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7 Tips for Planning the Perfect Weekend in Paris

Embrace the city's certain je nais se quoi with these clever trip-planning strategies.

U.S. News & World Report

7 Tips for Planning the Perfect Weekend in Paris

Paris rooftops and Eiffel Tower.

Exploring vintage markets, renting an apartment and relying on public transportation are a few ways to cut costs and immerse yourself in the local culture.(Getty Images)

Home to iconic sights, like the Eiffel Tower, the gilded Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre, the City of Light beckons to travelers with its inspiring landmarks and its irresistible charm. However, Paris, with its vibrant neighborhoods, tucked-away quarters, trendy boutiques and bohemian cafes, offers much more than striking art and architecture. And though it's impossible to soak up all of the city's classic and trendsetting spots in one weekend, to embrace the city's authentic charms, you must explore the city's can't-miss tourist attractions and off-the-beaten-path corners. With this in mind, here are seven smart ways to plan the perfect weekend getaway in France's enchanting capital.

Stay in an Apartment

If you want to trim down costs, consider renting an apartment rather than splurging on an expensive hotel. Not only can you shave a few hundred euros off your trip, but you'll easily get acclimated to Parisian culture in a short time frame. Many reputable vacation rental sites, like Paris Perfect, offer great deals on short-term rentals in many of the city's most popular arrondissements, or districts, such as Le Marais in the 3e and 4e arrondissements and St. Germaine, in the 6e arrondissement.

Shop at the Local Markets

It's no secret that shopping in Paris can be a little pricey, especially when it comes to food and wine. To save money on food costs while visiting, buy snacks and groceries from street carts and markets. One of the most popular farmers markets is the marché raspail, which is open on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Here, you'll find everything from locally grown produce to charcuterie to fresh fish and cheese varieties. Another favorite haunt is Rue Montorgueil in the 1e and 2e arrondissements. While perusing the market, you may even spot some of Paris's top chefs and food writers shopping for pastries, cheeses and other ingredients.

Allow Ample Time to Explore Famous and Lesser-Known Attractions

While there certainly are certain must-see sights to explore if you've never been to Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Champs-Élysées, the City of Light offers many other exciting, lesser-known attractions. After visiting these iconic attractions in the morning or before closing times to dodge crowds, make sure to check out some hidden gems, such as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (the Decorative Arts Museum) on Rue de Rivoli and the Musée Marmottan-Claude Monet on Rue Louis-Voilly, which houses the largest collection of works by Claude Monet. Locals also love the the Jardin des Serres d'Auteul, a collection of 19th-century greenhouses that surround a magnificent central tropical greenhouse. And if you're a lit fan, make sure to visit Pere Lachaise a cemetery near the 20e arrondissement that holds the graves of Oscar Wilde and Frédéric Chopin.

Take the Métro, Bus or Walk

Even though taxis may be convenient, they are one of the most expensive ways to get around the city. Because of the city traffic, many rides end up costing nearly double what they should. To avoid hefty rates, see more of the city by walking or taking the quick and convenient métro. You'll find stops in almost every neighborhood, and single ride tickets cost just 1.80 euro. If you'd prefer to stay above ground, take the bus. Bus tickets cost about 2 euros and give you easy access to the city's most famed attractions.

Dress Like a Local

If you want to blend in effortlessly while you stroll along the city's wide boulevards, skip the sweatshirts, baggy jeans and fanny packs. Instead, don something a little more chic, such as fitted pants and suit jackets for men or fashionable dresses and comfortable flats for women. And if you're planning a fall, winter or spring weekend getaway, opt for a trench coat, fitted blazers and a long scarf that you can easily pack into a compact carry-on.

Explore Vintage Markets

Like Paris's best cafés and cozy bistros, the best outfit retailers are found in the city's quieter, lesser-visited neighborhoods. For an eclectic mix of old and new items, visit Rue de Charonne, which is situated behind the bustling Bastille. Here, you'll find rows of fashionable boutiques tailored to a variety of budgets. The Etienne Marcel neighborhood is another crowd-pleasing area for shoppers, thanks to its laid-back vibe and quirky boutiques filled with records, unique prints and well-tailored fabrics.

Practice a Few French Phrases

The French have long been regaled as being unfriendly to Americans. However, this myth is far from true. The key to winning over Parisians is to simply speak the local language. Before your trip, learn a few key phrases to better communicate with locals and easily navigate around the city, haggle for the lowest prices and ask questions. Phrases like "bonjour" (hello), "parlez-vous anglais?" (do you speak English?) and "Ou est…?" (where is ...?) are simple to learn and put into practice.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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