When you start planning a trip to Paris, it is often important to set out your itinerary and study everything there is to see in Paris. The sheer number of attractions makes this step essential to make the most of your time, but sometimes some equally important practical details are overlooked.
That's why in this article I'll give you some simple tips to help you make the most of your trip. Sometimes it's the little things that can make the difference between a great experience and a troubled stay, such as knowing how to get around the city or the possibility of buying a tourist card to save a little money and increase your comfort.
1. Visit the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower when the crowds aren't too high
If there are two places you should always visit when travelling to Paris(even if you only spend 1 day in Paris) it's the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Their importance, however, can make them too crowded and the experience not as satisfying as you would like it to be.
To try to avoid the crowds you should take into account the busiest times, as well as which are, in principle, more conducive to see both attractions more calmly:
- As for when to go to the Louvre Museum, it would be ideal not to visit the museum between 11:00 and 16:00, as this is the time of day when you can find the most crowds. Remember that it opens its doors around 9:00 am, so getting up early in the morning to have time to see the Louvre at your leisure could be the solution. You can also go in the evening or take advantage of the days when the Louvre is open later, usually until 21:30 or so.
- Climbing the Eiffel Tower during the high season, in the summer in Paris, usually involves long queues, especially at weekends. Outside of this period, the crowds are much thinner, but my advice is to try to get there early, before 10.30am. Another good time to go up is after 17:00 or at night.
2. Book your tickets for the most visited sites in advance
Paris is one of the cities in the world that receives the most tourists every year. One of the consequences of this attraction is the endless queues that form in front of its main tourist sites. These queues, apart from being inconvenient, end up being a great waste of time, especially in cases where the stay is short, and to avoid them, there is only one solution: buy tickets in advance.
Luckily, many of the attractions in Paris offer this option to avoid having to endure long waits, from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, via the Musée de l'Orsay:
- The Musée d'Orsay.
- The Catacombs of Paris.
- The Montparnasse Tower.
- The Invalides.
- The Rodin Museum.
- The Pompidou Centre.
- The Palace of Versailles.
- The Arc de Triomphe.
Oh, by the way, if you are going to visit Disneyland Paris, don't forget to buy your one or two-day tickets in advance.
3. Save on the metro with one of the passes available
The French capital has a very efficient public transport network, with the metro being the main way to get around the city quickly, as it will allow you to avoid the existing traffic.
In my article How to use the metro in Paris I explain all the factors you should take into account. Among them is the usefulness of the "Next Stop" application , which includes a practical map of the lines in operation and allows you to calculate itineraries without having to be connected to the internet. Among the different types of tickets we can find:
- Ticket t+: this is the single ticket. If you are not going to use the metro much, it will be enough for you.
- Paris Visite: there are several types depending on the duration of the ticket (between 1 and 5 days) and the areas you want to visit. It also includes discounts for some of Paris' tourist attractions.
- Navigo Pass: In principle, this pass is cheaper than the previous one if you are going to stay in Paris for about a week. The main disadvantage is that it is a bit more complicated to obtain, as you need a passport-sized photograph and to pay a non-refundable €5.
4. Save on your visits with the Tourist Card
Unless you're lucky enough to be able to extend your stay in Paris for more than 7 days, to make the most of your time you'll need to make a list of what you want to see. On the financial side, which is also important, it is worth investigating the options that the French capital has to offer.
Possibly the best way to save money on your visits is the Paris Pass tourist card. This is a card that gives you significant discounts on entry to more than 60 attractions, including entry to the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and the Basilica of Saint-Denis.
It's also worth knowing that on the first Sunday of every month you can enter many museums free of charge.
5. Discover Paris on a tour or with the tourist bus
The sheer size of Paris (plus the surrounding area) and the sheer number of places to visit can make sightseeing a hassle. Getting from one place to another takes time you may not have, not to mention time spent researching how to get to each monument. To avoid this, one of the best options is to book one of the many tours available in Paris. Practically everyone will find one to suit their interests:
- Foodies can book a tour of Paris's patisseries.
- The more sporty can book a bike tour of Paris or even an electric bike tour.
- Fans of scary stories can book a night-time ghost tour or even a bike tour.
- There are also tours that go in depth in certain districts, such as the tour of the Latin Quarter, the tour of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district of Paris or the tour of Montmartre.
- You can also take excursions outside Paris.
Another option to save time are the sightseeing buses. You can hop on and off as many times as you like and they usually take you to the most interesting places in the city. On the one hand, you can get a seat on the Big Bus; on the other hand, you can reserve a seat on the Toot bus, which also includes two self-guided walking tours of different areas of the capital.
Finally, you can always take advantage of an interesting option the city offers its visitors: the Batobus. This is a boat that travels along the Seine under the same conditions as a tourist bus, as it allows you to get on and off at its many stops near the most important attractions.
