14 Things No one Tells You About Paris and Top Hacks for your First Trip
Ah, Paris! The city of love and lights.
At least that’s what they’ve been drilling into your head for the longest time. I will be totally honest with you. No other city in the world has ever been as hyped as Paris has. Especially now with the popularity of Emily in Paris.
Most of us grew up watching Paris in movies and listening to dreamy music such as la vie en Rose. Everyone seems to rave about that place. So of course it’s no surprise to find Paris on most people’s top travel list. And I, my friend, was no different.
Just like you, I also dreamt of the Paris I saw in those movies.
When I decided to start this travel blog, I vowed to be as honest as possible. Which brings us to the little confession I now have to make. I hated Paris on my first visit.
Here, I said it. Paris was not love at first sight for me. I am totally down to give it a second chance down the line. However this article is an attempt to give you a reality check so you don’t find yourself as disappointed as I was after finally taking your dream trip.
No need to fret either, this post about Paris won’t strictly be about complaining. I will also try my best to give you tips so that you can adjust your expectations and have a better first experience than I did.
- Paris can be surprisingly dirty
Ah, Paris? I was super excited to have just landed in Paris. Once the initial excitement and the jetlag settles down and you finally go tour the city, the first thing that will hit you is the sheer dirt all over the city.
And to make things worse, garbage bins can be far and few in between. Yes, it is true that those bins aren’t aesthetically pleasing but I’d rather see them than the garbage laying all around.
To make things worse, when you finally see those bins, chances are they will be filled to the brim with trash overflowing and on the floor anyways.
Thus defeating the purpose of the bins in the first place. I don’t know what the true problem is. Seems like the problem could be fixed by hiring more sanitary employees.
Or Perhaps they actually do have a ton of employees and the city simply cannot keep up with the amount of tourists they get.
Tip: Just accept this to be a reality. It took me by surprise because I didn’t expect it. But once you know, you just simply learn to not notice it any longer. And of course, do your part and do not contribute to the problem by littering.
2. It’s also super crowded
This is a bit of a catch 22. We all want to visit those world class cities so we all end up going. But then we turn around and complain about how crowded they are.
Anyways you get my point. Expect the big crowds at all the major spots. This is especially true if you go during high season. June, July, August will bear the biggest crowds.
Tip: If you can, I totally recommend going in the shoulder season. If you don’t mind the cold, winter is ever better for a freer experience.
Another tip is to always pre-book your tickets online whenever it is an option. We did this at the Louvre Museum and it was such a time saver, allowing us to waltz through the entrance thus skipping the long queue of people who’ve just showed up.
3. Talking of the devil, it takes hours to get into the Louvre museum
Been dreaming of the Louvre for the longest time? Well I’m sorry to break it to you but be ready for a long line at the entrance.
Sure there is a way around this by reserving a slot and buying your tickets online but even the pre-book line is still a queue- although a much smaller and faster one.
Tip: Show up early and DO NOT forget to buy your advanced ticket online. Only thing is you might be given a specific time slot for your entrance.
So just plan your schedule accordingly. There are a few cafes not too far away, across the main street, where you can sit down and wait.
4. The Mona Lisa was the most underwhelming experience in Paris
Ok! So now that you’ve finally braved the queue and made it inside. This is where the true fun begins. All a sudden the lines outside will seem very abysmal in comparison to the crowd that awaits you inside of the museum.
And because I vowed to always be honest on this blog, I will tell you that nothing quite prepared me for the disappointment I felt when I finally laid eyes on the Mona Lisa.
Expect it to be much smaller than you’ve ever imagined and also you get the theme by now…
You won’t even be able to see it up-close as there will be so many people in front of you with their cell phones out.
Tip: I truly feel that this is one of those things that is better visited during the lowest tourist season in order to minimize the crowds and have a better experience.
5. The Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is simply a masterpiece. I hate to break it for you but the crowd will once again ruin it for you.
At some point, it felt like a herd of cows being dragged from one room to another. Add crying babies to the mix and no wonder why the museum attendants were so apathetic and snappy.
Tip: Try to get a skip the line ticket and go as early as possible. Ultimately, the best course of action would be to visit during shoulder season. Just be aware that if you go during winter, you might miss out on the beautiful lush gardens.
6. Get ready for a brutal Parisian metro experience
Now I truly believe that taking the local transportation mode is an easy and inexpensive way to dive in and get acquainted with any local culture.
That said, I couldn’t stop but feel that the Paris metro experience felt, may I say, a bit short. Oddly enough, in this instance, I didn’t mind the metro being crowded as it is what it is.
What really annoyed me was just how dirty it was everywhere. The strong smell of pee lingered around wherever we’d go and seemed to be present throughout most of the stations.
Yes, some of the stations were kept outstandingly clean and a few of them even featured some historical panels along with great architecture.
However, these stations were few in between and seemed to be the exception to the rule rather than the norm.
Tip: You can skip all this by taking taxis and private hire but then the traffic would be another factor. Ultimately, avoiding rush hour might make the experience a bit less disappointing and much more managing. Or just being aware and ready for worse instead of arriving oblivious can sometimes also do the trick.
7. Your trip at the Eiffel tower won’t be as romantic as you’ve imagined
Ah! The Eiffel Tower! One of the most advertised landmarks in the whole world. I think you guys see the pattern now.
