That’s it, the decision is made, you’re going to visit Paris! First of all, congratulations because I can guarantee you will have a blast! Paris is a wonderful city with so much to offer. But to make the most of the capital without getting a headache, proper planning is crucial. In this post, I will help you to understand the city of love and give you all the reliable and up-to-date information you need to prepare your unforgettable stay especially if you’re traveling to Paris for the first time.
So if you had questions like: “What do I need to know before I go to Paris”, “How many days should I visit Paris for the first time”, “Where should I stay in Paris for the first time”, “when is the best time to visit Paris”, or “what should I do on my first trip to Paris”? Then you’re in the right place – continue reading and all your questions will be answered by the time you finish this cheat sheet for Paris first-timers.
Tips for planning a trip to Paris for the first time
What is the best time to visit Paris
This is obviously the first question you ask yourself when you’re planning a trip to Paris for the first time. What is the best season to visit the capital? Bad weather or weather that does not fit your expectations can ruin an entire stay, so this question is really important!
Fortunately, Paris offers many indoor activities if you want to take refuge from the whims of the weather. Here is a brief summary of the weather in Paris by season.
Paris in Springtime
From March to June, spring is a beautiful season to visit Paris. The many Parisian gardens are covered with green and the flowers are blooming. It is the time of the famous cherry blossom making the atmosphere even more romantic!
Unfortunately, temperatures are still quite cool, especially during the months of March and April, with minimum temperatures approaching 8°C and maximums around 15°C.
Late spring is more suitable for outdoor activities with milder temperatures that can rise up to 20°C. The risk of rain is unfortunately very present (around 40%), during the whole season so don’t forget your umbrella! (this umbrella is a great choice)
Paris in summer
From July to September, the temperatures are very pleasant. The heatwave has regularly hit the capital in the last few years with temperatures above 40 °C, which is becoming suffocating! The risk of rain is also lower than in spring, especially during the month of September, which is the driest month in Paris.
Summer in Paris is the period that offers the most time of light per day with a sun setting at 10 pm. During this season, there are many music festivals and outdoor activities everywhere. Unfortunately, summer is also the peak tourist season, which means more people, longer queues, and generally higher prices, especially for accommodation!
Paris in Autumn
From October to December, autumn is a complicated season. October offers pleasant temperatures (around 20 degrees) and little rain (risk around 25%) while November and December’s temperatures collapse and the risk of rain increases drastically.
If you have to visit Paris in the autumn, I advise you to go as soon as possible. The autumn colors and foliages are really beautiful. Of course, Christmas celebrations at the end of December are a particularly exceptional moment, so don’t hesitate to spend Christmas in Paris to experience a colorful and high spirited holiday season.
Paris in Winter
From January to March, winter is the worst time to visit Paris in my opinion. Even if you like the snowy atmosphere, the chances of snow during your stay are rather low.
During winter in Paris, temperatures often fall into negative and the sun sets super early! The rain will, of course, be part of the party, so cover up! Obviously it is the least popular touristy period in the city (outside of the Christmas and New Year weeks) and at the same time the ideal moment to make good deals and find cheap accommodation.
So, what’s the best time to go to Paris?
You now understand that it is difficult to make a definitive assessment. In my opinion, May and late September are the best months to visit Paris because they offer a good compromise between temperature/rainfall/ tourist inflow and prices.
July, although with the best weather conditions, should be avoided due to the terrible tourist inflow and rising prices.
If you want to visit Paris in summer, you will have to make the choice to face the July crowd or go in august with many attractions being closed.
If you are not afraid of the cold and rain, visiting Paris in winter will allow you to make good deals and save on the price of accommodation but you will not be able to fully enjoy outdoor activities such as the famous Parisian coffee in the patio!
To conclude I made you a small chart to help with your decision-making.
How much time should you spend in Paris?
As long as possible, of course! It is always very difficult to answer such a question because it depends a lot on your budget and most of all on your wishes!
