Paris in France
Paris stimulates the senses, demanding to be seen, heard, touched, tasted and smelt. From romance along the Seine to landscapes on bus-sized canvases to the pick-an-ism types in cafes monologuing on the use of garlic or the finer points of Jerry Lewis, Paris is the essence of all things French. Read more...
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Paris stimulates the senses, demanding to be seen, heard, touched, tasted and smelt. From romance along the Seine to landscapes on bus-sized canvases to the pick-an-ism types in cafes monologuing on the use of garlic or the finer points of Jerry Lewis, Paris is the essence of all things French.
Paris is served by three international airports-for more information, including arrival/departure times, check the official sites.
Charles de Gaulle International Airport (Roissy, ) to the north-east of the city is one of the major hub airports of Europe. It's notoriously confusing, so allow plenty of time for transfers. There are three terminals: Terminal 1, Terminal 2 (which is huge and subdivided into 2A through 2F), and Terminal 3 (formerly T9). Terminal 1 and 3 are next to each other, whereas mass Terminal 2 is in another building. The free CDGVAL shuttle train connects the terminals together. Everything at this airport is very expensive so be aware. There are also hardly any benches around, and don't even consider looking for an outlet to charge your cell phone or laptop.
For getting to or from Paris, RER-B has stations in T3 (from where you can take the free CDGVAL shuttle train to T1) and T2; trains to Paris (Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les Halles, Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, Luxembourg, Porte Royale, Denfert Rochereau) leave every 15 minutes, and have express trains running at every hour. Tickets cost €8, 50 (or €5, 50 for a child's fare) each and take around 40 minutes (or less if on express), making this the fastest and cheapest way to connect. Alternatively, the Roissybus service connects all terminals directly to Opéra Garnier in central Paris, but its subject to traffic jams and rush hour, so it averages 60-90 minutes even on a good day. There is also a TGV station in T2 for high-speed connections, mostly towards Lille and Brussels, but there are also some trains that head south to eg. Rennes and Nantes, bypassing Paris. When using the ticket to the airport (and with tickets to zones outside of Paris) use it to enter and exit the train. Always keep the ticket handy as the SNCF officials sometimes check for tickets, and if you are without one you will be fined a hefty fare of €40.
Orly International Airport (, ) to the south-west of the city, and served by a southern branch of the RER-B line that heads in the direction of Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse (not Robinson). This older international airport is used mainly by Air France for national lines, and other international carriers in Europe. Orly is roughly forty minutes from Paris via the OrlyBus, which departs from Métro Denfert-Rochereau (ligne 6); the price is €6. Another option is bus 285 that takes you to the Métro Villejuif-Louis Aragon(ligne 7) in 15 minutes. Bus 285 costs €1, 5 and runs every 10 minutes, stopping at airport level-1.
The Orlyval light rail connects both terminals to the RER B line at Antony. It runs every 4-7 minutes and cost €9.30 for transfer to Paris. The RER B from Antony runs through Paris to Aéroport Charles de Gaulle.
Beauvais (Aéroport de Paris Beauvais Tillé, ) to way north of the city, is a smaller regional airport that is used by some low-cost carriers such as Ryanair ( list flights). The airport operates a shuttle service connecting with the Métro at Porte Maillot station. Buses run even during the wee hours of the morning (~ 6 am). Buses leave 20 minutes after each flight arrives, and a few hours before each flight departs. Exact times can be found on the Beauvais Airport website. The journey will take about an hour in good traffic conditions, and costs €13 each way (as of April 2008).
In addition to public transport, Air France operates shuttles between Charles de Gaulle and Paris (€10-€12), Orly and Paris (€7.5) and between the two airports (€15). Note that if you have connecting Air France flights that land and depart from different airports, you would still generally need to fetch your luggage after landing, catch either the Air France shuttle or a taxi (readily available at all airports) to the other airport and check-in again. This altogether could take up to 2 hours particularly if traffic is at its worse. It is also common to lose time during disembarking, as passengers often need to get off at the tarmac and get on buses which will bring them to the terminal building. Be sure to have sufficient time between flights to catch your connection. Note that check-in counters usually close 30 minutes before the flight departs, longer if flights are international carriers.