6. Dare to get to know the other Paris
Although it's always going to depend on how long you're in a city, personally one of my favourite tips is to go off the beaten track. In the case of Paris, with its many hidden charms, you can discover amazing places if you decide to walk around Paris' neighbourhoods.
These are places that are less visited by tourists, but which will delight anyone who comes across them. Here is a short list of these places, but you can certainly find more on your own:
- Canal St-Martin: this is a sort of artificial tributary of the Seine through which merchant ships sail. A stroll along its banks is really pleasant, something that Parisians who often have a picnic on good weather days know. If you are lucky, you will be able to see how the bridges open up to let the boats that still travel along the river pass by.
- Passages and galleries: Paris is full of passages and galleries that combine beautiful architecture with wonderful decoration. My advice is to get a good map to plan a tour or book a tour of the covered passages and galleries of Paris.
- Viewpoints in Paris: beyond the views from the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame, Paris offers its visitors other viewpoints from which to contemplate the city. Some, such as the Montparnasse Tower, are fee-paying, while others, such as the terrace of the Printemps Galleries, are completely free.
7. Experience Paris by night
When the sun goes down, the city of Paris transforms and shows a different face. Paris by night Its streets and many of its monuments are illuminated and life continues to buzz in a multitude of places.
Although everyone has a different way of travelling, there are some attractions in Paris by night that you shouldn't miss. Here's a short list of the must-sees so you can find the ones that best suit your interests:
- Visit the Eiffel Tower: the icon of Paris lights up at night to show its imposing figure to the whole city. To enjoy it, you can simply gaze at it from a nearby point or make a night-time ascent of the Eiffel Tower to see the metropolis from above. Finally, if the weather is fine, you can also sit on the Champs de Mars and have a little evening picnic.
- Enjoy the nightlife: although it is a cliché that applies to many cities in the world, it can be said that Paris never sleeps. The livelier ones will find plenty of bars and nightclubs to enjoy late into the night.
- Go to a cabaret: Many say that Paris is the birthplace of cabarets. The most famous is undoubtedly the Moulin Rouge, which offers the chance to dine and watch the Moulin Rouge show. Others equally interesting are the Lido, the Crazy Horse or the Paradis Latin.
- The Seine at night: the river that crosses the capital also offers visitors several possibilities to enjoy it at night, such as taking one of the night-time cruises along the Seine or simply strolling along its banks and admiring its beautiful bridges.
Getting around Paris at night
Given that transport timetables are limited, getting around at night will depend on the time of day. For example, the metro runs until 1:00 (2:00 on weekends). After that, you'll have to find another way to get around, such as the Noctilien bus service, which runs between 00:30 and 07:00 in the morning, or take a taxi.
8. Adapt to Paris timetables
Although the opening hours in Paris are somewhat more flexible than in smaller French towns, the differences with Spain are still noticeable, especially when it comes to restaurants in Paris.
Any traveller should adapt to the customs of the country they are visiting unless they want to run the risk of finding everything closed. In the French capital, lunch is usually eaten between 12:00 and 13:30, so it is relatively common for many kitchens to close at 14:00.
On the other hand, dinner is usually served from 19:30 - 20:00, which means that if you want to have a snack, you will also have to move the time forward quite a bit.
9. Include French gastronomy among the attractions to be discovered in Paris
For those of us who love to discover the gastronomy of the places we visit, Paris seems like a great opportunity. Trying different dishes is the best way to get to know its culture and is something I recommend you don't miss.
Among the most typical dishes you'll find in the French capital you can find:
- Foie gras.
- Escargots (snails).
- Boeuf bourguignon (a veal stew with red wine).
- Quiche Lorraine (a kind of savoury tart with meat and cheese).
- Croque-monsieur (a classic baked cheese and ham sandwich).
- French cheeses, best accompanied by a glass of vio or champagne.
And, of course, there's always room for the **country'**s wonderful sweets. If you have a sweet tooth, you can't miss them:
- The best crêpes de Pris.
- Petit four.
- Coffee au lait with a croissant fresh from the oven, their typical breakfast.
10. Here are a few more tips to make your visit to Paris perfect
To make your trip a complete success there are a few little tricks that can help you and are easy to follow:
- Learn a few phrases in French. You don't need to become bilingual, but learning to say bonjour (good morning), merci (thank you) or s 'il vous plaît (please) will help on occasion. If you add monsieur or madame, the result will be even better.
- Closely related to the above is the great importance given in France to manners and politeness. Never forget to say "hello" or "please" in restaurants or at ticket offices, and always try to avoid "tuteo".
- It may well not occur to you, but you should still know that feeding pigeons is strictly forbidden. The fines, moreover, can be quite hefty.
- Bathing in the Seine is also forbidden, even in summer. If you can't resist the urge, just go to the so-called Paris Plage.
- One last prohibition you might want to know about is that being drunk in public carries the possibility of being fined. Obviously, you won't get a fine for drinking wine while picnicking in a park, but be careful not to exceed a certain limit.