A trip to the City of Lights can be one of the most memorable times in a person’s life. The ambiance, history, architecture, and rhythm of Paris are truly unique.
Follow these tips to ensure you have the perfect Paris vacation:
1. When you have the opportunity to walk somewhere, take it.
Many of Paris’s main sites are within walking distance to each other, though many tourists choose to take taxis or the metro to get from place to place. While these options will get you there, you could miss out on a good chance to take in the feel of Paris as a whole, and to see things you may not have known about before. Walking around Paris is a pastime of its own.
2. Eat at a brasserie.
Brasseries are typical, local cafes located all around Paris where people can eat, enjoy a coffee, or a glass of wine. They often have ‘table d’hôte’ menus during the lunch hours which offer two- or three-course meal options for a good price. You’ll be dining among regular Parisians, eating delicious French food. In the summertime you’ll even have the chance to eat on one of the many brasserie sidewalk terraces.
3. Don’t get overwhelmed by all of the sites, museums, and activities and plan ahead.
Consider the amount of time you have and look ahead of time at the museums and sites you want to see. Try to plan your days loosely so you know what you can and can’t manage to see during your visit. Paris has a lot to offer, and you may not be able to see it all in one trip. That’s okay, enjoy the things you can see – it’s all magnificent.
4. Museums in Paris are closed on Mondays.
Keep this in mind when you’re planning your visit. If your vacation happens to pass through a Monday know that there are plenty of other things to see. Visit the parks, go shopping, take a cooking class – there are many ways to spend time in Paris! Pro tip: all of Paris’s museums are free on the first Sunday of every month, and some museums open at night for a reduced fare once a week.
5. Visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery, but be sure to take a map.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery is truly a sight to see, and it’s something many of Paris’s foreign visitors overlook. Here you can see three World War I monuments and the graves of Jim Morrison, Chopin, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and Proust among other famous people. The cemetery is big and beautiful, so be sure to buy a map at a nearby corner store or to print one at home before going.
6. Try the patisseries.
The French love their cakes and sweets, and Paris has no shortage of shops, called patisseries, selling these treats. These shops are often attached to bakeries (boulangeries) which sell the famed French baguettes and espresso. You should take the time to try all of these before leaving the City of Lights.
7. Walk along the Seine.
The Seine is the river that goes through the city of Paris, and its banks are truly remarkable. There are countless bridges connecting the Right Bank to the Left Bank, and you’ll fine antique and souvenir sellers all along the river.
8. Buy a combined museum pass.
If you’re staying for a week or so, you may want to invest in the Paris Museum Pass that includes admission to over 60 museums and monuments. Alternatively, some museums offer a combined ticket for two museums, such as the Musee d’Orsay and the Musee Rodin, and others offer discounts at the Opera and other places when you present your museum ticket.
9. Visit Paris’s many gardens.
Gardens in Paris are not like those in many other cities. Watch chess players as you stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg, drink wine on the grassy hills of the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, and gaze at the Eiffel Tower from the Champs de Mars.
10. Keep track of your belongings, always.
Paris is a big city, and like most big cities theft is an issue to keep in mind. Pick-pockets are known to be particularly active in the metro, but make sure to keep your purse and pockets closed at all times and always by your side.
11. Make reservations.
If there are restaurants you know you want to try – and there are many – you should make a reservation beforehand. You don’t want to miss your chance to try out the wonderful gastronomy offered by the city. Paris is on a 24-hour clock, so remember that when you make your reservations.
12. If you’re traveling to and from the Charles de Gaulle Airport, take the Roissybus.
The Roissybus is a 10 Euro, public bus that travels between the Opera Garnier in downtown Paris and the airport. It runs every 15 minutes and only takes about one hour. It is a very safe, practical way to get to and from the airport. You must pay in cash on the bus, though you may be able to buy a ticket with a credit card at a ticket machine beforehand.
13. Warn your bank beforehand that you are traveling.
This goes for any foreign vacation. Be sure to call your bank and credit card holders before you travel. The last thing you want is to be denied when you are trying to pay for your first croissant or glass of wine in the city, and then to be locked out of your account for the next day or so. Be aware of foreign transaction fees and exchange rates, too.
14. Learn some French before you go on your trip.
While many Parisians speak English, some don’t and most will appreciate any effort you make to speak to them in their language. Learn how to say “Do you speak English?”, “Hello”, “Please”, “Thank you”, “Where is the bathroom”, and other basic phrases. It will go a long way.
15. If you want to take a tour, do you research beforehand.
There are many tour companies offering bus tours, walking tours, bike tours and all sorts of other great-sounding options for exploring the city. Some of these companies are better than others,though, so do research beforehand to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.