10 things NOT to do as a tourist in Paris–Part 2

May 03, 2023
By Sharon A. Carr
About Sharon:
Sharon is the Co-founder and Director of AmericanConcierge.com and when she’s not co-producing something wonderful on Broadway, she has the incredibly good fortune to live in Paris at least 3 months a year. In her never-ending quest to find the best of the best and the most interesting on offer in France for AmericanConcierge.com clients, she’s sightseeing, eating and overall observing everything everywhere. Although she usually leaves the blogging to the bloggers, offering up what not to miss on a Paris vacation was a subject that she decided to tackle it herself. “Enjoy!”

A friend of mine sent me an article on this subject back in March 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; Here’s Part 2.

1. Don’t Forget Your Manners…

These simple codes of behavior will not only go a long way towards smoothing your way with any grumpy Parisians but also impress them with your savoir-faire:


  • Never enter a shop without saying “bonjour” or leave without saying “au revoir.” Don’t know why that is but it is a custom, not only in France but in other countries in the EU too –and it will be appreciated.
  • If you have a question to ask, always preface it with “bonjour madame/monsieur”… Trust me, they’ll correct you if you don’t which is not worth the embarrassment.
  • If a clerk is busy with another customer politely wait your turn; don’t even think about interrupting them or rushing them to get to you.
  • Though more and more Parisians pride themselves on their English, don’t assume everyone understands you when you blurt out a question in English… You’ll get an A for effort if you go to the trouble of learning just a few key phrases in French and have the confidence to use them—even if you mangle the accent!
  • If you make a restaurant reservation and you can’t make it (especially during high tourist weeks) don’t forget to cancel it. Many restaurants are contactable through their websites (in English) or through THE FORK food phone app so it’s easy to do.

2. Don’t Rely on Taxis Late at Night…

Unlike New York and other major cities, you can’t depend on flagging down a taxi in Paris, and the taxi stand system is maddening and hard to locate, even in the daytime. The good news is: Uber is in Paris (and in other cities in France) so if you have the app on your smartphone, you can use that same app in France (just be sure to add an International Plan through your phone service). It’s not that finding your Uber is any easier in Paris than it is in other strange cities, but they do provide fast, reliable service—in English—and are more courteous than your random taxi drivers, not-to-mention, you won’t have to worry about the meter ticking away while you pass the same monument for the third time.

NOTE: the Paris Metro runs until 1:15 a.m. on weekdays and 2:15 a.m. on Fridays and Saturday… it is a fast, direct option when rides are scarce.

3. Don’t Think Private Tours Are Too Touristy…

If you’re a tourist, you’re a tourist and there’s absolutely no shame in that – so be a tourist. AmericanConcierge.com offers tons of excellent private tours— others offer terrific group tours (including last minute ones)… Tours can be on foot, by car or by bicycle—and they can show you sides of Paris you may not see on your own, offer insider tips and historical facts, get you through the lines and into VIP places, and enrich your entire experience. For 25 years, Paris Walks, the least expensive of the group tours, has offered a series of great user-friendly strolls, led by friendly, knowledgeable experts that explore everything from fashion and chocolate to churches, street art, and cheese shops along with specific neighborhoods and historic themes.  To create your own itinerary for private tours (with some small group tours), contact us and we can create your dream vacation together.

4. Don’t Skip Pre-Trip Planning…

Paris is smaller than many major cities but wandering around the capital on foot—an absolute must—can be frustrating if you don’t understand its layout and street plans. If you have some idea of the neighborhoods before going, you’ll enjoy it so much more.  You can find a map or an app that lists every street, monument, and museum or one that targets your specific interests (or Paris’s history).  Apps can save a lot of time, money, and frustration if you really want to wander on your own.  GPS works (!) If you want to maximize your time and enhance your experiences in Paris, we (AmericanConcierge.com) can create exactly what you want to see and do when you want to see and do it.  Don’t leave anything to chance… Paris is really busy this year (and will be even more busy with the Olympics in the Summer of ’24) so take the time before you go, to figure out what you want to see and do when you get there: Plan ahead to avoid surprises you don’t want.

5. Don’t Pass up Vélib’ Rides…

Paris’s bike-for-hire system Velib’—for a standard or electric velo (bike)—is one of the best and cheapest in the world. All you need is a credit card with a chip and you’re off. Rentals are easy, stations are plentiful, bike lanes are wider and much more ubiquitous since the pandemic, and rentals are 24 hours a day, all year round. Here’s how it works: go to the terminal at any Vélib’ station; follow the on-screen prompts in English; select your subscription (1-day, €3, €5, €10 for various plans; 3-day, €20) and bike; wait for the green light and go. The fee covers a 45-minute or 60-minute ride depending on whether you choose a standard or electric bike. Paris has recently banned city-ride scooters but there are still a few different last-minute city bike rentals so they’re relatively easy to find. NOTE: They’re not big on helmets there so BYO.

