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There are many things to know before visiting Paris for the first time. During my first trip to Paris back in 2012, I can honestly say that I wish I knew then what I do now. But after time spent living in France and traveling to Paris many times, I have some great Paris travel tips to help with your first trip!
You don’t want to show up to Paris and attempt to see it all and overdo it, causing you to not really enjoy any of it. Or you don’t want to wear the wrong shoes and have your feet hate you by the end of the day.
That’s why I’ve come up with these 23 Paris travel tips for first timers that are super helpful.
23 Paris Travel Tips For First Timers
Without further ado, let’s talk about the top tips for visiting Paris!
1. Always Say Bonjour/Bonsoir
Picture this: you’re a salesperson or server and someone just comes right up to you demanding something without so much as a simple “Hello.” Pretty rude, right? I mean, just being acknowledged as a fellow human is always nice.
I cannot stress how important this is, and a big reason why people perceive Parisians as rude. If you come up to someone and immediately ask questions without saying, “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” don’t expect much help.
Not saying some Parisians aren’t rude people, but a simple “Bonjour/Bonsoir” goes a long way.
Typically, you’d say “Bonjour” before 5 pm and “Bonsoir” after 5 pm.
As a bonus, as you leave, a simple “Bonne Journee” (before 5 pm) or “Bonne Soiree” (after 5 pm) is a nice way to tell someone to have a good day or evening.
2. Knowing a Few French Words/Phrases is Helpful Paris Travel Advice
I’m not saying you need to be fluent by any means (I’m still learning too!), but knowing something is always better than nothing.
So for Paris tips for first timers, here are some words/phrases I’ve found helpful to know:
- Bonjour/Bonsoir (Hello)
- Bonne journee/Bonne soiree (Have a good day/evening)
- Au revoir (Goodbye)
- Merci (Thank you)
- De Rien (You’re welcome)
- Oui/Ouais (Yes/Yeah)
- Non (No)
- Ou sont les toilettes? (Where are the toilets?)
- Parlez-vous anglais? (Do you speak English?)
- Pardon (Sorry or Excuse me)
- Excuse-moi (Excuse me)
- Je suis desole(e) (I’m sorry)
- Je vais prendre… (I will have…) Great for restaurants when ordering!
- Je voudrais… (I would like…)
- Je ne comprends pas (I don’t understand)
- L’addition s’il vous plait (The bill please)
You get the idea. These are super helpful phrases and words to know during your first trip to Paris.
3. Parisians Aren’t Always Mean
I mean yes, there are jerks everywhere, especially in every big city around the world. It’s not like New Yorkers are teddy bears themselves.
But many people are nice. It’s just that in France, many people keep to themselves. They aren’t about to strike up a conversation with a stranger on the metro quite like someone might in the US (especially in the south where I’m from).
They also don’t like to make a ton of small talk and can be very honest. So don’t be offended if Parisians aren’t super friendly to you. They aren’t trying to be mean usually, it’s just normal there.
4. Paris May Be For Lovers, But It Has Something For Everyone
Seriously, while Paris may feel like a smaller city, it still is a large city that offers something for everyone. Art history nerds, honeymooners, families, foodies, friend trips… you name it, Paris has something for you.
I’ve been to Paris as a solo traveler, with friends, and with my husband, and have found amazing things to do every time. So if you’re considering a visit to Paris, which I assume you are if you’re reading a blog post about Paris, France travel tips, just know there are a plethora of activities to enjoy here!
5. Wear Comfortable Clothing and Shoes
I have a whole article about what to wear in Paris on my other blog, World Wide Honeymoon, but when it comes to walking around Paris, definitely pack sensible shoes.
Do NOT bring stilettos and plan to walk around all day in those. The pavements aren’t always even, and the city is very walkable, meaning you’ll likely want something more practical.
White tennis shoes are always super popular, especially these Stan Smiths. They are comfortable for walking around all day and Parisians themselves don’t wear high heels that often. If they do, it is again, practical for walking for the most part.
