Paris is the capital of France; it is the commercial, financial, and industrial center, and transportation hub. It has an international status of a cultural and intellectual metropolis.
Set in a natural basin, the city is divided in the middle by the River Seine, and surrounded by gentle hills. On the right bank most of the fashionable streets and shops are to be found and major landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Sacré Coeur, and Place de la Concorde. The left bank is where government offices are situated, and landmarks such as the Sorbonne, the Luxembourg Palace and the Panthéon.
The historic core of Paris is the Île de la Cité, a small island where the Palais de Justice and the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris are situated. The view of Paris is made complete by the rising silhouette of the Eiffel Tower.
Paris is divided into 20 districts, known as arondissements. The city center is relatively small as capitals go, and is easily accessible by foot; Basic orientation is provided by the river. The underground system (the métro ) is fast and safe. Simply pick up a city map at any bookstore or tobacconists, with street names and metro stations, and go explore the city.
Paris has a temperate climate with warm summers, cold winters and rainfall throughout the year. The best time to visit is spring, although, be prepared for showers. Rainfall patterns are a bit erratic, so there is a chance you might get caught in a downpour, be it spring, autumn or summer. Autumn mornings can be a bit chilly, but by mid-day temperatures usually become pleasant. The average warmest month is July (around 19 degrees) and the average coolest month is February (around 4 degrees). But temperatures sometimes drop below zero in the winter and soar above 30 degrees in the middle of summer!
January average temperature 4 deg Celsius, 55.8 mm rainfall February average temperature 4 deg Celsius, 45.8 mm rainfall March average temperature 7 deg Celsius, 55.4 mm rainfall April average temperature 10 deg Celsius, 45 mm rainfall May average temperature 14 deg Celsius, 63.3 mm rainfall June average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 56 mm rainfall July average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 55.5 mm rainfall August average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 43.5 mm rainfall September average temperature 11 deg Celsius, 56.1 mm rainfall October average temperature 12 deg Celsius, 62.6 mm rainfall November average temperature 7 deg Celsius, 52.2 mm rainfall December average temperature 5 deg Celsius, 55.5 mm rainfall
Charles de Gaulle airport is a major international airport hub, located 27 km north of Paris. There are daily flights to all parts of the country - however, the high-speed TGV (train à grande vitesse) train services are usually more convenient.
From the airport to the city you can choose among many different modes of transportation, from shuttle trains to an assortment of shabby public buses, private shuttles and taxis.
Aéroport d'Orly is the city’s second airport, located 16km south of central Paris. A bus runs between d'Orly and Charles de Gaulle.
Beauvais is a smaller airport that handles Ryanair and charter flights.
You can choose from a wide variety of services; from extra quick shuttle trains to the standard assortment of public buses, private shuttles and taxis. There's even a bus that runs exclusively between Charles de Gaulle and Aéroport d'Orly airports.
The train system works like a clock and it is a quick way to get around France and to other parts of Europe. There are six major train stations in Paris, all handling traffic to different parts of France and other parts of Europe. There are TGV services to Amsterdam and Brussels. The most spectacular route is the Channel Tunnel (or Chunnel) between London and Paris. It takes only 3 hours. The TGV service also links Paris with Amsterdam and Brussels.
If you are traveling from Paris to other countries, bus is a relatively fine option. Eurolines buses run from Paris all over Europe. However, we do not recommend long-distance travel with buses within France. It is advisable to choose another form of transportation.
You can get to Britain and Ireland by ferry or drive from London to Paris with the Euro tunnel service, with your car conveniently parked on the shuttle train. If you are driving from other parts of Europe use French auto routes. They are quick, but rather expensive.
Bus-boat-bus combination is available from London by Hoverspeed. There are also ferries and hovercraft between Britain, Ireland and France.
Public transport is excellent. The metro is a massive network with numerous stations placed within easy walking distance to virtually everywhere and is quick and reliable. Be careful when buying tickets since a weekly pass can prove a better deal, even if you are staying less than a week.
One of the most pleasant ways to see Paris is on foot. Its attractions are tightly packed and there are only a few hills. Be sure, however, to watch out on pedestrian crossings since drivers do not always stop.
The river shuttles along the Seine are more suitable for slow and pleasant sight-seeing rather than fast transportation.
