Paris, the cosmopolitan capital of France, is - with 2.2 million people living in the dense (105 km²) central city and almost 12 million people living in the whole metropolitan area - one of the largest agglomerations in Europe. Located 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 (la Ville Lumière) and Capital of Fashion, it is home to the world's finest and most luxurious fashion designers and cosmetics, such as ''Chanel No.5'', ''Christian Dior'', ''Yves Saint-Laurent'', ''Guerlain'', ''Lancôme'', ''L'Oréal'', ''Clarins'', etc. 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 world's most visited tourist site ''the Eiffel Tower'', ''the Arc de Triomphe'', ''the Notre-Dame Cathedral'', ''the Louvre Museum'', ''Moulin Rouge'', ''Lido'' etc, making it the most popular tourist destination in the world with 45 million tourists annually.
The city of Paris itself is officially divided into 20 districts called arrondissements, numbered from 1 to 20 in a clockwise spiral from the centre of the city (which is known as ''Kilometre Zero'' and is located at the front of Notre Dame). ''Arrondissements'' are named according to their number. You might, for example, stay in the "5th", which would be written as ''5e'' in French. The 12th and 16th arrondissements include large suburban parks, the ''Bois de Vincennes'', and the ''Bois de Boulogne'' respectively.
The very best map you can get for Paris is called "Paris Pratique par Arrondissement" which you can buy for about €3-5 at any news stand. It makes navigating the city easy: so much that one can imagine that the introduction of such map-books might be part of what made the ''arrondissement'' concept so popular in the first place. Alternately you can print your own using our maps. The various tourist information centres and hotels in Paris also provide various city and metro maps for free and which have all the necessary details for a tourist.
Each arrondissement has its own unique character and selection of attractions for the traveller:
1st (1er). The geographical centre of Paris and a great starting point for travellers. The Musée du Louvre, the ''Jardin des Tuileries'', ''Place Vendôme'', ''Les Halles'', ''Palais Royal'', ''Comédie-Française'', and ''Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel'' are all to be found here. 2nd (2e). The central business district of the city - the Bourse (the Paris Stock Exchange), ''Opéra-Comique'', ''Théâtre des Variétés'', ''Passage des Panoramas'', ''Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens'' and the former ''Bibliothèque Nationale'' are located here. 3rd (3e). Archives Nationales, ''Musée Carnavalet'', ''Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers'', ''Hôtel de Soubise'', the Former ''Temple'' fortress, and the northern, quieter part of the ''Marais'' can be found here. 4th (4e). Notre-Dame de Paris, the ''Hôtel de Ville'' (Paris city hall), ''Hôtel de Sully'', ''Rue des Rosiers'' and the Jewish Quartier, ''Beaubourg'', ''Le Marais'', ''Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville'', ''Mémorial de la Shoah'', ''Centre Georges Pompidou'', ''l'atelier Brancusi'', ''Place des Vosges'', ''Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal'', ''Saint-Jacques Tower'' and Parisian island ''Île Saint-Louis'' can be found here. 5th (5e). Jardin des Plantes, ''Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle'', ''Musée de Cluny'', ''The Panthéon'', ''Quartier Latin'', ''Universités'', ''La Sorbonne'', ''Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève'', ''Église Saint-Séverin'', ''La Grande Mosquée'', ''Le Musée de l'AP-HP'' can be located here. 6th (6e). Jardin du Luxembourg as well as its ''Sénat'', ''Place Saint-Michel'', ''Église Saint-Sulpice'' and ''Saint-Germain des Prés'' can be found here. 7th (7e). Tour Eiffel and its ''Parc du Champ de Mars'', ''Les Invalides'', ''Musée d'Orsay'', ''Assemblée Nationale'' and its subset administrations, ''Ecole Militaire'', and Parisian mega-store ''Le Bon Marché'' can be found here. 8th (8e). Champs-Elysées, ''Arc de Triomphe'', ''Place de la Concorde'', ''le Palais de l'Elysée'', ''Église de la Madeleine'',''Jacquemart-Andre Museum'', ''Gare Saint-Lazare'', ''Grand Palais'' and ''Petit Palais'' can be found here. 9th (9e). Opéra Garnier, ''Galeries Lafayette'', ''Musée Grévin'', and ''Folies Bergère'' can be found here. 10th (10e). Canal Saint-Martin, ''Gare du Nord'', ''Gare de l'Est'', ''Porte Saint-Denis'', ''Porte Saint-Martin'', ''Passage Brady'', ''Passage du Prado'', and ''Église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul'' can be found here. 11th (11e). The bars and restaurants of Rue Oberkampf, ''Bastille'', ''Nation'', ''New