Ten Simple Tips to Enjoy Paris Even More
Paris is the most beautiful city in the world. But as with all cities, there are always a few tips or tricks that can make the difference between a good experience and a great one. Here are a few useful tips compiled over the years by my wife and I to help you enjoy it even more and possibly save you some money along the way. Be safe, eat well and have some fun.
- Metro. Paris is a city for walking but the metro system is very good and you will definitely use it while you are here. You can buy a book/carnet of 10 metro tickets for 13.30 (vs 1.70 individual ticket) directly at a kiosk in almost every metro station. Bring cash with you, however.
- Restaurants. While Paris is rightfully know as a gastronomic center, there are a lot of bad meals to be had too. There is a great website (www.lafourchette.com) which offers discounts (e.g. 30% off) on many restaurants throughout the city. We use it regularly to get ratings and to take advantage of their offers. While walk-ins are possible (the earlier timeslots 12 noon or 7pm are better), many of the nicer restaurants are usually booked in advance and will need reservations. Most restaurants offer a “formule” for lunch for around 20-30 euros. Above all, avoid eating at cafes or restaurants too close to the major sights which cater to tourists. Tip: If the menu outside is in English or if they serve spaghetti/hamburgers, onion soup, etc… give them a pass. If you just walk a little further and take a side street, chances are that the food will be a lot better. Look for where the locals gather or where Parisians have their business lunches.
- Splurge on Dining. Paris is expensive. Don’t bother looking for cheap meals if you want to have a gastronomic and memorable experience. In Paris, like in most of France, it is worth paying an extra 30%-50% to eat in a higher quality restaurant (think: lunch menus for 25-35 Euros versus <20 Euros). You are more likely to enjoy the experience and less likely to kick yourself for having settled on a cheap/lousy meal elsewhere. France, like any other country, has its fair share or really bad or mediocre restaurants. It is hard, though not impossible, to eat well at a sub 20 Euro per person restaurant. Raise your budget to 30+ Euros and all of a sudden your options increase considerably and so does the quality. At 40 Euros, you can eat at a Michelin starred restaurant (drinks not included).
- Tipping. In France, the meal prices almost always include tax and service. If you are not sure, just look on the menu for the letters “TTC” which mean “Toutes Taxes Comprises” (all taxes included). SC means “Service Compris” (service charges included). Additional tipping is totally optional and not expected of the diner. However, leave a few extra Euros if the service has been particularly attentive and courteous. Meanwhile, Paris is chock full of musicians, artists and street performers. Be sure to spare a few coins for talented ones who bring a touch of color or music to the metropolis. They often lead a precarious existence and deserve some support.
- Sundays & Mondays. Many stores and restaurants are closed on Sunday (and museums on Mondays or Tuesdays) so it’s a good idea to plan ahead for sightseeing and to shop for groceries when stores are open.
- Avoid Waiting in Lines. Take advantage of buying tickets in advance (e.g. Eiffel Tower, Versailles) to avoid what are usually very long lines. Sometimes showing up later in the morning or in the afternoon (instead of opening hours which is when the tour buses show up) is best. If you plan on visiting a lot of sights, you can buy a Paris Museum Pass for 2 (39 euros) or 3 days which gives you free entry to many of the main sights and you usually can skip the lines.
- Be Safe. In any city, you need to be careful of pickpockets wherever there are crowds (metro, cafes, and museums). Unfortunately, asians are an easy target as they are known to carry lots of cash. Overall, Paris is very safe and violent crime is rare. We strongly suggest you keep your expensive handbags and jewelry at home. You will see groups of young Roma/Gypsy girls and boys who will ask for money or swarm you to pick your phone or wallet. Politely say no and keep walking, fast. Also, don’t fall for the trick where a stranger points out a gold ring on the floor near you as you pass by. It’s a scam, keep walking. Finally, try not to use your smartphone on the train or metro. I’ve seen people have their iPhones snatched right out of their hands just before the doors closed.
- Picnic in Paris. One of the best ways to experience Paris (and save money) is to have a picnic. For food, I recommend getting a nice roasted chicken from a boucherie. The best ones come from Boucherie Fillion on Rue des Belles Feuilles (16eme near Place de Mexico and the Trocadero). 8 Euros will get you a succulent herb flavored roasted chicken. For one more Euro, you get a portion of potatoes that have been “bathed” in the dripping juices of the roasting chickens. Don’t forget to ask for extra jus/sauce and linger in front of the roasting fire, inhaling the sweet aromas. Alternatively, you can hit a local street market (ask a local when and where they are) and purchase all you need for your picnic (cheeses, bread, wine, pate, charcuterie, pastry, etc…). Finally, enjoy your food on the banks of the Seine or pick a park bench in one of the city’s many public parks. The Tuilleries, Luxembourg and Monceau are great places but there are many other smaller and more intimate parks to chose from.
- Treats! Don’t forget to enjoy all the wonderful chocolate shops (Patrick Roger – several locations, La Maison du Chocolat – several locations), pastry & macaron shops (Pierre Herme-several locations) and open air markets (usually in the mornings) throughout the city. It is a feast for the senses. No need to worry about the calories as you will be walking it all off. Right?
- First Sundays of the month. Each month, on the first Sunday, almost all national museums open their doors for free to the public. Be sure to time your trip and museum visits around this fantastic freebie.
Let me know if you found this helpful or if you have any comments or additional tips to share.
photo credit: roboppy via photopin cc