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Ten Tips for Visiting Paris


I often get asked for tips for going to Paris.  It isn’t hard to respond.  I have a lots of specific suggestions on my blog.  Really, there’s so much to do that the question is how to narrow down the choices.  It’s really all about interest, energy and inclination.

However,  I do have some general tips to share.  In many cases, I’ve learned these the hard way.

1.  Don’t get rattled with what feels like rudeness by the French.  If you are polite, learn to follow their customs and even try a few words in French,  you probably won’t have a problem.  And if you do, remember this thought proposed by a travel writer:  “The French are like a coconut, tough and rough on the outside but sweet and lovely in the middle.”  You just got to get to the middle.

 2.  Always greet people.  You don’t necessarily have to smile (and sometimes smiling is deemed suspect….too friendly) but always say Bonjour.  In the elevator.  In a shop.  When you walk into a restaurant.  Always.

3.  Spend a little time understanding the restaurant system.  The French are very particular about their food and how and when it is eaten.  For example, don’t order a snack at a full service restaurant.  You are expected to eat a full meal.  Go to a cafe for a snack.  An excellent reference is “The Unofficial Guide to Paris” by David Applefield.

4. Did you know that you will pay more if you sit at an outside cafe than if you get a drink standing a bar?  You are paying for “real estate”or the opportunity to sit and savor your coffee or glass of wine without being rushed.  Never order at the bar and then take it to the table.  Do spring for the more expensive option.  You’ll never know what you will see…… like this fellow who stopped right in front of us at a cafe in the Marais.

5. If you want authentic food, don’t eat at restaurants with menus with multiple languages. These places are for tourists.  Always eat at places with a chalk board menu of the daily features.

6. Get a Museum Pass.  This gives you admission to more than 70 museums but better yet, you get to go in  special lines.  A lot less waiting.

7. Wear comfortable shoes.  I know everyone says this when you travel, but Paris is covered in wonderful cobblestones. Charming.  But they are killers and you want to be able to walk or as the French say, “Be a Flaneur.”  This means walking just for the pleasure of it.  It isn’t fun if your feet hurt.

8. Dress up a bit.  The French don’t wear shorts.  Avoid flip flops or white athletic shoes.  Throw a jaunty scarf around your neck. After all, it is the Fashion Capital of the World.  You’ll get treated better.

9. Get away from the Seine to see the “real Paris.”  Most of the tourist destinations are clustered in the Arrondissements near the Seine (numbers 1-8).  There’s a lot to see there but don’t be afraid to venture farther out.  You won’t be sorry.

10.  Relax and have a wonderful time.  Please share your Paris Tips in the comment section below.  Thank you.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Aug 25, 2013 Reply

    And don’t forget to ride the Batobus. It goes up and down the Seine thru the center of Paris. See Susan’s blog for more on this.

  2. posted by
    Aug 31, 2013 Reply

    Great tips and fun pictures demonstrating each one!

  3. posted by
    Sep 2, 2013 Reply

    It is nice to see your photos of Paris. You capture the true feeling of being there. Good tips as well. Reminds me of going there back in 2007. Anita and I need to get back there sometime soon. You just put the motivation back into my soul to start planning for it.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Sep 2, 2013 Reply

      Don’t wait too long. Paris is a wonderful place. I do have lots of blog posts about the City of Light with very specific suggestions for places we love and enjoy. Hope you do too!

  4. posted by
    Sep 8, 2013 Reply

    great tips! the pictures are very unique. I can see the passion through your writing.

    • posted by
      Sep 8, 2013 Reply

      Thank you.

  5. posted by
    Sep 12, 2013 Reply

    Susan – just catching up with things,thanks for this fun post about Paris – what gorgeous photos! The tip about what to order (and what not to order) at different Parisian establishments was something of an epiphany for me…on our last trip we had a little episode, as follows:) we went into a well-known busy restaurant – the kids had recently had a meal but we had not, so Geoff and I ordered proper meals but for the children we ordered only cake (a case of the kids schedules being a bit ‘off’ due to change in time zones). Anyway, after we ordered, the waiter never returned to table until about 90 minutes later, when he brought the food. We knew we were being snubbed and thought it probably had something to do with ordering the cake for the kids, but your post provided the missing link – what we did was inappropriate because we were in a proper restaurant – we could have, and should have, gone to a cafe – next time we will know better and get served MUCH faster:) Geoff suggested adding another tip ‘never order the Vin de table’ and I agree – you might expect it to be a notch above, but invariably it is perfectly awful! It might be fun to ask readers to submit their favorite do’s and don’ts – probably there would be an endless number of faux pas and don’ts in addition to a lot of glorious Do’s! Thanks for the great tips!

  6. posted by
    Be a flaneur in Paris | DesignDestinations
    Apr 28, 2016 Reply

    […] For one with tips for having the best time possible in Paris, visit this post.  […]

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