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Paris, France

Introduction

Paris is the capital of France and is located in the north of the country on the river Seine. It is widely recognised as being the most beautiful and romantic of all cities. Paris is highly influential in culture, art, fashion, food and design and is the most popular tourist destination in the world.

Central Paris is officially divided into 20 districts (arrondissements), numbered from 1 to 20 in a clockwise spiral from the centre of the city. Each arrondissement has its own unique character and attractions. The area north of the river, known as the Right Bank, includes the tree-lined Avenue des Champs-lyses, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre Museum. The area south of the river, known as the Left Bank, showcases the city's most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower.

Outside central Paris, beyond the peripherique (the motorway encircling central Paris), are the suburbs. The west of Paris (Neuilly, Boulogne, Saint Cloud, Levallois) are wealthy residential communities.


Travel to Paris

Paris is served by three international airports.

Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG) is located to the north-east of the city. There are three terminals: Terminal 1 and 3 are next to each other, whereas Terminal 2 is located further away. The free CDGVAL shuttle train connects the terminals together.

The RER subway train, line B, has stations in T3 (from where you can take the free CDGVAL shuttle train to T1) and T2. The trains depart every 15 minutes for Gare du Nord (North Station) taking around 40 minutes. Passengers can change to the Paris Metro system at Gare du Nord station.

TGV trains depart from the station in T2 mostly away from Paris towards Lille, Brussels, Rennes and Nantes, bypassing Paris.

Bus services connects all terminals directly to Opra Garnier in central Paris and takes 60-90 minutes depending on traffic.

Night Bus services depart every 30 minutes after 00:30am from all three terminals for central Paris.

Taxis are available to Paris but this is the most expensive option (40-50) and will take 60 minutes.

Orly International Airport (ORY) is located to the south-west of the city and is the older international airport operated by Air France for national flights and other international carriers for short flights within Europe.

The Orlyval light rail service connects both Orly terminals to the RER B train line at Antony. The RER B train from Antony runs through Paris to Charles de Gaulle Airport. [every 4-7 minutes, cost 9.30 to Paris]

The OrlyBus travels between Orly and Paris taking 40 minutes [departs from Mtro Denfert-Rochereau, line 6, fare 6].

Bus 285 departs Orly for Mtro Villejuif - Louis Aragon (line 7) taking 15 minutes [Fare costs 1.50, runs every 10 minutes, from airport level 1].

Beauvais (BVA) is a smaller regional airport to the north of the city used by low-cost carriers such as Ryanair. The airport operates a shuttle service connecting every flight arrival and departure with the Mtro at Porte Maillot station.

TGV (Trains Grande Vitesse) are the French high-speed trains that travel to southeast France (Marseille, Avignon), southwest France (Bordeaux), western France (Rennes), northern France (Lille), Switzerland (Geneva, Lausanne).

Thalys is the high-speed train service running daily to/from the Belgium (1h10min), Netherlands and Germany.

Eurostar high-speed train service connects Paris with London 15 times a day (taking 2hrs 30min) travelling under the sea for 35km (22 miles) via the Channel Tunnel and is faster than flying when taking into account the travel time to/from airports. In London, trains arrive and depart from St Pancras International Station. In Paris, trains arrive and depart from Gare du Nord. Immigration formalities are completed on the train with customs at the stations.

Eurolines is an international bus service operating throughout Europe with fares cheaper than trains but journey times are longer.

Language

English is spoken by people in the tourism business. Many staff at hotels, shops, restaurants and museums will speak English. English is spoken less outside of Paris in smaller cities and towns. The French appreciate visitors who attempt to learn basic French.

Paris Accommodation

The high season in Paris is late spring, summer and around the Christmas season.

