The Perfect Paris Preparation Guide

The Perfect Paris Prep Guide by Her Packing List

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Paris, France is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is an essential stop on any round-the-world or European adventure. Don’t be intimidated by the city’s vastness or the French language or where to start when it comes to attractions. We’ve compiled this Paris travel and packing guide with everything you need to know for a visit, whether it’s which movies to watch in preparation or which outfits will make you blend in best. If we’ve left anything out or you’d like to add to the conversation, please leave comments below!

Paris Travel Expenses Tips

While Paris is a must-see city, it can get expensive when it comes time to pay for meals out, attractions and accommodation. Travel in the off season when possible (not summer or during holidays) to cut down on costs.

Save on Paris Accommodation

Take advantage of hostels or apartment rental sites (AirBnB – get $20 credit towards your first stay using this link), Flipkey and Go with Oh are a few standbys) to cut down on costs. You should also consider which neighborhood you’ll be staying in because if you have cheap accommodation but are constantly paying to get into town, it might not be worth it. Latin Quartier is well located and full of students.



Booking.com

Eat One Meal Out

Cooking for yourself is another great way to save money in Paris. You can always grab a baguette and some meat and cheese from the grocery store to make sandwiches and croissants and coffee for breakfast. You won’t miss out on the French cuisine but also won’t spend all your money. Instead, splurge on dinner out. But when you are dining out, be aware that costs may be different to grab something at the bar versus sit down for a full service meal.

Take Public Transportation

Avoid taxis whenever possible because they’re overpriced and must be called ahead instead of flagged down. You can also expect to pay even more than you thought due to Paris’ infamous traffic. Instead, take advantage of the city’s Metro system, which winds through everywhere you could want to see. Also purchase a carnet of ten tickets rather than individual ones in order to save money.

See Paris Attractions at Off Peak Hours

The last thing you want to do in Paris is spend most of the trip waiting in line. While sometimes it’s unavoidable, be smart about your sightseeing. Go either first thing in the morning or a few hours before closing to the major museums. Purchase as much in advance as possible. If you want to see the Eiffel Tower, go at night or skip the elevator in favor of the stairs.

See attractions at off-peak times. Eiffel Tower at night
See attractions at off-peak times. Eiffel Tower at night

Essential Gear to Bring to Paris

Packing for Paris depends much on what time of year you’ll be visiting, but be prepared to feel underdressed in comparison with the French. Avoid bringing tennis shoes and denim shorts, which will make you stand out as a tourist. Instead, go for solid colors, dresses and skirts.

Scarf– It’s the one little thing every female traveler should bring and it’s certainly the case in Paris. You never know when you’ll catch a cold breeze or need to cover up when entering a church.

Reusable Shopping Bag– Not only can you use this bag for runs to the grocery store to pick up snacks and groceries, but it’s also great to carry back souvenirs. Use it as a day bag for toting around your guidebook and other essentials.

French phrasebook– Bring a phrasebook for important phrases like “Where is the Metro” or “Is the Louvre this way?” You may struggle through the words, but Parisians will appreciate the effort, even if they answer in impeccable English.

Umbrella– Be prepared for anything, including rain. You can substitute a nice rain jacket.

>> Smell lovely on your trip with a Parisian solid perfume stick by Aroamas.

Paris Street

Books to Read Before Visiting Paris

For hundreds of years, writers and artists have been inspired by the City of Light. And while there are just as many books about Paris, here are a few of our favorites, including fiction and nonfiction.

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway– Published after Hemingway’s death, this book is a memoir of his time in Paris in the 1920s. The tale of the “Lost Generation” includes his luminaries Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Grab on Amazon.

Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell– While a work of fiction, the story about a British writer’s experiences abroad mirrors those of Orwell. The protagonist works his way through Parisian kitchens. Grab on Amazon.

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain– The highly rated book describes the love affair between Ernest Hemingway and wife Hadley during 1920s Paris. His fellow writers make cameos in this historical fiction. Grab on Amazon.

