Paris has two main airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, which both link to the center of town via bus and RER. Another airport which has become busier with the rise of low cost airlines like Ryan Air is Beauvais. It is accessible from central Paris by shuttle, 13€ one way.
If traveling by train, your point of arrival will depend on which part of France you are coming from. Gare du Nord serves the north; Gare de l’Est serves the east. Gare d’Austerlitz serves southwestern France and northwestern Spain, and Gare de Lyon serves most of the south including Geneva and Italy. All stations are conveniently located on Metro lines.
The Paris Metro is part of any true Parisian experience. It also happens to be the second busiest metro system in Europe, after Moscow, but don’t let that intimidate you. When traveling in Paris, always have a map of the metro with you. Consult it at your leisure instead of getting stuck in the crowd of tourists standing in front of the main map in the station. Download a wallet sized one at the RATP website. The Metro runs from 5:20am to 1:20am, plus an additional hour on Saturday nights. Tickets can be purchased individually, for 1.50€, or in a book of ten, for 11.10€. Paris Visite passes are also sold, and work on both the Metro and buses; the one, two, three and five day passes range from 8.50€ to 27.50€.
When in Paris, bicycling is also an excellent option for getting around. Paris joined the ranks of other bike friendly cities like Amsterdam and Stockholm last year with the institution of the city-wide, self service, bike rental program Vélib. Pick up a Vélib bicycle — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — at one station, ride to your heart’s content and then and drop it off at the next. 30 minutes worth of bike riding is free, but after that, for only 1€ per day you can’t beat the price as well as the ease of the system. If you’re planning on exploring Paris for a few days, consider buying a week pass, which costs 5€.
Don’t forget that Paris is an ideal city to walk in; take some time to explore small streets and alleyways and you never know what you will come across. Don’t be afraid of getting lost; it’s sometimes the best way to make new discoveries.
A great way to get a taste of local culture is to stroll through one of the many famed Parisian outdoor markets. Most markets will offer a large selection of locally grown produce as well as cheeses, meats, and artisan items. Some of my favorite markets include Rue Mouffetard, which is actually one long street of artisans and market stands, Monge Market at Place Monge, and Bastille Market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir near the Bastille.
On Sunday afternoons many of the roads that run along the Seine are closed off to vehicles and left to a sea of pedestrians, inline skaters, and those just out to enjoy a romantic promenade.
La Promenade Plantée is a must if you are feeling a little overwhelmed by the constant honking and stress of Parisian streets. Located above the Viaduc des Arts, the Promenade Plantée is a 4.5 kilometer elevated walkway, covered in flowers and greenery. Once an above ground railway, the walkway follows Avenue Daumesnil, allowing you to easily traverse the 12e arrondissement while staying above the street action.
Paris’s most central garden, Jardin des Tuileries, can occupy you for a whole afternoon. Connecting the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde, Jardin des Tuileries is a meticulously sculpted park where you can grab a free chair and sit where you like to take in the people, sculptures and general natural beauty in the heart of the city.
For more Parisian green spaces, like the Montmarte Vineyard, see my guide at Matador Travel, The 5 Best Green Spaces in Paris.
Arts & Culture
In Paris there is always something going on. To find out exactly what is filling the Parisian streets, bars and stages, consult online event magazines for English speakers like Metropole Paris and Paris Voice.
Close to the Eiffel Tower you will find the Musée du Quai Branly or MQB for short, which features indigenous art, cultures and civilizations from Asia, Africa, Oceania and America. But besides its global exhibitions, the “greenest” thing about this museum is its look: designed by architect Jean Nouvel, the exterior of the museum appears to be a living wall.
A personal favorite of mine is the Musée du Picasso, nicely located in the pedestrian friendly Marais neighborhood. Farther to the west in the 4th arrondissement lies the famous Centre Georges Pompidou, which has constantly changing shows on modern and contemporary art as well as cinema showings, performances, and cultural debates.
Place des Vosges is a large square with art galleries and shops housed in buildings around the perimeter. During the summer various classical music groups stop in the square to play for all who pass by, adding a local soundtrack to your stroll.
There’s nothing like buying a baguette hot out of the oven, finding your favorite cheese at the market and heading for a good park bench to enjoy an afternoon Parisian picnic. The promenade along the Seine is also a prime spot for enjoying an afternoon meal en plein air. If you want to stock up on organic goods, look for the Bio label; this stands for biologique and is the organic standard.
Dans le Noir – Lighting up a restaurant consumes energy, so what better way to eat green than in the dark? That is exactly what happens at Dans le Noir where your meal is served in total darkness. The restaurant’s staff is blind, adding to the unique experience.
BIO Art – Located in the 13th arrondissement and facing the Seine, BIO Art is as much a scenic restaurant as it is green. The emphasis is on Mediterranean cuisine, lots of fish and fresh vegetables. Add to the kitchen philosophy an interior with large windows allowing for natural light and a dining room designed around feng shui concepts, and you have all the ingredients for some real French bien être.
For travelers on extended stays, renting a Parisian apartment can be a great option, allowing you to come and go as you please and cook meals with all the fresh produce you picked up at the market. Craigslist Paris can be a good start as individuals list their vacation rentals directly on the site, often with pictures. Bed and breakfasts, or chamber d’hôte in French, which let you stay as the guest of a French host, are an excellent option of you are looking to immerse yourself in the local culture. Some companies like Good Morning Paris find the host and set up all logistics for you.
If you are looking for a more standard hotel or hostel, the options can be overwhelming. Bootsnall fortunately has a great guide to different kinds of Parisian accommodation for any budget. If you want to stick to green accommodation look for the European Union’s official accreditation, the EU Eco Flower Label.
Anna Brones is a freelance writer with a love for travel. She has a BA in International Relations and French Studies and has lived in Sweden, France, Guadeloupe and the Pacific Northwest. Her work has been featured in Transitions Abroad, Pology, Green Mama, Matador Travel, and Traveler’s Tales A Woman’s World Again.