Story by Tory Hoen, Haven in Paris Correspondent. Photos by Dave Bloom.
I can already tell I’m going to get into trouble with this, but I’ve never been afraid to ruffle a few feathers (especially of the French variety), so here goes. As a female ex-pat, living in Paris is no guarantee that you’ll automatically become a local. If you’re not a Parisienne and you want to be, these are the rules.* (more…)
Back in 1873, Émile Zola published his third novel, Le Ventre de Paris. Set in the bustling central marketplace of Les Halles, the book was Zola’s first to focus completely on the working class of Paris. The title of the book translates into “the belly of Paris” – a name that became synonymous with the district in the northeast of the 1st arrondissement. (more…)
Are you all rested after your first 24 hours in the French capital? Yesterday’s itinerary took us through the Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain and across the Seine to either the Louvre or to the Île de la Cité before wrapping up with a night in Montmartre. (more…)
I can still remember my first time in Paris, and how daunting it felt to have a week to explore everything the French capital had to offer. I was overwhelmed by all the possibilities while terrified that I’d miss something important. So when I get emails from readers and friends alike that they have just two days in Paris, I’m overcome by sympathetic panic attacks. How can anyone possibly get a sense of this incredible place in just 48 hours? (more…)
Story by Dani Lazar
There’s nothing like springtime in Paris. The flowers are in bloom, the weather is warming up and lingering over lunch, drinks and dinner at the city’s outdoor cafés becomes a true pleasure. So when preparing for your visit to the French capital, there are definitely certain items you should pack in your suitcase for season. Likewise, there are things that you should just leave at home. (more…)
Ella, my eight-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, is a very popular pup. She’s not just adorable, she’s also personable. So, in Miami, she pretty much has the whole city eating out of her paws. She’s been welcomed in stores both large and small, at outdoor restaurants and in every single public space there is. (more…)
Taxis are a regular part of the landscape of the French capital, with some twenty thousand or so circulating in Paris and the city’s suburbs. They’re clean, comfortable and highly regulated. What’s more, they’re getting a new look, so we thought this was the perfect opportunity to give you the inside scoop on how to Taxi in Paris. (more…)
Story by Tory Hoen, HiP Paris Correspondent
Sometimes, I’m still intimidated by Paris. If the city were a person, it would probably be your elegant-but-somewhat-terrifying grandmother. She’ll help you become more refined, but might also scare the heck out of you in the process. (more…)
Story by Tory Hoen, HiP Paris Correspondent
We’ve all heard something to the effect of, “Paris would be perfect, if it weren’t for the French.” I usually laugh these comments off as clichés that hark back to an earlier age, when France was more culturally closed than it is now. We all know that today’s French are as affable as kittens… or are they? (more…)
Story by Maggie Battista, Haven in Paris Correspondent
I was lucky enough to live in Paris earlier this year. During my time in one of the fairest cities, I soaked up the language, tossed back (a few too) many glasses of red and practically inhaled the food. I also wandered, a lot. I’m the sort of tourist who likes to explore the nooks and crannies, those precious spots that are forgotten on a map but hold a special magic beyond the typical grand Paris sites. (more…)
Story by Tory Hoen, Haven in Paris Correspondent
I’m not the first writer to have moved to Paris with a gleam in her eye and a dream in her heart; nor am I the first writer to have scoured the streets in search of free WiFi (pronounced wee-fee in French) a.k.a. wireless Internet. Hemingway may have gotten the job done with pencil and paper in an ice-cold garret, but we modern-day Hemingways prefer slightly cozier digs in which to indulge our literary fantasies and writer-ly rituals. (more…)
Text and Photos Erica Berman, Haven in Paris Correspondent
After over 17 years of Frenchie living, I am largely used to the etiquette of dining chez les Francais – along with all of their implicitly understood rules and regulations. (more…)
The nice thing about Paris is that it’s small for such a major city; a lot of things you might want to see and do are within walking distance of each other. The Louvre is not far from the Marais, from which you can stroll over to the Ile St-Louis & Ile de la Cité, which in turn are just next to St-Germain, and then perhaps you might want to keep going just a bit further – possibly to the Musée d’Orsay, followed by the Eiffel Tower? All of a sudden, though the distance between one destination and the next is relatively short, you’ve walked many kilometers. Of course, it’s always nice to stop for a break at a café… but when it’s time to move on, your feet may start to object. There is always the métro – but sometimes the route is not so convenient, or it’s such a nice day you simply would prefer to remain above ground. (more…)
My partner Vincent had an unnerving incident happen at a restaurant in Paris. (more…)
It may appear to be overwhelming, but the Métro is really easy to use. This underground rail system offers 16 lines (lignes) that run every day – including public holidays – from around 6:00am to 12:30am (2:15am on Friday and Saturday nights). There are usually only a few minutes between trains, so if you can’t get through the doors in time, fear not., another train isn’t far behind. Scheduled timetables for the first and last trains are posted in each station on the center sign. (more…)
Paris is served by three international airports:
Charles de Gaulle International Airport http://www.paris-cdg.com/ (airport code CDG; also known as Roissy) is located to the northeast of the city, and serves as one of Europe’s main hubs. It’s big, it’s confusing and it’s French, so give yourself plenty of time for transfers. There are three terminals: Terminal 1, Terminal 2 (which is humongous and subdivided into 2A through 2F), and Terminal 3. Chances are that you’ll come into Terminal 2 (whether you’re flying in from the U.S. or another European city. But if you have to connect to another flight, you may find that getting from one point to another in Terminal 2…well, frustrating. The free CDGVAL shuttle train connects the terminals together.