If you arrive to CDG Airport at night you'll need a Noctilien bus to get to the city center. The bus stops in all three terminals (in terminal 2 it will be the second level in departure section-it is very difficult to find, but it really exists). The bus leaves every 30 minutes after 00:30 http://www.ratp.info/horaires/index.php?etape=choix_noct. The buses you'll need are N121 and N120; the price is 7 Euro.
The train system impressive, and will whip you quickly to most places in France; there are TGV services to Amsterdam and Brussels.
Note that the driving rules in France differ greatly from most English-speaking countries. The major difference is that at roundabouts, traffic entering the roundabout has the right-of-way, unless the roundabout entrances are signposted otherwise: Vous n'avez la priorité. Unless you see that sign when entering a roundabout, you must prepare to give way/yield to all traffic entering the roundabout. This is the opposite from what occurs in the UK, Australia and other English-speaking countries. Take special care when driving in France.
Directions If you find yourself lost in the streets, a good idea is to find the nearest Hotel and ask the concierge for directions. Most speak English well. A simple Bonjour Monsieur, parlez-vous anglais? should suffice.
Walking in Paris is one of the great pleasures of visiting the City of Light. It is possible to cross the entire city in only a few hours, but only if you can somehow keep yourself from stopping at numerous cafés and shops. In fact within a few years walking combined with biking and the Metro will be the only way to get around the very center of Paris: The Mayor's office has announced plans to declare the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th arrondissements almost totally car-free by 2012.
The smartest travelers take advantage of the walk-ability of this city, and stay above ground as much as possible. A metro ride of less than 2 stops is probably best avoided since walking will take about the same amount of time and you'll be able to see more of the city.
Paris walking 101 To get a great orientation of the city on foot while seeing many of Paris' major sights, you can do a West to East walk from the Arc de Triomphe to Ile de la Cite (Notre Dame). This walk takes about 1-2 hours without any stops. Start at the top of the Champs Elysees (at the Arc de Triomphe) and begin walking down the Champs Elysees towards Place ('square') de la Concorde. On the way towards the obelisk on the square, you'll see the major stores and restaurants of Paris' most famous avenue. Once you've passed the main shopping area, you'll see the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais to your right. At Place de la Concorde, you'll be able to see many of Paris' major monuments around you. In front of you is the Tuileries, behind you is the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, behind you to your right is the Tour Eiffel and Musee d'Orsay, and finally, to your left is the Madeleine. Continue straight ahead and enter the Tuileries Gardens passing by fountains, flowers, and lovers in the park. As you continue straight ahead, and out of the garden, you'll see the pyramid entrance to the Louvre directly in front of you. With the pyramid directly in front of you, and the Tuileries directly behind you, turn to your right and walk towards the Seine. Now you can walk along the Seine (eastwards) until you reach Pont Neuf. Cross Pont Neuf and walk through the Latin Quarter, cross the river again to reach Notre Dame cathedral on Ile de la Cité.
You may have heard of the hazard of walking into dog droppings in Paris. Unfortunately, despite many campaigns to get Parisians to clean up after their dogs, it's still quite true that you have to keep an eye on the sidewalk in front of you.
You will also notice that most of the older Parisian streets (especially the ones in the Quartier Latin) are particularly narrow with little or no room to even fit a car, so the sidewalks on these roads are extremely tiny. Although this means you would opt to walk on the road, be wary as Parisian drivers, taxi drivers in particular, take no heed in the narrowness of the road, and will drive down it as fast as if they were driving along a major road.
It's always fun to experience the city by foot, and there are numerous walking tours around Paris, whether self guided (with the help of a guidebook) or with a touring guide (booked through your travel agency or hotel). The city historically is one that is best explored by foot, and some of the most marvelous memories you will have of Paris is walking through secret found places.
Paris has an excellent underground train system, known as the Métro (short for Chemin de Fer Métropolitain i.e. Metropolitan Railways). There are 16 lines (lignes) (1-14, 3bis and 7bis) on which trains travel all day at intervals of a few minutes between 5 AM and 12:30AM (Saturday night/Sunday morning: 01:30), stopping at all stations on the line. Times for trains can be seen on a prompt on the platform. Line 14, which is fully automated, is called the Méteor. Scheduled times for first and last trains are posted in each station on the center sign.
The lines are named according to the names of their terminal stations (those at the end of the line). If you ask the locals about directions they will answer something like : take line number n toward end station 1, change at station, take the line nn toward end station 2 etc. The lines are also color-coded.
