Difference between revisions of "Paris"
Revision as of 22:32, 22 March 2010
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 luxorious fashion designers and cosmetics, such as Chanel, 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 Michélin-restaurants in the world (after Tokyo) and contain numerous iconic landmarks, such us the world's most visited tourist sight 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.
Central Paris is officially divided into 20 districts called arrondissements, numbered from 1 to 20 in a clockwise spiral from the centre of the city (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 (SANK-ee-emm) 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 €2-4 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.
Each arrondissement has its own unique character and selection of attractions for the traveller:
Beyond central Paris, the outlying suburbs are called Les Banlieues. Schematically, those on the west of Paris (Neuilly, Boulogne, 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, insuring 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. Today there are more nationalities represented in Paris than even in New York (over 100).
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.
Average Temperatures in Paris
Paris is served by three international airports - for more information, including arrival/departure times, check the official sites.
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). Terminal 1 and 3 are next to each other, whereas mass Terminal 2 is in another building. The newest exception is terminal 2G which is a seperate 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. There are hardly any benches around and don't even consider looking for an outlet to charge your cell phone or laptop. 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 travelers. 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 travelers 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.
Trains for Paris are leaving usually from platforms 11 and 12. Look or 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 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. Air France buses  are offering 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  costs €19 per person and is 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.
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 national lines, and other international carriers in Europe. Orly is roughly 40 min from Paris via the OrlyBus, which departs from Métro Denfert-Rochereau (ligne 6); the price is €6. The private Jetbus service goes directly to Métro Villejuif and is quite inexpensive. 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 €1,5 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 €9.85 for transfer to Paris, including connections to central area metro stations. The RER B from Antony runs through Paris to Aéroport Charles de Gaulle.
This airport, a distance north of the city, is a smaller regional airport that is used by some low-cost carriers such as Ryanair (list flights ) and WizzAir. The airport operates a shuttle service connecting with the Métro at Porte Maillot station. Buses run even during the wee 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 €14 each way (as of Dec 2009).
In addition to public transport, Air France operates shuttles between Charles de Gaulle and Paris (€10-12), Orly and Paris (€7.5) and between the two airports (€15). Note that if you have connecting Air France flights that land and depart from different airports, you would still generally need to fetch 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 counters usually close 30 min before the flight departs, longer if flights are international carriers.
If you arrive to CDG Airport at night you'll need a Noctilien bus to get to the city center. 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 ). The buses you'll need are N121 and N120; the price is €7.
Paris is well connected to the rest of Europe by train. There is no central station serving Paris, the six different stations are not connected to each other. You will probably want to know in advance at which station your train is arriving, so as to better choose a hotel and plan for transport within the city.
The SNCF (French national railway authority)  operates practically all trains within France excluding the Eurostar to St Pancras, London  and the Thalys to Brussels and onward to the Netherlands  and Germany . There are also a few local lines of high touristic interest which are privately owned. All SNCF, Eurostar and Thalys tickets can be bought in railway stations, city offices and travel agencies (no surcharge). The SNCF website allows to book and buy tickets up to two months in advance. There are significant discounts if you book weeks ahead. Reduced ticket prices are different for each day and each train and can be used only on the train the reservation is for. Surprisingly, 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 kinds of high speed and normal trains:
Several autoroutes (expressway, motorway) 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. Not surprisingly, traffic jams are significantly worse during French school holidays.
The multi-lane highway around Paris, called the Périphérique (BP), is probably preferable to driving through the center. Another beltway nearing completion; L'A86 (also A186 and A286) loops around Paris about 10 km further out from the Périphérique. A third, incomplete beltway is much further out and called La Francilienne (N104).
It is advised not to drive in the Paris Metro Area. It is better to drive to a suburban train station with a parking lot and then use the train to continue your trip throughout Paris. Most of Paris' roads were created long before the invention of automobiles. Traffic inside the city tends to be heavy, especially at rush hour; driving, however, may be rather easy and efficient in the evening. Parking is also difficult. Furthermore, the medieval nature of parts of the city's street system makes it very confusing, and traffic will almost never allow one to stop or slow down to get one's bearings. If you are unfamiliar with the streets and still insist on driving in the city, make sure you have a navigator in the passenger seat with you.
It is generally a bad idea to rent a car to visit Paris. Traffic is very dense during the day, and parking tends to be difficult. This is especially true in areas surrounding points of touristic interest, since many of these are in areas designed long before automobiles existed. A majority of Parisian households do not own cars.
Driving may be an option for going to some sights in the suburbs such as Vaux-le-Vicomte castle or the castle and city at Fontainebleau, or for starting to other places in France. You may prefer to rent from a location not situated in Paris proper.
Traffic rules in Paris are basically the same as elsewhere in France, with the exception of having to yield to incoming traffic on roundabouts. However, driving in dense traffic in Paris and suburbs during commute times, can be especially strenuous. Be prepared for traffic jams, cars changing lanes at short notice, and so on. Another issue is pedestrians, who tend to fearlessly jaywalk more in Paris than in other French cities. Be prepared for pedestrians crossing the street on red, and expect similar adventurous behavior from cyclists. Remember that even if a pedestrian or cyclist crossed on red, if you hit him, you (in fact, your insurance) will have to bear civil responsibility for the damages, and possibly prosecution for failing to control your vehicle.
Paris has several beltway systems. There is a series of boulevards named after Napoleonic-era generals (Boulevard Masséna), and collectively referred to as boulevard des maréchaux. These are normal wide avenues, with traffic lights. Somewhat outside of this boulevard is the boulevard périphérique, a freeway-style beltway. The périphérique intérieur is the inner lanes (going clockwise), the périphérique extérieur the outer lanes (going counter-clockwise). Note that despite the looks, the périphérique is not an autoroute: the speed limit is 80 and, very unusually, incoming traffic has the right of way, at least theoretically (presumably because, otherwise, nobody would be able to enter during rush hour).
The smartest travellers take advantage of the walk-ability of this city, and stay above ground as much as possible. A metro ride of less than 2 stops is probably best avoided since walking will take about the same amount of time and you'll be able to see more of the city.
You will also notice that most of the older Parisian streets (especially the ones in the Quartier Latin) are particularly narrow with little or no room to even fit a car, so the sidewalks on these roads are extremely tiny. Although this means you would opt to walk on the road, be wary as Parisian drivers, taxi drivers in particular, take no heed in the narrowness of the road, and will drive down it just as fast as if they were driving along a major road.
It's always fun to experience the city by foot, and there are numerous walking tours around Paris, whether self guided (with the help of a guidebook or online guide) or with a touring guide (booked through your travel agency or hotel). The city is best explored by foot, and some of the most marvelous memories you will have of Paris is walking through secret found places.
