Are you visiting Paris for the first time and looking for useful Paris Travel Tips? I am happy for you! The French capital is a beautiful city, and easily one of my favorite in the world. This is the most popular tourist destinations in France, attracting massive crowds of tourists every year.
But this should not put you off from visiting! Just make sure to prepare for your visit, go with at least some background knowledge of what to expect, and I am sure you will fall in love with it.
If you are looking for the best Paris travel tips, you are in the right place. I am here to share some useful information that will help you make your trip to Paris a smoother one.
Continue reading for my tips for visiting Paris!
19 Useful Paris Travel Tips
When is the best time to visit Paris?
Any time is a good time to visit Paris! Ok, I know this doesn’t answer your question. So, here comes the most important of all Paris travel tips: go to Paris in the shoulder season! April is a great month to see the city in full bloom, whereas October and November are good months for foliage. I have been there in October and loved the early fall atmosphere, the colors and the light, and didn’t find it to be too crowded.
Are you planning on visiting Paris in August? The city is less crowded then, but that’s only because locals generally leave for their holidays, which means that some shops, cafés and restaurants may be closed.
How long should you stay in Paris?
Another very good question! Two days are simply not enough to properly explore the French capital – and even less so a day. This a massive city and the biggest mistake you can do is trying to squeeze in too many things to do and places to visit in a short time.
If you can only spend a weekend in Paris, just focus on one particular area or set of attractions and plan your next trip to Paris to see the rest of the city! This is a city that deserves to be enjoyed at a slow pace – visit an attraction, get out and have a drink or a meal, Paris-style, then start exploring again.
Check out my list of The Best Places To Visit In Paris.
Join a guided tour
Some people dislike guided tours, others love them. I am definitely a fan! Even if you have a few days to discover Paris independently, you may want to invest in a guided tour (or more) as a welcome to the city. Expert local guides are trained to share the best information and facts with you; they will help you dodge the crowds at even the most crowded attractions; they will take you to the best photo spots; they will share insider’s information on local restaurants and share a joke or two.
For a guided bike tour of Paris click here. For an off-the-beaten path tour of Paris click here. For a guided tour of Montmartre click here.
Get skip the line tickets
This is one of the most important Paris travel tips!
Some of the most popular attractions in Paris offer skip-the-line tickets. You have to book your visit in advance, picking a time slot for entry, and just show up at the door. In fact, some places such as the Louvre have completely stopped selling tickets at the door.
These are some of the attractions that offer skip-the-line tickets:
You may even want to invest in a Paris Pass, which includes skip-the-line admission to a number attractions. You can get it here.
Visit the smaller museums
The Louvre and Orsay are just two of the 130 museums in Paris. They are both fantastic galleries, but they can be super crowded (which is why you really have to buy a ticket and book a time slot in advance). If you are looking for a more peaceful experience, opt to see one of others museums in town – the Pompidou Center, for example; or the Musée Rodin.
For more information head over to my post The Best Museums In Paris.
Wake up early
For the best photo opportunities, set your alarm clock before the crack of dawn and head out as early as possible. That’s when you’ll have the most famous photo locations in Paris (think Eiffel Tower as seen from the Trocadero) to yourself! I promise you it is worth it.
Check out my post Where To Get The Most Impressive Views Of Paris.
Expect small businesses to be closed on Sundays
Like in many countries where the majority of people is Catholic, small businesses in Paris – and across France – are typically closed on Sunday, or observe limited working hours. This is not the case for attractions, however. The Eiffel Tower is open every day; museums’ closures are either on Monday or Tuesday.
Get a basic understanding of the arrondissements system
Ok, this is easier said than done but I will do my best to explain the basic gig!
There are 26 different arrondissements in Paris. These are pretty much the equivalent to district or – for ease – neighborhoods. Each arrondissements has its own charme but some are definitely more suitable to someone who is visiting Paris for the first time. Popular arrondissements for travelers include Le Marais (3rd and 4th), the Latin Quarter (5th) and Montmartre (18th).
For a better understanding of Paris’s arrondissements system, check out this post.
Where to stay in Paris
Staying in the center of Paris is key to have a good experience of the city. You should pick a place from where you can easily reach all the best attractions on foot or that is really close to a metro station. I normally stay at the Marais as I love the area: it is safe, trendy, there are lovely shops, cafés and restaurants and it is and close to many important landmarks such as Notre Dame and Pompidou Center.
