10 Things NOT to do as a Tourist in Paris – Part 1

April 06, 2023
A friend of mine sent me an article on this subject last month (shout out to Scotty!) and I was immediately intrigued… Afterall, I own a tourist business in Paris, specializing in unique private tours, I spend a lot of time in Paris (about 3 months a year) and I’m loving every moment of this crazy lifestyle Ivan and I have created together.  So, I decided to look at their suggestions and offer some of my own … in 2 parts, one this month and another next month.  Since most of our guests arrive in the summer months, you’ll be able to soak it all in and decide for yourselves what you want your Paris stay to look like before you arrive.

#1. Don’t Feel Bad about Leaving your Heels at Home

Gone are the days when I can wear heels comfortably so it’s gratifying and amazing to see that French women of all ages are all decked out in sneakers these days (!). It’s true… ‘fashion’ and ‘pain’ are no longer synonymous when walking the streets of Paris.  So, unless you’re going over for a special event (wedding, after-hours clubbing, etc.), leave those sexy heels home, polish up your adidas and blend right in with our comfort-savvy sister fashionistas on the Champs-Elysées. 

#2 Don’t just shop at the Grands Magasins

I confess that Galeries Layfayette is my favorite and I stop in there at least once a trip, just to enjoy the eye candy and any sales (last Wednesday in June; first Wednesday in January) that might make my shopping there, feel smart. But Paris has so many fabulous shopping neighborhoods and enclaves, full of unique boutiques and Parisian treasures. The Marais, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the Golden Triangle (Avenues Montaigne, George V, Champs-Elysées), and the Rue Saint-Honoré are the city’s most famous and plentiful… and scores of other streets are ripe for discovery: rues Charonne and Keller, and Oberkampf; the wonderful old market streets Rue des Martyrs and Montorgueil,  and Montmartre; the peerless Palais Royal (making a comeback post COVID); rue Vavin for kids clothing; and rue Beaurepaire at the Canal Saint-Martin. If you want help in figuring out what to look for/where, AmericanConcierge.com offers ‘personal shoppers’ to expedite and enhance any shopping experience.

Note: If you’re looking for a different shopping experience in a bigger store, give a quick run through Le Bon Marché on the left bank the newly restored Art Nouveau La Samaritaine (outlandish and very pricey).

#3 Don’t Leave Meals in Tourist Areas up to Chance

In general, the Champs-Élysées, the Latin Quarter, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre’s Place du Tertre all offer tourist havens where the menus are large and the food is mediocre.  There are plenty of other good places to eat in Paris – neighborhood bistros at the very least – many within easy walking distance from the main sites you’re likely to be visiting.  Do your homework ahead of time (or ask us for our Restaurant list!) and eat where the locals eat.  If you’re visiting on a gorgeous day, grab a bottle of Burgundy, stop in at one of the many markets for some cheese and a baguette and make your own picnic to relax and enjoy in any of the wonderful parks around Paris.

#4 Don’t Miss the Smaller Museums

Chalking up the most museums in the world (at 297), Paris is a treasure trove for small, gem-like museums, many of them housed in one-time private mansions that remain almost as they were when the inhabitants, famous or not, lived there. Stories… life is all about the stories and each of these have one: Jacquemart André, Gustave Moreau, Nissim de Comondo, Musée de la Vie Romantique… The Musée Yves Saint Laurent and Galerie Christian Dior for fashion, and so many more. (NOTE: AmericanConcierge.com offers wonderful tours to each of these, that include walkabouts the enchanting neighborhoods surrounding them).  There are also visit-worthy mid-size museums: the newly restored Musée Carnavalet (the museum of the City of Paris), where you’ll find Marcel Proust’s actual bedroom and a fascinating history of Paris past; and the excellent Musée Guimet and its little-known offshoot, exquisite Musée d’Ennery.  Many of these museums are run by the City of Paris and free to the public. And on the first Sunday of the month, admission is free at every museum.

#5 Don’t Avoid the Metro

I’m a New York City person so traveling around town by an underground transit system comes naturally to me but navigating one in a foreign city can be intimidating. Don’t be! The Paris metro system is safe, clean and one of the fastest, most convenient, and most economical ways to get around –USE YOUR GOOGLE MAPS! It’s simple once you get the hang of it.  GPS will not only tell you which metros to take but which exit to look for to get out of the metro station and arrive at your ultimate destination.  Metros will take you within a few minutes’ walk of almost anywhere in Paris without having to contend with traffic or endure a potentially long wait for an Uber or other ride service at night. Paris’s metro stations are increasingly automated… ticketing machines have an English option and will take a credit card with a chip. NOTE: Metros run until 1:15 am on weekdays and 2:25 am on Fridays and Saturdays.

