Explore the city, visit Jewish neighborhoods, see all the famous sites, eat in great restaurants, and easily catch minyanim…all in one day in Paris.
Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and caters to people from all over the world. It is fairly tourist-friendly and easy to get around. It is a classic European destination city, complete with rich history, culture, landmarks, and attractions. You can spend days there, but I wrote this post to help with a day or so in Paris, which is usually the time spent on a stopover (find the right flight on Do-All’s search engine). I have been to Paris on a 16.5-hour stopover, from 7 am to 11:30 pm, which I thought was the perfect amount of time to get a good sense of the city.
There are two main areas with concentrated Kosher stores and shuls which cater to tourists and locals: Champs Elysees and the 4th Arrondissement (A.K.A. Pletzl, the Marais, Rue Pavee). There are Chabad houses in each area and other local businesses offer very resourceful websites to help you plan your stay. There are a variety of shuls and restaurants, plus options for affordable hotels. I haven’t stayed there for a Shabbos but Chabad is known to be accommodating and offers meals which may require advance reservation. Bear in mind that many restaurants and shops close for two hours during the day (app. 5-7) so make arrangements accordingly. Some kosher items will not bear hechsherim, but can be located on kosher lists to help you find products you may need. Some hechsherim found can include hashgachas from Amsterdam, London, or Antwerp.
Here’s some helpful links:
Chabad Champs Elysees
Minyanim (Check mapview on desktop site to search neighborhoods)
RATP: Local map guide for the trains around the city (English)
Consistoire: Useful app with Kosher info (Shuls, Kosher products, etc.)
Manger Cacher: Kosher Restaurant Guide
There is no need to rent a car in Paris if you are traveling from the airport to and around the city. It will be very expensive, and parking and traffic can be a hassle. The public transportation system is very efficient. It seems confusing at first, but after studying the rail system a bit you should become fairly familiar with the network. RER (letters) run around the outskirts of the city (ie RER-B will bring you from CDG into central Paris) and the metro (numbers) will transport you within the city (ie Metro-6 will take you to the Eiffel Tower). Taxis, including Ubers, are very much available, but can be considerably expensive to use. Scooters and bikes are lighter options to quicken travel around Paris.
If you want to get a general overview of the city without going into too much detail, especially if you are short on time, consider taking a tour. Tours are available in almost any form, including hop-on-off buses, segways, bike tours, scooter tours, walking tours, and the like. I booked a 3-hour bike tour and was very happy with the guide and stops. Obviously types of tours will depend on weather, season, etc.
I have used the website Getyourguide.com in several European cities for various attractions. It bundles packages and offers skip-the-line options as well. I booked my bike tour with them, as well as my Eiffel Tower passes.
Speaking of which, the Eiffel Tower is arguably the most famous attraction in Paris and lures millions of sightseers a year to climb up. There are several options for visiting the observation landings of the tower:
Stairs – Cheapest option, around €6 per ticket, but can take a while depending on traffic and physical shape. The height of the second level is nearly 400 feet!
Elevator – The most popular option is the classic and historic elevator ride. It will run you around €25 but lines can vary from 1 hr to over 3 hours! You don’t want to waste your day standing in line, but you may get lucky and have a small wait. One common tip is to arrive as early as possible in order to shorten your wait in line.
Skip-the-Line Pass – This is the best option as it guarantees your spot for a specific time. It is best booked on the main website, being the cheapest and most direct option. However, if the tickets are sold out for your dates, you can visit third-party booking sites such as GetyourGuide.com. I bought a timed skip-the-line bundle together with a 1 hour cruise on the Sienne from that site. It cost around $45 total and I went straight into the elevator without any hesitation. You will need to stop by an office there to pick up your hard tickets first. The cruise leaves every hour from the foot of the tower, and it was a very scenic and relaxing way to end the day. (Note: To visit the third level of the tower you will need to purchase a premium or additional ticket.)
Some sights around the city you may not want to miss:
Arc de Triomphe
Louvre (Displays the Mona Lisa painting; Closed on Tuesdays)
Quaint blocks with artists
Place du Tertre (Highest point in city offering stunning views, plus charming blocks with artists and cafes.)
River Cruise on the Seine
Route 1: Toward the Statue of Liberty
Route 2: Toward Notre Dame
Other interesting activities if you have more time:
Palace of Versailles
Disneyland Paris (Quick Fact: More visited than the Eiffel Tower)
Money: The Euro is the accepted currency in Paris. If you’re coming from Israel, change money there. Otherwise, try to find a non-touristy change place in the city for half-decent rates. You can also withdraw cash from an ATM, but check the current rate before withdrawing, as some have terrible exchange rates.
SIM: Verizon’s $10 per-day travel pass is available in Paris. Some Israeli providers offer service in Europe for free with premium plans. Local SIMs are available in the airport, convenient stores, and in tourist shops. You may consider getting a European SIM if you are on a multi-country trip. Most hotels and public buildings provide wifi, which may be an alternative to paying for phone service.
Applicable to most tourist spots in Europe: watch your pockets. Check your belongings frequently and stay away from strange people. Sense your security at all times.
Some cities in Europe tend to be more prone to anti-semitism and terrorism than others. The truth is, no place is considered safe from these possibilities but you should be aware of several points that should help keep you safe:
*Avoid walking around dark, quiet areas, especially alone
*Try to blend into the average tourists in the city you’re visiting. Don’t wear loud clothing or attract any unnecessary attention to yourself. It’s better to wear colored shirts and caps than “rabbinic” garb in public places. In my opinion, it isn’t worth the stares or hate shouts you may receive. Most shuls and Jewish neighborhoods there have high-level security, so dressing appropriately for davening is generally fine.
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Yaakov is an avid traveler who advises hundreds of aspiring travelers on his popular Whatsapp group. Look out for more invaluable travel tips and ideas of things to do around the world from Yaakov!