Earnest Hemingway once said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” It’s impossible to list every little thing to do and to see in Paris, as it is the mecca for art history, celebrated exhibitions, gastronomy, wine and fashion. The most popular tourist destination in the world welcomes 45 million travelers every year. For a majority of them, some instantly fall in love with La Ville-Lumière (The City of Light) then impulsively decide to stay longer, while many don’t agree that Paris lives up to its reputation. In fact, it’s been said that Japanese tourists sometimes have to be sent back to Japan after visiting Paris because they suffer from extreme shock called “Paris Syndrome” as they were unprepared for the reality of Paris not being the greatest place in the world.
Insider tip: it helps to speak a little bit of French. Okay, not a little bit, but a lot. So study up on your French vocabularies if you prefer better customer service. If you have a few days or a week to spend in this magnificent city, we’ve narrowed down all the things you need to experience in this simple guide. What we don’t include are the touristic landmarks, because we know you’ll do them anyway. Enjoy our Top 5s in Eat, Drink, See, Stay, and Shop. Get lost in the most illuminated of them all!
For first-time travelers to Paris, here’s the 411:
Geography: Paris is located in northern central France. By road it is 450 kilometres (280 mi) south-east of London, 287 kilometres (178 mi) south of Calais, 305 kilometres (190 mi) south-west of Brussels, 774 kilometres (481 mi) north of Marseilles, 385 kilometres (239 mi) north-east of Nantes, and 135 kilometres (84 mi) south-east of Rouen.
Economic Resources: The Paris Region is France’s leading center of economic activities. It is not only the wealthiest area of France, but has one of the highest GDPs in the world, after Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Seoul and London. If Paris were a country, it would rank as the seventeenth-largest economy in the world, almost as large as Indonesia’s. The Parisian economy has been gradually shifting towards high-value-added service industries such as: finance, IT services and high-tech manufacturing, including: electronics, optics, aerospace.
Religion: Like the rest of the people in France, Parisians has been mostly Roman Catholics since the Middle Ages, though religious attendance is now low. Political instability in the Third Republic was a result of disagreements about the role of the Church in society. The French Constitution does not mention the religious affiliations of its people and allows the freedom to practice any religion of their choice provided it was done as a private matter.
Population: Approximately 2.24 million inhabitants.
5 Fascinating City Features:
- Paris and Rome are exclusive sister cities, seeing no other city as equal counterparts. The two use the motto: “Only Paris is worthy of Rome; only Rome is worthy of Paris.”
- Paris is divided into 20 different arrondissements (districts), each with its own landmarks, gardens and personalities. They’re arranged in the form of a clockwise spiral. French cities of Lyon and Marseille are also subdivided in this way.
- James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway used to travel around Paris together, picking up fights with larger men.
- The Eiffel Tower is a high maintenance lady! It weighs about 7,000t and uses 50t of paint every seven years. The Eiffel tower swayed 13 cm during a storm in 1999, which blew at 240 kph. Since New Year’s Eve 1999, the light show has become a nightly event. The searchlights on top of the tower make it a beacon in Paris’s night sky, and the 20,000 flash bulbs give the tower a sparkly appearance every hour on the hour.
- Before the Nazi armies invaded Paris during World War 2, the Louvre (famed art museum) was vacated and its contents were secretly distributed among wealthy French citizens, who hid them in their houses around the country.
- Weather: Weather in Paris has changed in the last few years. Summers are shorter and winters have less snow than usual. Expect early spring/late autumn temperatures if you’re traveling anytime from April – June and October through November. Winters are much colder, bring lots of big coats and an umbrella. While summers can get stuffy and hot.
- Electricity: European standards. 220 Volt with the two round prongs and generally recessed sockets.
- Time Difference: Central European Time, UTC +1 (UTC +2 during summertime). AKA: 1 hour ahead of London, 6 hours ahead of NYC but 6 hours behind Shanghai.
- Money: French use Euros (EUR).
- Airports: Paris has four international airports, Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG), Paris-Orly, Paris-Le Bourget and Beauvais-Tillé. CDG is one of the busiest in the world and is the hub for Air France. You’ll most likely be going in and out of CDG.
- Subway: Paris Métro is the second busiest in Europe after Moscow. The lines run within the city from 5:30AM until 1:15AM (2:15AM on Fridays and Saturday nights.) An additional express network, the RER, with five lines (A, B, C, D, & E), connects to more-distant parts of the urban area.
- Trains: Paris is a central hub of the national rail network. The six major railway stations: Gare du Nord (to northern France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK), Gare de l’Est (to eastern France, Strasburg, Hungry, Austria), Gare de Lyon (to south and eastern France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Spain), Gare d’Austerlitz (to Bordeaux, Toulouse, Madrid and Barcelona), Gare Montparnasse (to the west and south-west of France including Tours, Bordeaux, Rennes and Nantes), Gare Saint-Lazare, and a minor one, Gare de Bercy.
- Hello – bonjour or salut
- Thank you – merci
- Yes – oui
- Where? – où?
- How much? – combien?
- Goodbye – au revoir or ciao
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