So you’re planning a trip to the beautiful City of Light? Paris is one of the most amazing places to visit in the world, and its charm draws visitors back year after year. I am lucky enough to have visited Paris more times than I can count so I feel well placed to advise on how to plan a trip to Paris!
There’s plenty to see and do in this wonderful city with iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, and more. With that being said, the planning stages of a trip to Paris can be very overwhelming – especially if you’re visiting the city for the first time.
There is so much information available that you might get lost trying to plan it all by yourself. Luckily, you don’t have to. I’ve created this step-by-step guide to make the planning process as stress-free as possible.
I’ve even thrown in a quick 5-day itinerary to act as a guide for the best things to see and do in Paris. So without further ado, let’s get started.
1. Best Time to Visit Paris
Table of Contents
- 1. Best Time to Visit Paris
- Spring In Paris
- Summer in Paris
- Winter in Paris
- 2. Decide on Your Budget
- 3. Search and Book Flights / Train Tickets
- By Train
- By Plane
- 4. Search & Book Your Accommodation
- Paris Arrondissements
- The Most Popular Arrondissements
- 1st & 2nd
- 3rd & 4th
- 5th & 6th
- 7th & 8th
- Finding the Best Accommodation
- Accommodation Recommendations:
- Luxury Hotels
- Mid-range Hotels
- My two favourite hotels in Paris
- 5. Travel Documentation & Insurance
- Travel Insurance
- 6. Plan for Your Arrival
- Private Transfer
- Shared Transfer
- 7. Transportation Around Paris
- 8. Learn Some Basic French to Help You Get Around
- 9. Plan Your Itinerary
- 10. Quick 5 Day Paris Itinerary
- Day 1: Classic Paris Sightseeing
- Day 2: Museums
- You can also consider buying the Paris Museum Pass, which allows you entry into over 60 museums.
- Day 3: Palace of Versailles, Montmartre, Cabaret Show
- Day 4: Disneyland Paris
- Day 5: Covered Passages, Food Tour, Wine Tour
- 11. Some Quick Tips for Travelling to Paris
- 1. Visit During Off-Season
- 2. Book a Hotel Near the City Centre
- 3. Bring Along Some Comfortable Shoes
- 4. Use the Metro
- 5. Purchase the Paris Pass
- 6. Bring a Travel Adapter
- 7. Always Greet & Learn Some French
- 8. Beware of Scams & Pickpockets
- 9. Check Opening Times & Make Reservations in Advance
- 10. Take Your Time to Explore the City
- Final Thoughts on How to Plan a Trip to Paris
The best time to visit Paris often depends on what you hope to get out of your trip. There isn’t really a bad time to visit Paris. However, seasons, changing weather, and factors such as crowds and flight prices can play a crucial role in the success of your trip.
The high season in Paris is from June to August, with a peak in tourist numbers from July. The low season is from September to November, when everyone starts going back to work and school. Late mid-December and early January see a slight peak in numbers again as some people return to Paris to celebrate the festive season.
Personally, I enjoy Paris the most in April/May and September/October. There are generally fewer tourists, more locals and the weather is usually quite good.
Here’s a more detailed season overview:
Spring In Paris
Spring is one of the best times to visit Paris. The weather is pleasant, with clear blue skies and moderate temperatures. Spring falls in March, April and May. This is when the city’s cherry blossoms start blooming, making Paris even more charming than it already is. Springtime in Paris makes it very easy to see why it’s repeatedly voted as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
Spring is one of the most idyllic seasons to see Paris. It is also an excellent time to visit because it’s just before the busy summer season, so there are fewer crowds in the city. Plus the lines to get into most of the popular attractions aren’t as long.
Summer in Paris
Summer in Paris means longer days with the sun rising at around 6 am and only setting just after 9 pm. It occupies the months of June, July, and August. Temperatures in the city are lovely and warm, averaging around 25°C (77°F). Summer sees an endless line-up of outdoor activities and festivals that you can enjoy.
This does, however, mean that summer is France’s peak season, meaning that the city is often overcrowded with tourists from all over the world. Summer sees a price hike in flight, accommodation, and tour costs as companies look to make the most of the high season to carry them through the quieter ones.
