Difference between revisions of "Paris"
Revision as of 07:20, 8 February 2013
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 luxurious fashion designers and cosmetics, such as Chanel No.5, 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 Michelin-restaurants in the world (after Tokyo) and contains numerous iconic landmarks, such as the world's most visited tourist site 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.
The city of Paris itself is officially divided into 20 districts called arrondissements, numbered from 1 to 20 in a clockwise spiral from the centre of the city (which is 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 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 €3-5 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. The various tourist information centres and hotels in Paris also provide various city and metro maps for free and which have all the necessary details for a tourist.
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-sur-Seine, Boulogne-Billancourt, 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, ensuring 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.
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.
With the weather being so pleasant in the summer, it's a great time to visit.
Paris is served by three international airports - for more information, including arrival/departure times, check the official sites.
Charles de Gaulle International Airport (Roissy)
 ICAO: LFPG, IATA: CDG. 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). The newest exception is terminal 2G which is a separate 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. If you're travelling from Terminal 1 it's also worth noting that the food court is located at the CDGVAL floor, before the security check. There are hardly any benches around. 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 travellers. 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 travellers 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. The RER B has the airlines serviced by each terminal on a not so obvious chart posted by the door of the train.
There are quite a few points with power outlets specifically for charging passengers' laptops/mobiles, both down by the food court and by some of the gates.
VAT Tax refund: First, have your tax refund papers stamped at the tax refund counter in the main terminal area, before you check in with your airline. Showing goods is signposted as mandatory, usually only required for high priced, marquee items.
To locate the tax refund counter in the terminal, look for the signs or ask any airline employee for directions. Don't be confused by a single queue splitting between currency exchange and tax refund office: choose tax refund if you prefer Euros--while currency exchange refunds only in USD or your national currency, both buy at a robbery rate (and with no rollback to the refund window after you realized the rate).
The line can take a long time, expect several minutes per customer. At either office, you can also receive refund for your spouse if you have their passport and refund forms.
Duty-free shopping: There are no shops before security check zone. When you shop in post-security check zone, it's not genuinely taxfree, as you can receive a tax refund for those purchases as well.
Contrary to what one may expect, there is no L'Occitane; cheese is limited to soft sorts (and there are no ripe varietes); wines starts at €11 and some popular sorts like Chinin can't be found; selection of sausages is extremely limited.
There are no mid-range clothes or shoes stores, only luxury brands.
Get in / out
For getting to or from Paris, the RER commuter train, line B, has stations in T3 (from where you can take the free CDGVAL shuttle train to T1) and T2. Trains to Paris leave every 7-8 minutes and stop at Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les Halles, Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, Luxembourg, Port-Royal, Denfert-Rochereau and Cité Universitaire. Adult tickets cost €9.25, and for children between 4-10 the fare is €5.95 each; unusually, day tickets are normally not valid for travel to and from the airport. The train takes around 35 minutes to Gare du Nord and 45 minutes to Denfert-Rochereau, making this the fastest way to get to the city. Tickets can be purchased either through green (sometimes blue) automated ticket vending machines ("Billetterie Ile-de-France") or through the ticket office serviced by transport authority personnel. Engineering works near CDG Terminal-1 and Aulnay-Sois-Bois stations are conducted between 2300hrs and 0100hrs everyday, so you must take a coach (bus) from Terminal 3 to the station where you can take the RER B train to Paris. The fare is included in the train ticket you purchase.
The automated ticket machines accept Euro coins of €2, €1 and 50, 20, 10, 5 cent denominations and give change...Euro notes not accepted. Credit card payment is ok on this machines though. There is one separate automated machine which changes €20, €10 and €5 notes to €2 and €1 coins. However, due to the high demand, the machine frequently runs out of coins. There are currency exchange centres, but they explicitly state notes will not be changed for coins. Alternatively, except for some non-European credit cards, many smart-chip credit cards can be used on the ticket machines . Because of these limitations, purchasing tickets from the ticket office may seem to be an attractive method. Although there are many counters, the queues can be very long. On Sunday at "lesser" stations, don't count on its ticket office being open. Although it is a nuisance, the fastest way to get some tickets is to take a lot of Euro coins with you. It is also possible to explain the situation to a European buying a ticket with a working credit card, and ask them to buy one for you in exchange for a paper note.
