Paris… a magical city with wonders to enjoy at every turn. But with so much history, so many attractions, and so much cultural wealth, how do you take in all of the richness of the City of Lights while in it? Well that’s where I come in! I’ve broken down all of the must see wonders of Paris and how to make the most of your stay while you are here.
1.The Language – First things first, you’ve made it. You’ve endured a long transatlantic flight, flanked by screaming babies, and that guy three rows down that refused to put his shoes back on, but you made it – the payoff is huge, you’re in PARIS! Welcome! But oh no… everything is in French! If only you had paid more attention in your Freshman year French class, but hey, back then it was just about grades, not the “real world application!” But fret not, before you throw your hands up in frustration at your 14 year old self, remember this: a smile is universal. Contrary to popular belief, the French are actually very approachable and willing to help! Just have the basics down if nothing else. When approaching someone to ask for help here are some face saving phrases: Bonjour, Excuse-moi, Désolé, Je ne parle pas Francais. Paris is a multicultural city that millions of people come to visit throughout the year, and they know not everyone will speak French, but this simply shows that you are making an effort. That’s what really counts. If you are polite and approachable yourself, they will return the favor in kind!
2. Transportation – Long heralded as a chic, opulent city, Paris can be pretty pricey – but it doesn’t have to be! Ditch the cabs and chauffeurs and get around as the locals do! Get comfortable with the Metro system. The Paris metro is one of the most reliable and efficient ones I have ever used. Each line is color coded and numbered, so it is very easy to figure out. And remember, with traffic to factor in, you’ll often get to your destination quicker. You’ll enjoy bonus views of the city on the trains and buses that you might miss if you are just cabbing it from point A to point B. Why take a crowded Big Bus when you can enjoy the City bus for much, much less. Trust me, it is absolutely worth it.
If you are here for a at least five days, get yourself a Navigo Pass. It allows you unlimited rides on the metro, bus, and trains around Paris, and it will save you money. Go to the desk in the metro station and they will help you.
*Bonus tip: There is also many great bike sharing apps that you can use to take in the city as well! Biking around Paris is a great way to get around and see the city at your own pace.
3. La Cuisine – There is an expression that goes the French love three things: Eating, Drinking, and L’amour (love!), and boy let me tell you, there is a lot of food and drink to eat and love in Paris. French cuisine is heralded as some of the most delicious cuisine in the world, so go crazy and try it! From Beef Bourguignon to the yummy, fresh pastries (mmm… pastries!) Go crazy! If there is something you are unsure of, ask you server for some help. They are well versed on explaining their dishes to guests because there is pride to be had in sharing a meal, hence the numerous Restaurants and Bistros to be found all over the city. How do you pick a place to grab a bite you may ask? Go where the locals go. If you peek into a cafe and you only see fanny packs and the visitors that come with them, I would avoid it. The best restaurants are the auspicious, hole in the wall spots, with pared-down menus. If the menu is in French only and with very few choices, you have hit the jackpot. This will be an authentic French dining experience. Part of that experience is don’t be in a hurry. Leave yourself 2-3 hours for a meal in a restaurant. I promise you they are not ignoring you, they are giving you time to relax and enjoy the experience. They forgo the frills and glamour because the food speaks for itself. And did I mention dessert? Yeah. Go for dessert…By the way, it’s not only about French Cuisine but food in France. Which is to say EVERYTHING tastes better-cheese, bread, fruits, vegetables because it’s not pumped with anything artificial, it’s locally produced and fresh and the flavor is explosive!!
4. The Attractions – We all know you can’t visit Paris without taking in the attractions, but if you want to get the most out of your visit to The Eiffel Tower or The Catacombs, my top tip is this: book a tour! You may be thinking, “Wait, isn’t that the most “touristy” thing I could do?” and I assure you, it isn’t. Even the French book tours when they are visiting a local site for the first time, the reason for that being you receive the most complete visit to that attraction and learn so much more from a guide then you would on your own. Visiting attractions off season is also a great idea because those endless lines you’ll experience during peak season are cut in half! *Bonus tip: you absolutely can’t leave Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. The iconic view for this is across the river in the plaza at Trocadero. Every hour, on the hour, she puts on a show that is absolutely breathtaking.
My overall tip on how to make the most of your stay in Paris is a simple one: Enjoy it! This city is stunning with so much to offer, so don’t be intimidated and go for a walk, get lost in thought wondering these beautiful, historic streets. All of Paris is worth seeing and with the distinct charm that each neighborhood provides you will have so much to experience – so happy exploring! And be careful-don’t try to do too much, it’s a common pitfall into which many visitors fall. Enjoy what you are doing, do it leisurely, and make a list for your next visit. A bientot!! That means see you soon : )