I would avoid visiting Paris in August if possible. All the locals will have left for their summer vacations and Paris without its locals isn’t quite the same.
Autumn or Fall lasts from the months of September to November. This is when it starts getting a little chillier and days become shorter. You can also expect milder temperatures, usually around 13ºC and 17°C (55°F – 62°F). During this time of the year, the weather is a little unpredictable.
This is when Paris starts getting a bit windier, and you can also expect some light showers. Many people might not know this, but autumn is still considered the high season in Paris, in the months of September and October.
While the summer crowds will be gone by then, the weather is pretty decent, making it an optimal time to visit. You can score good deals on flights and accommodation during this time, so be sure to book in advance.
Autumn is also when most Parisians return from holiday, so you can get a real feel of the city. One thing to note is that some of the attractions are closed in autumn, so check beforehand that the places you want to visit will still be open.
Winter in Paris
Winter in Paris is cold. We’re talking anything between 3°C (37°F) and colder and 12°C (54°F). Some people think this is the worst time to visit the French capital, considering the weather to be too miserable and gloomy to do anything.
Contrary to popular belief, winter in Paris is not as terrible as many people make it out to be. There are plenty of indoor activities to enjoy. It’s also the best time to enjoy all the city’s popular attractions without the long lines and crowds.
Paris in December is particularly beautiful. The French know how to do amazing Christmas decorations and evidence of the festive season will be all over the city. It is a particularly charming and picturesque time to visit Paris.
Savvy travellers will also tell you that winter is the best time to visit because of the deals you’ll score on flights, accommodations and tours. Keep in mind though that some attractions are closed during this time, only opening again in spring and summer.
Still, there’s a wide range of activities that you can do in winter that will keep you warm. This includes visiting Angelina, the most famous tea house in Paris and enjoying their legendary hot chocolate. You can also warm up by enjoying some classic and hearty French dishes.
2. Decide on Your Budget
Your budget is a crucial part of planning any trip. Transport, accommodation, visas, tours and food must all be accounted for. And let’s face it, Paris is not the cheapest city, so having a budget and planning ahead is imperative.
Having a rough idea of what you would like to spend on your trip is a good idea. Once you start looking into accommodation, flights, and other things, you will then be able to see where you’ll need to adjust your budget.
3. Search and Book Flights / Train Tickets
Depending on where you’re travelling from, you’ll either need to book a flight, or you can arrive by train from other European destinations.
If you live in Europe, there are several high-speed trains that you can take to Paris. These include the Eurostar, which will take you from London directly to Paris in just under three hours. You can choose between a standard coach, standard premier or business premier and travel in the ultimate luxury.
As a Londoner, I love the Eurostar. The Eurostar leaves from the St Pancras in the middle of London and arrives in Gare du Nord, the centre of Paris. If you choose to fly between the two cities, both airports are located a good distance from the central parts of town, adding considerably to your travel time.
There is something almost romantic about travelling on the Eurostar and it is certainly a much lower stress way to travel versus flying.
Then there’s also TGV Rail, a high-speed intercity train that operates between major cities in France. Its network also extends beyond France to countries such as Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. You can choose between a standard coach seat or business class. The cost difference between the two classes is often quite small and I tend to upgrade quite often if a journey is more than one or so hours long.
It’s best to book your train tickets up to 3 months in advance, especially if you visit Paris during summer when seats fill up fast. That way, you can save a few bucks and use it elsewhere during your trip.
Two main airports serve Paris, namely Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly. Charles de Gaulle is situated 23 kilometres away from the city and is the largest airport in France. It’s also the second busiest airport in Europe, so many international flights land here.
Paris Orly is only about 13 kilometres from the city and serves as the secondary hub for national carrier AirFrance. It mainly receives flights from other destinations in Europe by smaller airlines but also gets a large number of international flights, especially during the high season.
Most visitors from outside France will arrive at Charles de Gaulle. It is a big and sometimes confusing airport. Once you have your bags head to the RER station and jump on a train. Like London, with Paris traffic it is seldom a good idea to take a taxi from the airport to the centre of town.
4. Search & Book Your Accommodation
Now that you’ve figured out how you’re going to get to Paris, it’s time to think about where you’re going to stay.