In addition there are 5 train lines called RER A, B, C, D, E. RER trains run at intervals of about 6-7 minutes, and stop at every station within Paris. Although a regular subway ticket can be used within Paris (Zone 1), it is necessary to pass the ticket through the turnstile when passing between the subway and the RER lines, as the two systems are separate networks. This ticket is necessary to both enter and exit the RER networks, as the RER trains travel on to the Parisian suburbs, outside the zone where a regular subway ticket can't be used. Beware that traveling outside the city center without a valid RER ticket will get you fined, and the packs of inspectors who roam the system show no mercy to tourists pleading ignorance. In particular, CDG airport is not within the city, and you'll need to purchase a more expensive RER ticket to get there.
For travel outside of the Paris zone, the train arrival times are shown on a monitor hanging from the ceiling inside the RER station above the platform. Information about the stops to be made by the next train is presented on a separate board also hanging from the ceiling. It is important to check this board before boarding the train, as not all trains make stops at all stations on a given line.
RATP is responsible for public transport including metro, buses, and some of the high speed inter-urban trains (RER). The rest of the RER is operated by SNCF. However, both companies take the same tickets, so the difference is of little interest for most people except in case of strikes (because RATP may strike while SNCF does not, or the other way round). Current fares can be found at their website. Basically, as you move further from Paris (ie into higher zones), tickets get more expensive.
For the subway, a single ticket (ticket t+) costs €1.50; however, it is generally not advisable to buy tickets by the unit and to rather purchase a carnet of ten tickets, which can be bought for €11.10 at any station, that will bring the price per ticket down to €1.11. Tickets, named 'Tarif Reduit' may be purchased for children under the age of 10 for €0, 55 each, or a carnet for €5, 50. Both tickets are valid for unlimited metro, RER, bus and tram transfers during one hour. Tickets do not expire.
A 1-day ticket, a weekly pass, and a monthly pass are also available. The price varies according to the zones for which the ticket can be used. The cheapest 1-day ticket called Mobilis, is valid for zones 1-2, with a price of 5.60 euros. Once bought, it is necessary to write in the spaces provided on the ticket: 1) the date the ticket is being used in European notation of day/month/year (Valable le), 2) the last name (Nom), and 3) and the first name (Prénom). Unfortunately, this ticket is not valid for use for travel to/from Charles de Gaulle airport.
If you're staying a bit longer, the weekly and monthly passes are called Carte Orange (1 week pass, €16.30 for Paris and inner suburbs), and the monthly Carte Orange Mensuelle (1 month pass). Note that an Hebdomadaire (eb-DOH-ma-DAYR) starts on Mondays and a Mensuelle on the first of the month. The Carte Orange is non-transferrable, and therefore requires the user to provide information on the pass after the sale. Since 2008, the Carte Orange is sold as refill of a Navigo Decouverte no contact pass. This pass is sold 5€. You must write your last name (nom), your first name (prénom) and stick your photo on the nominative card. After, you have to refill your pass with a Carte Orange Hebdomadaire (1 week pass), or a Carte Orange Mensuelle (1 month pass). You have to choose at least 2 the contiguous zones: Paris is first the zone 1, La Défense is in the third zone, Versailles in the fourth,. .. Everything related to a Navigo pass is in purple (eg. the target for the pass in the turnstiles).
Although not as good a deal for adults in most cases as the Mobilis or Carte Orange, there are also 1 to 5 day tourist passes, called Paris Visite available, which are a bargain for kids of ages 4 to 11, starting at €4.25 per day for travel within zones 1-3.
Keep your métro ticket or pass with you at all times, you may be checked or controlled. You will be cited and forced to pay on the spot. Although the most likely spots for controls are at big métro stations or during métro line change correspondences, it is not uncommon for controleurs to check tickets on trains. RATP agents may be present in the metro stations even on Sunday night.
Métro stations have both ticket windows and automatic vending machines. The majority of automatic vending machines take only coins or European credit cards with a pin-encoded chip on the front. Therefore, to use either Euro bills or a non-European credit card with a magnetic stripe, it is necessary to make the purchase from the ticket window.
