Paris for the First Time
Hello, let me be your Paris Tour Guide!
This blog post is 10 years in the making. I have absolutely no idea why I never did this before. Sometimes we people are just too “close” to things. I've written it a least a dozen times. Every time a friend or colleague was heading to Paris, they would inevitably ask me, “can you give me some tips and tricks of things to do in Paris, what to eat, what are the best Paris attractions, that should I not do.”
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And each time I wrote a long email or document with a stream of consciousness or data dump on my Paris knowledge and experience. This past Thanksgiving, another happy couple was heading to the City of Light, I dutifully wrote my recommendations and tips from scratch and then swore to myself I would write this post! So here goes!
If you remember only one thing from this blog post, this is it!
France and the French culture are run by an unwritten code. It is not important for you to know all the code (trust me, married to a Frenchman and the daughter-in-law of a French mother-in-law, it can be exhausting!), but there is one SUPER IMPORTANT thing to know, remember, and use. I cannot stress it enough!
For every single interaction you have with another human being in Paris (or France), the first thing that comes out of your mouth MUST be “Bonjour” – you are acknowledging that person and showing respect.
So, when you enter a restaurant or store when you order something at a bakery when you buy a ticket for a museum, metro, show, etc. When you enter the hotel, when you need to ask someone for directions or help, always, ALWAYS say Bonjour first – trust me, it will get you a lot farther with absolutely everything in Paris (and France). It may feel weird to say Bonjour to what seems like an empty store or to the security guards, but it will be noticed, heard, and appreciated.
The French greatly appreciate it when you try to speak a few words of French, so if you want to practice a few words before your trip, have at it! It's a nice touch that will warm up your encounter.
Also, it isn't necessary to have a big smile when you say it. French people think there is something wrong with us Americans always smiling like we are “crazy” or something!
A few more Cultural Things to Note that will make life a little easier:
- Money does not make the world go round in France or to French people, money doesn’t impress anyone. It is a pretty taboo topic. So “throwing money around” to get better service, etc. is not going to work.
- The French are not known for their customer service, the customer is not always right and frankly, most people don’t care about providing good service – there are a rare few who do. Don’t get aggravated, etc. if you feel you are getting poor service, it’s not you, it’s them! Getting mad will not do anything (no “speaking to the manager”, etc. just won’t fly…)
- However, if someone, say a lady in a bakery, is getting service, they are getting all the service, meaning if she wants to sit there all day telling the baker about her daughter, you are just going to have to wait. The good news is that when you are ‘up next’ you will have all their attention.
- More notes on my observations of the French culture!
- You will end up with a lot of coins! I highly suggest a coin purse. Keep your coins separate from your bills, life will be easier. In fact, here is my article on the 5 bags you will need in Paris.
- Make sure you keep Euros on you. Smaller places may not accept cards. Large bills are VERY hard to break! 50 and 100 Euros bills, nearly impossible!
- Except for a few fancy pastry shops and boutiques, most of the shopping bags are crap, they will tear (or if they get wet the handle may stain your clothing – true story). I always bring several canvas bags with me to throw things into. Bring plastic ones too, they don’t wrap food or pastries very well so I often find myself putting them in a plastic bag and then putting them into my canvas bag.
- If you go to a farmer’s market or shop for food someplace like Rue Montorgueil then I've written a whole post on the etiquette to know.
Okay before we get to the food and restaurants, there are a few things to know. Luckily, I've written a whole blog post on this topic as well! But here are some highlights:
- Customization is not a thing in France so you can’t ask for something with “x removed” “a side of that” “no mayo” etc. It comes the way it comes. The only place you can customize is Starbucks.
- The waiter will not clear away your plates until everyone is done with their course.
- You will have to ask for the check, they will not bring it to you automatically.
- The one place where this is different is at bar/terraces, they will usually have you settle your bill when they serve you. That doesn’t mean you have to leave, you can stay all day if you want.
- In restaurants, bars, etc. do NOT leave a tip.
Here is what Barb had to say after she visited Paris for the first time.
Transportation in Paris
Personally, I think walking is the best way to explore Paris! Mr. Misadventures and I can clock 10-15 miles a day while we are on a trip. However, there are times when it makes more sense to rely on other forms of transportation.
