I could give you a laundry list of things to see and do when visiting Paris. Of course, you'll want to visit the Eiffel Tower, check out the Louvre, and venture out towards the Palace of Versailles.
But ultimately, exploring the magic of Paris requires a uniquely tailored experience for you. That's why this article isn't going to give you a rundown on where to go and what to see. Besides, you can find that here.
Whatever you decide to do with your time in Paris, here's a quick checklist to get the most out of your experience and navigate Paris like a model tourist.
Know the Area You’re Staying In
The city of Paris is constructed of 20 arrondissements (or districts). When visualizing how each arrondissement is laid out, think of a cinnamon bun swirl (because food explains everything). The 1st arrondissement is in the middle or city center. As you work your way towards the city outer limits, you get to the 20th arrondissement. You'll want to know which arrondissement you're staying in and the ones you’re in when walking about.
If you're not sure, the street signs will tell you which one by listing the number with the abbreviation, arr. So, if you're in the 4th arrondissement, the street sign will read "4th arr."
Use the Metro To Get Around
By far, the cheapest and most efficient way to get around Paris is by utilizing the metro system. It's effortless to navigate. If you download Maps.me, as I talked about in a previous article, you'll be able to maneuver the city's metro stops like a local.
If you're going to be in Paris for more than three days, I recommend buying a book of 10 metro tickets. Each ticket is one-way on the metro and is typically €1.90, but you save a few cents when you buy them as a book of 10. And trust me, you will need them.
As an additional note of common courtesy, pay attention when there are elderly passengers around that don't have a seat and be prepared to give up yours. If not, expect the stare of death from your fellow metro riders.
Always Carry Cash
This is especially true if you have an American Express card, as it isn't widely accepted throughout Europe. International Visa and Mastercard are typically taken, but you may find yourself frequenting shops that would prefer cash.
Learn the Basics Of Speaking French
Overall, my experience has been that most Parisians speak English. However, many don’t speak it fluently. The French are proud citizens who love their language – As they should.
There’s this myth the French are rude to tourists, but I’ve found that to be absolutely untrue. Nonetheless, it goes a long way when you attempt their native tongue.
Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart”.
And boy did I experience that first-hand.
I was in a coffee shop in the 4th arrondissement and attempted to order my expresso (or une café) in French. Needless to say, my French was horrible, but the cashier was extremely friendly and understanding. He saw that I was trying to make an effort, and he matched it with an extra dose of kindness.
If you genuinely want to enhance your Parisian experience, try speaking a few words in French and see where it goes.
I personally used Duolingo, along with a few other methods, as I talked about in an article here. But here are a few essential words to get you by:
Hello – Bonjour
Goodbye – Au revoir
Thank you – Merci
Excuse Me – Excusez-Moi
Please – s’il vous plait
Do you speak English? - Parlez-vous anglais?
I don’t speak French – Je ne parle pas francais
Pardon – Pardon (I included this because it’s typically used when getting off the metro and needing to get by people or bumping into someone on accident)
Say Hello and Goodbye When Entering and Exiting a Shop
If there are three key phrases you should master, it should be hello, goodbye, and thank you. The French are extremely polite and formal, so they greet the shopkeepers upon arriving and thank them and say goodbye when they leave.
Secure the Bag
That is - your literal bag. As with many major cities, there are pickpockets galore in Paris. Typically, they tend to hang out around tourist hotspots like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and corresponding metro stops. The last thing you want to do is be a victim of a snatched bag or unknown cash grab. Carry a crossbody bag or one that’s really secure and always makes sure it’s within sight and firmly in your grip.
Discover Paris’ Monuments and Landmarks Via the Seine River at Night
They don’t call Paris the city of lights for nothing. It really is a sight to behold. I’d say it’s best to do while cruising down the Seine River. There are tons of boat cruises you could sign up for. I personally did a dinner cruise on Thanksgiving Day. The highlight being able to see the glimmering Eiffel Tower, along with a ton of other Parisian landmarks.
If you can manage this list of guidelines, you’re well on your way to the Parisian experience of a lifetime!