Paris is divided up into 20 arrondissements or “districts” which also have their own administrative divisions. It’s super important to pick the right arrondissements when looking for accommodation, especially if you want to be close to all the main sights and attractions.
The Most Popular Arrondissements
1st & 2nd
Arrondissements 1 and 2 are located in the city centre. These are the most popular districts where you’ll find attractions like the Louvre and the Seine River. These are the most popular districts because you can go on walking or bike tours, museum tours or a Seine River cruise.
These are good districts to stay in if you’re a first-time visitor, although being in the city centre, accommodation is generally a bit more expensive here. They are also the smallest arrondissements in the city.
3rd & 4th
The 3rd arrondissement and half of the 4th is home to my favourite area in Paris, the Marais district. I love the narrow cobblestone streets and quirky buildings of the Marais. This is the perfect area to drop the map and just walk and discover hidden gems of Paris.
5th & 6th
The 5th arrondissement is called the Latin Quarter. It runs from the south of Notre Dame, past the Pantheon and heads down towards the 13th and 14th arrondissements. This is where you’ll get a feel of how the locals live, with quaint squares, historical monuments, and a lively student atmosphere.
The 6th arrondissement known as Saint-Germain-des-Pres is popular for its Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Pres. It’s a hub for creatives and students. This district is also popular for its narrow streets and cafés.
7th & 8th
Arrondissements 7 and 8 are also quite popular with first-time visitors, as this is where you’ll find the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe. Accommodation in these areas is usually more expensive all year round because they are popular districts close to some of Paris’ most popular attractions.
The 18th arrondissement is home to one of the most idyllic neighbourhoods in Paris — Montmartre. This neighbourhood is perched on a high hill and has some of the best views of Paris. It’s located on the northernmost edge of Paris and borders the 9th arrondissement.
Montmartre is known for its cobblestone streets, artistic flair, bistros, and bohemian atmosphere. It has a good mix of reasonably priced accommodation options.
Finding the Best Accommodation
Paris has an endless list of great accommodation options ranging from 5-star luxury hotels to more budget-friendly options. You’ll also find some quirky-themed apartments and hotels that will make for a memorable stay.
If you’d really like to save money on accommodation or have a more homely feel, you can even rent a holiday apartment from places like booking.com or Airbnb. If you’re okay with making your own food throughout the duration of your stay, then I would recommend renting an apartment.
My two favourite hotels in Paris
For location, I love the Mercure Pigalle Sacre-Coeur. This cute little hotel is a stone’s throw from Pigalle metro station and walking distance from many of the most interesting neighborhoods in the city. The rooms aren’t big but they are well designed and very comfortable. For the price, this hotel is a steal.
If you’re looking for a genuine boutique hotel in the Marais neighborhood then don’t miss Hotel National Des Arts et Metiers. The location is brilliant, the hotel is stylish and the staff are lovely.
Tip: Read my guide on the best hotels in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower.
5. Travel Documentation & Insurance
Depending on where you are from, you may need a Schengen Visa or short-stay visa. This will allow you to stay in France for up to three months. It will also allow you to travel to other countries within the Schengen territory. If you are from a country in the European Union, you will not need a visa to visit France.
Travel insurance is absolutely essential, simply because anything can happen whilst travelling. From getting sick to needing flight reimbursements, theft, or loss of luggage, it’s good to know that you’ll be covered if such unfortunate events happen.
Therefore it’s important not to skimp on travel insurance. Furthermore, it is a requirement that you need it when applying for a visa, otherwise your visa won’t be approved.
6. Plan for Your Arrival
This is a crucial step in your planning. Some people get so wrapped up in how they’re going to get to Paris that they forget about how they’re going to get to their accommodation after they’ve arrived.
So to make things easier, it’s best to book your transport in advance. This will save you the pain for being scammed by taxi drivers at the airport. There are a few ways to get to your hotel or city centre after you arrive:
You can arrange a private transfer from Charles de Gaulle Airport or Paris Orly to get you to the city centre. This should take about at least 30 minutes and will cost you at least €60.
Private transfers from Orly Airport can also be arranged and it will cost you around €50, as this airport is closer to the city centre.
There is a train line called RER B that runs directly from a few stations in Paris to Charles de Gaulle Airport. There is also a free shuttle that connects these stations with the airport terminal.
