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Paris

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For '''vegetarians''', eating in traditional French restaurants will require some improvisation, though there are lots Italian, Thai, Indian, and Mezo-american places where you will have little problem. In Rue des Rosiers (4th arrondissement) it is possible to get delicious falafel in the many Jewish restaurants. Another falafel place is at 112 Rue Oberkampf  (11th arrondissement). Take away falafel usually goes for 4€ or less.
 
For '''vegetarians''', eating in traditional French restaurants will require some improvisation, though there are lots Italian, Thai, Indian, and Mezo-american places where you will have little problem. In Rue des Rosiers (4th arrondissement) it is possible to get delicious falafel in the many Jewish restaurants. Another falafel place is at 112 Rue Oberkampf  (11th arrondissement). Take away falafel usually goes for 4€ or less.
  
For '''seafood''' lovers, Paris is a great place to try ''moules frites'' (steamed mussels and French fries), oysters, sea snails, and other delicacies.
+
For '''seafood''' lovers, Paris is a great place to try ''moules frites'' (steamed mussels and French fries), 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 favorites such as lamb, veal, beef, and pork.
 
 
'''Meat''' specialties include venison (deer), boar, and other game (especially in the fall and winter hunting season), as well as French favorites such as lamb, veal, beef, and pork.
 
  
 
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<!-- individual listings found here are moved to their own arrondissement -->

Revision as of 11:28, 20 September 2004

Paris is the capital of France and - with 2 million people living in the center and some 10 million people in the suburbs (la banlieue) - one of the largest cities in Europe.

Paris/Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower, Paris

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Understand

Get in

By train

There are several stations serving Paris. You will probably want to know in advance at which station your train is arriving, as so to better choose a hotel and plan for transport within the city.

  • Gare Austerlitz, (13th), Métro: Gare d'Austerlitz. Trains to and from the center of France and arrival for night trains
  • Gare de l'Est, (10th), Métro: Gare de l'Est. Trains to and from Eastern Europe
  • Gare du Nord, (10th), Métro: Gare du Nord. Trains to and from Belgium and the Netherlands, and the UK (via Eurostar)
  • Gare de Lyon, (12th), Métro: Gare de Lyon. Trains to and from Southern and eastern France: Marseille, Lyon, Dijon, and Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne.
  • Gare St Lazare, (8th) Métro: St-Lazare. Trains to and from Basse-Normandie, Haute-Normandie
  • Gare Montparnasse, (8th), Métro: Montparnasse-Bienvenue. Trains to and from the West and South-West of France (Brest, Nantes, Bordeaux and Spain)

The SNCF (French national railway authority) operates all trains within France regardless of which of the several companies actually own the train. Tickets can be booked up to two months in advance on their website. There are significant discounts if you book early. To get the best rates you should book at least two weeks ahead. 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 prices cut up to half.

There a a number of differnt kinds of high speed and normal trains:

  • TER Regional trains operate to and from most cities in France and are usually your best bet for destinations in the Paris region. These are the trains you'll find yourself on if you have a Eurorail pass, and don't want to pay extra for reservations.
  • TGV The high-speed trains (Trains à Grande Vitesse) run several times a day to Nice and Avignon in the south, Geneva or Lausanne, Switzerland and Dijon in the east, and connects with trains and ferries for the passage to England in the west.
  • Thalys A high-speed train, which runs to daily to/from the Netherlands and Belgium, it can be a bit expensive compared to normal trains.
  • Eurostar. [1] The Eurostar service connects Paris with London and Brussels directly, and many other destinations indirectly through the various west European rail services. Travel time between Paris and London currently averages at 2 hours 40 minutes and will decrease even further with new tracks being laid up to 2007.