The Eiffel tower is packed as hell and this by itself annihilates all attempts of romanticism you might have hoped for.
Once you buy your tickets then you can finally tackle the tower. There are a couple elevators available but from my understanding there is yet another line up to catch any. At this point we were so sick of waiting that this prompted us to take the stairs.
There will be tons of stairs to climb to get there but this part was actually one of my favorites. It was very nice to gradually see the city as we kept going higher and higher.
Only thing is once you finally reach the top, brace yourself and get ready to keep bumping into people as everyone tries to take a “couples picture” with the best view.
Another thing you just didn’t account for is the countless sellers harassing you to buy their trinkets and their fake Louis Vuitton bags right around the Eiffel Towel in plain sight.
Tip1: Book your trip to the Eiffel Tower early on in your trip to get it out of the way and try to see if you can find some skip the line ticket. Another tip is to coordinate your visit with lunch or dinner at the Eiffel tower. There are a few options and the patrons have access to the restaurant’s private elevator.
Tip2: One option is to dine at one-Michelin-starred restaurant The Jules Verne, located on the second floor. You’re looking at around 250$ for a five, six course tasting menu. Yes it’s not given but if you already had plans to fine dine there anyways, it’s a smart idea to combine it with your Eiffel Tower visit.
Tip3: There’s also “ The Buffets” on the first and second floor which is a bit more casual. Your last option is to go all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower and enjoy the view at “ The Champagne Bar”.
8. Parisian men are not as chivalrous as I’ve been told or wanted to believe
I really don’t know why I expected Parisian men to be chivalrous- maybe something to do with those countless Parisian romance movies- but nope it wasn’t a thing.
I got plenty of doors slammed onto my face whilst entering places. Overall it just felt like being in the jungle where everyone was so annoyed and fending for themselves.
Ever heard of the New York stereotype of everyone being super busy and mean? Well somehow, this is exactly what most of Paris felt to us.
Tip: Don’t go looking for a husband in Paris. But people are overall nicer as you get away from Paris and the pace of life slows down.
9. Nope! People do not wear the comical striped shirts
This one is actually a bit funny. I know you’ve seen it on tv but besides a few casual street performers, your regular Parisian city dwellers will not be walking around with a black and white striped shirts with a baguette in their hands. Sorry to break it to you.
Tip: I’m afraid I don’t have many tips for this one 🙂
10. The everyday Parisian Style has been greatly over exaggerated
You know this constant Parisian style you keep hearing of? Well I didn’t see it.
Perhaps, I need to get my eyes checked but the average city dweller was dressed as casually as anywhere else. Truly nothing worth talking and fussing over.
Why does mainstream media just insist on romanticizing Paris so much?
Tip: If you’re into fashion, you better off checking out a mall like “Galerie Lafayette” instead of expecting fashion in the random streets of Paris. You’ll quickly notice that the touristy areas are overrun by tourists.
11. Many shops and restaurants will be closed in August
This is one of the few stereotypes that couldn’t be any more true. Most Parisians will leave the city for their summer vacation in august.
We visited right in August and it was totally normal to read a notice on the front door telling you that they are closed and away on vacation. Definitely a unique sight.
Tip: In order to increase your chance at the best possible trip, I seriously encourage visiting Paris any other time outside of the month of August.
12. The businesses left open might also be closed for lunch
While the Spaniards tend to close for a siesta mid day, well so do some of the small Parisian businesses. They close for their lunch break.
Tip: If there is a particular place you are set on visiting around that time, I recommend calling them ahead to find out about their hours of operation.
13. People will expect you to speak French, a good portion don’t really like speaking English
I’m a French native so to me this was no big deal. But I must say that I did notice the inclination that Parisians have to speak to you in French even if you speak to them in English.
To be fair, when you are traveling, you are a guest in that country and just cannot and should not expect to rewrite the rules and be entitled.
Tip: Nobody likes entitled tourists. Yes it sucks but try not to get fussy if people refuse to speak to you in English. It might even be a great idea to pick up a French book and learn to say a few things in French before your visit. From what I noticed, they aren’t too patient to let you test your French but hey, at least you get an A for effort 🙂
14. Yes it’s true, Parisians can be quite rude at times, even if you do speak impeccable French
Now on the flip side even if you speak French perfectly, the rudeness just doesn’t quite ever go away. In my time in Paris, it felt as if I was always inconveniencing them by simply talking or inquiring about anything, whether it be waiting to buy tickets or just asking for directions.
Sadly, this is one stereotype that I can’t give the boot to. While in Paris, we quickly learned to rely on our GPS in order to minimize interaction with irritated residents which seemed to be a majority of people.
Tip: Brush off the rudeness when you absolutely have to interact with mean people and learn to use your phone for directions.
Here it is, my top 14 reasons why you might hate Paris. All that said, if you get the chance to go to Paris, you should definitely go. I just hate how people take it so personal when anyone says anything negative about Paris.
This top 14 list does not in any way take away from Paris being a world class city. There are so many cultural things to do there. Towards the end of the trip, I discovered a few areas that were not crowded at all which makes me think that sometimes, it might take a couple visits like Paris.
And to balance things a bit, I also wrote the other side of the coin, reasons why you will or should I say “might” fall in love with Paris on your first trip. 🙂