Trains for Paris usually leave from platforms 11 and 12. Look for 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 (€10) 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. You could take bus number 350and 351 to the city and it requires three tickets t+ per person (about €5.10, or €5.70 if the tickets are purchased on the bus), making this the cheapest option to go to and from Paris. The tickets can be purchased at newsstands, at ticket machines, or, for a higher price, inside the bus from the driver and they need to be validated with a device lying next to the driver's seat.
Air France buses  offer 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 , private transfers cost €79 . Mercedes E transfer costs €129 and are 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.
BE CAREFUL when using buses to get to CDG. There are frequent traffic jams on the motorways leading to the airport - the Air France bus normally may need 50 minutes to get to CDG, but it may take 1½ hours as well... your best bet for arriving on time with the buses is to take them very early in the morning or during times otherwise when there isn't much traffic.
Post office only exists in B and D terminals. However, you can send postcards buying post stamps in a newspaper stand, and dropping them into a postbox (both exist in every terminal).
Orly International Airport
 (ICAO: LFPO, IATA: ORY. 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 domestic departures, and international departures by European carriers. Orly is roughly 40 min from Paris via the OrlyBus, which departs from Métro Denfert-Rochereau (ligne 6); the price is €7. There are buses every 10 minutes from the Orly Sud (Platform 4) and it stops at Orly Ouest on its way to the city. Tickets can be bought at a counter near the baggage claim area or directly at the counter in Platform 4. The tickets need to be validated once on the bus. 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 €1.90 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 €10.75 for transfer to Paris, including connections to central area metro stations. The RER B from Antony runs through Paris to Aéroport Charles de Gaulle.
Beauvais (Aéroport de Beauvais Tillé)
 ICAO: LFOB, IATA: BVA. This airport, a distance north of the city, is a smaller regional airport that is used by some low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and WizzAir. Like many small airports there is a cartel in operation in the form of the airport operated shuttle service connecting with the Métro at Porte Maillot station. Buses run even during the small 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 €15 each way, there is no reduced price for children over the age of 2 years. Unless you hire a car this is the most realistic way to head toward Paris, hence why the airport charge the price they do.
In addition to public transport, Air France operates shuttles between Charles de Gaulle and Paris (€17), Orly and Paris (€12) and between the two airports (€20). Discounts apply for young/group travellers and online booking. Note that if you have connecting Air France flights that land and depart from different airports, you would still generally need to collect 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 desks usually close 30 min before the flight departs, longer if flights are international carriers.
If you want to take RER B and catch an early flight, make sure you bring enough change, because you can only buy tickets at the coins-only machines before the counter opens.
If you arrive to CDG Airport at night you'll need a Noctilien bus to get to the city centre. 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 and 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 . TGV Lyria  is a joint service offered by the French and Swiss railways (SBB-CFF-FFS - Swiss Federal Railways) for TGV Lyria trains running between Paris and Switzerland . 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:
Transfer between Train Stations
From Gare du Nord
From Gare de l'Est
From Gare de Lyon
From Gare Montparnasse
From Gare de Bercy
For all train stations, either take the free shuttle to Gare de Lyon or Metro line 14 to the same and follow the directions given from Gare de Lyon.
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 centre. 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.
The best and cheapest way to get around Paris is on foot, and secondly, using the Metro which is around one euro seventy cents for a one way trip of any length.
In a word: don't. It is generally a very bad idea to rent a car to visit Paris. Traffic is very dense during the day, and parking is, on average, exceedingly 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, and many people who move to the city find themselves selling their cars within a month or two.
That said, 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, Boulevard Ney, and so forth), 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).