By bus

  • Eurolines
  • Gullivers Travel

By plane

Paris is served by three international airports - for more information, including arrival/departure times, check the official sites:

  • Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG), to the northeast of the city at the northern terminus of the RER-B line. [2] There is also a TGV stop on the line from Paris to Brussels. CDG is one of the major hub airports of Europe.
  • Orly International Airport, to the southwest of the city, and served by a southern branch of the RER-B line. [3] AirFrance operates a shuttle bus to and from CDG. This older interenational airport is used mainly by AirFrance, and other international carriers in Europe.
  • Beauvais, the airport operates a shuttle service connecting with the Métro, at Port Maillot station. [4] This smaller regional airport is used by some low-cost carriers, such as RyanAir.

You should not discount the time it takes you to reach the city itself. For CDG this means roughly an hour via train (RER) to Metro Chatelet; the price is 8.30€. Orly is roughly forty minutes via the OrlyBus, which departs from Metro Denfert-Rochereau; the price is 5.80€.

Get around

Districts

Central Paris is officially divided into 20 districts called arrondissements, numbered from 1 to 20 in a clockwise spiral from the centre of town. Arrondissements are named according to their number. You might, for example, stay in the "5th", which would be written as 5ème (SANK-ee-emm) in French.

The very best cheap pocket map you can get for Paris is called "Paris Practique par Arrondissement". It makes navigating the city easy, so much so 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.

Each arrondissement has its own unique character and selection of attractions for the traveller:

  • 1st (1er), (Map). the geographical centre of Paris and a great starting point for travellers. The Louvre Museum, the Jardin des Tuileries, Place Vendôme, Les Halles and Palais Royal are all to be found here.
  • 2nd (2ème). The central business district of the city - the Bourse (the Paris Stock Exchange) and the Bibliothèque Nationale are located here.
  • 3rd (3ème). Archives Nationales, Musée Carnavalet, Conserv des Arts et Métiers, the northern, quieter part of the Marais
  • 4th (4ème). Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Hôtel de Ville (Paris town hall), Beaubourg, le Marais (gay Paris)
  • 5th (5ème). Jardin des Plantes, Quartier Latin, Universités, La Sorbonne, Le Panthéon
  • 6th (6ème). Jardin du Luxembourg, Saint-Germain de Prés
  • 7th (7ème). Tour Eiffel, Les Invalides, Musée d'Orsay
  • 8th (8ème). Champs-Elysées, the Palais de l'Elysée, la Madeleine
  • 9th (9ème). Opéra Garnier, Grand Magasins
  • 10th (10ème). Canal Saint-Martin, Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est
  • 11th (11ème). the bars and restaurants of Rue Oberkampf, Bastille, Nation, New Jewish Quarter
  • 12th (12ème). Opéra Bastille, Bercy Park and Village, Promenade plantée, Quartier d'Aligre, Gare de Lyon, the Bois de Vincennes
  • 13th (13ème). Quartier Chinois, Place d'Italie, La Butte aux Cailles, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF)
  • 14th (14ème). Montparnasse Cemetery, Denfert-Rochereau, Parc Montsouris
  • 15th (15ème). Monparnasse Tower, Gare Montparnasse, Stadiums
  • 16th (16ème). Palais de Chaillot, Musée de l'Homme, the Bois de Bologne
  • 17th (17ème). Palais des Congrès, Place de Clichy
  • 18th (18ème). Montmartre, Pigalle, Barbès
  • 19th (19ème). Museum of Science and Industry, Parc de la Villette, Bassin de la Villette, Parc des Buttes Chaumont
  • 20th (20ème). Père Lachaise Cemetery

Beyond central Paris, the outlying suburbs are called the banlieue. They are generally more peaceful than the city, and those to the west of Paris (Neuilly, Boulogne, Saint Cloud, Levallois) are easily the most desirable.

  • La Defense. The skyscraper district on the western edge of town.

Métro

Paris has an excellent Métro or subway system. For short visits, a carnet of ten (slightly discounted) tickets can be bought for 10.50€ at any station.

If you're staying a bit longer it might be interesting to get a Carte Orange Hebdomadaire (1 week pass, &eoru;15.4 for Paris and inner suburbs) or Mensuelle (1 month pass). For the Carte Orange you need one small photograph, for which there are cabins in most bigger metro stations. Note that an Hebdomadaire (eb-DOH-ma-DAYR: in French you don't pronounce the H) starts on Mondays and a Mensuelle on the first of the month.