For some, Paris is only the city of the Eiffel Tower and two days will be enough to visit it while others wish to discover each part of the city, its history, its museums, and exhibitions. In this case, one month will not even be enough!
Jokes aside, if you are on a budget or in a rush, you will need a MINIMUM of 3 days (4 nights) to discover the city’ s main sights.
As for me, I strongly advise you to stay there for at least a full week. This will allow you to have more time to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the city and to visit some of the unusual places in Paris.
In addition, staying a little longer will allow you to slightly increase the distance between your accommodation and the main attractions, thus saving you a lot of money.
Know that there are a number of very interesting Day-trips around Paris (for example Disney, the castle of Versaille, the medieval city of Provins). Staying longer in the city also allows you to visit the surroundings without neglecting a thing!
How to get to Paris.
Now that you have decided on when you want to visit Paris, you have to figure out how to reach the City of Light! I know that all of this may sometimes be very complicated for first-timers, so I have prepared a short summary of the two most important ways to get to Paris: the plane and the train.
How to get to Paris By Plane
Paris is connected to 3 international airports: “Roissy Charles de Gaulle” located in the North, “Orly” in the South and “Beauvais” outside the city and rather far away. If you come from a foreign country, there is a high probability of landing at CDG (Charles de Gaulle) or ORY (Orly). Low-cost airlines such as RyanAir or Wizz Air mainly serve BVA (Paris Beauvais).
Paris Beauvais is regularly cited as one of the worst airports in the world, because of its reputation and its remote location. I strongly recommend that you make sure you land in CDG or ORY and skip Beauvais!
The airports of Roissy and Orly are old historical airports, unfortunately sometimes also not very ergonomic. However, the situation is improving year after year thanks to regular renovations. For example, the airport of Roissy has recently received a new signposting system that has made navigation through the various terminals easier.
Connect Roissy Charles de Gaulles Airport to Paris
Located 23km north of Paris, it is very easy to make the trip from the airport to Paris. There are several ways to get there:
A.) Le Bus Direct:
Line 2: Every day from 5:45 am to 11 pm, every 30 minutes.
- Terminal 1
- Terminal 2A and 2C
- Terminal 2B and 2D
- Terminal 2E and 2F
- Porte Maillot (metro Porte Maillot)
- Etoile/Champs-Elysées (metro Charles de Gaulle-Etoile)
- Trocadero (metro Trocadero )
- Eiffel Tower (metro Bir Hakeim )
Line 4: every day from 6 am to 10.30 pm, every 30 minutes.
- Terminal 1
- Terminal 2A and 2C
- Terminal 2B and 2D
- Terminal 2E and 2F
- Gare Montparnasse (Montparnasse-Bienvenüe metro station)
- Gare de Lyon (Gare de Lyon metro station).
Tickets (€17 one-way and €30 round-trip) are available directly from the driver, at ATMs or at www.lebusdirect.com
B.) The Roissybus
Every day from 6: am to 11 pm, every 15 to 20 minutes.
- Terminal 1
- Terminal 2A and 2C
- Terminal 2B and 2D
- Terminal 2E and 2F
- Terminal 3
- Opera (metro Opéra, RER Auber)
Tickets (€12.10) are on sale at the driver’s desk and at the airport.
Via Train (RER B):
RER B runs every day from 3:02 to 1:53 am, and runs every 4 to 15 minutes.
- Terminal 1
- 2 ACDEF
- Gare du Nord
- Châtelet-Les Halles
- Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame etc..
Tickets (€9.75) are available at the RER stations’ ticket offices and ATMs.
Of course, it is always possible to take a taxi to get to the city. It’s the perfect solution if you don’t want to face the public transit hassle. Prices are fixed and displayed at the airport and a trip will cost you between 50 to 55€ depending on your destination. Expect 45 minutes to 1h30 to connect to the centre of Paris depending on traffic conditions.
Connect the Orly airport to Paris
Located 16km south of Paris, Orly is also very well served and it is easy to get to the capital.