By Scooter or motorbike
Paris is an incredibly open city, with it's many 'grande boulevards' and monuments with large open spaces around it makes for a city perfect to be explored and viewed from on a scooter. A lot of people think it is a dangerous city to drive a scooter or motorbike, and when you're sitting in a corner cafe watching it may look that way, but in reality it is actually quite a safe city because the drivers are very conscious of one another, a trait that drivers certainly do not have in most other countries of the world! There are so many scooters in Paris, and there has been scooters in Europe forever really, so when people learn to drive here they learn to drive amongst the scooters. The French do drive quite fast, but they respect one another and it is rare that a driver will suddenly changes lanes or swing to the other side of the road without signaling. When you're driving a scooter or motorbike in Paris you can expect to be able to 'lane-split' between the rows of cars waiting in traffic and go straight to the front of the lights. Parking wise there is plenty of 'Deux Roues' (two wheel) parking all over the city. Do be careful of parking on the sidewalk though especially on shopping streets or around the monument.
A few well-known Vespa Tour company propose scooter rentals and tours of Paris. It can be a good way to get a vision of the city in a day. Great things to do if you just stay a few days in Paris.
Walking in Paris is one of the great pleasures of visiting the City of Light. It is possible to cross the entire city in only a few hours, but only if you can somehow keep yourself from stopping at numerous cafés and shops. In fact within a few years walking combined with biking and the Metro will be the only way to get around the very centre of Paris: The Mayor's office has announced plans to declare the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th arrondissements almost totally car-free by 2012.
You may have heard of the hazard of walking into dog droppings in Paris. Despite fines as high as €180 and extensive street cleaning operations, the problem persists across the city, so walk with caution.
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, Metropolitan Railway). Although you will probably take the RER subway train from the airport to Paris, don't be confused: RER is a French-language acronym that translates to "Regional Express Network," and is mostly used by commuters. 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. Trains usually come 2-3 minutes apart during rush hour and 5-10 minutes apart during other times, depending on the line.
Visitors with heavy luggage or handicap should find out in-advance about the facilities at each station to be used. (Specific on-line information about elevators and escalators is hard to find. You may have ask at ticket counters at major stations, perhaps tourist information kiosks.) Getting to boarding platforms from street level, or going between platforms to change lines can be difficult even at major intersecting stations at most times, and everywhere during rush hours. It usually involves walking up and down multiple flights of busy stairs. Elevators are seldom seen, many aren't working, and in major outlying stations any escalator will likely support only exiting to the street level. If you have any lingering concern about station facilities, check bus routes and timings to find convenient bus service instead; failing that, use a taxi.
Many Metro trains 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 common only in peak hours and if you are on a metro train that terminates before the last station, the driver will make an announcement (in French). Listen carefully for signs that the train is terminating before the end of the line.
The lines are named according to the names of their terminal stations (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 five commuter train lines: RER A, B, C, D, and E. RER trains run at intervals of about 6-7 min, and stop at every RER 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 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. Travel 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, Charles de Gaulle airport is not within the city; you must purchase an RER ticket to get there (see Get in).
The Métro and RER move staggering numbers of people into, out of, and around Paris (6.75 million people per day on average), and most of the time in reasonable comfort. Certain lines, however, are operating at or near capacity, sometimes being so full that you'll have to let one or two trains pass before being able to board. If you can help it, avoid Métro lines 1, 4, and 13 and RER line A during rush hours as these are the most congested lines in the system.
In addition to RER, there are many suburban train lines (Transilien) 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 for at least Zones 1-4). The alternative is to use RER C to Versailles Rive Gauche (this station is the closest to the castle). Do not use RER C8 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 (KRIN, DIPA, TORE, etc.) are used for the RER and Transilien trains. On RER A, B and C the first letter indicates the destination of the train, the second the branch or service type, and the last two are to make the name easier to memorize; on RER D and E, the first letter is destination, the second letter is service type, the third letter is branch, and the fourth letter is direction; on Transilien lines, it's usually one name for every service type. 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 information screens along the platforms.
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 (RATP may strike without SNCF doing so or the other way round). Current fares can be found at their website. Basically, as you move farther from Paris (into higher zones), tickets get more expensive.
