Welcome to the City of Lights!
Paris is a lively city full of history, culture, diversity, and beauty. There is so much to see that it can be overwhelming, but with these tips and insights, you’ll be able to see the most important places in the city.
Some practical advice:
- The easiest way to get around the city is through public transportation. Taxis are extremely expensive and not worth it. I suggest you only use the metro, which is easier to navigate than the bus system, and walk. You probably want to buy a 10 ticket pack. For two days, it should be more than plenty.
- Manners are extremely important to the French. Always, always say “Bonjour” when you enter a place, otherwise you’ll be greeted coldly and even rudely.
- Beware of pickpockets. Keep all valuables in the bottom of your backpack/bag/purse/etc, and be aware of your things in the metro.
- You will most likely encounter extremely rude waiters, don’t take it personally, it’s the French way of service.
- Don’t worry too much about walking by yourself at night, Paris is a pretty safe city and most places are well lit and populated well into the night. The city is beautiful in the day time but it is breathtaking at night. A trip to Paris is not complete without some night strolling. Just make sure you stay out of certain neighborhoods (especially those in the North East of the city), follow your instincts, and avoid empty streets.
- Not all crêpes are created equal. Avoid crêpe stands that are right next to landmarks, they’re always the worst. Never trust a crêpe stand where they have the crêpe already made, make sure they make it right in front of you.
- Avoid making eye contact with people in the metro. It sounds awful but making eye contact or smiling at people will single you out as a tourist.
Where to stay:
The city center is obviously the most convenient, but it can be expensive, I would suggest going to the neighborhoods that are right next to the center, like the lower part of the 5th and 6th arrondissements. These arrondissements are a couple of metro stops or a short walk away from the center and might also give you more of a real Parisian feeling. Montmartre is also a good neighborhood to stay in terms of prices and entertainment, but it is farther away from other points of interests. If you’re going to go out at night keep in mind that the Parisian metro closes relatively early (11 p.m.- 2 p.m.).
Where to eat:
If there is one thing the French know how to do is eat well, so pretty much anywhere in the city would be a good place to eat, though if you’re looking for cheaper options avoid touristy places. Kebabs, Falafels, and crêpes are a cheap and delicious option for when you’re walking around during the day, but you should definitely enjoy some of the amazing cuisine the city has to offer.
Montmartre is a good neighborhood to find good and fairly priced restaurants, Au Pied du Sacre Cœur is my personal favorite for French cuisine, and Le Lapin Agile is also good. If you like Asian food then Chinatown offers amazing and inexpensive Asian food. If you’re looking for something off-the-beaten path Le Comptoir General next to the Canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement is a Franco-African restaurant/bar/antique shop/documentary screening place with tasty food and cocktail options. There are also some pretty good restaurants on the left side of the Seine, right in front of Notre-Dame, Auberge Notre-Dame has good fondue that’s not too expensive.
I hope this helps! Good luck and enjoy your first trip to Paris! J