Everything You Need to Know Before Your Trip to Paris

By Emily Zemler; Updated September 26, 2017

A guide to making the most of your French holiday

Everything You Need to Know Before YourTrip to Paris

Take a selfie atop the Eiffel Tower or eat croissants at a French cafe along the Seine. Paris is filled with art museums, eateries and history, presenting you with an array of choices for how to spend your time. It's best to do some research and planning ahead of time to ensure you can make the most of your Parisian journey. Here's everything you need to know when visiting the City of Love.

Q: Where is Paris located?

A: Paris is the capital of France and is located along the Seine River in the northern part of the country. Paris is approximately 214 miles from London by air and 3,600 miles from New York City by air. Paris is also close to Versailles, which is accessible by train in less than an hour.

Q: How big is Paris, France?

A: Paris is a large city, about 65 miles square. The city is made up of 20 arrondissements, or neighborhoods, which are laid out in the form of a spiral. It includes two small islands, Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, in the river. In 2017, the population of Paris was estimated to be 2,241,346 and the surrounding suburbs include over 10 million people.

Q: How tall is the Eiffel Tower in Paris?

A: The Eiffel Tower, built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, is one of Paris' most iconic sights. It reaches 1062.99 feet (324 meters), and its third floor viewing deck is 905.5 feet high (276 meters). A massive 7 million international visitors ascend the tower every year.

Q: How to get around in Paris?

A: Paris has an easy transportation system that connects the city with a Metro, buses and trains. The Metro has 14 different lines, with stops near most major tourist attractions, and the RER trains connect the city with Charles de Gaulle airport, Disneyland Paris and Versailles. Paris also has many taxis, which can be hailed throughout the city, as well as Uber, which is available via app. Consider buying a Paris Visite travel pass, which offers unlimited travel on public transportation for a specified number of days. Paris is also a great walking city and many attractions are easily accessible by foot.

Q: What is there to do in Paris?

A: There is a lot to see and do in Paris (so much so that you may need to come back for a second trip). The city is famous for its art museums, which include the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou and the Musee d'Orsay. Stroll around to see some of the historic sights, as well, like Notre-Dame de Paris, the Sacré-Cœur and the Arc de Triomphe. Those with families can consider a day-trip to Disneyland Paris.

  • Eiffel Tower: A large metal viewing tower designed by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World's Fair. Visitors can ascend to several levels in the tower with ticketed admission.
  • Arc de Triomphe: Built between 1806 and 1836, the Arc de Triomphe is located at the end of the Champs Elysees in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. It was created to honor those who fought for France, especially in the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Disneyland Paris: Disneyland Paris is the French outpost of Walt Disney theme parks, located in Marne-la-Vallée, a short distance from central Paris. Visitors can enjoy Disney-themed rides and attractions for a ticketed fee. 
  • Notre-Dame de Paris: Notre-Dame is a medieval Catholic cathedral in the center of Paris. Visitors can attend a mass or visit the towers and crypt. 

Q: Where is there to stay in Paris?

A: There are hundreds of hotels in Paris, from small boutique offerings to pricey luxury properties. Popular areas to stay include the Marais, Saint-Germain-des-Pres and around the Champs-Elysées. Some of the most famous hotels in Paris include The Ritz, Hotel George V and The Peninsula Paris. Consider booking a cool boutique hotel like Mama Shelter, Hotel Fabric or Jules et Jim, all of which offer a more authentic neighborhood experience. Paris also has a variety of Airbnb options, from full apartments to rooms for rent. Airbnbs are often cheaper than hotels in Paris.

Q: Where is there to eat in Paris?

A: Travelers to Paris will experience some of the best food in the world, especially if they know where to look. Try to avoid overly touristy spots around places like Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower. Instead, find local eateries with good reputations. Some favorite foodie spots include Mary Celeste, Bistrot Paul Bert (yes, that's spelled "Bistrot"), Verjus, Septime and Clown Bar. The city is also home to several historic restaurants, like Bouillon Chartier and Le Grand Colbert, as well as numerous cafes.

Q: Where to shop in Paris?

A: The Champs-Elysées is the most famous shopping street in Paris. The massive thoroughfare offers any type of store imaginable, from clothing to books to food. Nearby there are also rows of designer boutiques, like Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Consider venturing into less crowded neighborhoods, as well. The Marais is great for clothing shops and Merci is a popular local store that sells everything from kitchenware to sunglasses. Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores are worth checking out, as well as Le Bon Marche.

About the Author

Emily Zemler