Avoid suburban charges If you have any tickets or Carte Orange for zone 1-2 ( inside Paris area: the lower rate) and want go to La Defense from Chatelet, you have to take the metro (line 1). You can take the RER A (and save a few minutes) but you have to pay an additional fare, because even though you arrive at the same station, the RER exit is supposed to be outside of Paris! On the other hand, métro fares are the same, even in the suburbs. So be careful, there are usually a lot of ticket examiners present when you get off the RER A.
Each station displays a detailed map of the surrounding area with a street list and the location of buildings (monuments, schools, places of worship etc) as well as exits for that particular metro. Maps are located on the platform if the station has several exits or near the exit if there is only one.
When the train arrives, the doors may not open automatically. In such a case, there are handles located both inside and outside the train which you have to push, or unlatch in order to open the door.
There are several excellent boat services which makes use of the Seine. As well as providing easy, cheap transport to much of central Paris, excellent photo opportunities abound. You can buy a day or 3 day ticket and hop on and off the boat as needed. The boats take a circular route from the Eiffel Tower, down past the Louvre, Notre Dame, botanical gardens then back up the other bank past Musee D'orsay. Batobus offers a regular shuttle service between the main touristic sights; other companies such as the famous Bateaux Mouches offer sightseeing cruises.
Paris is the mecca of city skating. This is due to the large, smooth surfaces offered by both the pavements and the roads. Skating on the pavement is legal all around Central Paris (zone 1) and its suburbs (zone 2+).
Renting a bike is a very good alternative over driving or using public transport. Riding a bike anywhere in the city is far safer for the moderately experienced cyclists than almost any town or city in the United States. The French are very cognizant of cyclists, almost to a point of reverence. A few years ago Paris wasn't the easiest place to get around by bike. That however has changed dramatically in recent years, starting perhaps with a lengthy bus and traffic jam. The city government has taken a number of steps in strong support of improving the safety and efficiency of the urban cyclist as well, in establishing some separated bike lanes, but even more important a policy of allowing cyclists to share the ample bus lanes on most major boulevards. Paris also has many riversides which are perfect for cycling. The Paris bike network now counts over 150 km of either unique or shared lanes for the cyclist. In addition, the narrower, medieval side streets of the central arrondissements make for rather scenic and leisurely cycling, especially during off-hours of the day when traffic is lighter. Do remember to bring a good map, since there is no grid plan to speak of and almost all of the smaller streets are one-way.
Note that, while the streets of Paris are generally fairly easy on novice cyclists, there are some streets in the city that should be avoided by those who do not have sufficient urban cycling experience. 'Rue de Rivoli', 'Place de la Bastille', and 'Place de la Nation' are particularly hairy, especially during weekdays and the Saturday evening rush, and should not be navigated by anyone not confident in their ability to cycle in heavy traffic. 'Avenue des Champs-Elysées', 'Place de l'Étoile', and 'Voie Georges Pompidou' (the lower-level express lanes along the banks of the Seine) should be avoided at all times.
You can find an excellent map of the bike network called Plan des Itinéraires cyclables ( download here) at the information center in the Hôtel de Ville. although its not soo much fun with skates
There are two different bike rental programs in Paris: Vélib 01 30 79 79 30 http://www.velib.paris.fr/ per day 1€ In July 2007 the municipality of Paris introduced the Vélib program ( vélo Liberté or Bicycle Freedom) by which it is possible to rent a bike for a very modest price. Numerous stations are to be found around the city (at major landmarks and metro stations); with your credit card (although sadly at this writing many American cards do not work at the machines), you can subscribe for 1 day (1€) or 7 days (5€) after paying a security on the bicycle (to pay for it if it isn't returned) & then get a bike; the first 30 mn are free... so the game is to get to another station in 25 mn & get another bicycle (you will have to wait for 5 mn before you get another one, though). Try it; if your card works in the machines it's a great way to get around! The bicycles are wonderful cruiser bikes, with a front basket to put a purse or bag.
In addition to operating a number of bike rental buses, the RATP has some permanent locations, including:
Roue Libre, Les Halles 1 passage Mondétour facing 120 rue Rambuteau, Métro: Les Halles +33 8 10 44 15 34 http://www.rouelibre.fr/points-location.php Opening hours from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Bikes can be rented for one weekend (€25), Monday to Friday (€20), a working day (€9), or one day in the weekend (€14). Roue Libre, Bastille http://www.rouelibre.fr/points-location.php Roue Libre Bastille 37, boulevard Bourdon, Métro: Bastille +33 1 44 54 19 29 Opening hours from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Bikes can be rented for one weekend (€25), Monday to Friday (€20), a working day (€9), or one day in the weekend (€14).
