My American's Guide to Paris
The first time I went to Paris I hated it. I was this 21 year old asshole American that yelped " Do you speak English?" at any French person we needed help from and we were met with snide "non"s and terrible service. I had never been outside of the USA let alone anywhere barely in Europe and I couldn't yet appreciate the value of getting to know another culture through travel.
Fast forward over 10 years and I have been to almost 30 countries and counting. But Paris remains to be one of my favorite places on earth. I've been here over 10 times and started learning French because of my love for this beautiful country. I'm a total Francophile now.
So I decided to make a guide for my American friends so they will love Paris as I do! So lets get started!
This one is a big one. The Parisians aren't necessarily "rude" but they get a bad rap like New Yorkers do ( albeit true New Yorkers love being known for being rude) but it's kind of like that when you live in a major tourist city. Living in New York has given me a better perspective on that, so when you come to the city - don't act like it's yours, you are a guest. Take some time to learn a little bit about the culture you're about to visit and most importantly learn at least a couple of French phrases to make an effort. Most French people who work in shops, restaurants etc. nowadays speak a least "un peu" (a little) English. The most valuable phrases to use are the French greetings "Bonjour" (Hello) during the a day and Bon Soir in the evening when you encounter someone. If you walk into a shops or restaurant or a taxi and say "Bonjour, Je Ne parle pas francais, Parlez vous Anglais?" ( Hello, I don't speak French, do you speak English?) it's going to go a LONG way. It shows that you're making an effort and the French will really appreciate that. I found a MAJOR difference in the way I was treated when I learned a little bit of French.
Meeting someone? The French are NOT huggers...they are kissers. I've discussed at LENGTH that touching someone's face to face is much more intimate that a hug! NON, for them hugs are reserved for close friends and loved ones. So when greeting or saying goodbye as scary as it might be to go in for a kiss, touch cheek to cheek ( then make air kiss) then do the other side. Don't actually kiss their cheek - that's "weird."
Parisians smoke, a lot. Get over it. It's very normal for people to smoke in public places, on terraces right next to you, even if your eating. If you're going to app date while your here, you've got about a 75% homeboy or girl is going to smoke, and while that is usually a deal breaker for me...the sexy accent usually makes up for it. While we would usually consider this very rude, don't be offended if they roll a cig right in front of you. They will usually offer you one.
For myself I don't want to be easily pegged for a tourist. I don't like being targeted by people stopping me to sell me a package, or ask me for money or the worst part... a possible pick pocket. So if you're coming to Paris and don't want to look like a tourist, don't wear a giant back pack or workout outfit with trainers. The French are known for their sense of effortless style, so if you want to blend while you explore the city, wear comfortable well fitted clothing and "fashion"sneakers ( not the ones you would run a marathon in ). HERE is some inspiration. Ladies, purses with a firm zipper without being "open". I've been lucky enough to never have anything stolen but this is something to just be aware of.
When enjoying the weather outside, maybe you're having a glass of wine or a croissant on a terrace (the seating outside of a restaurant). Keep your wallets or phones off the table and purses in close vicinity, not hanging or sitting on a chair out of direct site. My friends here constantly warned me of this bad habit, because that is how you get your stuff stolen. There isn't the mounds of violent crime like we have in America, but a lot of petty theft. Tourists are easy targets, so keep your purse zipped and in front of you in crowded or touristic places. Don't keep your wallet / phones in back pockets and leave your important documents like passports, in your hotel safe or Airbnb.
If you're not into great food, you're in the wrong place. Try not to eat at places around the major tourist attractions. That is usually where the crap food is, and well over priced for the quality. Paris knows how to do food VERY well and you're going to usually pay more at the Brasseries around tourist attractions. Here are some places I liked, where locals go. Season, American cuisine with a French spin. Rice and Fish, if your craving some Saki and bomb Sushi, Pizzeria Popolare, the closest to real Italian pizza, Salsamentaria di Parma for amazing Italian food - Please try the burrata, Depanneur if you're craving some tacos or burgers. Barbes for instagramable coffee and typical bites. For true Authentic French food Chez La Vieille, not only great food but a tiny and beautiful place that embodies everything great about French culture. Another great French spot with more modern cuisine is Les Fous De L'ile, on the Famous Ile Saint-Louis which you should definitely walk around.
Also better be ready to try dessert city. Paris is where some of the best pastry chefs are in the world. Definitely hit up a Pâtisserie or boulangerie shop and gawk at all the amazingly gorgeous sweet treats that look too pretty to eat. I don't like Chocolate, peanut butter or Nutella ( I know I'm weird ) but I could write an entire blog post on "Tarte au citron" or Lemon tart. Essentially like a tiny lemon meringue pie. I could eat these everyday unapologetically so, try it and thank me later. My favorite ones are from The Patisserie by Cyril Lignac, Stohrer which is the oldest bakery in Paris located in Montorgueil which is also a cool street to stroll along, and Bontemps. OH, I can't forget Angelina for not just its amazing desserts but the venue is gorgeous. Just be ready to stand in line for a bit to get a spot, but it's worth it. And duh, you're going to get Macarons from Ladurèe for your instagram. My very Parisian friend added that the BEST one ( he's the authority on this) is Cedric Grolet, I haven't been there personally but he's credible when it comes to the Pâtisserie game.
