Weekend in Paris | Guide for beginners

City of love, dreams and light. The capital of France attracts millions of tourists all year long, because as Audrey Hepburn said – “Paris is always a good idea”.I had dreamed of visiting Paris since I was a little girl, desperately wanted to see glimmering lights of Eiffel Tower, have a croissant and coffee on one of those Parisian balconies and stroll around the cutest, Parisian streets. And my dream finally came true!

Paris for beginners can be tough, Luckily, there are plenty of people who have gone there before me and thanks to them I could plan my weekend trip in advance knowing exactly when and what I want to see in such a short period of time. Here’s my guide to Paris for beginners! 🙂

Flights
A direct flight with AirFrance from Birmingham to Paris CDG (return) was £164. It’s hard (if not impossible) to find flights to Paris from Birmingham for less than £100.

Hotel
Whilst choosing the hotel, we focused on: a) Convenient location, we didn’t want to end up too far from the centre of Paris. b) Safe areas and c) Parisian design.

We decided to stay at the Best Western Plus La Demeure and paid £528.17 for three nights including breakfast. This cosy, boutique hotel is located 40 km from the airport and 30 mins (by metro) from Eiffel Tower, based in a peaceful area and had the French decor we were after, too!

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Taxes
Bear in mind you’ll have to pay taxes & other fees in most of the hotels in Paris. Most hotels also ask for a refundable deposit on your arrival (usually 50 Eur).

Average prices:

  • Coffee (Cappuccino): 6 – 8 Eur
  • Regular Pizza: from 23 Eur
  • Single metro ticket: 1.80 Eur
  • All day ticket for the metro + bus: 7.50 Eur (I recommend this option if you plan all day long sightseeing)
  • Prices at the local supermarkets are similar to the UK’s.
  • Uber from the airport to the hotel (35-minute journey): 56 Eur

Public Transport

The metro is hands down the best form of transport in Paris, it’s cheap and the connection is just amazing. Use Google maps and follow the instructions displayed on metro stations and you will never get lost.

Uber – the Uber app works great in Paris. I haven’t however seen many ‘regular’ taxis. Uber prices are higher than in the UK.

Safety in Paris

Just before my trip I read hundreds of articles about the lack of safety in Paris which further worried me to the point I didn’t feel like going there at all.
And then minutes before my flight a notification popped up on my phone: “Terrorist Attack in France, Multiple people dead, Explosion in Lyon” and this frightened me even more, honestly, that was the last thing I wanted to see before my first ever trip to Paris.
Even though everyone around me was acting like nothing ever happened and you couldn’t really feel any tension on the airport (which made me feel a bit more comfortable) I was still very upset about France suffering so much, so often… No one deserves that, no one should be hurt or killed due to another person’s actions and bad decisions.
There are couple of things you can do to make sure your trip is pleasant and trouble-free:
  • First of all – don’t panic, and don’t let those negative opinions ruin your holiday. Paris really isn’t the most dangerous city in the world! Just be wise and careful.
  • Keep your belongings in a safe place, make sure your bag is zipped (belt bags are very useful not only in Paris but for travelling in general)
  • Metros are usually very crowded which makes pickpocketer’s job easier, so be extra careful there.
  • Terrorist attacks – Sadly, there’s nothing you can do to prevent them, so just be vigilant in public areas.
  • DO NOT stop/answer when approached by people (usually gypsies) with clipboard asking for your signature in petition. I stopped – I know, that’s so naive and stupid but they’re so nice and approaching, telling you stories about poor children with cancer etc. it’s obvious you’d love to help and donate BUT IT HAS NOTHING TO DO with helping others!! they do it to distract you and steal your belongings. Luckily nothing happened to me as I realised what was really going on just in time.
  • I would’t choose Paris for a solo trip. It’s much safer to travel with your partner or friend. We’ve experienced harassment during our ”girls only” trip by an Asian men following us and taking pictures of us when visiting Eiffel Tower.
  • Do your research about the area before booking hotel/airbnb.
  • Don’t do anything when overseas that you wouldn’t do at home – don’t walk down poorly lit streets at night, don’t go near/through gardens at night, be aware of your surroundings when withdrawing cash from an ATM.

French People & Paris

I must admit, I was quite surprised when I realised most French people don’t (or chooses not to) speak English, as Paris depends greatly on tourism to thrive.

I don’t expect people to speak English in every country I travel to – I mean.. I’m a foreigner myself and I do remember when I first moved to England and couldn’t speak English. I didn’t expect people to speak Polish, did I?

I don’t support/understand ‘lazy travelers’, expecting to communicate in English everywhere they go. You have to give a little to get a little, so start with simple ”Hi” or ”Thanks” in French.

I have also noticed Parisians tend to be very formal, they won’t chat you up the way they do in England and will often respond with coldness. Don’t expect a friendly service either, In 3 out of 4 restaurants/cafes we’ve been to – we just didn’t feel welcomed.

However – not all Parisians are the same – absolutely not! I met a young gentleman who dropped me off to the airport – and – oh my God.. His american accent blew me away – born and raised in Paris, philosophy teacher who learned English by watching Netflix! He told me that most French people (especially the older generation) simply love their language and culture, and they don’t feel like learning English just for the sake of fulfilling tourists.

2 days definitely isn’t enough to fully explore Paris but I’m sure I will visit again very soon and hopefully then write more detailed blog post with the most beautiful places to visit, best restaurants and cafe’s etc.
One of the places I can honestly recommend (besides the common tourist destinations such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral) is Montmartre – An artists village filled with historic architecture and restaurants with traditional French dishes. There you’ll also find this famous “Instagrammable” pink Cafe. Montmartre in my opinion felt like the most authentic place in Paris.

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