Since the Métro is primarily structured around a hub and spoke model, there are some journeys for which it can be quite inefficient, and in these cases it is worth seeing if a direct bus route exists, despite the complexity of the bus network. A bus ride is also interesting if you want to see more of the city. The Parisian bus system is quite tourist-friendly. It uses the same single-ride tickets and Carte Orange as the Métro, and electronic displays inside each bus tell riders its current position and what stops remain, eliminating a lot of confusion.
These same payment devices are also valid in the Noctilien, the night bus, where tickets normally cost €2.70. Noctambus routes all begin hourly at Chatelet and run to outlying areas of greater Paris. It pays to know one's Noctambus route ahead of time in case one misses the last Métro home. Women travellers should probably avoid taking the Noctambus on their own.
Another option for travelers who want to see the sights of Paris without a stop on every street corner is the Paris L’Open Tour Bus. An open topped double decker bus that supplies headsets with the most up to date information on the attractions in Paris. Your ticket is good for 4 routes ranging in time from 1-2 hours. Get off when you want, stay as long as you need, get back on the bus and head for another site. You can purchase tickets at the bus stop. A 1 day pass is €26 for adults and €13 for children. A two day pass is €29 for adults or €13 for children.
Taxis are comparatively cheap especially at night when there are no traffic jams to be expected. There are not as many as would expect, and sometimes finding a taxi can be challenging. In the daytime, it is not always a good idea to take a taxi, as walking or taking the metro will often be faster. If you know you will need one to get to the airport, or to a meeting, it is wise to book ahead by phone.
Remember if a taxi is near a 'taxi station', they're not supposed to pick you up except at the station where there may be people waiting for a taxi. Taxi stations are usually near train stations, big hotels, hospitals, large crossings.
There are a number of services by which you can call for taxis or make a reservation in advance:
As in many other cities a taxi can be difficult to stop; you may have to try several times. When you do get a taxi to stop, the driver will usually roll down his window to ask you where you want to go. If the driver can't (or doesn't want to) go where you want, he might tell you that he's near the end of his work day & can't possibly get you where you want before he has to go off-duty.
There is a €5.50 minimum on all taxi rides, mandated by city law, but the meter does not show this amount, which can result in being asked to pay more than the metered amount on short rides. Frequently the taxi driver will not want to drive you all the way to the doorstep, but will prefer to let you out a block or so away if there are one or more one-way streets to contend with. Try to look at this as a cost-savings rather than an inconvenience. You should pay while still seated in the cab as in London and not through the front window New York style.
The driver will not let you sit in the front seat (unless there are 3 or 4 of you, which is a rare case usually expedited by more money). Taxi-drivers come in all types, some nice, some rude, some wanting to chat, some not. Smoking in taxis is generally not allowed, however it might be that the taxi driver himself wants a cigarette in which case the rule might become flexible.
Many drivers prefer that you avoid using your cellphone during the ride; if you do have to, make an apologizing gesture & sound, and do make a short call.
A tip is included in the fare price; If you're especially satisfied with the service, you can give something (basically 10%), but you don't have to. There is an extra charge for baggage handling.
If for any reason you wish to file a complaint about a Paris taxi, take note of the taxi's number on the sticker on the left hand backseat window.
When to go
Central Paris is officially divided into 20 districts called arrondissements, numbered from 1 to 20 in a clockwise spiral from the center of the city (known as Kilometre Zero and is located at the front of Notre Dame). Arrondissements are named according to their number. You might, for example, stay in the 5th, which would be written as 5e (SANK-ee-emm) in French. The 12th and 16th arrondissements include large suburban parks, the Bois de Vincennes, and the Bois de Boulogne respectively.
The very best map you can get for Paris is called Paris Pratique par Arrondissement which you can buy for about €2 at any news stand. It makes navigating the city easy-so much that one can imagine that the introduction of such map-books might be part of what made the arrondissement concept so popular in the first place.
Each arrondissement has its own unique character and selection of attractions for the traveler:
In the late 1990s it was hard to find good Mexican food in Paris, however, today there are dozens of possibilities from lowly taquerias in the outer arrondissements to nice sit-down restaurants on the boulevards. Meanwhile Latin music from Salsa to Samba is all the rage (well, alongside Paris discotheque electronica).