Paris has an excellent underground train system, known as the Métro (short for Chemin de fer métropolitain i.e. Metropolitan Railway). Although you will probably take the RER subway train from the airport to Paris, don't be confused: RER isn't the name for the "French subway train", and only a few large stations serve the RER network of trains. You'll want to look for the Métro stations, marked with a large "M" sign.
There are 16 Métro lines (lignes) (1-14, 3bis and 7bis) on which trains travel all day at intervals of a few minutes between 5AM and 12:30AM (Saturday night/Sunday morning: 1:30AM), stopping at all stations on the line. Times for trains can be seen on an electronic scrollboard above the platform. Line 14, which is fully automated, is called the Méteor. Scheduled times for first and last trains are posted in each station on the centre sign. Generally, except for early and late hours, travellers should not worry about specific Metro train times; just get to your station and take the next train which will likely be in 5-10 min.
Many of the trains you'll see on the metro do not carry destination binders, all lines on the Paris metro run end to end with some trains terminating at certain stations, this practice is only used in peak hours and if you are on a metro train that is not terminating at one end, the driver would make an annocement (in French of course) but listen carefully for certains signs that the train is terminating at another station and not a terminus such as an annocment "Ce train met fin à entendre, à tout changement."
The lines are named according to the names of their terminal stations (those at the end of the line). If you ask the locals about directions they will answer something like : take line number n toward "end station 1", change at "station", take the line nn toward "end station 2" etc. The lines are also colour-coded.
In addition there are 5 train lines called RER A, B, C, D, and E. RER trains run at intervals of about 6-7 min, and stop at every station within Paris. Although a regular subway ticket can be used within Paris (Zone 1), it is necessary to pass the ticket through the turnstile when passing between the subway and the RER lines, as the two systems are separate networks. This ticket is necessary to both enter and exit the RER networks, as the RER trains travel on to the Parisian suburbs, outside the zone where a regular subway ticket can be used. Beware that travelling outside the city centre without a valid RER ticket will get you fined, and the packs of inspectors who roam the system show no mercy to tourists pleading ignorance. In particular, CDG airport is not within the city, and you'll need to purchase a more expensive RER ticket to get there (see Get in).
In addition to RER, there are many suburban train lines departing from the main train stations. One line of interest is the one from Gare Montparnasse to Versailles-Chantiers, a quick way to go to Versailles castle (covered by a ticket with at least Zones 1-4 validity). The alternative is to use RER C to Versailles Rive Gauche. Do not use RER C to Versailles chantiers; this will do a very long loop in the southern suburbs before reaching Versailles.
For travel outside of the Paris zone, the train arrival times are shown on a monitor hanging from the ceiling inside the RER station above the platform. Information about the stops to be made by the next incoming train is presented on a separate board also hanging from the ceiling. It is important to check this board before boarding the train, as not all trains make stops at all stations on a given line. Four letter codes (VERA, TOPU,...) are used for the RER and suburban trains. The first letter indicates the destination of the train, the others may have other meanings or may have been chosen to make it easily memorized. You can look up what these codes mean on information panels in the station, but the easiest and fastest way is often to check the board hanging from the ceiling.
RATP  is responsible for public transport including metro, buses, and some of the high speed inter-urban trains (RER). The rest of the RER is operated by SNCF. However, both companies take the same tickets, so the difference is of little interest for most people except in case of strikes (because RATP may strike without SNCF doing so or the other way round). Current fares can be found at their website. Basically, as you move further from Paris (ie into higher zones), tickets get more expensive.
For the subway, a single ticket (ticket t+) costs €1.60; however, it is generally not advisable to buy tickets by the unit and to rather purchase a carnet of ten tickets, which can be bought for €11.40 at any station, that will bring the price per ticket down to €1.14. Tickets named 'Tarif réduit' may be purchased for children under the age of 10 but only in a carnet of 10 for €5.70. Both tickets are valid for unlimited metro and RER or bus and tram transfers during one hour. RER + Metro and Bus + Tram are two separate systems, although they use the same tickets. This means you have to use a new ticket if you transfer from bus to metro or from metro to bus. Tickets do not expire.
A 1-day ticket, a weekly pass, and a monthly pass are also available. The price varies according to the zones for which the ticket can be used. The cheapest 1-day ticket called Mobilis , is valid for zones 1-2, with a price of €5.90. Once bought, it is necessary to write in the spaces provided on the ticket: 1) the date the ticket is being used in European notation of day/month/year (Valable le), 2) the last name (Nom), and 3) and the first name (Prénom). Unfortunately, this ticket is not valid for use for travel to/from Charles de Gaulle airport. Unless you plan to make many trips in one day, the carnet of ten tickets (for €1.14 per trip) will still be a much better cost than a 1-day ticket. But in considering your options, consider the price for all members of your group/family, including children, which days you are travelling on, and in which zones you will be travelling.
For travellers under the age of 26, there is a special ticket (Jeunes 26) that you can purchase for use on the weekends or holidays. The price varies depending on the number of zones you wish to cover (Zones 1-3 is €3.30 and Zones 1-5 is €6.60; there are other zone combinations available too) and the ticket is good for one day of unlimited usage of the metro, RER, bus, and trams.
If you're staying a bit longer, the weekly and monthly passes are called Carte Orange (1 week pass, €17.20 for Paris and inner suburbs), and the monthly Carte Orange Mensuelle (1 month pass). Note that an Hebdomadaire (eb-DOH-ma-DAYR) starts on Mondays and a Mensuelle on the first of the month. The Carte Orange is non-transferrable, and therefore requires the user to provide information on the pass after the sale. Since 2008, the Carte Orange is sold as refill of a "Navigo Découverte" no contact pass. This pass is sold for €5. You must write your last name (nom), your first name (prénom) and stick your photo on the nominative card. After, you have to refill your pass with a Carte Orange Hebdomadaire (1 week pass), or a Carte Orange Mensuelle (1 month pass). You have to choose at least two of the contiguous "zones" : Paris is the first zone, La Défense is in the third zone, Versailles in the fourth. Everything related to a "Navigo" pass is in purple (eg. the target for the pass in the turnstiles).
Although not as good a deal for adults in most cases as the Mobilis or Carte Orange, there are also 1-5 day tourist passes, called Paris Visite available, which are a bargain for kids of ages 4-11, starting at €4.40 per day for travel within zones 1-3.
Keep your métro ticket or pass with you at all times, you may be checked or "controlled". You will be cited and forced to pay on the spot. The most likely spots for controls are just behind the turnstiles at big Métro stations or during métro line changes correspondances. It is rather uncommon for contrôleurs to check tickets on trains. RATP agents may be present in the metro stations even Sunday nights.
