Paris is an amazing city. I fell in love with it the first moment I was there. Recently, American ex-pat Tanya from Parisian Spring gave us some tips for beating the summer crowds in Paris. They are wonderful tips, as Paris can be really crowded during the summer, especially during August. Parisians evacuate the city and head to the countryside or the beach. The vacuum caused by their departure is filled with tourists who crowd all the sights, streets, and cafes.
Should you find yourself in Paris during the summer months, here are some more travel tips that might help make your stay more enjoyable:
- Crowds swarm the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, creating queues that wrap around each structure. Should you go mid-day, you’ll be waiting a few hours to enter each. Head there early in the morning or very late to avoid the rush. Queues start to form about an hour after opening.
- The maps the tourist office gives away don’t include all the streets. Should you get lost, aim for a main street and you can coordinate your position from there. Moreover, the map is not really drawn to scale. The tourist information map is a good reference, but for more detail, stick to a guidebook map. This is especially true in the Latin Quarter. (I found this out the hard way.)
- Paris has few street maps for tourists. Unlike Amsterdam or London, there are few signs telling you where you are. Don’t expect easy navigation while walking around. If you do find a sign, it will be in French and not English. (Signs describing historical monuments are also only in French).
- The Latin Quarter is one of the best parts of the city, and is less crowded than the main area. It is a great place to wander around. Head deep into the heart of it for tiny winding streets and cheap cafes that overlook little plazas. Be aware that the cafes get crowded during lunch time though.
- If you want a good view of the city but don’t want to wait to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, head to Montmartre. This little district, where artists like Picasso and Pissarro used to live, provides sweeping views of the city without the wait or the cost.
- Internet cafes are expensive – about 6 Euros an hour. Z-net in the Latin Quarter offers it for 4 Euro an hour and has wi-fi.
- The Louvre is discounted after 6pm on Fridays, and free on Sundays. During the low season, it is also closed on Tuesdays. It’s located in the center of the city and has two metro stops – both marked “Louvre.” Get off at either one.
- The Jardin du Luxembourg is a great place to eat out and enjoy a nice day in Paris. It’s filled with people relaxing in chairs and on the grass. Don’t miss it!
- South of Notre Dame, Rue Dauphine has some worthwhile eateries. The place gets crowded with folks relaxing for drinks after dinner. Pull up a chair, grab a glass of wine, and enjoy a Parisian pastime – staring at what walks by on two legs.
- Buy a metro card. Paris has over 300 subway stations, so it is easy to get around the city. A day pass is only 6 Euros.
It took me two days in Paris to learn all that. Imagine what a longer stay would yield. These tips should help make your travel experience in Paris easier, cheaper, and more enjoyable.
Not sure what to do in Paris? I wrote this handy dandy five day itinerary for Paris. It gives you a good overview on how to spend your time there.