I am accro (hooked) on my smartphone and when friends told me right before I got it, about how it would change my life, I was skeptical. But the moment I started figuring out all the features and downloading apps, it became an integral part of my life. And like many things, the rest of the world has adapted to the phones and enterprising folks have created a myriad of applications for them.
Here are some of the apps that I have on my smartphone. Because they rely on a relatively new technology, in some you might encounter bugs and glitches. Some are free and others cost. But I’ve come to realize that with “free”, you sometimes get what you pay for – some of the free ones are ad-supported – (I have no commercial affiliation with any of these apps) and am happy to pay a few bucks for an application that I’ll use – like a good French dictionary. Which I am sure the rest of the people in France appreciate me having as well.
One caveat is that the ‘location’ feature on some of the apps may not be accessible if you’ve turned off data-roaming or Location Services, which can rack up charges with your provider at home. So be sure to check the websites of the various apps for specific information. Exercise caution when using a smartphone in public or on transit in Paris. It was announced recently that over half of the crimes on public transit nowadays are theft of smartphones and mobile devices. No need to be paranoid, but use common sense, just like you would in any other major city.
And if you’re looking for the best bakeries, pastry shops, tea salons, and ice cream shops, you can find a list of over 300 of my favorites at my Paris Pastry app, so you’ll have them all in one handy place.
This is the official app of the French train system and happily, it works better than the sometimes-quirky site. You can select “Paris” or any specific rain station in the city, choose a destination, then find a train with arrival and departure times…and even the track the train will be on.
Because trains run frequently between cities and towns in France, you can plug-in your favorites and scroll through to find out when you can go wherever you want to go. If you want to buy a ticket, there’s a button that takes you to another site that handles sales. One of the few downsides of this app (*sigh*) is that there’s music, “SNCF La Radio” that can fortunately be turned off. But for information about the French rail system, this is the app.
This was the most expensive app I ever bought and it was worth every centime. No one wants a crummy dictionary and Larousse is probably the best. I use this all the time and you can quickly toggle between English and French if you’re looking for a translation between the two languages. There’s also comprehensive verb conjugation tables and a voice that will speak the words clearly, so you can pronounce them correctly.
If you’re abroad and need medical care, or are standing in the pharmacy trying to figure out how to say Cialis in French, this app covers a broad spectrum of medical terms, drugs, lists hospitals in Paris, as well as doctors and dentists. (You can make doctor appointments with the app, although I don’t know how the listings are vetted.) Nonetheless, even if you don’t need an appointment, there’s quite a few things on this app that make it worthwhile.
You may not need to know how to say “He cannot move his penis” or “I need to go outside and have a cigarette”, but it’s nice to know if your man-parts hurt, you know how to say it. Do turn off the voice command, since I was demonstrating the app to some friends on a quiet train car once and a booming voice, in French, said “Mon scrotum me fait mal“, or “My scrotum hurts” – which caused each and every passenger on our train car to turn around and look at me. And some things are better discussed between you and a certified medical provider, no matter where you live. (Update: This app no longer appears to be in the iTunes app store.)
Who doesn’t love the Louvre? This is a beautiful app, as well as being very informative. It is a comprehensive look at one of the world’s great museums. You can take a tour, browse the collections, or get visitor information from the app.
A convenient search bar allows you to find things quickly in this English-language program. And if you’re looking for a specific work of art, there are sections that show more detail, learn more about the work, and even find where it is in the museum by wing, floor, and room.
France is a country of brocantes and flea markets and this app lists where to find them, categorized by département (region) or city. The various events are listed by date, arrondissement (in Paris), and how far away they are.
You’ll find everything from used bike sale to a friperie (vintage or used clothing). It does help to know what the various kinds of markets there are, so you don’t find yourself at a stamp sale when you’re looking for vintage Gaultier. So you might want to jot down what those are if you’re not a Francophone. (For example, the difference between a brocante, marché aux puces, or vide-greniers.) I like the fact that you can e-mail a listing to yourself or someone else, which just came in handy since as I wrote this I found a sale I was interested in and sent the listing to myself so I wouldn’t forget. (No, I’m not telling what it is, because I want to get their first.)
Although technically not just a Paris app, this app features an overview of France in stunning images from the photographer of National Geographic magazine. They’re better appreciated on an iPad where the clarity and colors really shine. But there’s a location feature which will tell you what you’re near, if you’re traveling. And there are images of Paris as well, since you can’t have an app about the beauty of France without at least a few shots of Paris, can you?
There’s a brief mention of the importance of each site and place photographed and you can create slideshows that fade from one gorgeous image to another. This is one of those apps you can get lost in. (Update: This no longer appears to be in the iTunes store.)