Orly International Airport http://www.aeroportsdeparis.fr/Adp/en-GB/Passagers/ (airport code ORY), is found to the southwest of the city, and is closer than Charles de Gaulle/Roissy. That said, if you’re flying in from an international destination, chances are you won’t be flying into Orly. It’s now used mainly by Air France for national lines, and only a few international carriers in Europe.
Beauvais http://www.aeroportbeauvais.com/index.php?lang=eng (airport code BVA) is a smaller regional airport that’s being used by some of Europe’s low-cost carriers, including RyanAir.
Getting into Paris from the airports:
This is definitely not the fastest or cheapest way to get into Paris, but if you’re a first time visitor or have burdensome baggage (and we don’t mean the emotional type), a taxi is your best bet. On a good day, the trip will take you about 45 minutes and cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 euros, but keep in mind that if you’re trying to get in during rush hour, you’ll sit in traffic for up to an hour. Taxis are available at visibly marked queues outside each terminal. Follow the signs from baggage claim (or throughout the terminal) the queues. You’ll find plenty of “taxi” offers inside the terminal. Don’t do it. You’ll seriously be taken for a ride. Another key thing to keep in mind: most taxi drivers don’t speak much English (or at least claim not to), so it might be a good idea to have the address of your destination written clearly on a piece of paper and give it to the driver.
There are a few companies that offer shuttle services between the airports and Paris. Airport Shuttle http://www.airport-shuttle.com charges 27 euros a person (19.90 euros per person for two or three people traveling together). Airport Connection http://www.airport-connection.com offers similar rates, as does Shuttle Paris http://www.shuttle-paris.com. Please keep in mind that all shuttles need to be booked ahead of time.
RER-B has stations in T1 and T2. Trains into Paris (specifically to Châtelet-Les Halles) leave every 15 minutes, cost €8,50 each and take around 40 minutes. From there, you can take the Metro to your destination. (This option works best if you’re already familiar with Paris, and don’t have a lot of luggage.
The Roissybus service connects CDG terminals directly to Opéra Garnier in central Paris, but keep in mind that you’ll have to deal with traffic getting in, so your trip could take up to 60-90 minutes, even on a good day.
Orly is only about forty minutes from Paris via the OrlyBus, which takes you to Métro/RER Denfert-Rochereau; the price is only €6, with departures every 15 minutes
In addition to public transportation, Air France operates shuttles between Charles de Gaulle and Paris (€10 – €12), Orly and Paris (€7.5) and between the two airports (€15). Please note that if you have connecting Air France flights that land and depart from different airports, you still need to claim your luggage after landing, catch either the Air France shuttle or a taxi to the other airport and check-in again. This could take up to 2 hours, particularly if traffic is at its worse. Check with Air France (http://www.airfrance.us) for specific information.
I love Paris in the springtime. I love Paris in the fall. I love Paris is the summer, when it sizzles. I love Paris in the winter, when it drizzles.
So wrote Cole Porter back in 1953, but it’s pretty clear that sentiment has been around for hundreds of years. Paris has charms that transcend seasonality, so the question of “What’s the best time to visit” is really a personal preference.