Métro stations have both ticket windows and automatic vending machines. The majority of automatic vending machines take only coins or European credit cards with a pin-encoded chip on the front. Therefore, to use either euro bills or a non-European credit card with a magnetic stripe, it is necessary to make the purchase from the ticket window. Be advised too that some ticket vending machines do not give change, so unless you see "change returned" (or French equivalent), use exact change or go to the ticket window. If you look at the vending machines closely, you may find one in the group that takes euro bills and will give change.
Some larger stations have secondary entrances, where there is no ticket booth. These are labelled voyageurs avec billets ("passengers with tickets").
When the train arrives, the doors may not open automatically. In such a case, there are handles located both inside and outside the train which you have to push or unlatch in order to open the door.
There are several excellent boat services which makes use of the Seine. As well as providing easy, cheap transport to much of central Paris, excellent photo opportunities abound. You can buy a day or 3 day ticket and hop on and off the boat as needed. The boats take a circular route from the Eiffel Tower, down past the Louvre, Notre Dame, botanical gardens then back up the other bank past Musee D'orsay. Batobus  offers a regular shuttle service between the main touristic sights (closed in January); other companies such as the famous Bateaux Mouches  offer sightseeing cruises.
There is also a river shuttle service called Voguéo  on the eastern part of the Seine, between Gare d'Austerlitz and Maison Alfort (in the suburbs). It's not meant for tourists, but as a convenient service for Parisians. As a result, the view isn't the most breathtaking in Paris (part of it is industrial), but even though the boats are pretty small they're bound to be much less crowded than those for tourists. More importantly, it's free if you have a Carte Orange (weekly or monthly public transport pass). Otherwise a ticket bought onboard costs €3 which can be considered expensive. The last stop is in zone 3 so normally you should not be able to go that far with a Carte Orange that covers zones 1&2, but since June 2009 it's free as they are still experimenting the system. There are boats every 15 min and the whole trip lasts about 30 min. If you want to do a round-trip and don't have a Carte Orange, you will have to buy a second ticket.
Paris is the mecca of city skating. This is due to the large, smooth surfaces offered by both the pavements and the roads. Skating on the pavement is legal all around Central Paris (zone 1) and its suburbs (zones 2+). See our Do section below for more information.
Renting a bike is a very good alternative over driving or using public transport. Riding a bike anywhere in the city is far safer for the moderately experienced cyclists than almost any town or city in the United States. The French are very cognizant of cyclists, almost to a point of reverence. A few years ago Paris wasn't the easiest place to get around by bike. That however has changed dramatically in recent years, starting perhaps with a lengthy bus and traffic jam. The city government has taken a number of steps in strong support of improving the safety and efficiency of the urban cyclist as well, in establishing some separated bike lanes, but even more important a policy of allowing cyclists to share the ample bus lanes on most major boulevards. Paris also has many riversides which are perfect for cycling. The Paris bike network now counts over 150 km of either unique or shared lanes for the cyclist. In addition, the narrower, medieval side streets of the central arrondissements make for rather scenic and leisurely cycling, especially during off-hours of the day when traffic is lighter. Do remember to bring a good map, since there is no grid plan to speak of and almost all of the smaller streets are one-way.
Note that, while the streets of Paris are generally fairly easy on novice cyclists, there are some streets in the city that should be avoided by those who do not have sufficient urban cycling experience. 'Rue de Rivoli', 'Place de la Bastille', and 'Place de la Nation' are particularly hairy, especially during weekdays and the Saturday evening rush, and should not be navigated by anyone not confident in their ability to cycle in heavy traffic. 'Avenue des Champs-Elysées', 'Place de l'Étoile', and 'Voie Georges Pompidou' (the lower-level express lanes along the banks of the Seine) should be avoided at all times.
You can find an excellent map of the bike network called Plan des Itinéraires cyclables (download here: ) at the information center in the Hôtel de Ville.
There are two different bike rental programs in Paris:
In addition to operating a number of bike rental buses, the RATP has some permanent locations, including:
Another possibility for renting a bicycle is Bike About Tours or Fat Tire bike tours. See the listings under Do below.
Since the Métro is primarily structured around a "hub and spoke" model, there are some journeys for which it can be quite inefficient, and in these cases it is worth seeing if a direct bus route exists, despite the complexity of the bus network. A bus ride is also interesting if you want to see more of the city. The Parisian bus system is quite tourist-friendly. It uses the same single-ride tickets and Carte Orange as the Métro, and electronic displays inside each bus tell riders its current position and what stops remain, eliminating a lot of confusion.
These same payment devices are also valid in the Noctilien, the night bus. Night buses run regularly through the central hub at Chatelet to outlying areas of greater Paris. There is also a circle line connecting the main train stations. It pays to know one's Noctilien route ahead of time in case one misses the last Métro home. Women travellers should probably avoid taking the Noctilien on their own to destinations outside Paris.
Another option for travelers who want to see the sights of Paris without a stop on every street corner is the Paris L’Opentour Bus. An open topped double decker bus that supplies headsets with the most up to date information on the attractions in Paris. Your ticket is good for 4 routes ranging in time from 1-2 hours. Get off when you want, stay as long as you need, get back on the bus and head for another site. You can purchase tickets at the bus stop. A 1 day pass is €25 for adults and €15 for children. A two day pass is €32 for adults or €15 for children.
Taxis are comparatively cheap especially at night when there are no traffic jams to be expected. There are not as many as one would expect, and sometimes finding a taxi can be challenging. In the daytime, it is not always a good idea to take a taxi, as walking or taking the metro (See: Métro) will often be faster. If you know you will need one to get to the airport, or to a meeting, it is wise to book ahead by phone (see below).
Remember if a taxi is near a 'taxi station', they're not supposed to pick you up except at the station where there may be people waiting for a taxi. Taxi stations are usually near train stations, big hotels, hospitals, large crossings.
There are a number of services by which you can call for taxis or make a reservation in advance:
As in many other cities a taxi can be difficult to stop; you may have to try several times. When you do get a taxi to stop, the driver will usually roll down his window to ask you where you want to go. If the driver can't (or doesn't want to) go where you want, he might tell you that he's near the end of his work day & can't possibly get you where you want before he has to go off-duty.
There is a €5.50 minimum on all taxi rides, mandated by city law, but the meter does not show this amount, which can result in being asked to pay more than the metered amount on short rides. Frequently the taxi driver will not want to drive you all the way to the doorstep, but will prefer to let you out a block or so away if there are one or more one-way streets to contend with. Try to look at this as a cost-savings rather than an inconvenience. You should pay while still seated in the cab as in New York and not through the front window London style.