The 21st century has also seen vast improvements in the general livability of Paris, with the Mayor's office concentrating on reducing pollution and improving facilities for soft forms of transportation including a huge network of cycle paths, larger pedestrian districts and newer faster metro lines. Visitors who normally arrive car-less are the beneficiaries of these policies as much as the Parisians themselves are. As on February 2008, smoking was banned in restaurants and bars to promote healthier and more accepting environments for patrons.
Crime in Paris is similar to most large cities, but violent crime is uncommon in the heart of the city. Pickpockets are active on the rail link (RER) from Charles de Gaulle airport to downtown Paris and on the number one metro (subway) line that cuts across the city center east to west servicing many of the major tourist sites. A common scheme is for one thief to distract the tourist with questions or disturbance while an accomplice picks pockets, a backpack or purse. Thieves often time their crime to coincide with the closing of the automatic doors on the metro, leaving the victim secured on the departing train. Many thefts also occur at the major department stores (Galeries Lafayette, Printemps) where tourists leave wallets, passports and credit cards on cashier counters during transactions.
Popular tourist sites are also popular hunting grounds for thieves who favour congested areas to mask their activities. The crowded elevators at the Eiffel Tower, escalators at museums and the area around the Sacre Cœur church in Montmartre are all favoured by pickpockets and snatch-and-run thieves. The area around the famous Moulin Rouge is known as Pigalle and best avoided after dark unless with a tour group headed for a show. Pigalle is an adult entertainment area known for prostitutes, sex shows and drugs. Unsuspecting tourists often run up exorbitant bar bills and are forced to pay before being permitted to leave.
The Marché aux Puces (Les Puces) flea market is virtually designed to make pickpocketing easy and gangs can be witnessed spotting victims. Walkways are often crowded, narrow, dark, with no way out except to wait for the extraordinarily-slow walkers to move.
However, there are some areas, like Barbès (18th), where it's better not to hang around alone at night. In these areas, a lot depends on the way you behave and if you know how to adapt to the situation. If you know what you are looking for, speak some French and feel comfortable, there is no problem strolling around a neighborhood like Barbès. Also some parts of the banlieue are better to avoid, but the banlieue is, except for a very few tourist spots (Fontainebleau, Versailles, Basilique de St. Denis) not a place where the ordinary tourist will go anyway.
The metro is relatively safe, but again, pickpockets do work in the stations and on the trains especially near tourist destinations. If you are carrying a bag make sure that it's closed tightly. If you have a wallet in your pocket keep a hand on it while entering or exiting the trains. Don't carry any more cash than you can afford to lose. Keep your cash on different parts of your body: some in your money belt, some in your purse/wallet, some in your shoe. Keep the contents of your purse/wallet to the bare essentials: money, one debit/credit card, I.D., emergency contact information, medical I.D. When you have to access your money belt, do so in private.
Recent news reports have highlighted new tactics by thieves, targeting taxis on their way into the city from Charles de Gaulle airport. Thieves wait for the taxi to be stopped in the usual traffic jam along the A1 highway and break windows to get to the passengers' bags. To avoid this, you may place your bags in the trunk of the taxi or take the very safe Air France shuttle.
You should also beware of illegal taxis. At least one young foreign tourist has been murdered after getting into a car that was not-as she'd believed-an official Parisian taxi.
Beware also of distraught-looking women and children asking if you can speak English. You'll be presented with a card or letter with a story explaining something like My mother is in hospital in another country terminally ill. I'm stuck in Paris with no money and I need to visit her. You´ll encounter them at the major train and Métro stations (they are especially prevalent in and around Gare du Nord and Châtelet-Les Halles) and also at most major tourist attractions. Even on the Champs-Élysées. They are also prevalent around the Arc de Triomphe near the Embassy of Qatar.
Some Parisian restaurants, particularly in the tourist-laden Latin Quarter, make a living ripping off tourists who are hampered by a language barrier. When ordering, particularly if ordering a menu or prix-fixe meal, point to the actual menu item and ensure you repeat the price. Eye contact works wonders, as does a modicum of conversational French. If the bill does not conform to what you order, complain and leave the restaurant without paying if this does not work.
