39 Essential Things to know before Going To Paris

So, you think you’re ready to embark on an unforgettable journey to the city of love, lights, and culinary delights – Paris, the capital of France?

It’s not as easy to travel to as you might think, so you’re going to want to make sure you arm yourself with the knowledge of the below things to know before going to Paris!

People looking up taking a photo of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
View from our Seine River cruise

As a family of four, we visited Paris for four days at the beginning of our 4-week Europe summer trip in 2023. It has been at the top of our family travel bucket list for many years, and finally we could make it happen.

We were drawn to Paris for its magical qualities, it effortlessly intertwines history and modernity, making it the ultimate destination for families seeking an alluring escape.

Whether your teens are aspiring artists yearning to visit the Louvre, or epicureans eager to indulge in gourmet French cuisine, Paris has something to captivate every member of your family. (Here are the things about Paris our teens loved the most)

Mom and two daughters standing in front of a glass pyramid at the Louvre museum in Paris
Outside the famous Louvre Museum

But before you dive headfirst into your Paris trip planning, you’re going to want to brush up on a few details. In this guide, we’ve shared some insider Paris travel tips and essential on going to Paris so you can make the most out of your trip.

From conquering the Eiffel Tower to deciding where to stay in Paris and how to get around, our Paris tips come from our personal experience – and several of the mistakes we made!

Before we start, we want to thank our long-term partner, Allianz Travel Insurance for sponsoring this content. They help us help you by providing us the resources to create this helpful content.

Table Of Contents

Things to Know Before Going to Paris

It’s time to grab your beret, dust off your best “bonjour,” and join us as we unravel the secrets to planning the perfect trip to Paris. Starting with the most important thing…

1. Get Travel Insurance: Allianz Travel Vacation Confidence Index

Mom and two daughters at the top of the Eiffel Tower
Amazing view from the Eiffel Tower

We wouldn’t recommend traveling to Paris without travel insurance. It will give you peace of mind should something go wrong, like trip delays and cancellations and unforeseen events, your investment is protected and some of those unplanned costs may be covered.

They have a travel insurance policy to suit all kinds of travelers and needs. As we’re frequent family travelers, we have an annual travel insurance policy.

You may also be interested in the results from their annual Vacation Confidence Index which reports on American travel trends such as share economy, travel styles, and annual summer vacation spending.

Girl standing in front of a giant arch called the Arc De Triomphe
Savannah in front of the Arc de Triomphe

What was interesting to me this year is spending is up, people are using share economy less (us included) and pay-cations, solo travel, wellness travel and pet travel are all on the rise (check yes for all of them for us!)

Perhaps that may be one of the reasons why you’re planning to travel to Paris!

2. Know The Best Way To Get To Paris

Aerial view of tree lined streets and cars driving through the city of Paris
View from top of the Arc De Triomphe

Getting to Paris can be a challenge to figure out last minute on the ground. Before you go, remember that Paris has two airports.

Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Orly Airport (ORY). Charles de Gaulle Airport, located approximately 25 kilometers northeast of the city center, is one of the busiest airports in Europe and serves as the primary international gateway to Paris.

It offers a wide range of flights from all over the world and is well-connected to the city by various transportation options, including trains, buses, and taxis.

On the other hand, Orly Airport, situated about 13 kilometers south of the city center, primarily handles domestic and European flights, making it a convenient choice for regional travel.

Both airports are equipped with modern amenities, shopping, dining facilities, and transportation services, ensuring a smooth and pleasant experience for travelers arriving in or departing from the captivating city of Paris.

We flew from our home in Raleigh this summer via Newark as the direct flights to Paris on Delta were booked out, but we are happy to share that Air France just started direct flights to Paris from our home Raleigh-Durham Airport.

3. Arriving by Train Is A Better Option

aerial view of train tracks at montparnasse station paris
Gare Montparnasse Train Station

Getting to Paris by train is a convenient and scenic option, especially for travelers coming from neighboring European countries. The city is well-connected to a vast network of high-speed and regional train services.