A.) Le Bus Direct:
Line 1: Every day from 5:50 am to 11:30 pm, it comes every 20 minutes.
- South Terminal
- West Terminal
- Montparnasse station (Montparnasse metro station),
- Eiffel Tower (Bir Hakeim metro station)
- Trocadero (Trocadéro metro)
- Etoile/Champs-Elysées (metro Charles de Gaulle-Etoile)
Tickets (€12 one-way and €20 round-trip) are available directly from the driver, at ATMs or at lebusdirect.com
Line 3: Every day from 6:30 am to 10:30 pm, every 20 to 30 minutes.
- South Terminal
- West Terminal
- Paris – Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport
Tickets (€21 one-way and €36 round-trip) are available directly from the driver, at ATMs or at www.lebusdirect.com
B.) The OrlyBus
Every day from 6 am to 12:30 am, every 8 to 15 minutes.
- South Terminal
- West Terminal
- Place Denfert-Rochereau (metro/RER Denfert-Rochereau)
Tickets (€8.5) are available from the driver and from ATMs and ticket offices in metro/RER stations.
Via Train (ORLYVAL + RER B):
OrlyVal is a direct train line that only connects the Orly airport to Antony station, which then serves Paris via RER B.
Departure from Orlyval: Every day from 6 am to 11 pm, every 5 to 7 minutes
- South Terminal
- West Terminal
Then departure from RER B at Anthony station, every day from 5 am to midnight, every 4 to 15 minutes to:
- University campus
- Port-Royal, Luxembourg
- Châtelet-Les Halles
- Gare du Nord.
The special Orlyval + RER B ticket costs €12.05 (€9.30 if you take an Orlyval ticket alone to Antony) It is available at RATP/Orlyval ATMs and ticket offices in the South and West terminals.
Taxis at a regulated rate will cost you between 30 and 35€. Allow 30 min to 1 hour to reach the centre of the capital.
Connect Beauvais airport
Located 90km north of Paris, it is the most distant and poorly served airport.
A.) The official Shuttle:
From Beauvais airport:
Departure 20 minutes after the arrival of each flight.
- Airport bus station between Terminal 1 and 2.
- Paris-Porte Maillot (metro Porte Maillot)
- Porte Maillot: 3 hours before the takeoff of each flight
Estimated travel time: 1h15.
- By booking on the airport site: 15,90€ per trip.
- At the airport: Tickets at the bus station, ATMs in the arrival rooms: 17€ (adult and child) per journey and per person.
- At the Paris-Porte Maillot Pershing: Tickets and ATMs: 17€ per trip and per person.
- Tickets are valid for 12 months from the date of purchase and in both directions.
The TER (regional express train) connects Paris to Beauvais station located 5 kilometers from the airport. I do not recommend this method because of the travel time and possible inconveniences.
From Beauvais to Paris:
- From 5 am to 8 pm approximately
From Paris to Beauvais:
- From 6 am to 9 pm approximately
Price: 15,40 € per person.
Once at the Beauvais station, the only way to reach the airport is by taxi or city bus.
How to get to Paris by Train
If you are already in Europe, you can easily reach Paris by train. France has a highly centralized rail network and Paris is at its very epicentre. There are 9 major stations in Paris that are perfectly interconnected with the public transport network, subway, and bus. Each station serves a specific geographical area. Here are the 5 largest railway stations in Paris and the most important internationally speaking.
- The Gare du Nord: Connects all the northern part of France but also Europe such as England and the Netherlands
- The Gare de l’Est: Connects eastern France and Europe as well as Germany and Austria
- Saint Lazare Train Station: Connects the western part of France and especially the Normandy region.
- Montparnasse station: Connects the west and southwest of France (such as the “Pays de la Loire” or “Midi-Pyrénées” regions) as well as part of Spain.
- Gare de Lyon: Connects the centre and south-east of France as well as Spain and Italy.
