While everyone’s heard of Paris, probably has seen a picture of the Eiffel Tower many times, and even thinks of this famous city whenever they hear an accordion music, there’s more to it than just these few things. So let’s scratch below the surface and see what else there is.
Quick Overview of Paris
Location: North-Central France.
Language: French, with English being the main second language. Parisians are very proud of their language, so it’s best to start off by asking “Excusez-moi parlez-vous anglais?” (excuse me, do you speak English?). It’s never a good idea to assume that people (in any country) speak English, so always check first. But younger people are typically more comfortable with English, than older people are.
Population in Paris: 2.14 Million.
Money: the Euro.
Transportation: Buses, trams, subways, and even an express subway called the RER, which connects the city center to places like the airports, Disneyland and Versailles.
Religion: Catholic, but there is also a variety of other religions, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even a large number of people that don’t believe in anything.
National Holiday: July 14 (1789), called Bastille Day, and it is seen as a turning point, from the major economic crisis caused by Louis XVI
Safety: while Paris is well-lit and safe to walk around, one thing you’ll want to keep in mind is pick-pocketing. If you’re not from a country that deals with this, do a little research on ways to be a smarter traveler. I’ve never had any problems with pick-pocketing, but I do keep in mind places where I need to stay more alert. TIP: Don’t carry your passport with you in the city, unless you actually need it that day; Try to pay with smaller bills; Don’t leave your phone/wallet in your jacket/purse, that’s on the back of your chair; And be aware of distraction-scams (someone spills a bag in the metro, you help them, and then discover your wallet is gone; Or the friendship-bracelet scam, where they put a friendship-bracelet on you, then insist you pay for it, but later you can’t find your phone). This isn’t to scare you, but while gun violence might be a problem in some countries, pick-pocketing is in others. But again, I’ve never had any problems with this.
Fun Facts: There are 3 replicas of the Statue of Liberty in Paris, though they aren’t as big. The Eiffel Tower was built for the World Fair in 1889 and was supposed to be taken down 20 years later, but as we know, that didn’t happen. There is only one stop-sign in all of Paris. There are more than 484,000 trees in Paris.
History: The city really started around 250-225BC, when the Parisii tribe came and started building bridges, forts and trading there. In 52AD, the Roman army came and defeated the Parisii, and joined it to the Roman Empire, until its collapse in 476. Clovis I, King of the Franks, took over control, and made Paris the capital in 508. During the Middle Ages, Paris was the biggest city in Europe, and was seen as the leader in religion, commerce and Gothic-style architecture. In the 1700’s, it became well-known for its daring intellectual ideas, called the Enlightenment, and that set the stage for the French Revolution, in 1789.
Traveling To/Around There
Getting To The City Center: Most people fly into the Charles de Gaulle Airport, but they don’t realize it’s outside of the city center. The quickest option is to take the RER-B train that costs €10.30 and takes about 25-30 minutes (watch out for pick-pocketers on this train). It runs from 4:50-23:50, but the ticket office doesn’t open until 6am. Bring exact change though and you can buy a ticket from the ticket machine. Keep your ticket though, as you’ll need it to get out of the station. There’s an air-conditioned bus, Roissybus, that takes around 60-75 minutes and costs €12. The cheapest option is to take one of two local buses, the 350 or 351, which costs €6, and takes between 60-80 minutes. But with any of these options, they leave about every 10-15 minutes. And you can of course take a taxi, which should cost around €60.
Moving Around Paris: Paris is a very big city and quite spread out, but with excellent public transportation. If you think you might like to use the subway/tram/bus just one or two times per day, it’s cheaper to just get a single ticket. It costs €2 for each trip and is good for 90 Minutes for a bus &/or tram ride, or 2 hours for the subway. If you’d like to really make the most of public transportation, a day ticket costs between €7.50- €17.80, depending on how many zones you travel. If you’re at all confused, go to a ticket counter and have them help you. TIP: It’s advisable to group your activities together, based on where they’re located. You don’t want to be in Paris for 3 days, and spend most of that time on the subway.
Sacred Heart: Known by its French name, Sacré-Coeur , this beautiful catholic church is the second most visited landmark in Paris. It’s the highest point in the city, so if you’re looking for a great view, as well as a distant view of the Eiffel Tower, this is the place to come. About any view of the church is great for a picture, but of course, sunrise and sunset is always a nice idea. You’re able to visit the inside of the church for free, and it’s open everyday from 6-22:00 (6AM-10PM).
Love In Many Languages: Something that’s fun to discover is the Wall of Love, I mean, we are in the City of Love, right? This is a wall, that’s 40 sq. meters (430 sq. ft) and has been decorated with the words “I Love You” in 250 languages, including rare ones like Navajo and Esperanto. You can find this in the Jehan Rictus Garden Square in Montmartre.
Paris From Above: If you’re looking for a great view of the city, I’m sure it’s a pretty obvious choice to head to the Eiffel Tower. But sometimes you’ll walk up to it, and see a huge line of people waiting in the ticket lines and get discouraged. Most of the time, that’s only the line for the elevator (there should be a yellow flag for this line). If you don’t mind a challenge, look for the line (blue flag) where you can walk up the steps, and typically there’s maybe 10-15 people in this line. It’s 674 steps to the 2nd floor (you can only access the 3rd floor with an elevator ticket, but the view from the 2nd floor is still really amazing). If you’re looking for option 3 though, they do offer online tickets for the elevator, up to 2 months in advance (no refunds though). When you get there, look for a green flag, and make sure to have a photo ID for each person with you. Regardless of what you choose, there is a security check, so things like glass, suitcases, etc are not allowed in, nor is there anywhere you can leave them. TIP: On the 14th of July, they have an incredible firework show, and in winter, you can ice skate on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.
Paris From Below: As they say, there is a city under the city, called the Catacombs, which is around 200 miles (321 km) long. There are rumors as to what happens down there, including secret societies, but most of it is forbidden to enter, except a tourist area. So what’s actually in the Catacombs? Due to a health-concern in the late 1700’s, the city decided to move the contents of its cemeteries (around 6 million bodies) to an underground location. A lot of the contents were transferred between 1785-1787, but had to be done at night, so that the people and the Church couldn’t interfere. The Catacombs were opened to the public in 1809, and have since then been a source of curiosity for locals and tourists alike. TIP: It’s highly recommended to do the online skip-the-line ticket, or you might wait up to 2 hours to get in. If you’re wanting to go when there aren’t as many people, get a ticket for 10:00 or between 18-20:00. Closed on Mondays and a few holidays. For anyone between 4-17 years old, the ticket is €5, and for those 18 and older, it’s €29, but included in the adult price, is the entrance, as well as an audio guide.
Funky Art Fountain: The Stravinsky Fountain is dedicated to Russian-born Igor Stravinsky, who was a very influential composer in the 1900’s. Each of the 16 pieces here are inspired by some of Stravinsky’s compositions. Located next to Centre Pomidou, it’s a great companion to the Stravinsky Fountain.
Check Out Some Street Art: While Paris is known for its art museums, not all of us are into that scene. But sometimes just walking around the city, can show a different side of art. In a handful of neighborhoods, you can actually see a lot of cool graffiti. An easy place to see some huge murals are in the 13th arrondissement, (Nationale metro stop), or the districts of Oberkampf to Menilmontant are fun to walk around the streets and see what you can find, as new art is added every 2 weeks.