If you’re traveling from within Europe, you can take advantage of the extensive TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) network, which offers fast and efficient connections to Paris from major cities like, Barcelona, Brussels, Amsterdam, and more. The Eurostar travels between London and Paris. You can pre-purchase train tickets using Trainline and Rail Europe.

Two girls riding a train
Tired at the start of our trip on the Metro

The iconic Gare du Nord station is the main international railway hub in Paris, serving trains from the UK and several other destinations. Additionally, there are other major train stations like Gare de Lyon, Gare Montparnasse, and Gare de l’Est, which cater to different routes.

With comfortable seating, onboard amenities, and the ability to avoid airport hassles, traveling to Paris by train is an excellent option for experiencing the beautiful landscapes of Europe and arriving directly in the heart of this captivating city.

4. The Lounge at Charles de Gaulle is BEFORE Security

People sitting outside a pretty cafe surrounded by plants in Paris
Montparnasse Cafe (our first breakfast here)

France can drive you a little batty sometimes with how things are organized. There is none more baffling than the Star Alliance Lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

It’s located just after passport control but before security! Why would they do this? No one wants to go to the lounge only to leave early to ensure they get through security lines with an unknown wait time.

We thought we’d have three hours in the lounge waiting for our return flight to Raleigh, but we were told to leave an hour before boarding to make sure we got through security. We got through in ten minutes and lost that time in the lounge. The lounge is excellent, but you’ll need to have enough time to enjoy it.

Craig and I have a Priority Pass each (via our Capital One Venture X credit card) that allows us to take a guest each, which was our two kids. It may even be worth paying for this pass each year if you travel a lot and spend money on food at airports. It will save you money.

5. Paris is Sprawling in Size

Aerial view tree lined streets in a city and a giant tower called the Eiffel Tower
Views from Montparnasse Tower

Even though Paris is considered relatively small at 6 miles from north to south, and 7 miles east to west, it’s quite sprawling when you consider all its tourist attractions and lively arrondissements you’d like to explore. Unlike Rome, where everything was more compact and easier to explore on foot.

However, we clocked up 30,000 steps almost every day in Paris, so it is still possible to walk around if you’re up for it!

6. What are the Paris Arrondissements?

Mom and two daughters walking a cobblestone street in Paris
Exploring Montmartre, a large hill in Paris’s northern 18th arrondissement

Basically, they are Parisian neighborhoods. The Paris arrondissements are administrative districts that divide the city of Paris into 20 areas.

These districts, numbered from 1 to 20, are organized in a clockwise spiral pattern starting from the city center.

map of the paris arrondissement
The arrondissements

Each arrondissement has its own unique character, architecture, and cultural offerings, contributing to the diverse and vibrant nature of the city. Knowing the arrondissements will help you navigate the city and have a better understanding of where to stay in Paris.

7. Explore One Area a Day

Mom and two daughters walking along a street in Paris
Paris is big and takes time to explore!

To reduce the time traveling from Point A to Point B, plan to explore one area of Paris each day. The last thing you want to do is move from Montparnasse Tower to Basilica Sacre Coeur in a day, stopping at other top attractions in between.

To make this easier, follow our planning strategy outlined in our post, how to plan a trip to Europe.

8. Traffic Is A Nightmare in Paris

Cars driving around a large arch monument called the Arc De Triomphe
Don’t recommend driving around the Arc De Triomphe (and this is a quiet moment)

The traffic in Paris is one of the worst I’ve ever encountered. We were not expecting this and after arriving at Charles De Gaulle airport and doing the math for all four of us on the train into Montparnasse vs a taxi, the taxi was slightly more expensive but appeared quicker.

WRONG! It took two and a half hours to get into the city!! After a red eye from the US that was one of the worst taxi rides of our life! At least the girls got some sleep (none of us did on the flight over) before we went out exploring.

