on May 14, 2000
I have used both the 1999 and 2000 editions of this excellent guide, and can only say that it is the best of the lot, closely followed by the Lonely Planet and DK Eyewitness guides.
What makes Steves' guides so useful is that he addresses himself to Americans who are not used to foreign travel with the principal goal of eliminating their fear by helping to get their feet wet. To this end, his guides are more PRESCRIPTIVE than DESCRIPTIVE.
For a good DESCRIPTIVE guide, I would turn to another guide such as Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, supplemented, perhaps, by Rachel Kaplan's excellent "Little-Known Museums In and Around Paris."
A PRESCRIPTIVE guide like this will urge that you avoid the Madeleine, Opera Garnier, and Pantheon because they aren't worth it -- and don't bother with the Bastille, because it was torn down over 200 years ago. Steves concentrates on accommodations and restaurants in only three parts of Paris: Rue Cler (near the Eiffel Tower), the Marais, and the Rue Mouffetard area. That saves perhaps a hundred pages and makes the book more compact and easy to carry during a trip.
One of the strong points of the book is the merging of material from Steves' useful "Mona Winks" art guide into his Paris book. "Mona Winks" shows how you can visit the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, the Cluny Museum (highly recommended), and Versailles without killing yourself. For the Louvre, as an example, he concentrates how you can devote your attention to parts of the Sully and Denon wings and see the key works in about 2-3 hours. (Okay, if you're a purist, don't flame me: You and I would, of course, devote more time -- but that's not the issue here.)
For the most complete info on Paris, I would suggest you supplement Steves with two fantastic Internet resources: the postings on the rec.travel.europe newsgroup (especially by JACK), and the website of the RATP (which runs the Metro and buses in Paris) at [...]
on November 19, 1999
I say just about perfect because a few additions would make this the only guidebook you will ever need for Paris. As a recently relocated American expat in London, my wife and I just took our first weekend trip to Paris (by train) with this book and the Fodor's Gold guide. If you like to walk, the walking tours are superb, Rick Steve's commentary, history, directions, anecdotes, and humor are all excellent. His guided tours of museums, churches, and other sites are all very interesting. The book also includes short trips outside the city, such as Versailles. I anticipate using this book many more times (you can only see so much in a weekend), and to make it perfect I would implore the editors to add a Paris Metro/RER map and a proper map of the city (the only maps in this edition are localized hand-drawn maps for each walk, making it difficult to guage the overall scale of the city and where things are located in relation to each other). These were the only two things that were invaluable in the Fodor's guide. Certainly it's easy enough to pick those up in the city, but I have always found it more convenient to study maps ahead of time, and have them all in one place. Overall, however, this is the one guidebook to Paris that no visitor to the city should be without.
on November 4, 2012
Recently went to Paris for the first time and we only had 3 days. Read the Pocket Paris guide prior to the trip and with a bit of planning was able to see: Notre Dame, St. Chapelle, Arc de Triomphe, Versailles (all of it!), Louvre, d'Orsey, Tuileries Gardens, Eiffel Tower... plus many cafe's and shops. I downloaded the Audio for Paris - the Paris Cafe podcast was great. The pocket guide was the perfect size, I referenced it (and the maps) often. I highly recommend this guide for any first timer, his tips are helpful - metro info, museum passes, how to avoid lines and even how to be respectful to the french people - saying Bonjour really worked! The walking tours are great and his commentary is informative and even had us laughing a few times. For any future European trips I take, there WILL be a Rick Steve's guide in my bag!
on August 31, 2013
Rick Steves is one of the most popular series of guides to travel. We were in Paris for 4 days this summer, and used the book as a quick reference guide. The organization of the book is much like the other guides. It is about 4.5 by 6 inches, 235 pages or so. The first pages of introduction gives a synopsis of Paris's neighborhoods: Monmartre, Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, Major, Historic Core, Left Bank, and Marais. The Daily Reminder gives a succinct overview of special hours for attractions on different days of the week. On first Sundays, for instance, major museums are free (good to know, as we assiduously avoided the crowds) and the fountains run at Versailles in the summer (April to October). The guide gives a list of sites that are closed on certain days of the week. Puppet shows at the Luxembourg Gardens take place on Fridays and Saturdays. Some sights are open late on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (Notre Dame towers, Bateaux Mouche). The guide gives information on hours for the Metro.
The back of the book includes a detailed map of Paris, and a map of the Metro. These were invaluable to us, and much more informative the the tourist maps you get at the hotels, which are festooned with ads. They were sturdy too. Despite our flipping back and forth, taking the book in and out of backpacks, the map only ripped in one corner (the one attached to the book).
