Paris – a mini guide

The city of love, renowned for its art, culture, gastronomy, history, nightlife, people – how on earth do you pen a mini guide about a city with such an expanse of, well, everything? Not such an easy task, but we hope we have given it a go and we hope it will give you Interrailers just a flavour of what this gorgeous, melting pot of a metropolis has to offer.

The essentials – top five

  • Eiffel Tower – Situated on the Champ de Mars, no visit to the French capital is complete without a visit to this great, iron structure, the grand Tower, which has become synonymous with the city. There are  three levels for visitors to enjoy the views, with restaurants on the first and second levels.
  • Notre-Dame – The bells, the bells! This imposing, medieval Catholic cathedral is situated on the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris. As well as being simply stunning in its own right, the cathedral is famous as the home of the fictional Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell ringer who dreams of seeing life outside the bell tower. The cathedral has 10 bells, which are tolled to mark the hours of the day and various occasions and services.
  • Musée du Louvre – The biggest and most famous museum in Paris, this monumental (it has 70,000 pieces of art and over 650,000 square feet of gallery space) structure is home of the Mona Lisa, The Raft of the Medusa and Venus de Milo
  • Pont Neuf – The oldest standing bridge (Pont Neuf actually means new bridge, lol) across the river Seine, it features an equestrian statue of Henri IV and the 12 rounded arches each have a keystone carved with humorous grotesques fact fans!
  • Sacré-Cœur – The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, this Roman Catholic church is based at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city at 430 ft high, and is another of the city’s most memorable icons.

Not to be missed (if you have time)

  • Champs-Elysées – This lengthy avenue is home to the usual mishmash of mega-brands, from Abercrombie & Fitch, Louis Vuitton and Gucci to McDonalds and Adidas, you would expect for such a famous landmark. However, don’t let the same old (or uber expensive) shops put you off, the Champs is worth a stroll along if nothing else but to say you’ve been there, done that and, of course, you can always pop into the Arc de Triomphe for that spot o cluture with your McFlurry.
  • Montmartre – As well as being home to the Sacré-Cœur (and the Moulin Rouge cabaret house, pictured)  this buzzing district retains a certain artsy intimacy amongst its cobblestones and steep, winding streets. The village is also home to the Boulevard de Clichy, renowned as the city’s red light district…
  • River Seine – Give the tootsies a rest and take a water tour along the river Seine, which cuts through the heart of the city.
  • Saint Germain des Pres – While not quite what it was in its heyday in the 40s and 50s, this quarter is still quite the sophisticated little hotspot, and offers shops, cafes, museums and galleries. It is Paris so yes, expect crowds, but it is a picturesque neighbourhood well worth a meander through and is a lovely spot for some people watching.

The Budget or Broke Recommendation (i.e. free)

The Trocadero – these gardens are where to enjoy the best views of the Eiffel Tower (night and day) and, if that isn’t enough, you can also relax, grab a bite to eat and and sun yourself beside the famous Warsaw fountains. 

Local cuisine

It’s Paris. Everything, with chocolate. If you’re on a budget then try the Croque-monsieur, an oozy ham and chees grilled sandwich, or pick up a croissant, a filled baguette or a pan au chocolat.  If you’re not on a budget then this is the city for fine dining so go wild!

Gift ideas

If you’re on a romantic getaway then an engagement ring perhaps? Or maybe just a mini Eiffel Tower on a keyring…

Making the most of your visit

The Paris Passlib is the official pass from the city and, dependent on the type of pass you buy, gives you admission to leading museums and monuments in Paris and Ile-de-France, as well as sightseeing tours and unlimited transport in zones 1 to 3. It is  available for 1 (the Paris Passlib’ Mini) , 2, 3, or 5 days (these versions include a ticket for unlimited travel in zones 1 to 3) so choose the version that best suits your plans. More info, including how to buy, is available here.

Photographer credit: Alison Wright.

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