If you’re looking for longer days, come in late spring or summer. If you’re looking for shorter lines, winter is your season. And don’t really go by Mr. Porter’s lyrics in trying to time your visit to the weather. Truth be told, it rains year round in Paris, and it doesn’t typically get sizzling hot during the summer. But it sure is a pretty song. Isn’t it?
Spring is when the color comes back to Paris. Trees flower, foliage grows lush, and people begin spending more time in the parks and gardens of this reawakened city as the days grow longer. April is the month with the lowest average rainfall, so you might have to fight for a place to sit on the benches.
Low Temps: 4°C / 39°F
High Temps: 20°C / 68°F
When summer arrives in Paris, it’s time to head to the beach. What? Paris doesn’t have a beach, you say. Oh, dear innocent traveler, that’s the magic of this city. The banks of the River Seine are transformed into one grand plage (that’s French for “beach”) in the summer, and you’ll find the city’s residents taking full advantage of it. In August, many of the locals close up shop and head to their vacation homes. But fear not, you’ll still find plenty of places still open and eager to greet visitors.
Low Temps: 13°C / 55°F
High Temps: 24°C / 75°F
The days may be getting shorter, but the colors of the city really come alive in the fall. Even in November, you’ll find trees still thick with foliage – only the leaves have transformed into the fieriest of reds and yellows. It’s truly magnificent, complemented by an abundance of cultural activities. September still holds on to the temperatures of summer, but by October, you’ll need to start bundling up.
Low Temps: 5°C / 41°F
High Temps: 21°C / 70°F
There’s really nothing quite like winter in Paris. You’ll find it far less crowded by tourists, which is a shame because, in many ways, Paris is at its most beautiful in winter. By the end of November, the Champs Elysees – and all of Paris’ grand boulevards – are alit with all the dressings of Christmas. A steaming cup of chocolate chaud awaits in a warm café. It’s trés romantique.
Low Temps: 1°C / 33°F
High Temps: 7°C / 44°F
A funny thing happened during the last transportation strike in Paris. Without the ability to travel across the city by Métro or bus, people took to bicycles to get around.
Riding a bike anywhere in Paris is safer for even the moderately experienced cyclist than almost anywhere in the United States. The French are very aware of the presence of cyclists, even reverent of them.
And in July 2007, Paris introduced Velib – a system of 10,000 bicycles available for rental at 750 automated stations around the city. The system is expected to grow to 20,000 bikes and 1,450 automated stations.
You’ll need to get a subscription to this service for 1 day, at a cost of 1€, or 7 days for just 5€. With your subscription, the bike rental is free for the first half hour of each individual trip (or from when you release the bike from one station and return it to the next). From there, an hour’s rental cost’s 1€, 90 minutes costs 3€, 2 hours costs 7€, and longer times obviously cost more. But the beauty about this system is that you really don’t need more than 30 minutes with the bike. Just return it once you get to your destination…and then hire another bike when you’re ready for the next leg of your voyage. You’ll need either a credit card or a Navigo pass to sign up for the program.
During one of the transportation strikes in Paris during the last few years, I found myself looking for a way to get from my hotel near the Eiffel Tower to the Marais. The Metro wasn’t running. Buses were scarce and crowded. And finding a taxi? Forget about it. While one of my favorite things to do in Paris is to walk, the idea of shlepping all the way to the Marais and back again didn’t exactly fill my heart with joy. (more…)
Paris is very well connected to the rest of Europe by train. There are six stations serving Paris:
Gare du Nord, (10th), Métro: Gare du Nord – TGV trains to and from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Cologne, Germany (Thalys), and the United Kingdom (Eurostar) and regular trains from Northern Europe.
Gare d’Austerlitz, (13th), Métro: Gare d’Austerlitz – regular trains to and from the center and southwest of France (Orléans, Limoges, Toulouse the long way), Spain and Portugal and arrival of majority of the night trains.
Gare de l’Est, (10th), Métro: Gare de l’Est – ICE/TGV to and from Saarbrücken, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart, Germany.
Gare de Lyon, (12th), Métro: Gare de Lyon – regular and TGV trains to and from Southern and eastern France: French Alps, Marseille, Lyon, Dijon, Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne and Italy.