As far as clothing, yes, shorts aren’t as big of a thing, but many Parisians just wear jeans, skirts, or casual dresses. Nothing too fancy here, so no need to go nuts. Remember that Parisians, like everyone else, have their own unique style based on personal preferences, so you don’t need to copy just one style.
Essentially, skip the athleisure, sweatpants, and high heels and you’ll be just fine.
6. Paris Tips For Travelers: Eat Like a Local
Want to find great local spots or not eat at touristy places? Back away from the tourist sights.
Not to say some touristy cafes aren’t delicious… I mean I recommend and will always accept a tasty hot chocolate from Les Deux Magots, but many restaurants near tourist attractions in Paris aren’t worth it.
Instead, walk several blocks away from tourist spots to find hidden gems. If it looks busy and full of locals, then you’ve hit a good spot.
And if you want to make reservations ahead of time for a place, I love finding great restaurants in the Michelin Guide. No, I’m not saying book a 3-star Michelin restaurant. The guide has many recommendations to fit your budget that don’t have any stars but are just as good.
Also, Parisians, and French people in general, tend to eat a bit later. Many restaurants don’t even open until 7-7:30 pm. If you’re hungry at 5 pm, pop into a patisserie or boulangerie for a pasty or some bread, respectively.
Even though restaurants open between 7-7:30 pm, I’ve noticed that Parisians don’t always show up until closer to 8-8:30 pm.
Lastly, how often are you in Paris?! You’ve got to try the flavors of France! Don’t be scared to try escargot, boeuf bourguignon, or even that stinky cheese. You may as well experience it while you’re here.
7. Tipping & Restaurant Service
Tipping culture in France is not the same as in the US. Servers are paid a living wage, and service is part of your bill. So no need to tip a bunch on top of it.
In fact, when you get the receipt typically, there isn’t space to add a tip. That isn’t to say to never tip, though! If you had really great service, leaving a smaller tip is totally fine. This could include rounding up for smaller meals and purchases or giving up to 10% on a nicer meal.
Another of the Paris holiday tips: servers don’t bother you. In the US, you’ll get bombarded seemingly every 5 seconds with your server asking how everything is going.
But in Paris, and in France in general, they leave you alone. You’ll need to get their attention if you want to order or pay. A simple wave usually works just fine.
8. Tips For Traveling to Paris For the First Time: Don’t Rush It!
Like any amazing vacation, don’t rush it! Take it from me. My very first trip to Paris in 2012 was a whirlwind weekend of museums and tourist attractions. I had 2 days and wanted to see it all. What I didn’t expect was that after hours and hours spent at art museums and trying to see everything, it was blending together and became exhausting.
I left Paris with lukewarm feelings about it, totally not getting the hype. That is until I showed up again that summer determined to do few tourist things and instead do simple, fun Parisian things. I took some long walks, picnicked in parks, and just took my time.
It was then that I got it. Paris is beautiful. Yes, some parts aren’t so beautiful like any big city. But overall, the architecture is gorgeous, the parks are vast and colorful, and the food is so rich and delicious.
Paris is a dish meant to be savored. Take your time. That goes for restaurants too. Don’t expect a quick 1-hour meal and be out the door. Instead, order a bottle of wine to split. Have that appetizer, dinner, and dessert. Spend 3 hours at a cozy restaurant chatting away with loved ones or reading a good book at a cafe. They won’t rush you.
Enjoy museums and attractions, but by no means try to see it all in one trip. There is a lot to see, so pick your must-dos and enjoy.
9. Keep It Down in Public
Maybe it is because I’m American, but in public it feels like French people are whispering to each other. I was at dinner one time while studying abroad with other Americans and I quickly realized we were the loudest in the restaurant. Whoops. You live and learn.
While restaurants and everything can get quite noisy back in the US, it is much quieter in France. So keep it down a bit while in public, especially in restaurants, the metro, etc. It keeps it nice and peaceful for everyone around you and prevents dirty looks from other patrons.
10. Super Important of the Paris Travel Tips: How to Avoid Pick Pockets
While I’ve generally felt safe in Paris, I will say that pickpocketing is common. They are crafty and will jump at any opportunity.
