Visiting Paris for The First Time: The Ultimate Guide
Visiting the City of Light and not sure what to do first? Leave it to us.
There’s nowhere quite like Paris. The city of lights, love and beauty calls to visitors from around the world, and for good reason – it’s somewhere that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. But this famous destination can inspire worry in those planning to visit; are Parisians really as rude as they say? How should I plan my time? Do I need to speak French? To put your mind at ease, we at Plum Guide have put together a guide to visiting Paris for the first time. That's right: we're not only professionally-vetted homes. We're travel experts too. Here’s what you need to know.
Plan your timings
While the French capital is beautiful all year round, the weather is very seasonal. So if you’re not a fan of cold, rainy days (although the city does look even more romantic in the rain) it’s probably best that you don’t visit in winter. Paris in the springtime is famous for a reason – the city’s inhabitants throw off their winter clothes with a flourish, there's the smell of fresh flowers in the air and the parks are full of people. Strolling around the city as the weather gets warmer is one of the best things to do in Paris without spending a cent.
A time to avoid, however, is August. Yes, that’s right, the myth that everything shuts down in August in Europe is mostly true, especially in France. Many restaurants and shops will be closed for the whole month as the owners take their annual holiday. Then again, this could be to your benefit if you’d prefer the city to be less crowded.
For an apartment that will be fabulous in either snow or hot sun, this centrally located pad is the one. You can either throw open the huge windows to let in the fresh air or cosy up on the comfortable sofa to watch the grey skies outside. Either way, you’re winning.
Try to learn the language
The famous French rudeness does, we admit, have some basis in fact. If you do something they don’t like, a gallic shrug could well be coming your way. But in general, the people of Paris love their city and want to show it off to visitors. Don’t be scared to ask for directions or for help in doing anything, because it's likely most Parisians will help you on your way.
One thing that will go a long way towards winning over the hearts of the French is if they can see that you’re making some effort with speaking the local language. We know that you have a few years of school French under your belt, and now’s the time to pull it out (you haven’t forgotten it all, we promise). If you can’t manage to order lunch completely in French, a well placed bonjour, merci and au revoir will do a much better job at charming your waiter than if you point at the menu and speak more loudly than usual in your native language.
Luckily, our wonderful apartments will go a long way to making you feel more French. For a quintessentially chic place to stay, this flat in Montmartre has views over the Paris rooftops, a parquet floor and a decoration scheme that will have you rethinking the interiors in your own house.
Visit the sites
The monuments and museums in Paris are half of the reason for going there in the first place, in our opinion. You simply must see the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Notre Dame when visiting Paris for the first time. If you’re not a culture vulture, you could always enjoy another very Parisian activity – shopping.
For art lovers and those people who love nothing more than spending a whole day inside a museum (who needs sunlight, anyway?), the Louvre is an absolute must, although we’d recommend booking your tickets in advance as waiting in the queues to get inside are not the way that you want to be spending your day. To see the impressionists, the Musée d’Orsay is an excellent choice, for contemporary art Centre Pompidou is very impressive and for beautiful sculptures in a classically French garden, head to the Musée Rodin.
If you’re a museum buff, you couldn’t find a better location for your accommodation than this central flat. After you’ve spent all day pounding the gallery rooms, kick back and relax in these well-thought-out interiors and a very comfortable bed.
While we advocate taking cabs everywhere as much as the next person (truly the chicest way to get around), there really is no better way to absorb the city when visiting Paris for the first time than hitting the pavements. The dreamy, romantic atmosphere of the city is best absorbed in the streets. Wander down alleyways filled with shops, pause on bridges and stroll beside the Seine.
The parks of Paris are famous for a reason, and first time visitors would do well to see the Luxembourg Gardens. For picnics on the Left Bank, head to Parc Montsouris and for sheer French elegance, the Jardin des Tuileries will deliver.
If it’s a romantic Paris vacation you’re after, this gorgeous apartment provides the perfect base for exploring the city and has a balcony for peak people watching while you sip your morning cafe au lait.