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Visiting Paris - the essentials

A visitor's guide to one of the world's great cities

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On this page The story of Paris Getting round in Paris Sights, attractions, ideas

Paris by night
  • ► IMPORTANT - COVID-19  information for Paris. Paris is largely open again for tourism. Visitors entering France must be in possession of a health pass, either a full vaccination certificate or proof of a recent negative test or recovery from covid. Visitors from the EU and some other countries including the UK can use their national pass; visitors from other countries, including the USA and Canada, may need to obtain a French health pass from a pharmacy after arrival. 
    CLICK HERE for full details about obtaining a French Covid pass. This can be easily done online, as long as you satisfy the criteria. There is no charge.
Paris hotels on a map
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Paris hotels map

Paris passes : choose the right one for your needs

Confused ?  Between the Go City inclusive pass or the Paris City Pass or Paris Museum pass or Paris Visite or other options or buying tickets à la carte ??  
   To compare the passes, the prices and what is included just click here
Important: Paris passes do not include the Eiffel tower except as part of a package; but visiting the Tower without a booking in busy holiday periods will mean at best standing for ages in a long line, at worst disappointment.
See best solutions for pre-booking your visit on our Eiffel tower page

A very short history of Paris

PARIS ! City of lights, city of love, and one of the most visited cities in the world.  

Paris sights map
Paris is a city with a proud and very ancient history. Originally founded in the third century BC, on an island in the middle of the Seine, it was the capital city of a tribe known as the Parisii, who gave it their name.
    In Roman times, the city expanded beyond the islands in the Seine, and became known as Lutetia.
    During the decline of the Roman Empire, northern France was overrun by a Germanic tribe called the Franks, whose new kingdom - part of the Holy Roman Empire -  became known as West Francia, with its capital at Paris.
     In the early Middle Ages, West Francia became France, and Paris grew in importance as a European city. By the 12th century, when Notre Dame cathedral was built on the largest of the islands in the Seine, Paris was the capital of one of the most
Notre Dame Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral - as it was until 15th April 2019,  and as it will be again.
powerful kingdoms in Europe, and its importance as an international city has never waned.
     Many of the great buildings of Paris, such as the Louvre and the Panthéon, date from the 17th and 18th centuries when royal power in France was at its peak. Yet the "shape" of modern Paris was largely determined in the mid 19th century, when a radical city-planner, Baron Haussmann, was given the job of opening up the old city with its narrow twisting streets. Haussmann designed a city criss-crossed by broad tree-lined boulevards, flanked by spacious apartment buildings – which is essentially the Paris we know today. The Eiffel Tower was added for the Universal Exhibition of 1889.
    Though the city walls are long gone, central Paris is now known as "Paris intra-muros", or Paris within the walls, which is the area with almost all the main tourist attractions.  Where there once stood city walls, there is now the "boulevard périphérique" or inner ring road, clearly visible on the map. Beyond that the modern city of Paris extends in all directions.
   On this and other pages, discover the About-France.com visitor guide to Paris, providing you with all you need to know when planning a trip to this magnificent city.

Paris info and pages on About-France.com

IMPORTANT: Eiffel Tower : None of the Paris passes include a lift/elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower. (One pass offers a second level Eiffel Tower ticket  on foot....  but a second level ticket is only € 10.50 on foot, or €16.70 by lift/elevator on the official Eiffel Tower site !) Access to the top of the tower must always be purchased separately, or as part of  certain specific tours . It cannot be bought once you reach the second level. Buy your Paris City Pass or your  The Paris Pass online, then buy Eiffel tower ticket online from the official site. See Eiffel Tower information.


Art nouveau metro station signLike most French cities, Paris is not a place to visit by car. Parking can be an expensive nightmare (though less so than London), and the city has a great public transport network, with a fast underground or subway network that stretches well into the suburbs.

Public transport

The public transport system includes buses, the underground and overground metro, some modern tram lines, and the RER (regional express rail).
   If you plan to use public transport, it may make sense to buy one of the passes that includes it.
For more information about using the excellent public transport network in Paris, see below.  
For more ideas on keeping down your travel costs, visit the Budget Paris page.

Tourist transport :

 In addition to hop-on hop-off tour buses (see tourist passes), there is a range of other travel options for tourists. Apart from taxis, other more picturesque options include pedicabs and rickshaws, tours by historic 2CV (the iconic little French car), Segway tours,   bike tours and walking trips.
   There is also a city-wide bike share system known as "Velib". How to make use of this system is explained on the Budget Paris page.

Make the best use of Public transport in Paris 2023

paris metroWhen visiting Paris, if you plan to use the  metro or the bus from time to time but less than six times in a day, opt for a "carnet" (pronounced Car-nay). This is simply ten standard tickets at a reduced rate (€ 17.90 for ten e-tickets in February 2023, or 20.30 € for 10 printed tickets)  and can be bought from the ticket dispensing machines at any metro station, from ticket offices at those metro stations that have them, and from other Paris transport offices. Carnet tickets have no date limit, and can be shared among members of a group. If you have some left over at the end of your stay, keep them for next time. They are valid on buses, the metro and the "RER" within the cental area, and on metro and RER journeys they allow as many changes as you want.