The driver will not let you sit in the front seat (unless there are 3 or 4 of you, which is a rare case usually expedited by more money). Taxi-drivers come in all types, some nice, some rude, some wanting to chat, some not. Smoking in taxis is generally not allowed, however it might be that the taxi driver themself wants a cigarette in which case the rule might become flexible.
Many drivers prefer that you avoid using your cellphone during the ride; if you do have to, make an apologizing gesture & sound, and do make a short call.
If for any reason you wish to file a complaint about a Paris taxi, take note of the taxi's number on the sticker on the left hand backseat window.
Also if you take a taxi to the Charles de Gaulle airport be prepared to pay 70 euros or more because there is often heavy traffic. If there isn't traffic it won't be expensive, but that is rare. A bus is cheaper.
Beware of illegal taxis (see the 'Stay Safe' section).
Livery or Black Car or Limos- Known as car services or livery cabs, these cars may only be called by phone, are flat rate rather than metered (ask for the fare before getting in), and are not allowed to cruise the street or airports for fares. There are two types of licence: the "Grande Remise" that allows the car & driver to pick-up & drop-off passengers anywhere in France, and the "carte verte" that allows pick-up & drop-off in the department or region where the company is based. The Grande Remise cars have a GR on their front plate. They provide more service than a normal cab
In the parts of the city that tourists frequent the most (Tour Eiffel, Le Louvre, Champs-Elysées), the shopkeepers, information booth attendants, and other workers are likely to answer you in English, even if your French is advanced. These workers tend to deal with thousands of foreign-speaking tourists, and responding in English is often faster than repeating themselves in French. This is not the case for the rest of the city.
When attempting to speak French, do not be offended if people ask you to repeat, or seem not to understand you, as they are not acting out of snobbery. Keep your sense of humour, and if necessary, write down phrases or place names. And remember to speak slowly and clearly. Unless you have an advanced level and can at least sort of understand French movies, you should also assume that it will be difficult for people to understand what you are saying (imagine someone speaking English to you in an indiscernible accent, it's all the same).
When in need of directions what you should do is this: find a younger person, or a person reading some book or magazine in English, who is obviously not in a hurry; say "hello" or "bonjour"; start by asking if the person speaks English, "Parlez-vous anglais?" (Par-LAY voo On-Glay?) even if he/she's reading something in English, speak slowly and clearly; write down place names if necessary. Smile a lot. Also, carry a map (preferably Paris par Arrondissement); given the complexity of Paris streets it is difficult to explain how to find any particular address in any language, no matter how well you speak it. If anything, the person may have an idea as to the place you are looking for, but may not know exactly where it may be, so the map always helps.
On the other hand you will probably get the cold shoulder if you stop a random person in the métro (like, say, some middle-aged hurried person who has a train to take), fail to greet them and say "where is place X or street Y".
Now if you do speak French, remember two magic phrases : "Excusez-moi de vous déranger" [es-KOO-zay mwa duh voo DAY-ranj-AY] ("Sorry to bother you") and "Pourriez-vous m'aider?" ("Could you help me?") — use them liberally - especially in shops; they will work wonders.
One of the best value and most convenient ways to see the sights of Paris is with the Paris Museum Pass (previously known as Carte Musées et Monuments) , a pre-paid entry card that allows entry into over 70 museums and monuments around Paris and comes in 2-day (€30), 4-day (€45) and 6-day (€60) denominations (prices as of Aug 2008). Note these are consecutive days. The card allows you to jump otherwise sometimes lengthy queues and is available from participating museums, tourist offices, Fnac branches and all the main Métro and RER train stations. You will still need to pay to enter most special exhibitions. For best results and to avoid having to wait in the first long queue to purchase the Museum Pass, stop to purchase your pass at one of the smaller museums or sites covered, or at one of the non-museum purchase points.  The day you purchase the pass does not have to count as one of the days; you specify on the pass the first date of use, and the days covered are consecutive after that.  Do not write your start date until you are certain you will use the pass that day. Be careful to use the European date style as indicated on the card (day/month/year).
Note that most museums and galleries are closed on either Monday or Tuesday - check ahead to avoid disappointment! - and most ticket counters close 30-45 min before final closing. Louvre museum is closed on Tuesdays while Orsay museum is closed on Mondays, good to know when setting visit plans.
Also consider the ParisPass  also a pre paid entry card + queue jumping to 60 attractions including The Louvre, The Arc de Triomphe, as well as a river cruise and allows free metro & public transport travel. Also note a cheaper alternative with this new combined pass available since September 2008 is the Paris ComboPass® , which comes in Lite/Premium versions.
All national museums are open free of charge on the first Sunday of the month; note, however, that this may mean long lines and crowded exhibits. Keep away from Paris during Easter week. It's really crowded. People have to queue up at the Eiffel tower for several hours. Entry to the permanent exhibitions at city-run museums is free at all times (admission is charged for temporary exhibitions).
These listings are just some highlights of things that you really should see if you can during your visit to Paris. The complete listings are found on each individual district page (follow the link in parenthesis).
Good listings of almost everything to do in Paris can be found in 'Pariscope' or 'Officiel des spectacles', weekly magazines listing all concerts, art exhibitions, films, stage plays and museums. Available from all kiosks.
Museums and galleries
If your idea of travel includes making friends with locals, Paris offers a range of ways you can do this, all without spending a fortune.
- “Discover Walks” show small groups around main landmarks (Notre-Dame, Latin Quarter etc.) in the company of a native Parisian. Tours are free, and tips and donations appreciated [www.discoverwalks.com].
- “Paris Greeters” are resident volunteers who take small groups around their neighbourhoods (usually resident, off the beaten path, districts). Tours are free, donations are appreciated .
- If you are more independent-minded and with an interest in the music scene, you can look up the bi-monthly “Lylo” listings for upcoming band concerts. Most concerts take place in bars, with no cover charge .
It seems like there's almost always something happening in Paris, with the possible exceptions of the school holidays in August and February, when about half of Parisians are to be found not in Paris, but in the Alps or the South of France respectively. The busiest season is probably the fall, from a week or so after la rentrée scolaire or "back to school" to around Noël (Christmas) theatres, cinemas and concert halls book their fullest schedule of the year.
Even so, there are a couple of annual events in the winter, starting with a furniture and interior decorating trade fair called Maison & Object  in January.
In February le nouvel an chinois (Chinese New Year) is celebrated in Paris as it is in every city with a significant Chinese population. There are parades in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements and especially in Chinatown in the 13th south of Place d'Italie. Also in February is the Six Nations Rugby Tournament  which brings together France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.
The first of two Fashion weeks occurs in March: Spring Fashion Week, giving designers a platform to present women’s prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) collections for the following winter.