To find the train that suits you, you can visit the official website of the French railway company, SNCF or the very famous seat61.com. This website, with a rather austere appearance, is a real gold mine, extremely reliable and up to date for international train trips.
How to Get around in Paris
Congratulations, you have finally arrived! But before visiting the historic monuments and other major attractions in Paris, you need to understand how to navigate through the city.
Like many of the historic capitals of old Europe, Paris is a very dense and compact city. The town is divided into two parts by the seine river that runs through the city from west to east. To the north of the Seine is the right bank called “Rive Droite”, to the south the left bank called “Rive Gauche”.
The city is also subdivided into 20 administrative sections called “Arrondissements”. Each arrondissement, in addition to a number, has its own name. Some districts are well known as the 1st arrondissement Louvre, or the 18th called Montmartre.
Parisians rarely use the district’s names but instead their numbers. It is not uncommon for people to “meet in the seventh” or talk about “a great show in the twentieth”. Each arrondissement has its own history and atmosphere, whether artistic, bohemian, intellectual or popular.
On the Seine are located two small islands “l’île de la cité” and “l’ile Saint Louis”, the historical heart of the capital. So here are some of the best ways of getting around Paris.
Put your walking shoes on! One of the best ways to see Paris and discover the city and probably the most meaningful is by walking. Walking on the streets of Paris is an experience in itself and the ideal way to experience the intimacy of the city. Walking will help you avoid traffic jams and allow you to discover many lovely places that are not in the guidebooks.
Fortunately, Paris is quite walkable and thanks to its large sidewalks and many pedestrian streets, it is a real pleasure to stroll along the streets.
The city’s hyper-centre is very flat and so are all the areas along the river Seine. Some parts of the city are slightly hilly like Montmartre or Belleville which culminate at 130 meters above sea level.
Some tips to finish. Be very careful when crossing the road (the cars will not stop for you!) and strictly observe the pedestrian traffic lights. Also, remember to keep an eye on where you walk, Paris is a beautiful city but as any Latin city, the cleanliness is sometimes quite poor and dog poop can be everywhere!
A few examples of travel time by foot:
- Eiffel Tower – Champs elysée: 25 minutes
- Louvre – Notre-Dame: 20 minutes
- Sacré-Coeur – Arc de Triomphe: 1 hour
- La defense – Bois de Vincenne (from west to east of the city): 3 hours
- La Villette – Montparnasse (From North to south): 2 hours.
Take the Parisian subway
The metro, which can be identified by its famous yellow M, is the best way to get around the city quickly. The Paris metro network is extremely dense and very well built, it will allow you to go everywhere very easily and quickly.
Taking the metro in Paris is quite an experience. There are 16 metro lines that criss-cross Paris, sometimes underground, sometimes outdoors, and that will lead you where you want to go. Taking the subway may seem a little daunting, so here is a little guide from A to Z to taking the subway in complete serenity
1. Prepare your trip:
It is essential to anticipate and prepare your trip to avoid getting lost in the subway corridors!
Each line is designated by a color code and a number. Parisians usually use line numbers instead of their color code.
At each end of its lines is “the endpoint”, remember this terminus because it is also this word that will give you the general direction to follow.
Here is an example: You are in Charles de Gaulle Etoile and you want to go to Palais Royale to visit the Louvre museum. You will, therefore, have to take the yellow line – number 1 – and follow the direction “Château de vincenne”
Take your time at the entrance of the metro station to go in the right direction, it is sometimes easy to get fooled. If you are wrong, don’t worry, you can always change to the next station and go back the other way.
To be fully prepared, I advise you to download the metro map from the official website, and also the application (RATP) on your phone.
2. Find a metro station
Impossible to miss, the metro stations are identified by a large sign with a circled yellow M. Near this post, you will usually find two stairs: the entrance and the exit.
Remember to check that there is no “no way in” sign before going down to be sure that you do not go down by the exit!
Some metro stations are combined with large train stations, so you will need to enter the station to find the metro station. For example, to find the “Montparnasse” metro station you will have to enter the “Gare Montparnasse” train station.