Navigo easy

But take care.... Don't keep too many traditional paper tickets over; they are currently being phased out, and are starting to disappear from Paris public transport  - just as they have from some other cities.  
   Visitors can already buy a rechargeable ticket called a "Navigo easy", which is aimed at tourists and occasional users; but unlike a carnet of ten tickets that can be shared between ten people if you want, each traveller must have his or her own Navigo Easy ticket... so for a family of four that's 8 Euros up front for the passes, before you've even put any journeys onto them. The Navigo Easy card can be loaded up with standard metro tickets (buy them by ten and they are cheaper.... but ten must be on one card, to get the cheaper rate, unlike carnets) , and also with Orly and CDG airport tickets, and day passes (zones 1 and 2, or zones 1 - 5). However they cannot yet be loaded with point-to-point tickets out into the suburbs (though this should come in due course). So if you're staying in, for instance, Maisons Laffitte, on the RER A line in zone 3, you'll need to buy separate paper tickets for the journey into central Paris and out again each day – which will be cheaper than a zone 1-5 day pass, unless you plan to spend much of the day in Paris taking lots of bus and metro journeys.
   What will happen in 2024 when paper tickets supposedly come to an end ? No-one seems to know the answer to this right now.

Changing: Just one important point to note: while you can change metros or change buses on a standard journey ticket, you can't change from a bus journey to a metro journey, or vice-versa.
Though the Metro is mainly an underground system, several parts of the network are above ground, and offer an interesting way to see Paris from well above street level.
Note: Neither a standard Paris metro ticket nor a central Paris pass are valid on the RER for travel into the suburbs, and notably for travel to Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports. For such destinations, you must buy a specific ticket.
Specific destination tickets and carnets are available at all metro stations, and from automatic machines which accept credit cards. Carnets can also be bought in some main French railway stations outside Paris.

Small Paris metro planSee the full size map:
    Metro map for your phone or computer
    PDF metro map to print out    

Finding your way in the metro.
This is no big problem. Using the maps available, check the line number and terminus station of each line you want to take. If you need to change routes, follow the "Correspondance" signs on the platform and through the foot tunnels; these indicate the line numbers and the termini. Just follow the right one. The RATP (Paris transport authority) provides free maps which are usually available in hotels, metro stations and other places.

Travelling outside Paris: use the trains or hire a car at  a location on the outskirts of Paris, to avoid having to drive in the streets of Paris. See tips on car hire on the outskirts of Paris. Click here for travel to and from Paris airports

General Paris transport tips :

TIP - Train or bus from the airport: Generally speaking, the RER train service is fast, and cheapest.  See Paris airport guide.

TIP - If you arrive by air in Paris for a day trip, buy the 1 day "Paris visite" visitor pass for zones 1-5, which includes the airports. that way you also have unlimited public transport during your day in Paris

TIP - Changing trains at "Chatelet" metro hub. Chatelet is the biggest interconnection station on the Paris metro system: three main RER (Regional Express Rail) routes cross here, notably B (for the airports) and A (serving the Gare de Lyon and Disneyland). If you are changing from a southbound "B" train to a south/east bound "A" train, (for instance, coming from Charles de Gaulle airport and heading for Gare de Lyon or Disneyland, a common combination), just cross the platform. The same goes if you are taking these routes in the opposite direction (for example coming from Gare de Lyon and heading for Charles de Gaulle airport). Nothing could be simpler!
For other changes, follow the indicator boards, having noted which RER or metro routes you want.

TIP - Your ticket. Always keep your ticket until your journey is finished, even if it is just a single journey ticket. If you use the RER in the central urban area of Paris (which you can do, of course), you will need to put your ticket through the machine both to get onto the platforms and again to get out of the RER area.

Taxis  There are plenty of taxis available in Paris, though prices are high by world standards (less than Los Angeles, but more than San Francisco).  There is also an Uber platform for Paris.

Buses and metros:  With a day ticket, you can take buses and metros as much as you want. If using a single ticket, you can in theory you get a single  ticket and explore the inner Paris network all day.

Click here for Paris tourist attractions guide : Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Montmartre, Moulin Rouge, and much more

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PARIS 2023
About-France.com guide

Your guide to the capital city of France - its life, its attractions, and how best to enjoy them

Getting round Paris,  tourist attractions, where to stay, and other things to see and do.
PARIS is Europe's most fantastic city, a place that has everything for the traveller or visitor. Whether you visit Paris on a day trip, Paris in the Spring, Paris for a week or for far longer, this is a city that has it all! Museums, theatres, shops, fantastic historic monuments, a beautiful riverscape, Paris has all of these.  this website helps you plan your visit to Paris, and get the best out of your stay in the French capital.

In an emergency in Paris:

24 hr chemist / pharmacies:
a) 84, av des Champs-Elysées 75008, tel
0145 62 02 41
b) 6, place Clichy 75009, tel
0148 74 65 18 .

English-speaking pharmacies:
British Pharmacy
62, Avenue des Champs-Elysées
75008 Paris
0143 59 22 52

British-American pharmacy,
1 rue Auber, 75009
0142 65 88 29

English-language crisis line;
Daily 3 pm - 11pm
01 46 21 46 46

Call/phone: 15

Hertford British Hospital: 3, rue Barbès, 92300 Levallois-Perret
Tel 0146 39 22 22

American Hospital of Paris
63, Bd Victor Hugo
92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine
0146 41 25 25

Disneyland Paris... just click

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Visiting London too ?
Check out Essential London on About-Britain.com

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