Top tips when visiting Paris
Paris is one of the most famous cities in the world, portrayed in countless films, books and songs as a city with so much history, romance, creativity and style.
Paris, in the last day and last couple of years, and France as a whole has experienced dreadful terrorist attacks, but don’t let that deter you from visiting such a special city. The key to visiting such a high profile place as Paris, is to always have an open mind. Especially because people seem to have so many opinions on the Parisian people, the cost of tourism and many other elements. Form your own. After all it’s the only one that really matters.
Paris is a city that from the UK, can be reached by train in a little over 2 hours, as you cruise along, out of London’s St Pancras and into the land of cheese and wine. Or of course take to the skies and enjoy being above the clouds en route to Pari.
Famous cities such as Paris can never be seen in one day or one trip. The first time a major city is visited, like London, New York, Sydney or Paris, the best plan is to venture out to see all of the wonderfully well known sights that you’ve dreamed about seeing. If you can find time to experience local life, and engage with locals than even better.
As the famously memorable Audrey Hepburn once said, “Paris is always a good idea”.
Here are my top tips for visiting the French capital
1. French people have a reputation for being rude. This reputation has been formed by opinions of others, but is also a generalisation. I’m a Londoner, and we have a reputation for being rude and miserable. I couldn’t be further from this. So you see my point. As travellers the best thing that we can do is to adopt local customs and to use the local language. This is the only way that I believe we will truly engage with people from another country and gain their respect.
Always say Bonjour when you enter a shop, or when your waiter comes over to your table. Basically when you interact with anyone, it is always polite to say "Hello". Likewise it is also polite to say "Goodbye", so "Au revoir" or Bonsoir, (Good Evening/Good Night).
Speak as much French as you can, however if you're not adept at languages, than the basics will suffice. And the most important French phrase for people that speak English as a first language; "Parlez-vous anglais? (Do you speak English) Yes? Phew!
2. Embrace the grey skies of Paris. Yes Paris is also well known for its not so great weather. Grey, drizzly, cold and rainy. And yet its still one of the most famous cities in the world, with one of the highest levels of tourism. We all love blue skies and sunshine, but somehow the weather in Paris, gives it its edge. Make sure you pack your umbrella, and your warm clothes (especially in winter) and you wont even notice.
3. The most obvious, visit the Eiffel Tower. This fabulous landmark is a sight to behold, and the first time I saw it I actually got very emotional. The Eiffel Tower is presented to us in so many ways before we even see it. It is beyond famous, and when you actually see it with your very own eyes it does take your breath away. Spend time looking at this beautiful site from as many different angles as possible.
Check out views from:- Place du Trocadero; Climb the steps of Notre-Dame & the Arc de Triumph for a view of the tower & city together; walk along the Champ de Mars for serious close ups, or head up to the roof terrace of Printemps department store.
4. Spend time walking around Montmartre. It s a beautiful part of Paris with its cobbled streets, little boutiques, alfresco dining, live music and street art. If you love your art you will be amazed by all the incredibly talented artists that surround the square in Montmartre, especially the French artists that draw your portrait. Whilst here be sure to visit the very famous, Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, which is in this neighbourhood, and houses some of the most beautiful stained glass I've ever seen.
Also check out "The Love Wall", a place where love comes together in every language. get your camera out and get searching for "I love you" in your language. It's a photo opportunity not to be missed.
5. Walk the Champs-Elysées all the way down to the Arc de Triomphe. Bask in its glory, than climb to the top and take in the spectacular views of Paris. On your way back down hang out on the steps and watch as people attempt to dodge the traffic on this famous roundabout. It's actually quite entertaining to watch.
6. Visit Notre-Dame, go inside and climb to the top. This monument translates to "Our lady of Paris", and is the most visited attraction in Paris, even beating the Eiffel Tower. To go inside is free and the line moves very quickly, but to go up you need tickets and the cost is €8.50 for adults. The line is long, so try and get there by 9am, as they only let a certain number of people up at once.. Is it worth it? Absolutely. One of the most iconic sites you will see are the bell towers and gargoyles that await you at the top.
