Paris is everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s beautiful, romantic, and filled with culture and history just begging to be explored. As with most big cities in Europe (and beyond, really) you’ll want to watch out for pickpockets in high tourist areas, and use the Metro to get around if possible. But if you’re heading to Paris for the first time, you want to make the most of your experience. No one wants to make rookie mistakes, so check out these 9 travel tips to help make your trip a success!
1 – Stay in the City Center:
If you’re a budget-conscious traveler you may be considering staying outside the main city center to save on lodging. I’m here to tell you that’s a terrible idea and you’ll regret it tremendously. I did the same thing. We stayed outside the city, and even had a view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, but the time and money we spent just getting into the city was absolutely not worth it. In addition to the wasted time, figuring out the train ticketing is a lot more complicated when you have to switch lines outside the city center.
Paris is very spread out, and has many different neighborhoods, or arrondissements, so map out what you want to see in advance, and try to stay someplace near the middle. Plan what you want to see each day to minimize walking and backtracking. You’ll never run out of things to see and do, no matter where in Paris you explore!
2 – Visit the Eiffel Tower at Night:
Regardless of what time of day you decide to actually go into the Eiffel Tower, make sure you stop by at night to watch the Twinkle Show. Beginning at nightfall and continuing once per hour for five minutes until 1:00am tens of thousands of lights dance and make the whole tower twinkle. It’s magical. You can see it from many locations in the city, but it’s fun to take a bottle of wine and watch it up close and personal. Just beware the people obnoxiously selling overpriced beverages and souvenirs.
3 – Wear Comfortable Shoes:
Alright, I know this is on all the lists out there, but it bears repeating. It really is important to wear comfy shoes, even though you might be wanting to opt for fashion over function in one of the fashion capitals of the world. Save your sexy shoes for the evening, and wear something comfortable during the day. You’ll be doing a lot of walking (we averaged about 5-6 miles per day). Don’t ruin your experience with improper footwear. I can’t tell you how much I wished I’d brought a pair of tennis shoes with me.
4 – Spend Wisely and Come Prepared:
You’ll want a variety of options when going to Paris. Make sure any credit cards you bring have a PIN, as those without may not be accepted at many locations. ATMs are everywhere, but you’ll want to get some euros from your bank before you go. Be sure to allow a few days for the bank to receive the funds. While you’re at the bank, ask which ATMs will incur the lowest fees, and notify them (and any other credit card companies) of your travel dates so they don’t think your card has been stolen when it starts making purchases in France.
While in Paris, always pay in local currency. Sometimes you’ll be offered the option to pay in U.S. currency, and it’s usually presented as a benefit for you. It’s not, it’s a scam. It allows the vendor to set the exchange rate and fees, and will always be higher than the rate your bank will charge.
5 – Go Antiquing or Thrifting:
Thrifting and antiquing are extra fun in Paris. Each shop is filled with pieces of the city’s history, each object has a story, and you can get much cooler, more authentic souvenirs than any of the tourist shops! One of my biggest regrets is not buying one of the antique silver spoons I found in a little antique shop near Versailles. Plus, you’re supporting the locals, not giant corporations!
6 – Have a Splurge Day:
It’s Paris. I don’t care how budget-conscious you are, if you’re not budgeting for one day/evening to treat yourself, you’re not doing Paris right. Eat at a Michelin star restaurant, or take a dinner cruise. Take in an opera or ballet. Don’t go to Paris without being a fancy bitch at least once! We did two fancy nights in Paris and they were worth every penny. When we went to the Bar Hemingway at the Hotel Ritz we intended to have a single drink. We were having so much fun we each had a second drink, and we stayed for several hours. It was my favorite night in Paris. So treat yourself, woman! You deserve it!
7 – Buy the Paris Museum Pass:
If you’re there to see Paris’s many museums, get the Paris Museum Pass to save time and money. You can pick from a Pass that’s valid for 2, 4 or 6 days, which allow free entry to most of the top attractions in and around Paris (except the Eiffel Tower). For example, we saw the Musee d’Orsay, Musee de l’Orangerie, the Louvre, Versailles, and the Musee de l’Armee. Individually that would have cost each of us €81.50. Instead, we bought the Paris Pass for €70 a piece. Had we stayed in the city center and been able to see more places we’d have saved more. Definitely worth it. Most museums allow skip-the-line access to Paris Pass holders, but check with each one to see if you need to reserve a time to enter.
8 – Leave Time for Exploring:
A certain level of planning is necessary to make your trip to Paris a success, but don’t over-plan every day. Leave time in your day to just explore. Aimlessly wander the Montmatre neighborhood, walk into every random church you pass by, stop by that cute cafe you see, peruse a little boutique, rest in the Tuileries Gardens with a picnic. There’s so much to see and do in Paris, you’ll want to leave time to just explore it!
Want to explore without the massive crowds? The early bird gets the worm on that front. Wake up with the sun and go walking the streets before 7:00am and you’ll have them mostly to yourself. You can always take a rest or break at your hotel in the afternoon when the top attractions are busiest.
9 – Watch the Sunset From Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur is a church on top of a hill in Montmatre. It overlooks the whole city. Pack a picnic and a bottle of wine and watch the sunset over Paris. It’s a great place for people watching and the view can’t be beat (except maybe from the top of the Eiffel Tower)!