Paris is a dream trip for almost any traveler, for good reason. There's so much to do, so many wonderful foods to try and there's an almost endless supply of things to see. So how do you maximize your time in the French capital and ensure you don't miss the best experiences? Follow these tips!
Visit La Tour Eiffel After Dark
It's the one Paris landmark you just can't miss. However, it's the only one that's actually far more enjoyable after dark. Visit on the hour after nightfall when for 5 minutes 20,000 lights will flash on and off illuminating the tower in a way that can make the eyes of even the most stoic person water. The sight truly is a thing of romantic beauty.
Free Museum Sunday
On the first Sunday of every month, Parisian museums are free to the general public. For a city that isn't inexpensive, this is the top tip I share with everyone who asks me about traveling to Paris. I now plan my own trips to ensure I will be in the City of Light during the first Sunday of the month and during one record visit, I was able to explore five museums in one day. If you start early and plan accordingly, mapping out the museums you want to visit, it's one of the best ways I know to ensure you see a lot -- all for free!
A very reasonable train ride from central Paris on the RER C will deliver you to the stunning former palace of French royalty. Like the museums in the city, it is free to enter on the first Sunday of the month but only from November to March. Make certain that you buy a "Paris - Versailles Rive Gauche" ticket for zones 1-4 and plan for an entire day as there is much to see during your visit. From the stunning palace rooms, to the chapel, to the fountains, lake and formal gardens to Marie Antoinette's beloved Petit Trianon and the The Queen's Hamlet -- even one day may not be quite enough but it's a good start. There are several options for dining onsite, however they are not budget friendly so I recommend breakfast and dinner elsewhere.
Car Tour of Paris
The local guide company “4 Roues Sous 1 Parapluie” gives wonderful tours of Paris by antique Citroen. Whether during the day, or at night, it is my favorite way to take in a large amount of the city at one time. The ideal experience includes a cuddle in the backseat of the car, with a partner or lover, while you are chauffeured all over town by a very experienced guide who can tell you anything you'd like to know. However, singles and groups can also be accommodated and themes range from Paris in the Cinema to Unknown Paris or even Paris by Night.
During my most recent trip to Paris, I finally opted for a pass via the tourist office and I can't overestimate how useful it was. From a transportation perspective alone, it saved my travel partner and I more time and energy than I can put a monetary value on. There is a Paris City Passport, Paris Museum Pass (handy if you can't visit over the first Sunday) and a Paris Transport pass with options beginning at just € 5.25.
Visit the Welcome Centers
Again, until my very last visit to Paris, I had never done this. However, now that I have I can tell you how kind the staff at the centers are and just how much helpful information is available once you do visit. Start out your trip this way, and you might just find yourself avoiding a lot of headache. The two most conveniently located centers are Pyramides and Gare de Lyon.
Rent an Apartment and Live Like a Local
Companies like HouseTrip, New York Habitat, Go With Oh and HomeAway all offer a multitude of apartment options all over the 20 arrondissements of Paris. Rent through them, instead of booking at a hotel, and you'll find yourself not only saving money but also experiencing the city in a way you never could if you insulate yourself inside a hotel. If you happen to luck out, and book an apartment by an Eric Kayser, you'll also be able to start out every day with what I think are the best croissants in Paris.
No matter where you stay, or how you get around, please don't visit Paris and only go to the same places every other tourist does. Take a few risks, get a little lost and learn enough French to ask locals for help in their own language. You'll find that being adventurous in the city of Paris reaps a reward unlike anything that can be captured in one travel article. It's a city that desires to be explored, not merely checked off a list!
Are you ready for your trip to Paris, France?