3. Buy a Ticket
- The ticket per trip: Buyable at the ticket office or at an ATM, this ticket called “Ticket T+” costs €1.90 and is valid for a single trip and on Bus, Metro and RER lines in Paris.
- The booklet of 10 “T+” tickets, more advantageous than buying the tickets separately.
- The Mobilis ticket: Buyable at the ticket office or at an ATM, this ticket costs €7.50 and offers you an unlimited number of trips on the metro, bus and intramural rerer network for 24 hours.
- The tourism package: Buyable at the ticket office, on an automatic terminal or on the Paris Info website, the “Paris Visite Package” ticket costs from €12 to €70 depending on its validity period (from 1 to 5 days) and allows you an unlimited number of trips by bus, metro and train, not only in Paris but also throughout the region, thus allowing you to go to Disney or the Château de Versailles – which is one of the famous Chateaux in France. It also offers discounts on various activities such as museums or monuments but also for theatres and entertainment.
- The Paris city pass: This ultimate ticket not only gives you unlimited access to all the city’s transport (metro, bus, RER) but also allows you to visit 60 museums and attractions! From 100€ (for 2 days) to 200€ (for 6 days) This ticket is ideal for visiting Paris with a peaceful mind. You can actually easily purchase your Paris city pass from here.
4. Enjoy the ride!
Some metro stations alone are worth a visit, such as the “Arts et metiers” station (lines 3 and 11) entirely covered with copper and decorated in steampunk style. “Concorde” station (line 12) has the walls covered with the Declaration of Human Rights. Also, consider the “Cluny-La Sorbonne” station (line 10) which was decorated by the painter Jean Bazin in 1988.
Some tips in bulk for your subway trip
- There are many discounts for young people, seniors, and large families – do not hesitate to ask at the counter!
- The metro closes at night, during the week the last metro runs around 1:05 am and 2:05 am on the weekends.
- In every station, you will find many maps of the subway, but also district maps that will help you find your way around once outside.
- Do you want to calculate travel time like a real Parisian? Count the number of stops between your origin and destination and multiply this number by two. Then remove a third. It gives you your travel time. For example: between “Châtelet” and “Étoile”, there are 8 stops. This makes 8*2 = 16 min then 16/3 = 5min20; Then remove this result from the total time: 16min-5min20 = 10min40 sec. Your journey will, therefore, take 10 minutes and 40 seconds. It may sound crazy but it works great and every Parisian does it.
- In some corridors of the metro, you may find musicians, the only ones allowed to make music here, do not hesitate to encourage their work by donating a small coin. On the other hand, those who make music in the subway cars, do it illegally.
- When the metro arrives, let the passengers get off and then get on. Even if not everyone does it, it is important to be an example.
- As everywhere, be careful with your stuff and pickpockets! This not only happens in other cities – Paris does not avoid this plague. Always watch your belongings, close your bags and pockets and beware of everyone, pickpockets are faceless! You can actually travel with this anti-theft backpack or this money belt to increase the safety of your belongings.
Other transportation forms
The metro and walking are not the only ways to get around Paris. Like in all cities in the world, taxis are obviously an option. Whistle a taxi in Paris will bring you little results and a lot of frustration, the most effective way to find a taxi is to look for a “taxi stand”. It’s a place where taxi drivers are waiting for customers.
Be aware that if a stand is not far away, it is illegal for a taxi driver to stop when a customer whistles at it in the streets!
Although sometimes convenient, I do not recommend taxis. They are expensive, not always polite and most of all, you may waste your precious time stuck in traffic!
Taxis do not have a uniform colour in Paris but have a “TAXI” sign affixed to the roof of their car.