For the subway, a single ticket (ticket t+) costs €1.70; however, it is generally not advisable to buy tickets by the unit. Instead, purchase a "carnet" of ten tickets, which can be bought for €13.30 at any station, which will bring the price per ticket down to €1.33. Tickets named tarif réduit may be purchased for children under the age of 10 but only in a carnet of 10 for €6.65. Both tickets are valid for unlimited metro and RER or bus and tram transfers during two hours for RER and metro, and 1 hour 30 between the first and the last punch for bus and tram. RER + Métro and Bus + Tram are two separate systems, but 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 one-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 €6.60. Once bought, it is necessary to write in the spaces provided on the ticket the date the ticket is being used in European notation of day/month/year (valable le), the last name (nom), 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 €1.33 per trip) will still be a much better cost than a one-day ticket. However, 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 €3.65 and Zones 1-5 is €7.85; 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 are staying a bit longer, the weekly and monthly passes are called Navigo Découverte (1 week pass, €19.15 for zones 1-2) and the monthly Navigo Mensuel (one-month pass, €62.90 for zones 1-2). Note that an Découverte (DAY-koo-VERT) starts on Mondays and a Mensuel on the first of the month. The Navigo pass is non-transferrable and requires the user to provide information on the pass after the sale. The pass is sold for €5. You must write your last name (nom) and your first name (prénom) and stick your photo on the nominative card. After, you have to refill your pass with a recharge hébdomadaire (one-week refill), or a recharge mensuelle (one-month refill). You have to choose at least two of the contiguous "zones": Paris is the first zone, La Défense is in the third zone, and Versailles in the fourth. Everything related to a "Navigo" pass is in purple (like the target for the pass in the turnstiles).
Although not as good a deal for adults in most cases as the Mobilis or Navigo, there are also one-to-five-day tourist passes, called Paris Visite , available, which are a bargain for kids of ages 4-11, starting at €4.85 per day for travel within zones 1-3.
Keep your ticket or pass with you at all times as you may be checked. You will be cited and forced to pay on the spot if you do not have a ticket. The most likely spots for being checked are just behind the turnstiles at big Métro stations or during Métro line changes (correspondances). RATP agents may be present in the Métro stations even on Sunday nights.
Métro stations have both ticket windows and automatic vending machines. The majority of machines do not take notes, 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 that some ticket vending machines do not give change, so 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; these machines can be found at major or touristy stations such as Tuileries, Gare de Lyon or La Défense-Grande Arche.
Some larger stations have secondary entrances, where there is no ticket booth. These are labelled voyageurs avec billets (passengers with tickets).
Except for Métro 1 and 14 and some modern trains on Métro 2, the doors may not open automatically. In such a case, there are handles or buttons located both inside and outside the train that you have to push or unlatch in order to open the door.
Strikes are a regular occurrence on the Paris public transit system. Generally during a strike, there will be reduced or no service on certain lines but parts of the network will continue to operate; however, in some cases the entire network may shut down completely. Visit the RATP and SNCF websites for information on which routes are affected by a strike. Generally, Metro line 14 will be running during a strike because it is operated without human drivers - if you are caught by a strike, it is best to use it whenever possible.
There are several excellent boat services which make 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.
Paris is the best city for 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 and an excellent way to see the sights. 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 but that has changed dramatically in recent years. 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.
Cycling and Traffic
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 experience cycling in traffic and the proper mentality for dealing with it. In particular, 'Rue de Rivoli,' 'Bld. de Sébastopol/Strasbourg,' 'Bld. Saint-Germain,' 'Ave. de Flandre,' and most of the Quais that run along the river are especially bad during rush hours, but are at least somewhat busy at all times. While an increasing number of these do have cycle lanes, "sharrows," or other such accommodations, the sheer volume of traffic means that it may be a better idea to take an alternate route through the side streets. Traffic will also be particularly thick on the peripheral 'Boulevards des Maréchaux' (not the Boulevard Périphérique, which lies to the outside), and on main roads that lead to a 'Porte' at the edge of the city (e.g. 'Bld de la Chapelle' and 'Avenue de la Grande-Armée'). If you find yourself one one of these routes, stick to the bike lanes whenever possible.
There is also a great deal of congestion around the main train stations, particularly around Gare du Nord/ de l'Est in the 10th, Gare de Lyon in the 12th, and Gare Montparnasse in the 14th. Bus and taxi traffic will be particularly thick in these areas, so stay alert.