There’s a train that leaves every 10 – 15 minutes, and it costs around €11.40 for a one-way ticket. This is the cheapest way to get from the airport to the city centre. From there you will have to take another means of transport to get to your hotel. For me, this is the best way to get from Charles de Gaulle into the centre of Paris.
Another cost-effective transport option is the RoissyBus shuttle that will take you straight from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city centre in about an hour. There’s a bus that leaves every 15 minutes from 5 am to 8 pm and costs around €13.70.
Orly Airport has its own bus service called Orly Bus. This service will take you about an hour to get to the city centre and costs about €9.50. Services run from 5 am to midnight, with buses leaving every 10-15 minutes.
The standard rate for a cab from either airport to your hotel is around €60. Prices may change depending on how far your hotel is from the airport.
7. Transportation Around Paris
Paris has a wonderful metro system, so this is the best way to get around the city. A one-way ticket costs €1.90. You can also purchase the Paris Visite Pass, valid for 1, 2, 3, or 5 days and starts at €13.20. They give you unlimited metro rides for as long as they’re valid.
It is very easy to use the Metro and the fastest way to get around the city. Plus the metro stations themselves can be quite interesting.
Alternatively, the Toot Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing bus offers 1, 2, or 3-day passes and is a great way to get around the city. It stops at the most popular spots in Paris, and you can also learn more about the city this way since it acts as a guide bus. Prices start at about €36.
Then there are also cabs and Uber, which cost various prices depending on where you’re travelling too.
8. Learn Some Basic French to Help You Get Around
Learning a little bit of French before your trip is a good idea, as it will definitely help you get around. Also, French people tend to be more helpful if you at least try to speak in their language – and they love to correct your pronunciation!
Even if you don’t know any French just learn how to say good morning, good evening and thank you and say them in French to everyone. The French can get annoyed that they are expected to speak English so throwing a small bone with greetings helps.
Here are some essential French words for travelling:
- Bonjour: Hello
- Bonne journee: Have a good day
- Bonsoir: Good evening
- Bonne soiree: Have a good evening
- Salut: Hello (informal)
- Au revoir: Good bye
- Comment ca va?: How are you
- Tres bien merci: I am very well thank you
- Merci beaucoup: Thank you very much
- S’il vous plaît: Please
- Il n y a pas de quoi: You’re welcome
- Desole: Sorry
- Excusez-moi: Excuse me
- Comment tu t’appelles: What is your name
- Je m’appelle: My name is
- Oui: Yes
- Non: No
- Parlez vous Anglais: Do you speak English?
- Je ne comprends pas: I don’t understand
- Je suis perdue: I’m lost
- Ou est: Where is…?
- Combien coûte: How much is…?
- Je voudrais: I would like…
9. Plan Your Itinerary
So, you’ve figured out how you’re going to get to Paris, where you’ll stay, and all the necessary documentation you’ll need. Now it’s time for the fun part – planning your itinerary. This will take some meticulous planning because there is so much to see and do in Paris.
Writing down a list of places that you would like to visit is a good idea to start. Budget for the Paris Pass if you can. It will allow you access to more than 80 of Paris’ top attractions, including museums, tours and landmarks. It also includes a 1-day hop-on-hop-off sightseeing tour and river cruise. You can choose between a 2, 3, 4, or 6-day pass.
10. Quick 5 Day Paris Itinerary
Here’s a quick 5-day itinerary to help you take the hassle out of planning your trip:
Day 1: Classic Paris Sightseeing
Start your first day off with a bang by visiting some of the top Parisian landmarks and other attractions. This includes:
- The Eiffel Tower
- Arc de Triomphe
- The Pantheon
You can also do a guided walking tour, bike tour, or hop on the city sightseeing bus. In the evening, you can enjoy a gourmet dinner cruise along the scenic Seine River and see Paris from a different perspective.
Day 2: Museums
You can dedicate day two for exploring Paris’ wonderful museums such as:
- The Louvre
- Musee d’Orsay
- Musée de l’Orangerie
- Musée Marmottan-Monet
- Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais
You can also consider buying the Paris Museum Pass, which allows you entry into over 60 museums.
