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Paris, the cosmopolitan capital of France, is one of the largest agglomerations in Europe, with 2.2 million people living in the dense (105 km²) central city and almost 12 million people living in the metropolitan area. In the north of the country on the river Seine, Paris has the reputation of being the most beautiful and romantic of all cities, brimming with historic associations and remaining vastly influential in the realms of culture, art, fashion, food and design. Dubbed the City of Light and Capital of Fashion, it is home to some of the world's finest and most luxurious fashion designers and cosmetics, such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, Guerlain, Lancôme, L'Oréal, and Clarins. A large part of the city, including the River Seine, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has the second highest number of Michelin-restaurants in the world (after Tokyo) and contains numerous iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, Moulin Rouge, Lido, making it the third most popular international tourist destination in the world after Bangkok and London, with around 14 million tourists annually. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Paris
One of the best value and most convenient ways to see the sights of Paris is with the Paris Museum Pass, a pre-paid entry card that allows entry into over 70 museums and monuments around Paris (and the Palace of Versailles) and comes in 2-day (€42), 4-day (€56) and 6-day (€69) denominations (Apr 2012). Note these are "consecutive' days". The card allows you to jump lengthy queues, a big plus during tourist season when line can be extensive, and is available from participating museums, tourist offices, FNAC branches and all the main Métro and RER train stations. You will still need to pay to enter most special exhibitions. To avoid waiting in the first long queue to purchase the museum pass, stop to purchase your pass a day or more in advance after mid-day. The pass does not become active until your first museum or site visit when you write your start date. After that, the days covered are consecutive. Do not write your start date until you are certain you will use the pass that day and be careful to use the European date style as indicated on the card: day-month-year.
Also consider the ParisPass, a pre-paid entry card + queue jumping to 60 attractions including The Louvre, The Arc de Triomphe, as well as a river cruise and allows free metro & public transport travel. Also note a cheaper alternative with this new combined pass available since September 2008 is the Paris ComboPass®, which comes in Lite/Premium versions.
Planning your visits: Several sites have "choke points" that restrict the number of visitors that can flow through. These include: The Eiffel Tower, Sainte-Chapelle, the catacombs and the steps to climb to the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral. To avoid lines, you should start your day by arriving at one of these sites at least 30 minutes before opening time. Otherwise, expect a wait of at least an hour. Most museums and galleries are closed on either Monday or Tuesday. Examples: The Louvre museum is closed on Tuesdays while The Orsay Museum is closed on Mondays. Be sure to check museum closing dates to avoid disappointment! Also, most ticket counters close 30-45 min before final closing.
All national museums are open free of charge on the first Sunday of the month. However, this may mean long lines and crowded exhibits. Keep away from Paris during Easter week due to crowding. People have to queue up at the Eiffel Tower for several hours even early in the morning. However, this wait can be greatly reduced, if fit, by walking the first two levels, then buying an elevator ticket to the top. Entry to the permanent exhibitions at city-run museums is free at all times (admission is charged for temporary exhibitions).
These listings are just some highlights of things that you really should see if you can during your visit to Paris. The complete listings are found on each individual district page (follow the link in parenthesis).
Good listings of current cultural events in Paris can be found in Pariscope or Officiel des spectacles, weekly magazines listing all concerts, art exhibitions, films, stage plays and museums. Available from all kiosks. timeout.fr/paris/en And also online
- Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile. (8th) — The Arc de Triomphe exudes grandeur and offers a central view of the city Métro/RER Charles de Gaulle-Etoile (1, 2, 6, A)
- Catacombs (14th) — Used to store the exhumed bones from the overflowing Paris cemetery. (There is a limit to the number of visitors allowed within the Catacombs at one time (200 persons). So, if you arrive just after opening, you must wait until someone exits, approximately 45–60 minutes, before anyone is admitted). Métro Denfert-Rochereau (4, 6, B)
- Château de Versailles (Versailles) — Must be seen. France's most exquisite chateau, on the outskirts of the city, easily visited by train. Once the home to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. RER Versailles Rive Gauche (C)
- The Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel). (7th) — No other monument better symbolizes Paris. Métro Bir-Hakeim (6) or RER Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel (C)
- Grande Arche de la Défense (La Défense) — A modern office-building variant of the Arc de Triomphe. Métro/RER La Défense (1, A)
- Notre Dame Cathedral. (4th) — Impressive Gothic cathedral that was the inspiration for Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Climb to the top! Métro Cité (4) or RER Saint-Michel-Notre Dame (B, C)
- Opera Garnier (9th)— Masterpiece of theatre architecture of the 19th century built by Charles Garnier and inaugurated in 1875 housing the Paris Opera since it was founded by Louis XIV. Métro Opéra (3, 7, 8)
- Pantheon (5th)— Underneath, the final resting place for the great heroes of the French Republic including Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie; above, a marvellous view of the city. Métro Cardinal Lemoine (10) or RER Luxembourg (B)
- Père-Lachaise Cemetery (20th)— Unlike any cemetery in the world. Ornate grave stones, monuments set among tree lined lanes. See the graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Frédéric Chopin, among many others. Métro Père Lachaise (2, 3)
- Sacré Coeur (18th)— A church perched on top of the highest point in Paris. Behind the church is the artists' area, in front are spectacular views of the whole city. Métro Anvers (2) or Abbesses (12), then climb the stairs on Rue Foyatier or take the funicular to the top of the hill.
