Polish your French accent, wanderers. We’re going to Paris. Even if it’s just for a few days, let’s experience la vie Parisienne and I promise you it’s going to be très bien!
Ernest Hemingway once said himself, ‘There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.’ No wonder Paris is one of the most visited destination in the world. That being said, long queues, crowds, tourist scams, and other unpleasant incidents are to be expected. It’s the down side of being the world’s favourite city to travel to. And while I was never a fan of Paris in the first place when my parents took me there as a teenager, it might’ve been love at second sight and Paris has a new big fan now, me!
So hang tight and read on so I can give you an understanding of the best ways to see Paris.
To start off, here are some extra cool tips when visiting Paris so you don’t trap over the things other tourists don’t know.
Don’t Fall For The Shell Game Scam
The shell game scam commonly comes in two forms. One is finding the small ball under three cups or matchboxes as the dealer shuffles them quickly around either on a little table or on the pavement. The other alternative is finding the white marker on the bottom side of one of the three discs.
To unsuspecting victims, the game seems legit because of the people playing and winning it but in fact, those people are in on the scam as well. Better steer off this seemingly honest game.
Book Tickets Online To Avoid Long Queues
Long queues are always a chore especially in Paris where there are so many sights to see and a lot of sightseers wanting to see them as well. Save yourself from long hours of standing in line to buy a ticket, just book your tickets on the Internet instead.
Online booking is available for the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre Museum, Montparnasse Tower, The Pantheon, and Sainte-Chapelle. If you’re a total museum buff, just purchase the Paris Museum Pass to visit all the museums and surrounding sights. Tickets are also sold online for Disneyland Paris, Paris transport pass and many more.
Don’t Eat On The Famous Champs-Élysées
As tempting it may be to dine at one of the many restaurants and cafés along the popular Avenue des Champs-Élysées, I tell you the grandeur of the place doesn’t make up for the high prices and low quality food that will be served to you.
Generally, restaurants and bars close to any famous sight and landmark have very expensive prices and are questionable if you want to try real authentic French food. Instead, get your fill around the Bastille district or St. Germain, two cool areas which are far but not too far from all the famous sights and still serve up decent food at reasonable prices.
Choose Small Restaurants With French Menus
There is no questioning the par excellence of classic French restaurants with many Michelin star restaurants to choose from but that comes at a much higher cost per dish. If you want to save rather than splurge and still get a taste of French cuisine, here’s my ultimate tip!
Search for Parisian bistros and smaller brasseries where locals line up and where the menus are in French and not in English. Brunches are common in Paris and though it may seem costly at around $16, they usually are very filling and sizeable.
Go On Top Of Tour Montparnasse Observation Deck Instead Of The Eiffel Tower
The waiting time to go up the Eiffel Tower is borderline unbearable. Sure, the view is great but there’s a much better alternative. Instead of seeing Paris from the top of Eiffel Tower, head over to Tour Montparnasse Observation Deck. No more than 2 miles away from the Eiffel Tower sits the Tour Montparnasse skyscraper.
In just 38 stunning seconds on their elevator, you’ll be whisked up to the 56th floor that has an indoor observatory with multimedia displays about the city and its landmarks. Take the stairs to the 59th floor and see Paris laying at your feet from this al fresco terrace. Seeing the cityscape through Tour Montparnasse is not only prettier but much less of a hassle too.
The absolute cherry on top is that your pictures of Paris aerial view will now include the famed Eiffel Tower.
If you keep all these things in mind, you will have an amazing time exploring Paris just like I did. And now here are the seven different ways to have a great time seeing all the many sights Paris has to offer. And believe me, a lifetime might now be enough to see it all.
#1 Cruise Paris By Scooter
Paris’ Vespas are world-renowned, making appearances in oh so many films and books. For your Paris tour with a cute Vespa, there’s only one place to call and that’s Paris by Scooter.
