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Paris is one of these cities that is always crowded. However, with a little planning, you can enjoy The City of Love with a bit of fewer queues and fewer crowds. The best time of the year to visit Paris is spring – in April and the beginning of May, and fall – in late September and October. If travel to Paris in spring you will get warm weather and blooming. And if you go to Paris in the fall you will avoid the intense heat and the largest tourist crowds.
Winter in Paris
Winter weather in Paris is usually wet, and the temperatures are between +3C to +6C. The upside about visiting Paris in winter is it is less crowded and it is cheaper. You can visit famous museums and galleries without long queues and large crowds. Hotels and flights are less expensive due to the low season, and there is also a winter sale. There are two seasonal sales in Paris – winter and summer. Winter sale starts in early January and lasts until mid-February. Summer sale starts at the end of June and continues through July. It will also be one of the best seasons to visit Disneyland in Paris, although the weather may be a bummer.
Mid to late December is a high season due to Christmas and New Year’s. Champs-Elysée is lit up by garlands of shimmering light, and the whole city is decorated festively. There are ice-skating rinks throughout the city where you can bring your kids, and one is in front of Hôtel-de-Ville. Christmas Markets are set up in different neighborhoods, with their warm wood-roofed booths, vin chaud (hot wine), enchanting decorations, gifts, and gourmet treats. Sometimes you even might get snow.
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Spring in Paris
If you love gardens, parks, and blooming flowers, Paris in springtime is a beautiful idea. The weather is getting warmer, although it may still rain quite a lot in March and April. Paris is a popular destination throughout the year, and although spring is a shoulder season, it is getting crowded. It is, however, easier to get a hotel and airline tickets at a decent price than during high seasons. You can do all the attractions during your spring stay in Paris, but remember to bring an umbrella. Despite the rainy weather during the earlier months of spring, this is the best time of the year to visit Paris, speaking out of my personal experience. Who wouldn’t want to stroll on Champs-Elyseé for a while and then rest your feet on a sidewalk restaurant or cafe while having a glass of Crémant, without having to wait in queues to get a table? We have visited Paris in the early spring, mid-summer, and late fall and I would say that Paris towards the end of April or the beginning of May is THE perfect time for a visit.
We did a champagne cruise on the Seine when we visited Paris in spring – it was a bit chilly, but we were lucky with the weather as it was dry, although slightly grey. You can check out cruise on the Seine with Viator.
Summer in Paris
Summer in Paris is hot, crowded and expensive. The school summer break starts in July, and the French will be traveling their country as well. During August, many locals flee to the coast, and many small shops and restaurants are closed. Due to the lack of business travelers accommodation prices might be lower during August.
The second annual sale – summer sale – starts around the last week of June and runs through July. Check out shopping opportunities in Paris This summer we spent only one afternoon in Paris. We did some shopping on Champs-Elysées, took a lot of shots of Arc de Triumph, and just strolled around.
Fall in Paris
Beginning to mid-September in Paris is still a high season. The weather is still warm, queues are always long, and prices are still high. However, it is much better than the summer season, even it is crowded, the most significant tourist mass has gone. Towards the end of September and through mid-October is the perfect time to visit Paris. By then most of the tourists are gone, flights and accommodations are cheaper than during the high season. The weather is still lovely, and it can get as warm as +20C. Mid-Oktober is the start of rain-season. Although flowers are past their peak, fall brings out amazing colors.
Where to stay in Paris for your first time
Paris is divided into arrondissements (neighborhoods) – in total 20. Before choosing where to stay, you should decide on:
- what you want to do and see
- what your budget is
- how easy it is to get to different attractions – how near your accommodation to public transportation
There are a total of twenty arrondissements in Paris, and most of them have some attractions worth visiting. I would suggest doing no more than 2 attractions each day and get all your tickets in advance if possible, especially because several landmarks and museums have started limiting the number of visitors during high seasons.
We stayed in the 8th Arrondissement twice and hadn’t been disappointed. If you are looking for views and central location Hotel Stella Etoile next to Arc de Triumph is perfect for your stay in Paris.
On our second time in Paris, we stayed at the cozy and romantic 4* star Hotel Opera Marigny. It is located in the 8th arrondissement in an area with several restaurants and shops. There was especially one French restaurant, Cafe Sud, which was super romantic with live music.
Where to eat in Paris
There are three restaurants we discovered during our several stays in Paris that became our favorite. These are all totally different but all super French.