Day 3: Palace of Versailles, Montmartre, Cabaret Show
On day three, you can make your way over to the iconic Palace of Versailles. Here you can enjoy a guided tour of this opulent palace and explore its stunning gardens. On the way back, you can stop over at the picturesque neighbourhood of Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement.
You can take the Montmartre Train, which will take you past some of the neighbourhood’s historical sites, bistros, and the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. In the evening, enjoy a cabaret show at the famous Moulin Rouge.
Day 4: Disneyland Paris
A trip to Paris wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Disneyland. You can spend a whole day here tapping into your inner child and having fun on various rides.
Day 5: Covered Passages, Food Tour, Wine Tour
Day five is for taking things slow and enjoying the atmosphere of Paris. You can explore the beautiful covered passages, which date back to the 19th century. They are elaborately decorated with glass roofs, detailed floors, and arched columns and filled with boutiques, shops, restaurants, and even galleries.
After that, you can enjoy a food tour or wine tour and taste all the excellent food and wines France is known for. You can also visit Angelina, the most famous teahouse in Paris and enjoy the renowned rich and decadent hot chocolate with double cream.
11. Some Quick Tips for Travelling to Paris
1. Visit During Off-Season
This will save you a lot of money on transportation and accommodation.
2. Book a Hotel Near the City Centre
It’s best to book a hotel near the city centre, especially if you’re visiting for the first time. The city centre is where some of the main attractions are and can easily be reached on foot. There are also a few metro stations in the city centre that will help you get to other areas of Paris, so staying there is advisable to help you get around quicker.
3. Bring Along Some Comfortable Shoes
Paris is best explored on foot as this will allow you to discover all of its hidden gems. It will also allow you to see everything at your own pace and enjoy your surroundings. So it’s best to bring along some comfortable walking shoes that won’t hurt your feet.
4. Use the Metro
There’s no reason to rent a car in Paris. The metro system is well connected and can get you around the city with few hassles. Plus it’s super easy to use and cost effective. One-way tickets cost about €1.90, and you also have the option to purchase a multi-day transport pass with unlimited rides.
5. Purchase the Paris Pass
The Paris Pass is a great way to explore the city in an affordable way. There are multi-day passes that allow you to see over 80 of Paris’ top attractions, with some additional perks.
6. Bring a Travel Adapter
European power plugs look a bit different to other parts of the world. Parisians use type C and E plug types, which are two-pronged. I would recommend bringing along a universal travel adapter, as not all accommodations will have alternative plugs.
7. Always Greet & Learn Some French
It’s considered highly rude not to greet people in France, especially when entering a store or restaurant. You’ll find that shopkeepers are a little friendlier as long as you greet them. It’s also good to learn some basic French as this will help you get around.
Locals generally appreciate it when visitors make an effort to learn their language and will be more willing to help you.
8. Beware of Scams & Pickpockets
Tourists are always targets of pickpockets and scams, especially on the metro. Try to blend in as best as you can by not displaying anything too flashy. Also, leave large amounts of money and important travel documents at your accommodation.
9. Check Opening Times & Make Reservations in Advance
Just like in other parts of Europe, Parisians take an afternoon rest. This means that most restaurants only open around 07:30 pm. Parisians tend to eat late, so it may be a good idea to check in advance when the restaurant you’d like to eat at opens and make a reservation.
Some attractions also close in the colder months, so depending on what time of the year you go, check in advance that the places you want to visit will actually be open.
10. Take Your Time to Explore the City
Paris is a huge city, so you might not get to see and do everything you want to do in one visit. It’s best to plan ahead and decide what you’ll do, but don’t try to cram everything into your itinerary. Rather take time to enjoy the places that you will visit.
Final Thoughts on How to Plan a Trip to Paris
There you have it – a complete guide on how to plan the perfect trip to Paris. I’ve covered everything from how to get to Paris to where to stay and more. I’ve even thrown in a quick itinerary that you can use as a simple guide to help you plan your trip.
No matter what time of the year you choose to visit Paris or what you choose to do while you’re there, you’re definitely in for a wonderful time.
For more information about the City of Light, why not check out my guide on 37 Interesting Facts about Paris to discover some information you may not have known about this incredible city.
I covered all of the costs involved in writing this how to plan a trip to Paris post. Also, this post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.