If you want to explore the city of love at your own pace and time, you can rent a Vespa for 24 hours starting from $69. If you prefer a guided tour with a Vespa driver and guide, the day tour will set you back $249. Add another passenger for an additional $50.
I absolutely loved this way of seeing Paris because that’s truly how the locals would do it too and you can literally stop of anywhere interesting that catches your eye.
#2 See Paris By Foot
Paris has 20 arrondissements or neighbourhoods. All of which are a thrill to explore on foot.
My top 3 favourites are:
- The Latin Quarter
- The Marais
I’d say, pick one and just go and discover its hidden beauty. Comfy shoes are a must for this sort of sightseeing tour.
Montmartre’s atmosphere is way different than the elegant, old-age style of metro Paris. What you can expect in Montmartre are neon signs, racy shops, and bargain stores. Its’ key features are the Moulin Rouge, Basilica de Sacre-Coeur, Church of St. Pierre, Maison Rose restaurant, Montmartre Museum, Lapin Agile Cabaret, and Bateau Lavoire where Picasso’s studio was located before.
If you’re travelling on a budget, the Latin Quarter is the place to go. It’s a mecca for budget travellers, artists, and international students. Other than being budget-friendly, the Latin Quarter is also known for its active, social vibe attested by the numerous bars and night clubs locals and tourists would drop in after hours. Other must-sees here are The Pantheon, The Sorbonne, markets of Rue Mouffetard, Church of St. Severin, and Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop.
Apparently you can even stay here for free for a night or two or even longer, so if you are ever stranded in Paris with no place to stay, you could be Tumbleweeding at Shakespeare & Co., as they call it! Essentially they will provide you with a place sleep in return of a few hours of work in the bookshop. How cool is that! Even if you didn’t run out of money and needed a free place to stay in Paris, I would almost do it for the experience of sleeping between literary history, young writers and old classics. Kinda romantic no?
Lastly, possible my most favourite out of all of them – even though it’s super hard to pick! Le Marais is essentially a melting pot of different cultures. It’s mainly a Jewish neighbourhood but recently Asians and Algerians have also come to this place. The Jewish immigrants were cloth makers and today, Le Marais is filled with trendy fashion boutiques, restaurants and individual stores.
Le Marais also boasts with art and history as you will see in the many museums, art galleries, chic cafés and shops. The serene public squares are also something you shouldn’t miss. Top attractions in Le Marais includes Musee Picasso, Musee des Arts et Metiers, Place de la Bastille, Bastille Opera House, Victor Hugo’s House and the Jewish History and Art Museum.
#3 Swoosh Past The Best Of Paris By Bike
Another way to witness the different Paris attractions, through bicycle! Blue Bike has some cutes bikes to tour around with. Within 4 hours, you can see the best of what Paris has to offer.
First stop is at the Notre-Dame Cathedral and their interesting gargoyles. Then, on to Musée d’Orsay where you can see the best impressionist paintings. Cycle along the Seine River and stop by Pont Alexandre III bridge to learn its history. Over the river, you’ll find Hotel des Invalides where you will get to know the infamous Napoleon Bonaparte. For lunch, you’ll grab a bite at the market street called Rue Cler where there are numerous food stalls and cafés to choose from.
After you get your food down and your energy back up, you’ll head over to the most famous sight in Paris, the Eiffel Tower. Then, on to the Grand and Petit Palais buildings. Have you heard about Marie-Antoinette? You’ll learn more about her at Place de la Concorde. Last on the itinerary is a visit (from the outside at least) to the home of Mona Lisa, the grand Louvre Museum. That’s a great route for any first time traveller to Paris!
If you want to see the hidden treasures of Paris that are off the beaten path, Blue Bike also offers the Hidden Paris Bike Tour which will take you a 400-year old building, to the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop, past the city’s oldest tree and through the side alleys of the Latin quarter to learn about the Street Art movement. You’ll go past the oldest café in the entire world, then through the enticing smell of the market street of Rue de Buci, then to the church featured in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code where you can spot the Rose Line.
