Paris First Time Visitors Guide

March 14, 2022

Sarah Flint Natalie Slingback at Paris Cafe

There’s many a reason that Paris is one of the top tourist destinations in all of the world. There is so much to see, taste, do and experience. And, as a result, planning a first trip to Paris can seem a bit intimidating. I have traveled to Paris more than anywhere else and even lived there for a brief stint. And now I help people plan their dream trips to the City of Light through my business, Paris, Perfected.

Today I am going to share some of the things I think are the best ways to spend your time when you visit Paris for the first time so you can better decide what to do, where to go and in the end, be sure to get the most of out your trip.

Sarah Flint Natalie Slingback at Paris Cafe

As you plan your trip, I want to recommend packing a pair of Sarah Flint’s perfectly Parisian sling shoes to wear while you explore Paris.

My favorite shoe brand just released a new slingback version of their fan favorite Natalie Flat which I own in three colors. This chic slingback silhouette features an asymmetrical bow, leather outsole, a galvanized gold-tone buckle and comes in a few colors including the Black Stitch Textile I’m seen wearing here. The linen-like fabric with a neutral woven stitch makes these shoes perfect for a trip to Paris no matter the season.

Sarah Flint Natalie Slingback at Paris Cafe

What makes it perfect for Paris? The shoe features 6mm of extra footbed padding plus 2mm extra padding in the toe box so you get extra comfort and decreased pressure on the toes ensuring a comfortable day of walking in the shoes. The slingback buckle also even has hidden elastic to ensure extra comfort!

The Natalie Sling fits true to size. Visit SarahFlint.com to browse all their styles – many of which are perfect companions for Parisian style outfits. You can also use code SARAHFLINTxMEGHAND for $50 off all shoes if you’re a new customer (excluding limited edition styles). Let me know what you pick up!

Paris First Time Visitors Guide

Now, read on for some of my best tips for visiting Paris for the first time.

Paris Rooftops

Paris Tourist Guide

Paris is the capitol city of France and its most populated city as well. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of the world’s centers of diplomacy, commerce, fashion, gastronomy, science and arts. Paris is easily accessible by plane welcoming hundreds of domestic and international flights into its Charles de Gaulle and Orly airpots and it is also easily accessible by train for those living in Europe. The currency is the Euro.

When is the Best Time to Visit Paris

I truly believe there is no “bad” time to be in Paris…it’s Paris!! But if you’re going for the first time and want to enjoy Paris in all of its beautiful glory – I always recommend you go in May, June or October. Those are my personal favorite months to be in the city as the weather is usually nice, it’s not too overly crowded as say July or August may be and you can really enjoy Paris in bloom or as it changes color. Truly I think Paris in spring and Paris in Fall are when the city is at its most majestic.

That being said, Paris weather can surprise you. It almost always will rain a bit during your time there but fear not – there’s plenty to do in Paris when it rains: What To Do in Paris When It Rains. And you may experience different weather in the course of a few short days. So plan accordingly and bring layers!

How To Get Around Paris

Walk

Paris is a city that is best enjoyed on foot. It is largely flat and extremely walkable so be sure you bring comfortable shoes and leave time to wander without much of a destination. The French love to aimless wander so much so that they even have a term for it! Flâneur – to stroll, to wander, to saunter.

Taxis

Cabs are readily available at taxi stands.

Paris Metro

The Paris Metro is very user friendly as well if you’re wanting to give your feet a break. There are plenty of metro stations and the fare is affordable.

Train Stations

You can head out of Paris to a variety of other locations in France from one of their many inner city train stations. They also go to popular day trip destinations like Giverny and Versailles.

If you’re looking for more guidance, I offer an entire section with the best tips for getting around Paris for my Paris, Perfected clients.

Basic French Phrases

The French very much appreciate if you attempt to speak French. It’s also the polite thing to do but so many times I witness Americans in France bypassing even polite attempts to speak the language. While many of the French in Paris speak wonderful English – it is customary to greet and thank in French. 

Paris Cafe

Below are additional common phrases you’ll likely find helpful for your time in Paris.

  • Hello! Bonjour (daytime) Bonsoir (evening)
  • Thank you! Merci
  • Goodbye. Au revoir
  • Yes/No. Oui/Non.
  • Please: S’il vous plaît.
  • Where are the toilets? Ou sont les toilettes?
  • Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? 
  • Do you have a menu in English? Avez-vous un menu en anglais?
  • I do not understand. Je ne comprend pas.
  • Excuse me (When asking a question). Excusez-moi.
  • Excuse me / apologies (when wanting to get past someone or if you bumped into someone). Pardon.
  • Where is X? Où est…?
  • The bill, please. L’addition s’il vous plaît 

Luxembourg Gardens I Paris I wit & whimsy

Best Things To Do In Paris

Visit the Parks

Parisians love their parks dearly and they are beautifully maintained and worth strolling in as well as spending an afternoon in having a picnic. I personally adore the Luxembourg Gardens.

Wander the Museums

There is no shortage of amazing museums in Paris. Decide the top 2-3 you’d like to visit and book your tickets in advance. If you plan to do more, you might want to consider getting a Paris pass. Be on the lookout for join tickets, too which means you can get a combined price for popular spots such as the Musée d Orsay and Rodin.

If you’re trying to fit in a lot, the Paris Pass will in fact be a good option as they offer a skip the line feature.