The remainder of the book contains several walking tours of major sites: Historic Paris (Notre Dame area), Louvre, Orsay Museum, Eiffel Tower, Rue CLer, Versailles. It gives detailed information on how to take the train to these areas and which stops to get off. Telephone numbers are given. We had kids ranging in age from 8 to 15 with us, and in general they did not want to see every sight on the tours, which still gave us plenty to see and do. In the back is a map of France. The Metro stops are marked on the main city map.
Note: this is a brief and populist guide. It is good for an overview, but not for any kind of detailed historical or academic treatise of the major sights. For this kind of information, I recommend doing research before your trip on the internet, as each major sight has a website. As well, the Blue Guides will bring more life to the tours. We learn interesting little tidbits of information: for example, that St. Denis holding his head is a signature statue above the left door of Notre Dame Cathedral (he was executed by decapitation but in true saintly fashion did not immediately die, but picked up his head and walked for some distance). If you want a more detailed book, you're going to have to buy (and carry) a heavier book.
We did not use this book for restaurant recommendations or hotels. We used a Tripadvisor city app: take the recommendations with a grain of salt, as they are not always unbiased.
So, why a guide book and not a smartphone app? Smart phone apps (maps, Tripadvisor, etc.) have an advantage in that your GPS location is available, and the distance to various sights can be accurately estimated. However, smartphones are difficult to see in the sun, and the information you want is not always easily searchable. It would be cool, for example, to wear Google Glass and have it link to Wikipedia. Great, but it's way cheaper to buy a $10 book.
on June 8, 2001
Well I just came back from Paris where the only book I took along was Rick Steves' Paris 2001, supplemented with a "Paris Pratique" map bought in a Paris bookstore (get the book, not the fold out map) and of course a subway map.
For the first time visitor (and I was), this book covers the basics you need for budget trip. For a few days I was guarding the book more than my wallet, I was so dependent upon it-- it allowed me to see the highlights of the museums and sights without spending overly large amounts of time or precious physical energy. Of special help were the hints on how to avoid lines in the hot sun at the museums.
The great joy of this book is it cuts monstrous sites like the Louvre down to manageable size. This convenience comes at a cost: the book reflects Rick Steves' tastes in art and food, which may not be your own. But for a first timer like me it was great. After a few days, I started to explore on my own.
If the book has any faults, I would say that its recommended itineraries and guided tours focus too much on cathedrals and museums. Also, Rick fails to do with restaurants what he does so well with the sights, i.e., guide you toward a limited number of recommended/rated selections. He does recommend some places, but the "walk" maps generally don't include any of these recommended eating/drinking places, they are listed separately in the "eating" section of the book, making cross-referencing difficult. For gastronomic adventure beyond Rick's diet of croissants and cheese sandwiches, you need another book. You might try "Cheap Eats in Paris." Note, there is an excellent vegetarian restaurant at 72 Rue Lemoine.
If you follow this book you will see more Americans than Parisians. Also, in every museum some of the recommended exhibits had been moved, and Rick neglected to mention "Pentecost" holiday. But these are minor objections.
Overall, while I would have prioritized some of the sights differently (see below), the book was a great guide and time saver, superior to the others I looked at, and in most cases it was faster and more concise (and had better interior maps) than the audio tours and maps available at sights. I highly recommend it. Other reviews complain about the book's street maps, but I had no problem- maybe that's because I had a mini street map with me. I was never lost.
Note, missing from the book entirely are:
Warnings about how difficult it is to navigate the Orsay museum (what a mess-- everyone walking around lost),
Day trips to Normandy Beaches (note, to truly see the D Day sites takes a few days at least)
Opera Guarnier ( don't know why everyone poo-poos this as a tourist site, it had a lot of people there, it is extremely well maintained [this was how Versailles must have looked in its heyday], and once you see that and the Sewer tour you have a new appreciation of the Phantom of the Opera).
Also missing from this and every other guidebook: Sites where scenes from favorite movies (American in Paris, Charade, etc.) were shot- finding these locations was a fabulous, cheap, and relatively tourist free part of the trip.
A few opinions different from the book:
Versailles was mildly interesting, historically important, but in my opinion overrated.
I would downgrade these sites to one star each or less:
Deportation Memorial (this is the one place in Paris where I felt truly unwelcome. It's not really a tourist site-- if you don't have a personal connection to it I would recommend avoiding it. It is closed 12-2, and worst of all there was a very (even for France) testy guard blowing whistles and yelling at people for not being respectful enough. The exit I took had a long flight of stairs ending at a locked gate, I had to go around and climb another flight . . . ugh)
Napoleon Crypt and WWII Museum (Yawn)
Conciergerie (essentially, a large basement)
Rick's Champs Elysees Walk (Just like any big street downtown city street in America)-- stick to the small neighborhoods.