Paris is not too friendly to cyclists. One has to share the road with cars, which is not always easy. Even worse, bicycles are not allowed on the metro.
Driving a car in Paris can be chaotic and stressful, so public transport is a quicker and more elegant way to get around.
The public bus service is extensive, but unfortunately inefficient, and the operating hours are not very convenient. However, there is the Noctambus network, which operates when the metro closes down.
Join in a massive rollerblading event held every Friday night, except when it is raining or streets are wet. The meeting point is in front of the Paris Montparnasse station and starts at 10:00 pm and lasts 3 hours.
Every Friday thousands of Parisians on rollerblades follow a 25 km circuit, which changes every week. There is even police escort to stop the traffic. It is great fun, free and open to anyone who can skate.
Hop on a canal boat for a relaxing sight-seeing tour. Drifting down the Seine (or any other canal) is a unique way to see Paris. Rentals are available year-round.
Address: Quai Branly Web: www.tour-eiffel.fr Phone: 01-44-11-23-23 Open: June - late August daily 9:00 am - midnight; late Aug - May daily 9:00 am – 11:00 pm. The stairs close at dusk in winter. Admission: By elevator: 2nd floor: €4.10, 3rd floor €7.50, 4th floor €10.70. Climbing: 2nd and 3rd floor only, €3.80. Access: Métro: Bir-Hakeim; RER: Champ de Mars.
The Eiffel tower is to Paris what the Statue of Liberty is to New York. It was built for the 1889 World Exhibition. You can either walk up its first two floors or take a lift, but if you want to reach the top you’ll have to take the elevator. Apart from being a meteorological station and aircraft navigation point, the top floor is an observation platform that can accommodate up to 800 people at a time. The view from here is awesome. The tower is most breathtaking at night, when every girder is lit. Originally installed to celebrate the millennium, the lights were so popular that in 2003 they were re-installed.
This famous avenue was initiated by Louis XVI in 1667. The Champs Elysées was originally laid out by landscape architect Le Notre to create a visual prolongation of the Tuileries gardens running west from the Louvre palace. Today, the broad avenue lined with trees is an elegant and fashionable place to stroll or sit at one of its many pavement cafés, while the cinemas, nightclubs, and late-hour shopping ensure the parade of Parisian pedestrians continues well into the night.
Address: 6 Place du Parvis Notre Dame 4e F-75004 Web: www.cathedraledeparis.com E-mail: info@ cathedraleDeParis.com Open: Cathedral: 7:45 am - 6:45 pm, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Notre Dame is one of the finest Gothic churches in the Western world, and has been the focus of Christianity in Paris for the last 7 centuries. Its interior is immense and can hold over 6000 people. It has spectacular rose windows and a huge 7800-pipe organ. You can climb the north tower and enjoy a spectacular view of Paris.
THE PERE LACHAISE CEMETERY
Address: Entrances on rue des Rondeaux, bd. de Ménilmontant, and rue de la Réunion. Web: www.pere-lachaise.com Phone: 01 55 25 82 10 Open: Easter - September, daily 8:00 am – 6:00 pm; October - Easter, daily 8:00 am - dusk. Access: Métro: Gambetta, Philippe-Auguste, Père-Lachaise.
The most famous cemetery in Paris is a peaceful oasis, full of grandiose tombs and tall trees. Their shade is especially inviting in summer heat. Many famous names found their last resting place here. Composer Chopin, writers Balzac, Proust, Wilde, singer Edith Piaf, and, one of the most popular and most visited in the cemetery, Jim Morrison. You can obtain a free map at the entrance.
ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Address: Place Charles de Gaulle 8e Web: www.monum.fr E- Mail: email@example.comPhone: 33 / (0)1 55 37 73 77 Open: October - March 10:00 am - 10:30 pm; April - September 10:00 am - 11:00 pm Closed on January 1, May 1, May 8 (morning), July 14 (morning), November 11 (morning), and December 25. Admission: €8 / 5 concession Access: lines 1, 2 and 6, station Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile
The Arc de Triomphe is over 50 m high and from its top you can see 12 Parisian avenues radiating from the Arc. Its construction was begun in 1806 by Napoleon to commemorate his military victory and was completed 30 years later. It is sculpted on all sides, including the famous sculpture by François Rude, The Departure of the Volunteers, better known as La Marseillaise. There is a museum dedicated to the Arc's history half way to the top. Beneath the archway lies the body of an unknown soldier from WW I, with a flame rekindled every night at 6:30 pm.
