Preparing for your trip to Paris is mandatory. It is a large capital city that has gone through centuries of history which have left its mark. So many, many things have to be seen.

Choices to be made, necessarily, when preparing your trip to Paris!

You will not be able to see all Paris has to offer in a few days, probably not even in one year. It means you have to choose what you visit. And making good choices among so many things is not an easy task.

It is why we made this special section to help you prepare and accompany you on your visit to Paris. All our writers live in Paris. It means our recommendations are based on real-life, not second-hand information through a tour operator network. Part of our staff is bi-nationals, Franco-American or Franco-Netherlander. Part of their families still lives in the USA, in the Netherland, and of course in France.

By following our recommendations, your trip will be easily organized by yourselves so you will see all that you want to. You will be able to make the required reservations based on your selection and our recommendations. From your plane ticket to the hotel, restaurants, museums, and monuments tickets. We even plan walking itineraries in detail to see the maximum in the time of your stay. We also list contingencies you may encounter and how to deal with them for a stay without worries. 

Visiting Paris by Yourself: a turnkey kit to manage your stay in Paris from A to Z

Visiting-paris-by-yourself-map-of-main-things-to-see
A short list of what can be seen – Numbers are the 20 districts of Paris

Visiting Paris by yourself is not a Tour operator or a Travel Agency. It is a Tourist Consult Agency specialized in Paris. We give you the keys to build and set up your own trip with the competence of a professional tourist agent who would only take care of Paris and visitors from Paris – not the whole world – with employees who have ties on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere in the World.

Visiting Paris by Yourself started with a simple idea, travel experiences, and the lack of complete “turnkey” services of this nature. To know more click on Visiting Paris with your travel agency in your pocket

Visiting Paris by Yourself allows you to choose, plan, book from A to Z what suits you, not your travel agent. You stay in control of everything, before, during, and even after your trip.

You will return home fully satisfied … and ready to come back at the first opportunity.

The questions you have to ask yourself … and our posts give you the answers

You will find below a list of questions to ask yourself. Just to help you figure out the main items you have to deal with.

It also includes the chronology of the preparation of your visit to Paris. And the questions you have to answer with the help of the below information are:

  • What are the dates of your stay in Paris?
  • How long time in Paris?
  • What type of stay in Paris and things you would like to visit?
  • Choose the area you want your hotel – Or do you already have an address for your hotel?
  • Understand the location of the airport(s) and how to go downtown on your arrival
  • Where are located all the monuments, museums, and spots you want to see
  • Start thinking about food. It is a unique opportunity to try new things when in Paris
  • Start also to think about (or what is) a Parisian life. Just for “exotic” sensations!

Note
The construction of this site is not completely finished. Some planned information is still being written and studied. But they will be available soon: let us know if you want to be notified as soon as they are published by using the Contact Form.

First to know when preparing your trip to Paris : dates of your stay

You are probably squeezed between dates to be home for a thousand reasons: family, job, or other. It means you already have left free approximative planning dates in your agenda for visiting Paris.

But you also have to take care of the seasons. Because Paris has 4 clearly defined seasons. Spring is different from Summer which is different from Autumn, also different from Winter. To get more information :

  • Paris in springtime ( link to come)
  • Paris in Summer ( link to come)
  • Paris in Autumn ( link to come)
  • Paris in Winter (Christmas time, popular time, etc.) ( link to come)

How long you plan to stay in Paris?

Another point is how long do you want to stay in Paris? Three days is short, very short, but it could be a start for an investigation before a next later visit. You could really stay in Paris for months, and in the end, there would still be spots to be seen. Between both 1 day and a month, you can choose. Five days? A week?

  • 1 day in Paris ( link to come)
  • 3 days in Paris ( link to come)
  • 5 days in Paris ( link to come)
  • 1 week in Paris ( link to come)

Transportation booking – reservation – Step #1 when preparing your trip to Paris

This is probably the first action you should take: airplane seat reservations should be planned in advance, especially if you choose a time to visit during the tourist season.

Paris is served from all over the world. To get the best transport prices, there are specialized websites and price comparators such as Kayak (link to come).