You cannot flag down a taxi on the street. You have to go to a hotel, find a taxi stand (not always easy), or now, in the last 2 years, you can order one with the G7 Taxi app (it is France’s version of Uber), and works quite well. You will see your taxi marked with G7 on it. Trust me, this is revolutionary, only a few years ago it was impossible to get a taxi! If a taxi has a green light it is available.
If you are taking a taxi from Charles de Gaulle Airport, and with all the construction and street closures traffic is absolutely horrific. That severely impacts travel times in taxis when going from here to there in the city.
PLUS there is a new phenomenon at the airport that I witnessed. Depending on the time of day I saw taxi drivers at the airport rejecting people going to the city (mind blown) because there is a set fare from CDG to Paris and depending on traffic taxi drivers lose money.
- Flat rate to the left bank: €58. The left bank is these arrondissements: 5th, 6th, 7th, 13th, 14th, and 15th.
- Flat rate to the right bank: €53. The right bank is these arrondissements: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th.
If you are going to use the Metro a lot (it can be very convenient) by your tickets in a carnet (pronounced car-nay) of 10 tickets, it is more economical. When going through with your ticket, keep it in a safe place.
Metro police sometimes do random checks with a reader and in some stations, you need the ticket a second time to get through the entrance. Once you exit, throw away your ticket so you don’t combine it with other tickets. One ticket is one ride.
Here is my full guide to the Paris Metro.
The Batobus is a water bus that does a loop on the Seine River – stopping at 8 spots – 3 on the side of the river (with the Louvre) and 5 other stops on the other side of the river (with the Eiffel Tower) – all the most visited spots. The Batobus is cheaper than the other “bateaux mouches” riverboats.
On the Batobus, you can hop on and hop off for 24 hours. We used to buy a 3-day pass, but then we bought an annual pass because it was (a) an easy way to get around and (b) a nice 45-minute ride when your feet hurt and you just want to relax but still see some sites. During bad or rainy weather it is a nice break as it is covered.
If you do want to check out a cruise on a Bateaux-Mouches, check out this City of Love one!
More transportation options in Paris
If you are going to use the train or an airport surrounding Paris, here are my guides to assist you!
Okay. This is not unusual for France in general, especially during the months of May and October. But this year, there is an extra round of strikes around France's retirement pension reform that began in February and will continue throughout the spring which will impact your trip to Paris.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Most of the time strikes = transportation issues.
- That means the metro (RER), trains (SNCF and RER), buses (RER), and sometimes taxis too.
- Make sure your airport transfer is secured well in advance of any possible transit strikes. By pre-booking an airport transfer, you won't be stuck without transport and the hotel will take care of providing updates concerning delays or disruptions that may occur.
- One thing I do is head to the CDG area the night before my flight so that any possible delays will not force me to miss my flight. I love the Sheraton Paris Airport Hotel but have also stayed at the Paris Marriott Charles de Gaulle Airport Hotel and citizenM Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
- For air travel, 95% of the time international flights are not impacted. However, as soon as you arrive in France, you may have issues if you have inner-France connections to other French airports.
- BUT you may have trouble getting to the airport on the day of a strike. Taxis will not be able to get through demonstrations at the airport and will drop you off in inconvenient locations and you will have to walk! My best advice is to ask the taxi driver to drop you off at ibis Paris CDG Airport it is a 5-minute covered walk to Terminal 3. Or the citizenM Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
- Before heading out of your hotel check in with the front desk or concierge. They usually know where and when protests are planned. You do not want to be inadvertently swept up into a demonstration.
- Avoid the large public areas called “Places”, especially around Place de la Republique, Place de la Bastille, Place d'Italie, and Place de la Concorde.
- Tune into France24 online. It is in English and can help you keep track of what is going on in real-time. Also, try Gov.uk.
- Download the Citymapper app for the latest transportation updates. This savvy app will keep you up-to-date on train and transit info, providing alternative routes when necessary.
Food in Paris
Food is going to feel expensive. It is not all the price of the actual food, but what really gets you is the VAT (taxes) on your meal. Be prepared for that. It is for that reason, we “usually” limit ourselves to one restaurant a day.
Try to get a hotel room that includes breakfast and eat there as often as you can. We usually eat our “big meal” at lunch – a lot of the restaurants have the same amazing menu for lunch that they do for dinner, only cheaper. Particularly the Michelin-starred ones.
