Paris Travel Guide Books
We've tested dozens of travel guides to Paris, France and these are the guides that we swear by. If this is your first trip to Paris or a repeat visitor, looking for romance, gourmet "foodie", or shopoholic, we have the guide book for you.
1. Best Guide for the First Time Visitor - Rick Steves Paris
The problem with most guide books is that the writers are experts on Paris. They forget how to view the city through the eyes of a first time traveler. Not Rick Steves.
The strength of Rick Steves Paris is in the small details that can make or break a trip. He literally guides "Paris Virgins" step by step to the major attractions in Paris, outlining the basics of how, why and where in an easy to read format. His information on hours and locations are accurate and updated yearly (its amazing how many guide books don't do this).
Pros of this guide are the practical details, and walking tours of the major Paris attractions. You may want to avoid his restaurant recommendations in the high season. They will be packed with other US Rick Steve's readers.
Cons are that this book is not for the seasoned Paris traveler. Rick keeps his scope to the first time tourist, and doesn't expand beyond the basics. If you've been to Paris a few times and are looking for places off the beaten track, this is not the book for you.
2. Most Indispensable Book - The Paris Mapguide
Paris is a city of small, charming streets which can also be a nightmare to a native Parisian - let alone a tourist. Avoid the frustration of not being able to find where you are going by carrying The Paris Mapguide.
We never leave our apartment without the Mapguide tucked into our purse (seriously), and it has never let us down. Unlike most maps, every nook and cranny of Paris is covered, with beautifully colored illustrations and graphics for famous landmarks and popular shops (e.g, Monoprix and English language bookstores). Metro and bus routes are clearly marked, and explorers can feel confident exploring the far flung arrondissements with The Paris Mapguide.
3. Best Guide for Frequent Travelers to Paris - Time Out Paris
If you're a frequent traveler to Paris, Time Out Paris is the guide for you. Updated, with major re-writes yearly, Time Out is the only guide we've used that addresses Paris as a vibrant, changing, modern city. In addition to hotel, restaurant, and attraction info found in all guide books, Time Out includes mini - essays featuring new trends in food, art and fashion, and changes in political leadership and climate. A primer for those who want to keep up with what is happening in Paris without reading the French newspapers.
Besides the commentary, the pros are the accuracy of the information and that Time Out lists restaurants, bars and cafes that are in up and coming areas not talked about in other guidebooks.
Cons are that Time Out skews to a young 20-30 something crowd, pages do contain advertising, and the guide is not as easy to use for first-time visitors as Rick Steves. If this is your first visit to Paris, we'd pick up Rick Steves for information about major attractions, and Time Out for the more thorough list of restaurants, shops, and cafes.
The Time Out guide is large with detailed text about anything you want to know about Paris. The Time Out Short List contains brief descriptions of cafes/bars/restaurants and attractions. Great for sticking into a purse or pocket, and using to find a nearby place to sit and hang out during your wanderings around Paris.
4. Best Guide to Parisian Restaurants - Pudlo Paris
Unlike most cities, which have a handful of truly great restaurants, Paris is "foodie heaven" with thousands of places, from starred restaurants to hole-in-the-wall cafes, to experience a truly exceptional meal. To navigate this culinary scene, Parisians have turned to Gilles Pudlowski (Pudlo) and his restaurant review Bible, Pudlo Paris, for the last 17 years. Categorized by arrondissement, this guide is finally available in English.
Pudlo Paris contains reviews around 1,000 Parisian eateries and 300 bars/cafes as well as lists of favorite specialty stores (chocolate shops, bakeries, tea rooms, etc.). Completely rewritten each year, reviews describe the specialties of the house, and the background of the chefs (very different from US centric guides). Especially helpful are the categories by price, best new chefs, type of food, historical significance, value for your money, and under 30€ a meal bargains. We carry Pudlo's in our bag when exploring Paris to ensure that where ever we are, we can find a place to wander into and have an unforgettable meal.
5. Best Guide for Foodies - Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris
More than a restaurant guide, Clotilde's Edible Adventures shines when discussing food related items that other books gloss over, such as best open air markets, best places to picnic, lists of specialty stores, and history of French cuisine (e.g., why the cheese plate?) and restaurant etiquette. This book is also one of the few to highlight Paris' growing ethnic restaurants.
The pictures and engaging writing style also make this a good armchair traveler book - like following a friend around whose life revolves around food. If this appeals to you, pick up a copy of Clotilde's Edible Adventures.
6. Best Guide for a Romantic trip to Paris - Romantic Paris
This beautifully photographed and elegantly written guide captures the romance of Paris. A quote from the book says it all: "We come to Paris as to a stage on which to enact an episode of our love life, but before we know it we get caught under her spell and find out, to our astonishment, that it is Paris herself that has got under our skin, the one love story that has no rival and that even time will never erode."
Thirza Vallois, who has written about Paris for 40 years, guides you through the secret lovers corners, parks, restaurants and hotels for a fairytale romantic stay in Paris. For example, she spends over 40 pages outlining a Fantasy Trip to Paris - we swoon just reading it. Other sample chapters include Romantic Nights, Cozy Museums, and Shopping for the Heart and Senses. Although the book was published in 2002, the lover's walks, lover's history of Paris and romantic hide-aways are as timeless as Paris itself.
7. Best Guide for Shopoholics - Chic Shopping Paris
Shopping in Paris used to be a thrill unlike any other. Until the Internet and multinational chains made it possible to buy back home what used to be only available in the small boutique shops of Paris. Chic Shopping Paris has brought back that thrill for us. Rebecca Magniant has found 80 unique shops that contain items, from house wares, decor, jewelry, clothing and shoes, that are designed and made in France. The perfect book for shopoholics who want to bring back a piece of Paris with them.
8. Best Guides for Traveling to Paris with Kids - Fodor's Around Paris with Kids: 68 Great Things to Do Together
This book was our lifeline when we lived in Paris with our small children. Each Paris attraction has a simple description, age range, kid-friendly trivia, two to three kid-friendly places to eat, nearby playgrounds, and best days to visit.
After reading Around Paris with Kids, we were comfortable taking the kids to all major Paris attractions knowing we had all the bases covered (e.g., where to eat, where to run around/play, and facts/trivia to keep them engaged). The authors hit the mark with this book - the best testimonial we can give was that our kids had a blast exploring Paris.
Author: Cheryl Montgomery