MUSEE DU LOUVRE
Address: rue de Rivoli 1er Web: www.louvre.fr E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 01-40-20-53-17 information Open: Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 9:00 am - 6:00 pm; Wednesday, Friday 9:00 am - 9:45 pm; closed on Tuesdays and some public holidays. Access: Métro: Palais-Royal - Musée du Louvre station.
The Louvre is the world's greatest art museum with examples of almost every civilization on Earth. It houses 35.000 works of art and has over 60.000 square meters of exhibition space for permanent collections. There are eight departments, dedicated to Near Eastern, Egyptian, Islamic, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, Paintings, and Prints and Drawings. However, the most famous artifact remains Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
Be sure to pick up a map-guide at the ticket office, and instead of trying to see everything, concentrate on the things that interest you most as there are literally thousands of works on display.
French cuisine is one of the most famous in the world. The choice in Paris is huge, in terms of selection as well as price. To ease your decision, here is a list of different types of menus, offering different kinds of food at various prices.
- A la carte: Everything on the normal menu; usually it is rather expensive. Main courses arrive with a garnish of vegetables. There can be a ‘ plat du jour’ (dish of the day).
- Menu prix-fixe: Fixed-price meal: usually consists of four courses and may include wine. It is better quality than à la carte, with tax and service included. Many restaurants offer several set menus at different price levels. Look for a ‘ menu du jour’ (a set menu of the day), which will generally be freshest and best, and check out the dishes those around you have ordered.
- Menu dégustation/menu surprise: A tasting menu, presenting you with a procession of small servings (chosen by the chef if it is the surprise menu).
There is a simple restriction, however: everyone at the table must have the same menu.
- Menu touristique: The food is uninteresting. Not recommended.
- Table d'hôte: Traditional home cooking offered in country restaurants and relatively cheap.
Les Vins des Pyrénées
Address: 25 rue Beautreillis 4e Open: 6:00 pm – 11:30 pm. Sunday – Friday 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm
A modern French restaurant serving excellent food at moderate prices. This former wine warehouse offers a selection of excellent house wines.
Address: 93 rue de Rivoli 1er Open: 11:00am - 1:00am
This light and fresh modern restaurant offers splendid setting; A view of the Louvre’s illuminated pyramid accompanies contemporary food at mid-range prices. Food selection is oriented towards white meats, fish and salad. It is advisable to book ahead.
Address: 10 rue de la Grand-Chaumičre, 6th
Phone: 01 46 33 02 02 Open: Tuesday – Saturday: Lunch, and Monday – Saturday: Dinner. A friendly owner will serve you fresh food at low prices, accompanied by her own wine. The restaurant has a 1930s vintage dining room. You can treat yourself to really tasty bites if you go for ‘a la carte’ in the evening, which includes starters such as terrine of wild duck and figs, and main course such as lamb gigot ŕ sept heures or blanquette of monkfish.
Address: 35 rue des Abesses, 18th Phone: 01 2 58 47 05 Open: Lunch and Dinner daily (until 2:00 am)
A pleasant street-side café with a fabulous terrace that draws a young arty clientele. They serve generous and always tasty salads and good wine.
The free festival offers afternoon concerts on weekends at the Parc Floral
(Bois de Vincennes, 12).
The entrance fee to the park itself is from €1:50 to €3.
Date: 26 June Location: Le Marais district, Paris Admission is free.
This event is a mix of politics, culture and style. A vibrant parade winds through the Marais, with a crowd of on-lookers who come there to support or just see the goings-on. The parade is accompanied by parties and many other events.
Day: July 14
Bastille Day celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789. There are military parades in the morning, the largest of these takes place on the Champs-Élysées. At night the party continues with fireworks at Trocadéro.
The world's leading bicycle race, with eminent cyclists racing through French countryside. The French gather along the route to cheer and support. The tour finishes on the Champs-Élysées.
PARIS FASHION WEEK
Date: Late winter and late summer-fall Address: Carrousel de Louvre, Paris Phone: 431-64747
An important fashion event that includes shows in New York, Milan, and London attracting top designers, press, and celebrities, and is accompanied by parties and celebrations.
