The City of Lights! The Fashion Capital of the World! Paris is that and more. Home to centuries of history, art, architecture and literature, Paris is the dream destination on many bucket lists. If you are travelling to Paris in 2019 for the first time, you may have a bit of culture shock. You may have preconceived notions of what Paris and Parisians are like. You need to suspend that.
Paris is an amazing city and the Parisians are lovely. The young Parisians are often fascinated with foreigners especially Americans. If you prepare well for your trip to Paris you will successfully enjoy your vacation. If you are able to fit in and can understand Parisian habits, you will enjoy your adventure. You should get the most out of your visit because travelling in Paris is a dream of a lifetime.
Here are some things to know before you visit Paris in 2019.
01. Speak French
Brushing up on your high school French is a good idea. The French will appreciate the effort even if your French is not perfect. Parisians will want to try out their English with and will feel more comfortable communicating in French. Even if you just know the basics like bonjour, au revoir and merci, you will be accepted by Parisians.
02. Parisians are friendly
Contrary to popular belief, Parisians are very friendly. They love to talk to and help foreigners. Young Parisians, in particular, are fascinated by other cultures, especially American. It is also customary in Paris to greet your hostess, waiter or salesperson as you enter and exit a business.
Be sure to say “bonjour”, “merci” and “au revoir”. Another thing to keep in consideration in Paris is that people greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. Parisians do not greet each other with hugs, handshakes or high fives.
03. Parisians are as sophisticated as their city is
Paris is truly the Fashion Capital of the world. Parisians dress up and it is great, as a tourist, to fit in. Think casual clothes with style. Classic elegance is the way to go. Try to avoid wearing tennis shoes, flip flops or t-shirts. You can be comfortable and still look great. Don’t miss the nightlife either. Sophisticated dance clubs and candlelit restaurants are amazing to enjoy.
04. Know the neighborhoods
With its labyrinths and mazes of streets, it would be easy to get lost in Paris. Yet, Paris is laid out in a simple way. The city is made up of 20 arrondissements o neighborhoods. The first starts at the center of the city and spirals around it. Most neighborhoods are referred to by number but some are referred to by name including Montmartre and the Latin Quarter. The Seine River divides the city into the “left bank” and the “right bank”. The left bank is the bohemian area. You will find artists and students there. The right bank is defined by wide avenues, large monuments and luxury hotels. Be sure to consider where you want to stay. Get a good map and use your phone GPS.
05. Take the Metro
As subway systems go, the Metro is surprisingly easy to figure out. Maps are pretty straight forward and there are many stops that will get you close to your destination. If you purchase a “carnet”, you will receive 10 tickets but be sure not to lose them. If you are staying in the city longer than a week, you might benefit from a “carte orange”. Remember that the Metro closes at 1:00 am. Don’t get caught out late at night unless you are willing to pay a high cab fare to get you home.
06. Eating out
Dining in Paris does not need to be expensive. You can enjoy traditional French food without just eating from street vendors. Good French restaurants can be affordable. Look for a “price fixed” menu with a set price. As in any big city, consider making lunch your biggest meal of the day instead of dinner and you will spend less. When you do eat out, an important thing to know is that the French consider dining a leisurely event. Do not rush your meal. Do not expect the bill until you have completed your meal and wait about 10 minutes before paying for your meal so you do not offend. Tips are often included but leave extra when your waiter is good. Do not ask for a “doggie bag”. French meal portions are meant to be eaten and not saved for later.
07. Best time to visit
Paris in the springtime is beautiful. It is the perfect time to tour the city. People will be out and the weather will be temperate. Another option is the fall. Summers can be hot and humid. Avoid August all together. The French take a month off from work. Chances are businesses and tourist destinations will be closed during the month of August. Owners and workers will be enjoying their time off away from the city.
08. Plan your day
Think about what you want to see and do and go from there. If you are a history buff you will want to spend time touring Les Invalides. If you are a museum buff consider the museums you most want to see. You could spend an entire day exploring the Louvre. Museums will be open on Sundays. If you want to see amazing architecture, don’t miss Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur.
If you want to shop, which in Paris is impossible not to, take some time to do that. You can visit famous graves to show your respects to Jim Morrison, Rouseau, Voltaire, Oscar Wilde or Victor Hugo.
You can save money by knowing what to see and what not to see. You will have to pay and wait in line to visit Versailles but you can tour the amazing gardens for free. You don’t need to pay to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower for a beautiful view of the city. You can take in a breath taking view of the city from Montmartre.
09. Save money
There are many free or inexpensive things to do in Paris that are enjoyable. Take the Bateaux Mouches for a great boat tour of the city along the Seine River. Hang out at the Canal Saint-Martin or visit a park to take in Paris and the people around you. Street bands in Paris are very professional so enjoy the music. Remember when visiting parks is there are usually no benches. Instead you can move a chair (or 2 – one to put up your feet) around to where you would like.
Another thing to consider is that Paris has public toilets for a fee. It will cost several centimes to use a public toilet. Some are nicer than other. Look for them in the parks. Do not use a restroom in a restaurant unless you are patronizing it.
10. Avoid the tourist traps
Finally, avoid tourist traps as with any big city. Beware of scammers selling things on the streets. Champs Elysées and Place St. Michel are home to expensive shops and restaurants. There are many offbeat shops that are fashionable and inexpensive in Paris. Paris is an amazing place to visit and explore. You will want to savor and enjoy every moment of your time in this great city. Before you go, however, it is wise to have some tips to get the most out of the culture and to truly enjoy your vacation. Use these tips to get the most out of your incredible journey to the “City of Lights”.