We then had a car rental booked from CDG to drive to the Loire Valley after flying in from Budapest. Again, this was all booked before we knew it. We were caught in Paris traffic for another two hours trying to get OUT of the city!

Aerial view of a city street with trees and buildings surrounding it
Champs Elysees, probably the most famous street in Paris. 

If you need to rent a car to go outside of Paris, know CDG is in the northeast. If you must drive anywhere near the ring road around Paris, you are best to take a train outside of the city and hire a rental car from there.

In hindsight, we’d have jumped on a train to Montparnasse (south of the city center) and taken a rental car from there down to the Loire Valley.

9. The Paris Metro (Subway) Is An Easy Way Around

Momand two daughters outside a train station surrounded by trees
Exiting a Metro station

Navigating Paris using the public transportation, especially the metro, is a breeze as it connects virtually every corner of Paris with punctual, and frequent trains. 

The basic fare for a single journey on Paris Métro trains, buses, RER trains, trams, and funiculars is €2,10, but you can save money by purchasing a bundle of 10 metro tickets for €16.90

Kids under 4 are free. Those aged 4-9 pay full fare for single tickets, but you can purchase a bundle of ten tickets at half price. 

Tickets are small rectangular pieces of cardboard so don’t lose them. You generally need them to enter the station but not coming out. 

You can purchase a Navigo Easy Card, which you then top up with fares that are the same as the paper tickets, including bundles. At the moment, the only benefit is not having to carry the bundle of tickets. Don’t worry about it if you are not using the metro much. 

10. Be Aware Of Bikes, Scooters and Sirens

Man riding a bike through the city streets of Paris

There are so many people getting around Paris on bikes. Be careful when crossing the roads, as they can go pretty fast, and bike lanes may have different traffic lights that don’t align with the pedestrian GO lights. 

Savannah was hit by a bike in London because of this. Now we know to be vigilant. 

Never mind the City of Love, Paris is the City of Police Sirens. Police cars were zipping their way around the city all day long we were shocked at how often this happened.

People and bikes outside a cafe in Paris

Motorbikes are crazy on the ring roads and motorways as well, zipping in and out of traffic on a death wish! If you are driving be careful when switching lanes as they’ll come tearing up beside you!

As of Sept 1, 2023, there will no longer be self-service scooter rentals in Paris. Parisinans voted overwhelmingly in favor of banning the nuisance and dangerous ways of getting around.

11. Choose Accommodation Closer to Central Paris

Exterior of a Novotel Hotel surrounded by trees
Our Novotel Hotel in Montparnasse

Again, to reduce travel time (i.e., have more time for exploring Paris and enjoying those pastries) choose accommodation that is closer to Central Paris.

We stayed at the Novotel Gare Montparnasse, only a five-minute walk to one of the biggest train and metro stations. We could easily get around and were only a 15-minute train ride to Versailles and could walk to Luxembourg Gardens in 20 minutes and the Eiffel Tower in 30 minutes.

HOWEVER, Craig and I both agreed we wished we stayed either in St Germain or the Latin Quarter as both neighborhoods were close to the river and the most central part of Paris.

People walking past a pub that's decorated with flowers in Paris
Pub St Germain

They were also so fun and lively at night, whereas Montparnasse was not. We would have loved to have been able to walk out of our hotel straight into these areas, especially at night when the girls wanted to crash in the hotel room, and we wanted to grab a glass of wine or just night wander.

12. Hotel Rooms are Small and Don’t Cater to Family Size

double bed and pull out sofa inside hotel room in paris
Our room at the Novotel Montparnasse with sofa lounge for the kids

As it’s a big capital city, expect hotels with smaller rooms and amenities. This is the European way and very similar to London and New York City. It’s quite a challenge to find rooms large enough in Paris to accommodate families.

Often it will just be a double or queen bed with a pull-out sofa. Our girls had two small camp style beds set up in our tiny room. We paid with points, and it was the best we could do.