The Carte Orange is also valid in the Noctambus, the night bus, where tickets normally cost 2€.70. Women travellers should probably avoid taking the Noctambus on their own. Fortunately taxis are relatively cheap, especially at night, when there are no traffic jams to be expected.

RATP is responsible for public transport including metro, buses, and the high speed inter-urban trains (RER). Current fares can be found at their website.

See

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).

Landmarks

  • Eiffel Tower (7th), One of the most famous (and tallest) landmarks in the world.
  • Père-Lachaise Cemetery (20th),. See the grave of Jim Morrison amongst many others.
  • Catacombs(6th). Used to store the exhumed bones from the overflowing Paris cemetery.
  • Arc de Triomphe, (8th). The grave of the unknown soldier is under the arch.
Notre Dame de Paris
  • Notre Dame Cathedral, (4th). Impressive Gothic cathedral that was the inspiration for Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • Sacré Coeur, (18th). A church perched on top of the highest point in Paris. Behind the church is the artists' area, in front are spectacular views of the whole city.
  • Sainte Chapelle, (1st) Far more beautiful than the famous, but gloomy, Notre Dame.
  • Pantheon (5th)
  • Chateau de Versailles, (Versailles). Another famous "must see" location on the western outskirts of Paris.
  • Grand Arche de la Defense, (La Defense). A modern office-building variant of the Arc de Triomphe . Has a viewing platform.

Museums and Galleries

  • The Louvre, (1st). One of the finest museums in the world of art, art-history, and culture through the ages.
  • Musée d'Orsay, (7th). home to the great artists of the 19th century (1848-1914) - Impressionists, post-Impressionists, and the rest....
  • Centre George Pompidou , (4th). the great museum of modern art, the building an attraction in itself...
  • Picasso Museum,(3rd). Contains the master's own collections.

Do

  • Paris from above, (9th). Check out the skyline from the roofs of Printemps, the Galleries Lafayette

Events

  • Techno parade. During mid-September a DJs and (usually young) fans from across Europe converge on Paris for five or six days of dancing etc. culminating in a parade whose route traces roughly from Pl. de Bastille to the Sorbonne.
  • Demonstrations. Information about (usually leftist) manifestations can be found at Paris' Indymedia site.

Movies

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" or "v/o"). Still it's probably a good idea to be sure of a movie having subtitles if your French is not adequate to follow fast conversations.

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 one of which is www.allocine.fr, which has information on "every" cinema in Paris.

Learn

It should go without saying that Paris is an excellent place to learn French. Université de Paris IV offers courses for foreigners in French language and culture, which start at various times of year.

Paris also has many universities, where you can learn about anything.

  • Université de Paris I-XIII: the various numbered universities specialize in different subjects.

There is also the parallel system of elite Grandes Ecoles, generally only available to those who pass through the gruelling system of concours, or competitive exams, which demand years of preparation.


Eat

When you are looking for a restaurant in Paris, be a little careful of those where the staff readily speak English. These restaurants are usually - but not always - geared towards tourists. It does make a difference in the staff's service and behaviour whether they expect you to return or not.

For vegetarians, eating in traditional French restaurants will require some improvisation, though there are lots Italian, Thai, Indian, and Mezo-american places where you will have little problem. In Rue des Rosiers (4th arrondissement) it is possible to get delicious falafel in the many Jewish restaurants. Another falafel place is at 112 Rue Oberkampf (11th arrondissement). Take away falafel usually goes for 4€ or less.

For seafood lovers, Paris is a great place to try moules frites (steamed mussels and French fries), 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 favorites such as lamb, veal, beef, and pork.


Drink

Each of Paris' 20 arrondissements has it's own fair share of bars, cafés, taverns, but there are a some areas where various aspects of nightlife, or afternoon-life are concentrated.