You also have Air France (link to come), whose main hub remains Paris and which therefore has many daily return flights to this destination. On the other hand, if your point of departure is California, Air France is the only one to have direct non-stop flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Your trip to France will begin as soon as you step on the plane, with good quality menus compared to the usual meals servent on other airlines.

Non-direct flights.
This is often the case for intercontinental flights. You may have to stop at an intermediate airport, change planes, flights, airlines, terminals, or even airports, go through customs or police checks before arriving at your destination airport in Paris, Charles de Gaulle or Orly. Don’t forget that it takes time, a minimum of 1 hour for a “good” connection, most often 1h30 or more to ensure your connection and take into account the delays of your departure plane. If Charles de Gaulle is one of your intermediate connecting airports, or for the example, click on “Transit CdG airport” to learn more.

Connecting flights
If you need to change of plane, flight, or even airport or terminal, be careful with connecting required time. Large airports have usually several terminals and you may have to go through police controls at the arrival side of the connection airport before leading to your next fly.

Direct flights
Airlines often use the term “Direct Flight” for flights that stop at an intermediate airport, and sometimes even change planes. Only the flight number is the same for the first and second part of the flight. To be sure to have an uninterrupted flight from departure to the final destination, you should select a “Non-stop flight” – if it exists among the flights offered by the different airlines.

An other point to know when preparing your trip to Paris : type of stay

There are numerous types of visits you can have while in Paris. Lodging and what to visit will differ from one to the others. It could be:

  • a romantic trip
  • a family trip – which could lead to an Apartment rentals 
  • a honeymoon trip 
  • a group trip
  • a solo trip
  • a combined business/leisure trip

Consequently, what to be seen and where to live will depend on the choice you make at this step.

What can be seen in Paris and what would you like to visit – Step #2

After choosing your kind of trip to Paris, your next step when you are still at home, is the main museums, monuments, churches and cathedrals, parks, or gardens you want to visit. In order to familiarize yourself with what awaits you, there is an overview by clicking on :

Note
Just to get an idea of the number of places you will be able to visit: it takes 2 or 3 hours for each visit, plus 2 or 3 hours of walk or transportation per day. In all, for a day, count on 3 to 4 spots of interest you will be able to see. Calculate the duration of your stay. To know more –> link to come

In fact, your choice at this point of your planning does not have to be final. It just serves to give you a “feel” for any opportunities you may have. A map of Paris (What can be seen in Paris) with points to see will also help you to become familiar with the “layout” and organization of Paris. After all this, it will be easy to orient yourself in the streets! Your final choice of things to see will have to be made later after you have a better understanding of what Paris is. Or even when you are already in France (be careful about the availability of some attractions because of advanced reservations).

Choose the district of your hotel as early as preparing your trip to Paris- Step #3

We think it is better to choose a hotel near the places you want to visit. We mean, ideally at the center of the distances to reach the visiting points. We call this point the “Epicenter” of your visits. (We have set a simple simulator to show the recommended Epicentre depending on your planned visits). (See> link to come). You will save transportation time and you will be less tired. You will also be able to make more visits, easily, by walking along the street.

It is in (–> link section C – Name of section) of Visiting Paris that you will find all the help to choose the quarters and districts (arrondissement), your hotel the best suited out of a selected list.

In section C (Name of the section) of the site you will find all the help you need to decide in which districts ou (boroughs) you should find the best hotel according to your criteria.

  • List and description of the different areas (Quartiers) (link to come)
  • List and description by district (link to come)

Understand the location of the airport(s) and how to go downtown on your arrival

Map-of-paris-with-location-airports
This map shows the motorway numbers

To start well when arriving in Paris, you need to understand the location of the airport you will land. There are 3 commercial airports in Paris and 1 for corporate (general) aviation:

  • Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport. This is the main one and most of the long-distance flights arrive there (from the Americas in particular). Its location is 25 km (16 miles) north (slightly east) of downtown Paris.
    It includes
    • Terminal 1 (mainly foreign airlines other than Air France)
    • Terminal 2, huge, divided into A, B, C, D, E, F, G sections, with Air France the main airline
    • Terminal 3, for Tour Operator flights (Charters)
  • Orly airport (ORY). It is about half the size of CDG, at 15 km (12 miles) south of Paris. Flights coming from southern Europe and South America could arrive at Orly. It also handles other flights from Europe and also domestique flights.
  • Beauvais Airport. It is a small airport, mainly for low-cost flights to France and Europe. It is 70 km north of Paris (50 miles) by A16 motorway, about 60 to 90 mn from Paris
  • Le Bourget airport is for business aviation, located at 20 km between Paris and Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports have several transportation means to go to Paris: buses, trains (Rapid transit), taxis, car rental. See below the Public transports in “Transportation in Paris during your stay” – with maps from airports to Paris downtown. (Maps in French Plan RATP)

Beauvais Airport offers transportation through direct buses (to Paris downtown or Roissy Airport), car rental, or taxis (quite expensive).

When you will choose your flight, don’t forget to check the airport you will be landing at. You will already know its location in relation to Paris downtown and how to get to your hotel.

Preparing your trip to Paris: think about walking the streets – or with a bicycle – or a scooter

If you choose your hotel according to our recommendations above, distances to your visit points will be quite short, and walking will be a pleasure. In addition, you can rent bicycles or scooters, electric or not, for a day or an hour. You also can return to your hotel by the metro, bus, or taxi. They are plenty and easy to use. It is true, what counts most is strolling along the streets of Paris, between two points of interest.
We have dedicated a special section (D –> name) where you find 20 walking itineraries of 2 to 3 km (1 1/2 to 2 miles) with the history and stories to cross along the way. It is nothing less than a guided tour with the commentary of your guide on your cell phone. You can make your walk, at your pace, 24 h a day, without getting lost.

Self-guided-tours-canal-saint-martin
Stroll on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin close to the center of Paris

All is explained in section Guided Walks and Cruises. You must go in this section to understand all that you will get through our guided Tours: it would be too long to explain it all here.

Note
Walking is by far the main mode of travel in Paris: it accounts for 40% of all daily trips, whether within Paris or between Paris and the suburbs. On the surface, it accounts for 75% of trips.

Preparing your visit to Paris by thinking about Parisian life

When you are in Paris, it would not be a good idea to totally live apart from the local population, or only have contacts with the hotel people. When preparing for your trip to Paris, it would be great to prepare yourself to live “un peu” like a native Parisian.

The best way is to read a book or two, or even see a film on Paris. Of course, it is only literature, but it will be a preview at least for you who come the first time.

  • A history book worth reading is “Paris: The Secret History” by Andrew Hussey, or Stephen Clarke’s “Paris Revealed: The Secret Life of a City” for something a bit lighter.
  • On the film side, “Paris, Je T’Aime” (2006) is worth seeing. It is made of 18 short films (one per district – except 2). Click on Paris, je t’aime to get the story of the film and commentaries. It is a love film, dramatic comedy, sketch film, of 115 min, released in Cannes in 2006. This film is available for streaming.
  • If you have not enough time, you may also watch documentaries. Youtube is packed with short programs about Paris. The BBC does quite a few good ones, like this one on the Revolution or another one about the Louvre.

And finally, to top it off, you would be best prepared if you learned a few french words and sentences. It is possible in a few dozens of hours.
Among others, we have selected “Duolingo”. Not only is Duolingo totally free but also useful when learning a new language: it’s fun and addictive. This service takes a game-like approach to learning and offers apps for iOS, Windows Phone, and Android. To get started, you create a profile and either launch a beginner’s course or take a test to move into an advanced lesson (if you already know the basics). Duolingo is one of the “pure” free services that promises it’ll be free forever.

Start thinking about the dishes you don’t want to miss!

Food is important in the life of a French person. And they have good reasons for it. Apart from monuments, museums, and churches, it would be a pity if you pass up the opportunity to taste and enjoy good French meals. It is not necessary to dine in a 3-star restaurant. A lot of tiny restaurants make wonderful meals of all kinds. Even along the street, you can enjoy boulangeries, bistros, etc.. throughout the day.

Note
To better understand the way of life of the French, click on French meals and restaurants -“Manger à la française”- French customs.

Think also to participate in a cooking class under the guidance of a well-known chef. It can also be a pastry course or under the supervision of an oenologist if you wish to learn more about the art of wine. The duration of these courses is limited to one half or one day. Registration is required in advance (see link – not yet available).

