5 Things to Know Before You Visit Paris

Dancing at the top of every traveller's bucket list gleams the City of Lights, a full out Parisian excursion to the very definition of cityscape wanderlust.  Paris is not an easy task to take on, and there are some things to keep in mind before bashing into this historical city full force.  The word culture comes from France, and it comes as no shock the Parisians consider Paris to be the very epitome of the word.  Here are my list of things that you need to know to help you make your time in one of my favorite cities, much more enjoyable than walking in blind.

Dress Like You're Having Dinner with Your Boss

fullsizerender-1Mostly modest, but tasteful- Parisians are never sloppy.  From trendy to severe, Parisian fashion knows no bounds (duh), but looking unpresentable is definitely not acceptable.  Scarves are worn most of the year -even in summer- so consider throwing  a few in your bag. They make a great day to night transition, and can add a little extra flare to any outfit.  Those living in Paris tend not to be flamboyant, and muted colors, along with black and grays are a norm.  Always check to see what the dress code is where you are heading to dinner, and remember that dressing up is always better than dressing down.

Keep It Cool

Though from what media shows us, the folks living in Paris are subtle and relatively quiet.  Considering the fact they believe etiquette was born in Paris and is the epicenter, public  behavior should not be brash or abrasive.  Low voices and proper manners will get you further than being rude (shocker!).  Don't assume just because someone is a Parisian, they are going to be rude, just as Parisians shouldn't assume Americans are ignorant.  Let's fight the stereotype people, and respect the cultural norms by keeping our voices down.

Not Everyone Speaks English

Okay, so I feel like this one is self explanatory, but apparently it's not.  The amount of people who consistently tell me how shocked they are when no one speaks English while they are abroad is pretty astounding.  Well friends, I am here to tell you the locals are just as shocked you don't speak their language either.  Look at it this way, when tourists come to America, do you guess at what country they are from and attempt to greet them in their native language, or do you say hello?  You most likely say hello, unless you live in Miami.  In Paris it's considered rude to assume everyone speaks English, and an easy "Parlez-vous anglais?" (I looked that one up!), goes a long way.  Greeting with bonjour, and a merci after receiving change is always appreciated.  A little bit of effort makes life a lot easier in the long run.

Getting Around

Like I said in my post about things I unfortunately had to learn while IN Paris, instead of before, follow the cross walks, but don't follow the lights.  Parisians j-walk (usually within the cross walks), but I don't believe I ever saw a single person follow the light that blinks when to go or stop.  

Moreover, while compared to most major US cities, Paris has a small area, you are still going to want to buy a metro card, or a booklet or 2 of tickets, depending on how long you are staying.  Taxi's are hard to come by, and the metro is a guaranteed ride to anywhere in town.  Don't forget to download the Paris Metro App to map out your route!!

Time to Wine and Dine

img_5677Like in many European countries dinner is late and takes anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours. You can range from a 6 course meal, to just drinks and an entree, but expect to sit down and enjoy yourself.  Unless you're in a touristy area (but even then), count on places closing around 2:30 or 3 after lunch.  Most restaurants won't reopen for dinner until 7 or 7:30 and will stay open until midnight.  Plan your day accordingly and make sure to eat while there are places available, otherwise you might be stuck with a baguette from the grocery store (not really a bad alternative!).


Liked this post?  Check out my Perfect 3 Day Paris Itinerary!

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The Perfect 3 Day Paris Itinerary

A trip to the city of lights can be a daunting venture to the young traveler.  With so much to do in so little time, how can you get a true taste of the city, while still seeing all of the important monuments and historical treasures the city has to offer.  With Paris, there is a dire need to pick and choose what is important and what is not- it is easy to get trapped running from one tourist hangout to the next- but for so many people, myself included, this is not what traveling is all about. Why waste time climbing the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Arc de Triomphe, when you can pick and choose, and spend your valuable hours getting more into the heart of Paris? Check out my itinerary for what will get you feeling the most Parisian.  All the locations for each day are easy to access from one another, and are a great way for you to plan a rough sketch of your day!


Before you go:

This is a rough itinerary of what I did (or aspired to do) while I was on my amazing excursion to Paris.
Keep in mind most museums are closed on Tuesdays so plan ahead when booking you’re trip!

Where to stay:

For the young traveller, cheap and in a great location is key.  The Montmartre area is a great place with a wonderful French vibe, great little restaurants, and far enough from the center to not be overpriced and loud.  The rest of Paris is just a bus ride away.  My personal hostel recommendation is the Vintage Hostel at the bottom of the hill of Sacre Coeur.  At €21 a night for a 4 bed female only dorm, Vintage Hostel is not a very social hostel but it was clean, comfortable, the rooms each have their own bathroom, there is plenty of place to store your belongings safely, and each bunk has its own light and outlet.  Breakfast in the morning costs only €6 and is a great way to start your day.  Very charming, and the private rooms are not going to break the budget either if you are traveling with a partner and need a little more privacy.

When you get there:

Paris is-needless to say- a big city and pretty spread apart.  Most main attractions will be a mile apart from one another, so to save yourself time and money, you are going to want to buy either a metro card or stocks of metro tickets.  This will cost you around €30-€50,  and is best to do as soon as you get to the city!

Day 1

Moulin Rouge

img_5335The infamous burlesque strip club, even if you don’t go see a show (that can get pricey!), seeing this sight- etched into history by the Baz Luhrmann film of the same name, is a must.  Make sure to add this sight to your Parisian bucket list to see the windmill go round, and send you back in time to the bohemian art movement draped in burlesque, diamonds, and the world’s wealthiest bachelors.