And bring a good pair of walking shoes!
on December 24, 2008
I've traveled to Europe several times over the past 8 years and purchased various guide books for the planning of each trip and as a guide during the trip. By far the best and most reliable is the Rick Steves series. Factual information. I like it because he has a back door philosphy. I feel like I'm getting the background information from someone that has lived there for years. I also love how I'm able to use it as a guide once I'm there too. He has walking tours of museums - of course I typically purchase the musuem audio tours but in the random time that I don't pay for it, it's nice to have one in the guidebook. I like knowing the hours and cost of sites. Also the restaurants and hotels he has reccommeded have always been better than expected. I will always use Rick Steves whenever traveling to Europe. I know that he updates these yearly! I just wish he made these books for other parts of the world!
- Love how everything is described in detail. Ina country where I don't speak the language, I expect to be prepared when I walk out of my hotel room and I was.
on December 10, 1999
My wife and I used Rick's book extensively while in Paris. It had many great tricks and tips about getting around Paris. Escpecially the Museums and such. But this should not be the only book that you bring. I would highly recommend Eyewitness Paris guide or Fodor's to complement Rick's book. Both have more detailed information and maps about the Metro\RER. One word of caution. Most of the Hotels and Restaraunts that are recommended in Rick's book are swamped with Rick Steve's groupies clutching his book under their arms, especially the Rue Cler area. I didn't care for all the Americans, but some people didn't mind...
on October 18, 2009
I have long used and appreciated the Rick Steves guidebooks, and thought having them on my Kindle would be an excellent way to save luggage weight and space on trips. However, on the Kindle the guides are disappointing. The neat walking tour maps that are so informative in print are so small they're unreadable on the Kindle; similarly, photo quality is very poor and there is no way to zoom these graphics. In addition, the guide text is organized so that what are "sidebar" articles in print require a link and a jump to another page on the Kindle and navigating these links on the Kindle is clunky and slow. I like my Kindle for novels but for guidebooks like the Rick Steves series, you are better off with the print edition.
on April 17, 2012
I love the book, hate the Kindle version. I had the bright idea that it would be so helpful to put a lot of travel books onto my Kindle, then I wouldn't have to carry around heavy books. I ended up not trying many different ones--they may all have similar problems, but this one was really poorly published for the Kindle. Maybe if I had a Kindle fire, it would be a bit better.
Here are the problems with the way it's been published for Kindle:
Color maps are completely unreadable--grey blurry with no legible words at all--in black and white format.
Regular maps which presumably are in black and white in the book but are on 2 pages are readable but barely, and they are of course put onto 2 consecutive pages, but without any indication that it's the second half of the first page--words (and roads) trail off and are difficult to locate on the continuation page. While you can increase the size of type in text, you could not enlarge the maps (and if you could have, they would have been really blurry, as I discovered when I used a magnifying glass to try to read what was on there).
Navigating the book is really difficult. On my trip, I met a couple who had 2 versions of the book--the wife had the paperback version and the husband had the Kindle version. They agreed that they could not get along with just the Kindle version. Anytime I wanted to go to a specific section, I had to go all the way back to the Table of Contents, try to remember under which chapter/section title the information I wanted was, and go there. You couldn't search the book, you couldn't even search the index, which was not very good anyway in terms of finding something. But if you wanted to look for, say information on something that began with the letter S, you had to start with A and go through the pages till you got to S.
Bottomline, if you want to use this book while traveling, and you want to go to a specific section--say the guide to a museum, or look for restaurants near a specific site--you face wasting a lot of time and significant frustration as you try to find your way to a section you read before.
Basically, it's a problem with the publishing rather than the book itself. Very disappointing.
on January 3, 2014
If you dig in the internet, you're likely to find a few nuggets of gold in all the dirt and common metals if you have enough time. Or, you can go to the jeweler and get a refined and polished ring.
These guides distill so much information that it is a HUGE time savings. The maps are much more convenient than trying to print your screen shots, and walking tours with notes on what you're seeing are nonexistent on the net - good luck trying to put one as good as these together! In addition there is the added benefit of a traveller's wisdom; few websites will tell you less expensive options for what they are trying to sell you! Even fewer come with a menu decoder!
Here's a promise: If you read this, you will probably save money and (more importantly) definitely save time during your trip.