(what to expect and how to make sure you love it!)
Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world in THE most visited country in the world. An estimated 85 million people head to France every year with a large number of those heading for Paris.
Paris has so much to thrill any visitor. The Eiffel Tower is an instantly recognisable symbol of the French capital and is just one one of the many tourist attractions. The galleries, museums, history, food and more are enough to ensure it will continue to attract millions every year. But if you are visiting Paris France for the first time will it be everything you expect?
I must admit I have a love/hate relationship with the French capital. I have visited many times and while there are many great things to do in Paris I have also experienced some of the less attractive aspects of the city.
If you are visiting Paris for the first time expect to see things you will love but please be aware of the things that could ruin your trip too. Check out my tips to get the best of Paris when visiting for the first time!
TIP 1 – PLAN TO SEE THE BEAUTIFUL SIGHTS OF PARIS
TIP 2 – VISIT THE MUSEUMS
TIP 3 – BOOK YOUR TOURS WELL IN ADVANCE!
TIP 4 – ENJOY THE FOOD
What is not to love about French food? When I moved to France in 1989 from South Africa I literally had my mind blown by the food…the love and care taken to prepare meals…the variety.. the beautiful presentation. The world has moved on a long way since those days and tastes are more cosmopolitan generally but I still love French food.
If you are heading to Paris I have picked out 2 places that I would highly recommend!
The first is Sacree Fleur which is in Montmartre.
If you want to eat at this restaurant you MUST book….I reckon at least 20 people were turned away trying to get a table when we ate there. The food was beautiful. This is not a restaurant for vegetarians by the way as their steaks are spectacular. Book via their website….and then ensure you reconfirm 24 hours before! They are seriously popular.
The second is a fabulous Morrocan food stall in the Marais district of Paris. The stall can be found in the Marche des enfants rouges in Marais.
The queues can be immense but look at this food. And all for 26 Euros when we ate there!
Do plan a lunch here – have a walk around Marais….admire the buildings then stop off for some food! Highly recommended!
TIP 5 – READ UP ON THE HISTORY
I always try to learn a little about places I am planning to visit. As a history teacher (in a past life) I actually taught the French Revolution to my pupils. I would suggest reading up if you don’t know much about the history of France as it will make your visit perhaps a little more meaningful.
Visiting places like the Place de la Concorde (scene of many executions during the French Revolution) will mean more if you know about its bloody past.
TIP 6 – TAKE THE METRO
Don’t avoid catching the metro in Paris it is a great experience! Just be prepared for lots of steps. The Paris Metro consists of 300 stations on 16 lines! There are a wide variety of tickets available including single ride tickets, books of 10 or 20, single day passes, multi-day passes, Monday to Sunday week passes, monthly passes and year passes. (see the Paris Metro website for all the details)
Why don’t you add on an excursion to Strasbourg. This beautiful European city is only 2 hours by train from Paris and is famous for being the seat of the European Parliament.
TIP 7 – BE AWARE OF THE SCAMS
The sights, the museums, the food, the ambiance all wonderful things to enjoy in Paris. But there are experiences you really DO NOT want to have. If you are visiting Paris for the first time be aware and please learn from my experiences.
BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS
Ok..I am not picking on Paris here…I am fully aware that other cities experience similar problems but this is what we experienced when we visited.
We were constantly warned either verbally or on posters about the problem of pickpockets. Do not ignore it – it is a genuine problem. I had invested in an anti-pickpocket bag a few weeks before and I am so glad I used it in Paris. The tourist areas are obviously key sites to be REALLY careful with your belongings – the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Montmartre etc. We actually witnessed a pickpocket being apprehended by a couple of guys who were selling souvenirs and they took the young boy’s coat and bag and emptied them out onto the floor – a pile of wallets and purses fell out. We saw no police anywhere.
The Metro is also a key area – we got onto the train at Abesses and all of a sudden I was crowded – I can’t describe it any other way – by about 10 people. I could not move. Fortunately I did not panic as I do not like crowded places – by the time we got off someone had been through my backpack – it was a Parisian that alerted me. Both zips had been opened – luckily everything of value was in my cross-body anti-pickpocket bag (it has locks and is anti-slash) and my backpack held purely clothes, my deodorant and toothbrush! However not a pleasant experience – and we were being careful!!
OTHER SCAMS TO BE AWARE OF IN PARIS
There are also a number of scams to be aware of – the first is a scam involving string/wool….you will get approached by someone saying they will make you a friendship bracelet or a ring – do not let them start wrapping the string or wool around your hand. We actually saw a couple who had been caught out – the guy wraps and wraps the string…a friend of his will come in to stand beside him…then he will refuse to undo it unless you pay. Not nice. Apparently this is one of the top scams in Paris and is very common in Montmartre though we saw it at the Eiffel Tower.
Another scam is the fake petition scam – you will be approached by someone smiling happily, holding a clipboard and trying to engage you in conversation. They will ask if you speak English…we said no every time and just walked away. Apparently if they get you to fill in the form they will tell you that you have agreed a donation and will expect money…do yourself a favour and walk away.
These are petty crimes…but they are unpleasant. It does make you very vigilant and while it didn’t spoil our weekend it did underline the need to be aware of pickpockets and petty criminals at all times. I am off to Italy in the summer and I am already researching the tourist scams popular there.
Forewarned is forearmed.
My anti pickpocket bag
I would highly recommend taking precautions against the pickpocket and the best way to do this is to make it harder for them to rob you. With this is mind check out this selection of anti-pickpocket bags. I would not travel without mine now.
TIP 8 – HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE
I would never travel without insurance. I recommend World Nomads for all your travel insurance needs. Get a quote now!
PIN FOR LATER – Tips when visiting Paris France for the first time
Visiting Paris France for the first time
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Tracy is your expert expat!
She has lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to over 50 more. A qualified school teacher with an interest in history, reading, photography, nature and wildlife she is always planning her next trip (preferably by train)
Through down-to-earth stories, tips and advice (based on her own extensive knowledge and experience of life as an expat) she aims to support new and prospective expats to survive and thrive in Australia.
With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, she is also able to share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help you travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.