In the same vein as taxis, UBER is an option, however, it is sometimes difficult to find a car at a reasonable price. If you are in a very touristic place, walk away a couple of streets before searching for an Uber. It’s a good way to lower the price of the trip
Bike-sharing is also a possibility. Scattered all over the capital, more than 20,000 “Velib” bicycles are available to the public. Most of them are mechanical bicycles (green) but some are electrically assisted (blue). Very popular with Parisians, its functioning is very simple. Just download the Velib application on your phone, register and follow the instructions on the screen.
Once on the road, well….be careful! Bike lanes are not everywhere and the danger is very real. Traffic is often heavy, crossing large crossroads or roundabouts can be very stressful. Get a helmet if you can. If you are with children, let them go first to keep an eye on them!
Where to Stay in Paris for the first time
Rather than giving you a list of specific hotels to sleep in, I will give you some general tips to help you in your research and decision-making.
The keyword when you are looking for where to stay in Paris is the proximity to the metro! Finding accommodation in the hyper-centre of Paris ensures that you are a step away from most of the sightseeing the capital has to offer, but being located near a metro station allows you to explore the capital in all tranquillity from your accommodation and spend a minimum amount of time on the way.
If you book a hotel room, expect smaller rooms and bathrooms than in other major cities (especially those in the US). With the exception of the large luxury hotels, the more traditional hotels are often located in old buildings and reflect the architecture of their time. Expect some noise too, despite the double glazing, the noise in Paris is often part of the game!
In which arrondissement should you stay
Each Paris arrondissement has a unique and particular setting. Most tourists like to sleep in the Eiffel Tower district or near the “Champs Elysées”.
In addition to these two districts, which are certainly magnificent but overcrowded and very expensive, here is a brief summary of the various other boroughs that I advise you to explore:
- The Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement): One of the oldest districts in Paris, the Latin Quarter is home to intellectuals, students and academicians. It creates a dynamic but relaxing atmosphere. The district is home to the Palais du Luxembourg and its magnificent garden, the famous “Shakespeare and Company” or the National Museum of Natural History.
- The Opera district (9th arrondissement): Chic district by excellence, it is the ideal place to go out and shop. Expect very expensive accommodation, sleeping in this district costs a lot of money!
- The Batignolles-Monceau district (17th arrondissement): Located halfway between the wealthy and the working-class districts of Paris, the 17th arrondissement offers an appreciable and authentic mix. A village-like atmosphere emerges from its streets and its pretty gardens are ideal for a stroll.
- Montmartre (18th arrondissement): No need to present this unique and exceptional district. Overhung by the famous Sacre-Coeur, it is one of the best districts for a romantic getaway, a symbol of artistic life and a Bohemian Paris – the district itself deserves several days to be dedicated to it!
- The Golden Triangle (3rd, 4th, 11th arrondissement): The golden triangle formed by the Place de la Nation, the Place de la République and the Place de la Bastille is one of the trendiest places in Paris. Ideal for artistic and cultural outings, come and mingle with the local Parisian youth in the local bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Accommodation in Paris, as in many capitals, is very costly. Thanks to a very good public transit system, a short trip away from the capital is not a bad idea.
This map created through the Travel Time Platform website makes it clear that if you are ready to spend 30 minutes in transport (orange zone on the map) to reach the capital, you can significantly move away from the Paris centre and therefore divide accommodation prices sometimes by two or by three!
Suburban cities such as “Levallois” or “Colombes” west of Paris offer a good compromise between distance/price and quality of life.
Areas to avoid in Paris
This kind of section is always a bit scary, so I prefer to lay the basics: Paris is a very safe city, whether for tourists or its inhabitants. Millions of tourists visit the capital every year without any problems.
But here it is, trouble can happen! As for all your travels and also in everyday life, but there are some simple tips to follow:
- The main risk for tourists is pick-pocketing. Always keep an eye on your belongings, close your bags and pockets, avoid crowded places and always be alert.
- The second risk is the scam, refuse to sign any petitions, refuse any gifts and never accept anything from a stranger. You wouldn’t do it at home then don’t do it in Paris! If someone offers to help you, politely refuse. A golden rule when you need help is to trust the people you have approached, not the people who approached you.
