Paris is one city that always features on people’s travel bucket lists. It has been written about, sung about, and has featured in the movies so often that many people almost feel like they’ve been there before their first trip. But to see it in the flesh is a travelling goal for many people.
So when you decide it’s time to actually go to Paris, it’s worth doing some proper planning to make sure you get the most out of your time there. Of course, there’s always the possibility that you’ll go back, and you could never see everything Paris has to offer in just one trip. But what if you didn’t end up going back? It’s best to plan each trip to a destination as if it’s going to be a one-time deal, so you get the most out of it.
What time of year would you like to be in Paris best? The summer is great, but like any city in the heat of summer, it can make you feel a little claustrophobic. Also the crowds are at their peak in the summer, so if you can avoid the school holidays, so much the better for having more of Paris to yourself. Winter in Paris can have a festive feel to it, but it does rain a lot there, so this might outweigh the benefits of having to share the city with fewer tourists. There’s good reason for the song lyric ‘I love Paris in the spring time’; you get the best of the fresh spring weather, yet the streets aren’t mobbed with tourists if you can pick a week out of school holiday time.
Timing is also important if you want to catch any major events while you’re there. If you love tennis, then the French Open – Roland Garros – takes place every June. This year, the favourite to win is the man who’s won it eight times already, Rafael Nadal. As the current reigning champion for the last four years, Nadal is looking to nail that ninth victory this June. Later in the summer, at the end of July, there’s the finish of the Tour de France. Witnessing the spectacular final sprint up the Champs Elysée is certainly one of those travel memories you wouldn’t forget in a hurry.
What to see there
Where to begin? There are so many must-see places in Paris. Of course, there are the obvious sightseeing attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre, probably one of the world’s most famous art galleries. Then there are the more obscure places to visit – like the sewers of Paris, an underground stroll through the history of Paris’s sewage systems, more interesting than you might imagine, but be warned, it does smell a bit!
As well as all the major sight-seeing attractions, part of the fun of being in Paris is just wandering the city centre, exploring the nooks and crannies of the streets around the banks of the Seine and doing some people-watching in the boulevard cafés.
Where to stay
If you’re on a bigger trip and you’re driving through France, you’re probably best advised to stay further out of Paris, where the hotels are better value and you can leave the car parked and catch the train into the centre. However, if you’re arriving in Paris by plane or train, it’s much more fun to stay right in the centre in one of the little boutique hotels you’ll find in areas like the Latin Quarter.
The more you plan ahead, the more you’ll be able to pack in to the time you have in Paris. But don’t give yourself too exhaustive an itinerary; take some time to drink it all in while you’re there too.