- Sainte Chapelle (1st)— Exquisite stained glass chapel. More beautiful interior than the gloomy Notre Dame Cathedral. Métro Cité (4)
Museums and galleries
All national museums et monuments are free for all every first Sunday of the month.
- The Louvre, (1st)— One of the finest museums in the world of art and culture. Home of the Mona Lisa and innumerable others. Enormous building and collection, plan at least two visits. Métro Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre (1, 7)
- Musée d'Orsay, (7th)— Incredible collection housed in a former railway station. Works by the great artists of the 19th century (1848-1914) including Monet's "Blue Water Lilies, Renoir's "Bal du moulin de la Galette", van Gogh's "Bedroom in Arles", Whistler's "The Artists Mother", etc. RER Musée d'Orsay (C) or Métro Solférino (12)
- Rodin Museum, (7th)— His personal collection and archives, in a charming home with garden. Métro Varenne (13)
- Picasso Museum, (3rd)— Contains the master's own collection. Visitor should note this museum will be closed until 2012 due to renovations of the building. Métro Saint-Paul (1) or Chemin Vert (8)
- Musée Marmottan-Monet (16th). [rue Louis Boilly]— Over 300 paintings of Claude Monet. Also, the works of Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. "Impression Soleil Levant" by Monet is on display. Métro La Muette (9)
- Musée de l'Orangerie, (1st)— [Jardin des Tuileries] Houses "The Water Lilies" (or "Nymphéas") - a 360 degree depiction of Monet's flower garden at Giverny. Also, impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings by Cézanne, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, Renoir, Rousseau, Soutine, Sisley and others. Métro Concorde (1, 8, 12)
- Musée Delacroix— Housed in the home of painter Eugène Delacroix. Métro Mabillon (10) or Saint-Germain-des-Près (4)
- Centre Georges Pompidou, (4th)— The museum of modern art. The building and adjoining Stravinsky Fountain are attractions in themselves. Métro Rambuteau (11)
- Les Invalides, (7th)— Very impressive museum of arms and armor from the Middle Ages to today. Also contains the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. Métro Varenne (13)
- Cluny, (5th)— A medieval museum exhibiting the five "The Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries, housed in a part Roman, part medieval building. Métro Cluny-La Sorbonne (10)
- Le Musee des Arts Decoratifs, (1st)— Showcasing eight centuries of French savoir-faire. Métro Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre (1, 7)
- Carnavalet (3rd)— Museum of Paris history; exhibitions are permanent and free. Métro Saint-Paul (1) or Chemin Vert (8)
- Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie - La Villette, (19th)— Science museum primarily for children. Métro Porte de la Villette (7)
- Mémorial de la Shoah, (4th)— Paris's Holocaust Memorial Museum, in the heart of the Marais on rue Geoffroy l'Asnier. Free Entry, weekly guided tours. Second Sunday of the month there is a free tour in English. Métro Pont Marie (7)
- Jacquemart-Andre Museum , (8th)— Private collection of French, Italian, Dutch masterpieces in a typical XIXth century mansion. Métro Miromesnil (9, 13)
Paris started life as the Celto-Roman settlement of Lutetia on the Île de la Cité, the island in the Seine currently occupied by the Cathédral de Nôtre Dame. It takes its present name from name of the dominant Gallo-Celtic tribe in the region, the Parisii. At least that's what the Romans called them, when they showed up in 52 BCE and established their city Lutetia on the left bank of the Seine, in what is now called the "Latin Quarter" in the 5th arrondissement.
The Romans held out here for as long as anywhere else in the Western Empire, but by 508 CE they were gone, replaced by Clovis of the Franks, who is considered by the French to have been their first king. Clovis' descendants, aka the Carolingians, held onto the expanded Lutetian state for nearly 500 years through Viking raids and other calamities, which finally resulted in a forced move by most of the population back to the islands which had been the centre of the original Celtic village. The Capetian Duke of Paris was voted to succeed the last of the Carolingians as King of France, ensuring the city a premier position in the medieval world. Over the next several centuries Paris expanded onto the right bank into what was and is still called le Marais (The Marsh). Quite a few buildings from this time can be seen in the 4th arrondissement.