Beware of touristy areas where there are gamling stands with people playing. They are more than likely to be accompliances of the person manning the booth. They usually play with 3 black rubber coins to guess the one with a white piece of paper stuck underneath. You can never win at that as they swtich hands and do not let you open it yourself. If you ever get cheated there, shout at them loudly and refuse to let them go as they usually operate in crowded places.
Parisians have a reputation for being rude and arrogant. Some of their reputation for brusqueness may stem from the fact that they are constantly surrounded by tourists, who can sometimes themselves seem rude and demanding.
This is not to say that Parisians are, by nature, rude. On the contrary: there are a considerable number of rules defining what is rude and what is polite in Parisian interpersonal relationships; if anything, the Parisians are more polite than most (This should be no surprise, though, when one considers the fact that etiquette is a French word). Thus, the best way to get along in Paris is to be on your best behavior, acting like someone who is bien élevé (well brought up) will make getting about considerably easier. Parisians' abrupt exteriors will rapidly evaporate if you display some basic courtesies. A simple Bonjour, Madame when entering a shop, for example, or Excusez-moi when trying to get someone's attention, or very important; say Pardon if you bump into someone accidentally or make other mistakes, will transform the surliest shop assistant into a smiling helper or the grumpiest inhabitant to an helpful citizen. Courtesy is extremely important in France (where the worst insult is to call someone mal élevé, or badly brought up ). A particularly useful phrase to know is Pardonez-moi de vous déranger, monsieur/madame, mais auriez-vous la gentilesse de m'aider? (pardon me for bothering you, sir/madam, but would you have the kindness to help me?)-it's about the closest one can come to a magic wand for unlocking Parisian hospitality. If you know some French, try it!
Like city dwellers everywhere, Parisians generally expect people to speak in a measured voice when in a crowded place. They are likely to look down on people who talk very loudly in a train or subway car. Keep in mind that the people around you in the Métro are not on vacation, in general: they are going to or coming back from work and thus may not appreciate another source of headache. In addition, if you are travelling to or from the airport or train station and have luggage with you, make certain that you are not blocking the aisles in the train by leaving your bags on the floor. The RER B (which links both Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports to the city) has luggage racks above the seats; it is advised that you use them so you do not block the path of a local who is getting off the train before the airport stop.
Also bear in mind that the vast majority of the Parisian population are not in any way connected to the tourism business. You are not in a resort or theme park, with paid personnel meant to give you directions around, but in a city where people have to get on with their lives. But if you ask politely, most of the French will help you if they can.
Paris was founded towards the end of the 3rd century BC on what is now the Île de la Cité by a tribe of Celtic Gauls known as the Parisii. Centuries of conflict between the Gauls and Romans ended in 52 BC, when Julius Caesar's legions took control of the territory. Christianity was introduced in the 2nd century AD, and the Roman party was finally crashed in the 5th century by the arrival of the Franks. In 508 AD, Frankish king Clovis I united Gaul as a kingdom and made Paris his capital, naming it after the original Parisii tribe.
Paris prospered during the Middle Ages: In the 12th century, construction began on the cathedral of Notre Dame (work continued for nearly 200 years), while the Marais area north of the Seine was drained and settled to become what's known today as the Right Bank. The Sorbonne opened its doors in 1253, the beautiful Sainte Chapelle was consecrated in 1248 and the Louvre got its start as a riverside fortress around 1200.
Scandinavian Vikings (also known as Norsemen, or Normans) began raiding France's western coast in the 9th century; after three centuries of conflict, they started to push toward Paris. These conflicts gave birth to the Hundred Years War between Norman England and Paris' Capetian dynasty, eventually resulting in the French defeat at Agincourt in 1415 and English control of Paris in 1420. In 1429, a 17-year-old stripling called Jeanne d'Arc re-rallied the French troops to defeat the English at Orléans, and, with the exception of Calais, the English were expelled from France in 1453.
The Renaissance helped Paris get back on its feet at the end of the 1400s, and many of the city's signature buildings and monuments sprang up during the period. By the late 16th century Paris was again up in arms, this time in the name of religion. Clashes between the Huguenot Protestants and Catholic groups sank to their darkest levels in 1572 with the St Bartholomew's Day massacre of 3000 Huguenots in town to celebrate the wedding of Henri of Navarre (later, King Henri IV).
