Visit Paris with these Travel Tips
Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. But it is also home to so many travel mistakes. It’s normal for tourists to make a few faux pas. But no one wants to look like a tourist, especially not when they visit Paris.
We can all think of some useful travel tips. No fanny packs and socks with sandals. Don’t eat near tourist attractions. But there’s more you should know about the City of Light. Here are some travel tips for your next visit to Paris.
Book in Advance
As one of the most popular tourist destinations, flights and accommodation get booked quick! The best hotels in Paris will be booked full, and you’ll be staying in a rundown hostel far from the city. And if you can find a flight, it won’t be cheap.
There’s no need to pay through the teeth. Just book everything several months in advance. That way you can find the best accommodation options and cheap flights.
Visit in the Shoulder Seasons
Summer is everyone’s favorite time to travel, and that’s the problem. There will be millions of tourists in Paris during the summer. Hotels will be booked. Tourist attractions will be packed. Restaurant reservations will be taken. There is so much competition that you are unlikely to get the perfect experience.
So visit Paris during the shoulder seasons. The city’s shoulder seasons are April through May and mid-September through November. The crowds are smaller. The prices are cheaper. And personally, I think the locals are happier when there aren’t so many tourists.
Also, be aware that August is the time most Parisians go on holiday. With so many locals gone, a lot of the shops are closed. So please. Avoid the summer.
Learn a Few French Phrases
It is always a good idea to learn a few phrases in the local language. France is no exception. Only about 40% of the French population speak English to some degree. And let’s be honest. Some of those people will pretend they don’t understand English just so they don’t have to deal with tourists.
Even if you’re too nervous to speak French, there is one word you absolutely must say: “bonjour!” Most people know this is how you say “hello.” Say it every time you enter a shop. It’s considered rude not to. The shopkeepers may treat you poorly if you just get down to business.
Walk to Get the True Paris Experience
Some cities are best explored on foot. Paris is one of them. If you just go to the famous landmarks, you won’t truly understand Paris. You’ll just see tourist traps.
To see the city from a local’s perspective, go for a walk. Explore the exciting neighborhoods of Paris. Admire the architecture. Find some hidden gems. Not to mention, it’ll give you a chance to escape the crowds.
Buy a Paris Pass
The Paris Pass gives you access to over 80 attractions. You can skip the lines and head right in. If you plan to visit a lot of attractions, the Paris Pass can save you up to 55%
But even a 2 day pass is over $100. So before you buy the pass or any entrance, do the math. Look at where you want to go. See how much it costs. Chances are you’ll save some money.
Book Entrance Tickets in Advance
If the Paris Pass isn’t for you, you should still book entrance tickets in advance. Even during the shoulder season, lines are incredibly long. I went to the Catacombs 30 minutes before they opened, and I still spent 2 hours waiting in line. Why? Because I didn’t buy a ticket beforehand.
Don’t be like me. Plan every place you want to go. Whether it’s a museum, the Catacombs, or the Eiffel Tower, buy your entrance tickets in advance. My favorite place to get all my entrance tickets is Get Your Guide.
Take a Day Trip
Paris is one of the best cities to visit in Europe. But there is more in France than just Paris. While you’re on vacation, take a break from the French capital and go on a day trip.
Outside of Paris is a wealth of beautiful countryside, stunning chateaus, and quaint medieval towns. Thanks to its breathtaking palace, Versailles is the most popular daytrip. The chateau at Fontainebleau and the town of Provins are some other notable locations.
Looking for some hidden gems? Foodies should stop in Meaux, which is known for its delicious brie and mustard. Art lovers can visit Auvers-Sur-Oise, where Vincent Van Gogh was laid to rest.
Visit a Winery
I used to make wine in California, so the delicious drink is close to my heart. But I honestly think no trip to France is complete without wine. France is one of the largest producers of wine in the world, and they have some of the most delicious varietals.
There are about 150 vineyards in the Paris region, and hundreds more not far away. To the northeast is Champagne, a renowned region with the best sparkling wine in the world. You can also head to central France for the Loire Valley. There you will find fresh and crisp Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs.
Sunday is Perfect for Museums
As a predominantly Catholic country, France holds Sunday in high regard. Many shops and attractions shut down on Sunday. So plan accordingly.
