7 Things NOT to Do in Paris
So you are finally going to Paris and fulfilling a life-long dream. I bet you have people coming out of the woodwork giving you advice on things to do there: “See the Mona Lisa;” “attend Sunday services at Notre Dame;” “be sure to take a Seine River sightseeing cruise.” The list can go on and on! So I am not going to bore you with more suggestions… I am going to give you my top 7 things NOT to do in Paris. Because, while a holiday in Paris is always worthwhile, there are lots of ways to waste your time and money while there. So I hope you enjoy, and take my suggestions to heart. They come from my own experience and the experiences of many clients I have sent to Paris over the years.
1. Don’t wait in line at the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is not one of the world’s most visited monuments for nothing. However, waiting in long lines is not the ideal way to spend precious vacation time – and you don’t have to. Active visitors can walk the 328 steps to the tower’s first level and take the lift from there. Quite honestly, the view above the first level is not very good. Since Paris is so flat, if you go any higher, you are basically looking at the rooftops instead of the buildings. You can also easily go online to the Eiffel Tower website (click here to open the site in a new tab) and reserve a time to minimize your wait. You can also make a reservation for lunch or dinner at the 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant and get priority access to the elevators. For a truly memorable event, book a table at Alain Ducasse’s Le Jules Verne restaurant on the tower’s second floor (3-course lunch, €105, approximately $130; 5-course dinner, €190, approximately $235). Along with gorgeous views, you’ll dine in splendor and arrive like a VIP on a dedicated elevator.
2. Don’t waste time on the Champs-Élysées
Though this famous shopping street is still spectacular for an afternoon stroll and some people watching, its shine has been tarnished by dealerships, megastores, and touristy cafés. With a few notable exceptions, you’ll primarily find chain stores, many of which are American. If you want a true Parisian shopping experience, visit some of the boutiques located in smaller neighborhoods, or even the local street markets!
3. Don’t avoid (or be scared of) the Paris Metro
The Paris Metro system is safe, clean, and one of the most convenient and economical ways to get around. It is very user-friendly once you get the hang of it. Pick up a map at the yellow information booth at most Metro stations. Next purchase a carnet of 10 tickets (€14.50), and you’re good to go. Metros will take you within a few minutes’ walk of almost anywhere in Paris, without having to contend with traffic or worry that you’re being taken for a ride by a greedy taxi driver. Paris’ Metro stations are increasingly automated. Although the majority have manned information booths, a few do not, so have cash on hand. Ticketing machines are available in English. The machines take cash or a credit card with a chip, and you can buy tickets with a standard credit card at any information booth. Don’t be intimidated!
4. Don’t skip the smaller museums
Sure, you can spend a day fighting crowds in the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay. However, Paris is a treasure trove for small, gem-like museums. Many of these incredible museums are at onetime private mansions that remain exactly as they were when the inhabitants, famous or not, lived there. The list is long, and many of these museums are run by the City of Paris and therefore free (or low cost) to the public. Don’t forget the mid-size museums, like the Musée Carnavalet (currently closed for renovations), Musée de l’Orangerie where Monet’s famous “Water Lilies” paintings are displayed so beautifully, and the excellent Musée Rodin where you can enjoy a glass of wine or cup of coffee in the gardens while pondering Rodin’s famous “The Thinker” sculpture.
5. Don’t rely on taxis late at night
You can spend an hour looking and still not find a taxi. Even if you do, you may still get attitude or the runaround from the driver. Unlike New York and other major cities, you can’t depend on flagging down a taxi in Paris. Further, the taxi stand system is maddening and unreliable, even in the daytime. Smartphone car services, like Uber, LeCab, AlloCab and others operating in Paris, have become an excellent alternative. Increasingly popular (despite semi-successful attempts by taxi drivers to have them legally abolished), they provide fast, reliable service—usually in English—and are almost unfailingly courteous. And you won’t have to worry about being “taken for a ride” by a surly taxi driver who thinks you are being lazy for not walking the 20 minutes back to your hotel at 11:00pm (true story…he really told me that!)
6. Don’t think tours are too “touristy”
There are tons of excellent tours—on foot or bicycle—that can show you sides of Paris you may not see on your own, offer insider tips and historical facts, get you past the lines and into VIP places, and enrich your entire experience. For 20 years, Paris Walks has offered a series of enticing strolls, led by friendly, knowledgeable experts, exploring everything from fashion and chocolate to churches, along with specific neighborhoods and historic themes. For the more adventurous, Fat Tire offers day and nighttime tours in Paris and beyond. You can tour on a Segway or bicycle, and can even select a “Skip the Line” tour to spend closing time with the Mona Lisa. And definitely think about taking a day tour outside of Paris to either the Champagne region, the Loire Valley or to Normandy and the D-Day Beaches – either on a big tour bus or a small van with just a few of your new best friends!
7. Don’t leave your kids at home
Paris is an amazingly kid-friendly city, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you follow basic rules of etiquette (and common sense), you and your kids will have a great time. For starters, every museum, foundation, arts center, and park in the city has a comprehensive list of activities for kids, some in English. Paris’s top hotels have added new attractions for kids, including cooking classes and tours, leaving parents some free time to hit the spa. The parks in Paris are amazing – with imaginative playgrounds, puppet theaters, historic merry-go-rounds, fountains and ponds to sail boats in. And don’t forget that Disneyland Paris is a short train ride out of the city! Parisian children are treated like little princes and princesses, and your kids will be well-pampered during their visit as well!
Yes, Paris is ALWAYS a feast ! Walking on the steps of Hemingway, Faulkner, Stein, James, Wharton not to mention Jefferson, Franklin and the like 🙂
I agree Olly! Paris is a fabulous city and not to be missed!
Thanks for the great tips, Jan! I was in Paris twice, but over 20 years ago. Looking forward to another trip.
My pleasure, Alyse! Paris feels like my second home. I really love it there! I would love to help you plan your next Paris visit!