Eiffel tower bien sûr. Go see it, pack a picnic and eat lunch at Parc du Champ de Mars. Walk to the other side at Trocadero and see it from another angle. Take a million pictures of it, Eiffel is bae. Personally I don't think it's necessary to go on it, unless you're one of "those" people that wants to climb all the stairs for bragging rights ( they do have an elevator so I'm not sure why people want to do this.) But Paris without the view of the Eiffel Tower just ain't Paris, so this might be a long and pricey attraction to skip.
The Lourve. As an artist, I feel this is worth it but to be honest, the first time I went to Paris we only had time to go in real quick just to see the Mona Lisa. And just a heads up, she's a lot smaller in real life. If your not going to see all the other amazing art in there, you're missing out ( as I found out later ). But Paris has soooo many amazing museums to explore, so if museums are your jam, you're going to be in heaven. Don't skip the Tuileries Garden next door with all the gorgeous sculptures and flowers when in season. My personal top recs, other than the Lourve, would be Musée d'Orsay or Musée Rodin.
Palais de Royal. That area where everyone takes pics with the black and white columns is free! So go here to get some rad instagrams and then go into the beautiful gardens they have and take a stroll. Sit in a chair and enjoy the flowers and fountain.
Arc de Triomphe. Also free to view, unless you want to go to the top. Don't get hit by a car crossing the street, it's at a major roundabout. The Champs-Élysées is the big shopping street nearby and to be honest not my favorite place to shop. Chocked full of tourists and people trying to ask you for money etc, this wouldn't be where I would shop or eat, unless you really need to hit up stores you could find at home. Stroll down it just to say you did and end up at The Big Ferris wheel at Place De la Concorde.
The Seine. Take a walk along it, cross the bridges, it's a beautiful part of the city anywhere you go. Eat a baguette and sip a glass of wine near it so you can look French AF. If you're here when the weather is nice and you're feeling hipster and want to rub elbows with the cool elite crowd head to Monsieur Mouche . A rooftop boat hang out where the people are pretty and the view is prettier- just get there before 6:30 if you don't want to wait in a long line.
Notre Dame. Go in, and be quiet. The church is beautiful and has a crazy energy, sit and take it in for a least a few minutes. When you leave, wander to the left and take pics with the bird man that asks for 5 euros to give you bird feed. Take the picture and risk disease from the pigeons for something actually quite cool.
Montmartre. Beautiful little hilltop village vibe in Paris. Another place I wouldn't suggest eating if it's around where major tourists are (unless you're there for the sweets, then dig in). Don't buy their souvenirs in the main square (in any major tourist area) because they aren't from Paris, they are from China unless magnets and shot glasses are your jam. Walk around and take a thousand pictures in this beautiful quarter. Wander over to the Sacre-Couer and enjoy the view.
Le Marais. A cool neighborhood with great food, small shops and bars. The Jewish quarter is also here so check out that history along with the challah bread or falafel... yum. It's a cool slower medieval vibe with beautiful buildings that anyone would enjoy and shopping that would rival the hippest New York boroughs.
If you want to see Paris in style, I strongly suggest you take a Parisi Tour! It's the most fun way to hit all the spots in one day or even in a few hours! You drive around in this cute vintage Citroën 2cv ( for parties of 3 or less) and you're going to pay about 250 Euros+ depending on the tour you get but it's WORTH it. This is not your momma's tour guide and champagne is involved. Ask for Quentin and tell him Alea sent you!
It's super easy to get around Paris. Whether you want to ride the Metro, bus, taxis or uber, you have many options. Paris isn't a huge place so if you're really up for it you could walk the whole city if you were feeling ambitous . Traffic is a little bit congested because of the smaller streets but you can get just about everywhere in the city within 30 mins. Don't be afraid of the Metro. You just buy these little paper tickets at the entry kiosk, which you can operate in English, for single rides that can get you just about anywhere. If you've never ridden in a Metro system, don't worry, it is likely one of the easiest to navigate in my opinion ( at least much easier than New York's subway).
Not so Tourist attractions.
The 9th arrosdiment is my favorite. Lots of the shopping, passage ways, and lively evenings for the young singles. It's the more chill and hip area where you can find a lot of locals, little bars, or good eats. Feels like the Williamsburg of Paris ( well not quite, everyone here is impeccably dressed). Looking for some cool bars with great wine or cocktails? Rivie at The Hoxton Hotel , The Grand Pigalle Hotel, or the Night flight at Hotel Bachaumont . The hotels in this area seem to get it.
If you're in the mood for some Caribbean vibe dancing with a casual dress code, check out Le comptoir general. It's kind of hard to find (behind what looks like a boarded up construction area) but right across from Canal St-Martin, free to enter just make sure you wear something light because it's HOT in there. The dancing is on point so don't come to stand on the wall. When you leave, if the weather is nice you can stroll along the canal where many locals like the hang in the evenings. Another great dance place is Le hobo for a more hip hop vibe of dancing. Super diverse , so you won't feel out of place and despite some not knowing English everyone will be screaming every Drake lyric perfectly.
For live street music and a crowed spot filled with locals south of the Seine, great food and drink try Rue De Buci, in St. Germain.
Want a tattoo to commemorate your trip? Hit up Dimitri Felony, He was super nice, his shop is super clean and professional and he did great work on my impulsive birthday tattoo.
And that about sums it up for now! I'll be adding to this post more things as I personally try them but I hope you find this useful on your next trip to Paris! Bisous Bisous!