Parc Monceau

img_5382People watch the French in a picturesque park filled with trees, streams, bridges, and quintessential Parisian Charm.  Get out of the bustle and away from the tourists by adding this little rendezvous spot to your trip!

Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile

img_5432An arc of triumph is found in many major cities around the globe including Barcelona, Florence, Rome, Mexico City, London, and of course, Paris.  Honoring all those who died for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, the arc stands 50 meters tall and grand looking down the Champs Élysées.

Champs Élysées

img_5639The Parisian equivalent to Broadway, this street is lined with theatres and shopping- from fine diamonds at Cartier, to your average tween hangout at Abercrombie & Fitch.  Stroll away from the Arc toward the ferris wheel on the Siene, and if you’re out in the evening during the most wonderful time of the year, don’t miss out on the Christmas Market!


Up for seeing more after all that walking?  Take a trip to the catacombs!  These underground tunnels contain over 6 million people and are an eerie collection specific to your Paris trip!  Book online to reserve your spot and skip the line!

Day 2

Notre Dame

fullsizerender-16I have a thing about climbing churches, it's one of my favorite things do to when I visit a new city. So over all other vertically inclined monuments, I chose to climb the Notre Dame.  Here I felt I could meet Quasimodo, see the historic church, and get a panoramic of Paris that INCLUDED the Eiffel Tower.  Tickets to climb the bell towers cannot be bought in advance, so my recommendation is to go here first thing in the morning.  The security is very particular about how they let people in, so be prepared to stand in line.


Ticket prices range from €15-€10-FREE €€€!! (when you are an EU citizen or hold a valid student visa within the EU).  After you have climbed the tower like Quasi and hung out with the gargoyles- scoot on into the church to see the flying buttresses and imagine yourself thrown back into medieval Paris seeking sanctuary.  A truly architectural marvel, this is a sight you cannot miss while in Paris.


Tour de Jaques

All that remains of a Gothic Church, St. Jack of the Butchery (Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie), this beautiful tower was recently restored and stands tall for those brave enough to climb it’s 300 steps.  Located not too far from Notre Dame, stopping by to see this beautiful architecture is sight enough and a thorough reminder of the grandeur of old Paris.  Book tickets online in advance for a tour- the only way to go to the top!

The Louvre

img_5925I feel like saying to visit The Louvre is a bit redundant, as if you know anything about Europe, you know that this museum houses some of the most precious artwork in the world.  From everything to statues, ancient Greek and Egyptian artifacts, medieval relics, the rooms of Napoleon, and the Mona Lisa- it is possible to get lost in the Louvre for hours!
Book online in advance to skip the line- it will be well worth it in the end.

Pro Tip:  The Mona Lisa is located in the Denon section- get her out of the way, then explore the other amazing artwork the Louvre has to offer!

Pont des Arts-No More

img_6110What used to be the love lock bridge, Pont des Arts, was renovated sans locks in 2015 due to harm to the bridge under the crippling weight of the locks- but lovers fear not!  On the Passerelle Léopold-Sedar-Senghor lovers have fought back with creating a new love lock bridge, which is slowly accumulating love from all around the world.  Purchase your love lock, write your names down, and throw the keys in the water so you’re sure to stay together forever!

Lunch at the Eiffel Tower

img_5493Why not pick up a baguette, some wine, and delicious brie and plop down on the grass next to the quintessential Parisian Icon- the Tour de Eiffel.  Romantic, cheap, and a great way to people watch, you can’t go wrong with a picnic in Paris!

Museé Rodin

If you haven’t seen enough in this long day- visit another stunning museum, the Museé Rodin houses The Thinker and much more and is an amazing museum to tinker around for a few hours in!  Again, make sure to book those tickets online for an easier experience! (:

Sacre Coeur at Sunset

fullsizerender-18For a beautiful panoramic shot of Paris, head into the Montmartre section and walk up to Sacre Coeur at sunset for a beautiful way to end the evening before you head to dinner.

Day 3

Sacre Coeur

img_6239Where you watched the sun set on Paris, now head back up those steps and see the inside of this beauty!  This will put you in the Monmartre region where once you are away from the church gives you a genuine Parisian feel.


Le mur des t’aime (I Love You: The Wall)

img_6280Lovers come together in Paris, and at I Love You: The Wall is no exception.  612 tiles of enameled lava unite like glittering starts sprinkled across the evening sky with "I Love You: scripted in 250 languages.  Snap a picture of a kiss, or throw up “I Love You” in sign language to show the world all you need is love.

Parc de Buttes Chamont

img_6416While we are on the romantic path of things, a walk in Parc de Buttes Chamont will send you into a fairytale.  Parisians come here to think, and you should to- with it’s bridges and ponds, the park is a beautiful place to escape from hustle and bustle, and to wander winding paths.

Pére Lachaise Cemetiére

img_6481It may seem a bit odd to visit a cemetery on a vacation- but this is no ordinary cemetery. Now home to some of the most important people to have ever lived, Chopin, Moliére, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, various saints, and important Parisian families, this place will give you the spooks as you come the closest you are able to these historic people.  For a moment you can pay tribute to your favorite artists in the largest cemetery in Paris, stretching across 110 acres.

Flea Markets/Boutique Street

For a truly Parisian feel, head over to a flea market or boutique street filled with uniquely Parisian shops to get your final fill of Paris check out Boulevard Haussmann and the Grands Boulevards, or to the flea market Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, outside of the 18th arrondissement.  Here you will find gems, antiques, and junk, along with a defined experience that will leave you wanting more!

Did I forget any sights that are a must-see in Paris?  Let me know in the comments below!!

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