CHRISTMAS EVE MASS
Date: December 24 Location: Notre-Dame Cathedral
This annual celebration draws a big crowd to Notre-Dame for a late-night Christmas service. Traditionally, the mass follows an evening turkey or goose dinner, topped by a traditional chocolate Yule log.
NEW YEAR'S EVE CELEBRATION
Date: December 31 – January 1
On New Year's Eve the spectacular fireworks illuminate the Eiffel Tower. Thousands of people gather along the Champs-Elysées.
To get an insight into Paris' lively nightlife it is best to first get your hands on 'Pariscope' or 'L'Officiel des Spectacles'. Both come out on Wednesday and can be bought at any newsstand. Pariscope includes a section in English and is also available on the Internet at: www.pariscope.fr
The minimum legal drinking age for alcohol (beer, wine) is 16, and 18 for stronger drinks. Bars are usually open until 1:00 am.
Live jazz is played every night at Le Bilboquet, featuring local and international musicians. There is no admission charge, but drinks are very expensive.
13 Rue St -Benoît, 6 th Open: from 10:00 pm onwards
Young crowds are drawn to La Flèche d’Or Café. It is an ex train station converted in to a club where live music is played. Concerts from Thursday – Sunday. Music ranges from rock and blues to reggae and satirical French chansons.
Flèche d’Or Café
Address: 102 bis rue de Bagnolet, 20th.
Major rock concerts take place at:
Palais des Congrès
Place de la Porte-Maillot, 17th.
Clubs open around 11:00 pm and stay open until dawn. People usually arrive after midnight. The popular sounds include techno, house, garage and latino.
Address: 82, Boulevard de Clichy, Monmartre Web: www.moulin-rouge.com E-mail: information@ moulinrouge.fr Phone: +33 1 5309 8282 Open: Dinner: 7:00 pm Monday - Sunday, Show: 9:00 pm & 11:00 pm Monday – Sunday Show times: Dinner dance at 8:00 pm, shows at 10:00 pm and midnight daily.
This famous cabaret is known world-wide as the birthplace of the can-can. Today, the shows are marked by magnificent sets, luxurious costumes and a great line-up of international dancers. Enjoy a meal accompanied by entertainment in one of the most famous attractions in Paris.
Paris was founded towards the end of the 3rd century BC on what is now the île de la Cité by a tribe of Celtic Gauls known as the Parisii. Centuries of conflict between the Gauls and Romans ended in 52 BC, when Julius Caesar's legions took control of the territory and the settlement became a Roman town. Christianity was introduced in the 2nd century AD, and the Roman party was finally crashed in the 5th century by the arrival of the Franks. In 508 AD, Frankish king Clovis I united Gaul as a kingdom and made Paris his capital, naming it after the original Parisii tribe.
By the Middle Ages Paris began to take shape. The city prospered: In the 12th century, construction on the cathedral of Notre Dame began (work continued for nearly 200 years), the Marais area north of the Seine was drained and settled to become what is known today as the Right Bank. The Sorbonne opened its doors in 1253, the beautiful Sainte Chapelle was consecrated in 1248 and the Louvre got its start as a riverside fortress around 1200. The city cemented its position as the country's intellectual and spiritual hub.
Scandinavian Vikings (also known as Norsemen, or Normans) began raiding France's western coast in the 9th century; after three centuries of raiding, they started to push toward Paris. These conflicts gave birth to the Hundred Years War between Norman England and Paris' Capetian dynasty, eventually resulting in the French defeat at Agincourt in 1415 and English control of Paris in 1420. English influence was short-lived since, in 1429, 17-year-old Jeanne d'Arc re-rallied the French troops to defeat the English at Orléans and, with the exception of Calais, the English were expelled from France in 1453.
During the Renaissance many of the famous city landmarks were built and the city was back on its feet at the end of the 1400s. However, by the late 16th century Paris was again at war - this time over religion. The tensions between the protestant Hugenots and the Catholics sparked off the bloody Wars of Religion. In 1643, Louis XIV, known as the Sun King ascended to the throne, at the time he was only 5 years old. Louis nearly bankrupted the national treasury with his battles and buildings. The best known is Versailles. He was succeded by Louis XV, and then Louis XVI, whose excesses led to the uprising of the Parisians and the storming of the Bastille prison on July 1789. This event triggered off the French Revolution.
