Paris, often referred to as “The City of Light” (or “La Ville Lumière”), is one of the most popular and sought-after destinations in the world. And with so much to see and do in such an eclectic city, visitors can get a bit overwhelmed with how to make the most of their trip while still conforming to cultural norms and sticking to their budgets–and that’s where we come in. We recently asked the TripAdvisor community to share things one shouldn’t do–or should try their best to avoid–when visiting the French capital. Whether you’re new to the city or so familiar with it to the point where you’re practically a Parisian, these invaluable tips will optimize your trip to make it that much more enjoyable.
1. Don’t pay for entry into the Louvre if any of the following apply:
- You’re under the age of 18
- You’re an EU citizen between the ages of 18-25
- You plan to go on July 14 (free admission day)
- It’s the first Sunday of the month (free admission on this day between October and April)
2. Don’t board the train without a valid ticket, or else you risk getting hit with a very high fine.
3. Don’t underestimate the length of time of your stay. After you calculate how many days it will take to see all the major attractions, add on one or two extra days; you’ll probably want to stay a little longer.
4. Don’t spend money on bottled water. There are Wallace Fountains spread all over the city, so make sure to bring your own water bottle and fill it up when necessary.
5. When looking at the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, don’t get too fixated on trying to figure out if she’s smiling or not. You have to look at it from different angles to not only see her overall expression, but to also fully digest why the painting is world renowned.
6. Don’t eat dinner in touristy areas, such as the Latin quarter. Instead, opt for dining where locals live, like in the the 5th, 11th, 16th or 20th quarters. In these neighborhoods, you’ll get more bang for your buck (well, technically euro).
7. Don’t buy tickets for attractions and shows on the day you plan to go to them. To save time and avoid long lines, buy them online in advance here.
8. Don’t forget your manners when interacting with waitstaff, street vendors, and people in the street. You’re more likely to get help when you greet them appropriately and politely, usually with a “Bonjour, excusez-moi madame/monsieur.“ (“Hello, excuse me miss/sir.”)
9. Don’t forget that the best way to get around the city is via the Metro.
10. Don’t board the Metro before everyone has gotten off it. (Remember: Manners are key!)
11. Don’t take the stairs when at the Abbesses Metro station; it’s the longest in terms of steps, so you’re better off taking the elevator instead.
12. Don’t miss out on sitting at a cafe on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. This is the perfect place to watch passersby and to experience Parisian life, but in a more relaxed setting.
13. Don’t ask for water at restaurants, unless you want sparkling or carbonated. Ask for tap instead to save a few euros.
14. Don’t make an extensive list of things to see and do, similar to that of a travel guide. Because Paris is such a historic destination with a lot of culture and character, you don’t want to keep yourself confined to certain attractions. Paris is more about the authentic experience rather than simply ticking off things on a list.
15. Don’t only get the view of the Seine from the streets or bridges; consider booking a night cruise to take full advantage of seeing the city’s lights’ reflection on the water.
16. Don’t go to Versailles without having seen the film Marie Antoinette directed by Sofia Coppola, as it will give you good insight into how life was at the palace. Also, don’t forget to visit Maria Antoinette’s room at Versailles, which is oftentimes considered to be the best site to see while visiting there.
17. Don’t bypass the street markets–all of the Parisian neighborhoods have them.
18. Don’t forget to dine on the Rue Montorgueil in Les Halles district. Here, you’ll find amazing Italian food along with many other kinds of international delicacies, all at a decent price.
19. When going to Montmartre, don’t just visit the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and the Place du Tertre–this district is very eclectic and there’s much to see, like the Rue Caulaincourt, the Rue des Abbesses, and Cafe des Deux Moulins. And if you’re a fan of art or are an artist yourself, you’re sure to find something that tickles your fancy.
20. And last–but certainly not least–don’t be afraid to ask for help; despite what some people say, the French are not unkind. Even if you don’t speak the language, there will always be someone willing to help you.