After that, you’ll go past an alley where you can marvel at a backwards poem, then to the Pantheon where the greatest of the French are laid to rest. After that interesting first half, you can have lunch at the different food choices on rue Mouffetard. Then, your bike tour commence again and you’ll head over to the Roman Arena that has withstood over 2,000 years. After that blast to the past, you’ll head over to Le Marais and its Jewish neighbourhood. On to Rue des Rosiers with its charming boutiques and kosher diners, and on to the pretty plaza of Place des Vosges.
Both tours are a beautiful of seeing the city, so it’s your choice if you want to see the standard sights or go off the beaten path in Paris. Or maybe do both!
#4 See Paris With A Boat Cruise
See for yourself how Paris was dubbed City of Lights while joining a (potentially quite romantic) dinner cruise on the Seine River. Bateaux Parisiens takes you aboard a stylish all-glass boat as you cruise by Tour Eiffel, Musee d’Orsay, Institut of France, Notre Dame, Louvre, to name a few. The dinner cruise includes a choice of starter, main dish, and dessert. You can also book a special window seat if you prefer.
If you’re travelling in a bigger group or with the family, an alternative would be to book a private and exclusive cruise. River Limousine offers a luxury Venetian water taxi to take you past the Eiffel Tower, the Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre and Notre Dame de Paris. You can schedule your individual Paris cruise at dawn, during the day, or at night. The trilingual captain Josef Anticevic will make sure a fun ride is coupled with interesting facts about Paris.
#5 Get A Taste Of The Real Paris With A Food Tour
If you not only wish to see Paris but also get a taste of Paris, take on a food trip with Secret Food Tours Paris. Your Parisian culinary experience includes chocolates, macarons, breads and baguettes, cheese, French hams and cured sausages, crepes, wine, and a secret dish to get excited about.
This tour guides you through the Montmatre area and I cannot recommend this tour enough!! Not only had I some fantastic French food, I also learned a lot about local produce, how to spot quality food and restaurants that locals go to and where authentic food is served.
Pierre-Jean, my guide of the secret food tour was so knowledgable about food, from chocolate to cheese, baguette to meats and wine, he had the whole group taste and see the differences in quality and origin, which definitely made me rethink a few things I am very thankful for. Because he’d grown up in the area too he had some great stories to tell from his childhood and how the area has changed over time to be what it is today.
#6 Get A Personal, Local Guide
When a local is your tour guide, you’re sure to know that you’ll have an authentic Parisian experience. Paris Greeters is a group of passionate volunteers who give free tours to travellers from all around the globe.
There is no fixed itinerary. It’s up to the volunteer guide to take you to different places in Paris, you just tell them in advance what you are interested in and you will be matched to a guide. You can go one-on-one with the guide or in a group of up to 6 people. It’s all free but donations are always welcome. Simply sign-up here.
#7 The Classic Hop On Hop Off Bus
Big Bus Paris is a convenient and comfortable way of getting around the city of love and to see Paris’ points of interest. There are two sightseeing routes – the Classic Route – Red that goes by the famous landmarks and iconic attractions in Paris and the other is the Montmartre Route – Blue which explores the bohemian side of the city.
You’ll go aboard of one of the eye-catching red open-air tour buses and have the freedom to hop on and off whenever want to explore the different neighbourhoods more closely. There are one of two day passes. Or you can also book a 1-day pass inclusive of a river cruise.
There surely is no place like Paris. There is so much to see and so much to do, make sure you take your time. The city is full of history and culture and romance that is just waiting to be discovered.
With all these tips for your trip to Paris, I can almost guaranteed you it will be a magical one. And you might just fall in love with it, even if it’s a second sight like it was for me! Warning though, packing your suitcase and leaving Paris is going to be tougher than you think…