6. Don’t Leave Your Kids at Home…

I raised my family (4 kids) in New York City so I can tell you that Paris too, is an amazingly kid-friendly city. For starters, every museum, foundation, arts center, and park in the city has a tantalizing list of activities for kids, some in English. Paris’s top hotels have added fun activities for including cooking classes and tours (and babysitting), leaving parents some free time to hit the spa. Paris also has two zoos—the wonderful Parc Zoologique de Paris, where animals roam free in five “biozones,” and the historic Menagérie, one of the oldest zoos in Europe set in the lovely Jardin des Plantes. From Guignol puppet theaters, historic merry-go-rounds, and playgrounds (the Luxembourg Gardens has all three, for example) to interactive museum exhibits (Muséum d’Histoire NaturelleCité des EnfantsPalais de la Découverte) and amusement parks (Jardin d’Acclimatation), your children will be well-entertained during a family visit. For all the most current information on what’s happening for kids in Paris, check out the Paris Visitors Bureau website in English.

7. Don’t Miss out on a Boat Ride on the Seine, even if romance isn’t your thang…

Dinner on the Seine in one of a few boats of varying sizes for your final evening in Paris is your own special “Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn moment, not to be missed.  Even if you’re traveling solo, you’ll see most of Paris’s 37 bridges up close along with the city’s most famous landmarks on a relaxing 2-hour boat ride while you dine. It’s just gorgeous.  AmericanConcierge.com offers a beautiful 1-2 hour ‘sunset’ cruise on the Seine for up to 8 or 12 people… There are daytime options as well, of course, where you can simply sightsee with commentary. Boats leave from several locations, including the Port de La Conférance at Pont de l’Alma and smaller boats from the Pont Neuf. Another option: the Batobus operates continuously from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. (9:30 p.m. at peak season, hours can vary in the off-season) every 20 minutes from nine stops around Paris. Travel times between sites range from 5 to 30 minutes. As of this typing, prices are around 19€ adults, €9 kids (unlimited 24 hours; €21 adults, €11 kids unlimited 48 hours) you can hop on or off wherever and whenever you like all day long. Stops include the Musée d’Orsay, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, and Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

8. Don’t Limit Yourself to Famous Monuments for Great Views of the City

You don’t have to stand in line at the Eiffel Tower forever just for a great view, there are plenty of places where you can get fabulous views without the crowds. Paris is only 7 stories high so there’s very little blocking your view if you’re up high enough on a hill… e.g., the views from the roof at Galleries Lafayette or Sacré Coeur are free …as are so many other places where you can take in the views while relaxing in a park or enjoying a drink. For a little nature with your panoramas, head to the Parc de Belleville, the highest park in Paris, complete with a working vineyard and miles of beautiful garden paths with limitless views. Or the Butte Chamont in the 19th Arr.  If you really want to pay for a view, try the Tower at Montparnasse… I haven’t been up there yet, but I’ve been told the views from the top are spectacular.

9. Don’t Forget to Walk…

You’ve got two feet… weather permitting: use them. To be a Paris flaneur is to see the city like a true Parisian to uncover firsthand all its magic and mystery. Each neighborhood in Paris’ 20 arrondissements has its own unique character: the Chinese restaurants and street art of Belleville in the 20th; the chic hotels, cocktail bars, and nightlife of Pigalle (9th); the charming cobbled streets of Montmartre and its vineyards (18th); the leafy lanes of Père Lachaise cemetery (11th) resting place of dozens of French luminaries; the charming neighborhoods of La Mouzaia (19th) or Les Epinettes (17th) or La Butte aux Cailles (13th); or the historic Jardin des Plantes with its zoo and splendid art nouveau greenhouses (5th). Don’t rule out a leafy inner-city hike on the wooded Paris Ceinture (the old belt railway) or the Coulée Vert René-Dumont (which stretches from Bastille all the way to the Bois de Vincennes), or along the nearly two miles of the Berges de Seine at the river’s edge. Even if you stay in the popular central neighborhoods, like Saint-Germain-des-Prés or the Marais, there are plenty of discoveries to be made while strolling and letting your senses take the lead.

10. Don’t Rule out the Winter Months for a Visit

From just after the New Year until May, and especially in mid-January through March, you can snag great deals on airfare from many places in the U.S. to Paris.  It’s one of my favorite times to be in Paris, even if I don’t get my bike out of storage… Temperatures rarely fall below freezing even in the dead of winter. These are the least touristed months and that means fewer lines, easier reservations at restaurants and hotels, great off-season deals, plenty of available guides who are grateful for your business and opportunities to visit museums and other cultural attractions blessedly crowd-free. Quoting Audrey Hepburn: PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA.

BONUS: Don’t Be Too Stingy to Splurge on at least One Amazing Meal (!)

If there’s one thing you don’t want to miss experiencing in Paris, it’s the food… especially a bit of its infamous haut cuisine. You don’t have to go out of your way for a great restaurant, nor do you have to always eat white tablecloth in Paris. But if you can afford a special evening out, book one of the Michelin-Star restaurants, gussy up and enjoy the treat… they really are special and if you’re just a little careful in the ordering, it doesn’t have to break the bank.  If you’re research adverse, you’ll dine like royalty at Le Jules Verne, on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, with all of Paris at your feet.

Bon Appetit!



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