The internet is a vast and wonderful place, where you can ask any question and get EVERY answer. We also know how totally overwhelming it is when asking the World-Wide-Web questions about the city you're about to visit - so we made bullet points for you on Paris.
When to Visit
Pro: mild enough weather to sit outside at a cafe, some rain, average amount of tourists. Con: average amount of tourists, some rain.
Pro: Perfect weather for a picnic of wine, cheese and baguette on the grass. Con: Locals have disappeared, and the city is as full of tourists as Disneyland.
Pro: Autumn colors in trees electrify the city, and it's easier to snag an outdoor cafe table than it was in Summer. Con: It's getting a little chilly to walk everywhere. Not really a big con.
Pro: Cozy cafes, twinkling lights and post-holiday retail mega sales in January. Con: It's cold and rainy to walk everywhere (though manageable), and many places close in December for the Holidays.
Currency: Euros. Chip and Pin debit + credit cards are accepted basically everywhere though, and ATM's ('cash machines') are also easy to find.
Don't make the mistake of a super-late lunch or early-bird dinner; most restaurants close between 3 and 7pm. If you're starving, pop into a boulangerie or patisserie.
Make sure you try: a freshly baked baguette from a boulangerie, a croissant from a patisserie, a coffee at an outdoor cafe table, and a 'petit vin rouge' (small red wine) from a brasserie around happy hour.
When at a cafe you'll often order at the table, but get up to pay your bill.
It's VERY easy to use and can get you anywhere. Lines are numbered and color-coded, making it even easier. Pro tip: save a screenshot of the Metro map on your phone, so you can reference what stop you need with or without internet connection.
Individual single journey tickets are 1.90 euro for any of the main zones in the city (1-4). The only reason a ticket might be more than that is if you head outside those zones, like to Saint Ouen for the flea market or Versailles to see the palace / gardens.
Ticket machines are in every station, and offer multiple languages including English and Spanish.
You can also purchase a Paris-visite pass for free travel between all the zones for a set number of days at a ticket machine (or in advance) Personally, I prefer individual tickets to the cost of 'visite pass' because of how much walking I like to do to really see the city.
Entrances to the underground are marked by either art nouveau signs reading 'metropolitan' (in historic areas) or "M" in other areas.
"Sortie" means exit.
Taxis are available, but totally unnecessary. Ask the Internet if you're determined to use.
Please, please, walk everywhere! The landmarks are easy to find. You'll get a real feel for the city getting a little lost wandering the neighborhoods. Use a google map with dropped pins like this one for directions, and if you don't have wifi, you can zoom in on the last open map you had and figure it out with street names!
Rue de ... - translates to 'street of'
Boulangerie - Bakery
Patisserie - Pastry Shop
Brasserie - translates to Brewery, but means bar/restauraunt
Bonjour! - Hello! (bohnjeewr)
Merci! - (meyhrsee) thank you!
L'addition, sil vous plait. - Check, please. (la-dissiohn see-voo-play)
Où sont les toilettes? - Where are the bathrooms? (Ooo sohn lay toile-ette?)
Je suis désolé, mais je ne parle pas français! - I'm sorry, but I don't speak French! (jjuuhh swee dayzohlay, may jjuuhh neh parlay paw frawn-sehy!)
Acceptez-vous les cartes des credit? - Do you accept credit cards? (Akkseptay voo lay cart day credeet?)
Tourist Shit Worth Doing
See the Eiffel Tower, climb the steps if it's open.
Visit the Louvre. This gigantic (and we mean GIGANTIC) museum used to be a palace, and it's so full of priceless art they're practically piling it - one on top of another. To avoid getting art-fatigue, decide which of the 3 wings you care to see the most and spend your time there. Options? Ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, italian renaissance paintings (yes, the mona lisa), ancient greek marble sculptures (yes, venus de milo), the preserved rooms of Napolean himself, Mesopotamian temple pillars taller than a school bus is long, 17th century paintings the size of rooms (yes, The Coronation of Napolean)...yeah, too much to name.
View from 'Tour Maine-Montparnasse' - the 56th floor of this skyscraper has the best view of the Eiffel Tower (and entire city) - but it comes with a cheese-ball, touristy price. As in, you're forced to take a green screen photo as soon as you walk in, and the carpet is a cosmic night sky pattern. Tickets are steep for just a view ($15 euros), but still worth it. There's an outdoor rooftop deck, and indoor floor to ceiling window deck if it's too cold to be outside. Tip: go around dusk, to see both the city in the day / sunset / and at night when the city lights up. Info HERE.
Walk down the the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe.
If you have time, visit Versailles. This is the famous palace that Marie Antoinette lived in (as did Louis XIV, XV, and XVI). The size of the place is staggering, as is the sheer amount of gold, wallpaper and baby cherubs used in the decor. The gardens are vast and really beautiful in late spring/summer - but as we mentioned, there are tons of tourists. It's an hour Metro ride (10 miles) outside Paris, but worth the trip.
Have a picnic lunch of bread, wine and cheese in the Jardin des Tulieres or Jardin du Luxembourg. Keep it simple.
What need-to-know info are we missing? Let us know in the comments!