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Tourists Want To Experience ‘Emily in Paris’ for Real

April 25, 2023
Emily in Paris Tour

A journalist from Finland followed in the footsteps of “Emily in Paris” fans on a themed tour in the fashion capital of the world. Read ahead to see what her experience was like. A version of this story originally appeared on HBL.

Tourists love her. The French hate her. But Emily tourism has grown so large that Parisians can no longer avoid her. Apparently Madame Macron herself is a big fan of the popular Netflix series.


An exuberant Spanish woman rushes across the small square at the Place de l’Estrapade and seems to want to embrace a lady in a red beret who is passing by.

She then poses, grinning, in front of the apartment building at the end of the square while her boyfriend takes pictures nearby.

Heidi Higgins and Heather Martens from San Diego sit on a bench by the fountain next door and each eat a baguette.

“Don’t tell my sister I came here. She lives in France and thinks it’s really embarrassing for us Americans who love ‘Emily in Paris.’ But you know, we all have our guilty pleasures,” says Higgins and laughs happily. “We absolutely wanted to come here and see Emily’s home district.”

Emily lived in the house behind Higgins during her stay in Paris. In the square, Emily threw a birthday party for her friends.

Emily in Paris
Photos by Johanna Häggblom

At the Place de l’Estrapade in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, tourists take turns seeing the most famous filming location of the Netflix series.

The series is about a young American, Emily Cooper, who moves to Paris to work for French Savoir, which markets luxury brands. It’s love and culture clashing with money.

The show is a 2020 Netflix series by Darren Star, known for “Sex and the City” and “Younger,” among others. The third “Emily in Paris” season was released in December and has given new impetus to the series.

The title character, Emily Cooper, is from Chicago and moves to Paris as a marketing assistant. The main role is played by Lily Collins, actress and daughter of musician Phil Collins.

What the French say

While the series is praised by viewers, the French media has done its best to refute the stereotypes of the French capital and the French. Among other things, it has been calculated that with the salary she receives as a marketing assistant, Emily would never be able to afford the clothes she wears.

Higgins smiles broadly.

“The French hate the series because Americans created it and hatched the idea. A lot is true, that’s why they hate it.”

Emily makes Higgins think of Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

“They have the same body, the same hair and are the ideal for many,” Higgins says. “I want to look like that too! I also want to be as young as her and dress like her. She is so free, so perfect. That’s almost how I wanted to persuade my children to be like Emily.”

Do they also watch the series?

“No! It should be reality series at that age. ‘Emily in Paris’ is for us who are over 40,” Higgins says.

The great interest in the Netflix series has also caused the tourist operators in Paris to react. For a month now, ExperienceFirst, a tour operator that hosts several tours in Paris, has been promoting guided tours in Emily’s neighborhood.

Rim Tamara runs a fashion agency in Paris and works as a guide for ExperienceFirst. She was commissioned to create and design the tour.

“It was not the easiest because the series is recorded in so many places. I looked through it three times and then drew up a route,” Tamara says.

The tour begins

It’s Friday afternoon and Tamara herself will guide about 10 Emily fans around town for a few hours for the “unofficial” Emily in Paris tour.

We start the tour in Emily’s home neighborhood where she lived and met her new neighbor Gabriel, the chef at the restaurant across the square.

Emily in Paris

“This was not a touristic place before,” says Tamara and points to the door of the Haussman-style apartment building. Someone has laconically spray-painted “Emily not welcome” outside the stairwell door.

“I think the residents have had enough of the tourists. Every day someone tries to sneak into the stairwell and take pictures,” Tamara says.

Emily in Paris

Two who have benefited from the tourist hordes, however, are Johann and Valerio, who own the Italian restaurant Terra Nera next door. The Red Restaurant plays a central role in the series and was originally an old slaughterhouse. The interest in “Emily in Paris” has saved the Italian restaurant during the difficult years following the pandemic.

Senators and local regulars lunch here daily (the Senate is right next door), but now almost every second customer is looking to try the specially composed Emily menu.

There’s Italian espresso in all its glory, but here you can also order an Americano after the meal.

