Paris is a backpacker-must offering up some of the best art, museums, culture and food in the world. If you’re planning your first trip to Paris, there are some useful things to know before you go. We’ve rounded up some handy tips which should help you on a trip to the city. From the do’s and don’ts to common travel mistakes, read our guide for the best travel tips before you touch down in the French capital...
AVOID TOURIST TRAPS
In a new city, there’s nothing worse than getting charged crazy prices in an average food joint. Generally, cafes and restaurants in Paris that are close to a big sight or attraction are potential tourist traps. Not all of them though, so make sure to do some research before booking a restaurant so you can see reviews and to get an idea of pricing. One big rule though: avoid the restaurants where someone stands outside trying to tempt tourists to come in. You can get some delicious French food in Paris for an affordable price, you just need to know where to look.
THE METRO IS THE BEST WAY TO GET AROUND
Other than walking, travelling around the city by Metro is the next best way to get around. Paris is so big and some major sights can be found on complete opposite ends of the city - so taking public transport is the fastest and most efficient way to get from place to place. We recommend buying a book of ten tickets (this is called ‘carnet’), for the best deal. Paris is home to over 300 different Metro stations with 16 different train lines, so familiarise yourself with the Metro system when you get to the city as you’ll be using it A LOT. It takes some getting used to but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of.
WATCH OUT FOR PICKPOCKETS
Paris is known for being a pickpocket city so be wary when walking around busy areas such as Trocadero and Champs D'Elysées. Here are just a few ways to stop yourself from being a victim of pickpockets. Don’t carry your valuables with you. Zip up any bags. Don’t carry a big stash of cash. Paris accepts bank card payments pretty much everywhere so there’s no need to carry lots of money. Keep an eye out for your friends. Watch your bags in pubs and restaurants. Don’t wear your best jewellery. Don’t put your phone in the back pocket of your jeans. Be on guard on the Metro as pickpockets also operate here. You get the picture. Just use your common sense.
STAY IN A CENTRAL LOCATION
Book a hostel in a good location that’s within close reach of Paris’ attractions. Where you choose to stay really has an impact on your overall trip. St Christopher’s Inns has two hostels in Paris in ideal locations for backpackers, one in Gare du Nord just opposite the Eurostar station. The other hostel is in a prime waterside location overlooking Canal Saint Martin. Both hostels are close to two or more Metro stops so they have great connections to the rest of the city.
GET OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
On your first trip to Paris, you’re obviously going to want to tick off the main bucket list sights. But once you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, been to a few museums and viewed the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, get off the beaten track and make time to see more of Paris than just the obvious stuff that every tourist does. Experience the city like a local and head to a neighbourhood like Belleville and enjoy the Marché Belleville, an amazing market. Or explore the Marais district which is brimming with hip boutiques and cafes.
VISIT MORE MUSEUMS THAN JUST THE LOUVRE
Paris is home to some incredible art galleries including The Louvre - but there is so much more culture to see at the city’s other museums too. If it’s art that you’re interested in, don’t miss the Musée d’Orsay, home to the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world. Or the Musée de l'Orangerie where you’ll find Monet’s famous water lilies. Then there’s the National Picasso Museum housing an unrivalled collection of 5000 creative works, 200,000 personal documents and 150 pieces from Picasso’s private collection.
DON’T BUY ANYTHING FROM PEOPLE ON THE STREETS
In Paris you’ll come across a lot of street sellers who are trying to sell you cheap souvenirs and gifts. Don’t buy from them - it’s a complete rip off. You’ll find street sellers outside every big sight or attraction in Paris and their products are cheap and quite cliché (probably made in China too, not even in France).
DON’T BUTT OUT ON THE STREET
Top tip for smokers. Don’t land yourself a fine in Paris by throwing your cigarette butt in the street. If you do, you might find yourself with a €80 on the spot fine. Just find the nearest bin.
AVOID MUSEUMS ON A MONDAY AND TUESDAY
Be informed about what’s closed and when. In Paris, most city-owned museums are closed on a Monday so if you’re making a travel itinerary for your French trip, keep this in mind. However, some museums like the Louvre close on a Tuesday instead so be sure to double check before you go to any museums what day they are closed on. It will usually be either Mondays or Tuesdays.
ALWAYS CARRY YOUR ID
The drinking age in Paris is 18. The bars, clubs and restaurants are big on checking on ID’s so don’t leave yours at the hostel. Make sure to carry your ID at all times if you want to buy alcohol in a shop or party in a club. You don’t want to be that one friend who forgets their ID and has to traipse all the way back to the room to get it.
BRUNCH LIKE A PARISIAN
Parisians sure know how to brunch. While you’re in Paris make sure to have a tasty brunch in a French cafe. We’ve rounded up the best brunch spots in the city from more affordable places to some more expensive ones.