The medieval period also witnessed the founding of the Sorbonne. As the "University of Paris", it became one of the most important centres for learning in Europe—if not the whole world, for several hundred years. Most of the institutions that still constitute the University are found in the 5th, and 13th arrondissements.
In the late 18th century, there was a period of political and social upheaval in France and Europe, during which the French governmental structure, previously a monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, underwent radical change to forms based on Enlightenment principles of nationalism, citizenship, and inalienable rights. Notable events during and following the revolution were the storming of the Bastille 4th arrondissements, and the rise and fall of Napoleonic France. Out of the violent turmoil that was the French Revolution, sparked by the still known Passion des Français, emerged the enlightened modern day France.
The Paris of today was built long after the Capetian and later the Bourbon Kings of France made their mark on Paris with the Louvre and the Palais Royal, both in the 1st. In the 19th century, Baron von Hausmann set about reconstructing the city, by adding the long straight avenues and replacing many of the then existing medieval houses, with grander and more uniform buildings.
New wonders arrived during La Belle Époque, as the Parisian golden age of the late 19th century is known. Gustave Eiffel's famous tower, the first metro lines, most of the parks, and the streetlights (which are partly believed to have given the city its epithet "the city of light") all come from this period. Another source of the epithet comes from Ville Lumière, a reference not only to the revolutionary electrical lighting system implemented in the streets of Paris, but also to the prominence and aura of Enlightenment the city gained in that era.
The twentieth century was hard on Paris, but thankfully not as hard as it could have been. Hitler's order to burn the city was thankfully ignored by the German General von Choltitz who was quite possibly convinced by a Swedish diplomat that it would be better to surrender and be remembered as the saviour of Paris, than to be remembered as its destroyer. Following the war, the city recovered quickly at first, but slowed in the 1970s and 1980s when Paris began to experience some of the problems faced by big cities everywhere: pollution, housing shortages, and occasionally failed experiments in urban renewal.
During this time however, Paris enjoyed considerable growth as a multi-cultural city, with new immigrants from all corners of the world, especially La Francophonie, including most of northern and western Africa as well as Vietnam and Laos. These immigrants brought their foods and music, both of which are of prime interest for many travellers.
Immigration and multi-culturalism continues in the 21st century with a marked increase in the arrival of people from Latin America, especially Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. In the late 1990s, it was hard to find good Mexican food in Paris, whereas today there are dozens of possibilities from lowly taquerias in the outer arrondissements to nice sit-down restaurants on the boulevards. Meanwhile Latin music from salsa to samba is all the rage (well, alongside Paris lounge electronica).
The 21st century has also seen vast improvements in the general liveability of Paris, with the mayor's office concentrating on reducing pollution and improving facilities for soft forms of transportation including a huge network of cycle paths, larger pedestrian districts and newer faster metro lines. Visitors who normally arrive car-less are the beneficiaries of these policies as much as the Parisians themselves are.
In Western Europe, Paris has a maritime climate with cool winters and warm summers. The moderating effect of the Atlantic Ocean helps to temper temperature extremes in much of western Europe, including France. Even in January, the coldest month, temperatures nearly always exceed the freezing point with an average high of 6°C (43°F). Snow is not common in Paris, although it will fall a few times a year, with major snowstorms occurring every few years. Most of Paris's precipitation comes in the form of light rain year-round.
Summers in Paris are warm and pleasant, with an average high of 23°C (75°F) during the mid-summer months. Spring and fall are normally cool and wet.
With the weather being so pleasant in the summer, it's a great time to visit.
It seems like there's almost always something happening in Paris, with the possible exceptions of the school holidays in August and February, when about half of Parisians are to be found not in Paris, but in the Alps or the South of France respectively. The busiest season is probably the fall, from a week or so after la rentrée scolaire or "back to school" to around Noël (Christmas) theatres, cinemas and concert halls book their fullest schedule of the year.
Even so, there are a couple of annual events in the winter, starting with a furniture and interior decorating trade fair called Maison & Object in January.
In February le nouvel an chinois (Chinese New Year) is celebrated in Paris as it is in every city with a significant Chinese population. There are parades in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements and especially in Chinatown in the 13th south of Place d'Italie. Also in February is the Six Nations Rugby Tournament which brings together France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.
The first of two Fashion weeks occurs in March: Spring Fashion Week, giving designers a platform to present women’s prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) collections for the following winter.