One of the best meals of my life was at the Le Grand Vefour located in the Palais Royale. Wow! What a meal, and at lunchtime, it was a steal! Most restaurants open for dinner between 7 and 8 pm – that may be late for you (it usually is for us) – you can always eat at a brasserie which basically serves food non-stop, there are some really famous ones throughout the city, but also regular local ones as well.
I have a friend who has a great food website – you can look up restaurants by arrondissement, type of food, how expensive, and what days they are open/closed. It is called Paris by Mouth. Meg also offers food tours. I’ve done one or two and they are good. More on tours later.
I have lots of friends that live in Paris and some of them I have interviewed about their neighborhoods, you might want to check them out for their food recommendations.
One of my very good friends, Lindsey Tramuta, wrote a book called The New Paris if you want something to read on the plane, get it! She has a great guide on her blog. She lives in Paris and it is her job (she is working on her second book) to keep up on the latest and greatest in food.
One of my favorite foodie spots in Paris is a place called the Grande Epicerie. Basically a food department store, you can shop, eat inside at various spots, nibble, and indulge! The Galeries Lafayette in the Opera also has its own version of the Grande Epicerie across the street from their main store, but I prefer the Grande Epicerie. It just all depends on where your hotel is and what your plans for the day are.
If you are traveling to Paris in the autumn, don't miss these seasonal favorites. And here are facts about French food most people don’t know!
Parisian people and restaurants are not early risers. I am. You are going to get the earliest breakfast in a hotel. After that, you will have to wait until 8:00 for places like Le Pain Quotidien (decent breakfast) or more likely 9:00 at other restaurants.
You probably won’t be jonesing for an American or British-style breakfast, but if you do, there is NO better place than Holybelly. I’ve only been to the one at 5 Rue Lucien Sampaix – everything is to die for – you must show up before 9:00 – there will be a line!
Here is a little more on breakfast in France.
As a general rule of thumb, the coffee in France is not great. Traditionally, they use Arabica coffee which is pretty bitter. In bars/terraces the best you can hope for is Café Richard (which has a monopoly) or maybe Illy.
But there are newer American-style coffee shops that have better coffees and smaller independent roasters like Belleville which are doing great coffee. If you end up having breakfast at Holybelly definitely have their coffee!
More on ordering coffee in Paris. Once you become a pro, here are 13 famous cafes in Paris to practice in!
As I mentioned, usually my biggest meal in Paris. I shared the Grand Vefour, but I have a few other favorites too – Comme Chez Maman; Astier; Pied au Cochon; a fantastic falafel/gyro long lines though – L’as du Falafel; and Breizh Café (amazing crepes).
We usually “picnic” meaning we get a good baguette, cheese, meats, pâté, etc and chill with a bottle of wine. Of course, any of the places I mentioned above are great for dinner too! With one addition, Le Souffle, a restaurant that serves soufflés in 3 courses a starter, a main, and a dessert – delicious! And kind of unique.
If you want to eat a super traditional French meal in a very historical environment, check out Le Procope.
Angelina’s is super touristy, but 100% worth it! There are wonderful pastry shops on Rue Montorgueil. Ice cream – it is worth the line to eat the best ice cream in Paris at Berthillon on Ile-Ste-Louis (behind Notre Dame) they were closed for an annual vacation when I was there in October and I was devastated!
Best gelato in town – Pozzetto (no website: 39 Rue du Roi de Sicile in the 4th). There are pastry shops galore, some specializing in one thing: eclairs, choux, macaron, etc. Here is my full guide to ice cream in Paris.
Things to do in Paris (or NOT to do)
You should note the following activities, just like this entire post, are based on MY opinion. Everyone experiences life through a different lens, which makes the world so interesting! At this point in time, I just love wandering around and absorbing the city.
But I get you might have a list of spots you want to check off your list. So here is what I have to say about some of the most popular Paris attractions. You should also note that you can use a Paris Pass to skip lines with Fast Track Entry or get your individual tickets ahead of time at a lot of these places.
Also, here is my Paris Arrondissement Guide so you can map out what you want to see in each neighborhood.
I’m just going to say it. I know it is on everyone’s bucket list when they visit, but honestly IN MY OPINION ONLY, it isn’t worth it. At least visiting the actual tower. Remember when you are standing on it, you are actually not seeing it and there are better places for views of Paris.
