With the proliferation of internet cafes in even some of the most remote places in the world and things like the iPhone making it possible for people to take the internet with them wherever they go, it’s no surprise that travelers are finding all kinds of uses for using mobile technology.
The iPhone in particular has introduced new tools to the average traveler’s toolkit, since for some people the iPhone can replace bulky guidebooks and hard-to-fold maps – even if you’re not using the phone part of the iPhone when you’re traveling. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the best iPhone apps for Paris travel that are currently available, broken down into three categories – travel guides, language assistance, and fun.
There are new apps popping up every day, and thousands upon thousands already available, so if your favorite Paris iPhone app isn’t listed here, please let us know in the comments.
Paris iPhone Travel Guides & Maps
For this category, we’re focusing on apps that you can use without turning on the phone part (thereby avoiding high roaming charges) or finding WiFi, since those two requirements could limit the usefulness of the apps. Plus, if you have an iPod Touch instead of an iPhone, you want these apps to work for you, too. Some of these have the ability to turn on the GPS function on your iPhone, but it’s not required for the app to work.
Lonely Planet’s Paris Guide
Lonely Planet’s Paris City Guide is everything you’d expect from a Lonely Planet travel guidebook, only it’s just focused on a city rather than a whole country (there aren’t any country-wide LP iPhone apps as yet). It’s not as navigation-friendly as some other apps, so play with it a little on the plane before you get to Paris so you know where to find what you want later on.
Frommer’s Paris Guide
More of a Frommer’s fan? There’s the Frommer’s Paris Guide instead. Again, it’s what you’d expect from Frommer’s only in a handy iPhone app.
Paris Travel Guide – mTrip
If you like the Genius feature in iTunes, then you’ll like the Paris Travel Guide app from mTrip. Plug in your travel dates and where you’re staying, and you can either build your own itinerary or let the “mTrip Genius” build an itinerary for you based on a few criteria you set – including what types of attractions you’re more interested in and how much time you want to spend at each one. Adjust as you like, and then let mTrip guide you to each spot on the itinerary. Some features of mTrip only work with the iPhone 3G (including the augmented reality features), but much of it is available offline, too.
DK Top 10 Paris
Guidebook aficionados probably know the gorgeous DK books as much for their weight as for their illustration-and-photo-packed pages. The heavy paper is no longer a problem when you turn a DK guide into the DK Top 10 Paris iPhone app, however. And don’t be confused by the name – it’s not just a list of the top 10 things to see in Paris, although it isn’t a full city guide, either. It’s more of a “best of” Paris, with photos, illustrations, visitor’s information, and maps.
Rick Steves Paris Walking Tours
Rick Steves’ popular guides to Europe aren’t yet available in iPhone form, but you can download four different Rick Steves walking tours for Paris. There’s an optional audio component where you can listen to Rick tell you about each point of interest, or you can just read about them on your own. Each tour also includes information about nearby hotels, restaurants and even public toilets. They’re all totally offline, with no internet or cell/data connection required. The tours available are: Historic Paris Walk, Louvre Tour, Orsay Museum Tour, and Versailles.
Paris Museums & Monuments
Maybe you’re the kind of traveler who prefers to wander without a guidebook, but you still want to know when the museums in Paris open and how much a ticket will cost. In that case, you can get this handy app dedicated solely to Paris Museums & Monuments. It includes all the sights that are on the Paris Museum Pass, photos of each attraction, a map to help you get there, and some visitor’s tips as well.
Paris CitySpeaker Audio Guide
As the name indicates, the Paris CitySpeaker Audio Guide app is designed to replace a tour guide talking to you. There are audio tracks about various points of interest and whole neighborhoods all over Paris, and all you have to do is tap a spot on the map to listen to the audio track. It’s GPS-enabled so you can find out exactly where you are, but all the information and maps are also available offline.
The Free Paris app does just what the name implies. It’s a list of more than 70 things to do and see in Paris that won’t cost you a thing – including museums, concerts, festivals, gardens, and more. For each listing you get basic information that’s available offline, and if you’re on WiFi or have the phone part connected you can also open a Google map to find out how to get there from where you are, access more information about the attraction via the web, and even call the place.
LUXE City Guides Mobile Paris
On the other end of the budget spectrum is the LUXE City Guides Mobile Paris app. Like the LUXE guidebooks, the app caters to those who are big spenders and enjoying the high-end travel lifestyle in Paris. There are luxury hotels, top restaurants, and visitor’s information is included.
Paris Unlike City Guide
The Paris Unlike City Guide app includes everything from the Unlike Paris website, with more than 150 listings for Paris. Because it’s pulled from the website, it’s kept updated better than if you had to get an updated app – and that’s important when you’re talking about finding out where the trendiest clubs and latest events are. There’s also information on museums, shops, and hotels, and if you turn on the GPS on your phone the app will tell you which of its listings are near to where you are.
