It's my first time in Paris! My family and I are heading to France this Spring and I wanted to ask if you have advice for us? What's the best approach to planning our trip, and what are the things we shouldn't miss?
"I guess I'm asking for tips for a first timer! Also, for what places do I need to buy entrance tickets before going to Paris?"
– Raul, USA
It's always fun to help someone who is going to Paris for their first time — we predict it won't be your last! We'll start you out with some general tips for anyone going to Paris, then we'll look at some of the must-see attractions.
Our basic advice is for you to plan your trip to France like you would any project — make lists, then prioritize and focus in to what's most important to you. Don't worry though, all that planning will be a fun part of the overall experience. After that, when you arrive in Paris, you'll have a general map of what's going to happen daily, but make sure to leave free time for happy surprises. Okay, let's make your first time in Paris your best vacation ever!
1. Paris is always busy. If you're planning to visit the hot spots like the Eiffel Tower, or the Louvre, or take a Seine River cruise, invest in a skip-the-line tour or the Paris Pass. Especially as you are traveling with your family, you don't want to waste time in lines (and they can be long even in early Spring).
2. Plan in advance, buy tickets online, join small group tours, avoid waiting in lineups. It can be very tiring to figure things out when you're there, and even more tiring waiting in lines for hours. The best money we've ever spent in Paris was in signing up for VIP and skip-the-line tours. You feel so… special as you follow your guide past the long lines and go directly up the Eiffel Tower!
3. If you're going to want to visit museums, get a Paris Pass. It's another way to skip past the ticket lineups and waltzed right into virtually every museum in Paris (about 60 of them are included in the pass.) The Paris Pass is very comprehensive and not only gets you into all the major museums (saving you tons of money while doing so), but gives you unlimited rides on the Metro and bus systems. along with many other extras.
4. You can save an additional 10% on the Paris Pass by using our readers-only discount code. extra 10% savings off the Be sure to use this special code on your order form for 4-day and 6-day passes — INGUIDE10.
5. Learn to ride the Metro — it's safe, handy, fast, and simply a great way to travel around the city. For instance, Metro Line 1 (one of our favourites) takes you directly from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Eylsées. Or ride it in the other direction to the Marais, where Centre Pompidou & the Picasso Museum are both located. And, as we said, unlimited rides are included with the Paris Pass. Here's a link to a Paris Metro Map app.
6. Arrange for an airport transfer before you leave home. It's so comforting to know what's going to happen when you arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport. You can arrange in advance for a shuttle van (or a private driver) to meet you at the airport and whisk you to your hotel.
P.S. Breakfast at most Paris hotels is extra and often costs more than it's worth. Instead, use this insider secret — get up, get dressed, and head out to one of the delicious boulangeries or cafes in the neighbourhood. (There will be several near you, no matter where you stay in Paris!) You'll pay way less and have much more fun. Paris breakfasts are very simple, typically a croissant & coffee.
Here's what we don't want you to miss, and how to go about getting there. First off, though, we want to share some recommend things to do now that you have a Paris Pass in your pocket. (You got yours, right?)
If you're going to go to the Eiffel Tower we strongly recommend booking a skip-the-line tour. You get ahead of the pack, learn more and have a better time. Here's an overview of the Eiffel Tower Tour options.
A Seine River cruise is essential. We just returned from Paris and enjoyed a fabulous skip-the-line cruise plus Eiffel Tower tour. You're treated like a VIP with seats reserved at the front of the boat, endless champagne and guide to tell you about the fascinating monuments and museums (while sipping champagne). After the cruise, you guide walks you past the lines and up the Tower.
It's the world's most popular museum and the lines are long. It's also easy to get lost in what is the largest art collection ever. But, there's a small-group tour gets you inside quickly and ushers you to the museum highlights. You then can take as much time as you want after the tour to wander on your own.
Versailles, too, is very popular with long lines. So, we highly recommend booking a VIP skip-the-line guided tour. These exclusive tours are led by highly-trained guides so you learn so much more (and all the details are taken care of for you). We love this VIP tour that gets you behind the scenes and into the private chambers that most tourists never see.
Sure you want to see the hot spots of Paris, but you also want to see the small, romantic side of Paris. Many of the most interesting, small museums are out of the tourist zones, so you end up wandering among les Parisiens. Intersperse a few of these into your plans to experience another side of Paris.