That means being vigilant is a must, especially in busy, touristy areas. If you see street performers, just keep your hand on your belongings and be aware. While many street performers are just there for tips, sometimes they can be used as a distraction for pickpockets.
On the metro, keep your bag in front of you and a hand on it. Essentially, do this in any crowded space. In restaurants, I usually leave my bag on my lap and never hang it over the back of my chair like I would in the US.
I also don’t wear flashy jewelry, and I only carry a copy of my passport, one credit card, and however much cash I need for the day. The rest stays locked in the hotel safe. That way, if I get pickpocketed, I only have to cancel one card and am not out too much money.
I also wear this anti-theft crossbody bag for extra protection.
As a side note, most French people won’t just come up to you and start speaking English and try to get to know you. So if someone starts doing that, I’d assume it’s a scam and walk away.
11. Paris is a City of Neighborhoods
Paris is comprised of 20 arrondissements, or neighborhoods. And each has its own unique vibe and things to offer. There is the 1st arrondissement that is located in the city center and full of attractions for tourists.
There is also the hilly and artsy 18th arrondissement, known as Montmartre. And there is so much in between to explore.
If you have the time, I highly recommend checking out several of these neighborhoods to get a feel for what Paris has to offer in each! This is definitely one of the best Paris travel tips!
12. Things to Know Before Going to Paris: Where to Stay
I have a whole blog post on where to stay in Paris based on your travel style, which I highly recommend as each part of Paris has its own feel.
For shorter stays, definitely opt to stay in the city center, closer to the Louvre in the 1st arrondissement. For more affordable hotel options, opt for Canal Saint Martin or Montmartre.
This whole guide has a ton of great information on hotels in the area based on your travel preferences.
13. Paris is a Walkable City
If you’re traveling to Paris for the first time, you’ll likely wonder how to get around the city. Luckily, Paris can be a very walkable city depending on where you’re at.
While they also have an extensive metro system, I honestly enjoy taking my time and walking to many places in Paris.
While yes, I highly recommend taking the metro when you want to get across town, if you’re just exploring a neighborhood or are in the central part of the city, walking is a lot of fun!
Plus, you get to see more walking around the city. Find hidden gems along the way, enjoy the Seine, or pop into fun shops and restaurants! That is what Paris travel is all about.
14. Paris Vacation Tips: Metro
Navigating the extensive metro around Paris can be a challenge. Most of the time, I just use my phone’s international plan and Google Maps to figure out where I’m going. But if you don’t want to do that, you can also purchase a SIM card with data on it to get around.
Or, you can plan out your metro itinerary via the RATP Itinerary planner. This helps you find all the right stops and shortest routes to get where you need to go.
Also, avoiding rush hour is a good idea if you don’t want to be crammed in. 8:00-10:00 am and 5-8 pm are the busiest times.
PS- “Sortie” means “Exit.”
Oh, and as far as getting tickets, it costs €1.90 for a ticket, or you can get a pack of 10 tickets for €14.90.
15. The Eiffel Tower Isn’t Where to Go For Views
I firmly believe that the best views of Paris include the Eiffel Tower. So the downside to going up the Eiffel Tower, aside from the crowds and costs, is that you don’t get that view.
Instead, you can get an incredible Paris skyline view from Montparnasse Tower, Arc de Triomphe, or a rooftop bar like Bar Perruche.
16. Book Tickets in Advance!
Y’all, skip-the-line tickets are where it’s at. Museums like the Louvre, D’Orsay, etc. are super busy and the lines to buy tickets can be insanely long. Nobody wants to spend their first time in Paris waiting in line after line to see the attractions.
Instead, purchase tickets in advance! Explore the Louvre with this skip-the-line ticket that allows you entrance to another part of the museum and lets you avoid the queue entirely.
For the best skip-the-line tickets, I love booking on Get Your Guide.
17. One of the Biggest Paris Travel Tips: Don’t Just Visit the Louvre
Paris is a city full of incredible museums. The Louvre is, of course, the most popular and most visited, but it is hardly the only museum worth visiting.
