PARIS: Guide to Paris

One of the best value and most convenient ways to see the sights of Paris is with the Paris Museum Pass, a pre-paid entry card that allows entry into over seventy museums and monuments around Paris and comes in 2-day €42, 4-day €56 and 6-day €69 denominations. The card allows you to jump otherwise sometimes lengthy queues and is available from participating museums, tourist offices, Fnac branches and all the main Métro and RER train stations. You will still need to pay to enter most special exhibitions.

Note that most museums and galleries are closed on either Monday or Tuesday. Most ticket counters close 30 - 45 minutes before final closing.

Also consider the ParisPass also a pre paid entry card + queue jumping to 60 attractions including The Louvre, The Arc de Triomphe, as well as a river cruise, open top bus tour, cycle hire and allows free metro & public transport travel. ParisPass comes at a steep price of €117 for 2-day adult, €70 for students, €40 for kids. Four and six day passes are also available.

All national museums are open free of charge on the first Sunday of the month; note, however, that this may mean long lines and crowded exhibits. Keep away from Paris during Easter week. It's really crowded. People have to queue up at the Eiffel tower for several hours.

PARIS: Travel Guides

A good listing of almost everything to do in Paris are the 'Pariscope', the 'Officiel des spectacles', and the much hipper 'Zurban' , weekly magazines listing all concerts, stage plays and museums. Available from many kiosks. Unfortunately their website is of no use at all. If you prefer a web version, you can visit Cityzeum, with maps of Paris, audio tours to download freely and more than 2000 visit and entertainment points.

PARIS: Dining

Paris is one of Europe's culinary centers. The restaurant trade began here just over 220 years ago as of this writing, and continues to thrive. It may however come as a surprise that Paris isn't considered the culinary capitol of France, rather some people prefer the French cooking found in small rural restaurants, outside of the city, closer to the farms and with their focus on freshness and regional specialties. Even amongst French cities, Paris has long been considered by some people as second to Lyon for fine dining.

There have been other challenges in the last 20 years or so as restauranteers in places like San Francisco and Sydney briefly surpassed their Parisian forebearers, again with an emphasis on freshness of ingredients but also borrowings from other cuisines. Parisian cooks didn't just rest on their laurels during this time, rather they traveled, taught, and studied, and together with Paris's own immigrant communities have revitalized the restaurant trade. Today you can find hundreds of beautiful restaurants with thoughtful (or just trendy) interior design and well-planned and executed cartes and menus offering a creative mélange of French and exotic foreign cuisines. It's safe to say that Paris is once again catching up with or edging ahead of its Anglophone rivals.

Of course there are also some traditional offerings, and for the budget conscious there are hundreds of traditional bistros, with their sidewalk terraces offering a choice fairly simple meals for reasonable prices.

For the uninitiated it is unfortunately possible to have a uniformly poor dining experience during a stay in Paris, mainly because many attractions are situated in upscale areas of town, and that mass tourism attracts price gougers. It is frequent to hear of people complaining of very high Parisian prices for poor food and poor service - because they always tried to eat close to major tourist magnets. Try to go eat where the locals eat.

Many restaurants are tiny and have tables close together - square meters are at a premium and understandably restauranteers need to make the most of limited space. In some cases, when the restaurant is crowded, you may have to sit besides strangers at the same table. If you disagree to it, go to a more upscale place where you will pay for increased room.

Trendy restaurants often require reservations weeks, if not months in advance. If you haven't planned far enough ahead, try to get a reservation for lunch which is generally easier and less expensive.

For an easy-to-manage eating budget while in Paris, consider: breakfast or "petit dejeuner" at a restaurant, possibly in your hotel, consisting of some croissants, coffee, and maybe a piece of fruit (this typically costs around $5 to $10 depending on the area). Get a 'walking lunch' from one of Paris' many food stands--a panino in the center of the city, a crepe from a crepe stand, a falafel pita or take-out Chinese in the Marais. Traiteurs serving Chinese food are ubiquitous in the city and good for a cheap lunch and many patisseries sell inexpensive coffee and sandwiches. All these are cheap (about the same as breakfast), easy, and allow you to maximize your sightseeing and walking time while enjoying delicious local or ethnic food. For dinner, stroll the streets at dusk and consider a 20-to-40-Euro prix-fixe menu. This will get you 3 or 4 courses, possibly with wine, and an unhurried, candlelit, magical European evening. If you alternate days like this with low-budget, self-guided eating (picnicking, snacking, street food) you will be satisfied without breaking the bank.

