Paris Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- "Parlez-vous Français?" Parisians adore their native tongue—and will like you better if you try to speak it. Bonjour is hello, au revoir is good bye, s'il vous plaît is please, and merci is thank you.
- Coffee is a leisurely affair When you order a café in Paris, sit down and stay awhile. If you're simply looking for a quick jolt of caffeine, order an espresso or coffee from the bar.
- Don't toss your ticket Hold on to your metro ticket until you exit the station (for proof-of-purchase reasons). If you're caught empty-handed, you could be liable for a hefty fine.
The city of lights, the city of love, a city of fashion—Paris draws millions of visitors every year with its unforgettable ambience. Of course, the divine cuisine and vast art collections deserve some of the credit as well. The gentle River Seine rambles through the city, flanked by stately museums, centuries-old churches, and blocks of Rococo- and Neo-classic-design architecture, further enhanced by charming trees and glowing streetlamps. Peppering the Seine's cobbled walks and graceful bridges are impossibly chic Parisians, probably on their way to the market, café or cinema.
Containing world-class museums, fashion, cuisine and an atmosphere all its own, Paris is also a city of "many splendors," as Ernest Hemingway recalled in his memoirs, A Moveable Feast. Visit the Centre Pompidou, enjoy gourmet pastries, shop couture on the Champs Élysées or boutiques in Les Halles, take in the view atop the Eiffel Tower, or even daytrip to Versailles Palace. But don't miss out on the simple pleasure of meandering the marvelous arrondissements (districts).
How To Save Money in Paris
- Shop Monoprix for souvenirs This Target equivalent has just about everything at affordable prices.
- Eat prix-fixe If you want a taste of fine dining, enjoy it at lunch when highly acclaimed restaurants offer cost-efficient fixed-price menus.
- Walk, Walk, Walk The best way to take in this city is to walk; it also happens to be the cheapest mode of transport too.
Paris Culture & Customs
There's this idea that Parisians stick up their noses to Americans -- that they're notoriously unfriendly and even rude. Fodor's says, "North Americans, raised on the principle that the customer is always right, may find servers and store clerks a bit curt (and not always so efficient)." However, a little savoir-faire, or diplomacy, helps. So, try to speak the language, if only a kindly bonjour (good day) or bonsoir (good evening). If you're at a loss for words, politely ask the waiter or shop attendant, Parlez-vous anglais (or do you speak English?). Try to blend into the refined sophistication of Parisian life rather than stick out as a loud, garish or uncouth visitor.
Speaking of trying to blend in … Paris is arguably the fashion capital of the world. Leave the fanny packs at home! After all, everyone from Marie Antoinette and Coco Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix got their start in haute-couture fashion in Paris—and their influence remains. Consider dressing within the grey scale to blend in with locals.
Most restaurants and cafés will include a 10- to 15-percent service charge, service compris, on the bill. You can leave some additional change, if you wish. Taxicab drivers usually expect a 12- to 15-percent tip, though usually rounding to the nearest euro will suffice. France uses the euro, which is at an advantage to the U.S. dollar. Keep in mind the exchange rate when you tip and make purchases.
Similar to many other international cities, Paris offers a surplus of restaurants that serve up everything from Asian fusion dishes to nouveaux bistro fare. And because France invented a widely adopted style of cooking, the food in Paris is très bien. Look for upscale establishments in the 1er arrondissement (1st district) and in Marais, as well as around Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower. The 2ème arrondissement has a number of cheap eateries and cafés, as does Montmartre.
For a meal-on-the-go, pick up a baguette sandwich at a traiteurs or enjoy a quick sweet or savory crêpe at a crêperie. A chocolat chaud (hot chocolate), café crème (coffee with cream) and other drinks can be enjoyed at any of the city's many cafés. And if you want to save some euro, head to the local grocers and pick up some snacks for the day. Cheaper bistros and brasseries abound, but for some French fine-dining splurge at Restaurant Plaza Athénée, L'Arpège, Guy Savoy or L'Ambroisie, among other pricey yet delicious dining establishments.
Famed foodie Julia Child wrote "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" -- rather than something Rachel Ray-esque like "30 Minute French Meals" -- because French meal preparation is an art. Even the art of perfecting French specialties (wine, cheese, pastry) are a reflection of the time and care put into a meal. Likewise, linger over your French fine-dining experience, realizing that the food is meant to be savored rather than gulped. And remember, elbows off the table!