Paris is always a good idea and an even better idea with a few tips in your back pocket! These Paris travel tips will help make your trip unforgettable.
1. Say B O N J O U R …always
When visiting Paris, smile and say “Bonjour.” It goes a long way and is considered polite. Entering a store, call out a cheery “Bonjour.”
And as you leave, it is customary to say, “Au revoir.”
2. Learn A Few French Phrases
Learn some French vocabulary and phrases before travelling to Paris. Parisians love it when you try their language (even if they answer you back in English)! Although using Google translate is very handy having a French phrase book is also key!
3. Plan Your Trip For Shoulder Season
Planning a trip to Paris during the shoulder season is one of the best Paris travel tips! There are fewer crowds than in the summer and flights and hotels are less expensive. Paris in the spring with its longer days and the scent of cherry blossoms, wisteria, and roses is the perfect season to visit.
Visiting Paris in the fall has its advantages as well. Warm weather continues, the crowds thin, and the smell of roasting chestnuts starts to fill the air!
Paris Travel Tip: Always bring an umbrella. It rains more in Paris than you’d think but rarely for the entire day.
4. Visiting Paris In Low Season
Winter is definitely the low season in Paris. Colder weather, grey skies, and rainy days are often a deterrent to planning a trip to Paris at this time of the year. However, the bonus of visiting Paris in the winter months is that you will really have Paris to yourself! The Christmas season is another reason to visit Paris in the winter. It is simply magical.
5. Book Tickets To Major Tourist Attractions In Advance
One of the best Paris travel tips is to book tickets in advance in order to avoid long queues. For the major monuments and destinations, having a specific entry time will help you maximize each day of your trip to Paris.
Book your skip-the-line tickets:
- The Eiffel Tower
- The Louvre Timed Entrance
- The Arc de Triomphe Rooftop Tickets
- Versailles Palace and Gardens
- A Seine Cruise
6. Paris Travel Tips: The 20 Arrondissements
Paris is divided into 20 areas called arrondissements. The first arrondissement is in the centre of the city and the rest spiral out from the first in a circular pattern like a shell.
When planning your trip, including the hotel, and the places you want to see, plan to stay in the heart of the city.
Read More | The ultimate arrondissement guide to Paris
7. Paris Travel Tips: Lunch 12 to 14h
The French eat at specific times and déjeuner (lunch) is from 12 – 14h. Many restaurants will not serve lunch after 14h.
So join the crowds and find a café to déjeune. The “prix fixe” menu (fixed price menu) is the most economical choice. A three-course “prix fixe” menu includes an appetizer, main course and dessert. One can also choose an appetizer and main or a main and dessert for a fixed price.
Paris Travel Tips:
- in North America, we call the main course the “entrée.” In France, the appetizer is called the “entrée” and the main course “le plat.”
- do not go to a café to order a coffee close to the lunch hour. The servers will be setting the tables and getting ready for the lunch rush. I did this once and paid an extraordinary amount for my coffee.
- cafés that serve meals all day long will have a sign “service continu” which means you can stroll in for a late lunch at 3:30
- many boutiques in Paris and smaller towns close from 12 – 14h.
8. Parisians Eat Dinner Late
One of the Paris travel tips that is essential to know is that Parisians eat dinner late. Very late. It’s part of the culture. It is not uncommon to start dinner at 21h or later. Most likely in Paris, you will not be able to make a dinner reservation before 19:30.
Read More | My insights and thoughts on Parisian culture.
9. Paris Travel Tips: Tipping At Cafés
Tipping is ingrained in North American culture but the service is already added to the restaurant bill in France. You will see SC (service compris) or STC (service et taxes compris).
Obviously, you can leave a tip if the service was exceptional but it is not obligatory.
10. Paris Tips For Travelers: The Apéro
Parisians love their “apéro,” the abbreviated version of “apéritif.” This very social occasion happens before dinner. Ah. No wonder dinner is so late! Just wander and see the café terraces filled with people sharing a drink together. Better yet, join in!
Often Parisians just have a drink but ordering “a planche,” a platter of cheese and charcuterie accompanied by sliced French baguette is rather a marvellous experience!
11. Public Drinking
Public drinking in France is legal. So pop that bottle of champagne (you are in France after all) into your picnic basket and have a French picnic alongside many Parisians on the quays of the Seine or Canal Saint-Martin.
12. Paris Travel Tips: Water
One of the best Paris travel tips to know before arriving is that Paris tap water is perfectly safe for drinking. Look also for the beautiful green Wallace fountains around Paris. The water running in these fountains is for drinking. Fill up your water bottle! Some of the newer water fountains also have carbonated water.
13. Watch Out For Scams
As with all European cities, Paris is known for scammers and pickpockets that often target tourists (yes, they can pick us out a mile away!) near the major attractions. Be aware. Wear a cross-body bag. And in particularly crowded circumstances, wear your daypack on the front of your body. Pay particular attention on the Métro.
Read More | Travel scams in Paris to watch out for
14. Use Public Transportation
Paris is a walking city. Bring comfortable shoes and walk, walk, walk! Taking the métro is another way to easily get around Paris. If you purchase single-use metro tickets be sure to keep your ticket until the journey is finished. One of the best Paris travel tips is to purchase the “Easy Navigo” card for the métro. Buy it at the counter in any metro station, load it, and then tap and go!