The French Tennis Open in which the world’s top players battle it out on a clay court runs during two weeks starting on the last Sunday in May. When it concludes in June, a whole range of festivities start up. Rendez-vous au Jardin is an open house for many Parisian gardens, giving you a chance to meet real Parisian gardeners and see their creations. The Fête de la Musique celebrates the summer solstice (21 June) with this city-wide free musical knees-up. Finally on the 26th of June is the Gay Pride parade, featuring probably the most sincere participation by the mayor's office of any such parade on the globe.
The French national holiday Bastille Day on the 14th of July celebrates the storming of the infamous Bastille during the French Revolution. Paris hosts several spectacular events that day of which the best known is the Bastille Parade which is held on the Champs-Élysées at 10:00 and broadcast to pretty much the rest of Europe by television. The entire street will be crowded with spectators so arrive early. The Bastille Day Fireworks is an exceptional treat for travellers lucky enough to be in town on Bastille Day. The Office du Tourisme et des Congress de Paris recommends gathering in or around the champ de Mars, the gardens of the Eiffel Tower.
Also in July, Cinema en Plein Air is the annual outdoor cinema event that takes place at the Parc de la Villette, in the 19th on Europe’s largest inflatable screen. For most of the months of July and August, parts of both banks of the Seine are converted from expressway into an artificial beach for Paris Plages. Also in July the cycling race le Tour de France has a route that varies annually, however it always finishes on the last Sunday of July under the Arc de Triomphe.
On the last full weekend in August, a world-class music festival Rock en Seine draws international rock and pop stars to the Domaine national de Saint-Cloud, just west of Paris.
During mid-September DJs and (usually young) fans from across Europe converge on Paris for five or six days of dancing etc. culminating in the Techno parade - a parade whose route traces roughly from Place de la Bastille to the Sorbonne, and around the same time the festival Jazz à la Villette brings some of the biggest names in contemporary jazz from around the world.
The Nuit Blanche transforms most of central Paris into a moonlit theme-park for an artsy all-nighter on the first Saturday of October, and Fashion Week returns shortly thereafter showing off Women’s Prêt-à-Porter collections for the following summer; as we've noted winter collections are presented in March.
The third Thursday in November marks the release of Le Beaujolais Nouveau and the beginning of the Christmas season. This evening, the Christmas lights are lit in a ceremony on the Champs-Élysées, often in the presence of hundreds (if not thousands) of people and many dignitaries, including the president of France.
Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive event guides covering concerts, clubs, movies or special events. For theatre, movies and exhibitions pick up the Pariscope and L'officiel du Spectacle, available at newsstands for €0.40. For (especially smaller, alternative) concerts pick up LYLO, a small, free booklet available in some bars and at FNAC. There is no user-friendly online version of these guides.
- Cafe Philo in English, Cafe de Flore, 172, Blvd St-Germain. Cafe Philo in English meets on the first Wednesday of each month upstairs at the famous Cafe de Flore. Everyone is invited. You don't have to be knowledgeable about philosophy. Meetings begin with a two round voting process to determine a topic. The topic is discussed for two hours. Free.
Paris is considered by many as the birthplace of photography, and while one may debate the correctness of this claim, there is no debate that Paris is today a photographer's dream. The French capital offers a spectacular array of photographic opportunities to the beginner and the pro alike. It has photogenic monuments (e.g., Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, the obelisk at Concorde, and countless others); architecture (the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Museum of the Arab World, to name just a few) and urban street scenes (e.g., in the Marais, Montmartre and Belleville). When you tire of taking your own photos, visit one of the many institutions dedicated to photography (e.g., European Museum of Photography, the Jeu de Paume Museum or the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation). At these and other institutions, you can learn the about the rich history of Paris as the place of important developments in photography (e.g., the Daguerrotype) and as the home of many of the trade's great artists (e.g., Robert Doisneau, André Kertész, Eugene Atget and Henri Cartier Bresson).
- Better Paris Photos, 32 Avenue de Suffren, ☎ +33 6 74 04 21 84, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. By appointment, tours last from 4 hours. Better Paris Photos offers instructional tours and workshops that combine hands-on learning of essential photographic techniques with guiding to, and commentary about, the most photogenic spots of Paris. Led by English-speaking photographers and instructors, these tours are open to all skill levels and interest. From €195/half day; €290/full day.
- Sab's Secret Paris Photo and Curiosity Tours, ☎ +33 6 18 38 68 33, e-mail: email@example.com. Tours are private and last around 4 hours. Paris fanatic Sab Will combines high quality street photography instruction with intriguing commentary on the many quirks and curios of the city. Sab's most popular tours include Montmartre, the Latin Quarter, the Marais and the Louvre/Palais Royal area but many people choose to create their own exclusive tours with Sab's help. The balance between photography and history/curiosities is decided by the client. The type of camera you have and your experience level doesn't matter as Sab concentrates on developing the photographer's 'eye' and an appreciation for composition and capturing unexpected moments creatively. From €120/half day.