If you have to walk at night, especially late at night – usually after midnight- (if you leave a restaurant at 11 pm you will have no problems) some places are to be avoided. Of course, you’re not going to get mugged for sure if you walk there at night, but two precautions are better than one:
- The Halles district in the 1st arrondissement (groups of young people often wander around and can be intoxicated).
- The Boulogne Woods, very pleasant during the day but at night you may meet strange and weird people (Kind of like in Central Park in NY at night)
- Generally, less touristy areas such as the surroundings of the “Gare de l’Est” and “Gare du Nord”or the “boulevard de Clichy” are also to avoid.
Remember that just because you feel a sensation to be unsafe doesn’t mean you are actually unsafe! Use your common sense and everything will be fine!
How to be a good tourist (and a good Parisian!): The user manual for your first time in Paris.
Now that we have seen the planning aspect of your trip, it is time to take a look at Paris’ mindset. How to enjoy the capital and blend into the crowd to fully enjoy your stay – plus some of the travel mistakes to avoid in Paris.
Learn a few words in French
Most of the French people who work with tourists speak English, but it is always nice for locals to see that foreigners make an effort to speak the local language! You will probably be greeted with a bigger smile.
Of course, you don’t have to speak French fluently but a few words are enough! Here is a small “cheat sheet” to help you during your holidays:
To help you with the pronunciation, you can use the fantastic HowToPronounce
- Bonjour = Hello
- Au revoir = Goodbye
- s’il vous plaît = Please
- Merci = Thank you
- De rien = you’re welcome
- Pardon = Pardon me
- Monsieur = Sir
- Madame = miss
- Oui = Yes
- Non = No
For various circumstances:
- Une carafe d’eau, s’il Vous plaît = tap water, please
- l’addition s’il Vous plaît = The check/bill, please
- A importer s’il vous plaît = Take away, please
- Je ne parle pas Français, désolé = sorry, I Don’t speak English
- Parlez-vous anglais? = Do you speak English?
- Ou est…., s’il vous plaît? = Where is…., please?
If you learn all of this, you will be fine already! Don’t worry if your accent is not good, it’s not the most important and the Parisians will be very understanding.
Politeness is IMPORTANT!
You have noticed in my shortlist of words to learn, many are related to courtesy. In Paris (and France in general) politeness takes a very important place in language and in everyday conversation.
This may seem laughable for some cultures because sometimes polite formulas can be very long, but it is the norm!
So, every time you enter a store, restaurant or any other building, say “hello” to the person who welcomes you and even if that person is occupied by another customer, for instance, it is essential to say “hello” when entering, then to greet the person again once his attention is on you.
Likewise, every time you go out of the building, say “merci et au revoir” (thank you, goodbye) even if you haven’t bought anything, even if the person has barely spoken to you!
In other countries, it may sound normal to walk into a café, sit down and demand a coffee without saying anything else. In France, when you arrive, it is important to say hello, then imperatively say “please” after asking for a coffee, then thank the waiter each time he serves you.
It may seem repetitive and even sometimes a little hypocritical, but you will be much better welcomed if you behave in this way, believe me! The stereotype of the rude Parisian comes essentially from a simple cultural difference with the English-speaking countries.
The standards are simply not the same in Paris as in London or New York. If you understand that, you have understood everything and it will be easier to adjust to the local culture. Always be prompt to say hello and thank you, and you will be good!
Another small detail that is often forgotten by tourists is to pay attention to the volume of your voice. In Paris, it is considered very harsh to speak too loudly. Remember that if the volume of your voice is normal for you it will probably be too loud for the Parisians. This advice is particularly relevant to the restaurant but also in the street and in shops. Pay attention to the volume of the locals (not other tourists!) and adapt yourself accordingly.
Tipping in Paris, not excepted but always appreciated!
Unlike in other parts of the world, tipping is not mandatory in France. The service is always included, you can read “service compris” (service included) on the bill.