At the moment with terrorist threats and construction, 3 sides are fenced off, which pushes a whole hell of a lot of people into one flow. Add to that the pickpockets and street vendors, and it is just a nightmare. It has been so smoggy lately in Paris the view isn’t that great either.
But if you still want to go, just have your wits about you and be careful. Also, when you are done, get the heck out of the area and go somewhere else. Also, if you are going to visit consider a meal at 58 Tour Eiffel which will get you access to the second level.
If you still want to visit the top of the Eiffel Tower, buy your ticket ahead of time!
There is a great view from the Batobus. Also, it is beautiful at sunrise (which isn’t too early this time of year) at the Trocadero – I have been a few times and it is usually only about a dozen people
I much prefer this museum to the Louvre, but do both. The Orsay is in an old train station and is absolutely beautiful – great photo spots and a nice café. Buy a ticket ahead of time and skip the line, fantastic store inside as well.
I've also done an amazing tour in the museum with Context Travel. There are hundreds of wonderful museums in Paris, check out a few more museums in Paris that you shouldn't miss!
Louvre & Tuileries Garden
If you do visit the Louvre, skip the Mona Lisa – seriously, it isn’t worth it and you should visit the other sections, it is quite beautiful. Buy your ticket ahead of time. Do not buy from someone walking up to you – if you cross the street towards the Hotel Regina from the Westin and continue on the Rue du Rivoli, you’ll come to a shopping mall called the Carousel de Louvre, you can buy tickets at machines in there.
If you really want to do something out of the ordinary try a treasure hunt, my friend Daisy set them up and it is a lot of fun! Also, pro tip: the museum is open until 10:00 pm on Wednesday or Friday evenings. Most people leave at 6:00 on those days because they think is going to close. And do note, the Louvre is CLOSED on Tuesdays!
I highly recommend you spend some time in the Tuileries Garden (here's my guide) next to the Louvre, it is quite beautiful and there is always something going on there!
Champs-Élysées & Arc de Triomphe
I usually avoid this area, I am not a shopper. If you are into French luxury brands, definitely visit their flagship stores, but most of the merchandise is available in retail stores around the world. If you do visit this area, take the time to get a picture of the Arc de Triomphe.
Don't forget the underground passageway it is the only way to get to the entrance. You can use your Paris Pass for free entry to the viewing platform on top.
The is the main shopping district (yes, there is the Champs-Élysées, but…) located in the Opera district with large beautiful department stores – Printemps and Galeries Lafayette – you will find a large variety of products at decent prices (they have sales unlike a lot of other stores – sales are regulated by the French government and only really happen twice a year – February and July) plus gorgeous architecture.
They both have rooftop terraces that you visit for nice views of Paris and they have little restaurants as well. I am addicted to scarves and usually buy all mine at the Galeries Lafayette!
Also in Opera, is well, the Opera building! It’s gorgeous you can visit guided or unguided and I enjoy it when I go – their museum store is very good too and I always seem to pick up something unique there.
I would pass it unless you really, really want to visit Montmartre. It is a beautiful, historic neighborhood. Just don’t go in the morning – troublemakers and petty criminals drink there during the night and there is glass everywhere in the morning until the cleaning crew comes.
With the smog these days it is not a great sunrise, not sure of the sunset. If you do go for sunset, watch out for pickpockets. If you want to do Montmartre you may want to do a guided tour or just wander around, but don’t go before 9/10 nothing is open!
TOTALLY under-the-radar 360-degree view of the Paris skyline. Seriously, I have been there twice and done the tower tour with less than 10 people in each group! Get there before 10 (sometimes there are tours, but they don't go to the tower so don’t worry, you just want to get ahead of them before the opening).
When you go inside to buy your ticket make sure it has the tower tour as well, the first tour leaves about 10 minutes after they open – perfect for you. Once you get to the top you will be able to go around the entire circular rooftop with great views. Once you go back down, the rest of the Panthéon is nice to visit.
Day Trips from Paris
Versailles is a nice day trip. Give yourself the entire day. Once you tour the chateau you’ll want to visit the grounds (my favorite part, I usually skip the chateau!) there are gardens, Marie Antoinette’s farm, and just lots and lots of places to walk and relax.
We also rented bikes one time and loved it. You can do a tour, but the cheapest and easiest way to get to Versailles is by train using the regional RER, using the C line. Here is a pretty good how-to post on getting to Versailles.