There are a few portions of the city that you probably should not cycle unless you are very confident in your abilities to ride in an urban environment. The 'Avenue des Champs-Elysés' and the 'Bld. Magenta/Bld. Barbès' axes can be especially hairy, though the latter more because of some inopportunely-placed interruptions in the bike lanes and other non-vehicular obstacles. The area around 'Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad' is well-provisioned with bike lanes, but they are somewhat haphazardly laid out and traffic is very heavy.
Also, the city has a number of large roundabouts which, while quite logical once you've got the idea of priorité à droite, are not at all good idea for the timid or inexperienced. 'Place de l'Etoile' is the most well-known of these, but also be wary around 'Place de la Nation,' 'Place de la Bastille,' and 'Place d'Italie.' If possible, look for an alternate route - in particular, Place de l'Etoile and Place de la Nation have ring roads running around the outside which make for a good bypass route.
Finally, there are a few roads in Paris which are entirely forbidden to cyclists, in particular the 'Voie Georges Pompidou' (the high-speed express lanes running along the Seine), the tunnels underneath Les Halles, the Boulevard Périphérique beltway, and certain other tunnels and bypasses. These will all be marked with a sign showing a bicycle on a white background, surrounded by a red circle.
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:
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 Navigo 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 travellers 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 four routes ranging in time from 1-2 h. 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 one-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. The two largest are Taxis G7 and Taxis Bleus:
Taxis net Paris, ☎ +33 (0)6 24 14 15 69, .
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 journies 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 himself wants a cigarette in which case the rule might become flexible.
Many drivers prefer that you avoid using your mobile phone during the johrney; 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 or more because there is often heavy traffic. If there isn't traffic it will be less expensive, but that is rare. The RER B or 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.
Taxis. Parisien taxis tend to be standard cars (sedans or minivans) so almost all strollers will need to be folded and placed in trunk. Be aware that taxi drivers are proud of their cars and keep them very clean and are not big fans of messy kids.
First and foremost, French (le français) is of course the country's official language. Any native French person will speak French and it helps if you can speak a bit of it. 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 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 someone reading a book or magazine in English, who is obviously not in a hurry; say "hello" or "bonjour" (bon-zhor); start by asking if the person speaks English, "Parlez-vous anglais?" (Par-LAY voo on-glay?) even if the person can read 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 someone in the métro (such as a middle-aged hurried person who has a train to catch), fail to greet them and simply say "where is place X or street Y".
If you speak French, remember two magic phrases : "Excusez-moi de vous déranger" [ex-kuh-zay mwuh duh voo day-rawn-ZHAY] ("Sorry to bother you") and "Pourriez-vous m'aider?" [por-EE-AY voo may-DAY] ("Could you help me?") especially in shops; politeness will work wonders.
One of the best value and most convenient ways to see the sights of Paris is with the Paris Museum Pass , a pre-paid entry card that allows entry into over 70 museums and monuments around Paris (and the Palace of Versailles) and comes in 2-day (€39), 4-day (€54) and 6-day (€69) denominations (prices as of Apr 2012). Note these are 'consecutive' days. The card allows you to jump lengthy queues, a big plus during tourist season when line can be extensive, 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. To avoid waiting in the first long queue to purchase the Museum Pass, stop to purchase your pass a day or more in advance after mid-day.  The pass does not become active until your first museum or site visit when you write your start date. After that, the days covered are consecutive.  Do not write your start date until you are certain you will use the pass that day and be careful to use the date style as indicated on the card: day/month/year.
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.
Planning your visits: Several sites have "choke points" that restrict the number of visitors that can flow through. These include: The Eiffel Tower, Sainte-Chapelle,The Catacombs and the steps to climb to the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral. To avoid queues, you should start your day by arriving at one of these sites at least 30 minutes before opening time. Otherwise, expect a wait of at least an hour. Most museums and galleries are closed on either Monday or Tuesday. Examples: The Louvre museum is closed on Tuesdays while The Orsay museum is closed on Mondays. Be sure to check museum closing dates to avoid disappointment. Also, most ticket counters close 30-45 min before final closing.
