Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but the idea of travelling here can be intimidating. However, as long as you are mindful of basic Parisian dos and don’ts, there is no reason why you won’t have the time of your life in the city of love. To make your stay in Paris more comfortable, here is a list of things you must not do in Paris, and the things that you should be doing instead.
- Do not be shy to say Bonjour!
Bonjour is not just a greeting, but the heart of courtesy in France. For the French, politeness dictates that every social interaction should begin with a bonjour. According to Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau in the best-selling book “The Bonjour Effect” (2016), for French people, “Saying bonjour is so automatic, the French hardly notice when you say it. But they notice when you don’t.”
So, whether it be to a server at a restaurant or a stranger in the street you ask directions from, always begin with bonjour. This will win you many points even if you do not speak another word of French.
- 2. Do no stick only to the famous attractions.
As one of the largest cities in Europe, Paris offers a rich diversity of experiences from one Parisienne arrondissement (district) to another. It has many noteworthy gems tucked away in different parts of the city. These include places like Butte-aux-Cailles, with incredible street art walks, Longchamp Horse Racecourse for those who like the high life, Rolland Garros for the tennis buff, and the iconic flea market Les Puces de Paris Saint-Ouen for the vintage lovers.
So, do not stick only to the places around the main Parisian attractions, because believe-it-or-not, Paris has even more to offer in terms of art and culture.
- 3. Again, do not limit yourself only to Paris when there are such incredible day-trips close by.
Paris is very centrally located in France. It is also very well-connected to the rest of the country via trains and roads. This means that there are many ideal day-trip destinations around the city. Some of the must-visit day-trip destinations from Paris are Versailles, Giverny, Loire Valley, Champagne and Mont San Michel. Some other lesser known but equally worthy ones are Chartres, Chevreuse and Auvers-sur-Oise.
The choice of day-trips from Paris is endless! So, if you have some time, do not miss out on experiencing a slice of France outside of Paris.
- 4. Do not rely only on cabs.
The Paris public transport systems is one of the oldest and most well-connected in the world. With a simple Navigo pass, you can travel across Paris and its suburbs. So, when it comes to moving around Paris, do not depend only on cabs. In fact, in recent times, Paris has been providing more space to pedestrians and bicycle-lanes by barring cars and other automobiles from many areas in the city.
Thus, depending on the neighborhood and distance to be covered, cabs could sometimes be a longer and slower alternative to the Paris metro, or even the easily available electric bikes and scooters.
- 5. Do not leave your best outfits at home.
People in Paris are some of the best-dressed in Europe. Indeed, it has been the fashion capital of the world for centuries. So, do pack all your best outfits. However, Parisians in general tend to veer towards understated but impeccable classic styles rather than loud fashion trends.
On another note, when it comes to shoes, you definitely need to put comfort ahead of style. In Paris, you would be walking a lot, even inside metro stations as well as to get from point A to point B near the main attractions (such as Eiffel Tower and Jardin des Tuileries). So comfortable shoes have to be a priority.
- 6. Do not miss dining in the many Michelin star restaurants in Paris.
The Michelin Guide, which is used to rate the excellence and quality of restaurants worldwide, was developed and introduced by France. Therefore, you can imagine how important fine dining and gastronomy is to the French. Paris has some of the best Michelin star restaurants in the world and the good news is that, there are many price points at which one could enjoy them here. Just remember to make reservations ahead of times since tables at these places are always in-demand here.
One tip to save money while enjoying fine dining, is to visit restaurants for lunch instead of dinner. Many Micheline restaurants serve superb lunch menus for way cheaper than dinner menus.
- 7. Do not shop for food and groceries only at super-markets.
If you need to buy food or groceries during your stay here, do not stick only to the supermarkets. The culture of les petits commerçants or small businesses, is still alive and thriving in France. Even in Paris, you would find a lot of people shopping in their neighborhood fromagerie (cheese shop), bouchère (butcher) or épicerie (grocery shop) instead of going to the supermarkets.
To get a flavor of Parisian life, you can also visit one of the many farmers’ markets in Paris. Here, you can find delicious food and drinks, along with many kinds of locally made French snacks.
- 8. Do not forget to factor in French opening hours (for restaurants, services, shops etc).
The randomness of opening hours for businesses and services in France, can really take some time to wrap your head around. It’s difficult even for the locals! Different shops and restaurants in Paris (and generally in France), operate according to their own timings. Thus, you can have vastly different opening and closing hours from one place to the next.
This might not be the case in the big departmental stores, but definitely true for smaller establishments. So, always check timings for restaurants, cafes and shops you want to visit, ahead of time. You can access this info easily on Google or on the business’ website.
- 9. Do not stick only to baguettes and croissants!
Baguettes and croissants have by now become Paris icons in their own right. Of course, you will be eating a lot of these in Paris, because they are absolutely delicious. But do not make the mistake of not trying other things. There is a staggering variety of breads and pastry in France, and you must not miss out on them!
Also, just like the French do, always buy your bread only from a boulangerie. It is a term reserved for bakeries that specializing in making their bread in-house, from scratch. A place selling bread without the term ‘boulangerie’ in their shop-front window implies they get their dough from somewhere else.
- 10. Do not be in a hurry
Lastly, do not be in a hurry to do everything possible in the shortest amount of time. Being in Paris and having a million things to see and do, can feel be a lot of pressure. But do not forget to take it slow and really enjoy your stay here. Do not eat or drink on the go because of the pressure of hitting a certain number of monuments or places. Parisian life is also about going back to basics, like taking the time to appreciate the many beautiful things here, enjoying a delicious meal or just taking a long walk along the Seine.
Take the time to enjoy yourself, for being in Paris will definitely be a memory you will cherish for a lifetime.