Planning a trip to Paris
When should I go - and how much will it cost?
We'd suggest spring or autumn to make the most of good weather and fewer crowds. April in Paris is its most romantic month. Just pack a compact umbrella for the showers. The same goes for September, with the heat of the summer gone and the trees beginning to turn autumn gold.
June and July are both warm and delightful. There is nothing like being in Paris for the parades, fireworks and light shows of July 14, Bastille Day.
August sees Parisians depart their baking city for holidays and many local restaurants may be closed. The winter months can see the city blanketed in beautiful snow. You may have some museums to yourself, but just make sure to bring warm clothes.
Paris isn't cheap, so your budget is the second important consideration. Astute travellers budget for between €60 and €125 per day, including sightseeing charges, meals and transport but excluding your hotel. A well-equipped room at a comfortable four star hotel in a good area will cost around €200 - €300.
What to pack: our hot tips
The experienced traveller always packs with a simple rule: take half the clothes and twice the money that you'll think you'll need. Remember that you'll want to do some shopping in Paris. It's one of the reasons that you're there, so even shopping for some basics can lead you into the city's great department stores.
Footwear is an essential, though. Take well worn in, comfortable shoes. You're going to be doing a lot of walking and you don't want to be getting blisters. Have walking shoes? Bring them. A pair of smart shoes may be useful if you're thinking of splurging on an expensive restaurant.
Buy your maps in advance and think your way around the city. There are online alternatives, but really there's nothing to beat spreading out a map of Paris and beginning to understand its arrondissements, the districts that make up this amazing city. A good guidebook is essential too. Read a little before hand and you'll gain a big reward.
Where to stay: hotels in every area
Think first about where you want to be. All the areas we've listed below are great choices. The preference is down to you.
- The Marais: Bohemian, happening, with great restaurants and street life.
- Montmartre: Up winding streets, the renowned artists' district.
- Latin Quarter: Buzzing with cafes, the literary heart of the Left Bank.
- Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Near the Seine, a favourite for people watching over espresso.
What to see: essential sightseeing
The Eiffel Tower: Quite simply the most essential of the essential sights. This icon of the city has been the worldwide symbol of Paris since it was opened, to great controversy, in 1889. Take the lift and step out to magnificent views, by day or by night. Drink it all in.
Notre Dame Cathedral: On an island in the Seine, the twin towers of this Gothic masterpiece tower over you as its famous gargoyles look down. You'll be knocked out by the splendour of the interior - and the view when you climb to the top.
The Louvre: Home to the 'Mona Lisa' and much, much more. Beneath a contemporary glass pyramid lies the entrance to this greatest of great museums. Every hour spent here is unforgettable with masterpieces around every corner. Take your time and select your favourite pieces.
Musée d'Orsay: Monet, Manet, Renoir and all their contemporaries. In a magnificent converted railway station, the planet's finest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. A temple to artistic beauty.
Don't miss: unique experiences
It's the everyday that makes Paris so extraordinary. So between your sightseeing stops take time to do what Parisians do. These are the small things you'll remember.
A cake from a patisserie: Just walk in and select from the delights on display. The further you are from the tourist areas the better. While you're at it, pop to the boulangerie - the baker - that's bound to be nearby and buy a baguette for a lunchtime picnic.
Looking out over the rooftops: The Parisian skyline is rightly protected by law and just gazing out over it - from the top floor of a department store for instance - takes you to the heart of the romance of the City of Light. Magical.
Walk along the Seine: A gentle stroll along the quays of the Seine doing nothing in particular is one of the greatest of Parisian experiences. Choose the evening for the best light and to join locals doing just the same. Or you can go on a river cruise with the Bateaux-Mouches.
A meal in a brasserie: Take the metro to one of the outer arrondissements and have a look for a local brasserie, a relaxed restaurant with some classic French dishes. Try a little French and you'll be met with a warm welcome. Fine food and great wine awaits.
Shopping: A real must. The great names in fashion are around the Champs-Élysées, the most famous avenue in Paris. The luxury department stores - Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, BHV - are all great sights in themselves. Set a small budget and buy something to take home. Unforgettable.
Museums and monuments: Paris has a wealth of exceptional museums. Our favorite ones are: Centre Pompidou, Quai Branly Museum, Musee d’Orsay and Musee de l’Orangerie. Save time and book your tickets in advance.