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Visiting Paris for the First Time? 10 Insider Paris Travel Tips for a Unique Trip

09/05/19

Everyone visiting Paris for the first time wants to have a memorable trip, and there’s nothing like tips from a local to get the best out of the City of Lights, the city we call home.

Louvre Museum Paris

Our best insider Paris Tips

We still have to meet someone who is not willing to travel to Paris soon or to come back and discover more.

Unquestionably, Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and one of the most visited too. It boasts a unique historical heritage, with art and architecture spanning from Roman times to contemporary buildings. Paris has incredible food, with refined dishes complemented by excellent French wines and yummy desserts. And while people traveling to Paris for the first time usually focus on the central historical arrondissements of Paris, there are other neighborhoods in the city and small towns near Paris worth to discover.

Because nothing beats tips and advice from a local, we are sharing our best insider Paris travel tips for a unique trip to Paris. Hopefully, after your first time in Paris, you’ll fall in love with the City of Lights. Then, you might come back and decide to visit other places in Paris and in France too.

 

1. If Possible, Plan your Trip to Paris at the Best Time to Visit Paris

Spring in Paris

Spring in Paris

The first of our Paris tips is about the best time to visit Paris. “Paris is always a good idea” and there is never a bad time to visit Paris. The city has great parks and beautiful avenues and streets but it has also some of the best museums in the world and other interesting indoor options. There are, however, a few things you might want to take into account when planning a trip to Paris.

Summer is the high season in Paris with longer days and the best possible weather. But summer in Paris also means more tourists, long lines to visit Paris’ main attractions and higher prices.

Generally speaking, the shoulder season – Spring and Fall – is good because it’s often less crowded and the temperature is pleasant. Click on the links to read about Spring in Paris and Fall in Paris.

Winter in Paris is not the best time to visit Paris in terms of weather (minimums of 2C° to 7°C and only 4 to 5 hours of light) but the city is definitely less crowded, and with more accommodation and transportation options, sometimes at better prices. The exception to this rule is Paris at Christmas and Paris at New Year’s Eve. The city is also a popular destination during Saint Valentine’s Day in February, with lots of romantic things to do in Paris.

If you want to beat the crowds in Paris, you should consider visiting Paris in November, early December, and January.

Last but not least, shopping lovers should consider a trip to Paris in January or July, during Sales, when it is possible to find fantastic bargains.

 

2. Get the Most of Your Time, Book in Advance and Skip the Lines

Skip the Line Eiffel Tower

Unless you’re lucky and travel to Paris off season, you’ll experience frustrating long lines at all the main tourist attractions in Paris.

Waiting in line will not only make you waste precious time; chances are that you’ll be exhausted even before starting your visit. That’s why we recommend to plan and book in advance.

There’s a way to get the most of your time and be sure to be able to visit the attractions you’ve been dreaming of for a long time. You can have a look at our Skip the Line in Paris article, with the best days and time slots to avoid the crowds in the main tourist attractions, and book in advance at each of the museums or landmarks that are on your bucket list. Also, you can make things more comfortable booking through a service like Get Your Guide. There, you’ll find a vast number of options, like “Skip the Line” tickets with or without a guide. We recommend buying Skip the Line Eiffel Tower and Louvre Skip the Line Tickets online. Also, the Paris Catacombs Tour Skip the Line is worth the investment.

 

3. At the Airport, only Use Regular Taxis (or Verified Private Airport Transfers)

Transportation Paris Airport to City

Taking a ride with a regular, official taxi is what we would consider a matter of common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many tourists still get lured.

At the Paris airports, you’re likely to be approached by someone offering private taxi service. It might be tempting because it seems easy (no need to search for the taxi stand), and faster (not having to wait in line). NEVER accept this kind of “offers.”

If you’re lucky, you’ll end up spending much more (those nonofficial cars don’t have a meter), and you can’t exclude that such a ride could lead to more unpleasant surprises or dangerous situations.

If you don’t want to take public transport and you prefer to know since the beginning how much your ride will cost, we recommend booking a private airport transfer from the Parisian Airports to the city. 

TIP: We like  Welcome ‘s transfer services, with good cars and the best English speaking drivers in Paris.

 

4. Save Money on Public Transport 

Metro of Paris

France has good high-speed trains (named TGVs), with very regular connections between Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg and more. It is very easy to plan weekend trips from Paris by train or longer trips to the rest of France as it takes a little as three hours from Paris to Marseille or from Paris to Strasbourg so it is definitely worth to check the train options.

High-speed trains can be costly, though, especially if you book and buy your ticket at the last minute. But the good news is that there are ways to find cheaper options. You can read about it in our article on Trains in France.

Find here more information and book your train tickets  

 

The Parisian Metro takes you everywhere in Paris, with opening times starting from 5.30 am to 2.15 am on weekends. Apart from the single metro tickets, valid also for bus and tram rides, the Parisian Metro has different passes well worth the investment, especially if you take the metro more than 3 times a day. Read our article about the Parisian Metro and all its Paris Metro Tickets to understand how the Metro works in Paris.

