Paris, or the ‘City of Love’ as it’s more fondly known, usually ranks quite high on the avid traveller’s list of places to visit, and rightly so.
Stemming from a love of the movie ‘Moulin Rouge’, I yearned for the opportunity to travel to Paris and experience French culture for myself. For me, that opportunity came at the age of 20, as I set off on a European adventure with one of my high school friends.
From the moment I arrived at the Charles de Gaulle airport, I was in awe of this beautiful city. Although I will admit, being a tourist in a country like France is not as easy as it seems.
Here’s some handy hints for first timers to Paris, to ensure your trip is a little smoother than mine:
1. No one expects you to speak perfect French, but they’ll love it if you try
The common stigma that French people are rude/arrogant is really not true at all. French people are perfectly friendly, as long as you make the effort to speak the local language. At the very least, learn how to say ‘parlez vous anglais? (do you speak english, for those of you playing at home) eight times out of ten, they’ll happily oblige. It’ll definitely come in handy when you’re trying to ask for directions.
2. Hit the pavement
There’s so much to see in Paris, and on foot is easily the best way to do so. Also, a major plus is you can burn off all the bread you’ve been eating. If all else fails or it’s too far to walk, catch the Metro. Unlike Melbourne, European countries have their shit together when it comes to their public transport system. Trains come every two minutes, so you never have to worry about missing one. The Metro in France very closely resembles London’s Tube system, which makes it super easy to get to where you need to go, and a heck of a lot cheaper.
3. Climb the iconic tourist attractions
Sure, every Parisian tourist takes a photo under the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, but the views from the top of these world wonders is something else entirely. Although it’s a lot of work, both monuments can be climbed. You can save money on the Eiffel Tower and climb the first few flights of stairs to the viewing deck, where you can then get an elevator to the very top for a breathtaking view of the city. The Arc de Triomphe, though not as tall, offers another spectacular view of Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in the skyline. Again, great way to burn off your breakfast/lunch/brunch/dinner.
*Bonus tip: If you can get to the Eiffel Tower at around 11pm, do it. You won’t regret it*
4. Buy your passes in advance
Trust me on this one, you don’t want to waste your day with just about every other tourist, in the queue to get into the Louvre/climb the Eiffel Tower etc. Passes for the majority of these tourist attractions can be bought well in advance and save you a lot of time. And if you’re going to Disneyland, buy the multi-park pass. You’ll thank me later.
5. The Moulin Rouge is hella expensive
I couldn’t go to Paris and not visit this amazing place, however I didn’t end up seeing a cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge like I had hoped. For obvious reasons, the Moulin Rouge is a popular tourist attraction, and therefore charge some pretty hefty prices for their cabaret shows. No matter where you end up going for a cabaret show, you’ll still get the same experience; lots of champagne, lots of dancing, lots of tits and a great night out, so do your research.
6. Try the local cuisine
It’s tempting to go into McDonalds or Starbucks for a quick, cheap feed but take the plunge and try something new whilst in Paris. I know, the thought of eating a snail or frog’s legs sound awful right? But give it a go, you only get to do these things once, and to be honest, you’ve probably had worse things in your mouth.
7. Know the name and address of your hotel
This one is crucial. Better yet, take a photo of it on your phone as well. There’s usually multiple hotels with the same name, so this will ensure you end up at the right one. Super handy for when you’ve had a few too many wines and are tasked with finding your own way home.
8. Europeans are crazy drivers
When I got into a cab from the airport to the hotel I would be staying at, I literally saw my life flash before my eyes. Turns out most Europeans are pretty erratic drivers.So make sure you wear a seatbelt. If you don’t believe me, check out the five-lane roundabout in front of the Arc De Triomphe. Crazy stuff.
9. Plan ahead
Paris is a huge city with a lot to see and do. Your time is limited, so plan ahead to ensure you end up ticking all your items off your ‘to do’ list and don’t end up with FOMO.
That being said, don’t run yourself ragged trying to see and do everything in one day. Allow yourself some time to lay around. Have a sleep in, go buy an ice-cream or a croissant or something. Remember, the point of a holiday is to give yourself a break from the everyday hustle and bustle of your life back home. Take a deep breath and enjoy what this city has to offer you.
If you think I’ve missed anything, feel free to leave a comment letting me know!
Till next time!