#6 Don’t Prioritize the Champs-Elysees

One of our favorite songs to perform for friends “Au Champs-Elysées” congers up an image of the time when the Champs-Elysées was the avenue in Paris to stroll down.  Not so much anymore.  It’s still spectacular and worth a view from the Arc de Triomphe or La Place de la Concorde, but there are other walks along the tree-lined Boulevard Saint-Germain, the Rue des Martyrs in Montmartre, the Canal Saint-Martin or Les Rives de Seine (a 7-kilometer route along both banks of the river) that are more modern-day Parisian. With no car traffic to deal with, a stroll (or bike ride) along the Seine offers great, up-close views of many of Paris’s best monuments and bridges.

#7 Don’t Stay Inside the City Limits

When booking a trip to Paris, whether it’s your first or your 15th, some of France’s greatest treasures are within an hour’s ride outside of Paris. Chartre Cathedral, Giverny, Vaux-le-Vicomte or Fontainebleau… Château de Chantilly, with its world-class art collection, gardens and famous stables is especially stunning and magical at Christmas.  A quick metro ride will take you to the Château de Vincennes, the best-preserved medieval castle in France –or Saint-Denis Basilica, the very best of early gothic architecture and the necropolis of the kings of France.  (NOTE: AmericanConcierge.com offers private tours to any of these as well)

#8 Don’t Wait in Line at the Eiffel Tower

There’s a reason why the Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most visited monuments.  Riding up to the top, with its extraordinary views is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but-but-but, waiting in long lines is not the best way to spend precious vacation time. That part is really not a must.  An unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower from anywhere is a great photo-op.  If you really want to get to the top and you’re up for it, you can walk the 328 steps to the tower’s first level and take the lift from there.  AmericanConcierge.com does offer ‘private tours to the top’ (or group tours) which will get you there quicker and the time you’ll save avoiding those lines is worth a little extra cash, not-to-mention having your own personal guide to talk you through everything you’re looking at.  Another “trick” if you feel like a splurge, is to book a table at one of the restaurants:  Michelin-star Frédéric Anton’s swank Le Jules Verne restaurant on the tower’s second floor or Thierry Marx’s Madame Brasserie on the first floor. Along with stunning views, you’ll dine in splendor and arrive asap like a VIP on a dedicated lift.

#9 Don’t Be Afraid to Eat Like a Parisian

Start with a private food tour (yes, we offer them) and enjoy every bite along the way.  You’ll munch on the best of the best of croissants, cheeses, chocolates… -or chose a more ‘gourmet’ tour and taste everything from garlicky escargots to boudin noir (blood sausage) and tête de veau (calf’s brains) or mousse au chocolat: the list of French specialties and delicacies is long (!) and you can sample whatever you’d like to try. Many of the Parisian restaurants offer up ‘local’ dishes like confit de canard (preserved duck leg) tender lapin à l’orange (rabbit) or langouste (spiny lobster from the coast of Brittany); all are well worth a try. Vegetarians should look for white asparagus, fraises des bois, and any truffle dish they can afford. You might have heard a lot about unpasteurized cheeses being dangerous (and too fattening), but the French are the best argument to the contrary (what is their secret???). There are enough varieties to choose from —from cow (vache), goat (chèvre), or sheep’s (brebis) milk—ask the fromager to offer some advice and be sure to grab a baguette!

#10 Don’t Be Afraid to Go off the Beaten Path

AmericanConcierge.com is the best agency around for offering up new and unique ways to experience Paris.  Paris’s parks—both large and small—afford memorable experiences, fabulous views, and outdoor cultural activities galore. The city proper’s largest green space, La Villette is more than just a park. Home to Cité de la Musique, Cité des Enfants, and the world-class Philharmonie de Paris with its state-of-the-art concert hall, it has tons of summer activities for the whole family, including a summer outdoor film series and, as of this writing, “Ventrus” – a delicious, unique ‘pop-up’ restaurant just across the Quai.  Enjoy the view of all the young people picnicking along the water’s edge.  You can also check out the glorious views from the lovely Buttes Chaumont (19th ) nearby with its lovely newly renovated restaurant “Le Pavillon du Lac.”  Highly recommend for a weekend Brunch.

Paris’s cemeteries are wonderful too for a historic stroll: try our tour through Père Lachaise where Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Frédéric Chopin, Marcel Marceau Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried.  Across the Seine River in Suresnes, an easy 15-minute TER commuter train ride from Saint-Lazare train station, you can visit the American Cemetery, where nearly 3,000 U.S. soldiers and nurses fell in WWI and WWII lie in beautifully manicured grounds with breathtaking views of Paris.

The net/net in all this is that Paris is Magical and no matter what you do, whether you’re a first-timer or you’ve been there a bunch, there’s much there-there that will amaze and impress.
Stay tuned to Part 2!

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