Jewish Quarter'', ''Cirque d'Hiver'', and ''Église Saint-Ambroise'' can be found here. 12th (12e). Opéra Bastille, ''Bercy'' Park and Village, ''Promenade Plantée'', ''Quartier d'Aligre'', ''Gare de Lyon'', ''Cimetière de Picpus'', ''Viaduc des arts'' the ''Bois de Vincennes'', and the ''Zoo de Vincennes'' can be found here. 13th (13e). Quartier la Petite Asie, ''Place d'Italie'', ''La Butte aux Cailles'', ''Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF)'', ''Gare d'Austerlitz'', ''Manufacture des Gobelins'', ''Butte-aux-Cailles'' and ''Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital'' can be found here. 14th (14e). Cimetière du Montparnasse, ''Gare Montparnasse'', ''La Santé Prison'', ''Denfert-Rochereau'', ''Parc Montsouris'', ''Stade Charléty'', ''Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris'', and ''Paris Catacombs'' can be found here. 15th (15e). Tour Montparnasse, ''Porte de Versailles'', ''Front de Seine'', ''La Ruche'' and quartiers ''Saint-Lambert'', ''Necker'', ''Grenelle'' and ''Javel'' can be found here. 16th (16e). Palais de Chaillot, ''Musée de l'Homme'', the ''Bois de Boulogne'', ''Cimetière de Passy'', ''Parc des Princes'', ''Musée Marmottan-Monet'', ''Trocadéro'', and ''Avenue Foch'' can be found here. 17th (17e). Palais des Congrès, ''Place de Clichy'', ''Parc Monceau'', ''Marché Poncelet'', and ''Square des Batignolles'' can be found here. 18th (18e). Montmartre, ''Pigalle'', ''Barbès'', ''Basilica of the Sacré Cœur'', ''Église Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre'', and ''Goutte d'Or'' can be found here. 19th (19e). Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, ''Parc de la Villette'', ''Bassin de la Villette'', ''Parc des Buttes Chaumont'', ''Cité de la Musique'', ''Canal de l'Ourcq'', and ''Canal Saint-Denis'' can be found here. 20th (20e). Cimetière de Père Lachaise, ''Parc de Belleville'', and quartiers ''Belleville'' and ''Ménilmontant'' can be found here. La Défense. Although it is not officially part of the city, this skyscraper district on the western edge of town is on many visitors' must-see lists for its modern architecture and public art.
Beyond central Paris, the outlying suburbs are called Les Banlieues. Schematically, those on the west of Paris (Neuilly-sur-Seine, Boulogne-Billancourt, Saint Cloud, Levallois) are wealthy residential communities. Those to the northeast are poorer communities, often populated by immigrants.
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.
Being located 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. Most of Paris' 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.
(ICAO:LFPG), (IATA:CDG). The major hub airport to the north-east of the city. It's notoriously confusing, so allow plenty of time for transfers. There are three terminals: Terminal 1, Terminal 2 (which is huge and subdivided into 2A through 2G), and Terminal 3 (formerly T9). The newest exception is terminal 2G which is a separate building and is only reachable via navette/bus in 10-15 min (bus leaves every 20 min) so allow extra time. The free CDGVAL shuttle train connects the terminals together. Everything at this airport is very expensive, especially food. If you're travelling from Terminal 1 it's also worth noting that the food court is located at the CDGVAL floor, ''before'' the security check. There are hardly any benches around. There are no public shower facilities in the airport. Air France lounges have such facilities, and the departure lounges have showers. Lounge access is included for Air France business and first class travellers. The members of the Air France and cooperating frequent flyer programs may gain access with sufficient status. There is a possibility that some lounges may grant access to travellers on their flights for a fee. If you consider paying for access to the lounge, inquire when checking in for your departure. If you must have a shower and your frequent flyer status (and charm) are insufficient to gain entry to a lounge, the airport hotels generally have rooms available (in Sep 2009, the Sheraton in Terminal 2 at the train station charged €155).When you arrive at CDG, you should note what terminal you arrived at (2A, 2D, etc.), because when you come back to the airport to depart at the end of your trip, the RER subway train makes two stops at CDG to cover the three terminals, but there are few indications of which airlines are at which terminals. Have a close look at your air ticket to figure out which terminal you are departing from. Air France and associates leave from Terminal 2. The RER B has the airlines serviced by each terminal on a not so obvious chart posted by the door of the train.