Here is a quick selection of excellent places to stay:
- La Chambre du Marais is located close to Pompidou center. Much like in the rest of Paris, rooms aren’t big but they are cozy, beautifully decorated and comfortable.
- Hotel Montecristo offers plush rooms decorated in a beautiful vintage style, a pool and it even has a restaurant.
- Young and Happy Latin Quarter by Hiphophostels is a good budget option. Dorms are plain but well equipped. Breakfast is an extra.
Beware of scams and pickpockets
Much like any other place that is crowded with tourists, scams are common in Paris. Things like petitions for whatever cause (typically for deaf people); the friendship bracelet; the 3-cards game are definitely something you’ll come across in places such as the area around the Eiffel Tower.
You should also keep your eyes open and your wits about for pickpockets, usually active in crowded areas such a metro or train stations and – inevitably – around popular tourist attractions.
Make sure to read my post How To Avoid The Most Common Paris Scams.
Learn a few words of French
Here’s a little secret: almost everyone in Paris speaks at least a bit of English. But for some reason, it is expected that you make at least an effort to speak some French – if anything, to sound like a total idiot and quickly be told that you can speak English indeed.
Either way, make it a point to learn a few words in French before your trip as it will make your life much easier – at least in terms of attitude! – when visiting Paris.
Also remember you are always expected to greet when you enter a shop or a restaurant. Wear the biggest smile on your face and pop out the best “bonjour” you can master, and service will be a whole lot better.
Read my tips on How To Learn A Foreign Language.
Beware of the Parisian mood
One of my best friends has been living in Paris for almost 20 years now and if there’s one thing she can’t quite bring herself to like about the city is the infamous passive aggressive of many locals. Some may call it sarcasm, but is it really? Things such as disguisedly insulting you; or silently sabotaging you; or overtly complimenting you in a way that is obviously more of a criticism are definitely more common than you’d like in the French capital.
I have been a victim of passive aggressive locals when I was visiting Paris, but I was so quick to react with such a good dose of the same medicine that the woman I was dealing with could only but remain silent in the end – much to the amusement of other people around us.
Travel to Paris solo
Much like Venice, Paris is thought to be one of the most romantic cities in the world. But who said Paris is only just for couples? I visited solo and enjoyed every moment of my trip!
Be prepared for a late dinner
Much like in southern Italy, Parisians tend to eat dinner later than what you may be accustomed do. Most restaurants won’t even open before 7:30 pm, and locals will sit for dinner between 8:00 and 9:30 pm. Restaurants usually close between lunch and dinner too.
Plan how to get to Paris
Paris is very well connected to the rest of Europe and the world by train and via two easy to get airports.
The main one is Charles de Gaulle, which is connected to the center of town by train, bus, shuttle van and taxi. It takes between 30 minutes (by train) to up to one and a half hour (depending on traffic) to reach the city center from the airport, depending on which mode of transportation you choose.
You can book your private transfer from the airport to the city center via Welcome Pickups here.
The other airport is Beauvais, which is further away from the city and is served by budget airlines. It is connected to Paris city center by bus. It takes about 75 minutes to get from Beauvais to Paris Port Maillot station.
For more information, read my post How To Get From Charles De Gaulle Airport CDG To Paris.
Learn how to move around Paris
Public transportation in Paris works really well and tourists can count on a great web of buses and the metro. The metro is probably the fastest way to get from one place to the other. A one way ticket costs €1.90 and you can get it at the metro station. You can use it for connections too, as long as you don’t leave the station.
Remember to keep your metro ticket once you are inside the station, as you need it to actually get out! If you are caught without a ticket, the fine starts at €33 and it’s really not worth risking that.
But try to explore on foot as much as possible
Much like for most cities in Europe, Paris is best discovered on foot. Try to walk everywhere – and make sure to wear very comfortable shoes for the purpose and leave your fancy heels at home! – and only use the metro or bus if you are trying to reach an attraction that is further away.
Get out of Paris
There are many incredible places you can discover within easy day-trip distance from Paris. The most popular destination is Versailles (remember that you need a skip-the-line ticket and, even better, a tour to visit!); with Disneyland Paris coming in as a very close second.
For more information, read my post 15 Amazing Day Trips From Paris.
Other useful information
I recommend taking a good guide book with you, as it’ll have at least some basic information about the places to visit in Paris you want to go to, and a map, as well as mention good restaurants and even bars. You may want to consider this one.
Finally, I always recommend getting a good travel insurance, no matter where you travel to and for how long. Get a good travel insurance here.
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