The French Tennis Open  in which the world’s top players battle it out on a clay court runs during two weeks starting on the last Sunday in May. By the time its done in June, a whole range of festivities start up. Rendez-vous au Jardin is an open house for many Parisian gardens, giving you a chance to meet real Parisian gardeners and see their creations. The Fête de la Musique  celebrates the summer solstice (21st June) with this city-wide free musical knees-up. Finally on the 30th of June is the Gay Pride  parade, featuring probably the most sincere participation by the mayor's office of any such parade on the globe.
The French national holiday Bastille Day on the 14th of July celebrates the storming of the infamous Bastille during the French Revolution. Paris hosts several spectacular events that day of which the best known is the Bastille Parade which is held on the Champs-Élysées at 10AM and broadcast to pretty much the rest of Europe by television. The entire street will be crowded with spectators so arrive early. The Bastille Day Fireworks is an exceptional treat for travelers lucky enough to be in town on Bastille Day. The Office du Tourisme et des Congress de Paris recommends gathering in or around the champs du Mars, the gardens of the Eiffel Tower.
Also in July, Cinema en Plein Air  is the annual outdoor cinema event that takes place at the Parc de la Villette, in the 9th on Europe’s largest inflatable screen. For most of the months of July and August, parts of both banks of the Seine are converted from expressway into an artificial beach for Paris Plage . Also in July the cycling race le Tour de France both starts and ends in Paris. Its route varies annually, however it always finishes on the last Sunday of July under the Arc de Triomphe.
During mid-September DJs and (usually young) fans from across Europe converge on Paris for five or six days of dancing etc. culminating in the Techno parade - a parade whose route traces roughly from Pl. de Bastille to the Sorbonne, and around the same time the festival Jazz à la Villette  brings some of the biggest names in contemporary jazz from around the world.
The Nuit Blanche  transforms most of central Paris into a moonlit theme-park for an artsy all-nighter on the first Saturday of October, and Fashion Week  returns shortly thereafter showing off Women’s Prêt-à-Porter collections for the following summer; as we've noted winter collections are presented in March.
The third Thursday in November marks the release of Le Beaujolais Nouveau  and the beginning of the Christmas season. This evening, the Christmas lights are lit in a ceremony on the Champs-Élysées, often in the presence of hundreds (if not thousands) of people and many dignitaries, including the president of France.
Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive event guides covering concerts, clubs, movies or special events. For theater, movies and exhibitions pick up the 'Pariscope' and 'L'officiel du Spectacle', available at newstands for €0.40. For (especially smaller, alternative) concerts pick up LYLO, a small, free booklet available in some bars and at FNAC. There is not any userfriendly online version of these guides. Check out La Societe du Spectacle  which will list concerts and clubs (to be launched in february 2009).
The Cinémas of Paris are (or at least should be) the envy of the movie-going world. Of course, like anywhere else you can see big budget first-run films from France and elsewhere. That though, is just the start. During any given week there are at least half-a-dozen film festivals going on, at which you can see the entire works of a given actor or director. Meanwhile there are some older cult films like say, What's new Pussycat or Casino Royal which you can enjoy pretty much any day you wish.
Many non-French movies are subtitled (called "version originale" "VO" or "VOstfr" as opposed to "VF" for version francaise).
There are any number of ways to find out what's playing, but the most commonly used guide is Pariscope, which you can find at newstands for €0.40. Meanwhile there are innumerable online guides which have information on "every" cinema in Paris.
Be aware that most of the movies shown in France are dubbed to French. Some shows may have French subtitles. However, most of the movies shown in Paris are shown in original version with French subtitles.
It should go without saying that Paris is a good place to learn French.
Paris is the seat of other places to learn about a variety of topics.
Work in Paris, especially for non-EU citizens entails a very long and arduous process. If you opt for unreported work, such as babysitting, you need not fret about going through the process to obtain a Carte de séjour, i.e., a formal vistor's identify card. However, if you do choose a change in location, it is advisable to obtain a Carte de séjour prior to finding any job whatsoever, as the process can be longer than expected.
Before entering the city, one must obtain a visa from their local French Consulate French Embassy . The guidelines for particular visas can be found on their website, and differ depending on length of stay in France, and what exactly you will be doing while there. When applying for the visa make sure you have ALL your documents prior to your appointment at the French Consulate, otherwise the process, and inevitably, obtaining your visa will be delayed. Always make 2 copies of all the forms, and to have plenty of passport photos ready as the copies will be utilized in each step of the process. If you are going to work in France and are bringing a child along, also bring your child's information for obtaining a visa.
After obtaining a visa (usually a single-entry), you must go to your Local Parisian Prefecture  as your single-entry visa will expire within 3 months of arrival, and the process in the country is just as long and arduous as the one at the Consulate. Expect to go there multiple times, and always have copies and copies of those copies. The French governmental system is notorious for losing papers, so always have the copies handy when you go for your follow up. When you finally do receive your Carte de séjour, you are free to scope out jobs.
Job listings, as anywhere, can be found in local magazines and newspapers. Another great place to look for jobs is online, whether using a Job Search Engine such as Monster  or Wiki search pages such as Craigslist . Remember, the city of Paris has a huge network of immigrants coming and going, and it is always great to tap into that network. The city holds a great abundance of work ready to be found, even if it feels nerve wracking at first.
Paris is one of the great fashion centres of the Western world, up there with New York, London, and Milan, making it a shopper's delight. While the Paris fashion scene is constantly evolving, the major shopping centres tend to be the same. High end couture can be found in the 8th arrondisement. In summer, there is nothing better than browsing the boutiques along Canal St-Martin, or strolling along the impressive arcades of the historic Palais-Royal, with beautifully wrapped purchases swinging on each arm.
A good note about Le Marais is that as it is a mostly Jewish neighborhood, most of the shops in Le Marais are open on Sundays. The stores in this area are intimate and boutique, manifesting as particularly "Parisian" style clothing stores. You will no doubt find something along each street, and is always well worth the look.
Other great areas to shop around in are around the area Sèvres Babylone (Métro Line 10 and Line 12). It is in this area you will find afore mentioned Le Bon Marchée 7th, particularly rue de Cherche Midi 6th. The area houses some of the major fashion houses (Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Versace, etc) and also has smaller private boutiques with handmade clothing.
In the Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés, you can find a handful of vintage clothing shops, carrying anything from couture early 20th century dresses, to 70s Chanel sunglasses. Walking along Boulevard Saint-Germain, you will find major brands. However, if in search of eclectic finds, opt to walk the northern side of the Boulevard, especially along rue Saint André des Arts, where you can always find a nice café to stop in. The area south of Saint-Germain is just as nice, and comes with a price tag to match.