The Cinémas of Paris are (or at least should be) the envy of the movie-going world. Of course, like anywhere else you can see big budget first-run films from France and elsewhere. That though, is just the start. During any given week there are at least half-a-dozen film festivals going on, at which you can see the entire works of a given actor or director. Meanwhile there are some older cult films like say, What's new Pussycat or Casino Royal which you can enjoy pretty much any day you wish.
Many non-French movies are subtitled (called "version originale" "VO" or "VOstfr" as opposed to "VF" for version francaise).
There are any number of ways to find out what's playing, but the most commonly used guide is Pariscope, which you can find at newsstands for €0.40. Meanwhile there are innumerable online guides which have information on "every" cinema in Paris.
The Paris Opera, as well as its associated ballet company, the Paris Opera Ballet, are considered to be among the premier classical performance companies in the world.
If you are under 26, there is a flat rate of €10 for every private theatre of the town every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night. This fare does not apply to public theatres nor opera.
- Cite des enfants in the 19th, a museum for kids within the Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie, is interactive, fun, and educational. There are two separate sections for the 3-5 set and the 5-12 set. The tots section has simple exhibits designed to be pushed, prodded, and poked. The section for older kids is more sophisticated with scientific experiments and TV studios. Métro Porte de la Villete (7)
- Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th. It would be counted as a travesty not to take your under 10 year old to the Jardin du Luxembourg, long a favorite with Parisien children. With its world famous merry-go-round, a pond for sail boats, a puppet theater, pony rides, chess players, children's playground, it has something for every kid (with comfortable chairs for weary parents thrown in!). The marionettes du Luxembourg, the puppet theater, stages classic French puppet shows in French but should be easy to understand. There are numerous places for a snack. RER Luxembourg (B) or Métro Odéon (4, 10)
- Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th. Buttes-Chaumont is great for those with children that like to run, climb, and explore. Built on the site of an abandoned quarry, the park is roughly bowl-shaped with a 30-meter-tall peak situated in the middle of a pond at the park's center. There are trails up the rock, caves, waterfalls, a suspension bridge, and a small stone gazebo on the top of the rock with a 360-degree view. There is also a puppet theater and a playground. Métro Buttes-Chaumont (7bis), Botzaris (7bis), or Laumière (5)
- Parc Zoologique in the 12th. Like all things in France, this zoo is different because of a 236 foot artificial mountain bang in its center. Take elevators to the top and enjoy the view or watch the mountain goats do their stuff on the sides. Lions, tigers, and everything designed to delight kids can be found in the zoo if the mountaind doesn't do it for your kids. RER/Métro Gare d'Austerlitz (5, 10, C)
- The Jardin d'Acclimatation in the 16th has a number of rides, including pint-sized roller coasters suitable for children as young as three years, as well as a mini-zoo and the estimable Musée en Herbe. Métro Les Sablons (1)
Paris is one of Europe's culinary centres. The restaurant trade began here just over 220 years ago and continues to thrive. It may however come as a surprise that Paris isn't considered the culinary capital of France, rather some people prefer the French cooking found in small rural restaurants, outside of the city, closer to the farms and with their focus on freshness and regional specialities. Even among French cities, Paris has long been considered by some people as second to Lyon for fine dining.
There have been other challenges in the last 20 years or so as restaurateurs in places like San Francisco and Sydney briefly surpassed their Parisian fore bearers, again with an emphasis on freshness of ingredients but also borrowings from other cuisines. Parisian cooks didn't just rest on their laurels during this time, rather they travelled, taught, and studied, and together with Paris's own immigrant communities, have revitalized the restaurant trade. Today you can find hundreds of beautiful restaurants with thoughtful (or just trendy) interior design and well-planned and executed cartes and menus offering a creative mélange of French and exotic foreign cuisines. It's safe to say that Paris is once again catching up with or edging ahead of its Anglophone rivals.
Of course there are also some traditional offerings, and for the budget conscious there are hundreds of traditional bistros, with their sidewalk terraces offering a choice of fairly simple (usually meat centred) meals for reasonable prices.
For the uninitiated, it is unfortunately possible to have a uniformly poor dining experience during a stay in Paris, mainly because many attractions are situated in upscale areas of town, and that mass tourism attracts price gougers. It is frequent to hear of people complaining of very high Parisian prices for poor food and poor service, because they always tried to eat close to major tourist magnets. For good food and great service, try to go eat where the locals eat .
