Paris is one of my favourite cities in the world, and thanks to my close proximity living in London and (in large part!) to living with a Frenchman, I get to go a lot.
Paris is one of the world’s most popular destination with travellers for a very good reason. It offers so many wonders, from the most amazing wine, cheese, and bread, to art, architecture, and history. Plus it has this wonderful mystical allure – whether you’ve been once or ten times, there really is no place like Paris. Below are a few tips to help you make the most of your time in Paris.
You sometimes hear that Parisians can be rude, or that it’s impossible to get around without speaking French. While the first may be true of any culture, you’ll find that the vast majority of people speak some English, and nearly everyone who works in hotels and restaurants do. Nonetheless, learning and using a few key words goes a long way in showing that you appreciate their culture and are making an effort!
- Bonjour – hello
- Au revior – goodbye
- Oui – yes
- Non – no
- L Addition – the check
- Si vous plais – please
- Merci – thank you
- De rein – you’re welcome
- Parlez-vous anglais? – Do you speak English?
What to Eat and Drink
Parisians (and the French in general) know how to eat, and are known worldwide for their food. The city is filled with amazing restaurants, but eating in Paris doesn’t have to break the bank. Walk into any Supermarket and you can get fresh bread, some fruits and meat and cheese, and a bottle of wine (for less than 5 euros!) and picnic. I recommend the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tour. You can also pop into any corner Brasserie and order a Menu, which is a a couple of courses and a glass of wine for not too much.
Breakfast in France is all about the carbs – baguettes and jams, croissants and pain au chocolate. Don’t bother with a restaurant, but instead find your nearest bakery, and try some fresh pastry.
Coffee – most Parisian cafes serve espresso, but if you need a lighter coffee fix, you can order a cafe Americano or Allonge, which is espresso and water.
Some common brasserie menu items include:
- Oignon soup (Soup à L’oignon) – a traditional French soup, with sautéed onions, topped with bread and melted cheese. This soup is nearly impossible to eat without making a mess, but it’s worth it!
- Croque Monsieur – a fancy way of saying a ham and cheese sandwich, often open faced.
- Croque Madame – a Monsieur topped with a fried egg
- Steak tartare – if you’re squeamish, you’ll want to skip this one, but steak tartare is diced or minced raw-beef, mixed with spices and often topped with a raw egg yolk. While the texture is a bit odd for some, it’s a personal favourite.
- Steak frites (or sometimes Éntrecote) – steak and chips.
And you can’t forget what comes after, dessert and cheese! (Yes, cheese is eaten at the end of a meal, and you’ll usually see a cheese plate listed amongst the desserts)
- Macarons – These small bright cookies are found throughout the city. Pierre Herme or La Duree are the two most famous, and an absolute must-try!
- Cheese plate
- Crepes – thin, light ‘pancakes’ that are typically filled with fruit and sugar or sometimes Nutella.
- Creme Brûlée – a traditional French dessert, that’s a creamy pudding topped with sugar and then torched. The top will be warm and crunchy and the inside cool and creamy.
And of course, don’t forget a glass of wine. You’ll find incredibly inexpensive wines that are great in most restaurants and in grocery stores. I tend to stick with the house wines, but most will have long wine lists if you’re looking for something specific.
What to See and Do
If You’re Into Art
- The Louvre – the most famous museum in the world, home to the Mona Lisa.
- Musée d’Orsay – Famous for its collections of impression art, it includes well-known artists such Monet, Degas,, Cézanne, and Van Gogh.
- Rodin – dedicated to works of its namesakes, you’ll find sculptures galore here.
- Place du Tertre – this is a square in Montmartre, near Sacré-Cœur and it’s always teeming with artists, painting and selling their wares.
If You’re Into History
- Champs-Élysées – the main boulevard that leads up to the Arc de Triomphe is lined with designer stores.
- Le Marais – a very funky neighbourhood that you cannot miss, filled with bars and restaurants, but also boutiques of all sorts
- Galleries LaFayette – the department store spans seven stories and is filled with everything you can imagine. Head up to the rooftop for more great views of Paris, and a glass of wine in the summer.
If You Want to See the Sights
- Eiffel Tower – Built for the 1889 World Fair, this now famous landmark was originally considered an eyesore and is one of the most recognisable structures across the world. Take the elevator to the top for amazing views, and if you’ve got a spare 200 euros, you can eat at Jules Verne, the restaurant located within.
- Arc de Triomphe- It’s well worth the hike up the stairs. From the top, it’s clear that all roads lead to the Arc. Quite literally – when it was built by Napoleon to celebrate his victory, it was designed to be at the centre of everything.
- Seine River Tour – The Seine runs all through the centre of Paris, and there are plenty of boat tours that take you from one end of the city to the other. It’s a great way to see the sights, and if you want to take your time, you can also find ones that serve dinner.
- Notre Dame – the famous Church which sits on the Île de la Cité
- Sacre Coeur – a gorgeous white Basilica, which sits at the top of Montmartre with views over the entire city
There are two great ways of getting around Paris.
1) The metro is a great, inexpensive way of getting around the city, and connects all of the major landmarks and tourist attractions.
Things to know about the metro:
I usually buy a carnet of 10 tickets. While you don’t need your ticket to exit the tube, make sure you keep the ticket you used for the duration of that ride, because occasionally they will have someone checking tickets at the exit and there’s a large fine if you don’t have yours.
The trains themselves are a little bit old school – to open the doors to enter or exit, you’ll either need to push a button or pull a little handle. And it’s possible to do this before the trains come to a complete stop and you’ll see people jumping out a wee bit early.
2) By foot – while Paris is fairly large, you can cover a lot of the ground in the centre of town by foot. I love to walk along the river from the Louvre to Notre Dame.
Paris is such an amazing city, and there is so much to see and do. These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully they’ll give you a good starting point. What are your must-sees in Paris?
Meet The Author
Cassie has been eating her way around the world since her first solo trip to Antibes, France at the age of 16. Nearly 15 years later, she’s permanently crossed the pond, living in London, and she mostly travels with a very tall Frenchman or her mother. Her blog, Cass Travels, focuses on European travel, London and life as an expat. You can follow her travels on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.