Paris has 3 main flea-markets, located on the outskirts of the central city. The most famous of these is the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen (Porte de Clignancourt) (Clignancourt Flea Market) , Métro: Porte de Clignancourt, in the 18th, a haven for lovers of antiques, second-hand goods and retro fashion. The best days to go are Saturday and Sunday. Note that there are particular times of the week when only antique collectors are allowed into the stalls, and there are also times of the day when the stall owners take their Parisian Siesta, and enjoy a leisurely cappuccino for an hour or so. The best times to visit the Flea Markets are in the spring and summertime, when the area is more vibrant. In and around the metro station, you may find the area a little wild, still safe.
Rue de Rome, situated near Gare St. Lazare, is crowded with luthiers, brass and woodwind makers, piano sellers, and sheet music stores. Subway station Europe.
For art lovers, be sure to check out Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is renowned for its galleries, and it is impossible to turn a street without finding a gallery to cast your glance in. On Fridays, most open until late. Most even have the benefit of bottles of wine so you can wander in with your glass of wine and feel very artistique. Great roads to walk along are rue de Seine, rue Jacob, rue des Beaux Arts, Rue Bonaparte, and Rue Mazarine. Also, be sure to visit the historical district of Montparnasse' and quartier Vavin where painters like Modigliani, Gauguin and Zadkine used to work.
Paris is one of Europe's culinary centres. The restaurant trade began here just over 220 years ago and continues to thrive. It may however come as a surprise that Paris isn't considered the culinary capital of France, rather some people prefer the French cooking found in small rural restaurants, outside of the city, closer to the farms and with their focus on freshness and regional specialities. Even amongst French cities, Paris has long been considered by some people as second to Lyon for fine dining.
There have been other challenges in the last 20 years or so as restaurateurs in places like San Francisco and Sydney briefly surpassed their Parisian fore bearers, again with an emphasis on freshness of ingredients but also borrowings from other cuisines. Parisian cooks didn't just rest on their laurels during this time, rather they travelled, taught, and studied, and together with Paris's own immigrant communities, have revitalized the restaurant trade. Today you can find hundreds of beautiful restaurants with thoughtful (or just trendy) interior design and well-planned and executed cartes and menus offering a creative mélange of French and exotic foreign cuisines. It's safe to say that Paris is once again catching up with or edging ahead of its Anglophone rivals.
Of course there are also some traditional offerings, and for the budget conscious there are hundreds of traditional bistros, with their sidewalk terraces offering a choice of fairly simple (usually meat centred) meals for reasonable prices.
For the uninitiated, it is unfortunately possible to have a uniformly poor dining experience during a stay in Paris, mainly because many attractions are situated in upscale areas of town, and that mass tourism attracts price gougers. It is frequent to hear of people complaining of very high Parisian prices for poor food and poor service, because they always tried to eat close to major tourist magnets. Try to go eat where the locals eat for good food and great service.
Many restaurants are tiny and have tables close together - square metres are at a premium and understandably restaurateurs need to make the most of limited space. In some cases when the restaurant is crowded, you may have to sit beside strangers at the same table. If that does not appeal to you, go to a more upscale place where you will pay for the extra space.
Trendy restaurants often require reservations weeks, if not months in advance. If you haven't planned far enough ahead, try to get a reservation for lunch which is generally easier and less expensive.
For an easy-to-manage eating budget while in Paris, consider: breakfast or "petit dejeuner" at a restaurant, possibly in your hotel, consisting of some croissants, coffee, and maybe a piece of fruit. Get a 'walking lunch' from one of Paris' many food stands--a panino in the centre of the city, a crepe from a crepe stand, a felafel pita or take-out Chinese in the Marais. Traiteurs serving Chinese food are ubiquitous in the city and good for a cheap lunch and many patisseries sell inexpensive coffee and sandwiches. All these are cheap (about the same as breakfast), easy, and allow you to maximize your sightseeing and walking time while enjoying delicious local or ethnic food. For dinner, stroll the streets at dusk and consider a €20-40 prix-fixe menu. This will get you 3 or 4 courses, possibly with wine, and an unhurried, candlelit, magical European evening. If you alternate days like this with low-budget, self-guided eating (picnicking, snacking, street food) you will be satisfied without breaking the bank.
If one of the aims of your trip to Paris is to indulge in its fine dining, though, the most cost-effective way to do this is to make the main meal of your day lunch. Virtually all restaurants offer a good prix-fixe deal. By complementing this with a bakery breakfast and a light self-catered dinner, you will be able to experience the best of Parisian food and still stick to a budget.
Budget travellers will be very pleased with the range and quality of products on offer at the open air markets (e.g. the biggest one on Boul Richard Lenoir (near the Bastille), Rue Mouffetard, Place Buci, Place de la Madeleine and over the Canal Saint-Martin in the 11th or in any other arrondissement). If your accommodation has cooking facilities you're set, especially for wine and cheese, a decent bottle of French wine will set you back all of about €3-5, while the very good stuff starts at around €7. Bottles for less than €3 are not recommended. Keep in mind that the small épiceries which open until late are more expensive than the supermarchés (Casino, Monoprix, Franprix, etc). For wine, the price difference can be up to €2.
Buy a baguette, some cheese and a good bottle of wine and join the Parisian youth for a pique-nique along the Seine (especially on the Île Saint-Louis) or along the Canal Saint-Martin. The finest food stores are Lafayette Gourmet in the Galeries Lafayette or La Grande Epicerie in the luxury department store Le Bon Marché. They are worth discovering. You will find a large variety of wines there, otherwise try wine stores such as Nicolas or Le Relais de Bacchus (all over the city).
For seafood lovers, Paris is a great place to try moules frites (steamed mussels and French fries) (better in fall and winter), oysters, sea snails, and other delicacies. Meat specialties include venison (deer), boar, and other game (especially in the fall and winter hunting season), as well as French favourites such as lamb, veal, beef, and pork.
Eating out in Paris can be expensive. However don't believe people when they say you can't do Paris on the cheap - you can! The key is to stay away from the beaten tracks and the obviously expensive Champs Elysees. Around the lesser visited quarters especially, there are many cheap and yummy restaurants to be found. The key is to order from the Prix-Fixe menu, and not off the A la Carte menu unless you want to pay an arm and a leg. In many places a three course meal can be found for about €15. This way you can sample the food cheaply and is usually more "French". Ask for "une carafe d'eau" (oon karaaf doe) to get free tap water.
The best and cheapest way to get around Paris is on foot, and secondly, using the Metro which is around one euro fifty cents for a one way trip of any length.