I also recommend Giverny as a day trip. It is an easy train ride from Paris to Monet’s home and it is a great place to visit the town around his house is fun to wander through. I've been there on a tour with Context Travel and on my own at different seasons, it is always beautiful!
Here are more suggestions for day trips from Paris.
As I mentioned, Paris-by-Mouth does fun food-related tours. I have also done a TON of Context Travel tours, not only in Paris but London, Kyoto, Rome, and Florence, it is a great company and they have great, small, curated tours. I loved The Bobo Palate tour and Baguette to Bistro.
I’ve also had fun doing a cooking class at La Cuisine Paris, it is owned by an American and they do classes in English – baguette, macaron – lots of fun!
Bike tours are fun too (as long as they don't spend too much time on the street!). Try this The Beauty (Paris Vendôme) tour, it is such a pretty area.
What to Wear
I am going to be adding to this section, but in the meantime, I have 5 Things I Packed for Paris – springtime edition! Here are some tried and true Paris packing tips:
- Layers, always layers, the weather can shift dramatically, and having layers allows you to dress as cool or as warmly as need be. Also, you can go from a daytime look to nighttime very quickly!
- Pack in 2 to 3 colors makes mixing and matching easier.
- No shorts or flip-flops, the French aren't big fans, unless you are doing “le fitness”!!
- Comfortable shoes for all the walking.
I also wrote a whole post on what to wear in Paris – 5 tips for how to pack for Paris along with
- What to pack for Paris for the fall/autumn
- What to pack for the winter
- What to pack for the spring
- What to pack for the summer
The Ugly Stuff
No one likes to think about crime. The recommendation I have is the same I would tell to anyone going to any big city, including San Francisco. In the most touristy areas of Paris, there are bands of pickpockets. Generally, they are young women from Eastern Europe (gypsies) not trying to be racists, it is just the facts.
They are at Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Tuileries Garden (the part closest to the glass pyramid by the Louvre); Sacre Couer, Ponts-des-Arts (the pedestrian bridge where they used to put the love locks); Champs-Élysées (although less so as the luxury security guards try to keep them away).
They will approach with papers or clipboards in their hands, usually more than one at a time, and bug you, confuse you, etc. They will also bend down in front of you and pick up a ring or gold jewelry and ask if it is yours. They can be quite aggressive.
The best way to keep them at bay is to look them in the eye as they walk towards you and very firmly say “NO!” or if you want to sound French: DE GAGE!” (deh-gahge) which is basically “f*ck off.” Do the same with the people selling you metal Eiffel Towers or keychains. They won’t try to pickpocket you, but they can be aggressive.
I do not recommend a backpack for Paris.
The Metro is safe, just be aware of your surroundings and your bags. Do not make eye contact with anyone and know where you are going ahead of time!
Where to Stay:
For many years I stayed in Montparnasse which has lots of transportation options, great restaurants, and tons of shopping, but then our favorite hotel changed franchises and we began staying at the Westin on Rue de Rivoli and Rue De Castiglione, mainly because I had tons and tons of points.
Once the points dried up we began staying at smaller hotels in arrondissements around the city such as Relais Christine and Hoxton Hotel and had wonderful experiences! That drove us to Airbnb which really made us feel like locals.
There are thousands of hotels in Paris options for every budget (including some really stellar hostels) and in every arrondissement, I encourage you to move outside the most touristy areas and find a hidden treasure!
A Few Last Notes:
- Don't try to do everything! Leave something for the next trip. Paris is a very old city constantly evolving. The classics will be there along with all the new stuff. Take a smaller chunk of the city and thoroughly enjoy it. Sit at a cafe and do nothing but soak it all in!
- Visiting Paris on a budget? Paris can be expensive, but here are 5 ways to save! Here are more money (and other Paris) tips.
- And don't just do the obvious! Try out some of these 10 cool and unusual things to do!
- Going to the restroom in Paris isn’t always easy but I've got some tips!
- If you are a Sex and City fan, here is my list of locations from the final episodes which took place in Paris!
- More film locations in Paris: Emily in Paris, Lupin, and Call My Agent.
- Julia Child's Paris and Coco Chanel's Paris too!
- Want to read some books before your first trip to Paris, here are my suggestions.
