Paris is the crown jewel of European cities. Its lush history, matched with unbeatable culture, food, architecture, and nightlife make the “City of Light” one of the most visited destinations in the world. But as an outsider, it can be unbelievably intimidating. The hustle and bustle of touristic sites such as the Notre Dame and the Louvre can be exhausting, the line to get into the Eiffel Tower can feel like an eternity, and often times, customer service in restaurants is not what the typical Westerner is used to – they don’t accept tips, folks!
Let us be your guide for a happy, safe, and fruitful journey into one of the most illustrious cities in the Western world.
Text By Matthew D’Abate / Pictures by Robert Lester
DO walk around.
This is a must. Let me stress once more – Walk. Around. Paris. The city was created exactly for this mode of exploration. The winding streets behold some of the most interesting secrets any major city can offer. From visiting the secondhand boutique shops, to taking a petite pause at a charming café, or even just noticing the eccentric characters that inhabit the city, the pedestrian is king on the streets of Paris. Walking is the best way to see and learn how the true Parisians live and breathe in everyday life.
DON’T go to restaurants with more than 6 items on their menu.
Small bistros are the real gems – and the finest bistros make everything on the same day. To French chefs, to freeze something overnight is a crime. If what you crave is an authentic, French dining experience, go and find a little bistro where all the specials are written right on a board. Generally, these restaurants are family run, with tons of charm and local fun. And the food people will be immaculate.
DO go to the less popular museums.
Of course, the Louvre is a masterful feat of French art history. But it is gigantic. I’m talking gigantic enough to have to spend days to see the museum in its entirety. Yet despite the Louvre’s enormousness, the Mona Lisa itself is tiny! Only 2’6” by 1’9” to be exact. In the interest of time, it might be in your favor to check out the less popular museums like the Picasso Museum, Musee Rodin, and the incredibly underrated Musee des Arts et Métiers, which gives its viewers an awesome look into modern science and the famous Foucault’s Pendulum!
DO see the Eiffel Tower once in your life.
I know, we’ve all seen the Eiffel Tower in the movies, television shows, and on postcards. One can even catch glimpses of the Eiffel Tower from some parts of Paris simply as a pedestrian. But to stand right before this fantastic architectural marvel is something to behold. Climbing it may be a different story and could take up your entire afternoon to get the same view of the city you would get if you hiked up the Montmartre (which you also must do!) But the Eiffel Tower, constructed for the 1889 World’s Fair, is a must see. Pro tip: Ride the 6 metro line and get a view of the majestic tower from an above ground train cart.
DON’T try to only speak English.
Get into the groove of the French language. Since you’re taking French classes, take full advantage of applying what you’ve learned and practice with more locals and native speakers. Don’t feel embarrassed or discouraged when you stumble and get tongue-tied while speaking. Here’s a secret: to the French ears, the American accent is very cute. You can also ask them to speak more slowly. There are always people around who are willing to help, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first. Remember that you’re in France, and that it’s time to live la vie en rose and walk the streets with a baguette from a proper boulangerie. And don’t forget to practice giving “la bise” while you’re at it.