Preparing your trip to Paris is also take care of your transportation during your stay

Even if you choose to mainly walk when preparing your trip to Paris , it is good to know and understand the transportation network of Paris. How to move from one point to another with public transport. The main public transportation in Paris is managed by a single company : la RATP (Régie autonome des transports parisiens). It includes the underground transport (Metro limited to the city of Paris), buses (City of Paris), Tramway (Limited areas), RER (Trains city of Paris and suburb), Transilien (Trains to and from the suburb). English Maps are the following:

  • Metro (Underground): Plan – Stations are 400 to 800 m apart, important network (but practically limited to “The City of Paris”, not to the suburb), every 5 to 15 mn, depending the time of the day, closed after 1:15 am (end of the line), Monday through Thursday, and on Sunday. On Friday, Saturday, and the night before bank holidays, the metro operates until 2:15 a.m. (end of the line). The first metros open on all lines at 5:30 a.m.
  • RER: Plan – faster trains than the metro, fewer stations (1 km between them), underground network below the metro with connections to the metro network, extends from 20 to 30 km in the suburbs, every 10 to 20 minutes trains, continuous service until 12:30 am, with a return in the morning between 5:15 and 5:30, depending on the lines
  • Bus lines : Plan
  • Tamway – Plan
  • Aéroports – Plan
  • Transilien – Plan (RER and Transilien)
  • The Noctilien – During the night between 12:30 a.m. to about 5:30 a.m. the public transportation is operated by The Noctilien. It is a network of night buses also operated in the Île-de-France region and Île-de-France Mobilités, in conjunction with RATP and Transilien SNCF. In Paris, the Noctilien night bus network branches out from five major transfer hubs: Châtelet, Montparnasse, Gare de l’Est, Gare Saint-Lazare, and Gare de Lyon. All RER stations are served by the Noctilien network. In Paris, the waiting time between buses is about 1 hour.
  • VELIB – For more autonomy, there is the Velib’! Today, renting a bike is part of the habits of Parisians and the cumulative length of the bike paths reaches 700 kilometers. In addition to offering the possibility to move around outdoors, the Velib’ offers the advantage of being inexpensive.
    In Paris, there are 1,261 Vélib stations spread throughout the capital. The rental is done on an automatic terminal by credit card. The first half-hour of the trip is free, then the first half-hour is charged at 1 euro.
  • TAXIS – No more metro, too many people in the Noctilien, or not strong enough to ride a Vélib’? The fastest and most comfortable (but also most expensive) solution is to take a cab. In any case, the minimum fare for a trip is set at 7 euros.

The weather in Paris, the best season to visit and how to dress

Paris is nice in all seasons … of course. But some seasons are better than others because you do not like low or too high temperatures. Or you prefer sun instead of light rains.

Paris is less than 150 km (100 miles) from the sea (English Channel). The slightly prevailing wind is from the west, from the Atlantic Ocean. It means there are no extreme temperatures (except below 0°C sometimes in January and more than 30°C near the end of July or the beginning of august) or rains (it could be a full day of light rain to no rain for weeks). You will find all the information about the climate, the weather, and the temperature. You will be able to follow the weather today and the next few days to decide what clothes to choose if you are in Paris. To do so, click on “the weather in Paris” (link to come).

Another point many tourists question is how to dress. It has to be decided when preparing your trip to Paris. Of course, in order not to be too hot or too cold during your stay. But also – and especially for women – to know how Parisian women dress. The simple curiosity of course! Especially since our intention is to recommend some shopping addresses (not yet organized – sorry! – but if you want to be notified, let us know via our Contact Form).

Note
If you want to buy clothes or shoes in France, be careful about the sizes: they are different from the sizes you are used to buying in your country. Try before you buy! See the size comparison table (Still to come).

Make your reservations as soon as possible to avoid being overbooked -Step #4?

When preparing your trip to Paris, you can make the reservations you are interested in (plane ticket, hotel, restaurant, museums, etc.) directly from our site, via the links in our articles (e.g.: choose your hotel). Your reservations can also be made from the “Reservation” section where they are grouped by category (e.g.: hotels).