In the artsy quarters of 1 and 4, there are many bargains to be had once again, if you are prepared to look. Souvenirs are easily found and can be really inexpensive as long as you don't buy from the tourist sites. For cheap books of French connection, try the University/Latin quarter as they sell books in all languages starting from half a euro each.
Paris has the largest number of Kosher restaurants in any European city. Walk up and down Rue des Rosiers to see the variety and choices available from Israeli, Sushi, Italian and others. See the district guides for examples.
For vegetarians, eating traditional French food will require some improvisation, as it is heavily meat-based. That being said, Paris has several excellent vegetarian restaurants. Look for spots such as Aquarius in the 14th, and Le Grenier de Notre-Dame in the 5th, or La Victoire Suprême du Coeur in the 1st just to name a few. See the arrondissement pages for more listings. For fast food and snacks, you can always find a vegetarian sandwich or pizza. Even a kebab shop can make you something with just cheese and salad, or perhaps falafel.
There are also lots of Italian, Thai, Indian, and Mezo-American places where you will have little problem. In Rue des Rosiers (4th arrondissement) you can get delicious falafel in the many Jewish restaurants. Another place to look for falafel is on Rue Oberkampf (11th arrondissement). Take away falafel usually goes for 5€ or less.
Moroccan and Algerian cooking is common in Paris - vegetarian couscous is lovely. Another good option for vegetarians - are traiteurs, particularly around Ledru Rollin (down the road from Bastille) take away food where you can combine a range of different options such as pomme dauphinoise, dolmas, salads, vegetables, nice breads and cheeses and so on.
Lebanese restaurants and snack shops abound as well, offering a number of vegetarian mezze, or small plates. The stand-bys of course are hummas, falafel, and baba-ganouche (caviar d'aubergine). A good place to look for Lebanese is in the pedestrian zone around Les Halles and Beaubourg in the 1st and 4th.
Tourists and locals
When you are looking for a restaurant in Paris, be a little careful of those where the staff readily speak English. These restaurants are usually - but not always - geared towards tourists. It does make a difference in the staff's service and behaviour whether they expect you to return or not.
Sometimes the advertised fixed price tourist menus (€10-15) are a good deal. If you're interested in the really good and more authentic stuff (and if you have learned some words of French) try one of the small bistro where the French go during lunch time.
The bars scene in Paris really does have something for everyone. From bars which serve drinks in babies bottle, to ultra luxe clubs that require some name dropping, or card (black Amex) showing, and clubs where you can dance like no one's watching, (although they will be). To start your night out right, grab a drink or two in a ubiquitous dive bar, before burning up the dance floor and spreading some cash, at one of the trendy clubs.
For individual bar listings see the various Arrondissement pages under Get around.
Of course there are lots of interesting places which are sort of off on their own outside of these clusters, including a few like the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz which are not to be missed in a serious roundup of Parisian drinking, so check out the listings even in those arrondissements we haven't mentioned above.
Some nightclubs in Paris that are worth it: Folies Pigalle (pl. Pigalle, 18th, very trash, famous for its after, €20), Rex Club (near one of the oldest cinemas on earth, the Grand Rex, house/electro, about €15 cheap). You might also want to try Cabaret (Palais Royal), Maison Blanche, le Baron (M Alma-Marceau). Remember when going out to dress to impress, you are in Paris! Torn clothing and sneakers are not accepted. The better you look the most likely you will get past the random decisions of club bouncers. Also important to remember if male (or in a group of guys) that it will be more difficult to enter clubs, try to always have an equal male/female ratio.
Paris hotels, almost without regard to category or price, observe high and low seasons. These differ slightly from one hotel to another, but usually the high season roughly corresponds to late spring and summer, and possibly a couple of weeks around the Christmas season.
Be aware that when a hotel is listed in any guide or website this will eventually make it a bit harder to get a room at that hotel. That means that you will probably need to book ahead, especially in the high season. However, if they don't have a room they sometimes know another place close by that does have a room available.
When two people are travelling together it can be a much better deal to find a hotel room than to get 2 hostel beds. More privacy for less money.
For individual hotel listings see the various Arrondissement pages.
For those who are staying for a while renting a furnished apartment might be a more comfortable and money-saving option. Furnished apartments differ considerably in quality, so it is important to choose carefully. There are a huge number of websites in the business of helping you find one, but most charge a steep commission of 10% or more. It is also possible to rent apartments for shorter stays, and this is an alternative well worth considering.
Crime in Paris is similar to most large cities, but violent crime is uncommon, especially in the heart of the city where most tourist spots are located (and where there is a high police presence). As elsewhere, common sense applies and you should check your surroundings before flashing out expensive cameras and so on.
Pickpockets are active on the rail link (RER) from Charles de Gaulle airport to downtown Paris and on the number one metro (subway) line that cuts across the city center east to west servicing many of the major tourist sites. A common scheme is for one thief to distract the tourist with questions or disturbance while an accomplice picks pockets, a backpack or purse. Thieves often time their crime to coincide with the closing of the automatic doors on the metro, leaving the victim secured on the departing train. Many thefts also occur at the major department stores (Galeries Lafayette, Printemps) where tourists leave wallets, passports and credit cards on cashier counters during transactions.
Popular tourist sites are also popular hunting grounds for thieves who favour congested areas to mask their activities. The crowded elevators at the Eiffel Tower, escalators at museums and the area around the Sacre Cœur church in Montmartre are all favoured by pickpockets and snatch-and-run thieves.
The area around the famous Moulin Rouge is known as Pigalle, an adult entertainment area known for prostitutes, sex shows and drugs (on an unrelated note, it also has a concentration of guitar shops). Unsuspecting tourists visiting seedy bars often run up exorbitant bar bills and are forced to pay before being permitted to leave. If you do visit an adult show absolutely do not order any drinks for yourself, or any of the workers, without seeing the prices first. You could pay upwards of €600 for 2 drinks!
The Marché aux Puces (Les Puces) flea market is virtually designed to make pickpocketing easy and gangs can be witnessed spotting victims. Walkways are often crowded, narrow, dark, with no way out except to wait for the extraordinarily-slow walkers to move.
There are some areas, like Barbès (18th), where it's better not to hang around alone at night. In these areas, a lot depends on the way you behave and if you know how to adapt to the situation. If you know what you are looking for, speak some French and feel comfortable, there is no problem strolling around a neighborhood like Barbès.
You may have heard sensational news reports about riots in downtrodden, poor crime-ridden suburbs of Paris (banlieues) where many inhabitants are of foreign origin (North Africa). In reality, many of these suburbs, though poor, are safe in normal times. The subject is very touchy, since it has racist overtones; you should certainly avoid discussing it. In any case, as a tourist there probably isn't much reason to visit the suburbs except for perhaps the Basilique de St Denis. Other attractions located in the suburbs (Fontainebleau castle, Versailles castle, Malmaison...) are in well-heeled areas with very little crime.