- I wrote this post years ago, but my guidance still stands: How Not to be the Annoying American Tourist in Paris
- Here's a 4-day Paris itinerary and a 5-day Paris itinerary that I think is very well done.
- I don't have little ones so I rely on others to share their tips for the best things to do with kids.
- A great run down from Travel with Me 24/7 on Where to Stay in Paris.
- Are you planning your trip in the middle of a French holiday?
- Coming to Paris with your sweetheart? Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world, learn romantic things to do in Paris.
- Here are 15 fun facts about Paris, you will be surprised!
Well, that's it, my guide for Paris first-timers in a nutshell! I am sure there is plenty I am missing, but I think it is a good start! If you are visiting Paris for the first time please do let me know, I'd love to hear how your trip goes!
How about you? Do you think these tips are helpful? Do you have any to add? Do share!
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The City of Love….I would love to go there someday. Such a beautiful city, and so many sites to see!
Oooo Paris is on my bucket list for travel. The food, the art, the archeology, I want to see and do it all.
@Ashley, I hope if you get there, my guide will help!
I love to enjoy these places through your eyes since I haven’t been yet. I’ve been so behind trying to eliminate a lot of my huge daily incoming emails in order to be able to sit and read such good entertaining in every way posts such as yours that I’ve missed so many. I stopped to read this one and so glad I did.
@Christy, I am so glad to hear that I was worthy of your inbox – merci – thank you very much!
Wow it looks like a wonderful place to visit. I love the photos, I bet even I could take some good shots there. It seems that there is a lot to see!
@Melissa, there definitely is, which is why people get so overwhelmed!
I’ve only been to Paris once, but I’d love to go back. I’m probably going to have to wait a few more years until the kids are older.
@Denise, did you think the guide covered what you needed to know when you went? Would you add or remove anything?
Super stunning pics! I love Paris but not les parisiennes x
@Marina, you get used to them after awhile 😉
Beautiful post! I miss Paris a lot, and I really want to go back! I also agree with most of the things you mentioned as a person who was born in Paris and who visited it many times!
@Joy, merci! So glad you agree! Anything you would add/change?
PERFECT timing. My mom and I are going to Paris in April (first time for her, second time for me). This is such great information. I totally agree about the Paris coffee, lol. Will be looking into Batobus and all of your other recommendations! Pinning this and sending to my mom right now!
@Amanda, oh good! I hope this info helps! I would absolutely LOVE to have you guest post about your trip!
I love Paris! This is such a wonderfully comprehensive post. Perfect for the first timer or even someone who has visited before.
@Christa, merci! Have you been to Paris?
Paris is on my bucket list!
It’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve been to Paris (I can’t believe it!) and I’m long overdue for a return trip. Your tips are super handy and I appreciate that you don’t gloss over the safety concerns.
I wish I would have had this when we went to Paris a few years ago! We had an amazing trip, but this would have saved me so much time planning. We took a day trip to Versailles one day and arrived right when they opened. We had the courtyard and chateau to ourselves for a little while and it was SO nice. We saw the lines and craziness when we left in the afternoon and we’re so glad we got an early start.
@Sam, the early bird definitely always gets the worm in Paris!
This was a particularly exceptional article Andi, even shared it on Facebook. I love how you point out the little things that only a true Parisian would know like the restaurants, and what behaviors the culture responds well to and which they do not. Really enjoyed that you shared all of the best spots to go for pictures, and which spots you felt weren’t worth it. I felt the same way about the Eiffel tower as you did….there are other places to get the best views of the city than at the top of the tower.
@Janiel, I am so glad you enjoyed it! Any other tips that you would add or change?
Fantastic guide!! I wish I had this when I’ve gone to Paris before, because if I’m honest I’ve been less than impressed. I liked the cultural tips too. I have noticed I wait in line foreeeever, because people love to chat locally! Great insight, thanks Andi.
@Eileen, it is so strange, because except for the super high-end luxury, customer service is not their forte, yet they will let a customer take forever, even when there is a long line!
What a great Paris guide! This post makes me want to go back to Paris! Such a great city and so much to do! And EAT! 🙂 So bummed we didn’t get to try Holybelly when we were there. Next time!
@Barb, I’m so glad everything went so beautifully for you on your first trip, I definitely enjoyed following your adventures on Instagram and have loved our post-trip posts!