View All Paris Hotels

Paris Transport

Walking is the best way to get around and view this wonderful city. As there is a lot to see in Paris, the best way to traverse the city and its sights is to walk and take the metro. However, a metro ride of less than 2 or 3 stations is probably best avoided since walking will take about the same amount of time. Also, the Mayor's office has announced plans to convert the 1st to 4th arrondissements to almost totally car-free by 2012.

Metro Is the underground train system operating 16 Mtro lines between 5am and 12.30am (Sat night 1.30am). The Paris metro is very easy to use and the least expensive way to travel around the city. The lines are named according to the names of their terminal stations and each station displays a map of the surrounding area with the location of buildings as well as exits for the metro station. Purchase a carnet of ten tickets, as the price per ticket is less than a single ticket. There are daily, weekly and monthly tickets available.

RER is an additional subway train network (not the metro) with 5 train lines called RER A, B, C, D, E. These trains travel through Paris and travel out to the suburbs. A metro ticket can be used on the RER although passengers pass through a turnstile between the subway and the RER lines, as the two systems are separate networks.

Paris LOpen Tour Bus is a hop-on-hop-off open top double-decker bus for visitors to enjoy Paris' vibrant sights and sounds with a live commentary provided in many languages. There are 4 routes, ranging in time from 1-2 hours, that connects visitors to famous sights and attractions. Passengers can purchase tickets at the bus stop. [1 day pass adults 26 child 13, two day pass adult 29 child 13].

Car rental is not recommended in Paris as the public transport systems are excellent. Traffic is very congested at peak times, and parking is difficult and expensive. If travelling out of Paris car rental is an option.

Paris Attractions

ParisPass is a prepaid entry pass to over 55 of Paris' world famous museums and monuments, including the Louvre, Muse dOrsay, Arc de Triomphe and many more. The pass gives free entry to Paris' best attractions including a Seine River Cruise, Muse Grvin, Montparnasse Tower Panoramic Visit and even a Wine Tasting experience! Use the pass for unlimited travel on the Metro, buses and RER within central Paris.

Paris Museum Pass is a pre-paid entry pass allowing entry into over 70 museums and monuments around Paris bypassing the queues. The pass is available in 2-day, 4-day and 6-day passes and is available from participating museums, tourist offices, and all the main Mtro and RER train stations. Most museums and galleries are closed on either Monday or Tuesday.

Eiffel Tower Paris Eiffel Tower is one of the most famous landmarks in the world and a must-do attraction while in Paris. Located in the 7th arrondissement near the river Seine, the best way to avoid the queues is to arrive very early or purchase a ticket to walk the stairs to the first and second levels. There is a separate elevator (and ticket) on the second level to go to the top level. There is no ticketing requirement to take an elevator down so if you walked up you can take the elevator down. Night is a great time to visit the illuminated tower and see the beautiful lights of Paris.

River Cruises are popular with visitors as they deliver spectacular and hidden views of this magnificent city. From the water it is possible to see the bridges and monuments of Paris from a new perspective and an informative historical and cultural commentary is available in English.

Arc de Triomphe is the famous arch, located at the top of the Champs Elyses Avenue, built by Napoleon to commemorate his military victories and contains the grave of the unknown soldier. Visitors can ascend to the museum in the top of the arch and walk on the top of the arch for spectacular views of the Paris skyline. [Metro: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile].

Montparnasse Tower is the ideal spot for taking your souvenir photos and having a gourmet coffee break at the highest caf in Paris, on the 56th floor. From the panoramic terrace, you will marvel at the only view of Paris that includes all its great monuments, including the Eiffel Tower. [Open 9.30am to 10.30pm, Adult 10.50, child 4.50]

Sacr Coeur Paris Sacre Coeur is a famous church built on the highest point in Paris in the 18th arrondissement. Visitors can climb the steps or take the funicular cable train. In front of the church are spectacular views of the city. Behind the church is the artists' area where visitors can relax at a restaurant or purchase paintings and other artwork.

Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most visited sites in Paris and is a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture that was the inspiration for Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The cathedral is considered as the heart of Paris and a bronze star, across the street from the cathedrals main entrance, marks the exact location of the centre of Paris. Notre Dame was badly damaged during the Revolution and restored in the 19th century by the best-known French architect Viollet-le-Duc. [metro: Cit]

The Louvre Museum Paris Louvre Museum was the former home of the kings of France and is now of the largest and finest museums in the world. The museum has extensive collections in Oriental antiques, Egyptian antiques, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiques, Paintings, Sculptures and Objets d'Art from the Middle Ages to 1850. It includes many famous artworks such as the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Visitors should allow plenty of time for viewing this treasure trove of masterpieces. [metro: Palais Royal Muse du Louvre]

Muse d'Orsay (Orsay Museum) opened in December 1986 in the redeveloped old Gare d'Orsay (Orsay Railway Station) and is very popular with tourists. The museum is dedicated to the great artists of the 19th century (1848-1914) and is located at 1, rue de Bellechasse, 7th arrondissement.

Picasso Museum is situated in the heart of historic Paris, and has a collection of several thousand works of Pablo Picasso. After his death in 1973, many of Picasso's works went to the French state, which decided to form a museum with the collection. The collection is housed in a 17th century hotel, situated in the Marais on rue de Thorigny, 75003.

La Cit des Sciences et de l'Industrie is one of the world's largest and most visited science museums on an impressive modern site in northeastern Paris. Visit the Explora where you can pilot an airplane, step inside of a camera, travel throughout the human body and visit an Ariane rocket. There is Argonaute an attack submarine open to visitors, France's first Omnimax cinema and a planetarium.

Centre Georges Pompidou is the Georges Pompidou National Centre of Art & Culture located on Place Georges Pompidou. It is a great National Museum of Modern Art and the building itself is a wonderful architectural attraction. The 6th floor has a restaurant with panoramic views of Paris. [metro: Rambuteau, Htel de Ville]

Les Invalides is a museum of arms and armor from the Middle Ages to modern times. The dome contains the Tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte and other French military figures. In 1670, Louis XIV, the Sun King, founded Les Invalides which is an old soldiers home. The first stones were laid in 1671, for what was to become a complex providing quarters for 4,000 retired soldiers. Construction of the dome began in 1706. Many of the arms used by the mob that attacked the Bastille on 14 July 1789 were taken from Les Invalides on the morning of that day.

Place de la Bastille (75004 Paris) is marked by the Colonne de Juillet. It marks the site of the prison known as the Bastille which was stormed by the Mob on 14 July 1789 at the start of the French Revolution. In the subway station beneath the square, visitors can view stones from the Bastille's foundation. This square is also home to the Opra Bastille completed in 1990. The Bastille Day Fireworks on the 14th of July is an exceptional treat for tourists. It is recommended to view the fireworks from in or around the champs du Mars - the gardens of the Eiffel Tower. The Bastille Parade which is held on the Champs-lyses at 10am should not be missed.

The Palace of Versailles is located 20km southwest of Paris and was the principal residence of the French Kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI. The court of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris to Versailles, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789. Embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, decorators and landscape architects, it provided Europe with a model of the ideal royal residence for over a century. The Treaty of Versailles to end the First World War was signed here on 28 June 1919. Versailles is very popular with tourists and there are many tours available from Paris.

French Tennis Open is where visitors can experience the worlds top tennis players on a clay court. The Open starts on the last Sunday in May and runs two weeks.

Le Tour de France is the world famous cycling race in July each year that starts and finishes in Paris. The Tour route changes every year and travels all around France. The race always finishes on the last Sunday of July on the Champs-lyses.

Disneyland Resort Paris is located in the suburb of Marne-la-Valle, to the east of Paris, and is best visited by train.