Louis XIV, known as le Roi Soleil (the Sun King), ascended to the throne in 1643 at the tender age of five and held the crown until 1715. During his reign, he nearly bankrupted the national treasury with battling and building. His most tangible legacy is the palace at Versailles, 23km (15mi) south-west of Paris. The excesses of Louis XVI and his capricious queen, Marie-Antoinette, led to an uprising of Parisians on 14 July 1789 and the storming of the Bastille prison-kick-starting the French Revolution.
The populist ideals of the revolution's early stages quickly gave way to a Reign of Terror, wherein even a few of the original 'patriots' got uncomfortably cosy with Madame la Guillotine. The unstable post-revolution government was consolidated in 1799 under a young Corsican general, Napoleon Bonaparte, who adopted the title First Consul. In 1804, the Pope crowned him Emperor of the French, and Napoleon proceeded to sweep most of Europe under his wing. Napoleon's hunger for conquest led to his defeat, first in Russia in 1812 and later at Belgium's Waterloo in 1815. His legacy in modern France includes the national legal code, which bears his name, and monuments such as the massive neoclassical Arc de Triomphe.
Following Napoleon's exile, France faltered under a string of mostly inept rulers until a coup d'état in 1851 brought a new emperor, Napoleon III, to power. In 17 years, he oversaw the construction of a flashy new Paris, with wide boulevards, sculptured parks and-not insignificantly-a modern sewer system. Like his namesake uncle, however, this Napoleon and his penchant for pugnacity led to a costly and eventually unsuccessful war, this time with the Prussians in 1870. When news of their emperor's capture by the enemy reached Paris the masses took to the streets, demanding that a republic be created. Despite its bloody beginnings, the Third Republic ushered in the glittering halcyon years of the belle époque.
The belle époque was famed for its Art Nouveau architecture and a barrage of advances in the arts and sciences. By the 1930s, Paris had become a worldwide centre for the artistic avant-garde and had entrenched its reputation among freethinking intellectuals. The flowering of that era was cut short by the Nazi occupation of 1940, and Paris remained under Germany's thumb until 25 August 1944. (The Allied forces that retook the city were spearheaded by Free French units in order to give the French the honour of liberating their capital.) After the war, Paris regained its position as a creative hotbed and nurtured a revitalised liberalism that reached a crescendo in the student-led 'Spring Uprising' of 1968. The Sorbonne was occupied, barricades were erected in the Latin Quarter, and some 9 million people nationwide were inspired to join in a paralysing general strike, drawing attention to their increasing dissatisfaction with the rigidity of French institutions.
During the 1980s, President François Mitterand initiated the futuristic grands projets, a series of costly building projects that garnered widespread approval even when the results were popular failures. Responses to the flashier examples, like the Centre Pompidou and the glass pyramids in the Louvre, have ranged from appalled 'mon Dieux' to absolute doting rapture; if nothing else, the projets invigorated dialogue about the Parisian aesthetic.
In the late 1990s, the city seized the international spotlight with two front-page events: the rumour-plagued auto-accident death of Princess Di in 1997 and France's first-ever World Cup victory in July 1998.
Meanwhile, the political party behind Jacques Chirac (France's president since mid-1995) lost the parliamentary elections in 1997 to a coalition of Socialists, Communists and Greens headed by then Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. In the 2002 presidential elections, far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was highly successful in the first round of the elections due to a low voter turnout. A subsequent strong show of support for Chirac-and a powerful slap in the face for Le Pen-gave Chirac a landslide victory, knocking Jospin out of the race in the process.
On 31st May 2005 Chirac named Dominique de Villepin as prime minister following the resignation of Jean-Pierre Raffarin from the post.
In 2001 Paris elected its first openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoë. He was stabbed in a hate crime in October 2002, but recovered successfully. He continues to enjoy widespread popularity, particularly for his efforts to make Paris more liveable by promoting bicycles and buses and to create a more approachable and responsible city administration.
In October 2005, the deaths of two teenagers who were accidentally electrocuted while allegedly hiding from police in a electricity sub-station in Clichy-sous-Bois sparked riots that quickly spread across other regions of Paris, and then across France. President Jacques Chirac consequently promised to address the disenfranchisement felt by large numbers of unemployed French youth, but one of his government's first efforts-the introduction of two-year work contracts for workers under 26 years of age-was met by huge street protests in the French capital in March 2006.