  • The Marais The Marais boasts a large number of trendier new bars mostly in the 4th and to a lesser extent the 3rd with a few old charmers tossed into the mix. A number of bars and restaurants in the Marais have a decidedly gay crowd, but are usually perfectly friendly to straights as well. Some seem to be more specifically aimed at up-and-coming hetero singles.
  • Bastille There is a very active nightlife zone just to the northeast of Place de Bastille centered around rue de Lappe and rue de Charonne in the 11th. Many of the bars closest to Bastille have either a North, Central, or South American theme, with a couple of Aussie places mixed in for good measure, and as you continue up rue de Charonne the cafés have more of a traditionally French but grungy feeling.
  • Rue Mouffetard and environs The area in the 5th on the south side of the hill topped by the Panthéon has a little bit of everything for the nighthawk, from the classy cafés of Place de la Contrescarpe to an Irish-American dive bar just down the way to a hip, nearly hidden jazz café at the bottom of the hill.
  • Châtelet In some ways the Marais starts here in the 1stbetween Les Halles and Hôtel de Ville but with between all of the tourists and the venerable Jazz clubs on rue des Lombards the area deserves some special attention.
  • Montmartre You'll find any number of cozy cafés and other drinking establishments all around the Butte de Montmartre in the 18th, especially check out rue des Abesses near the Métro station of the same name.
  • Oberkampf-Ménilmontant If you are wondering where you can find the hipsters, then look no further. There are several clusters of grungy-hip bars all along rue Oberkampf in the 11th, and stretching well into the 20th up the hill on rue de Ménilmontant. It's almost like being back in the lower Haight.
  • Dames-Batignolles Another good place to find the grungy-chic crowd is the northern end of the 17th around rue des Dames and rue de Batignolles, and if you decide you want something a little different Montmartre is just around the corner.
  • Port de Tolbiac This previously deserted stretch of the river Seine in the 13th was re-born as a center for nightlife (and Sunday-afternoon-life) a few years ago when an electronic music cooperative opened the Bat-O-Far. Nowadays there are a number of boats moored along the same quai, including a boat with a Caribbean theme, and one with an Indian restaurant.
  • Saint Germain de Près Classic. This part of the 6th is where the Parisien café scene really started, and there still are hundreds of places to pull up to a table, order a glass, and discuss Sartre deep into the evening.

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 Parisien drinking, so check out the listings even in those arrondissements we haven't mentioned above.

Sleep

Generally one should be aware that 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 for anything you read about here, 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 with two 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 under Get around.


For those who are staying for a while renting a furnished apartment might be a more comfortable and money-saving option, especially if you know how to cook. 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 commision of 10% or more. There are however a couple of considerably cheaper non-profit options which for whatever reason do not turn up near the top of a Google search:

  • Allô Logement Temporaire, 64, rue du Temple +33 1 42 72 00 06. fax: +33 1 42 72 03 11. [5] This non-profit aptartement placement association will place you in contact with an apartment owner, and provide translation service if necessary. They charge an annual fee of 50€ for renters, plus 35€ per months you actually stay in Paris.
  • France Lodge Locations, 2 Rue Meissonier Métro: Le Peletier. +33 1 56 33 85 85, fax: +33 1 56 33 85 89. [6] Another non-profit with very good rates but a smaller number of places. Book ahead. They charge a 15€ annual membership fee.

Stay safe

In general Paris is a very safe city, certainly by North American standards, however there are some areas, like Barbès (18th), where it's better not to hang around alone at night, but they are easily recognizable by their raunchiness. Also some parts of the banlieue are better to avoid.

The metro is relatively safe, but again, pickpockets do work in the stations and on the trains. If you are carrying a bag make sure that it's closed tightly (all zipped up or whatever). If you have a wallet in your pocket keep a hand near it while exiting the trains.

Get out

  • Chartres. The 12th century cathedral of Notre Dame at Chartres is one of the highlights of gothic architecture.
  • Disneyland Paris. The Disney corporation chose Paris as the site for their European theme park franchise. Disneyland Paris lies east of the city and can be reached via car, train, or bus.
  • Versailles
  • Saint Denis
  • Chantilly
  • Giverny

External Links