Paris is the capital of France and the country's largest city. It is situated on the river Seine, in northern France. An important settlement for more than two millennia, Paris is today one of the world's leading business and cultural centres, and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities.
Paris is known to be a romantic city - the city of dreams. It offers a mix of style, art, gourmet and world-famous attractions, both ancient and modern. The city is broken up into distinct districts (arrondissements) numbered from one to 20 that radiate out from the center. Each Parisian district has its own atmosphere.
Before you get there
French is the official language.
Entry requirements for Americans: United States citizens must have a passport. A visa is not required for a stay of up to three months.
Entry requirements for UK nationals: British nationals must have a passport. A visa is not required for endorsed British Citizen passport holders. Visa exemption is for three months for passports endorsed British National (Overseas), British Overseas Territories Citizen and British Subject with the right of abode in UK.
Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians must hold a passport for entry to France. A visa is not required for stays of up to three months.
Entry requirements for Australians: Australians must have a passport. No visa is required for a stay of up to three months.
Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans must have a passport and a Schengen visa for travel to France.
Entry requirements for New Zealand nationals: New Zealand nationals must have a passport. No visa is required for a stay of up to three months.
Passport/Visa Note: Visitors, other than EEA state members, are advised to hold a return or onward ticket, documents for next destination and proof of financial means. The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all.
New Year's Day (1 Jan), Good Friday (Mar/Apr), Easter Monday (Mar/Apr), Labour Day (1 May), 1945 Victory Day (8 May), Ascension (40 days after Easter), Bastille Day (14 Jul), Assumption (15 Aug), All Saints' Day (1 Nov), Remembrance Day (11 Nov), Christmas Day (25 Dec).
Paris lies in the midst of the Ile de France region, which has France's lowest rainfall, however the city is known for its unexpected rain showers which can occur at any time of year. Summer temperatures are mild to warm, with occasional heat waves, while winters are very chilly with temperatures hovering around freezing point.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard.
+33 (national), (0) 1 (Paris).
The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in France. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some large hotels, though you will get a better exchange rate at the ATMs. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques, particularly in major tourist destinations. Foreign currency is not accepted.
Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October).
Getting Around – Transport
Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG) - The airport is 14 miles (23km) north east of Paris.
Paris Orly Airport (ORY) - The airport is nine miles (14km) south of Paris.
At just 10km x 11km, you can cross Central Paris by métro in 40 minutes. At the very centre is the Ile de la Cité and Notre-Dame – the desirable first arrondissement. The Seine splits the city in two. To the north lies the Rive Droite, or Right Bank, home to hilly Montmartre, the Champs Elysées, the Louvre and Bastille. To the south extends the more literary, park-scattered Rive Gauche/Left Bank, where you'll find upper crust Saint-Germain des Prés, the Eiffel Tower, cutting edge François Mittérand library and Tour Montparnasse. Twenty arrondissements (districts) spiral clockwise from the Louvre to the Péripherique, the busy ring road encircling the city. Outside central Paris, the Ile-de-France region unfolds with the regal Bois de Boulogne and Versailles Palace.
Métro - There are 14 lines, each with their own colour, number (1-14) and direction (or final destination).
RER - Métro tickets are also valid on the RER commuter trains from central Paris to the wider Ile-de-France suburbs. Take RER C for Versailles. Catch RER B to cross Paris from top to bottom, and to get to Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports. RER A follows métro line 1 east-west across central Paris.
Bus - Over recent years, Paris has created extra bus lanes, so buses move quickly. The 72 cuts a good route from the Hôtel de Ville to Saint-Cloud along the Seine. The 63 starts at Gare de Lyon and heads to La Muette, near the Bois de Boulogne. The 95 leaves Montparnasse to cross the Seine and the chic 6th arrondissement, passing the Louvre, climbing towards the Opéra and heading for Montmartre. Stamp your ticket when you climb on board.
Taxi - If the main white light is on, the taxi is free for hire from the street or taxi rank. If a small bulb is glowing, the taxi is occupied. Rates are higher at night.
Foot - Walking is often the most enjoyable way to get around. For short distances, it can be quicker to walk than change métro lines. Métro stops are roughly a five minute walk apart.
Vélib - Vélib is Paris' excellent self-service bike scheme with over 20, 000 bikes that can be hired for just €1 (for 24 hours) and used free of charge for 30 minutes. Return your bike to any stand (if full check the map on the service point for the nearest stand). Tickets are bought by credit card in a service point. €1 is charged for each supplementary 30 minutes used.
Transport Tips - Paris Par Arrondissements, for sale at any kiosque (newsagent at métro exits), lists every street and boulevard, and has métro/bus/RER and even bicycle route ( Paris à vélo) maps at the back. Buy ten métro tickets at a time (Carnet de dix) to save euros. Each ticket is valid for one journey, including changes (correspondences). A weekly (Monday to Sunday) ticket (carte d'hebdomadaire) is valid on the bus, RER and métro.
Most shops open Monday to Saturday 9am-6.30pm. Smaller shops still pause for lunch and close for two weeks in August. For Sunday shopping, the Marais and Bercy Village are bustling. For bargains, go for sale season (January and July) or year-round bargains at La Vallée outlet shopping village, near Disneyland Paris.
Buy designer labels from Mona's or Colette, second-hand books from the quai Saint-Michel, foie gras and champagne at Fauchon and antiques from St-Ouen.Buy top brands on the exclusive avenue Montaigne, intimate rue Castiglione and rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, home to concept store Colette. Sniff out tomorrow's trends on the rue Charonne in hip Bastille, and spend money in the Marais' bourgeois boutiques. Department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps rival it out on boulevard Haussmann. The covered Forum des Halles, home to high-street brands, keeps you dry when it rains.At weekends, collectors sift through the stalls at the vast Saint-Ouen and smaller, cheaper Puces de Vanves flea markets. Saturday is trendy and organic at the Square des Batignolles. Tuesday to Friday is colourful and ethnic at the boulevard de Belleville bazaar, the place to buy honey-drenched Tunisian pastries and exotic Chinese fruits. Marché Aligre by Bastille is one of the cheapest and most vibrant markets in Paris, and Marché Saxe Breteuil in the 7th arrondissement, the only one in town to afford views of the Eiffel Tower.
Bars tend to open Monday-Saturday until around 2am and clubs until 5am.
Monet's Garden in Giverny
Seaside Trouville and Deauville
Palace and gardens of Versailles
Village of Auvers-sur-Oise in Paris Ile-de-France
Tourism - Maison de la France (Tourist Information Agency), Paris: +33 (0)1 4296 7000
US Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4312 2222.
British Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4451 3100.
Canadian Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4443 2900.
Australian Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4059 3300.
South African Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 5359 2323.
Irish Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4417 6700.
New Zealand Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4501 4343.
France Emergency Numbers