Emily in Paris

The real Paris

We pass the Panthéon where many French scientists and writers are buried, also the place where Emily broke up with her American boyfriend.

In lively Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Tamara has a lot to tell.

“The first university was founded here,” she says. “The students learned Latin, which gave rise to people talking about the Latin Quarter.”

We pass the city’s oldest restaurant, founded in 1686, where tourists queue up to experience the atmosphere that the great artists and writers laid the foundation for hundreds of years ago.

“This is the real Paris. Anyone who hasn’t been to this area hasn’t been to Paris,” says Tamara sternly, stopping on a street corner. “Look around. Paris is much more than Chanel and Dior. Here you see Sandro, Claudie Pierlot, Maje…”

Emily in Paris

German tour-goer Helena Bertrams likes the fashion in “Emily in Paris.” She has seen all the episodes. Her husband, Sebastian, has only seen single episodes that his wife allegedly forced him to watch.

“If there is anyone who has to suffer on this trip, it is him,” Helena says, smiling.

The couple from Cologne were looking for something to spice up their Paris holiday.

“We always book guided tours, mainly to meet people from different countries,” says Sebastian.

“And it’s easier to follow a guide than to guess where the filming locations are via social media, Helena points out.

Emily in Paris

She is joined by Carol Ho from Singapore.

“Sure, Emily in Paris is pure entertainment, a drama and a love story. But at the same time, you get to see many nice places in the series,” Carol adds.

Love and fashion

Fashion is what made Teresa Rullan, another tour-goer, visiting Paris from Costa Rica, love the series.

She has packed several outfits on the trip to be able to take selfies for her Instagram account.

“I must be crazy, but I love this!” she says.

At the Ponts des Arts footbridge, she swaps her gingham checked blazer for a classic bright red Emily skirt.

Emily in Paris Tour

In the past, the bridge was a popular place to hang love locks, with the consequence that the entire bridge was starting to collapse. Nowadays, the railings have been replaced so that it’s no longer possible to hang anything on them.

“Attaching love locks here in town is considered vandalism. You can be fined €160 euros,” says a guide in front of a large group of American tourists a short distance away.

Is it true? Tamara shrugs.

“The police don’t care. They have other things to attend to in this city than guarding tourists in love,” she says.

Emily in Paris Tour

The last stop is the block where Emily worked. A doll in a beret stands in the window of the restaurant next door to where Emily’s colleagues used to enjoy their lunch.

“Come on, who wants a picture of themselves here! This should be an Instagram-friendly trip,” shouts Tamara.

Exploring Montmartre, Emily-style

Just north, in Montmartre, is Rue de l’Abreuvoir, Paris’s most beautiful street. Up on the hill is the bright red restaurant La Maison Rose where Emily and her friend Mindy had lunch.

A hundred years ago you could find Pablo Picasso or Édith Piaf outside here. Today, Binura, Cheneke, and Daba stand smoking a bit from the entrance.

Do they know Emily?

“Of course,” says Binura, who moved to Paris from Sri Lanka three years ago.

He happened to be working on the day of the shoot.

“It was a big team that came here,” he says. “They set up some tables outside and filmed for 15 minutes and then packed everything away. We didn’t have to do much. But they called in advance and made a reservation.”

And that’s good. Here, it’s mandatory to book a table in advance — it’s always full.

Jenny Korhonen and Ella Tirronen come wandering down the picturesque street with the phone’s camera pointed forward.

They know exactly what scene was unfolding here on the street.

“You notice that the series gives a romanticized image of Paris, but wouldn’t it be fun to watch it if the image was completely realistic,” says Korhonen, who studies economics in Vaasa, Finland.

Emily in Paris Tour

Why we love Emily in Paris

Higgins also has an explanation for why the series has become so popular.

“It’s easy to watch, entertaining, and fun when so much else is heavy and depressing… As a kindergarten teacher, I teach children to be happy. I understand why people love ‘Emily in Paris,’” she says.

Emily in Paris

Madison Lindy and Elisabeth Miller from Great Britain are on the same track.

“There is something magical about Paris. It’s beautiful and magical, just like in the series. There is love and history here. I think that’s why many people love ‘Emily in Paris,’” Lindy says.