All national museums are open free of charge on the first Sunday of the month. However, that this may mean long queues and crowded exhibits. Keep away from Paris during Easter week due to crowding. People have to queue up at the Eiffel Tower for several hours even early in the morning. However, this wait can be greatly reduced, if fit, by walking the first two levels, then buying an elevator ticket to the top. 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 current cultural events 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
All national museums et monuments are free for all every first Sunday of the month.
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 autumn, 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 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 26th 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 10:00 and broadcast on television to most of the rest of Europe. The entire street will be crowded with spectators so arrive early. The Bastille Day Fireworks is an exceptional treat for travellers lucky enough to be in the city 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 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 has a route that 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.
For information on theatre, movies and exhibitions pick up the 'Pariscope' and 'L'officiel du Spectacle' which is 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 are not any userfriendly online version of these guides.
Boop Doobs in Paris is considered by many as the birthplace of photography, and while one may debate the correctness of this claim, there is no debate that Paris is today a photographer's dream. The French capital offers a spectacular array of photographic opportunities to the beginner and the pro alike. It has photogenic monuments (e.g., Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, the obelisk at Concorde, and countless others); architecture (the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Museum of the Arab World, to name just a few) and urban street scenes (e.g., in the Marais, Montmartre and Belleville). When you tire of taking your own photos, visit one of the many institutions dedicated to photography (e.g., European Museum of Photography, the Jeu de Paume Museum or the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation). At these and other institutions, you can learn the about the rich history of Paris as the place of important developments in photography (e.g., the Daguerrotype) and as the home of many of the trade's great artists (e.g., Robert Doisneau, André Kertész, Eugene Atget and Henri Cartier Bresson).
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.
Meet and greet locals
For those who want to meet actual Parisians in addition to exploring major landmarks, in 2010 a group of locals started a new service, "See Paris with a Parisian". You join 90-minute walking tours. The guides show you city landmarks (and the stories and anecdotes that go with them), but they also engage their visitors on life in Paris. You chat with a Parisian, you "decode" the city, and you learn from an insider about local events and festivals, about where to shop, good places to eat or drink, secret places locals keep to themselves etc.
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.
How better to get to know a culture than to learn the ins and outs of its native cuisine. After sampling your fair share of Macarons and Magret de Canard around Paris, you might enjoy taking an afternoon to learn how to make these delicacies yourself and take the recipes home with you. While there are many cooking schools around Paris, only a few offer classes in English.
Work in Paris, especially for non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens, entails a very long and arduous process. Unless you possess one of a number of in-demand skills, it will almost certainly be necessary to obtain a job offer from a French employer before arriving. Your employer, for their part, will have to have the offer approved by the relevant governmental authorities, as well. 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 identity 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. Note however that a Carte de séjour is often necessary to open a bank account and the like, and by extension for accomplishing any number of other tasks involved in modern life, so unless you're very comfortable transacting everything in cash you should probably bite the bullet and keep things on the up-and-up.
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, boutique, "Parisian" style clothing stores. You will no doubt find something along each street, and it 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 the Le Bon Marché 7th, particularly rue de Cherche Midi 6th. The area boasts 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.
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 fairly 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 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. The area south of the metro station Pigalle is also packed with music shops (more oriented towards guitars and drums).
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.
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. For good food and great service, try to go eat where the locals eat .
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 déjeuner" 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 pâtisseries 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 fairly 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 Elysées. 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.
Lots of Halat restaurants scattered all over Paris, from Pakistan cuisine to Indian naan bread, Moroccon, Indonesian, Lebanese, Turkish baklawa to even fried chicken all can be found in many Halal restaurants. Champs Elysées has some restaurants towards the arc, rest are scattered all over the city. A simple google search would be quite handy.
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. The famous South Indian chain Saravana Bhavan have their branch near Gare Du Nord. 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 wary of those where the staff speak English a bit too readily. 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 bistros where the French go during lunch time.
The bars scene in Paris really does have something for everyone. From bars which serve drinks in baby bottles, 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 trashy, €20), Rex Club (near one of the oldest cinemas on earth, the Grand Rex, house/electro, about €15). 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 more 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.
