What Not to Do in Paris

January 28, 2013 by

Things To Do, Travel Tips

Everyone asks what there is to do in Paris, but no one seems to ask what NOT to do in Paris! Here’s some solid advice for all visitors to Paris, whether it’s your first or your 51st time in the City of Light.

Paris Eiffel Tower

DO NOT wait in line for Eiffel Tower tickets!

DO NOT be scared to bust out your high school French

A lot of Parisians speak a little bit of English, but not everyone does – and not everyone has to, because it’s France. But it can be frustrating to try to learn and remember French phrases, and it’s unnerving to speak French to an actual French person! Just dive in, try your best, and smile. They appreciate the effort, and you’ll have a much better experience. Look at it as an adventure – and if all else fails, just know you’ll never see that person whose language you’re butchering again.

DO NOT be shy about trying new foods

Snails, frog’s legs, goose liver… it can be daunting. And you don’t have to try all the crazy things the French eat. But if you are going to try it, well, Paris is the place to do so. If you’re with a group of people, order one plate for the whole table so you can have a bite and pass it on if you really hate it. You can also take a food tour of Paris, and have new foods and ingredients explained to you so you’ll know what to order when you’re on your own.

DO NOT panic if your credit card doesn’t work

France has this weird thing where foreign cards sometimes don’t work in those little portable machines they use to process payments in stores and restaurants. Just say it’s a “carte étranger” (foreign card), and say that you will go right now to get “espèces” (cash) from an ATM. Paris is the most visited place on Earth, so it’s happened before; they’ll understand.

DO NOT skip the Louvre because it’s too big/boring/annoying

When you have a limited amount of time in the City of Light, you don’t want to waste a whole day pretending to like art just so you can see the Mona Lisa. But if you never visit another museum again, just do the Louvre once. You don’t have to see everything (not sure that’s even possible in one go); grab a map at the entrance, spend a couple minutes getting a plan of attack, and see the greatest hits. Or, you can take the kind of tour that gets you in and out and hey, you might even learn something interesting!

Skip the Line: Paris Louvre Museum Guided Tour

DO NOT try to see every single thing

The list of must-sees in Paris is lengthy, and when you start to plan out each day you wonder how you’re even going to have time to sleep! But, look – Paris isn’t going anywhere. It’s more important that you enjoy your experience, and actually remember the things you saw and did. And half of the magic of Paris is just walking around, with no destination; if you’re constantly running from one site to another, you’re missing a significant part of what people love about Paris. Also, you’re on vacation! Sleep in, have a long lunch, take it slow.


DO NOT be afraid to take lots of cheesy photos!

DO NOT leave home without figuring out your smart phone

Your accommodations and many cafes have wifi, so you can use your smart phone to check emails, use guide apps, and look up closing times. But if you use it wrong, you’re going to pay a fortune; and some providers require you to “turn on” international use options. Before you leave, get instructions on how to use the wifi option on your phone so you won’t spend your first day futzing with it.

DO NOT stay in Paris the whole time

Yes, Paris is amazing; but so is the rest of France. There’s a volcano in the Massif Central. There’s a Massif Central! There are fields of lavender near Orange, and fields of alcohol in Champagne. There is a Roman arena in Nimes, and unlike the one in Rome, you can still see events there. While people are freezing in Paris, they’re sunning themselves on the Riviera. You can eat oysters in Brittany about 50 yards from where they were harvested. Get out of Paris, everybody!

Browse day trips from Paris

DO NOT stand in line for Eiffel Tower tickets

Either sign up for a tour of the Eiffel Tower, or buy your tickets online. That line will suck the life force right out of you.

Get more tips from our Insider’s Guide to Paris

- Contributed by Christine Cantera

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7 Responses to “What Not to Do in Paris”

  1. Alan Treagust Says:

    You must pay a visit to La Maison Angelina, this chocolate shop has been around since 1903. It’s on 226 Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre, and on the street beside the Tulieres Gardens. It is supposedly the best chocolate shop in Paris, although I have yet to eat the chocolate I bought here. Friendly staff, and they speak a little English too. Also, if you are walking along this street keep an eye out for street artists, we got some very lovely original artworks here for a small amount of money.


  2. Karen Dawkins Says:

    I agree with every single thing here except the last one. If you are physically limited, buy tickets for the Eiffel Tower in advance. If you’re reasonably healthy, get tickets to walk the stairs the day you want to go. Just start your day at the Tower.

    When we visited, we opted to walk the steps (expecting it to be difficult). The line was only 20 minutes to get tickets during spring break. The climb was both easy and interesting. We enjoyed the changing views and the close-up look at the infrastructure.

    If you pre-purchase tickets on a rainy — or worse, foggy — day, you won’t enjoy the Tower half as much. By not pre-paying and climbing the stairs, you can choose the best day to see the view!


  3. George Says:

    Get in the RIGHT line at the Eiffel Tower! Went with a small group of people years ago. 2 went on ahead because we were taking too long… The leg they went up only allowed access to the second level. The leg we went up allowed access to the top.


  4. Jerilynn Yungblut Says:

    Such good advice! Paris is an experience…not just sights to check off your list! Enjoy each moment. You can’t see everything in just a few days or even a week, so relax and appreciate what you can do. Smile! The French people are friendly and like people who love their city. They also understand the difficulty (for Americans) of their language and are really helpful.


  5. Anne Says:

    DO NOT eat in tourist areas … plenty of other great places to eat in the areas … or stay in the same area and go back a street or two.. and if staying in an apartment .. DO NOT miss out on the markets for your lunch or dinner to cook ..


    • Szarina Says:

      I would love to go to fresh market to buy cherries, Anjou pears and other French fruits. Where are these markets? THANKS for your response.


  6. Kiera @easytravelmom Says:

    I love Paris and have been there a few times, both on my own and with my husband. There are so many tricks to the eiffel tower line but standing in line in the rain was my last experience but we had limited time, so se la vi! I had no idea there was a volcano so we will have to check this out next time… b/c with Paris, there is always a next time!


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