Paris

Paris

Paris, the capital of France, is one of Europe’s great cities. Long considered the paragon of style, Paris still remains the most glamorous and decadent city in Europe. It’s home to over two million people, and is in the heart of industrial northern France.

Paris is quite literally divided in to two by the River Seine and each side has a very different feel to it. The left bank is famous for its artistic and intellectual life, while the right is home to the business and political side. The city is divided into twenty different districts, or ‘arrondissements’.

The most tangible and immediate pleasures of Paris are to be found in its street life and along the leisurely banks and bridges of River Seine. Few cities of the world can compete with the thousand-and-one cafes, bars and restaurants that line every street and boulevard. It’s the city’s compactness that makes it possible to experience the individual feel of the different quarters.

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Paris City Guide

Paris, the capital of France, is one of Europe’s great cities. Long considered the paragon of style, Paris still remains the most glamorous and decadent city in Europe.

Paris City GuideParis, the capital of France, is one of Europe’s great cities. Long considered the paragon of style, Paris still remains the most glamorous and decadent city in Europe. It’s home to over two million people, and is in the heart of industrial northern France.

Paris is quite literally divided in to two by the River Seine and each side has a very different feel to it. The left bank is famous for its artistic and intellectual life, while the right is home to the business and political side. The city is divided into twenty different districts, or ‘arrondissements’.

The most tangible and immediate pleasures of Paris are to be found in its street life and along the leisurely banks and bridges of River Seine. Few cities of the world can compete with the thousand-and-one cafes, bars and restaurants that line every street and boulevard. It’s the city’s compactness that makes it possible to experience the individual feel of the different quarters.

Gard du Nord in Paris by Trey Ratcliff - stuck in customs - Flickr Commons

Getting to Paris

For somebody who lives in Europe, both getting to Paris and getting around Paris is remarkably easy. The city has a small well integrated public transport system of bus, metro and trains like the RATP (Regie Autonome des Transorts Parisiens), which is cheat, fast and meticulously signposted.

By Air

Flights to the 2 main airports, Charles De Gaule and Orly continue to be the main mode of entry for most far flung visitors. Charles De Gaule airport or more popularly abbreviated to CDG is fifteen miles northeast of the city. The airport has two main terminals, CDG1 and CDG2, both of which are connected to the centre of the city by various forms and combinations of transport. Roissyrail runs on RER line B every fifteen minutes from 5am until midnight, from the two terminals to Gare du Nord, Chatelets-Les Halles, St-Michel and Denfert-Rochereau, at all of which you can transfer to the ordinary metro. A TGV station also links the airport with Bordeaux, Brussels, Lille, Lyon, Nantes, Marseille and Rennes. The Roissybus service connects CDG2 with the Opera-Garnier. The buses depart every fifteen minutes from 5.45am to 11pm and at about 8 Euro, this proves to be the cheapest route. Apart from this the Airport Shuttle, which is a minibus door-to-door airport service, can be chosen as an alternative. It sometimes works out to be more reasonable as there is no extra charge for luggage.

Orly airport is located ten miles south of Paris and has two terminals, Orly Sud and Orlu Ouest. While Orly Ouest is used for domestic flights, Orly Sud handles international flights. A shuttle links both terminals but the distance between the two is easily walkable. To go from the airport to the city centre, use the orlyrail.

By train

The Eurostar is probably the most common way of arriving at Paris if you’re coming from Amsterdam, Brussels or London, where the train runs from Waterloo in London under the sea via the Channel Tunnel. The Eurostar arrives at Gare du Nord, which is basically a bustling convergence of international, long-distance and suburban trains, the metro and several bus routes. Gare du Nord is equipped with many facilities like lockers for luggage where you can store your belongings and a bureaux de change for changing currency.

Paris has six main line train stations. The Gare du Nord has trains going to Boulogne, Calais, the UK and other north-European countries. The Gare de l’Est is connected with trains coming from eastern France and Central Europe. The other stations Gare St-Lazare, Gare de Lyon, Gare Montparnasse, Gare d’Austerlitz and Gare de Paris-Bercy connect Paris with various parts of France and Europe. All of these stations are connected with the metro stations and are also equipped with cafes, restaurants, tabacs, banks and bureaux de change.

Getting around Paris

The River Seine flows roughly east to west, cutting the city in two. The area north of the river is known as the right bank (rive droite) and the south is called the left bank (rive gauche). The best way to get your bearings above ground is to think of the Louvre as the centre. The landmarks that you are most likely to catch glimpses of as you move about are the Eiffel Tower to the west, and the white domes of Sacre Coeur on top of the hill Montmartre to the north.

The metro and RER

The metro, combined with the RER suburban express lines, is the simplest way to move around Paris. The metro runs from 5:30am to 12:30am and the RER trains run from 5am to midnight. The lines are colour-coded and designated by numbers for the metro and by letters for the RER. Free maps of varying sizes and detail are available at most stations and every station has a big plan of the network outside the entrance and several inside. For RER journeys beyond the city, make sure that the stations you want is illuminated on the platform display board.

If you are visiting Paris for some days then it’s practical to buy a carnet or a set of ten tickets from any station or tabac. The same tickets are valid for both bus and metro within city limits and immediate suburbs. Weekly coupons or coupon hebdomadaire also prove to be economical. Other possibilities are the Paris Visites one, two, three, and a five-day visitors passes. These are valid in Paris and in close suburbs including the airports, Versailles and Disney land Paris. A half-priced child’s version is also available.

Buses

Buses in Paris are not difficult to use and you will see more of the city than you will do sitting in the metro. Free bus route maps are available at the metro stations, at the bus terminals and the tourist office. Every bus stop displays the numbers of buses that stop there and a map shows all the stops on the route. Generally the buses run from 6:30 am to 8:30 pm, but some services continue until midnight. However most of the lines don’t operate on Sundays and on holidays.

Taxis

Taxi charges in Paris are considerable reasonable. You can tell which rate is operating from the three small indicator lights on its roof. “A” or the passenger side indicates the daytime rate, “B” is the rate for Paris at night and for the suburbs during the day and “C” is the night rate for the suburbs. Taxi drivers don’t take more than three passengers and if a fourth passenger is accepted then extra charge will be added. Tipping is not mandatory, but usually ten percent is expected. If you’re going to take a taxi, it’s a good idea to learn a few words of French, act confident and look like you know where you are going, otherwise you could get taken on an expensive ride.

Roller blades

Another way to see the city is on roller blades. It all started back in 1993 when a few devotees of what was then just a California craze showed up at the Place D’Italie every Friday night. Now roller-skating has become so popular that police escorts are arranged as thousands of people turn up every Friday night. The ride lasts about five hours, covering fifteen miles around the city of Paris. Around 3,000 people join in.

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