Be aware that some agencies, which seem very flexible, actually do not abide by the French law and do not carefully select the landlords and apartments they offer for rent. There are a certain number of guarantees, which are required in France before renting an apartment, and an insurance policy, which aims at protecting the tenants during their stay.
In general, safety in Paris depends on the specific location. Some parts of the city (especially the very centre of Paris) are very safe and others are among the most dangerous in Europe. The most prevalent crime by far is petty theft. Pickpockets and scams, of which there are many, are the most common crime and can take place in all parts of the city. Purse snatching and muggings are not uncommon. Violent crime is rare in the city centre, but quite common in certain suburbs (especially in the north of the city).
The police can be reached by phone by dialing 17. Not all police officers speak English, but those found around touristy areas almost always will. they are usually friendly and perfectly approachable should you have to.
Pickpockets are active on the rail link (RER B) from Charles de Gaulle airport to downtown Paris, which passes through the poor suburbs of Seine-Saint Denis. Try to take the trains which are nonstop between the airport and Paris proper (Gare du Nord) - EKLI/EKIL from Paris to CDG and KRIN/KROL from CDG to Paris. These are faster and are less crowded than the alternative. There have also been problems with thieves physically fighting people in order to steal their belongings. The most common targets are those with suitcases and backpacks, i.e. tourists. Thieves usually coin their acts with the closing of the doors. Newer trains have cameras everywhere, and thieves are much less likely to use them. Otherwise, stow luggage on the racks above the seat and hold on to your bags so no one can grab them and then run out. You are much less likely of being a victim if the train is crowded with locals headed to work, usually at rush hour. The train conductors are widely aware of these crimes and will usually wait a few seconds to leave the station after the doors have closed, just in case thieves have quickly jumped off with belongings. There are also emergency cords that one can pull if willing to chase after the attackers. People will usually be helpful and gladly call the police if you do not have a cell phone.
Pickpockets are most likely to be found working at crowded tourists hotspots, so keep your wallet and phone in your front pockets and hold your backpack tightly when in a crowd. The metro is also a popular place for pickpockets. Hold things tightly and be aware of your surroundings. While trains are usually crowded, if someone is insisting and hovers over you, they are probably going through your pockets. If there is a group of three or more suspicious looking people, especially if they are young, be careful of your belongings. Common tactics are two of them blocking you as you try to board the subway, with two behind you quickly going through your bag. Seconds before the doors close, the two jump off, leaving you on the metro without even realizing what has happened. Take note of what locals do. If someone warns you to be careful, there are probably some suspicious types hoping to steal from you. Also be aware that phone-snatching is the most reported crime, and avoid using your cellphone on metro platforms and in the metro itself.
At Sacré Coeur, there are many African men who will try to tie strings on your finger. Not only will they demand an obscene fee for the cheap trinkets, usually over 15 euros, they will also try to pickpocket you or threaten you with force if you do not give them money. They are usually only at the base of the monument and can be avoided by taking the Funicular of Montmartre. Otherwise, you can quickly walk past them and ignore them, though they will willingly grab peoples arms. Yelling at them may cause unwanted attention and cause them to back off, but be careful. Sacré Coeur appears to be the only area where they congregate. Besides them, you will notice many illegal Africans walking around with cheap trinkets at touristic areas, especially the Trocadero, Eiffel Tower, and Louvre Museum. They are generally not rude but bear in mind that buying things from them is illegal and hurts small businesses. This of course causes them to bolt at the sight of the police, and you may end up in the middle of a stampede!
Be extremely careful around Barbes Rochechouart and the bars near Moulin Rouge. A very common trick is played here which might cost you up to 500 euros. The agents standing outside will force you to enter a bar and just have a look for 5 minutes. The moment you order a drink (about 5 euros), a girl will approach you and start talking generally, and leave in 10-15 minutes. After a harmless conversation with the girls when you request for a bill, you will encounter a charge of say 200-500 euros as 'service fees' for the services rendered by the girl! In case you resist to pay, the bouncers will start intimidating you try to extract money from your wallet. In such cases, threaten them that you are calling the cops (flics) and informing the local embassy. Try to buy some time and start creating a ruckus. However, do not try to start a fight with the bouncers.