My Life in France, Julia Child– Culinary legend Julia Child’s memoir is about her move to France and enrollment in Le Cordon Bleu, which eventually put her on the path to her “true calling.” Grab on Amazon.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris– This book of essays is about the writer’s move from New York to Paris and all its eccentricities. Grab on Amazon.

The Eiffel Tower

Movies to Watch Before Visiting Paris

Paris is also magical when captured on film. These are a few of our favorites that introduce you to the city’s exciting neighborhoods before you get there.

Midnight in Paris– A writer goes to Paris with his fiance’s family and finds himself mingling with famous Parisians in the 1920s every evening at midnight. Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams star in the Woody Allen film. Grab a copy from Amazon.

Amelie– The independent film revolves around a waitress who lives in Monmartre. She has her own sense of justice and falls in love with someone as quirky as her. Grab a copy from Amazon.

Paris Je T’Aime– In a this series of short films all revolving around different neighborhoods in Paris, both French and American writers and directors worked together, including the Coen Brothers and Gus Van Sant. Grab a copy from Amazon.

Before Sunset– In a follow up to Before Sunrise, the strangers who met on a train in Vienna and spent an evening together catch up in Paris at a book signing. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy star in the movie, set and filmed around Paris. Grab a copy from Amazon.

Last Tango in Paris– In one of Marlon Brando’s memorable roles, he plays an American businessman who meets a young Parisian woman who wants a secret, and purely physical, relationship. Grab a copy from Amazon.

Top Things to Do in Paris

It’s easy to spend a week in Paris and hardly scratch the surface in terms of seeing all the attractions. The cultural capital of Europe has hundreds of museums, gardens and historical landmarks for visitors to enjoy. If you’re planning on visiting more than three museums, look into the Museum Pass. Book tickets to the Louvre and Orsay in advance if you can so that you don’t spend the entire trip waiting in line. We’ve included a few of the top sights below, but this is by no means a comprehensive list.

Also take advantage of free walking tours. Sandeman’s New Europe Tours are entirely free and volunteer run, but tips are appreciated. The Paris Greeters walking tours are run by enthusiastic locals excited to share the favorite parts of their city.

The Louvre in Paris- a top attraction.
The Louvre in Paris- a top attraction.

Musee du Louvre– This famous and sprawling art museum is known for long lines and famous works like the Mona Lisa. Be prepared to push through crowds to see significant works. Enter through the Louvre Metro station to skip some lines and try to go at off peak times. Give yourself plenty of time to wander and don’t skip the Egyptian wing.

Musee d’Orsay– Paris’ second famous art museum is an old train station full of Impressionist works from Monet, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh and other notable artists.

Eiffel Tower– The most famous landmark in the city is visible from everywhere, but expect to wait in line to go to the top. While the views are unmatched, find a rooftop to capture the famous tower in your pictures.

Palace of Versailles– The former royal residence is a bit outside of Paris, but well worth a day trip. Do it independently or on a tour, but give yourself plenty of time to roam from room to room and see the gardens.

Arc de Triomphe– The monument honors those who fought in the French Revolutionary War and houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You can also go to the top for stunning views of Paris.

Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral– Notre Dame is the Catholic cathedral known for its iconic architecture, stained glass windows and it’s role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. Construction dates back to the 1100s, so be sure to check out the ancient crypts.

Monmartre and Sacre Coeur– The quirky neighborhood of Monmartre is set atop a hill, with Sacre Coeur at the top. Admire the artists sketching the city from above and relive the film Amelie.

Disneyland Paris– If you’re traveling with your family, Disneyland Paris is Europe’s version of the beloved theme park, located around 20 miles outside the city. It features many similar rides and experiences.

Catacombs– Get underground for the most spooky tour of Paris, where you’ll find over six million skeletons and skulls in caverns and tunnels. The Roman-era burial ground opened to the public as an attraction in the 1800s.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery– This is the final resting place for famous Parisians and expats like Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.

