They say you either instantly fall in love with Paris or stay completely indifferent to the city for good. Before my first trip several people warned me saying:
“Paris isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it’s just famous because of the Eiffel Tower.”
“Paris is so dirty.”
“The people are all rude and snobs.”
Well, let me tell you – I am so glad I’m not one of those people that let others form an opinion for me before deciding for myself.
Because all of those preconceived ideas or stereotypes are just out of the mouths of those who may have had a single negative experience, but you simply cannot judge an entire city from that.
Honestly, I couldn’t tolerate a thought about not loving Paris. Paris is so close to being my favourite city in the whole world – with London only just nudging into first place.
I first visited in November 2014 for a week and instantly fell in love with it.
I was lucky enough to visit again in July 2015 and I’m glad I got to experience two different seasons (as both Summer and late Autumn were lovely times to visit).
This is my second post on Paris which are guides, particularly for first-time visitors. For my top recommended things to do check out my first post: P A R I S | Top Things To Do!
Here are my top travel tips for those visiting the city of love.
Walking around the city is my favourite way of getting around (if it’s not too far!). I can’t get enough of the beautiful cobbled streets and awe-inspiring architecture.
Otherwise, the Metro is an easy, comprehensive and safe way to travel around Paris.
You can download a free Paris metro map app for your phone to make it easier to navigate.
A river cruise along the Seine on a nice day is the perfect way to see Paris. There are hop on hop off boats called Batobus with nine different stops near the main attractions and highlights of Paris, which you can get one or two day passes for.
|Enjoying a Batobus ride|
Museums, art & history
Paris is home to many of the finest art galleries in the world, a large number of monumental churches and around 130 museums. If you love your history then you are in for a treat!
Aside from the obvious must-sees Louvre and Notre-Dame (featured in my first Paris post), I can particularly recommend the national military museum – Musee de l’Armee, which holds an impressive collection of weapons and uniforms, plus the famous Napoleon’s Tomb.
Musee d’Orsay is another grand museum devoted to all the arts between 1848-1914.
Sainte-Chapelle is an impressive royal Gothic-style chapel that has stunning architecture and amazing stained glass windows. There is a lot – so be sure to do your research and pick your favourites to see if you’re only going for a short time.
|The Dôme des Invalides, which contains Napoleon I’s tomb|
Let’s be real – who wouldn’t want to come to Paris and do some shopping! Parisians are forever well-dressed and chic – they take real pride in their appearance. Being the fashion capital of the world, there is no shortage for your retail therapy needs.
Visit Galleries Lafayette for the ultimate department store shopping experience.
Tip: head to the rooftop for great views over Paris!
The Champs-Elysees is like the Times Square of Paris and is a shopping-lovers haven, studded with many high end and designer stores. For independent eclectic boutiques- the Marais is the place to go.
|Les Arcades Des Champs-Elysees|
Cheap & free things to do
If you are a student then do bring along your ID card. You can get discounts and freebies on everything from transportation to museum admissions.
Paris is filled with many beautiful parks. Luxembourg Gardens, in particular is absolutely stunning. Take a picnic on a nice day and enjoy the surroundings.
To discover Paris on a small budget Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour is a great way to get acquainted with the city. The guides are full of interesting facts and stories and walk you through several neighbourhoods and to most of the famous sights. They ask for just a small tip at the end, whatever you can manage and what you think the tour guide deserves for their time.
Pere-Lachaise Cemetery is a popular free tourist spot. See the graves of Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Jim Morrison among many more.
French may have the reputation for being rude, but it’s more accurate to say they are formal and minimise interaction with strangers. Don’t expect them to strike up a random conversation with you.
Try to speak as much French as you can – even if that is only ‘bonjour‘ (hello), ‘merci‘ (thank you) and ‘au revoir‘ (good bye). In France, this is basic manners they teach to their children from a young age, and being foreign doesn’t exempt you. Failing to do this may earn you a rude treatment in return. ‘Parlez-vous Anglais‘ (do you speak English?) is an expression you should try to learn off by heart before asking a question.
Avoid the queues
Many places let you book tickets online in advance, such as the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower and many more. This is a smart option to choose a particular time slot, especially in the busy Summer months to cut down on waiting in line.
Otherwise, I would highly recommend heading to your attraction slightly before the opening time, because lines can potentially take hours up of your day, and time in precious!
Food & drink
Parisians take real pleasure in their food and drink along with good company.
During the day they love their coffee and you can find a cafe on practically every corner, as well as Patisseries (French bakeries) for fresh bread, filled sandwiches and baked goods.
Said Patisseries are an absolute must-visit – they are the best in the world! Everything in there is perfection – the baguettes, chocolate eclairs, croissants, layered custard slices… I could go on and on. Paris is also well known for their chocolat shops and of course their macarons.
|Trying French treats on my first day in Paris!|
The French are very social and spend hours enjoying their meals sitting outside in the quaint streets, drinking wine well into the hours of the evening with their friends (can I please be Parisian?). They tend to eat dinner at 8 pm or later. You may not find many restaurants open until this time, although the ones that are may offer an ‘earlybird’ special if you don’t mind eating earlier.
French cuisine is flavoursome and hearty. If you’re not sure what to order try some typical famous dishes like escargot (snails!) or duck l’orange (roast duck with orange sauce). Their soupe à l’oignon (French onion soup) is also obviously delicious!
I highly recommend ordering a fromage and bread platter at least once – their cheese and bread – no words.
Their wine is also top-notch. Ask the waiter for recommendations if you’re unsure of what to order on a menu – they’ll usually set you right.
If you do have the time I would recommend doing a food and wine tour, it’s great to learn more about their cuisine and they always give you their best quality goods to try.
A great option for lunch is to have a traditional crepe. You can choose your fillings, savoury or sweet and it’s usually very large and filling for a reasonable price.
|My favourite – ham, cheese and mushroom!|
Being a popular tourist destination do be aware of pickpockets, as they do prey on tourists in particular. Only carry one card with you and only as much money as you need for the day.
Take an official taxi from the airport and not random offers from people that don’t belong to a company, they will charge you a lot more.
Ignore and avoid certain people at busy spots such as the big tourist attractions and train stations. There are many gypsies who are known to try and scam people.
Around these places there is also no shortage of people trying to sell you selfie sticks and cheap tacky Eiffel Tower souvenirs, so do ignore them and be firm if you have to, as some can be a bit confronting (unless of course you actually want to buy one).
Paris is known to be the city of love and has that romantic reputation for a reason! The only way to truly discover it is by exploring for yourself.
It’s an incredible city and one that I will forever hold dearly in my heart and I can’t wait until I next return. If you are heading there yourself I hope you enjoy your time there as much as I always do.
|Pin it! 🙂|
* This post contains some images that are not my own.