Tips for Traveling Paris

A look down the Champs Elysees from the from the Arc de Triomphe, ParisParis 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’re 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 midday, 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. If you get lost, aim for a main street and coordinate your position from there. Moreover, the map isn’t 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 aren’t many 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’s 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 six euros an hour. Z-net in the Latin Quarter offers it for four euros an hour and has Wi-Fi.
  • The Louvre is discounted after 6pm on Fridays and free on the first Sunday of every month. 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’s easy to get around the city. A day pass is only six 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.

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  1. Hey Matt,

    I think the Louvre is only free for the first Sunday of every month. At least it was the last time I was there.

    Adored the Latin Quarter, it’s really happening when night falls and with Notre Dame as the backdrop it’s fantastic. Had Greek food there… or at least that’s what the person who pulled me into the restaurant claimed.

    Also, there’s this quaint English bookstore along the main road facing Notre Dame. I think it was feature in the movie “After Sunset”.

  2. Sabrina

    I agree, last tiem I was there in August the Louvre was free only on the first Sunday of each month… also an advice- Berthillon ice cream on Isle St. Louis :) beyond heavenly

  3. Johnathan

    1. Take the bike ! Paris has a wonderful system for bikes, called “Velib” (freebike). The city is flat and has great bike lanes, so it is easy and safe to ride. The base rent is €1 per day (yes: that is one euro !). After that, it is for free in the first thirty minutes. It is a bit of a hassle to register in one of the machines, but it is worth it. Remember to return the bike after every use, because (a) the system relies on that and (b) the charge rises as time elapses. See
    2. Try to use some words of French, particularly when you are outside the tourist areas. It will be appreciated, and after people will happily understand that communication may be slightly easier in English.
    3. Read the book: “Sixty Million Frenchmen cant be wrong” by Nadeau/Barlow. A great insight into the way the French see life, the world and themselves.

  4. Johnathan

    Oh, I forgot number 4. Just of Champs Elysees, above the headquarter of Louis Vuitton (you cannot miss it), is the Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton. It is for free, it has amazing views and it has amazing exhibitions. If you dont like this, you are not into current modern art. A mustsee !

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