Paris, the city of lights. The ultimate in romantic destinations is at the top of many people’s bucket lists. And for good reason. This incredibly easy to navigate portal to Europe is a gem of a city and a great place for people looking to spend a week eating until you pop! But before you book those tickets, here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Learn some of the language
This is a good tip for any foreign country, but especially France. We didn’t run into anyone who was mean or unwilling to help us, but it is always good practice to know the culture and language of the country. Bruce is a master at languages and learned a fair amount before we got there, so we were completely set. It doesn’t take much, but some simple phrases will make your trip much more enjoyable.
**Also in French culture it is very rude to ask something before saying “Bonjour”!
Here are some of the phrases we recommend:
Bonjour — Hello
Oui — Yes
Non — No
Bonsoir — Good evening
Bonne journée! — [Have a] good day!
Bonne soirée! — [Have a] good evening!
Pardon — Excuse me
Merci — Thank you
S’il vous plaît — Please
Où est…? (Where is…?)
Pouvez-vous m’aider? (Can you help me?)
Je vous doit combien? (How much do I owe you?)
Je voudrais… (Can I have…)
…un café — …a coffee
…une bière — …a beer
…une baguette — …a baguette
…de l’eau — …some water
…l’addition — …the bill
2. Choose your hotel location wisely.
Paris is giant. While the metro is easy to use, you’ll also want to walk the quaint streets to really get a feel for Parisian life. We stayed in both the Latin Quarter, and La Defense on our first trip and we’re glad we did. The Latin Quarter was the perfect home base to explore the pastry scene in the city, as well as plentiful french cafes and Christmas markets. It was enough of a central location to take the metro anywhere we wanted (including Disneyland Paris!), but honestly, the Latin Quarter itself was our favorite part of the city. We were originally planning on staying in the Champs-Elysées area with a view of the Eiffel Tower but I changed it last minute because of the bakeries I found. I am SO glad I did. The Champs-Elysées part of the city ended up being out least favorite (aside from the Eiffel Tower itself) and I think we would have had a much different experience if our hotel was in that area. It pays to do a little research on the area!
**I think we will try staying North of the Latin Quarter next time, but that area will be a little more removed and harder to navigate from if you are already slightly nervous about navigating the metro system**
3. You can sit at French cafes all day
Unlike the US, French Cafes are as much a place to sit and read the paper as they are to actually eat. Think of it more like a coffee house, rather than a restaurant. People tend to take things slow and take a table for an hour or more. This is great news if you want to people watch with your morning coffee or afternoon beer, but not great if you are just looking for a quick meal and the tables are full. For quick meals in Paris, I suggest a Boulangerie, Kabob or Crepe place, which you can find on almost any corner.
4. You Don’t Need a Car in Paris
The metro system in Paris is really great and there’s no reason you need a car while in the city. Even if you want to visit places outside of the city center like Versailles or Disneyland Paris, the metro is easy enough to figure out. A one-way ticket is 1.90e per person so it’s also a cheap way to get around. If you know you’re going to be exploring the city, you can buy a 10 pass booklet for about 16 euros. As long as you have a general idea of how metros work, Paris shouldn’t be difficult to figure out.
5. You need a full day for the Louvre and probably for Versailles too
The Louvre is giant, like mind boggling large. There’s no way that you’ll feel like you got a good taste of the museum unless you have the day to explore. For our first trip, it wasn’t a must do and therefore we didn’t even try. It is a very busy place so make sure you’re also prepared for the crowds. Versailles is about two hours from Paris center so it will take you about 4 hours just to get there and back. If these are some of your Paris bucket list items, make sure you have the time built in to enjoy them!
6. All the Boulangeries and Patisseries in Paris are pretty great
Unlike the US, to call yourself a Boulangerie or Patisserie in France has specific requirements. In Paris, a Boulangerie has to make its bread on premise so you can expect that things we will fresh. Though pro tip: order a “tradi” baguette to get a fresh one! A Patisserie has to have master pastry chefs creating all their goodies so you can be sure they are great. While it’s easy to spend hours finding the “best” patisseries and boulangeries, just know that whichever you choose will be amazing (and you’ll eat carbs for two straight days!).
These are our top tips. Have you been to Paris? What do you wish you knew?