARIS

Place George Mulot

What should I do in Paris?

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.

Make a list of your personal Paris must-dos

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.

Custom Paris trip concierge service.

Find out what’s happening while you’ll be here

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. 

Set aside time for getting lost in Paris

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.

View of the Rue Daguerre.

Don’t try to do it all

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.

What else do I need to know before visiting Paris?

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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