Charming French restaurant with live music. The food is excellent, the wine is French (no need to say more), and the service is far from French (no need to say more either). The interior is relaxed with warm colors and chairs you can spend your whole evening. You should ask for a table by the window, that way you can people watch too, at least during summer. Cafe Sud is a little bit pricy but you will love the atmosphere, which is a mix of cool and relaxed, yet snobby French. You should book a table in advance. The restaurant fills up pretty quickly, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. You can check Cafe Sud’s website for booking.
Oh my God! This is such a place not to be missed. Everything they serve is made as a souffle. Well, almost. I had escargot for a starter and then we had souffle with Biff Bourgogne and souffle with asparagus. The souffle is served on a plate with the filling of your choice baked inside. However, you also get a small mug of the filling on the side. The restaurant has a style of a French bistro and the food is excellent. The souffle meal will work for lunch as well as for dinner. The prices are very reasonable for Paris and France. You can book a table on Le Souffle’s website (the French language only so send them an e-mail)
Canard and champagne
French know how to do it! This restaurant started with only duck and champagne on their menu, a French Paradox. In recent years, they have loosened up a little and introduced biff/entrecote and wine. The restaurant has a kind of minimalistic vibe with a high ceiling, high chairs, and a high sofa. We didn’t take any pictures, unfortunately, but you can check Canard and Champagne’s website for menu and reservations.
Best arrondissement to stay in Paris – Arrondissement guide
The 1st Arrondissement is the center of the old city of Paris and home to many beautiful historic buildings, The Louvre Museum, the adjacent Jardins des Tuileries and The Place de la Concorde. This neighborhood is a great place to stay while in Paris. It is located on the Right Bank (Rive Droit) of the Seine, and you will remain within walking distance of most of the top tourist attractions in Paris. The area is very safe, as is most of Paris, with many restaurants, shops, and hotels. One of the largest shopping centers in Paris is Forum Les Halles located in 1st Arrondissement. Because of the neighborhood’s central location, it is quite expensive to stay and dine here.
The Louvre museum – is impressive, huge, but elegant. We waited in line for 1,5h to get in while visiting it in April. The Louvre museum – both the Louvre Palace and its artwork – is impressive and vast. Read an article written by Worldinparis about this magnificent museum.
Completely forgotten by tourists this neighborhood will welcome you with cobblestoned streets, an intact medieval tower, which has a dramatic history, one of the best permanent markets in the city, edgy boutiques and much more. 2nd Arrondissement is located near the city center, on the right bank of the Seine, not far from the Louvre and Tuileries gardens. A few of the main attractions in the neighborhood are La Tour Jean-Sans-Peur, the tallest medieval tower in Paris and many of the passages and arcades.
The Marais district area is often referred to as the “Temple” and if you are into conspiracies and catholic history you will most certainly love to know why the area is referred to as such. There was once a medieval fortress that stood in the area. The fortress was built by the infamous military order known as the Knights Templar, Paris. Just like the 2nd Arrondissement, the 3rd Arrondissement is located near the heart of Paris but luckily for you, also forgotten by tourists. Long the aristocratic district of Paris, it hosts many outstanding buildings of historic and architectural importance. There are a few museums in the area and, again, if you love history, Musée Carnavalet is a must. This is a Paris museum, that highlights the city’s past and reveals its diverse personality. Unfortunately, the museum is closed for renovations until the end of 2019. You can visit The Hôtel de Soubise, a lovely Renaissance mansion, that houses the French National Archives.
The 4th Arrondissement is at the heart of Medieval Paris. The Notre Dame, St. Chapelle, the National Museum of Art in the Pompidou Center and Hôtel-de-Ville (city hall) are all located here. Although the Notre Dame Cathedral had a tragical accident in 2019 it will be wrong not include it in this post. Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most known cathedrals in the world. Before the fire, you could climb 422 steps to get to the Notre Dame Bell Towers for a beautiful view of Paris and close up on Gargoyles. The length of the line to get in the Cathedral would depend on the season. In early spring you would spend around 30 min to get in and about an hour to get up to the Bell Tower. They operated with two different entrances and separate prices for the Cathedral and the Towers. The view from the Bell Tower was lovely.
The Marais neighborhood that spills from the 3rd Arrondissement into the 4th arrondissement, contains the Place des Vosges, known as the most beautiful square in Europe. The 4th Arrondissement is known for its cozy shops, gardens, and museums. Great to enjoy in all seasons, the area has become Paris’ most branché (fashionable in French) quarter.
