Paris essentials: où est la gare?

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Heading to Paris? Read up on how to get the most out of this ville magnifique.

Pretend you're a Parisian: rent an apartment. It's often more affordable than a hotel and you can feel like a local - shopping at the local food market, picking up cheese and bread at the local fromager (cheese shop) and boulangerie (bakery). We've had good luck with parisattitude.fr and allorenta.com and feelparis.com, but a quick web search will yield even more options. Yes, some require a minimum rental of one week, but many offer nightly rates - have a hunt around.

Santé! It's true that many Parisians don't - or won't - speak English. You'll encounter far more smiles of you make an effort to speak French. Key words are bonjour (hello, good morning), au revoir (goodbye) and merci (thank you) and you can easily practise two of them when you hit the shops or grab a coffee: it is polite to say hello and goodbye when you enter and leave a boutique or café. Keep it up through the evening and be sure to say santé (cheers) with your favourite tipple!

The Métro is your friend: with over 300 stations and 14 lines, the Paris Métro will get you to your destination cheaply, safely and swiftly. One ticket costs Euro 1.70, or pick up a book of 10 tickets (a carnet) for Euro 12.50. The Métro operates from around 5:30am until 12:30 or 1am (on Fridays and Saturdays nights until 2:15am).

C'est fermé: keep in mind that all street markets and many museums, small boutiques and restaurants are shut (fermé) on Mondays. One notable exception is the Musée du Louvre which is closed on Tuesdays.

I saw Mona: when you hit the Musée du Louvre, and you shuffle along with the swarms of other visitors keen for a glimpse of Mona Lisa's secret smile, make sure you pace yourself and keep your visit short but sweet - the museum is huge and can easily overwhelm. But yes, it really is worth it!

Things to do in Paris: there's so much to see and do in Paris that sometimes you need a little help. Consider cruises on the Seine and gourmet food tours plus trips outside Paris to Versailles, Mont St-Michel and Normandy.