RATP Premium: Subway & Bus in Paris or Metro Paris Subway
Getting around Paris is fast, easy, and cheap when you learn to use the Paris Metro – and with a good iPhone app it’s even easier. There’s the official RATP Premium: Subway & Bus in Paris app, produced in conjunction with the RATP company that runs all public transport in Paris. It includes information for the Metro, RER lines A & B, Paris buses, night buses, trams, and three different airport shuttles. It also has Paris transport maps (with an offline option) and timetables. Another Metro app officially licensed by RATP is Metro Paris Subway. This one has information on the Metro, buses, RER lines, trams, and SNCF Transilien, and it will provide real-time Paris Metro alerts if your phone is connected. You can add various categories – like points of interest and restaurants – by buying them from within the app.
Offline Paris Map
iPhone maps have the benefit of not needing to be unfolded and folded again, but unless they’re available offline you could end up with a sizable cell phone bill when you get home. So when you’re looking for a Paris map in the App Store, make sure it’s got an offline component. Two that have the word “offline” right in them are Paris Maps Offline ($2.99) and Paris Offline Street Map ($4.99).
French Language iPhone Apps
If you’re not fluent in French before you board the plane for your Paris trip, then these apps will either help you cram some French study in on the flight or give you those key phrases and words you’ll need right when you need them.
CoolGorilla’s Talking French Phrasebook
If you have no intention of learning French for your trip, then CoolGorilla’s Talking French Phrasebook app is a good one to consider. There are more than 500 useful words and phrases for travelers, with both text and audio (for those of you who don’t even want to try to say things out loud).
French to English Phrasebook
A bit of a step up from the “talking phrasebook” is this French to English Phrasebook app, which will still give you all the tools you’ll need to make yourself understood in Paris.
MemoryLifter English/French Basic Vocabulary
To take it further, the flash card apps from MemoryLifter will help you get some French study in before your trip, on your flight, or whenever you’ve got some down time. The more comprehensive MemoryLifter English/French Basic Vocabulary has so many levels that you’ll be able to use it for years without outgrowing it, and there are several subject-specific categories you can download separately if you like. One that might be handy is the MemoryLifter English/French Traveling & Nature ($6.99) for all the travel-related vocabulary included.
Fun Paris iPhone Apps
Some of these apps can easily fit into the “travel guide” category, because they’re useful when you’re actually in Paris – but we wanted to highlight them separately because they’re either so interesting or unique that we didn’t want them to get lost in a more general list of maps and audio guides.
Does the idea of ordering something scary without knowing it freak you the hell out? Then you need the Escargo app. There are more than 1,800 French food terms and translations in this app, so you won’t order snails if you don’t intend to.
Another great Paris food-related app is Sweet Paris, which is a city map with more than 100 listings of chocolate shops, pastry shops, and other sweet shops in Paris. You can get each shop’s specialties, open hours, and photos totally offline; if you want directions from where you are then you’ll need WiFi or a cell/data connection.
Keys to the Fleas
For the shopping enthusiast who wants a pocket-sized guide to Paris flea markets, look no further than the Keys to the Fleas app. It was produced by the woman behind The Paris Apartment, and it’s the only thing you need to shop the Paris flea markets like a pro.
Musee du Louvre
While you can definitely use the Musee du Louvre app while you’re visiting the actual museum, it’s probably best to use it to prep for a visit. The app has a selection of the museum’s famous artworks (with the ability to zoom in, which is cool), details about the piece and the artist, and the location in the museum itself.
A fun way to get into a trip to Paris before you get there is with these mini-movies from Soundwalk Paris. They’re one hour long, and they’re sort of like audio tours of Paris neighborhoods, although the tour is following the storyline of each movie. You can enjoy them before your trip or on the flight, and then use the geo-location option (GPS required) to turn them into guided walking tours of the neighborhood when you’re in Paris. The neighborhoods available are The Marais, Belleville, St. Germain des Pres, and Pigalle.
The ArounderTouch app isn’t Paris-specific (it includes several different cities around the world), but within the Paris section it’s cool enough that it’s worth listing here. The app includes visitor information about top sights in Paris and has the added benefit of several 360-degree photos of each attraction as well. It’s a fun way to see what you’ll see before you get there.
Real SnowGlobe Paris
Who doesn’t want a little iPhone kitsch? No need to buy a tacky Eiffel Tower snow globe when you’ve got one on your iPhone. Nevermind that the “snow” in the Real SnowGlobe Paris app is little stars and not snow at all.
You know the concentration game, where you match pairs of cards by remembering where certain cards are placed face-down on the board? With the Paris Concentration app each pair of cards you match up and remove reveals more of a Paris photo in the background.
There are typically fireworks set off behind the Eiffel Tower at New Year’s, but if you can’t be in Paris at New Year’s then download the Paris Fireworks app and set off fireworks behind the famous monument whenever you like with just a tap of your finger.
photo by bredgur