5th Arrondissement is located on the left bank of the Seine and is known as the Latin Quarter because the Sorbonne University professors and students all spoke Latin. The neighborhood is considered to be the intellectual center of Paris and one of the liveliest in the city. If you want to experience the artsy and bohemian side of Paris, this might be one of the best places in Paris for you to stay. The Pantheon, mausoleum for France’s most renowned philosophers, artists, and intellectuals, such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Zola, the Curies and Alexandre Dumas, is located in the Latin Quarter. If you want to get impressive views of the city, you should climb up to the top of the dome.
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6th Arrondissement, a somewhat conservative area of Paris, is known for a few Catholic churches, the gorgeous Luxembourg Gardens – Jardins du Luxembourg, and shopping. Luxembourg Gardens are located on the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter. The Gardens, inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence, were created upon the initiative of Queen Marie de Medici in 1612. The best time to visit the gardens would be late spring, summer, and early fall. The gardens cover 25 hectares of land and are filled with flowers, forests, ponds, statues, and fountains. It is a perfect place to visit if you travel with kids. Entering the gardens is free.
The 6th Arrondissement is also known for the discounted designer stores, luxury flagships, concept shops, and unique local boutiques.
7th Arrondissement is where you will find the icon of Paris – The Eiffel Tower. In this district, you will also find the Invalides – which holds Napoleon’s tomb, and the Musée d‘Orsay. Here you can get a boat ride on the Seine while drinking champagne and enjoying beautiful views of Paris.
The Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower is a must-see, but the queues are long. There are three ways to see the views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower.
- 1st floor – 57m up and glass floors. Here you can get a beautiful view of Paris and a meal at the restaurant.
- 2nd floor – 115m up to enjoy the fantastic views of Paris. Here you can get dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant The Jules Verne
- The top – 276m up you can enjoy the most outstanding aspects of Paris while having a glass of champagne.
Get your skip the line tickets for the 1st and 2nd floor and enjoy some of the best views of Paris.
La Conciergerie was served as the Royal Palace for the King of France until the end of the 14th century when the King moved to the Louvre. La Conciergerie then took on a judicial role, and part of the palace was converted into prison cells.
Musee d’Orsay – one of Paris’ most known art museums. Previously a railway station, it is now a proud holder of many exhibitions. Its architecture is amazing. It would be an excellent choice besides The Louvre.
The Right Bank’s 8th Arrondissement is where you’ll find the glitz, glamour, and elegance of Paris. The neighborhood is expensive with many restaurants, shops, and tourists. The Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triumph, famous fashion houses, elegant hotels, and restaurants are all located here. If you want the convenience of staying in the heart of Paris, you will have to pay the price. As in any overcrowded touristy area, the food and service in restaurants could be better, and the rates could be lower. Wander off of the Champs-Elysées to small alleys and streets to get more authentic food and atmosphere. One exception to this would be the famous Ladurée. Ladurée is a restaurant and a tea room which serves fantastic pastries, macaroons, and chocolates. They have branches all over Paris, and I hope you get to taste their delicious pastries.
Arc de Triumph
Arc de Triomphe – an iconic landmark of Paris standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, and the view from the top of the arch is worth climbing the 284 stairs.
The neighborhood of elegance, culture, and shopping. In 9th Arrondissement, you will find Palais Garnier – Paris’ elegant Opera house, Galeries Lafayette department store and perfume museum, amongst several things.
10th Arrondissement runs along the Canal St. Martin. The streets along the canal are car-free zones on Saturday afternoons/evenings, and all day on Sundays. During the weekends’ people are cycling and rollerblading. This area is quite trendy among young people.
It is where you will find Opera Bastille and Place de la Bastille. The landmark “Trois Glorieuses” or “Three Glorious Days” is raised in memory of the July Revolution of 1830. In the 11th Arrondissement, you will also Europe’s oldest circus hall, built in the year 1852. And if you are into French music the Edith Piaf museum is right up the alley. The neighborhood has a few good restaurants and a great nightlife s a great place to stay in Paris. It is safe and less expensive than other parts neighborhoods of Paris.
Paris’ busiest and most famous train station – Gare de Lyon – is located in the 12th Arrondissement. You will also find Paris’ “lungs” – a huge green park the Bois de Vincennes in this neighborhood. Or how about visiting a Bercy village, a village in the heart of Paris, that consists mostly of small wine warehouses from the late 19th Century.
The 13th Arrondissement is another cobblestoned neighborhood where you will find another village in the city – Butte aux Cailles. This historically working-class district has become a favorite spot for artists and hipsters in recent years, who are attracted by the area’s abundant street art, lofts with leafy rooftops, and gourmet shops. The 13th Arrondissement is also known for its Asian community. If you are looking for a major Chinese New Year celebration this is where you will find it, along with Asian restaurants, especially with Vietnamese pho houses. This soup (with beef) is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes.
