Last Updated on 22nd January 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
There are probably a million and one things you’ll want to pack when planning a trip to France. But a how-not-to guide? A list of things you should avoid doing in Paris? The places in Paris you can avoid and the Parisian attractions you should miss off your itinerary? While most guides advise you on what to do, many don’t warn of some of the mistakes first time travellers to the city can make. Here are 12 Paris mistakes to avoid making!
12 Costly Mistakes to avoid in Paris
#1 Staying inside Paris (and not leaving the city limits)
There’s a whole world in France outside of its capital, just as there are plenty of day trips to be taken from the city well worth taking. Although the most famous of these is probably the glittering palace of Versailles, other popular day trips include visits to the nearby Châteaux of Chantilly, Fontainebleau, and Vincennes.
Other interesting day trips you can easily take from Paris include a trip to Giverny (where Monet painted all of those lilies) and a venture into the nearby foodie town of Meaux. A type of mustard originates in this town, which even has its own variety of brie! Other historical excursions from the city include a visit to the medieval city of Provins, and Saint-Germain-en-Laye (birthplace of Debussy).
#2 Sticking to well-known eateries only (and in the touristic areas)!
The best-priced restaurants in Paris can be found away from the likes of Île de la Cité, Le Marais, and around the Eiffel Tower. So, when in Paris, head to other Parisian arrondissements to find the most reasonable rates. Districts such as the 10th, 11th, and 14th offer the best of local and authentic cuisine.
Even if you have dietary requirements, there’s a restaurant for every requirement and every budget when it comes to Paris. For example, some of the best vegan and vegetarian eats in the city can be found at Hank Vegan Burger (in Le Marais) and at Tien Hiang (in the 10e arrondissement).
#3 Not greeting the shopkeeper when you first enter their store
Never enter a shop/ store, or ‘magasin’ as the French call it and say nothing! This is seen as the height of rudeness and will not earn you any brownie points with the owner. A simple ‘bonjour‘ will suffice and will go a long way in making your visit to the shop that much more enjoyable.
And while many people (wrongly) believe that Parisians are rude, this is simply not the case! Instead, Parisians, and the French, in general, are just direct. Sure, it’s a different way of looking at things. But don’t mistake directness for rudeness…
#4 Waiting in long queues at the Eiffel Tower
If I’m honest, the best view in Paris is not from the Eiffel Tower. There, I said it! So rather than ascending the Iron Lady (and spending a whole load of euro for the privilege), those who are seeking stunning panoramas of the City of Love should opt to visit the Arc de Triomphe around sunset or Tour Montparnasse for sunset. The best view of the Eiffel Tower can be found by those who rise early (as in, before the dawn) and head to the Trocadero for sunrise.
#5 Only visiting tourist hotspots
Did you know that there are secret vineyards dotted around in the quieter parts of the city? Or that secluded pockets of peace can be found in the form of villages spread across the fabric of Paris? No? Well, there’s a whole other side of the city away from the clichés and the stuff of romance novels.
Instead, there are abandoned Napoleonic-era railways, bookshops it would be easy to spend hours perusing, and even the oldest pet cemetery in the world. And if you truly want to make the most of every hour exploring the city, then I urge you to forgo a sit-down meal and instead pack a picnic, and head out in the city to find a park to enjoy a meal en plein air.
#6 Wearing uncomfortable shoes
Planning on visiting a European capital this year? Well, chances are you’ll be spending a fair amount of your time on your own two feet, exploring what the city has to offer. As such, I highly recommend wearing a comfortable pair of shoes to walk in; trainers, easy to wear sandals, etc.
I personally always wear tennis shoes like these ones as I find that I can easily accessorise them with my outfits while still keeping my feet nice and comfy! Meanwhile, in the winter, you’ll want to pack a comfortable yet stylish pair of boots like these ones which you can accessorise with both jeans and skirts!
#7 Not learning basic French
It’s a common misconception that French people, especially Parisians, are rude. However, if you make an effort with the local language then you’ll find that people are much more accommodating to assist you. And you don’t have to learn a lot either.
Instead, learn a few simple phrases to help you say ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye,’ and the all-important ‘do you speak English?’ (Parlez vous Anglais?) like this oneFurthermore, be sure to bring along a simple French phrasebook to help you get by!
#8 Paying for water
When ordering in a Parisian restaurant (or simply placing your order for a morning coffee), never pay for water. Rather than forking out hard earned cash for some simple water, instead, ask for a jug of water by saying: Un carafe d’eau s’il vous plaît! On that note, it’s worth noting that a shot of espresso is often served accompanied by a small glass of water!
