This is a handy little booklet that I still carry around in my jacket pocket or the outer pocket of my camera bag, along with my mobile phone. Although the same information is accessible both ways, I often find it quicker and easier to use the booklet, rather than the apps on my phone, to find my way around Paris — although this might be simply because of my advanced age.
The ninety-nine page booklet, which is available at bookshops, railway stations and newsstands all over Paris, consists mainly of maps of the twenty districts (arrondissements), but also includes a Métro map, a bus map, a map of the RER suburban trains, maps of La Défense, Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes, and an alphabetical index of all the streets and squares in the city, with their exact locations.
The big advantage of having your maps organized by district (par arrondissement) is that in Paris you can always find out very easily which district you are in. Just go to the nearest corner and look at the street signs. At the top of each sign you can find the number of the district, for instance the signs in my collage (above) are from the 5th, 13th, 2nd and 10th districts, respectively. The abbreviation Arrt (with a tiny t at the end, stands for arrondissement. The first ten districts are small enough that each one fits on a double page of the booklet. The districts 11-20 are larger, so they are shown on two double pages each.
New editions of the booklet are published every year, and it is advisable to get the latest one, because some things do change from one year to the next. Several of the Métro lines have been extended recently, so they have new end stations, which is important because knowing the name of the last station on the line helps you make sure you get a train going in the right direction.
The newer editions also show you where all the Vélib’ bicycle stations are located, which is very useful for orientation, though of course if you want to know how many bikes or docking points are available in real time you would still have to turn on the Vélib’ app on your mobile phone (or just go to the station and look, if you happen to be nearby).
The latest edition of Paris Pratique par Arrondissement that I have is the one from 2019. It is already out of date in one respect, because on April 20, 2019, a major rearrangement of Paris bus lines went into effect. The northern end of Line 38, for example, was extended from Gare du Nord to Porte de la Chapelle, and this was only one of fifty altered or extended bus routes. None of these changes are shown in the 2019 booklet, nor does it show the latest extension of the tramway T-3b from Porte de la Chapelle to Porte d’Asnières.
Speaking of outdated Paris handbooks, the earliest I have is this one.
It does not reveal its year of publication, but it seems to be from the first decade of the 20th century, as it lists over sixty tramway lines in operation but only five Métro lines, with three more under construction. It says the tramway company has a contract with the city “which is due to expire in 1910”. The company “has 16,000 horses and can put 1,100 coaches and vehicles in circulation, transporting an average of 39 million passengers per year.” (page 57)
(Can you imagine all the manure those 16,000 horses must have produced?)
The old guidebook includes two large maps of Paris (now falling apart despite the folds being taped many decades ago), and the book itself has an alphabetical listing of the city’s major attractions.
The drawing on page 39 shows the opera house (the one now called Opéra Garnier or Palais Garnier to distinguish it from the other opera houses) being unveiled by a lovely ballerina, with several horse-drawn carriages careening through the square in different directions.
The text on the opera house is highly enthusiastic. It begins, more or less: “From a distance, the building arises, a prodigious mass, a fairy-tale of craftsmanship, decorative magic, solemn and disconcerting, magnificent and delicate, dizzying and complicated, vibrant and overwhelming with splendor, with sumptuousness, with sparkles, with evocations from the foundation to the summit which is dominated, between two Pegasuses, by Apollo brandishing his golden Lyre as in a rally; — the whole merging into a great harmonious unity.” (This is my attempt at a translation.)
My photos in this post are from 2014 and 2019. I revised the text in 2020.