Essential Paris Facts for Visitors – Info You May Need

Located in the north-central part of France, Paris is a relatively small city covering a mere 40 square miles (105 square kilometers). The population of Paris is a little more than two million people. Paris is the country's largest city and the most densely populated city in Europe. From a bird's-eye perspective, Paris is almost circular in shape and is contained by the Périphérique, a ring road built on top of the site of the former city walls.

The Seine river divides Paris into two distinct areas, the northern Rive Droite (Right Bank) and southern Rive Gauche (Left Bank). The banks are linked by thirty-seven bridges. Along the banks of the Seine (called quays) you'll find magnificent Haussmannian apartment buildings, dazzling museums like the Musée du Louvre and Musée d'Orsay, famous monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as the stalls of the bouquinistes, selling antique books, Paris calendars and postcards.

Each of the city's quartiers (or neighborhoods) boasts its own distinct character, so Paris feels less like a big city and more like a collection of small towns. Paris is an ancient city, more than 2000 years old, but Paris continues to evolve and is still considered the artistic and cultural capital of Europe. And, in case you're wondering —

  • The drinking age is 18 years old.
  • France uses the Euro as its currency.
  • French is the primary language of France.

The Euro

The Euro

Since 2000 the Euro has been the currency of France.

It's also used by most other western European countries (Britain being the main exception), so you don't have to carry a wad of different bills as you travel around the continent.

Euros come in denominations of 5€, 10€, 20€, 50€, 100€, 200€. The larger the amount, the larger the bill.

There also is an annoyingly large number of small coins — .01€, .02€, .05€, .10€, .20€, .50€, 1.00€ and 2.00€ coins (called "cents" ). It's best to try to get rid of your small coins whenever you have a chance, otherwise you'll be stuck with enough coins to make your own cannonball byt he end of your trip! (Banks back home don't like to exchange coins.)

It's a good idea to arrive in Paris with 100€ to 200€ in cash (if you use a taxi for airport transfer you'll need cash). In Paris, it's easy to access Euros from ATM machines using your bank card. And paying for your purchases with a credit card is the easiest (and sometimes the cheapest) way to handle currency exchange.

The Metric System

The Metric System

The Metric system originated in France, so it makes sense that it's the system of measurement there.

Now called the International System of Units, or SI, it's the official system in almost every country in the world, so you're familiar with it, right?

Unless, that is, you happen to be from one of the only three countries that have not yet adopted the metric system — Liberia, Burma, and the United States!

Here are some close equivalents:

  • one kilometer = 0.6 miles
  • one meter is a little longer than 3 feet (39.37 inches)
  • one centimeter = 0.4 inches (2.54 cm = 1 in)
  • one liter is about 1 US quart
  • one kilogram = 2.2 pounds
  • 10°C is 50°F; 20°C is 68°F

French Holidays

French Holidays

In France, they take a slightly different approach to life and to working. There are a lot of holidays in the country — more than most of us are used to and it's sometimes hard to know when things are opened and when they are closed.

One thing is for sure — you can expect museums and monuments to be closed on all or most of the major holidays or fêtes, which include —

  • Jour de l'An – New Year's Day, January 1
  • Lundi de Paques – Easter Monday
  • Fête du Travail – Labor Day, May 1
  • Fête de l'Ascension – Ascension Day, May 21
  • Fête Nationale – Bastille Day, July 14

  • Fête de L'Assomption – Assumption Day, August 15
  • Toussaint – All Saints' Day, November 1
  • Armistice – Armistice Day, November 11
  • Noël – Christmas Day, December 25

In most of our articles about the monuments and museums of Paris you'll find the days each of them is closed.

Shopping Hours

Facts About Paris France – Shopping Hours

Most shops, even department stores and grocery stores, are closed on Sunday.

Typically, store hours are from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Some stores close for lunch, but this trend seems to be disappearing in larger stores.

The Marais has become a fun and trendy area for Sunday brunch and Sunday shopping, so many of its boutiques are open then.

Many museums are open on Sunday but are closed on Monday or Tuesday. In August most Parisians take a month-long vacances (holiday) and, thus, a fair number of shops and restaurants will be closed.


Facts About Paris France – Safety

Paris is a safe city and there's very little to worry about.

All you have to do is use a bit of common sense. There can be pickpockets on the Metro and in the heavily-touristed areas, especially on the RER coming in from the airport (since the scoundrels know you'll be tired then).

Don't carry large amounts of cash with you and leave your passport in the hotel safe or in your apartment. Wear a handbag that shuts securely (zippers are better than snaps), preferably with a shoulder strap.

There are are some scam artists hanging about the tourist areas, so be a bit cautious. The best advice is to not to engage in conversations with anyone who aporoaches you on the street asking "Do you speak English" or "Is this your ring?" or "Can you sing this petition". Just keep walking, hold your hand up in front of you and say "non, merci".

But we don't want to scare you. In all our years of visiting Paris we've never had a single problem.

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