We are giving you some tips for traveling to Paris in the post below. As you travel to one of the most fabulous travel destinations in the world, you want your trip to go as smoothly as possible. Keep reading for 12 helpful hints for managing Paris.
My husband and I recently embarked on a 10-day trip to France. After some extensive research and the help of a great travel agent, we had wonderful trip with very few hiccups, so I want to share what I learned in hopes that your trip is just as fantastic!
Tips for Traveling to Paris
- Pick the right arrondissement
- Sign up for a Travel Pass on your phone for data usage
- Create a “Guide” in Google Maps, and save restaurant, destinations and stores you want to see
- Download Paris Metro Apps
- Purchase a crossbody phone strap to prevent pickpockets
- Use your phone “notepad” to make some key notes about your trip
- Know the days and hours of operation of your key destinations
- Act like a Parisian
- Make a List of Your Must-Dos
- Create a List of Your Must-Eats
- Get the best deals while eating
- How to Breakfast in Paris
12 Helpful Hints for Managing Paris
1. Pick the Right Arrondissement
Paris is broken up into 20 arrondissements (districts), starting in the center with the 1st, and then forming the shape of a snail’s shell. Each arrondissement has a different vibe, some more touristy and others more residential. Every street sign has which arrondissement you’re in on it.
It is worth it to take the time to figure out which arrondissement you’ll like or perhaps which ones are closest to the areas where you want to spend the most time. Before our trip, we researched and decided to stay in the 9th arrondissement.
What to do in 9th Arrondissement
We stayed at the Monsieur Cadet Hotel & Spa in the 9th arrondissement, also called the Opera district. It is a more residential area with great restaurants and cafes. We also loved that it was close to three passages, close to the Palais Garnier (Opera House) and close to the Galleries Lafayette, the greatest, grandest department store ever.
The Palais Garnier (Opera House) is epic glam and opulence. If you don’t have time o get out to Versailles while in France, it’s worth it to pay the small fee to visit the Opera to get a feel how it might be to be of higher status back in the day. Or consider watching a ballet or opera in the grand building while in town.
Looking to do some major shopping? Galleries Lafayette, the flagship department store that has every designer you can think of under one roof. With stain-glass windows, and a beautiful dome, it is worth the stop even if you don’t purchase anything.
If second-hand is more your thing, there’s an entire floor dedicated to secondhand clothing. Be sure to visit the terrace on top of the building for beautiful views of the city. Also, note that this is a great place to find a nice, clean restroom; so be sure to make a pitstop.
Chocolate Shops of Paris
My favorite chocolate shop is in the 9th district, called A La Mere de Famille. It isthe perfect place to stock up on treats for your loved ones back home. I particularly love the Dolfentins which are dark or milk chocolate discs filled with chopped up honey, roasted almonds.
Passages of Paris
Be sure to check out the passages of the 9th arrondissement (and of other districts). A passage is a covered street that is full of shops, restaurants and cafes. This is a great way to spend a rainy day in Paris.
2. Sign Up for a Travel Pass on Your Phone for Data Usage
In this day-in-age, you’ll most likely be reliant on your cell phone while in Paris. Be sure to call your phone provider to sign up for a Travel Pass. This allows your phone to be used internationally without additional fees except for a daily international fee. It also allows you to use your current data plan associated with your phone.
3. Use Google Maps to Your Advantage
Before my trip to France, I created a “Paris” guide in my Google Maps app on my phone. Then, I searched all the destinations, hotels, restaurants, etc. that I might possibly want to visit on my trip and saved them to this Guide.
This was great, because all I had to do was pull up my Google Maps app, and see which places were relatively close to the area I was in at that moment.
I definitely didn’t see every single place in my Guide, but it made it easy to see, shop and eat at places that I’ve I’d already researched.
On a side note, most hotels have free maps of Paris if you prefer to go old school!
4. Download Paris Metro Apps & Know How to Use the Metro
Using the metro in Paris is very simple. With that being said, there are a few bits of key information that will make it even easier.
First, have the right apps already on your phone. Some of the ones I used were Bonjour RATP, Next Stop Paris, and Metro Paris- Maps & Routes.
If you are planning to use the Metro quite option, purchase a carnet of 10 tickets for a bit of savings.
On the other hand, if you’re just going one direction, or might only be using the Metro once of twice, it’s cheaper to buy a t+ ticket.
When you walk into a Metro station, there are two types of kiosks: one to reload a current Metro card and one to purchase a new Metro card. Be sure you’re at the correct kiosk.
Also, be sure to keep the paper ticket until you are done riding the Metro. If a Metro worker asks to see your ticket, and you can’t find it, you’ll have to pay a fine.
Another note, the Metro doors do not open automatically. If you’ve reached your stop, push on the lever so that the door will open.
5. Purchase a Crossbody Phone Strap to Prevent Pickpockets
While we personally did not have any issues with pickpockets in France, it doesn’t mean that it does not happen.
One very helpful accessory that I purchased before my trip is a phone-case that is attached to a cross-body strap. Attached to the phone case is a small pouch for small bills and one or two credit cards.
Using a crossbody strap means you wont have to dig your phone out of your purse every time you want to take a picture. It also prevents a grab and go cell phone grab from a pickpocket.
