I'll always remember my first trip to Paris. I was in the eleventh grade, on a school trip to experience the French culture I'd been learning about and romanticizing in my mind for so long. In many ways, my first trip to Paris was exactly what I expected. There were grand buildings, manicured gardens and parks, centuries old cathedrals, and impressive monuments. I was captivated by the ARCHITECTURE OF NOTRE-DAME CATHEDRAL, the elegance of the Eiffel Tower, and the artistry inside the Louvre.
Ever since that first trip to Paris, I've been in love with the city, with travel, and with Europe. My long distance love affair with Paris continued into my thirties, when I returned with my husband for our honeymoon. I wasn't sure what to expect on a trip to Paris as an adult, worried that maybe the city wasn't as magical as I remembered as a teenager.
As I became re-acquainted with the city, I realized that by being on a school tour, I had actually been sheltered from the things that really immerse you in, and teach you about a city. Things like figuring out public transportation, budgeting for meals, choosing accommodations, conversing with locals, and deciding what to see and what to skip to make the most of your visit. I consider our honeymoon my “true” first trip to Paris, as it's the one where I went beyond just sightseeing and actually learned how to travel in Paris.

What to Expect on Your First Trip to Paris
Even though Paris was everything I anticipated it would be, that's not to say there weren't some surprises. I decided to put together this Paris travel guide for first-time visitors to help answer questions or concerns you may have about visiting Paris for the first time.
Fair warning- people seem to either love Paris or hate it (I think it's one of THE BEST CITIES TO VISIT IN EUROPE). By being aware of what to expect when visiting Paris, you will have a better trip since you're more prepared, confident, and mindful of some of the cultural differences. Here's a look at what you can expect on your first trip to Paris, including some practicalities and Paris travel tips based our personal experience.

Getting Orientated- Geography of Paris
Paris is split in half by the Seine River. North of the river is considered the Right Bank (Rive droite) and south of the river is the Left Bank (Rive gauche). There are two small islands in the river- ÎLE DE LA CITÉ, which is the historic heart of Paris, and Île St-Louis. Postal districts known as arrondissements are used to describe areas of Paris. The first (premier) arrondissement is in the centre of Paris, from which the rest spiral outward in a clockwise direction. You’ll see the arrondissements abbreviated as 1er, 2e, 3e, 4e etc. on maps and when denoting addresses. Each area of Paris has a distinct atmosphere, whether it be bohemian, intellectual, chic, or cosmopolitan. Our neighbourhood guide explains this in more detail and can help you decide WHERE TO STAY IN PARIS.

Using the Paris Metro and RER Trains
The Paris Metro consists of 13 colour-coded and numbered lines linking together Paris’ neighbourhoods. The RER network of regional trains has 5 lines indicated with letters and a colour code. Signs in the stations will indicate the colour and number (metro) or letter (RER) of the line, along with the direction of travel (final destination on that route). The line’s map is displayed in every train, making it easy to find your stop. The fare system is based on concentric zones. Zones 1-3 encompass central Paris, where most of the tourist attractions are. Zones 4-5 cover the greater Paris area, including the PALACE OF VERSAILLES and Disneyland. Single journey tickets and packs of ten can be bought from a multi-lingual machine in the subway station or at ticket windows. If you plan to use public transportation a lot, consider buying a Paris Ticket Mobilis (unlimited day use ticket) or Paris Visite Pass (unlimited multi-day pass). The Paris Metro operates from 5:30 am- 1:15 am, except for Friday and Saturday nights when it runs until 2:15 am. The RER operates daily from 5:30 am- 1:20 am. You must keep your ticket with you until you leave the station.

Bike Sharing
Vélib’ Metropole is a 24-hour self-service bike sharing system that allows users to rent a bike for a small fee from 1,100 stands in Paris. Simply enter your payment information, take a bike, use it, and return it to any Vélib stand. The price depends on how long you use the bike and is charged in 30 minute increments. If you buy a 24 hour pass the first 30 minutes are free, so if you return the bike every half hour, you’ll only pay the rental fee and not an additional usage fee. Sometimes the bikes are in poor condition (flat tires, broken pedals), so make sure you inspect it before taking it from the stand.