The post-revolution government was consolidated in 1799 under a young Corsican general, Napoleon Bonaparte, who adopted the title First Consul. In 1804, the Pope crowned him Emperor of the French, and Napoleon conquered most of Europe. Napoleon's lust for conquest led to his defeat, first in Russia in 1812 and later at Belgium's Waterloo in 1815. His legacy in modern France includes the national legal code, which bears his name, and monuments such as the massive neoclassical Arc de Triomphe.
Years later Napoleon III came to power. During that time Paris was significantly reconstructed with wide boulevards, sculptured parks and a modern sewer systrem. Napoleon III met a similar fate to Napoleon I. After an unsuccessful war with the Prussians in 1870 he was put in a Prussian jail. Afterwards, the city took to the streets once again to form the third republic.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
La belle époque (the beautiful age), saw Paris flourish as an artistic hub with its famed Art Nouveau architecture and notable advances in the arts and sciences. In the 1920s and 30s it became the world-wide center for artistic avant-garde. The golden era was cut short by the Nazi occupation in 1940. Paris remained under Nazi occupation until the allies liberated the city in 1944.
After the war, Paris regained its position as a creative hub. Liberal ideaology led to the 1968 'Spring Uprising' when students occupied the Sorbonne. They gained support of their countrymen and over 7 million people all over France went on strike to draw attention to increasing dissatisfaction with the rigidity of French institutions.
During the 1980s, President François Mitterand initiated a series of costly futuristic projects, like the Centre Pompidou and the glass pyramids in the Louvre.
The late 1990s saw Paris in the international spotlight: the car-accident where princess Diana died in August 1997, and France's first World Cup victory (3-0 over the odds-on favourite, Brazil) in July 1998. On both occasions thousands of Parisians took to the streets.
Another notable event took place in 1997, when the political party behind Jacques Chirac, who had been France's president since mid-1995, lost the parliamentary elections to a coalition of Socialists, Communists and Greens headed by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. Jospin layed out a plan of local economic recovery and introduced a 35-hour working week.
A common form of greeting is the handshake, whereas friends may greet each other by lightly kissing on the cheeks, once on the left cheek and once on the right cheek. First names are used for family members and close friends.
'Bonjour', 'bonsoir' means good morning and good evening, 'au revoir' means good-bye). If you are giving flowers, you should do so in odd numbers but not 13, which is considered unlucky. If you give wine, it should be of the highest quality you can afford.
A typical gesture of politeness is to let another person pass through a door first. In addition, a man always gives way to a woman. If someone gives way to you, it is common to thank them or say pardon.
Paris is a relatively safe city, although pick-pockets and bag-snatchers do prey on tourists.
At night avoid the following metro stations: Châtelet-Les Halles; Château Rouge in Montmartre; Gare du Nord; Strasbourg St-Denis; Réaumur Sébastopol; and Montparnasse Bienvenüe.
Be careful while traveling on the crowded metro at rush hour, and around tourist attractions like Montmartre, Pigalle, the area around Forum des Halles, the centre Pompidou, the Latin Quarter (especially the area within Rue St-Jacques, blvd St-Germain, blvd St-Michel and quai St-Michel), and below the Eiffel Tower.
At night you should also avoid obvious places of prostitution, such as Les Halles and parts of the Bois de Boulogne.
It is a sensible precaution to have a photocopy of your passport, and to leave all extra money, credit cards, documents, plane tickets, etc. in a hotel safe or a safe deposit box.
As anywhere else, be careful when withdrawing money with debit or credit cards at a bank, currency exchange office or ATM and make sure others cannot see your PIN code.
The best time to visit Paris is in springtime although it can sometimes be a bit wet. In summer it can be pretty hot but since many Parisians leave town mid-July to the end of August for holidays, it can be less crowded. However, you may find some businesses closed. Autumn weather is still nice, although mornings can be rather chilly and the days are shorter. In winter many cultural events take place so the cold can perhaps seem less of a problem.
Note that Paris can be rather hectic and crowded around New Year and Bastille Day, so it is a good idea to have reservations already made.