Take a Boat Cruise on the Seine

I love to do this at sunset so you can see the city transition from day to night and capture the Eiffel Tower sparkling.

Visit the Palais Royal

One of the most photographed spots in Paris is worth strolling through for good reason.

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle features some of the world’s most marvelous stained glass and dates back to the 13th century! It was the royal chapel built in the Gothic style and is a must when you visit the Île de la Cité. 

See Paris from above

Consider climbing one of the many Paris tourist attractions that offer views above the city such as the Arc de Triomphe or Eiffel Tower.

Take a cooking class

A wonderful way to spend a morning or afternoon is to learn how to make some of the delicious baked goods France has to offer. I have discounted rates for popular cooking schools through Paris, Perfected.

Have a picnic

If weather allows, shop like a local to pick up cheese, bread, fruit and wine and then head to the banks of the Seine of one of the many beautiful Parisian parks to picnic.

Paris Perfect Rentals Review

Best Places To Stay In Paris

Hôtel Thérèse

This boutique hotel in Paris’ 1st arrondissement is my all time favorite and has been for years. I’ve stayed here multiple times and always had a great experience. (And have heard from several readers who have loved it as well – YAY!) It has all the modern amenities you would want and the property is cozy, charming and so chic.

If you book with me at Paris, Perfected you’ll be able to score complimentary breakfast and a welcome gift upon arrival.

Hôtel Adèle & Jules

Just a short drive away from their sister property Hotel Therese and located in the 9eme, Hôtel Adèle & Jules is tucked away on a little alley and offers wonderful service and rooms with beautiful details like pink headboards (!) and beautifully tiled tubs. (I took a bath every night while staying there #heaven!) You are around the corner from L’Appartement Sezane and a short walk from all the shopping your heart could desire at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. 

If you book with me at Paris, Perfected you’ll be able to score complimentary breakfast and a welcome gift upon arrival.

Paris Perfect Rentals

These stunning apartments are beautifully designed and maintained and many of them offer striking views of the Eiffel Tower.

Haven In

Haven In is another option to feel more local when staying in Paris. They, too offer a variety of beautiful apartments. Many of which are great for families.

The Ritz Paris

If money is no object, I recommend you splurge on a once in a lifetime luxury hotel opportunity.

Best Places To Eat In Paris

I have so many places to recommend in Paris to eat – there is truly no shortage of amazing food to be found at their cafes and restaurants in the city!

Some of my more well known favorites are below. If you’re interested in more local gems, be sure to book a Paris, Perfected Plan with me.

Frenchie Wine Bar

I prefer this spot to the sister restaurant Frenchie that serves an upscale prix fixe menu that I found to be a bit disappointing. The wine bar has a full menu that is always changing and the food is absolutely excellent. Interesting flavor combinations and portions that allow you to order a little of everything for your party to try lots of tastes. An excellent wine menu as well. 

Le Café Marly

Dine alongside the famed pyramids of the Louvre. The terrace of this spot overlooks the Louvre’s courtyard and is rather wonderful to take in during the breakfast hour.  Do expect the prices to match the views, however.

Chez Janou

Go here for lunch when exploring the Marais. A traditional cafe with some of the best chocolate mousse you’ll ever have.

Cafe Charlot

Another favorite spot for lunch or dinner in the Marais. Get the warm goat cheese salad or steak frites. Divine people watching and a classic Parisian cafe setting.

Septime

This prix fixe experience has been one of the hottest restaurants in Paris in the last several years. A wonderful and memorable special occasion meal.

Buvette

This is one of my favorite spots in NYC but the Paris one is just as good and is great for a party of 2. Classic French food that’s a bit more modern.

Trieze

For casual comfort food. Recommend for lunch and brunch. Right near the Luxembourg Gardens.

Cafe de Flore

While a hot spot for tourists, it remains an institution and I adore having breakfast outside here. Nearby alternatives I also enjoy include Le Bonaparte and equally famous Les Deux Magots.

Big Mamma Group

All of their restaurants serve excellent Italian food in beautiful settings. They typically don’t do reservations unless you’re a large, private party so my best advice is to line up shortly before they open. My favorites from the group are Obermamma, Pink Mamma and Pizzeria Popolare. For brunch, Biglove is a great spot with delicious pancakes.

Paris Travel Tips

Plan in advance

For anything you absolutely want to do or for extremely popular attractions like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre (especially if you plan to want to see the Mona Lisa), be sure to book your ticket in advance.

Look up hours

Many French restaurants and museums are closed on certain days so be sure to check operating hours before you head somewhere so you don’t arrive only to be disappointed.

Keep your wits about you

Paris is a big city. Beware of pick pocketers, scams

Have some Euros on hand

While most places accept credit cards nowadays, you’ll want some Euros on hand as spots like boulangeries often have a credit card minimum and it is customary to tip with a bit of monnaie following good service.

Book your most desired restaurant reservations in advance

Many of the best spots in Paris live and die by reservations and you won’t be able to just walk in and hope for the best. Be sure to book reservations (usually about two weeks out) you’re most looking forward to in advance.

Don’t try to do too much

People often try to do far too much on their first trip to Paris. My best advice is to refine your list of things you’d like to do. I like to leave time for cafe culture and people watching!

Learn some of the language before you arrive

Your trip will be so much more enjoyable if you do!

. . .

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This post is in collaboration with Sarah Flint. Thank you so much for supporting the brands I love to work with! You can see our last collaboration here.

 

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