If one of the aims of your trip to Paris is to indulge in its fine dining, though, the most cost-effective way to do this is to make the main meal of your day lunch. Virtually all restaurants offer a good prix-fixe deal. By complementing this with a bakery breakfast and a light self-catered dinner, you will be able to experience the best of Parisian food and still stick to a budget.

PARIS: How to Get to Paris

Paris is served by three international airports. Charles de Gaulle International Airport (Roissy ICAO: LFPG, IATA: CDG) to the north-east of the city is one of the major hub airports of Europe. It's notoriously confusing, so allow plenty of time for transfers. There are three terminals: Terminal 1, Terminal 2 (which is huge and subdivided into 2A through 2F), and Terminal 3 (formerly T9). The free CDGVAL shuttle train connects the terminals together.

Getting to or from Paris, RER-B has stations in T3 (from where you can take the airport shuttle bus number 2 to T1) and T2; trains to Paris (Châtelet-Les Halles) leave every 15 minutes, cost €10 each way and take around 40 minutes, making this the fastest and cheapest way to connect. Alternatively, the Roissybus service connects all terminals directly to Opéra Garnier in central Paris, but it's subject to traffic jams and takes 60-90 minutes even on a good day. There is also a TGV station in T2 for high-speed connections, mostly towards Lille and Brussels, but there are also some trains that head south to eg. Rennes and Nantes, bypassing Paris.

Orly International Airport (ICAO: LFPO, IATA: ORY), to the south-west of the city, and served by a southern branch of the RER-B line. This older international airport is used mainly by Air France for national lines, and other international carriers in Europe. Orly is roughly forty minutes from Paris via the OrlyBus, which departs from Métro Denfert-Rochereau. Another option is bus 285 that takes you to the Villejuif - Louis Aragon metro station (ligne 7) in 15 minutes. Bus 285 runs every 10 minutes, stopping at airport Arrivals level.

The Orlyval light rail connects both terminals to the RER B line at Antony. It runs every 4-7 minutes and cost €7.90-10.25 for transfer to Paris (as of March 2014). The RER B from Antony runs through Paris to Aéroport Charles de Gaulle.

Beauvais (Aéroport de Paris Beauvais Tillé ICAO: LFOB, IATA: BVA), to the north of the city, is a smaller regional airport that is used by some low-cost carriers. The airport operates a shuttle service connecting with the Métro at Porte Maillot station. Buses leave 20 minutes after each flight arrives, and a few hours before each flight departs. This is important: you should be there waiting for the bus around three hours and fifteen minutes before your flight, and the bus stop has no facilities, it's just a parking lot! However, there are a number of fast food outlets, shops and toilets at the Palais des Congres building situated across the road. Exact times can be found on the Beauvais Airport website. The journey will take about an hour in good traffic conditions, and costs €13 each way.

In addition to public transport, Air France operates shuttles between Charles de Gaulle and Paris (€10 - €12), Orly and Paris (€7.5) and between the two airports (€15). Note that if you have connecting Air France flights that land and depart from different airports, you would still generally need to fetch your luggage after landing, catch either the Air France shuttle or a taxi to the other airport and check-in again. This altogether could take up to 2 hours particularly if traffic is at its worse. It is also common to lose time during disembarking, as passengers often need to get off at the tarmac and get on buses which will bring them to the terminal building. Be sure to have sufficient time between flights to catch your connection. Note that check-in counters usually close 30 minutes before the flight departs.

If you arrive at CDG Airport at night you'll need a Noctilien bus to get to the city center. The bus stops in all three terminals (in terminal 2 it will be the second level in departure section - it is very difficult to find, but it really exists). The bus leaves every 30 minutes after 00:30. The buses you'll need are N121 and N120; the price is 10 Euro.

Special thanks to Wikipedia and its authors
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