This summer I imagine a lot of people will be visiting Paris. It’s an easy city to get around in with a compact layout and excellent subway system. It, of course, has amazing history and architecture. There are hundreds of blog posts on what to look out for and what not to miss so I won’t go into the basics of visiting. But I thought it might be useful to offer some random small tips for visiting Paris that I discovered when I lived there.
- In a store or restaurant, always start off using ‘Bonjour’ and end with ‘Merci.’ I know it sounds obvious and you may have read this before but it really matters. Many of us get nervous when we don’t speak the language and jump right in with English. Don’t. That tiny display of respect will go a long way in endearing you to them. And trust me, once you break through with a French person, they will go to great lengths to help you.
- Ask for a courtyard room in a hotel or apartment. Unless your hotel is on a one-lane, out-of-the-way street, you will probably hear street noise. Scooters are the worst. They will roar right past your window and wake you up. You’ll also hear the rumble of trucks a lot. Best to be on the quiet side.
- In a restaurant where the front door is propped open, if you can, sit far away from the door. There’s no smoke any longer in Parisian restaurants but people can smoke on the patios. That smoke can waft straight inside and onto your face as you eat.
- Speaking of eating, before I lived in Paris, I’d always wondered how they went from lunchtime until eight o’clock in the evening before they ate. Well, a lot of commuters stop at the bakery on their way home from work, around five o’clock. So, take advantage of the delicious pastries every three feet and have a snack, then eat late. If you walk in a restaurant at six or seven, they’ll barely be ready for you.
- One more thing on restaurants. You don’t have to pay to drink bottled water. You can order “un carafe d’eau,” which means you want water from the tap or sink.
- If there’s a little grocery store or restaurant that you like near wherever you’re staying, frequent it. French owners always appreciate return business and will want to get to know you.
- When visiting the Louvre, skip the tapestries and ceramics and (for me) Egyptian/Roman artifacts. Figure out the era or style of art you want to see and just visit those sections. You can be finished in three hours and not feel exhausted and overwhelmed.
- In terms of the different neighborhoods, I love Saint-Germain. It’s got the boutiques and arty quality I like in a neighborhood. But I think The Marais is the best place to stay if you’re a tourist. You can literally walk to Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Seine, The Pompidou Center, the Jardin des Tuileries, and the Place des Vosges. It’s an outstanding location for hitting all of the main attractions.
This summer if you’re visiting Paris, drop me an email! I’d love to hear about your travels! Bon voyage.