But you know what doesn’t close on Sunday? Museums. Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre usually close on Monday or Tuesday. That means you can enjoy some art on Sunday and hit the other attractions during the week.
Plan Your Louvre Trip
The Louvre is on everyone’s bucket list. But it is the largest art collection in the world. It is physically impossible for you to see everything in the Louvre. Know what you want to see and how to get there.
And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about Mona Lisa. I know. I know. You want to see her, and you should. But the painting is tiny, and there is always a giant crowd. You will have to fight a hundred tourists to even see the painting. So don’t waste too much time. There are better paintings in the museum anyway.
The Truth About the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is the most iconic part of the Paris skyline. You can see it on keychains, in romantic photos, and from the balcony of your luxury hotel. But let’s get real about the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower is far from the center of Paris. It’s not something you can see on your way to all the other great tourist destinations. Also, you don’t need to go to the top of the tower. The Eiffel Tower doesn’t give you a good view of Paris. If you want a good view of the city, go to Arc du Triomphe.
Take the Metro, Not a Taxi
I know I said you should walk everywhere. And you should! But for farther locations, you will want public transportation. Don’t get a taxi. The metro system is clean, efficient, and cheap.
When you do take the metro, keep your ticket. First off, you can top up your ticket for a later journey. But more importantly, you can be fined if you don’t have your metro ticket on you during your journey. It’ll cost you €33 at least. So keep it safe!
Bring Student ID for Discounts
Speaking of money, do you want to save some? Bring your student ID. If you’re a resident of the EU under 26, many of the attractions will be free. So it’s important to bring your ID.
But even US students can get discounts in Paris. Several eateries around the city will offer a deal if you show them a student ID. You may also find some discounts at museums. So bring the ID just in case.
Skip Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge is a cabaret in Paris, famous for introducing the can-can dance. This dance evolved into a unique form of entertainment and popularized cabarets across Europe.
But for the love of God, skip Moulin Rouge. It’s a tourist trap. Everything there is catered towards tourists. None of the locals go there. You won’t find anything authentic.
Try French Cuisine
France turned simple cooking into a refined artform. All the food there is extremely delicious. And yes. I mean all of it.
So be adventurous. I know escargot looks scary. I know you can’t pronounce a lot of the dishes. But dare to be bold. Life is about experiences, and every French dish is an experience.
Parisians Eat Late
There is one thing you should know before you make dinner reservations in Paris. Parisians eat late. A normal dinner starts around 8 PM, and restaurants won’t even open until 7 or 7:30 PM.
I know this can be hard for Americans. We’re used to eating much earlier. But Paris is full of tasty treats. Find a snack to hold you over.
It’s common knowledge that you should avoid shops and restaurants around tourist attractions. They’re bound to be expensive and catered towards tourists. But you shouldn’t go to a big grocery store either.
Get your baguettes at the local boulangerie, where they specialize in bread. If you really want to avoid mass-produced bread, ask for a “tradition” or “tradi.” As the name suggests, this is traditional French bread made with a sourdough starter.
Likewise, if you want good pastries, go to a patisserie. You will find a larger selection of treats delivered at a higher quality. Trust me. It makes a huge difference.
No Hot Beverages After 4 PM
If you’re like me, you need caffeine to get through the day. This is especially true during a busy day of travel. Coffee culture in Paris is robust, so you won’t be disappointed.
But you should know that most places stop selling hot beverages after 4 PM. So you’ll have to get your caffeine fix before then.
Air Raid Sirens
If you visit Paris on the first Wednesday of the month, you’ll hear something strange: an air raid siren. It’s just a drill. Every first Wednesday of the month at noon, Paris tests out its air raid sirens. The obnoxious sound lasts about 40 seconds.
Chances are this won’t affect your trip at all. This is more of a warning than a travel tip. But don’t get caught off-guard if you’re in Paris at the time. You’re not in any danger.
Spend the Week
Paris is an incredible city with so much to do and so much to see. Don’t try to squeeze everything into a weekend. It won’t work. Besides, a vacation is supposed to be relaxing.
Visit Paris for an entire week. This will give you plenty of time to do everything you want. It will also give you time to find some hidden gems or go on a day trip.
For any other necessary information, see my France Travel Guide. There you’ll find all the basic information you need for your trip. You’ll also get helpful travel tips about when and where to go in France.