Gare St Lazare, (8th) Métro: St-Lazare – trains to and from Basse-Normandie, Haute-Normandie
Gare Montparnasse, (15th), Métro: Montparnasse-Bienvenüe – TGV and regular trains to and from the west and south-west of France (Brest, Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse the fastest way and Spain)
The SNCF http://www.sncf.com/indexe.htm (French national railway authority) operates practically all trains within France (excluding the Eurostar to London and the Thalys to Brussels) and onward to the Netherlands and Germany. All SNCF, Eurostar and Thalys tickets can be bought in railway stations, city offices and travel agencies (no surcharge). The SNCF website is also very convenient to book and buy tickets up to two months in advance. In fact, you’ll likely find significant discounts if you book early. To get the best rates, book at least four weeks ahead. And here’s a big tip: round trip tickets (aller-retour) with a stay over Saturday night can be cheaper than a single one-way ticket (aller simple). A very limited selection of last minute trips are published on the SNCF website every Tuesday, with discounts of more than 50%.
There are a number of different types of high speed and normal trains:
TER Regional trains and normal day or night trains (no special name) operate to and from most cities in France and are usually your best bet for destinations all over France. These are the trains you’ll find yourself on if you have a Eurail pass, and don’t want to pay extra for reservations.
TGV – the world-famous French high-speed trains (Trains à Grande Vitesse) run several times a day to the Southeast Nice(5-6h), Marseille (3h) and Avignon (2.5 h), the East Geneva (3h) or Lausanne, Switzerland and Dijon (1h15) , the Southwest Bordeaux (3h), the West Rennes (3h) and the North Lille (less than 1h). Eurostar to London (2h15) and Thalys to Brussels (1h20) use almost identical trains.
Thalys – a high-speed train service running daily to/from the Netherlands and Belgium – it can be a bit expensive compared to normal trains
Intercity Intercity trains leave for all parts of Europe, including overnight trains to San Sebastian in Spain, Porto and Lisbon in Portugal.
Eurostar – the Eurostar service connects Paris with London directly and Brussels indirectly, as well many other destinations indirectly through the various west European rail services. Travel time between Paris and London St Pancras International currently averages at 2 hours 15 minutes, following the opening of a new rail link in late 2007.
Taxis in Paris are hard to come by, and it isn’t easy to just waive one down. You’ll be able to find one at special taxi stations throughout the city but, if you know you need to get somewhere by a certain time, it’s easier (and smarter) to have your hotel arrange a taxi for you.
By day, it’s easier – and faster – to walk or use the Métro, but come nighttime, when traffic is light, taxis aren’t all that expensive.
To hire a taxi, watch the sign on the roof:
• If the white sign is lit, the cab is on duty & available,
• If the white sign is off and a colored light is lit under it (blue, orange), it has a passenger
• If the white sign is off and no colored light is on, the taxi’s off duty.
Taxi stations are usually near train stations, big hotels, hospitals, and large crossings. When a taxi stops, he might roll down his window and expect you to tell where you need to go. Don’t be surprised if they tell you they can’t go there, using “end of shift” as an excuse. And by law, taxes don’t allow passengers to sit in the front seat.
Also keep in mind that there’s a €5.50 minimum on all taxi rides (this is a city law), so if you’re taking just a short ride, you may end up paying more than is on the meter.
Handy Tip #1:
The tip is included in the price of your fare, but if you’re particularly satisfied with the service, you can give the driver a little extra (10% or round up). It’s not expect, though. Also note that there’s an additional cost added for suitcases.
Handy Tip #2:
It’s a good idea to have the address and arrondissement number written down, since many taxi drivers claim not to speak English.
Eurolines http://www.eurolines.com is a transeuropean bus company that offers trips to Paris.
Several autoroutes link Paris with the rest of France: A1 and A3 to the north, A5 and A6 to the south, A4 to the east and A13 and A10 to the west. You’ll find online visual traffic information at http://www.sytadin.equipement.gouv.fr/.
The multi-lane highway around Paris, called the Périphérique, is probably preferable to driving through the center. Another beltway nearing completion La Francilienne loops around Paris about 10 km further out from the Périphérique.
Once you’re inside the Paris city center, you should probably think about leaving your car in a parking lot or garage because the roads can be confusing (even to a native), heavily trafficked and, well, frankly, unforgiving.
Sometimes, it’s just easier to take the bus in Paris – or just more interesting, letting you see more of the city and helping you get your bearings. Paris’ bus system is completely tourist-friendly, and uses the same single-ride tickets and Carte Orange as the Métro. Electronic displays inside each bus tell riders the current position and which stops remain, which helps to eliminate any confusion.
Since the Métro shuts down just past midnight (or 2:15 for weekends), the Noctilien runs through the night, with hourly routes beginning at Chatelet. Tickets cost €2.70.