My first trip to Paris was just shy of my 21st birthday. I was studying abroad in Italy and my friends and I decided to go to Paris for Valentine’s Day weekend. Just a day before the trip, I ended up coming down with terrible bronchitis. I had a fever and I was so sick but I was going to let go of my dream of seeing Paris. I pushed through the weekend making my recovery time from bronchitis a lot longer but it was so worth it. We took a double-decker bus and I ate a banana and Nutella crêpes. I have learned a lot since my first trip to Paris. I wish there were blogs and google maps that first time around which would have saved us hours looking for Angelina Hot Chocolate. But we made memories and I wouldn’t change a thing.
These are tips that I share with all my friends and family that tell me they are headed to Paris for the first time. It was easier to write in one big blog post than to retype or forward an email. I hope this helps make your trip enjoyable!
1. Make sure you keep euros on you. Not everyone will accept card and if you want to stop for a quick coffee or croissant, you will need small change. I always check in with my bank and notify them before leaving. I use Bank of America and I can take out money from any local BNP in Paris. I use this wallet for a credit card and small change.
2. Get Lost. You will have a map to get you around Paris with either google maps or your local hotel. Take time to put down the map and get lost. There is always a metro close by to get you back to your starting point. Explore the city on foot and see what you discover.
3. Visit a local café. If you want a quick coffee you can save money by ordering it at the bar. If you want to sit for a while and people watch you will pay double the price but the table will be yours for however long you want. You can use this guide for How to Order Coffee in Paris.
4. Buy metro tickets in a pack of 10 known as a carnet. The cost is cheaper and you will always have a ticket available when you need it. Some stations don’t offer a ticket machine so it is good to have these on hand. Travel at off-peak times to avoid crowded trains (rush hour) You can take the metro as late as midnight and they will be full of people so don’t worry about feeling like you will be unsafe.
6. Be open to the left and right bank of Paris. They are very different but equally charming. Take time to explore them both.
7. Visit one of the Paris gardens. Jardin du Luxembourg on the Left Bank and The Tuileries on the right bank are both popular. Take a book or picnic and sit in the green chairs and enjoy the sunshine.
8. Order un carafe d’eau for water. The table water is completely fine in Paris. Save yourself some money and avoid ordering a bottle of water out. This can set you back up to 5 euros.
9. Skip the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view is nice but you miss the Eiffel Tower when you are standing on it. The line can be forever long and it isn’t worth the wait in my opinion. See the Eiffel Tower sparkle every hour on the hour after dark from the Trocadero or Champs de Mars instead.
10. Buy a Paris Pass. This will save you time and money and let you skip the line. You can do this in advance online so you are ready for your trip.
11. Visit Pierre Hermé over Ladurée for macarons.
13. Try Berthillon Ice Cream on île St Louis. Visit on the weekdays as the weekends are packed.
15. Listen to Jazz. I love Duc de Lombards. If it isn’t in your price range check out Café Laurent on the Left Bank.
17.. Visit a local boulangerie and try different croissants (pain au chocolate, pain au raisin, croissant au beurre ) For the best croissant check out this post.
18. Beware of pickpockets and scammers. You don’t want to ruin your trip. Check out my safety tips for travelers here.
19. Try French food. Don’t turn your mind off to French food until you try it. Skip tourist streets with set menus. Here is my list of favorite places to eat and drink in Paris
20. Visit the market. I love the Bastille market. Arrive around 9 am before it gets too busy. It is open on Thursdays and Sundays. You can pick up fruits, vegetables, bread, and cheese and make your own picnic.
21. Always pack an umbrella. Even if the weather doesn’t call for it, it can rain without warning. For ideas on what to do in Paris when it rains, check out this post.
22. Watch the sunset or sunrise from one of the bridges on the Seine. In the Summer, you can bring a bottle of rosé and watch from the Seine with the rest of the Parisians.
24. Picnic on the Seine. Grab a baguette from a local boulangerie and hit the market or local Monoprix for wine, cheese, and all your favorite snacks.
25. Book a cooking class or Market Tour with La Cuisine Paris.
Don’t feel pressure to do it all. I always leave something for my next trip. Paris should be enjoyed and not rushed. The classics will always be there.