Centre Pompidou– If the Louvre and Orsay cover the first dozen centuries of art, Pompidou features everything modern. The exoskeleton type building is full of works by Jeff Koons, Frank Gehry and many more.

Giverny– Another day trip from Paris is to Monet’s former home in Giverny. Here you can admire the water lilies and Japanese bridge featured in his paintings.

Paris Illuminations Night Tour – $29.40 from Viator

There’s nothing quite like Paris at night! On this illuminations tour, you’ll watch Paris transform into the City of Lights as you ride past the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Champs-Elyses, l’Arc de Triomphe, Les Invalides, Place de la Concorde, and more. Learn about Paris’ rich history along the way. Choose a standard coach tour or small-group minivan tour for a more personalized experience.

French cafe

Food and Drink in Paris

It can be difficult to both eat well and stay on a budget in Paris, but it is possible. French breakfasts are a light affair, usually a pastry and coffee, so skip the big breakfast buffets available at hotels. Indulge in croissants and pain au chocolat. The sweet tooths will also appreciate macarons and crepes, which can be filled with practically anything, sweet or savory, and taken to go.

For lunch, stop for a croque monsieur, a ham and cheese sandwich, or a falafel from one of the many street stands. Quiche is another light option. Alternatively, grab a baguette and cheese, and don’t forget to pack a spork, for a makeshift picnic in the park. For dinner, pop into a brasserie or bistro for a filling and homestyle meal of beef stew or steak frites.

French Language Tips and Additional Help

The French language isn’t easy to pick up, but thankfully there are some cognates, or words that are what they sound like in English. Carry around a small French phrasebook (the Lonely Planet version is good) and use it when ordering a meal or asking for directions. As long as you make an effort, it will be appreciated by Parisians.

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Edna says

    Thanks for sharing, Caroline! Another note on food — grabbing a baguette and meat+cheese from a corner store will run you under ten euro and be perfect for picnicking! And the quality is so damn good — even when I lived in Paris a lot of my meals were simply a baguette, charcuterie, and some chevre! (and don’t forget the wine!)

    • Edna says

      Oh, I just noticed one more thing — splurge on LUNCH out! The lunch specials are often a much better deal for your wallet than dinner.

  2. Bonnie says

    This was a post after my own heart and has definitely ignited my wanderlust and fascination with Paris and France. I know I will be referring back to this post when the opportunity to visit Paris arises. Loved the detail, links and topics covered in this post.

  3. Clariza says

    I spent January 2015 in Paris and rented an apartment. The vegetable and fruit stands, cheese stores and bakeries have wonderful offerings for reasonable prices. Also check for the weekly farmers market close to you. I found one near me where giant pots of hot cooked foods were offered. I’m with the prior poster. I ate lunch out and cooked breakfast and dinner in. Sometimes after eating dinner at home, I went out and had a hot chocolate at a local café.

    In general, in the few trips I’ve taken to Paris, I prefer the winter time. I’m from San Francisco so the weather for me is the same. But the total lack of crowds made it easier to get into major stops, especially the museums. And, once inside, you’re not fighting the crowds to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. Also, in the winter, the sidewalk cafe’s enclose their seating in glass, so you can still while away the afternoon people watching, but you’re nice and cozy with the heating and hot beverage. January is also the sale season for all the stores!

    Speaking of museums, getting the pass is nice because not only do you by-pass the lines for tickets, but you can take in places like the Louvre and the D’Orsay in multiple trips. The Louvre does take more than one visit, so it’s nice to be able to leave when you have had your fill for the day, knowing that you can come back without extra cost.

    • Brooke says

      Great tips! Yes, I agree about the museums! Doing it all in one go can be overwhelming and you miss things, but when you break it up you can really take it all in 🙂

  4. poppy says

    I can see that this post is 2 years old but I was in Paris last year and everyone wears white kicks with tight jeans. Very on trend now especially with the cobblestone streets.

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