Book far in advance, especially if you are a family, and consider a vacation rental for that extra space and amenities. The ones we looked at were way out of Central Paris so not practical for what we wanted.

And you might want to reconsider hostels. Craig was quite shocked and outraged by the prices, more expensive than a hotel when we were looking!

13. Be Selective about Attractions

Mom and two daughters standing in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
The Eiffel Tower is a must on your first visit

There is a museum, church, and palace for everything in Paris – even cemeteries abound. It’s impossible to do it all, and like London, you’ll want to be very selective and strategic in your planning.

Before you start booking attractions and planning your daily itinerary, ask yourself, do you really care about this? Will it thrill you or are you just doing it because it’s made a best things to do in Paris list and you’ll feel like a novice tourist if you don’t follow it?

Do what makes your heart sing – you have so many choices in Paris. If you just want to wander and soak up Parisian café life, then do it!

Man and woman outside a Basilica in Paris
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre was fantastic to visit

For our family, we’ve been traveling for 13 years together – 7 years of that full time – so we are SICK of museums. Although, while it feels to me like they’re all just the same, Paris does have unique and exceptional museums. But for us we couldn’t have cared less.

I’ve been to Paris three times and still have not been inside the Louvre. Sometimes I think I should go, because it’s popular and sounds good, but you know what? I really don’t care, and I don’t feel remorseful or regretful about not doing it. I wandered around the outside and it felt enough for me. Maybe on my next visit I will.

Lady holding a croissant in Paris
Our food tour in Montmartre was the highlight of our visit to Paris

Our trip to Paris was more about walking the neighborhoods, food tours of Montmartre, Seine River cruises, Paris city views, exploring Versailles, enjoying café life and wonderful French food – kinda more focused on Paris life NOW rather than in the past.

Our girls were very vocal in saying NO MUSEUMS or art galleries in Paris. We saved most of them for Rome, which we felt was super unique and worth doing.

If the Paris museums are on your non-negotiable Paris bucket list, then book them in! You may want to do other things like Perfume making classes (the girls were mad at me for not doing that) or macaron baking classes. Oh, and I highly recommend our Montmartre food tour in Paris.

14. Kids Are Free For Many Attractions

Young girl taking a photo of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Savannah on our Seine River cruise

Kids and students can get into many Parisian attractions for free or at a reduced price – even some cover ages 24 and under!

Always check before booking any tickets in advance. It’s also important to know if planning on purchasing a Paris Pass. 

This can get confusing if booking tickets in advance through booking sites like Get Your Guide. They often only have adult prices, not reduced child prices.

Girl holding a handrail at the top of a monument overlooking Paris
Kalyra at the top of Arc De Triomphe

Also, if you are booking a timed entry site via these sites, you’ll have to then reserve a timed entry price for kids via the attraction website. Using two different booking sites to buy tickets for the same time could be a logistical nightmare. 

While I prefer using Get Your Guide, for some attractions, I booked directly through the website to avoid these issues. 

15. Use The Paris Pass

People inside a church that has incredible stained glass windows
Inside the incredible Sainte-Chapelle

Want to save money on Paris attractions and tours in Paris? You may want to consider purchasing the Go City Paris Pass. The pass can save on entry tickets.

Write down the list of attractions and tours you will be doing. Research the individual price of each of the attractions.

Check to see if those attractions and tours are on the Paris Pass. Compare the prices of doing the attraction and tours on your own to that of getting the Paris Pass to know if it’s a good purchase or not.

It may not be cost effective to purchase a children’s Paris Pass if you are a family, as mentioned above they can get free entry to many attractions. 

A glass pyramid and stone buildings in Paris
Walking in the grounds of the Louvre Museum

You may also have to reserve tickets in advance for attractions on the Paris Pass, you’ll have to see how you can do that, if you have adults with the Paris Pass but kids getting in for free, as you’ll both need the same timed entry pass!