 

5. Aside from Landmarks, Discover Daily Life in Paris

Summer in Paris

When visiting landmarks or some of the most famous attractions in Paris, you’re likely to see more tourists than locals.

But there’s so more to a town or city like Paris than its last travel trends, standard landmarks, and main streets, and letting yourself get lost where locals live and hang is the surest way to feel like a local.

To get a little more of Paris, you must venture where the residents are. So choose a District of Paris to visit, put away your map and just wander. There are several other ways to get a taste of daily life in Paris.

– Take public transport
– Go to local markets
– Have a stroll near a University
– Drop in a supermarket
– Go where people work
– Take a walk in residential areas

What about walking on railroad tracks following the ancient Little Belt of Paris? Or a stroll through the quintessential roofs of Paris? Do you know that it is possible to navigate the canals of Paris driving your own electric boat? A quirky  Treasure Hunt in the heart of Paris, why not? Think out of the box, all these activities are as interesting as the main sights but with a more local flavor (plus they come without the crowds!).

 

6. Discover Popular Food in Paris

Alizée Crêperie Gourmet

Photo courtesy: Alizée Crêperie Gourmet ©

We all like sushi and pizza but hey, you are traveling to Paris, France, the cradle of one of the best cuisines in the world!

Few countries in the world offer such a variety of dishes as France. From north to south, region after region, you’ll discover different specialties, based on local, typical ingredients and products. The good news is that in Paris, France’s capital, you can savor the best of what the French regions have to offer.

Ask locals for their favorite restaurants, market stalls, and local dishes and then be sure to check them out. Join a cooking course and learn how to prepare your favorite French dish. Enjoy French traditional food in the quintessential Parisian bistros. Stop for a coffee and some people watching in a cute Parisian cafe. And be sure don’t miss the city’s best cakes!

TIP: The Tour Taste the Flavors of Paris is an excellent introduction to Food in Paris

 

7. Paris Travel Safety Tips

Best anti-theft backpacks to travel safe

Despite what you might have heard on the media, France is a safe and welcoming country and we never ever felt unsafe in Paris. Still, by the main tourist attractions watch out for petty crimes and foul play.

France is a safe and welcoming country. However, like everywhere in the world, in big cities and by the most sought-after attractions you might incur in petty crime and foul play.

In public transport, always keep your handbag or backpack in front of you to avoid possible pickpockets. Never keep your camera hanging around your neck or your wallet in your trousers back pocket. Instead, store them in your bag, possibly in a zipped pocket not within easy reach. Be cautious when approached at train stations or by famous landmarks by people offering to help. While most of them will be genuinely generous, some might be trying to rob or scam you.

On long-distance trains, keep your bag always on the racks above your seat. Don’t trust the racks between the seats and the train doors (lessons learned here).

In public spaces, don’t leave your belongings unattended, and better keep your bag on your lap or between your feet. We recommend using an anti-theft travel bag or an anti-theft backpack for safe travel.

 

8. Avoid the Tourist Traps

Roofs of Paris

It is no secret that the most visited places are also potential tourist traps, and Paris makes no exception. Avoiding the tourist traps in Paris is often a matter of common sense. However, there are a few rules that are likely to keep you off the tourist traps.

– Avoid changing money in airports, at La Défense, and near touristy sites. Same for money withdrawal with a foreigner card

– Skip cafes and restaurants close to the main landmarks and all the places attracting hordes of visitors. Prices can be 2 or 3 times the price than in other neighborhoods of Paris.

– Beware of restaurants displaying photos of the dishes and menus in several languages. They are obviously for foreigners.

– Beware of additional charges in many cafes when sitting at a table. Most of the times Parisian cafes have a price for having something standing at the counter or sitting at a table

– Don’t rely too much on Tripadvisor, and learn how to read behind the lines. Search for advice and reviews from locals

–Read a good Paris travel guide or France travel guide to prepare your trip.

 

9. Take a Day Trip from Paris to Explore its Surroundings

Giverny, France

With so many interesting sites around Paris, we won’t blame you if you want to block one day or two of your Paris Itinerary to get out of town and explore what the Parisian region has to offer. From Château de Versailles to lesser-known castles in France, from Provins medieval town to picturesque towns like Giverny, there are great side trips from Paris or fantastic weekend getaways from Paris very easy to reach by train or on a guided tour.

 

10. Just Say NO

Street Art in Paris

The last of our insider Paris tips is to say “NO”. It is ok to have a plan full of interesting things to see & do but should you rush through it just for the sake of moving on to the next thing on your list? So much better to allow yourself to go with the flow and see where it takes you. Most of our greatest travel memories have come from us saying “YES” to not doing what we’d planned.

 

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