In-line Skating takes place every Friday night and Sunday afternoon. A large group of in-line skaters take to the streets of Paris on a planned route for about 3 hours. The police ensure the skaters have right-of-way through the streets of Paris. Anyone can join in but it is recommended to be good at skating if you want to keep up. Visitors can relax in a cafe near the route and watch them fly by.

Grand Arche de la Defense (La Defense) is a modern office-building styled on the Arc de Triomphe. Visitors can ascend the elevator to the viewing platform at the top to view the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and other sights of Paris. La Defense is a modern office park with hotels, a large shopping mall and huge underground public-transportation center. [metro: La Defense]

The Sewers Museum is located in the sewers beneath the Quai d'Orsay on the Left Bank, and is a very interesting destination for visitors in engineering and public works. Covered sewers were introduced during the reign of Napolon Bonaparte, and today's network of more than 2,100 km (1,312 miles) of sewer tunnels was begun in 1850. The sandstone tunnels carry drain water from the streets, sanitary sewers (now in separate pipes), mains for drinking water and the water used for street cleaning, telecommunications cables, etc.

Parc Astrix is a theme amusement park, located 35 km (22 miles) north of Paris, based on the stories of Asterix. It is well known for its large variety of roller coasters and may be reached via a shuttle bus from CDG Airport train station.

Catacombs are the resting place of an estimated five to six million skeletons relocated from Paris cemeteries and stored underground. It is an unusual but interesting tourist attraction. In the early 1800s, the government decided to reclaim the land used for cemeteries by relocating the remains to the empty limestone quarries whose tunnels were at that time on the outskirts of Paris but now located in the 14th arrondissement. The process of moving the bones from the cemeteries to the catacombs took several decades. Each set of bones was marked with a plaque signifying the cemetery they came from and the year they were moved. When the relocation was finished in 1860, an estimated five to six million skeletons had been moved to the catacombs. Explorers have estimated that there are at least 185 miles (300km) of tunnels in the entire network of catacombs however tourists are only allowed to view a fraction of these tunnels.

Paris Nightlife and Entertainment

Famous Paris cabarets are: Le Lido, Crazy Horse Saloon, Bal du Moulin Rouge, Les Folies Bergere.

Paris Operas are: Opra Garnier, Opra de la Bastille.

Paris Theatres are: Thtre du Chatelet , Comdie Franaise, Odon - Thtre de l'Europe, Thtre de la Ville.

Beyond Paris

Claude Monet's Garden at Giverny is located 80 km north west from Paris in the village of Giverny about 4 km from the town of Vernon. Every year, half a million visitors discover the inspirational house and gardens of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet. In the water garden visitors can view the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias and weeping willows. [Open daily, 9.30am to 6pm, from 1st April to 1st November, adults 7]

The Loire Valley is an exceptional cultural landscape of great beauty, containing historic towns and villages, great architectural monuments and over 300 Chteaux. It is located 2 to 3 hours south west of Paris and is known as the Garden of France and the Cradle of the French Language. The main towns to visit are Orleans, Blois, Tour and Anger. Many of the world-famous Chateaux, that were occupied by the royal families, are open to the public, such as the Chteau d'Amboise, Chambord, Chteau de Villandry, Chenonceau and Azay-le-Rideau.

Chateau de Fontainebleu is located 55km south of Paris and was once the home of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Chateau has its beginnings in the 16th century and was the home of many French Monarchs. The city of Fontainebleau has grown up around the Chateau and the Forest of Fontainebleau, a former royal hunting park.

Chteau de Chantilly is a beautiful historic chteau and gardens located in the town of Chantilly 38km (24 miles) northeast from the centre of Paris. The Chteau de Chantilly was the home of the Princes of Cond, cousins of the kings of France. The original mansion was destroyed in the French Revolution but entirely rebuilt in 18751881. Chantilly is also known for its horse racing track, the Chantilly racecourse, and the Museum of the Horse, with stables built by the Princes of Cond. The famous chteau and the Great Stables were featured in the James Bond movie A View to a Kill.