Be extra careful on crowded Metros or any other crowded locations. Keep your hand on your purse and phone, and do not put anything in your back pockets such as a wallet.
There’s all sorts of accessories like this from more high-end or purchase an inexpensive one like I got on Amazon. Just be sure you know what version of cell phone you have to make sure the case fits.
6. Use Your Phone “Notes” For a Generalized Itinerary
Let’s be honest, once your in Paris, you’ll probably be a bit jetlagged and overwhelmed.
It’s not a bad idea to have a few notes in your phone to give you an idea on what to do each day.
For example, my notes went something like this “Tuesday, take metro to Notre Dame, walk along Seine River, check out Saint Germain des Pres for cool shops, eat lunch at Bistro des Augustins.”
Whether or not that’s how my day went, it gave me a starting point and some key locations close to each other.
7. Know the Days and Hours of Operation of Key Destinations
This can be the difference between disappointment and excitement.
Some stores, markets, and museums are closed on Sundays and Mondays. It’s not the case with everything, but it doesn’t hurt to take note on any key places that you definitely want to go to.
8. Act Like a Parisian
Meal times in France are a bit different than in the USA. Often times, lunch takes place a little later, and dinners often times do not start until 7 pm. Some restaurants do not even open until 7 pm to serve dinner.
It’s also very common to have an appetizer (called entrée in French), a main course (called at plat), a dessert and then a café to follow it up. While in Paris, you might as well go for it and do it all.
The main difference I saw between Americans and French at meals is that French people are rarely on their phones at a restaurant. Instead, their attention is fixed on the people with them, talking and enjoying the food and company.
9. Make a List of Your Must-Dos
The list of things to do in Paris is endless, and it’s impossible to see everything in a few short days. Also, cramming too many things in a day in Paris is exactly un-French like. Parisians like to slowly move through life, taking the time to enjoy life to it’s fullest.
How do you see Paris and act like a Parisian?
Make a list for a handful of must-see places in Paris. Pick one or two a day, and then slowly walk the streets around these destinations and see what else you can spontaneously do. Shop, eat a pastry, stop for a café, enjoy a long leisurely lunch; this is the best way to enjoy Paris.
10. Create a List of Your Must-Eats
The copious amounts of delicious food in Paris is to-die for, but there’s no way to eat everything that’s amazing. I recommend making a Must-Eat list of foods. Narrow it down to a list of 10 to 12 items, and then slowly work your way through the list. It’s a fun way to eat a variety of foods.
Be sure to stop a couple times a day for a pastry, some new and some of your old favorites. Take time for a café and a dessert in the afternoon. Try a new cocktail after dinner.
Last but not least, calories don’t count in France. Life is too short.
11. Get the Best Deals While Eating
There is a trick to getting the best deal in Paris while still having a grand, amazing meal. Search the menu for a couple different terms, either menu a prix fixe or la formule.
Menu a prix fixe
A fixed price menu is when the restaurant has a pre-selected menu at a set price, typically the best price on the menu.
A formula is when you can choose between several menu options at set prices.
Typically, it consists of one entrée (appetizer), one plat (main course) and one dessert from a set menu for a set price. Or it could be one entrée (appetizer) and one main course for a set price, or one main course (plat) and one dessert for a set price. Hence, the formulas.
Typically, ordering from the formula is just a few dollars more than the price of getting one main course making it the best meal for the price.
12. Breakfast in Paris
You have two distinct options for breakfasting in France.
Option one is to take advantage of the breakfast offered in the hotels. This is not necessarily the cheapest option; however, this is a great way to try a ton of French foods at once.
All the hotels we stayed in France had huge breakfast spreads including French cheese, baguettes, smoked salmon, a variety of pastries including regular croissants, chocolate croissants, and more, eggs, French yogurts and cereals, French jams, and the best butter in the whole world. Also, every hotel offered expresso, cappuccino, cafe creme and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate).
In one meal, you could knock off a huge portion of your French food list. This is also a great way to gorge yourself for breakfast, and then have a lighter lunch later in the afternoon of maybe a jambon buerre (ham and butter sandwich on baguette). That leaves room for a huge, traditional French dinner later in the evening.
Option two is to save yourself some money while taking advantage of the world’s best bread and pastry options. Approximately every 20 feet in Paris (this is a tad bit exaggerated) sits a Patisserie or Boulangerie. I recommend looking for Boulangerie. This means that all breads and pastries are made on sight, usually in the basement.
Find a boulangerie where the locals are eating, and pick out the most beautiful pastries you’ll ever find. You can get anything your heart desires, or take advantage of the breakfast “formulas” which typically consist of an expresso and a chocolate croissant for only a couple dollars.
Tips for Enjoying Your Time in France
With some simple pre-planning and organization, you can enjoy your time in Paris. It was fun for me to do some research and then actually get to experience what I read about during the planning of the trip.
I shared some other helpful tips and thoughts about traveling to Paris, as well as other places in France in other blog posts:
- How to Spend 4 Days in Paris
- What to Eat while in Paris (and France in general)
- How to Spend a Day in Bayeux, France
- The Best Thing to Do in Beaune, France