An American’s Guide to Paris: Tips & Recommendations for the City of Lights

Hey y’all! If you couldn’t tell by the millions of photos I’ve posted on Instagram, I spent the past five weeks in FRANCE! It was seriously one of the best experiences of my life – I miss it already! I’m majoring in Creative Advertising and Journalism which I’ve talked about before, but a lot of people don’t know that I’m also minoring in French. I’ve been taking French classes since I was in 6th grade, and my love for this language has grown so much over the years. This love was really solidified by my time in France. It’s such a beautiful country, and I feel so lucky that I was able to see so much of it! I stayed in Paris for the majority of the time, but we took trips to Provins, Strasbourg, different cities in the Normandy region, Nice, and Monte Carlo (I know that it’s not considered “France,” but it’s pretty close!). I feel like I was able to get a pretty good handle on Paris during my time there, and since it is such a popular tourist destination, I thought I’d give you guys a couple of tips and recommendations if you plan on heading to the city of lights any time soon!

Take the Metro!

Ubering can get so expensive, and it is honestly kind of silly to use it when there is such a good public transportation system built into the city – unless you feel unsafe. You can get a discount on a metro pass if you are under 26, and also note that if you want to get a week-long metro pass, the week begins on Sunday. So, no matter what day of the week you buy the pass, it will expire that Sunday.

Try to avoid Galeries Lafayette.

I know this is a must for a lot of people when they go to Paris, but it is an absolute zoo. Yes, the building is stunning, but it isn’t worth the huge crowds of people. The BHV and the Bon Marché are very similar and are way less crowded and overwhelming.

Don’t try to plan your days too meticulously.

Some of the best days I had in Paris were the ones where we just explored and stumbled upon cool places.

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Paris, c’est rêver avec les yeux ouverts 😌✨

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What to do about your phone…

A lot of people will say that you shouldn’t be worried about your phone while you’re in another country and to just take it all in. While I do agree with this, Paris is a big city, and if you don’t have a way to get directions, it will be kind of a nightmare. AT&T has a $10/ day plan that I think is a good option for a short trip (I’m not sure what other carriers offer). However, if you’re going to be overseas for a long time, I would suggest bringing an old phone and buying a sim card in the country that you’re traveling to. Oftentimes, you can get a sim card with a bunch of data for around €30-40 for the month.

Don’t stress out if you don’t do everything you want to do!

I firmly believe you could be in Paris for a year and not do everything you want to do. I spent five weeks here, and I didn’t finish my list! It just gives you more of a reason to go back!

Try to fit in with the Parisians.

It is important to fit in here because it lessens your chance or getting pickpocketed, and it’s all-around more respectful. In general, Parisians dress very neutrally. If you just search “Parisian Style” on Pinterest, it will give you a good idea on what to wear. Here are some easy words/ phrases to use while you’re in France:

Bonjour: Good morning/ Good day

Bon soir: Good evening

Au Revoir: Goodbye

S’il vous plait: Please

Merci: Thank you

Je voudrais…: I would like…(at a restaurant)

Pardon: Pardon/ Excuse me (people say this instead of “excuse me” in big crowds)

Où est la toilette?: Where is the bathroom?

Un carafe d’eau: tap water for the table (order this instead of bottled water – it’s free)

Honestly though, if you don’t know French, google translate will be your best friend. Although most Parisians speak English, it is so much more respectful to try to communicate in French as best as you can.

If you can, plan your trip in July!

July is the month of sale in Paris! Pretty much everything goes on sale, and the sales get better as the month goes on. In French, sale is “les soldes,” so don’t get confused when you see that on the windows of stores.  

Do not engage with anyone who tries to talk to you on the streets.

Paris is a pretty safe city. There is a very low violent crime rate, but some of the men can get pretty in your face – especially because they can spot an American from a mile away. The catcalling is pretty bad here. While it’s unlikely you’ll get mugged, petty crime is really big in Paris. The gypsies have different tactics they use to pick-pocket you – one of them being to ask you to sign a petition. NEVER stop to sign a petition! It’s better just to avoid strangers who try to talk to you in general. I know it might seem rude to ignore someone who comes up to you asking for directions, but trust me, it could save you from a lot of trouble. I never got pickpocketed, but that’s because I always had my hand on my bag and was aware of what was going on around me. Be careful especially on the metro!

Okay, now onto recommendations….

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Rosé the day away 🍾

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Some of my favorite places:

Marché des Enfants Rouges (outdoor market with food from countries all over the world)

Place des Vosges (outdoor square, free wifi, not a lot of tourists)

Jardins de Luxembourg (public garden/ park, one of my absolute favorite spots, perfect for a picnic)

Grand Épiceries & Galeries Lafayettes Gourmet (department stores for high quality food)

The Moulin Rouge (Burlesque show, iconic)

Centre Pompidou (modern art museum)

Some of my favorite restaurants:

Georges (top of the Centre Pomidou, great view of Paris, need a reservation)

Le Refuge des Fondus (fondue restaurant, wine served in baby bottles, need a reservation)

Ober Momma (Italian, order the truffle pasta or the burrata pizza, get there at 7 when the doors open or sit at the bar otherwise you won’t get a table)

Brasserie du Louvre (great French food, order the waffles for dessert)

Literally ANY boulangerie! (My favorite things to get were a pain au chocolat, a quiche lorraine, or a chaussan aux pommes)

Where to stay:

Le Marais

Le Bastille

Le Quartier Latin

Saint-Germain-des-Près

All of these are away from the tourist-y areas. I highly suggest not staying right next to the big monuments where there are a ton of tourists. Plus, you get to explore the parts of Paris where Parisians actually live. I stayed at the Citadines Bastille-Marais, and it was a perfect location!

Where to go out:

Rue Princesse

Rue de Lappe

I could seriously go on forever about how much I love Paris, so I’m going to stop myself here before this post gets too long. Thanks for sticking through it if you did!

Bisous bisous!

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1 Comment

  1. Deb Lawson
    August 14, 2019 / 3:43 pm

    Oh, Mer!! I got so excited reading your blog about Paris!! I have been twice and really want to go back. It was great to hear your recommendations, see your pictures, and be reminded of that fun city. I’m so glad you got to go! Hope we both get to go back!

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Header Photos by McClain Portis.