I had to laugh when I heard about this app because some restrooms in Paris are harder to get into than Fort Knox. So it’s amusing to tap on the location feature and find one near where I am, when I gotta go. Admittedly, a majority of them are “wishful thinking” (my local natural foods store doesn’t have a public restroom, as listed) nor have I seen a single supermarket offer facilities to customers in Paris.
But it does list restaurants and cafés, although you have to buy something in order to go. (A friend was recently buying a drink and her friend headed to the restroom. She was stopped before she reached the restroom door and told she couldn’t go until the drink was actually ordered.)
I would love them to include the sanisette public toilets installed at various places around Paris – especially if there was an additional icon for the ones that worked.
This worldwide guide to chocolate shops, of course, has a number of listings for Paris. Created by the folks of Ecole Chocolat, you can find a shop near you, and quick tap or two will take you to the address, website, map, ratings, and photos. Many of the spaces for photos are empty, so users can presumably add their own. As far as I can tell, you can’t search for places that aren’t located in your vicinity – in my case, the closest was 89 meters (290 feet) away (yay!) and the farthest was 7619 meters (4.7 miles) away.
The French post office has come a long way in the past few years, modernizing and even installing machines in their branches that sell stamps and so forth to expedite operations. Their app is quite good and you can use it to find the closest post office, as well as a map and their hours. There’s even a nifty video that shows you how to use the app.
The Vélib’ bike system in Paris has been talked about around the world and when they finally came out with an app, it was met with great anticipation. And it’s been worth it; the app tells you where to find a bike, how many bikes are available at any particular station, and how many slots are available when it’s time to return it.
There’s a few frustrating things you have to click-through to get the information – like, I don’t need to keep closing the pop-up legend that blocks the screen each time I open it, nor do I need to see the entire planet Earth when I am looking to see if there’s a bike available around the corner – so hopefully they’ll edit those quirks eventually. Of interest to visitors is that now anyone can rent a bike via the website, which is in English, using almost any credit card. Do be aware that traffic in Paris and if you’re not savvy on a bike, your trip might not end as happily as planned. (You don’t want to have to use that medical translation app, unless you really need to.) There’s plenty of bike routes, though, which make navigating Paris a little less-intimidating.
This is the app for the transit system in Paris, including the bus, métro, and RER (suburban train) lines. There’s a lite version that’s free, but spring for the paid (premium) one, which is far more comprehensive. With this app, not only can you find maps, but also create a journey, find out when the next bus is coming, learn what stations are near you, which stations are under renovation, get traffic information (including strikes and demonstrations), and read timetables.
This app isn’t an official RATP app, so if you have the one above, you likely don’t need this. But I like it because the métro map is right up there on the first page and it’s really easy to use. (It also has bus and RER lines, too.) You can use it plan a journey, find out all the stops on each métro line, and see when the next métro is scheduled to arrive in any station.
There’s a POI (point of interest) feature that allows you to see where the nearest bank or other selected businesses are. But the selection isn’t all that wide – except for fast-food restaurants – so you might not be using that feature all that much.
Although the name still has me scratching my head, this organization dedicated to promoting contemporary French cuisine – food not mired in tradition – makes a point of listing the hotspots of Paris. You need to spin your phone around because the app only works horizontally. But there are sections devoted to News, À Proximité (nearby), Favorites, and a Search feature so you can see what’s nearby, from sushi to open-air terraces and places le brunch.
Essentials lists hundreds of the hottest restaurants in Paris with descriptions (in French) and contact information. Le Fooding tends to list unconventional restaurants and young chefs that are doing something audacious or interesting. But there’s lots of wine bars, ethnic places and tea salons. There’s a handful of eateries outside of Paris, too.
Navigating the Paris airports just got somewhat easier – although I still don’t understand why they can’t install signs pointing to where the specific airline counters are located. This app covers Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports and tells you where to find tourist information, has the number for handicapped access assistance, and lists ways to get to and from each airport.
De Gaulle airport now gives you 15 minutes free Wi-Fi access, and for people who want to de-stress or have unlimited, you can check into one of the iCare lounges for €30. (You can do that online, but not with the app.) It doesn’t list where the ATMs are or good places to eat, but perhaps those are on the horizon.
There’s a lot of sites that list places to eat in various cities, but the one thing I like about Yelp is that they list the actual website of the establishment, rather than just trying to get you to run around in circles on their site. There’s also a map feature, too.
When traveling, this app is useful for calculating costs for a variety of currencies, which you can choose yourself. It stores information so when you don’t have an internet connection, according to the app notes, it’ll work without being online.
Other Paris Apps
My Little Paris (Paris guide to interesting addresses)
bio Guide (List of organic shops in Paris)
Besoin Urgent (Interactive map to machines selling condoms)
G7 (Taxi service)
David Lebovitz (My app)
Paris Travel Tips: Top iPhone apps (Paris Sharing)
Paris Apps (Paris.fr)