There are quite a few points with power outlets specifically for charging passengers' laptops/mobiles, both down by the food court and by some of the gates.
VAT Tax refund: First, have your tax refund papers stamped at the tax refund counter in the main terminal area, before you check in with your airline. Showing goods is signposted as mandatory, usually only required for high priced, marquee items.
To locate the tax refund counter in the terminal, look for the signs or ask any airline employee for directions. Don't be confused by a single queue splitting between currency exchange and tax refund office: choose tax refund if you prefer Euros--while currency exchange refunds only in USD or your national currency, both buy at a robbery rate (and with no rollback to the refund window after you realized the rate).
The line can take a long time, expect several minutes per customer. At either office, you can also receive refund for your spouse if you have their passport and refund forms.
Duty-free shopping: There are no shops before security check zone. When you shop in post-security check zone, it's not genuinely taxfree, as you can receive a tax refund for those purchases as well.
Contrary to what one may expect, there is no L'Occitane; cheese is limited to soft sorts (and there are no ripe varietes); wines starts at €11 and some popular sorts like Chinin can't be found; selection of sausages is extremely limited.
There are no mid-range clothes or shoes stores, only luxury brands.
Get in / out
For getting to or from Paris, the RER commuter train, line B, has stations in T3 (from where you can take the free CDGVAL shuttle train to T1) and T2. Trains to Paris leave every 7-8 minutes and stop at Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les Halles, Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, Luxembourg, Port-Royal, Denfert-Rochereau and Cité Universitaire. Adult tickets cost €9.50, and for children between 4-10 the fare is €6.65 each; unusually, day tickets are normally not valid for travel to and from the airport. The train takes around 35 minutes to Gare du Nord and 45 minutes to Denfert-Rochereau, making this the fastest way to get to the city. Tickets can be purchased either through green (sometimes blue) automated ticket vending machines ("Billetterie Ile-de-France") or through the ticket office serviced by transport authority personnel. Engineering works near CDG Terminal-1 and Aulnay-Sois-Bois stations are conducted between 2300hrs and 0100hrs everyday, so you must take a coach (bus) from Terminal 3 to the station where you can take the RER B train to Paris. The fare is included in the train ticket you purchase.
The automated ticket machines accept Euro coins of €2, €1 and 50, 20, 10, 5 cent denominations and give change...Euro notes not accepted. Credit card payment is ok on this machines though. There is one separate automated machine which changes €20, €10 and €5 notes to €2 and €1 coins. However, due to the high demand, the machine frequently runs out of coins. There are currency exchange centres, but they explicitly state notes will not be changed for coins. Alternatively, except for some non-European credit cards, ''many smart-chip credit cards can be used on the ticket machines'' . Because of these limitations, purchasing tickets from the ticket office may seem to be an attractive method. Although there are many counters, the queues can be very long. On Sunday at "lesser" stations, don't count on its ticket office being open. Although it is a nuisance, the fastest way to get some tickets is to take a lot of Euro coins with you. It is also possible to explain the situation to a European buying a ticket with a working credit card, and ask them to buy one for you in exchange for a paper note.
Trains for Paris usually leave from platforms 11 and 12. Look for signs saying "RER B" or "All trains go to Paris". When using the ticket from and to the airport (as with tickets for the RER commuter trains in general) you have to use it to enter and to exit the train. Always keep the ticket handy as the SNCF officials sometimes check for tickets, and if you are without one you may be fined €40. This means that after you put the ticket into the entry gate and are cleared to pass, you must retrieve the ticket from the machine and keep it with you until you leave the train system including any connections.
Alternatively, the Roissybus service (€10) connects all terminals directly to Opéra Garnier in central Paris, but it's subject to traffic jams and rush hour, so it averages 60-90 min even on a good day. You could take bus number 350 See Online and 351 See Online to the city and it requires three tickets t+ per person (about €5.10, or €5.70 if the tickets are purchased on the bus), making this the cheapest option to go to and from Paris. The tickets can be purchased at newsstands, at ticket machines, or, for a higher price, inside the bus from the driver and they need to be validated with a device lying next to the driver's seat.