14th Arrondissement is one of the newest neighborhoods in Paris but can show off with Montparnasse Tower and Paris Catacombs museum. However, you will not only find historical wonders in this neighborhood but also galleries with contemporary art, parks, and shops with artisan crafts.
Le Catacombs – a veritable labyrinth beneath the very heart of Paris. The ossuary contains the remains of millions of Parisians, transferred there gradually between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries as graveyards were being closed because of the risk they posed to public health. In the long maze of dark galleries and narrow passages situated twenty meters below ground, visitors can see a tableau of death with bones arranged in a macabre display of high Romantic taste.
The 15ht arrondissement starts just south of the Eifel Tower. Here you will find a few markets, several parks, a few museums, and shops. Some of the main attractions of the 15th Arrondissement are:
– a man-made island Île aux Cygnes which houses the replica of the Statue of Liberty
– Musée Bourdelle dedicated to a sculpturer Antoine Bourdelle, a student of Rodin.
– Grenelle Market, a food market that you will find open every Wednesday and Sunday, no matter the weather.
Historically the 16th Arrondissement is one of the most affluent districts in the city. 16th Arrondissement is used to be home to some of the French dearest writers – Honoré de Balzac and Marcel Proust. Some of the famous museums have their residence here, and among a few are Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris and the Marmottan-Monet Museum.
This is a residential area which is forgotten by the tourist. But if you would love to get the feel of local life, spend a day here. As young people have been priced out of more centrally located neighborhoods, the quiet 17th is attracting a new generation to the area, resulting in restaurant and bar openings, a new nightlife scene, and pleasant areas for walks and picnics.
The 18th Arrondissement includes lively, bustling immigrant neighborhoods such as Barbes and La Goutte d’Or. And it is a home of Montmartre, Sacre-Coeur, Dali museum, and Moulin Rouge, which makes it one of the most popular tourist attractions.
The Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge – is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site. Today, the Moulin Rouge is a tourist attraction, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. The club’s decor still contains much of the romance of fin de siècle France.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris is a Roman Catholic church. The Basilica is second visited attraction in Paris and is located at the summit of the Montmartre – “The mount of Martyrs”, the highest point in the city. The Basilica can be reached by bus or metro. At the top of the Butte Montmartre, you will find one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the capital, 130 meters above the ground. Visitors can also access the dome and get a 360° view of Paris. A short walk from the Sacré Coeur is the Place du Tertre, the district of Abbesses with its steep, winding roads, and at the bottom of the hill, the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret.
The best time to visit Paris is like a saying – “Paris is always a good idea”. There is so much to see and do in Paris that you won’t get bored whether it is your first time or fifth time. But remember to always set time aside to enjoy the sidewalk life in a French cafe or Bistrot. Have Crémant or champagne and watch people. Have frog legs, souffle, escargot, macaroon, or a chocolate eclair, and enjoy Paris and life.
If you are in Paris for more than a long weekend, I would recommend you getting Paris Pass. It comes in three different ranges – both in price and duration. Paris Pass gives you priority access to more than 50 attractions and museums, including Palace of Versailles, the Hop on Hop off bus tickets, Seine River Cruise Quick entry, Map of Paris & Public Transportation and a hotel pick up/drop off. Getting Paris Pass will give you free entrance to 50 museums including the Towers of Notre Dame, free metro, bus and tram usage between zones 1 to 3, and much more. It gives you also discounts at a few restaurants and cafes. The Paris Pass operates with different prices for EU and Non-EU residents, along with different age groups.
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If you have little time in Paris, choose one thing/landmark you want to do/see and find accommodation close to it. Parisian Metro works just fine and is easy to use. Just sink into Paris and enjoy its sophisticated, laid-backed and romantic atmosphere! If you are staying a little longer, don’t forget to visit the Palace de Versailles just 40 min outside of Paris.
You can also check Sharon’s blog post on things to do in Paris if you need any more tips.
The last time we visited Paris was for one afternoon during our road trip. We stayed near Arc de Triumph and Champs Elysées as we wanted to do some shopping and stroll around. If you only have one afternoon in Paris, I recommend you pick one attraction and book your accommodation in arrondissement next to it – this way you get to see two neighborhoods at once.
If you are looking to explore a little less known places, I suggest you check out Beaune in Burgundy. The place was such a surprise and I absolutely loved it – this small town is for everyone who loves French wine, French Chateaus and French cuisine.
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