Ooh love this Andi! And I know exactly what you mean by feeling to ‘close’ to a place to really write about it. That’s how I felt about London before I finally wrote my London guide after writing separate emails to about a dozen friends planning visits there. And I still haven’t written about southwest, Devon, and Cornwall where I lived as … I don’t know, it’s just difficult when you’ve lived in or traveled to a place so many times! As strange as that sounds!
Anyway, I will definitely be coming back to your Paris guide before the next time I visit. I appreciate what you’ve said about the ugly side too. I wasn’t pickpocketed myself but every time I’ve visited someone traveling with me has been pick pocketed! I swear I’m a bit paranoid now when I travel with a backpack, I always loop it over one shoulder and carry it in front of me. Paris made me that way!!
@Sarah, the pickpocketing is a bummer you really have to be on guard and aggressive in these areas! But it really is only in the super touristy areas, so once you get through those, you really can relax and enjoy!
What a comprehensive guide! I haven’t been to Paris in a very long time but hope to go with my kids in the next few years. Noah loves museums, so it’s a must for him at some point. Thanks for sharing your tips!
@Jenna, oh so many good museums in Paris. I try to go to a new one every time we visit!
I love the photography here. Stunning, even in a highly photographed genre. We were just in Mexico and learned about taxi stands. In all the movies everybody just flags them down on the street. I guess it doesn’t always work like that in the real world. I love how balanced and informed you wrote about Paris too and I can’t agree with you more about saving some for the next trip. In fact Paris and London remain pretty much the same but you realize changes about yourself on each return visit.
@Jenn/Ed, it is absolutely true that for the most part, Paris doesn’t change, you just gain more experience on each go round!
Having been to Paris twice, I can definitely say these tips are SUPER helpful. I thankfully haven’t been approached by the pickpockets, but I’ve seen them. True, they won’t bring the bill unless you ask…it’s definitely about taking your time and enjoying your meal. I have custom ordered though (add this or nix that) and they obliged. I am dying over that view from the Pantheon. I somehow managed to miss that!
Great tips! I’ve been to Paris several times and would have loved to have this from the start. I agree with you: walking and taking the Metro are the best ways to see the city.
@Julianne, I am glad that my tips resonated with you, even though you are a veteran!
I don’t know why, but I always struggle asking for the check. It feels rude somehow, but I know if I don’t ask, I’ll sit there all day. (Which also pretty much happens every time I go abroad, until I remember how it works!)
Great tip on having a separate coin purse!
@Leigh, I hear you and you will sit all day 😉 I’ve done it too!
I haven’t been to Paris yet so this post was extremely informative. I wouldn’t have thought to buy tickets ahead of time. It was good to read about not going to the top of the Eiffel tower. Of course I’d have to see it but that’s it. I’m not a shopper or into big touristy things. I’d likely spend my time exploring the small towns. Great post!
I absolutely love this post! These are all such great tips and things that we need to know and realize. I was so embarrassed by the behavior of some of our fellow Americans during our time in France. While my husband and I try to observe and fit into the culture around us, this couple did the exact opposite. Afterward, they were complaining to us about how rude the French people were. I informed them that we have had the exact opposite experience because we try to fit into the culture, not for our culture upon them.
Perfect timing! I’m going to Paris for the first time in December 2019, I made notes of tips from your post, it was really informative. Thank you
This post brings me back to my first and only trip to Paris a few years ago. I loved it, but also remember being taken aback by all the scammers there. Especially those bracelet guys at Sacre Couer. They weren’t just annoying, but flat out aggressive in their approach. I was glad I read about it before my trip, so I knew how to act.
Paris has never been on my bucket list, but I may be reconsidering after reading your blog. I think you gave some really great tips on the pick pocketing. My son studied abroad in Spain last year and learned to get a lanyard to wear around your neck that holds your cell phone, money, etc. He said it’s a lot harder for them to get something over your head than it is out of your pocket. I also love how you spoke about the culture. As a host mom to several foreign exchange students, I always loved learning about the differences between their culture and the American culture. It was a great way for me to expand my awareness and understanding of others.
I totally agree with your opening sentences – sometimes some things are just too close to blog about for awhile. I too recall my first trip to Paris. It is such a magical city! Your post offers some great advice and info. So glad you had an enjoyable time!