When you're done be sure to head over to France's most famous bookstore, Shakespeare & Company, which is a 5 minute walk away. Made famous by the many writers that saw this as their refuge, it is an English bookstore with so much history spanning 70 years. The spirit of this bookstore, is to enter through the door into a world of imagination, just like you do when you open the pages of a book. A must see.
7. Take in culture at its best at the Louvre. But don't head there on a Tuesday as its closed to the public. Expect to wait in line here, but once inside it will be worth it, however try to avoid Mondays (the day before it is closed), as there are always more people rushing to see it. The Lourve is an amazing sight, and is world famous for housing the Mona Lisa. At night it is lit up and the golden pyramids make for an incredible photo opportunity.
8. Walk along the Seine. Take a river cruise or grab a drink in on of the boat bars that line the waters edge ( I recommend Rosa bonheur). Stand on the many bridges of Paris and wave to people passing on the boats underneath.
9. Walk through St Germain des Pres, with its extremely cute style, and patisseries at every turn. Not to mention restaurants, jewellery shops and arts & crafts. This is a jewel of a place to photograph in Paris, especially if you are looking to capture and see locals in their element.
10. Visit the neighbourhood of Batignolles. Buy a batch of metro tickets, €15 for 10 tickets and explore non touristic Paris. This is a great area to eat and has some fantastic restaurants, as well as local bars, where the Parisian vibe filters out onto the streets. There are French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese restaurants mainly in this area, so make sure you're hungry because the food (and wine) in Paris is first class.
11. Indulge in Parisian food. Parisians, like many Europeans do not tend to eat before 8pm. Dinner is later here, very much like in Spain and Italy. It is perfectly acceptable to stroll into a restaurant at 11pm and be seated for dinner (or at least it was for us).
Taste the delicious delicacies of France, including Escargots (snails), steak tartare, confit de canard (duck), moules marinières (mussels) and of course fondue. Not to mention macarons, baguettes, pastries, chocolate, crepes and wine!
12. Another of Paris's museums. The Musee d'Orsay, which houses some incredibly famous artists work such as Monet and Van Gogh. Free on Sundays if you can be patient enough with the line that comes with that.
13. Rue is French for road. And there are so many to explore in Paris, each offering their own little bit of magic. Here's my list of some to explore;
Rue Saint Anne, Rue Montorgueil, Rue des Barres, Rue Cler, Rue des Trois Freres, Rue de l'Abreuvoir, Rue Crémieux,Rue des Rosiers, Rue Saint-Antoine and of course the most famous of them all, the Champs-Elysées Avenure.
14. Paris isn't as green as it perhaps could be, but it till has some fantastic parks. Check out the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Parc Monceau and Place Vosges
15. Père-Lachaise Cemetery is one of Paris’s best free attractions. As strange as it may seem. See the graves of many famous people including; Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Molière, and Frederic Chopin.
16. Air bnb your trip. Hotels are expensive in Paris, and it doesn't have to be a popular holiday for that to be true. The best value for money is definitely in renting an apartment through Air bnb, just make sure you read the reviews first.
17. The metro is really easy to navigate around on in Paris and despite some appearances is perfectly safe, not to mention cheap. Buy a metro pass for €15 for 10 trips. You need the ticket to enter the station but rarely need it to exit, you just walk through the barriers. Uber is big in Paris (thank god) and is very cheap, so if you find yourself exhausted at the end of a long day sightseeing, use the trusty app to get you where you need to go.
18. Moulin Rouge, you've heard the song or seen the film? Well this is where it all began. In Paris. One of the best cabaret shows in the world, its a huge tourist attraction, but be mindful it isn't cheap. If like me you've seen your fair share of shows across the world, skip the expense, but make sure you venture over there to see the famous lit up windmill and signage.
Paris is a magical city, full of romance and creative art, as well as monumental sights that you will remember forever. There will always be more to see and do than just this list, but I feel its a good place to start for any first timer to Paris.
What's your favourite travel tip for Paris? Share with me in the comments below.