“Ahh! Que c’est magnifique!” You don’t know it yet, but that’s a direct quote, from you.
You’re thinking to yourself, “Wait a second, I don’t even speak French.”
Oh, but you will. Because you’re taking a trip to Paris.
Evening walks through the City of Lights, haute couture, haute cuisine and more—all while misunderstanding every word.
But you need to plan first; from documents to things to do, and packing.
Not to worry. You’ve come to the right place. Keep reading.
1. Gather Important Documents
Before getting too carried away with your upcoming trip to Paris, make sure your documents are valid. Getting a new passport can take several weeks, even with a rush order (more fees). Ideally, your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after your stated return date.
2. Money Matters
Want the best out of your trip to Paris? One word: budget. The French capital is notorious for its high costs. A good budget will help you save. Book the cheapest flight possible. Choose budget accommodations. Visit during April to June or October and the beginning of November for good prices and smaller crowds. Manage your expectations and you’ll have a blast.
3. Build an Itinerary
One does not simply plan a trip to Paris without an itinerary. Like most things in life, itineraries are about balance. Plan too much, and you’ll return home dissatisfied and overwhelmed. Don’t plan enough, and you’ll miss out on all Paris has to offer. I’ve put together a short list to get you started.
At nearly 1,100 ft, it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. You’ve read about it in books, seen it on TV, and in movies. But nothing compares to seeing the real thing up close.
Contact: 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France +33 892 70 12 39
30,000 pieces, 30 plus galleries, the three Great Ladies and more. It’s one of the most popular museums in the world. Get your tickets in advance or join a museum tour to beat the lines.
Contact: 99 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France +33 1 40 20 50 50
History and design aficionados dream of visiting this cathedral. And it’s easy to see why. The Cathédral Notre-Dame de Paris is French Gothic architecture personified. Statues, ancient relics, exhibits and more. You can’t plan a trip to Paris without stopping here.
Contact: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France +33 1 42 34 56 10
A well-known French monument, the Arc de Triomphe is worth a bit of your time. It’s located in the center of the Place de l’Étoile and carries major historical weight dating back hundreds of years.
Contact: Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France +33 1 55 37 73 77
Luxurious shopping and reputable cafés more your style? Look no further than the Champs–Élysées. The wide promenades lined with luscious trees were practically designed for selfies. With several monuments, restaurants, gardens and more nearby, it’s a one stop shop for visitors to Paris.
Contact: Avenue des Champs Elysees, 75008 Paris, France +33 7 53 38 29 83
With a pristine white stone exterior, the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre towers over its surroundings. It’s filled with unique artwork and historical items too! Attend mass, people watch, get a few moments of calm. It’s well worth it. Contact: 35 Rue du Chevalier-De-La-Barre, 75018 Paris, France +33 1 53 41 89 00
You’ve never seen 18th century European wealth and luxury quite like this. The Palace of Versailles is more than a museum. It was also previously home to French royals. You may never be this rich, but you can pretend for a short while. Contact: Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France +33 1 30 83 78 00
This museum is an impressionist art lover’s playground. “Umm … What’s impressionist art?” Oversimplification: It’s 19th century sketch-like art with emphasis on light. Notable names: Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Edgar Degas (among others). It’s worth a few moments of your time. I promise. Contact: 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France +33 1 40 49 48 14
Not many parks in Paris (if any at all) are as plainly beautiful as the Luxembourg Gardens. It’s the sort of place that comes to mind when you think of lavish English garden parties. Paris is a buzzing city. If you need to slow things down for a little while, this is where you want to be. Contact: Rue de Vaugirard, Boulevard St. Michel, Rue Auguste-Comte and Rue Guynemer, 75006 Paris, France +33 1 42 34 20 00
If you visit the Louvre, cross two things off your to-do list by visiting the nearby Jardin des Tuileries too. These gardens are nearing 500 years old. Take a stroll around the massive open space. Sit and read a book on one of the benches. Have a snack. Strike up a conversation. C’est facile (it’s easy)!
Contact: 113 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France +33 1 60 20 44 44
4. Book a Flight
This is where most of your travel dollars will be spent. Save as much as you can by booking a month or two ahead. Don’t forget to factor in for seasonality too. Use budget airlines, reward programs, indirect flights, extended layovers and more. Read our 23 Hacks to find cheap fares to become an expert at finding affordable flights.
5. Book Accommodations and Transport
Booking the best accommodation is about two things: cost and location. Balance is key. Also, do your best to book near a cluster of attractions you plan to visit. This saves time and money. Here are 31 free and cheap accommodation travel hacks to get you sorted.
Make sure your driver’s license isn’t expired if you plan on renting a car. Personally, I suggest getting a Paris Visite, Mobilis or even a Navigo pass. They can be purchased for multiple bus and subway station uses for several days. Learn more about Paris Metro Fare and Tickets.
6. Get Travel Insurance
I can’t stress the importance of travel insurance enough. That said, not all travel insurances are created equal. There are several major insurance companies offering an array of insurance types. Do your due diligence and make the best choice for you. But whatever you do, don’t leave the country without it. Here’s a great article on the best travel insurance available right now.
7. Tie Up Loose Ends at Home
Avoid the last-minute stress of being disorganized. Give yourself lead time to alert your financial institution of travel, find sitters (baby-sitters, pet-sitters, house-sitters), get international data coverage, exchange currency etc. It’s not sexy, but you’ll be glad you did it in advance.
8. Pack Your Bags
I know. I know. You’re an expert packer who thrives under the pressure of last-minute packing. But hear me out. Make a packing list and pack your bags at least a few days ahead. There’s no such thing as being too prepared. This also gives you the time to remember any important items you may have forgotten.
Note: Look up what the weather’s going to be like during your trip. It helps with packing.
To be honest, there are so many things to do in Paris you probably didn’t need this guide. But aren’t you glad you took a few minutes to read it anyway? Au revoir!