#9 Falling for tourist scams
Just like in the rest of Europe, there are a hundred and one scams in Paris that are all too easy to fall for. So when in the city, there are a few common scams which it’s worth bearing in mind are, in fact, scams. The first is the young women who approach you with ‘petitions’ when you’re in a busy place (i.e. queuing for the Notre Dame). Do not sign the sheet as they’ll demand money.
Another common scam is being offered something, seemingly for free. Don’t accept ‘bracelets’ (this scam is commonly practised around the base of the Sacre Coeur) or roses when someone offers you one in a restaurant. Despite the person insisting that they’re giving you a gift, once you accept their ‘offering’, they’ll often aggressively demand monetary compensation for the ‘gift’.
While not a scam as such, be aware of your belongings at all times, especially so when in crowded or busy places such as on the metro. Be sure to bring a bag with a proper zip, never leave valuables in outer pockets and don’t wear backpacks in crowded areas. Instead, carry backpacks at your side with the zip at the front where you can see it.
#10 Packing your Paris itinerary too much
Like a fine wine, Paris is a city which is best enjoyed slowly and at its own pace. And if you try and fit too much into your schedule, then you may well feel that the magic of the Parisian capital is all but lost. Instead, plan each day thoughtfully with the activities that you really want to see and do.
If you’re not that interested in modern art, then forget the Centre Georges-Pompidou. If you’re not too keen on heights, forget ascending the Eiffel Tower. Travel how you want to and how you feel you’ll best enjoy your time. After all, of all the Paris mistakes you could make, not partaking in the Paris itinerary you’ll love would be your biggest mistake!
Read more: How to spend three perfect days in Paris
#11 Visiting Paris at the wrong time of the year
The best time of the year to visit Paris is not in the summer- of all the Paris mistakes you could make, booking your vacation for summertime would be one of them. Even though the days may be long and the temperatures at their warmest, if it’s your first time in the city you’ll want to experience Paris without the crowds which inevitably hit the city come peak season (i.e. June, July, and August).
As such, the best way to make the most of everything being open, as well as the weather is to visit the French Capital in late Spring or early Autumn. Highlights of visiting Paris in the spring includes seeing all the pretty cherry blossom in bloom, which the best bit of visiting Paris in the autumn has got to be all the beautiful fall colours! Visiting during the shoulder seasons will also ensure lower prices than during the summer months!
Read more: Reasons to visit Paris in the spring!
#12 Renting a car or using taxis
If you really want to get to know Paris on a more local level, then the very best way to see the city is on your own two feet. This way, Paris will reveal itself to you in all of its strange, mysterious, and beautiful ways. After all, simply wandering around the city and letting myself get lost a bit was how I stumbled upon the micro-arrondissement of Butte-Bergeyre, as well as the Petite Ceinture.
If you’re wanting to travel a little further afield, then be sure to do as the locals do and take the metro! For those who are wishing to make multiple journeys, then purchasing a ‘carnet’ (i.e. 10 metro tickets) at once is a must. This saves you money in the long run and is a great way to save time when you’re rushing between attractions.
When taking the metro, be sure to keep your ticket on you (and don’t accidentally throw it away) as random inspections do happen on a regular basis and the fines can be pretty hefty if you’re found without a ticket. While on the metro, be sure to also keep an eye out for some of the beautiful public transportation installations dotted across the stations (Arts et Metiers and the Louvre stations have some of the best works of art).
#13 Forget to pack the essentials!
When it comes to packing for Paris, there are certain essentials you won’t want to forget! Perhaps one of the most important is a universal travel adapter like this one. And, if you’re visiting in the winter, then a warm winter coat is an absolute essential. I particularly love the coats from this brand.
Read more: Paris travel tips you should know about
#14 Not buying your Louvre tickets in advance
If there’s one monument you absolutely must purchase tickets for in advance, it’s the Louvre Museum. Housed agains the backdrop of a former Royal Palace and home to the likes of the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Musée du Louvre is the largest museum in the world and attracted almost 10 million visitors in 2019.
As you can imagine, the museum is therefore very busy and the queues can get pretty long! Purchase a skip-the-line ticket like this one to avoid wasting your time in Paris. And if you’re looking to get a more in-depth look at the museum, be sure to book a guided tour like this one.
Read more: Essential Louvre travel guide