Updated: 07/23/18 | July 23rd, 2018
As winter continues on and the days get colder, I find people begin to think of travel: warmer places, tropical beaches, and spring trips. My inbox fills up more than normal with questions on where to escape to, what to see, and things to do.
But there is always a common theme to these emails: people want to avoid the “touristy” stuff. They want to avoid the crowds and see the local side of a city.
”I don’t want to go to Paris. It’s too touristy. Where else can I go that is like it but without the crowds?”
I cringe when I see statements like this. I understand the desire to explore places and find hidden gems. We want a glimpse at the local life. We want to be Indiana Jones and feel like we‘re discovering and experiencing something new, not simply joining a horde of other tourists and buying into mass consumption.
It’s good to see something different and explore what hasn’t been Disneyfied for tourists. But this idea that simply because a place is popular it’s become “too touristy” and thus ruined is….well, crap.
Paris is not touristy.
Neither is New York City.
Or any other city in the world.
No place in the world is “too touristy.”
The problem isn‘t the destination — the problem is where you’re going when you’re there. The only thing that’s touristy are the spots you choose to see. The beaten path is beaten because it’s popular and everyone wants to see it. Why do the crowds clutter around the Eiffel Tower? Because it’s amazing. Why do people flock to Times Square? Because it’s iconic.
But if you’re sick of tourists and want a “local feel,” all you have to do is avoid those spots. Venture away from the crowds. Odds are good that you won’t find them a few blocks over. 90% never stray off the path. To say a city of millions of people is “touristy” is to focus on the tourist spots and then say that the whole city/country/region is like that.
And that’s just not true.
I live in New York City. Every day thousands of tourists wander its streets. I rarely notice them. I rarely see them. Why? Because I’m not walking around Times Square, clamoring to see the Wall Street bull, or fighting my way around the Met.
Instead, I hang out in my local neighborhoods and shops that most tourists won’t ever find or go to. My friends and I just live in this city and go where we know to go. I sometimes forget that NYC is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world because in my day to day life I’m not involved in that side of a city.
If you‘re only visiting the most famous sights, you’ll find any place touristy. Walk away from that area and head down a back alley and into a new neighborhood, and suddenly you’re surrounded by locals and experiencing local life.
Next time you cringe at all the tourists, look at your surroundings. Are you in a famous, highly popular area? if so, change where you are. Don’t skip the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, and make sure to walk the Champs-Élysées.
But then keep walking — you’ll leave behind the crowds who will never venture past that one block, and you’ll be free to explore new, untouristy areas all by yourself.
And once you start doing that, you’ll never call any city touristy ever again.
Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Paris!
For more in-depth information, check out my guidebook to Paris written for budget travelers like yourself! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel and save money in one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, and bars, and much more!! Click here to learn more and get started.
Book Your Trip to Paris: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory out there. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels. Some of my favorite places to stay in Paris are:
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I never ever go on a trip without it. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. You should too.
Need Some Gear?
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use!
Need a guide?
Paris has some really interesting tours. My favorite company is Take Walks. They have expert guides and can get you behind the scenes at the city’s best attractions. They’re my go-to walking tour company!
If you want a bike tour, use Fat Tire Tours. They have the best and most affordable bike tours in the city.
Want More Information on Paris?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Paris for even more planning tips!