The 10 Best Paris Travel Books
This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in August of 2015. Whether you're planning to visit the City of Lights for the first time or you find you just can't stay away, these Paris travel books will enable you to enjoy the French capital to its fullest extent. We've included editions that are made for families with young kids, as well as more detailed options for seasoned travelers of all ages looking to find both iconic destinations and hidden gems. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 19, 2020:
Keeping this list up to date is especially important because an outdated volume that proposes to send you to a chic, hidden-away restaurant may end up guiding you to a place that went out of business nine months prior. With that in mind, we got rid of certain options like the Food Lover's Guide, and upgraded any of the really well-regarded books like Rick Steves Paris 2020 and Frommer's EasyGuide to their most recent editions.
The one exception to this rule might be Forever Paris, which is meant in part to showcase just how much has changed since the days that its subjects walks the streets of the city. Of course, there are some cafe recommendations in it, as well, and they might not be entirely reliable, but finding out that Hemingway's favorite watering hole has become an H&M might be nearly as illuminating as having a pint on his old stool.
It's also always important to find a book that can take you off the beaten path, and few do that better than Don't Be A Tourist In Paris: The Messy Nessy Chic Guide. Often, these books rely on relatively new bars, cafes and restaurants in their eatery sections, making their publishing dates all the more important to scrutinize.
Why Take The Guided Tour?
Many are small enough to fit in your pocket or a travel bag, and all will add value to your experience.
So, you’ve decided to pack up your favorite suitcase and take that trip you’ve been putting off for too long, the one that will take you straight through the heart of the city of lights. You’ve made a good choice. Paris is one of the most culturally rewarding places to visit on earth, boasting everything from some of the world’s finest museums to some of its most delectable foods. Of course, there’s also the wine to consider. Lots and lots of wine.
How much wine? According to one report from the USDA, an average French citizen over the age of 14 consumes about 43.4 liters of wine each year, or nearly 58 750ml bottles. (And you thought your 15-year-old was drinking too much.) Of course, the reality is that much of this wine is consumed responsibly over the course of a day and is often accompanied by a meal. For a foreigner, all that wine might be a little disorienting, which is all the more reason to have a book you can refer to to get yourself to the next bar.
There’s a good chance that, if you’re traveling to France from America, you don’t speak much French. That can make it difficult to find the best places to eat or to stay, the places that are a little out of the way and that will give you a real sense of what it’s like to live in Paris, not just stay at a fancy hotel or a rundown hostel. I’ll admit that I got lucky during my own trip to Paris, when my good friend and I were absolutely starving and the owner of a nearby restaurant that was about to close gave us walking directions to what he described as the best falafel in the city. This, however, is rarely the case.
It’s much smarter to hit Paris with some kind of a game plan, even if parts of that game plan include winging it. After all, if you want to surprise yourself with a random restaurant for dinner, you’d better do it in a neighborhood that has plenty of restaurants, otherwise you could end up circling a predominantly residential area for hours, not sure where all the food went.
That’s why it’s so important to invest in a good travel book for your trip to Paris. These texts can give you just the right amount of insight you need to make your trip truly special. Many are small enough to fit in your pocket or a travel bag, and all will add value to your experience.
What To Look For In A Paris Travel Book
There is no shortage of tomes devoted to dissecting the many routes you can take through Paris. The key then to understanding which book is right for you lies in your reason for going to Paris in the first place. If you can clearly define why you want to make the trip, the right book should be an obvious choice.
The key then to understanding which book is right for you lies in your reason for going to Paris in the first place.
For example, if you’re traveling with a family, and you want to give your young children a memorable cultural experience, then a book that can take you to all the historical spots most relevant to the French Democratic Revolution might just be lost on them. It’d be better to find a book loaded with activities that sneak in bits of historical information (if that’s your thing) and actually give your kids a reason to interact with the space around them. That way, they won’t have their faces buried in whatever smartphone you regret buying them.
For adult travelers, the options are even more plentiful. Many of the travel books on the market exist to guide you to the best food you will ever eat, and it’s always a good idea to listen to their recommendations for specific dishes. These can be especially helpful if you want to dedicate your trip to a certain kind of French cuisine, or if you happen to have any dietary restrictions.
If you’re more the bohemian type of traveler, who takes what comes as it comes, and who doesn’t want to have your day planned out in advance it’s still a good idea to get a book dedicated to your style of travel. These will include sparse details about the city, perhaps a map or two just in case, a guide to the transit system, and plenty of blank space for writing or drawing to your heart’s content. You may find that all that freedom in a beautiful city (and all that wine) have you feeling pretty inspired.
Other Paris Travel Essentials
Whether you’re a first-time international traveller, or you’re a seasoned veteran of the border crossing, there are a few things that you can use to make your journey more pleasant. None of these is necessarily a must-have, but you will be thankful for them if you should ever need them.
Investing in a small bag lets you get around the city, its outskirts, and beyond, without having to fret about not having a clean shirt on you.
For starters, a lot of foreign countries are home to pickpockets who can spot a tourist from a mile away. To protect your things, it might be wise to invest in some kind of travel wallet. These often come with RFID-blocking infrastructure, as well, so more contemporary thieves won’t be able to access your credit card information using new technologies.
Another thing you’ll be thankful you brought along is a simple day bag or weekender. If you plan to take any trips to Versailles or a locale where you might need to freshen up, but you won’t be able to run back to the hotel, you don’t want to have to lug around your entire suitcase. Investing in a small bag lets you get around the city, its outskirts, and beyond, without having to fret about not having a clean shirt on you.
Finally, if you’re traveling in the summertime, bring yourself a water bottle. This simple investment can save you a ton of money when you’re out and about, and it’ll keep you from getting any more dehydrated than you already are after the three bottles of bordeaux you drank the night before.