This really is such a great post. I love that you have all those little bits of information that people need to make themselves feel more acclimated to the culture rather than standing out–setting expectations is so wonderful. Also, I feel there’s no way I can travel to Paris without stopping at HolyBelly!!
This is such a lovely guide to Paris! You cover everything that is worth doing and seeing. I’ve got to agree that the price of the food is extortionate compared to the rest of France.. It is worth it though. The pictures are so lovely it makes me want to go back!
One of the best and most honest guides I’ve seen ion Paris. It makes me want to go back – I’ve clearly seen very little of the city!
This is such a great post Andi! I’m glad you’ve touched on the pickpockets as I had a similar experience at The Louvre with the clipboard girls and in the metro (as the exit doors are so large pickpockets were waiting on the other side.) I had no idea Paris was so rife as I have never encountered issues in London. I wasn’t aware about not tipping in restaurants- can I ask why you shouldn’t tip? Great post!
I love Paris! It is one of my favourite European cities. I’ve visited several times but you’ve still managed to include some bits on the list I’ve never done! You’ve got me planning my next trip now! Thanks for sharing these great tips!
Hannah | https://getlost.blog/
I really appreciate this post! Big cities with lots of history can be intimidating for a first timer and you really broke down all the main points.
Great article. When I was in Paris for the first time, the bus took us to the hotel through the center to the very slums – the places are rather creepy, these are not our sleeping areas. And the next day we went to see Notre Dame, on the subway. There, in the subway, a rather dreary system, by the way, everyone travels – both Arabs and the French themselves, but it’s dirty and ugly, not like in Moscow. But the center of Paris is dazzling – Notre Dame is now beautiful, bright (who was 10 years ago, saw it black), the bridges are very interesting. By the way, we helped with the rental of apartments Glamour Apartments, I advise everyone. It’s good to sail on a boat, just all the sights are in the best possible way from the water, and the Eiffel Tower is a miracle at night, it is illuminated from all sides by lights. Good luck!
This is so useful I love all the tips. Especially about the use of bonjour!
I was lucky enough to have my own first trip to Paris last year and I loved it. Even still, I learned a ton on this super thorough guide to Paris! I personally loved visiting the Eiffel Tower, though I did NOT go up. But I did spend an hour or two hanging out in the park around it. I loved people watching and just soaking up the quintessential Paris vibe!
This is great! I’ve been so many times but next month I’m going with my boyfriend and I sometimes forget what is the best things to do as a first timer haha. Great list!
Nothing beats French food and pastries! And what better place to enjoy it than in the city of love? I went to Paris when I was 13 but I think it’s time to return soon! 🙂
Great post, thank you for all of the super helpful tips! I’ll be visiting Paris for the first time (other than the magical Disneyland) next year in 2020. I’m honestly so excited. I can’t wait to just sit in cafes and simply watch the world go by. Of course, I am also excited to see the Effiel Tower but just from afar, going up doesn’t really bother me. I do have a question in relation to day bags! What kind of ‘day bag’ do you recommend as I noted you recommend NOT using a backpack?
As a fellow travel blogger, I often have camera equipment in my possession for all of our trips – hence us usually using a backpack, which we always fix shut . with a padlock, perhaps this would be okay even in Paris?
Thank you for the guide! I’ve been to Paris three times now and found myself nodding along to several of your points. I always feel anxious about ordering food and how the rules seem to vary by location, so I am especially grateful for your tips on that point. Checking out the market etiquette guide now, and I will definitely have to come back to some of your friends’ websites as well!
I love your writing style. And your recommendations regarding Paris are so true. My favorite is Versailles, the gardens are beautiful. And walking on Montmartre seeing the old houses. This is Paris for me. And of course, the macaroons.
Such a detailed guide!! I visited Paris a couple of times and I must say, this city never gets boring. You have some great tips and also so handy to prepare people for the ‘ugly’ side. I’ve never been pickpocketed in Paris, but I heard many stories of people who had been, sadly.
Paris is such an amazing city!! I think I am going to go back next year. Thank you for the great post!
Wonderful post, Andi!
Such a great post. I hope to make it there someday soon! Thanks for the tips 🙂
Such a thorough post for the first-timer! And those photos… I feel like I am right there, in the City of Light.
A thorough guide for first timers and brought back many happy memories. The one place I have not visited is the Opera building. Hope to do so soon.
Taking notes for my first trip in 30 years! Thanks!!!