15. Getting From The Airport To Paris
There are multiple ways to get to Paris from Charles de Gaulle Roissy Airport. If you opt to take a taxi, always take an official taxi. Follow the signs and join the lineup. You will know it is official. Know your address (are you going to the left bank or the right bank?) and know your rates. There are set taxi fares to get to the left bank (60€) and the right bank (55€).
As far as tipping your taxi driver goes. It is not required but Parisians often round to the nearest euro or leave a 5% tip.
Taking the Roissybus or the RER B (regional train) are other options to get into Paris.
16. Paris Travel Tips: Apartment Floors
When booking an Airbnb be aware that many apartment buildings in Paris do not have elevators. How heavy is your suitcase? Do you want to carry it to the 6th floor? The French also count the first floor of a building as “0” or the “rez-de-chaussée.” Thus your second-floor apartment would be on the third storey by North American definition.
17. Things To Know Before Visiting Paris: “Flâner”
To flâner or be a flaneur/ flaneuse is the best way to visit Paris. The verb to “flâner” literally means to roam around, deliberately aimless just observing life. This is really the best way to connect with Paris. Pick a neighbourhood and stroll. Slow right down. Wander the cobbled streets, sit at a café, and observe life. This is Paris. Here is how to be a flâneur.
6 best neighbourhoods in Paris to wander:
- Ile de la Cité – the heart of Paris
- Ile Saint Louis
- le Marais
- St Germain des Prés
- The Latin Quarter
18. Is Paris For Solo Travelers?
Paris, known as the most romantic city in the world, is a marvellous place to explore with a partner. But never shy away from a world-class city because you are a solo traveller. I have spent an inordinate amount of time in Paris by myself and love exploring her streets and hidden corners. In fact, I’ve had a secret and not-so-secret love affair with Paris for years.
Here are all my best Paris travel tips for visiting the city as a solo female.
19. Paris Travel Tips: Free Things To Do
Paris has a reputation as being a very expensive city. And yes, it can be! But, there are also many things to do in Paris that are free. Getting a sense of Paris by walking the UNESCO Heritage Site -Banks of the River Seine- is one of the best ways to visit Paris. Exploring Paris’s villages on foot is another excellent way of seeing Paris on a budget. Paris also has free museums such as the Musée Carnavalet.
Paris has many parks that are ideal for visiting. At the Luxembourg Gardens, for example, one can sit by the fountain and watch children sail their boats, one can laze on an iconic green metal chair and chat with a friend, and one can search out the Queens of France statues. The Tuileries Gardens, Paris’s oldest gardens, is another great garden to observe Parisian life.
20. The 24-Hour Clock
The French use the 24-hour clock. I constantly find myself doing the math in my head to figure out when 20h is!
21. Which Paris Museums Will You Visit?
Did you know that Paris has over 130 museums? There is a museum to meet everyone’s interest – fashion museums, a smoking museum, a fairgrounds museum, a medieval museum, and a wax museum. Which will you visit? Be sure to check which day of the week the museum of your choice is closed. Many museums have free entry on the first Sunday of each month, excluding high season.
Book your 2, 4, or 6-day Paris Museum Paris which includes entry to the Louvre Museum and Versailles.
Read More | 20 Paris Museums that aren’t the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay
22. Manifestations and Grèves
Manifestations in Paris are a way of life. Both large and small demonstrations happen regularly, especially on the weekends. If you see a string of police vans or, of course, large groups of people carrying placards you know you’ve stumbled on a “manif” or manifestation. When visiting Paris, this is not usually a problem but it is good to be aware that is a regular occurrence.
Paris Travel Tip: If you would like to see a manifestation in action, they often start at Place de la République.
Grèves: Nationwide strikes are also an ingrained part of French culture. In 2023 with the French government’s proposed pension reform there are plenty of mass strikes happening. Expect widespread disruption of public services including the Paris métro and train travel. The strike dates are often announced ahead of time. Hand in hand with the nationwide strikes are widespread demonstrations. Plan accordingly.
Upcoming strike date: March 7, 2023.
23. Paris Travel Tips: Off The Beaten Path Paris
It’s always nice to get off the beaten path in Paris. You just never know what you will discover. Here are a few places to start your adventures!
- Butte aux Cailles – a village in the 13th arrondissement
- Parc des Buttes Chaumont – a park full of locals!
- Butte Bergeyre – a hilltop enclave of homes in the 19th
- The Coulée Verte – an elevated walkway on an old railway line
- The 11th arrondissement
- The 19th arrondissement
24. Heading To Versailles?
If you’re heading to Versailles plan on spending a full day. Don’t plan to go to two destinations on your Versailles day. Visiting the Château de Versailles, Marie Antoinette’s Trianon and the extensive gardens is an experience to be savoured and not rushed.
Read More | How to plan your day trip to Versailles
Book Your Ticket in Advance to Versailles
25. Paris Travel Tips: Plan A Day Trip
Obviously planning a day trip is for travellers who have ample time. Paris is not to be rushed but it is also in a fantastic location for visiting other parts of France. Here are 17 suggested day trips from Paris. Some of my favourite day trips are:
- A trip to Monet’s gardens at Giverny (book your guided tour)
- Visiting Auvers-sur-Oise where Van Gogh completed 80 paintings
- A trip to the UNESCO Heritage Site, the medieval town of Provins
I hope these Paris travel tips are helpful when visiting Paris.
Until next time,