Category: about cities
Tips For Visiting London For The First Time
London is a wonderful place to visit but to make the most of your vacation time in the city it pays to prepare, plan and research in advance. There are a number of things to consider: when to visit, where to stay, what to see, what to do and where to eat.
If you’re looking for more detailed suggestions, check out this itinerary for a week-long, first-time visit to London.
Decide What Time of Year to Visit London
London weather can be quite unpredictable.
Londoners are known to regularly carry sunglasses and umbrellas throughout the year. But London weather is never so extreme as to detract from all the great things to do in the city, and the major attractions are not seasonal.
The city sees a large increase in visitors in July and August (the hottest time of the year, usually). The shoulder seasons (outside the main school holidays in spring/fall) can be a great time to visit if you’re looking to avoid the crowds. There are school holidays in February, Easter, August, October and at Christmas.
Learn more about London weather to help you pick a time to visit.
Travel Document Requirements for London
All overseas visitors will need a passport when traveling to London and some visitors will need a visa. US citizens are encouraged to register any overseas travel with the US Department of State.
Arriving in London
You can get to London by air, rail, road, or ferry. Obviously, where you are traveling from and how much time you have will influence your transport options.
Figure Out How to Use Public Transport
London’s public transport is easy and safe to use.
Between the Underground rail system and the bus routes, you can get almost anywhere you want fairly cheaply. Or if you’ve got a little more money, an iconic black taxi (or an Uber) will take you there.
Etiquette in London
Londoners are generally polite and helpful, provided you don’t infringe on their personal space and aren’t loud and obnoxious. Obey the ‘rules of the road’, such as standing on the right on Underground escalators, keeping your iPod volume turned relatively low and using “please” and “thank you” constantly.
Where to Stay in London
If you are only staying in London for a short time (a week or less) it would be best to stay in central London to avoid wasting time traveling. It is remarkably easy to get around London on public transport so don’t worry too much about which area in central London; if you find a hotel you like or can get a great deal, then as long as it’s central you will be fine.
Where to Eat in London
London has an astronomical number of restaurants so you won’t have problems finding something new every day.
I recommend checking the Harden’s website where you can search by cuisine, price, and location. Remember, London has residents from every country in the world so you can try a lot of new taste experiences here.
What to See in London
There are plenty of free things to see and do but if you want to see some of the more expensive attractions you may want to consider a London Pass. It’s a sightseeing card at a fixed rate and covers over 55 attractions.
The London Eye is the world’s tallest observation wheel and you can enjoy some great views across the city.
Or check out some of the city’s royal heritage sights including the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.
Facts and Practical Information About Paris
Paris is the political, cultural, and intellectual capital of France, and is also the single-most visited city in the world. It has drawn waves of immigrants, expatriate artists and intellectuals, and global traders for centuries, attracting by virtue of its vibrant economy, rich political and artistic history, an unusual number of noteworthy tourist sites, outstanding architecture and cultural life, and overall high standard of living. Situated at the crossroads of Europe and in close range of the English channel and other strategic places for military and trade, Paris is a true powerhouse in continental Europe.
Key Facts About the City
Population: Approximately 2.24 million people, according to the 2010 census (around 3.6% of France’s total population
Average yearly high temperature: 16 degrees C (60.8 degrees F)
Average yearly low temperature: 9 degrees C (48.2 degrees F)
Average visitors per year: Over 25 million
High tourist season: Approximately March through September, with peaks in the summer. The Christmas season is also especially popular among visitors.
Time zone: Paris is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 9 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.
Currency: Euros (Universal Currency Converter)
Paris Geography and Orientation
Elevation: 27 meters (90 feet above sea level)
Surface Area: 105 square km. (41 square miles)
Geographical Situation: Paris is located in Central Northern France, at the heart of a region (departement) called Ile de France. The city does not border any major body of water and is relatively flat.
Bodies of water: The famous Seine river cuts through the city center East to West. The Marne river flows through many of the suburbs east of Paris.
The City’s Layout: Getting Oriented
Paris is divided into sections North and South of the Seine, more commonly known as the Rive Droite (Right Bank) and Rive Gauche (Left Bank), respectively.
The city, often described as being shaped like a snail shell, is broken into 20 districts or arrondissements. The first arrondissement is at the center of the city, near the Seine river. Subsequent arrondissements spiral out clockwise. You can easily find out what arrondissement you’re in by looking for street plaques on corner buildings.
The Boulevard Périphérique, Paris’ beltway, generally marks the boundary between Paris and its near suburbs.
Our Advice: Take a Tour to Get Oriented
Paris boat or bus tours can help you get oriented on a first trip, and also offer a relaxed and pleasant first encounter with some of the city’s most important monuments and places.
For boat tours, you can book basic tours & dinner cruise packages online (via Isango). We recommend reading up on popular tour operators, including Bateaux Mouches and Bateaux Parisiens, to find the right Seine river cruise or tour packages.
Tourist Welcome Centers in Paris
The Paris Tourist Office has welcome centers around the city, providing free documentation and advice to visitors. You can find maps and pocket-sized guides to Paris sights and attractions at one of the welcome centers.
On average, Paris rates poorly for accessibility. While major efforts are underway to improve accessibility in the city, travelers with limited mobility may find the city difficult to get around in.
The Paris tourist office website has a helpful page on how to get around in the city, with tons of tips on transport and specialist services.
In addition, the following Paris Metro and bus lines are accessible to people with limited mobility or disabilities:
- Metro line 14, RER Line A
- Bus lines 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, 30, 31, 38, 39, 43, 53, 60, 62, 63, 80, 81, 88, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96.
Taxis are required by law to accept passengers with wheelchairs.