D’Orsay is incredible, and the smaller art museum L’Orangerie has the Monet Water Lilies! Aside from that, you can visit the delightful sculptures of the Rodin Museum, and there is also a Picasso Museum.
Honestly, the amount of art museums is endless in Paris.
Aside from art museums, there are some really interesting museums like the Museum of Fairground Arts with awesome vintage fairground rides and memorabilia or the Montmartre Museum with the history of this eclectic neighborhood.
There is no way you’ll see all of it during your first time in Paris, but when it comes to Paris tourist tips, you’ll definitely want to explore some of these gems.
18. Definitely Take a Full Day in Versailles
Versailles is an incredible day trip from Paris. But with the main palace, gardens, Petit Trianon, and Grand Trianon, it takes a long time to see.
I fully recommend planning to spend a full day here, and better yet, book a bike tour to get around! I loved this bike tour on my last visit to Paris, where our guide showed us around the estate before having us enter Versailles at the end when it was less busy.
Plus, the tour allows you to get around quicker, meaning you have plenty of time to visit a lot of the estate and have a picnic on the Grand Canal. Oh, and you even get to enjoy the farmer’s market in the town itself!
19. Taking a Food Tour or Cooking Class With Locals is a Must
One of the best travel tips for Paris has to be to experience it on a food tour or cooking class with locals.
I’ve done both in the past and each is lovely in its own way. I love this tour of Le Marais where you try many French delights and learn about this incredible neighborhood with a local.
I’ve also learned how to make macarons in the home of a Parisian. You gain so much insight into the food and culture just by hanging out with locals for a time. Plus, Paris is such a foodie city that it helps to have a guide to show you some great places!
20. Paris is a Great Place to Base Yourself For Day Trips
While Paris has plenty to do on its own for weeks on end, it is also a great place to base yourself for day trips.
- Loire Valley
- Bike Tour of Versailles
- Mont Saint Michel
- Champagne Tour
- Disneyland Paris
- D-Day Beaches of Normandy
21. Parisians Go on Vacation in Late July/August
Many Parisians go on their “les vacances” in late July and in August. So the town can empty out a bit. Tourists will definitely still be there, and of course not everyone leaves, but don’t be surprised if some smaller shops and local restaurants shut down during this time.
Even while planning my next trip to France in July, I wanted to book a table at a restaurant and saw on their website that they’d be out from the end of July through part of August. So again, be sure to check online, and don’t be surprised if things shut down during this time.
PS- For those who do stick around Paris, the city makes these little beaches along the Seine called “Paris Plages” where locals and tourists alike can get some sun. There are also ample bars along the Seine that are fun to visit in the summer while there!
22. You Can Visit Paris on a Budget
When it comes to travel tips for Paris, France, know that yes, you can do this on a budget. I have a whole guide on how much a trip to Paris can cost, but even if you’re strapped for cash, you can still visit Paris.
There are affordable hostels all over the city, and even affordable hotels that fit any budget. Just be sure to check them out on Hostelword.com or TripAdvisor.com and read reviews first!
But you can eat cheaply here too. Many restaurants, especially at lunchtime, have prix fixe menus where you can have an appetizer, main, and dessert for a fixed price.
Groceries and even wine are much cheaper in France than here in the US, and you can always grab some great street food at markets like Marche des Enfants Rouges or just at a creperie.
Also, there are ample parks and great scenery that is free to see! The metro is also inexpensive. Just budget for some museums if you don’t qualify for the reduced or free entrance!
23. 24-Hour Shops Aren’t Really a Thing
Okay, last, but not least in the Paris travel tips guide is the fact that 24/7 shops aren’t really a big thing. Grocery stores around the city typically close around 8 or 9 pm (sometimes earlier) and may be fully closed all day Sunday.
This goes for most shops in the city. So don’t expect to run out and grab something late at night or on a Sunday, as many things will be closed.
Paris is truly a magnificent city to visit. From the spacious parks full of life to the impeccable art museums, Paris is a city you could spend a lot of time exploring. So, for your first trip to Paris, these are the top tips to know before you go!
Which of the Paris travel tips do you find the most helpful?
Want more Paris ideas? Check these posts out!
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