The metro is relatively safe, but again, pickpockets and purse snatchers do work in the stations and on the trains especially near tourist destinations. If you are carrying a bag make sure that it's closed tightly. If you have a wallet in your pocket keep a hand on it while entering or exiting the trains. Don't carry any more cash than you can afford to lose. Keep your cash on different parts of your body: some in your money belt, some in your purse/wallet, some in your shoe. Keep the contents of your purse/wallet to the bare essentials: money, one debit/credit card, I.D., emergency contact information, medical I.D. When you have to access your money belt, do so in private.
Recent news reports have highlighted new tactics by thieves, targeting taxis on their way into the city from Charles de Gaulle airport. Thieves wait for the taxi to be stopped in the usual traffic jam along the A1 highway and break windows to get to the passengers' bags. To avoid this, you may place your bags in the trunk of the taxi or take the very safe Air France shuttle.
You should also beware of illegal taxis. At least one young foreign tourist has been murdered after getting into a car that was not - as she'd believed - an official Parisian taxi.
Beware also of distraught-looking women and children asking if you can speak English (they are easy to spot because they often have long dark hair, long skirts, and they wander around, going from person to person). You'll be presented with a card or letter with a story explaining something like "My mother is in hospital in another country terminally ill. I'm stuck in Paris with no money and I need to visit her." You´ll encounter them at the major train and Métro stations (they are especially prevalent in and around Gare du Nord and Châtelet-Les Halles) and also at most major tourist attractions. Even on the Champs-Élysées. They are also prevalent around the Arc de Triomphe near the Embassy of Qatar. At certain tourist hotspots (such as the Sacre Coeur) there are African men who will try to show you a 'magic trick'. This involves tying a piece of string around your finger. While you are distracted (and your arm is effectively disabled), an accomplice will pickpocket you.
Some Parisian restaurants, particularly in the tourist-laden Latin Quarter, make a living ripping off tourists who are hampered by a language barrier. When ordering, particularly if ordering a "menu" or prix-fixe meal, point to the actual menu item and be sure you repeat the price. Eye contact works wonders, as does a modicum of conversational French. If the bill does not conform to what you order, complain and leave the restaurant without paying if this does not work.
Beware of touristy areas where there are gambling stands with people playing. They are more than likely to be accompliances of the person manning the booth. They usually play with 3 black rubber coins to guess the one with a white piece of paper stuck underneath. You can never win at that as they switch hands and do not let you open it yourself. If you ever get cheated there, shout at them loudly and refuse to let them go as they usually operate in crowded places.
Another thing to be wary of is people asking where do you come from with strings in their hand. They will make small talk with you while tying a friendship band around your finger. After that they will demand money from you. Sometimes, along the Seine-River, fraudsters "find" a ring which they give to you. This happens especially to young couples and they always hand the ring to the man. This gesture is thought to gain some trustfulness because they act as if they think the ring was yours. They don't want you to give the ring back. A few moments later they ask you for money to buy something to eat: but it is already too late. It is really hard to get rid of those people then.
Also, be warned to not act big. Fraudsters react unpredictably, sometimes even violently. So take care that you call attention unobviously, when you want to tell people that a fraud happens.
Since 2007, it is strictly forbidden to smoke in enclosed areas (train stations, subway stations, buildings), and since 1 Jan 2008, smoking is no longer permitted in restaurants and bars, except for outside seating areas.
Paris has, in many respects, an atmosphere closer to that of New York than to that of a European city; which is to say, hurried, and businesslike. Parisians have, among the French too, a reputation for being rude and arrogant. Some of their reputation for brusqueness may stem from the fact that they are constantly surrounded by tourists, who can sometimes themselves seem rude and demanding. Remember that most people you'll encounter in the street are not from the tourism industry and are probably on their way to or from work or business.
This is not to say that Parisians are in fact, by nature, rude. On the contrary: there are a considerable number of rules defining what is rude and what is polite in Parisian interpersonal relationships; if anything, the Parisians are more polite than most (This should be no surprise, though, when one considers the fact that "étiquette" is a French word). Thus, the best way to get along in Paris is to be on your best behavior, acting like someone who is "bien élevé" (well brought up) will make getting about considerably easier. Parisians' abrupt exteriors will rapidly evaporate if you display some basic courtesies. A simple "Bonjour, Madame" when entering a shop, for example, or "Excusez-moi" when trying to get someone's attention, or very important; say "Pardon" or better "je suis désolé" if you bump into someone accidentally or make other mistakes, will transform the surliest shop assistant into a smiling helper or the grumpiest inhabitant to a helpful citizen. Courtesy is extremely important in France (where the worst insult is to call someone "mal élevé", or "badly brought up").
If you only learn one long phrase in French a good one would be "Excusez-moi de vous déranger, monsieur/madame, auriez-vous la gentillesse de m'aider?" (pardon me for bothering you, sir/madam, would you have the kindness to help me?) - this level of extreme politeness about the closest one can come to a magic wand for unlocking Parisian hospitality. If you know some French, try it!
In addition, if you are travelling to or from the airport or train station and have luggage with you, make certain that you are not blocking the aisles in the train by leaving your bags on the floor. The RER B (which links both Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports to the city) has luggage racks above the seats; it is advised that you use them so you do not block the path of a local who is getting off the train before the airport stop. On the Métro and especially in the RER, please don't take up extra seats with your luggage. There are luggage racks and spaces between the seats. Also note that use of the folding seats on the Métro is not permitted during peak hours.
Be aware that there are hefty fines for littering in Paris.
One helpful thing about having official and numbered districts in Paris is that you can easily tell which arrondissement an address is in by its postal code, and can easily come up with the postal code for a Paris address if you know its arrondissement. The rule is just pre-pend 750 or 7500 to the front of the arrondissement number, with 75001 being the postal code for the 1st and 75011 being the postal code for the 11th, and so on. The 16th has two postal codes, 75016 and 75116.
Phone cards are available from most "Tabacs" but make sure you know where you can use them when you buy them, as some places still sell the cartes cabines which are hard to use as cabines are rare.
The city of Paris provides with free Internet access via 400 Wi-Fi access points throughout the city. Look for the network called 'Orange' on your laptop or PDA device. 
Although known as the fashion capital, Paris is actually quite conservative in dress. So if you go out in bright colors expect to be stared at. Dressing this way in certain arrondissements, such as 9th and 18th, you may attract unwanted attention. Also be aware that French (and, more generally, European) women and girls do not usually wear shorts shorter than above the knee outside of sporting events. It is not considered indecent but may stand out from the locals.