One scam involves a "helpful" local - or someone wearing an authentic looking Metro staff ID badge - buying a ticket for you. Normally, tourists buy 1-day, 3-day or longer Paris Visite passes. They would tell you that your single trip ticket has expired and bring you to the ticketing machine to purchase day passes. Then they would select the 3 day pass for adults (even though you may be a student) and deliberately show you the price on the screen. Everything else is in French so you would not understand a thing. They would proceed to purchase with a credit card and while entering the PIN code, get you to turn your back on them. They then sneakily change the ticket to a single trip ticket and ask for payment for a 3-day ticket from you. Unsuspecting tourists would pay the full sum thinking it is a 1-day or 3-day pass when it is only a useless ticket. Buy the tickets yourself to avoid situations like these, as machines are available in English and other languages. If you feel threatened, call the police and don't physically handle the ticket if they forcibly purchase without your agreement.
Another common scam is found along the banks of the Seine river and involves a ring. This involves thieves "finding" a ring which they give to you. They then ask you if you own it. When you say no, they insist you keep it, saying it goes against their religion or they cannot wear rings. A few moments later, they ask you for money to buy something to eat, eventually following you and becoming more annoying. You can either yell at them or steer them towards an area where there are likely to be police present, at which point they will quickly run away, leaving you with a little souvenir!
The most common scam (besides pickpocketing) that has taken over Paris by storm since June 2011 involves women coming up to tourists with pledge sheets. They pretend to be deaf people collecting money for one charity or another. Once you are distracted with the petition, an accomplice pickpockets you and takes your belongings. In addition, once you sign, they point to a thing that reads "minimum ten euro donation." While they may at first insist on this, shaking your head and walking away will usually make them pester someone else. Otherwise, Simply waving them off and a loud no should make them give up. If they are in a large group, as is common, BE CAREFUL OF YOUR BELONGINGS!!! This is a ploy to pickpocket you as you are surrounded by them. At this point, yelling for the police will make them disperse quickly. This is most commonly found around major tourists sites, but has also been a problem at Gare du Nord, though this has gotten much better.
NEVER bet money on a 3 card game as you will always lose. This trick is played by con artists on some of the bridges on River Seine near the Eiffel Tower.
It is a good idea to steer clear of the suburb of Seine Saint-Denis, as this suburb is known for its gangs and poverty, though there is of little interest to a tourists anyway. Avoid walking alone at night in the eighteenth and nineteenth arrondissmant as well, as these can be a little shady at night. There is a large problem with youths from the depressed suburbs causing trouble with the police. If locals are moving away, it is most likely from a confrontation. While these groups rarely target people besides the police, be careful. Walk away from a situation that could lead to fights or worse.
In general, remember to be aware of pickpocket as they act by trying to distract you. Avoid showing off expensive phones or a lot of money in the public transportation or in open areas. Put your things in a money belt or your front pockets, but never in the back pockets. Besides scammers and thieves, Paris is a perfectly safe city, and most travellers will not run into any trouble.
Paris has, in some 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. 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, are very important; say "Pardon" or better "je suis désolé" if you bump into someone accidentally or make other mistakes; if you speak French or are using a phrasebook remember to always use the vous form when addressing someone you don't know, may 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 is 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 best to 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, especially with dog droppings; however, enforcement is quite lax in some areas.
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 for the portion south of Rue de Passy and 75116 to the north; all other arrondissements only have one postal code.
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, including many public parks. Look for the network called 'Orange' on your laptop or PDA device. 
Other options include Starbucks, which is free. There is also McDonald's, Columbus Café, and certain Indiana Café locations. There is also the Wistro network, which independent coffee chains offer. You can search by arrondissement. 
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, may attract unwanted attention. Also be aware that men in France (and men in Europe more generally) 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; shorts are for "schoolboys and soccer players" only.
The Parisian police préfecture runs Europe's largest lost property service. Public transport and tourist attractions generally hold onto objects for five days before handing them in. Remember to bring identification and any relevant information (IMEI for phones, taxi number, etc.). You may have to pay a charge of €11.