You have also ghe choice for a private transfer with a limo service like Cab Service Prestige.
Air France buses See Online offer two stops in Paris (Porte Maillot, Montparnasse) from CDG with a 50-min ride. To reach a specific address into the city, this shared shuttle service See Online costs €19 per person See Online , private transfers cost €79 See Online . Mercedes E transfer costs €129 and are available from CDG and ORY. There is also a TGV station in T2 for high-speed connections, mostly towards Lille and Brussels, but there are also some trains that head south to eg. Rennes and Nantes, bypassing Paris.
BE CAREFUL when using buses to get to CDG. There are frequent traffic jams on the motorways leading to the airport - the Air France bus normally may need 50 minutes to get to CDG, but it may take 1½ hours as well... your best bet for arriving on time with the buses is to take them very early in the morning or during times otherwise when there isn't much traffic.
Post office only exists in B and D terminals. However, you can send postcards buying post stamps in a newspaper stand, and dropping them into a postbox (both exist in every terminal).
((ICAO:LFPO), (IATA:ORY). This airport is southwest of the city, and served by a southern branch of the RER-B line that heads in the direction of Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse (not Robinson). This older international airport is used mainly by Air France for domestic departures, and international departures by European carriers. Similar to third-world airports, messy Orly is infamous for its poor services, long queues and the aggressive attitude of its staff. Orly is roughly 40 min from Paris via the OrlyBus, which departs from Métro Denfert-Rochereau (ligne 6); the price is €7. There are buses every 10 minutes from the Orly Sud (Platform 4) and it stops at Orly Ouest on its way to the city. Tickets can be bought at a counter near the baggage claim area or directly at the counter in Platform 4. The tickets need to be validated once on the bus. Another option is bus 285 that takes you to the Métro Villejuif - Louis Aragon(Line 7) in 15 min, but it stops on the way and is designed for commuters and not for travellers. Bus 285 costs €1.90 and runs every 10 min, stopping at airport level -1.
The Orlyval light rail connects the two terminals to each other and to the RER B line at Antony. It runs every 4-7 min and cost €10.75 for transfer to Paris, including connections to central area metro stations. The RER B from Antony runs through Paris to Aéroport Charles de Gaulle.
Beauvais (Aéroport de Beauvais Tillé)
See Online(ICAO:LFOB), (IATA:BVA). This airport, a distance north of the city, is a smaller regional airport that is used by some low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and WizzAir. Like many small airports there is a cartel in operation in the form of the airport operated shuttle service connecting with the Métro at ''Porte Maillot'' station. Buses run even during the small hours of the morning (6AM). Buses leave 20 min after each flight arrives, and a few hours before each flight departs. Exact times can be found on the Beauvais Airport website. The journey will take about an hour in good traffic conditions, and costs €15 each way, there is no reduced price for children over the age of 2 years. Unless you hire a car this is the most realistic way to head toward Paris, hence why the airport charge the price they do.
In addition to public transport, Air France operates shuttles between Charles de Gaulle and Paris (€17), Orly and Paris (€12) and between the two airports (€20). Discounts apply for young/group travellers and online booking. Note that if you have connecting Air France flights that land and depart from different airports, you would still generally need to collect your luggage after landing, catch either the Air France shuttle or a taxi (readily available at all airports) to the other airport and check-in again. This altogether could take up to 2 hours particularly if traffic is at its worst. It is also common to lose time during disembarking, as passengers often need to get off at the tarmac and get on buses which will bring them to the terminal building. Be sure to have sufficient time between flights to catch your connection. Note that check-in desks usually close 30 min before the flight departs, longer if flights are international carriers.
If you want to take RER B and catch an early flight, make sure you bring enough change, because you can only buy tickets at the coins-only machines before the counter opens.
If you arrive to CDG Airport at night you'll need a Noctilien bus to get to the city centre. The bus stops in all three terminals (in terminal 2F it will be the second level in departure section - it is very difficult to find, but it really exists). The bus leaves every 30 min after 12:30AM (see timetable See Online ). The buses you'll need are N121 and N120; the price is €7.