This past December I had the opportunity to visit Paris, France. What is there to do in Paris? How do I use the metro system? How do I get to Disneyland Paris? What are the typical tourist spots? After hours and hours of planning, I decided I needed to write a blog post for all those “new to paris” travelers that had basic questions like I did.
What to see & do in Paris for Free?
This is a huge complex historical yet modern city. There is so much to do, you really need to cater it to your interests. What do you enjoy doing? Would you like to see a couple historical structures, see some spots from your favorite movies, eat delicious food and walk the river at midnight? So do I!
Ok, so that was my EXACT plans and wishes. I’ll share with you where I went and what I saw. I’ll go through it quick to you can print it. (p.s. I didn’t pay entry for any museums.)
Champs-Elysées Christmas Market at the Jardin des Tuileries
I went to Paris during Christmas time and I was blessed to stumble upon the Christmas markets in the park. It is free and has some of the best street food, rides, champagne mini bars, and Christmas decorations!
The best best best food to eat at a Christmas market is “raclette”. Oh my word! The raclette cheese round is heated, either in front of a fire or by a special machine, then scraped onto a sandwich or over pasta & ham. It is soooooooo delicious!
Typical Tourist Spots in Paris
Eiffel Tower – it is majestic and glorious and you can’t visit Paris without snapping a selfie with her.
Arc de Triomphe
Champs-Élysées – the entire street!
- ONE MORE THING: Any famous movie location! My personal favorite is the “Owen Wilson’s steps in Midnight in Paris”. Midnight is Paris is my favorite Woody Allen film. This movie spot is located at the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont de Paris. These are the famous steps where the Owen Wilsons charter “Gill”, time travels at the stroke of midnight to the 1920s. For more movie locations in Paris, check out this website.
This theme park is so clean, perfect, visually stunning, and totally fun! It is 45 minutes outside of the city. Take the RER A metro train towards Gare de Marne-la-Valee Chessy. Get off on the last stop and walk a couple steps to the entrance! It is 88€ per person. I highly recommend that you buy your tickets online before you go instead of waiting in the long ticket lines.
FYI There are 2 Disney parks here, the classic Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios (which is super tiny but very fun.) There is also a big outdoor mall like Downtown Disney / Disney Springs as well as a bunch of super cute hotels. Disneyland Paris is impeccable, the cast members are the friendliest I’ve ever encountered, and the magic feels familiar. I felt like I was transported to a familiar and comforting place in a foreign country. It was the highlight of my Paris trip!
How to Use the Metro in Paris?
I know everyone gets a little nervous when using public transportation in a forge in country. The metro system in Paris is not complicated, inexpensive, and easy to understand. Don’t stress it, let me simplify it for you in 5 easy steps…
Step 1: Map your route on an app. You can use the RATP, Paris Metro or the good old fashioned reliable Google Maps app (which I used). Put in your destination and choose transit options. Now screen shot your route and head to the nearest Metro Station. Thankfully the trains are all color coated making it EVEN easier to find your train platform.
Step 2: Buy a ticket. Walk up to an automated machine or a ticket booth window with an employee. Most employees speak some english but if you use the automated machine you can choose to do the whole transaction in english and pay with your US credit card. If you are visiting Paris for less than 2 weeks, just buy single rider tickets. Don’t worry yourself with all the options, just get single rider tickets.
Step 3: Use the ticket! The ticket is a little rectangular paper, place it through the little slit in the front of the machine, it doesn’t matter which side – face up or face down. It will go through the machine and pop up at the top of the machine. Grab your ticket and pass through the turnstile.
Step 4: Get on the train. On the platforms, there are helpful signs telling you how many minutes till the train arrives. When you are on the train, and at your stop, sometimes the doors don’t open automatically. Press the little green button or pull up the metal handle on the door.
Step 5: Get off the train and up to street level. Always look for the signs that say “Sortie” which means exit.
But wait, there’s more!
I highly recommend that you download the RATP or Paris Metro app and the good ole Google maps app to help you plan your route. IMPORTANT REMINDER: Place your phone on airplane mode with wifi ON when you are traveling out of your country. (Unless you like huge surprise cell phone bills) I learned this lesson back in 2007 when I went to Ireland and came home to a $600 cell phone bill.
There are so many places like Starbucks and restaurants with free wifi. Every hotel will have free wifi. Plan your routes when you have wifi. Remember that Google maps will still show you your location and map even when you are NOT connected to wifi.
Always be wary of your surroundings. Every big city had pick pockets. Be safe and travel with a companion at night if you can. I hope this post helps you ride the metro with confidence!
This is crazy!
Historic Yellow Jacket Protests in Paris
*Disclaimer* Our trip was slightly curbed by the fact that the yellow jackets were violent protesting the outrageous taxes on the middle and lower class. There was tear gas being thrown, property bring destroyed, streets being blocked, cars being burned – ok, you get the idea. Total mayhem. But they were very kind to us. They never bothered us, they were courteous, let us cross the street. They all knew we were tourists. They were only aggressive towards the police. Hard working people should be able to live on their salary and not be taxed at every turn. My husband and I watched from a distance as we witnessed history and kinda rooted for the underdog. See the destruction on the Vlog at the end of this post.
Last tips on navigating Paris
I highly suggest you download google translate app, it works off wifi and can translate nearly any major language. It also translate audio & visual both ways. I used it to translate menus and signs in the metro stations. It was super helpful in a pinch!
Always greet people in stores, waiters in restaurants, anyone you interact with and say thank you, and goodbye when you leave. They really appreciate the effort! You aren’t always going to get it right or get the pronunciation – but they will love that you tried. Wherever I travel, I learn how to say hello, thank you, goodbye, and bathroom! That’s the bare minimum.
Before you go, be sure to read my Guide to London. Watch this Paris Vlog below and let me know where you want a guide to next! I’d love some Paris advice for the next time I go!