Many restaurants are tiny and have tables close together - square metres are at a premium and understandably restaurateurs need to make the most of limited space. In some cases when the restaurant is crowded, you may have to sit beside strangers at the same table. If that does not appeal to you, go to a more upscale place where you will pay for the extra space.
Trendy restaurants often require reservations weeks, if not months in advance. If you haven't planned far enough ahead, try to get a reservation for lunch which is generally easier and less expensive.
For an easy-to-manage eating budget while in Paris, consider: breakfast or "petit déjeuner" at a restaurant, possibly in your hotel, consisting of some croissants, coffee, and maybe a piece of fruit. Get a 'walking lunch' from one of Paris' many food stands—a panino in the centre of the city, a crepe from a crepe stand, a felafel pita or take-out Chinese in the Marais. Traiteurs serving Chinese food are ubiquitous in the city and good for a cheap lunch and many pâtisseries sell inexpensive coffee and sandwiches. All these are cheap (about the same as breakfast), easy, and allow you to maximize your sightseeing and walking time while enjoying delicious local or ethnic food. For dinner, stroll the streets at dusk and consider a €20-40 prix-fixe menu. This will get you 3 or 4 courses, possibly with wine, and an unhurried, candlelit, magical European evening. If you alternate days like this with low-budget, self-guided eating (picnicking, snacking, street food) you will be satisfied without breaking the bank.
If one of the aims of your trip to Paris is to indulge in its fine dining, though, the most cost-effective way to do this is to make the main meal of your day lunch. Virtually all restaurants offer a good prix-fixe deal. By complementing this with a bakery breakfast and a light self-catered dinner, you will be able to experience the best of Parisian food and still stick to a budget.
Budget travellers will be very pleased with the range and quality of products on offer at the open air markets (e.g. the biggest one on Boulevard Richard Lenoir (near the Bastille), Rue Mouffetard, Place Buci, Place de la Madeleine and over the Canal Saint-Martin in the 11th or in any other arrondissement). If your accommodation has cooking facilities you're set, especially for wine and cheese, a decent bottle of French wine will set you back all of about €3-5, while the fairly good stuff starts at around €7. Bottles for less than €3 are not recommended. Keep in mind that the small épiceries which open until late are more expensive than the supermarchés (Casino, Monoprix, Franprix, etc.). For wine, the price difference can be up to €2.
Buy a baguette, some cheese and a good bottle of wine and join the Parisian youth for a pique-nique along the Seine (especially on the Île Saint-Louis) or along the Canal Saint-Martin. The finest food stores are Lafayette Gourmet in the Galeries Lafayette or La Grande Epicerie in the luxury department store Le Bon Marché. They are worth discovering. You will find a large variety of wines there, otherwise try wine stores such as Nicolas or Le Relais de Bacchus (all over the city).
For seafood lovers, Paris is a great place to try moules frites (steamed mussels and French fries) (better in fall and winter), oysters, sea snails, and other delicacies. Meat specialties include venison (deer), boar, and other game (especially in the fall and winter hunting season), as well as French favourites such as lamb, veal, beef, and pork.
Eating out in Paris can be expensive. However don't believe people when they say you can't do Paris on the cheap - you can! The key is to stay away from the beaten tracks and the obviously expensive Champs Elysées. Around the lesser visited quarters especially, there are many cheap and yummy restaurants to be found. The area around Fontaine Saint-Michel, the fountain facing Notre Dame is crowded by particularly tasty places to eat, with good ambiance, cheap prices and excellent service, with the advantage of being very centric of many places of interest. The key is to order from the prix-fixe menu, and not off the A la Carte menu unless you want to pay an arm and a leg. In many places a three course meal can be found for about €15. This way you can sample the food cheaply and is usually more "French". Ask for "une carafe d'eau" (oon karaaf doe) to get free tap water.
Paris has the largest number of Kosher restaurants in any European city. Walk up and down Rue des Rosiers to see the variety and choices available from Israeli, Sushi, Italian and others. You will also find a wide assortment of Kosher restaurants in the 9th arrondissement of Paris near the rue Richer and rue Cadet areas. See the district guides for examples. Kosher restaurants and snacks usually display a big orange rectangle on their front, which ensure clients that they are Beth din certified.
For vegetarians, eating traditional French food will require some improvisation, as it is heavily meat-based. That being said, Paris has several excellent vegetarian restaurants, and many non-vegetarian restaurants will provide vegetarian dishes.
When eating in a traditional restaurant, be careful before ordering dishes labelled as "vegetarian". Most French people presume that fish and seafood are vegetarian dishes. This is a widely spread misunderstanding all around the country. Additionally, French people tend to confuse "real" vegetarians with vegans. When explaining that you're a vegetarian that won't eat fish, people will often presume that you won't eat milk or egg-based products.
