“There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home, and in Paris.” – Ernest Hemmingway
Paris is at the top of many bucket lists – for the culture, the history, the romance and the food. But, there are a few things you should know before packing your beret.
People have been drawn to Paris for centuries, and it’s easy to see why. The architecture is unique and romantic, the wine is fantastic, and the cafés line the sidewalks from end-to-end. In the fall when temperatures begin to dip, the cafés heat the outdoor tables with heat lamps, so you can enjoy your Croque-Monsieur without sacrificing any people watching.
Paris Syndrome is Real
The first thing to know before you go to Paris is that it’s a big city! Everybody expects the entire city to feel cozy and romantic, like we see in the movies. Sure, there are many neighborhoods that have that “romantic-Parisian-vibe”, but there’s also a lot of hustle and bustle! Many people leave the city with “Paris Syndrome“, or disappointment because it wasn’t at all what they expected it to be.
Going to Paris with the mindset that you’re going to a city, and it’s not all romance, will help you enjoy your trip much more.
Maybe don’t pack that beret
While you will see Parisians riding their bicycles with a baguette in the basket, you won’t see many berets. This is probably just based on fashion trends, and maybe it will come back. But if you’re walking around in a beret, you (and other tourists) will likely be the only ones!
Don’t Eat Near the Tourist Destinations
This is a tip for any city – walk a couple of blocks outside of the main areas for the best food (and to save some money). We have learned this the hard way, and don’t even bother with these places any more. You’ll even notice there’s a wait at these locations because people either don’t know any better, or don’t want to walk. The biggest key for success here is to plan on when you want to eat a little bit, versus going when you’re starving! You’ll be much more patient, and your stomach and wallet will be much happier 🙂
(yes, that’s something like a mayo on my lettuce, and those are hot dogs next to it.)
The Layout of Paris is a Spiral
When you’re planning your trip, you may have a certain arrondissement (neighborhood) that you’d like to stay in, or near. Knowing which number your arrondissement is, and which numbers surround it will help you with your research. Number 1 (Louvre) starts in the center of Paris, then 2-20 spiral to the outskirts of the city. Each arrondissement has it’s own reasons to visit (or avoid), so doing some research ahead of booking your hotel or airbnb will be very important.
Take the Métro
Because the city is a spiral and some of the streets are so old and narrow, it can be hard to travel by car from one place to another. (Also, remember it’s a big city, so TRAFFIC). The underground train system is the easiest way to travel throughout the city! If you’re intimidated and don’t speak French (me), Google Maps will help you navigate which train to take, when to transfer, and when to get off. It will save you a ton of time, and it’s cheap. One cautionary tip: the glass doors that let you through once you scan your Métro Card don’t mess around. Go through quickly, because if your bag gets stuck in the doors, they don’t open back up until the next person scans their card. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t get stuck in the gate! Here’s more information about taking the Métro via the Official Paris website.
Picnics by the Eiffel Tower are cool… but…
Rats! Seriously though, the rats in the iconic Champ de Mars are disgusting. This was one of those things that I didn’t expect, but looking back on it, I’m not sure why. Remember? It’s a big city. Also, Ratatouille. Other people didn’t seem to be bothered by them, and were still able to enjoy their picnics. But I live in Chicago, and I couldn’t even do it.
Take the Top Floor Apartment
If you’re looking at an airbnb, and you see the apartment is on the sixth floor with no elevator – take it! First of all, you’re more likely to have a great view. Secondly, you’re more likely to have a balcony. Finally, the lower level apartments typically belonged to the shopkeepers back in the day. The higher floors were typically nicer apartments for middle-class and higher families.
We went in with the mindset that the top floor would be cheaper (read: no elevator, six flights of spiral staircase) but that’s not entirely the case. As I mentioned before, you’re more likely to have a balcony and have a view of the Eiffel Tower! The stairs are just an excuse to eat more bread and cheese.
3 Days isn’t Enough
Our trip was way too short! We packed a lot into three days, but would love to walk around more (and eat… all day). There are tons of museums we did not have time for, and shopping we didn’t do. If you’re still in the planning stage and you’re debating adding a few more days to Paris, you should do it!
Have you been to Paris? Comment below with a tip you wish you’d known before going!
Also, if you’re planning your first trip abroad, make sure you check out my planning tips!
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