The French are proud of this and only tip if the service has been good or even exceptional – if the waiter has paid particular attention to you and has done his job really well.
In France, the tip is, therefore, a way of emphasizing the quality of a good waiter, rather than something mandatory and necessary. This encourages good behavior and rewards the best waiters. If the service has not been good, or just mediocre, the idea of leaving a tip will not even occur to a Parisian!
In France, a service is considered good if the waiter approaches you and disturbs you as little as possible! While in other countries the server must be the most present and available. In France, they must give you time to think about what you want to order, give you space between courses and disturb you as little as possible.
It is also considered harsh if the waiter brings the bill himself, so if you are in a hurry ask for it, and don’t forget to say please.
If you want to give a tip, there is no preconceived amount, forget the 10% or 15% stuff and give what you want. Whether it’s a €2 coin or a €10 bill. Each tip will be appreciated. A good way to reward the merchant is also to let him “keep the change”.
Organize your visits
If you wish to visit several attractions during your stay, good planning is essential, here is some information that will help you!
Be aware that many museums and sights are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays, so remember to check the individual website or the tourism office before going there. Most grocery stores are closed on Sundays.
Avoid restaurants that offer “continuous service”, i.e. that serve all day long. They are often expensive tourist traps whereas the standard is not high enough. Most good Parisian restaurants serve lunch (12 to 2 pm) and dinner (7 pm to 10:30 pm). Remember to book if you want to be sure to find a table!
This may surprise some people but fast food restaurants are closed at night!
To save a little money – there are a lot of Passes including entrance tickets to attractions, monuments, discounts for shows and activities, do not hesitate to check out popular tours and entry tickets from the getyourguide website. Be aware that not all passes are necessarily suited to your desires, so be sure to calculate everything according to what you want to do.
Expect long queues. To keep the wait to a minimum, think about buying your tickets online on the official websites of the place. Some Passes also offer a “line cut” option for certain attractions. Book early as the most popular places like the Eiffel Tower are sold out very quickly! Below are some of the skip the line tickets and tours you should purchase in advance to beat the long queues.
- Skip the line entry ticket to the Eiffel tower.
- A guided tour of the Versailles palace with an entry ticket but if you want to DIY, then opt for this entry ticket that comes with an audio guide
- Skip the line entry ticket to the Louvre Museum
- Arc de Triumph rooftop skip the line entry ticket
- The Seine river dinner cruise
If you are running out of ideas of things to do, don’t hesitate to consult my other articles about the best places to visit in Paris or the Hidden gems in Paris to see the unusual things to do in the capital.
Have the right Mindset, let it go and enjoy!
This is your first time in Paris and I know you want to see as much as possible and make the most of your few days in the capital.
However, I can only advise you to wander as much as possible. The French have a word dedicated to that: “Flaner”, which means to walk in the streets, without any real purpose, but just follow your desires and instincts.
Paris is full of unexpected beauty and the best way to discover its hidden treasures is to stroll from street to street and let the wind take you away. Even if you have little time to visit the capital, try to spend at least one afternoon exploring the streets around your hotel for example, or simply follow the Seine and its canals, you will not regret it and you’ll be charmed by what the city hides from you.
It is important to know how to take your time, rather than to fill your day with diverse activities – allow yourself a little time to just walk around the city according to your desires, you will thank me later!
If you like to make the most of your time and are afraid of missing something, try to take a step back and tell yourself that no matter what happens you will miss something no matter how organized you are! So instead of stressing yourself out, let yourself go and Enjoy!
I hope I have helped you plan your first trip to Paris with this post, now all I have to do is wish you a pleasant stay in Paris and have a great time! And if you have any more questions about traveling to Paris for the first time, just leave them in the comment section and I will be of help.
More posts to inspire your wanderlust
- Everything you need to know before traveling to Africa for the first time
- Things to know before traveling to India for the first time
- Istanbul tips for first-time travelers
- Paris in winter packing list
- Romantic things to do in Paris
- How to visit the Eiffel tower
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