Look for spots such as Aquarius in the 14th or and Le Grenier de Notre-Dame in the 5th just to name a few. See the arrondissement pages for more listings. For fast food and snacks, you can always find a vegetarian sandwich or pizza. Even a kebab shop can make you something with just cheese and salad, or perhaps falafel.
There are also lots of Italian, Thai, Indian, and Mezo-American places where you will have little problem. The famous South Indian chain Saravana Bhavan have their branch near Gare Du Nord. In Rue des Rosiers (4th arrondissement) you can get delicious falafel in the many Jewish restaurants. Another place to look for falafel is on Rue Oberkampf (11th arrondissement). Take away falafel usually goes for €5 or less.
Moroccan and Algerian cooking is common in Paris - vegetarian couscous is lovely. Another good option for vegetarians - are traiteurs, particularly around Ledru Rollin (down the road from Bastille) take away food where you can combine a range of different options such as pomme dauphinoise, dolmas, salads, vegetables, nice breads and cheeses and so on.
Lebanese restaurants and snack shops abound as well, offering a number of vegetarian mezze, or small plates. The stand-bys of course are hummas, falafel, and baba-ganouche (caviar d'aubergine). A good place to look for Lebanese is in the pedestrian zone around Les Halles and Beaubourg in the 1st and 4th.
Tourists and locals
When you are looking for a restaurant in Paris, be wary of those where the staff speak English a bit too readily. These restaurants are usually - but not always - geared towards tourists. It does make a difference in the staff's service and behaviour whether they expect you to return or not.
Sometimes the advertised fixed price tourist menus (€10-15) are a good deal. If you're interested in the really good and more authentic stuff (and if you have learned some words of French) try one of the small bistros where the French go during lunch time.
The bars scene in Paris really does have something for everyone. From bars which serve drinks in baby bottles, to ultra luxe clubs that require some name dropping, or card (black Amex) showing, and clubs where you can dance like no one's watching, (although they will be). To start your night out right, grab a drink or two in a ubiquitous dive bar, before burning up the dance floor and spreading some cash, at one of the trendy clubs.
- Canal St Martin. Many cozy cafés and other drinking establishments abound around the Canal St Martin in the 10th.
- The Marais. The Marais has a large number of trendier new bars mostly in the 4th and to a lesser extent the 3rd with a few old charmers tossed into the mix. A number of bars and restaurants in the Marais have a decidedly gay crowd, but are usually perfectly friendly to straights as well. Some seem to be more specifically aimed at up-and-coming hetero singles.
- Bastille. There is a very active nightlife zone just to the northeast of Place de Bastille centered around rue de Lappe, rue de la Roquette, rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine (especially the amazing Club Barrio Latino) and rue de Charonne in the 11th. Many of the bars closest to Bastille have either a North, Central, or South American theme, with a couple of Aussie places mixed in for good measure, and as you continue up rue de Charonne the cafés have more of a traditionally French but grungy feeling.
- Quartier Latin - Odeon. If you're looking for the nouvelle vague (new wave) style, student and intellectual atmosphere of Paris in the 60s and 70s, you'll find a lot of that (and more hip + chique) places in the quartier Latin and between place Odeon and the Seine. The neighborhood is also home of many small artsy cinemas showing non-mainstream films and classics (check 'Pariscope' or 'l'officiel du spectacle' at any newspaper stand for the weekly programme).
- Rue Mouffetard and environs. The area in the 5th on the south side of the hill topped by the Panthéon has a little bit of everything for the nighthawk, from the classy cafés of Place de la Contrescarpe to an Irish-American dive bar just down the way to a hip, nearly hidden jazz café at the bottom of the hill.
- Châtelet. In some ways the Marais starts here in the 1st between Les Halles and Hôtel de Ville but with between all of the tourists and the venerable Jazz clubs on rue des Lombards the area deserves some special attention.
- Montmartre. You'll find any number of cozy cafés and other drinking establishments all around the Butte Montmartre in the 18th, especially check out rue des Abbesses near the Métro station of the same name.
- Oberkampf-Ménilmontant. If you are wondering where to find the hipsters (bobos for bohemian-bourgeois), then this is where to look. There are several clusters of grungy-hip bars all along rue Oberkampf in the 11th, and stretching well into the 20th up the hill on rue de Ménilmontant. It's almost like being in San Francisco's Haight-Fillmore district.
- Bagnolet. There are a cluster of bar/restaurant/nightclubs along the southern end of the Père Lachaise cemetery in the 20th including probably the best place in Paris for nightly local and touring punk rock.
- Rues des Dames-Batignolles. Another good place to find the grungy-chic crowd is the northern end of the 17th around rue des Dames and rue des Batignolles, and if you decide you want something a little different Montmartre is just around the corner.
- Port de Tolbiac. This previously deserted stretch of the river Seine in the 13th was reborn as a center for nightlife (and Sunday-afternoon-life) a few years ago when an electronic music cooperative opened the Batofar. Nowadays there are a number of boats moored along the same quai, including a boat with a Caribbean theme, and one with an Indian restaurant.
- Saint Germain des Prés. This area has two of the most famous cafés in the world: Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, both catering to the tourists and the snobs who can afford their high prices. This part of the 6th is where the Parisian café scene really started, and there still are hundreds of places to pull up to a table, order a glass, and discuss Sartre deep into the evening.
For individual bar listings see the various Arrondissement pages under Drink.
Of course there are lots of interesting places which are sort of off on their own outside of these clusters, including a few like the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz which are not to be missed in a serious roundup of Parisian drinking, so check out the listings even in those arrondissements we haven't mentioned above.
Some nightclubs in Paris that are worth it: Folies Pigalle (pl. Pigalle, 18th, very trashy, €20), Rex Club (near one of the oldest cinemas on earth, the Grand Rex, house/electro, about €15). You might also want to try Cabaret (Palais Royal), Maison Blanche, le Baron (M Alma-Marceau). Remember when going out to dress to impress, you are in Paris! Torn clothing and sneakers are not accepted. The better you look, the more likely you will get past the random decisions of club bouncers. Also important to remember if male (or in a group of guys) that it will be more difficult to enter clubs; try to always have an equal male/female ratio.
Paris is one of the great fashion centres of the Western world, up there with New York, London, and Milan, making it a shopper's delight. While the Paris fashion scene is constantly evolving, the major shopping centres tend to be the same. High end couture can be found in the 8th arrondisement. In summer, there is nothing better than browsing the boutiques along Canal St-Martin, or strolling along the impressive arcades of the historic Palais-Royal, with beautifully wrapped purchases swinging on each arm.
A good note about Le Marais is that as it is a mostly Jewish neighborhood, most of the shops in Le Marais are open on Sundays. The stores in this area are intimate, boutique, "Parisian" style clothing stores. You will no doubt find something along each street, and it is always well worth the look.
Other great areas to shop around in are around the area Sèvres Babylone (Métro Line 10 and Line 12). It is in this area you will find the Le Bon Marché 7th, particularly rue de Cherche Midi 6th. The area boasts some of the major fashion houses (Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Versace, etc.) and also has smaller private boutiques with handmade clothing.
In the Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés, you can find a handful of vintage clothing shops, carrying anything from couture early 20th century dresses, to 70s Chanel sunglasses. Walking along Boulevard Saint-Germain, you will find major brands. However, if in search of eclectic finds, opt to walk the northern side of the Boulevard, especially along rue Saint André des Arts, where you can always find a nice café to stop in. The area south of Saint-Germain is just as nice, and comes with a price tag to match.
In the artsy quarters of 1 and 4, there are many bargains to be had, once again, if you are prepared to look. Souvenirs are easily found and can be fairly inexpensive as long as you don't buy from the tourist sites. For cheap books of French connection, try the University/Latin quarter as they sell books in all languages starting from half a euro each.
Paris has 3 main flea-markets, all on the outskirts of the central city. The most famous of these is the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen (Porte de Clignancourt) (Clignancourt Flea Market), Métro: Porte de Clignancourt, in the 18th, a haven for lovers of antiques, second-hand goods, and retro fashion. The best days to go are Saturday and Sunday. Note that there are particular times of the week when only antique collectors are allowed into the stalls, and there are also times of the day when the stall owners take their Parisian siesta, and enjoy a leisurely cappuccino for an hour or so. The best times to visit the flea markets are in the spring and summertime, when the area is more vibrant. In and around the metro station, you may find the area a little wild, but still safe.
Rue de Rome, situated near Gare St. Lazare, is crowded with luthiers, brass and woodwind makers, piano sellers, and sheet music stores. Subway station Europe. The area south of the metro station Pigalle is also packed with music shops (more oriented towards guitars and drums).
For art lovers, be sure to check out Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is renowned for its galleries, and it is impossible to turn a street without finding a gallery to cast your glance in. On Fridays, most open until late. Most even have the benefit of bottles of wine so you can wander in with your glass of wine and feel very artistique. Great roads to walk along are rue de Seine, rue Jacob, rue des Beaux Arts, Rue Bonaparte, and Rue Mazarine. Also, be sure to visit the historical district of Montparnasse and quartier Vavin where artists like Modigliani, Gauguin and Zadkine used to work.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Paris on Wikivoyage.