If you only want to see museums, there is a separate Paris Museum Pass, but we preferred the Go City Paris Pass because it included many of the top attractions.

16. Book Everything In Advance

People looking through a wire fence over Paris from the Eiffel Tower
View from the Eiffel Tower

I attempted to book our tickets for the Eiffel Tower two months before our visit to Paris. Tickets for the third level were already all booked out. I could only get last minute tickets to the second floor (via walking up the stairs).

As one of the most popular cities in the world for tourists, it’s best you book everything in advance for Paris. Even three months before our trip there was not a lot of availability left for hotels!

This was in the summer; it may be quieter outside the months of June – August. But it is best to book in anyway and then you can relax more when you arrive.

View over a city from top of a church
Highly recommend the climb to the top of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica for this view!

Most tours and hotels do offer free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance, so if you do feel like doing something spontaneous, there is always an option to cancel and try to rebook for another day.

Travel no longer has the freedom and spontaneity of twenty-five years ago when you could just show up and figure it out along the way. 

If one of our must-see attractions are booked out, you can try to get on a guided tour. It will be more expensive, but they pre-purchase tickets to the attractions, so if they have space, you’ll get in. Many will do this for the Eiffel Tower. It’s significantly more expensive, so I was grateful we got walk up tickets.

17. Skip The Line Passes Are Essential

Stained glass windows inside inside the incredible Sainte-Chapelle in Paris
Sainte-Chapelle

Alongside the previous point, is to book skip-the-line, or timed entry tickets, for every attraction. You then walk straight up to the gate at your time slot and enter. You may have a wait getting through security, but generally you go straight in. 

I was shocked to see the long line winding around the perimeter of the Eiffel Tower for all those who had not booked a ticket.

We bypassed all of them, passing through security immediately with our timed ticket. And I only purchased mine the evening before online!

Always check online for skip the line tickets, even if you turn up at the attraction at the last minute.

18. Visiting The Eiffel Tower is Confusing

Mom and daughter hugging at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower

We were shocked by this, to be honest. Expect a little confusion when it comes to the Eiffel Tower. We hope you visit on a good day.

Firstly, the booking of the tickets, there are multiple tickets you can get to the different levels, either by walking up the stairs, or getting the lift.

For the first two months of trying to get tickets (all lift tickets sold out), the website said you could only purchase tickets for walking up to the second floor only on the day at the Eiffel Tower.

Then, about two weeks before our Paris trip, suddenly you could book these tickets online. But the website wasn’t working properly. I tried for another week. Finally, it worked, and we got tickets to walk up the stairs to the second floor.

Man and lady drinking a glass of wine overlooking the cith view from Eiffel Tower
Glass of wine to celebrate walking up the stairs to the second level.

Then the evening before our visit, we received an email to say our ticket was canceled as they were delaying opening time the next day (no idea why). So, I jumped back online and was able to book tickets for a later time.

Then when we arrived it was a COMPLETE shemozzle, I can’t believe they do this every day and have the same classes of tickets, yet they had no clear line markings with signs telling visitors where to go – it was like their very first opening day!

It was a mass of confused Paris travelers. There were people who had timed entry tickets caught in long lines with those who did not have tickets.

View of a river and bridges in Paris from the top of Eiffel Tower
View from second floor after climbing the stairs

I spoke to three attendants who could not give me clear instructions on where to line up, sending me into the line with non-ticketed people. I even joked to one of them, “So, I just have to fight my way with the crowds,” and he laughed and said, “yes fight.”

Eventually, two minutes before they opened, someone came out and redirected people to the right place to line up, resulting in more chaos as everyone shuffled around. Unbelievable!

View over a river and city from top of Eiffel Tower
View from the second floor of the Eiffel Tower

Just have a permanent lane marked with a very clear sign that’s there every single day. I still can’t get over how you can so badly mess up the KISS principle, and this is one of the top tourist attractions in the WORLD.

Here’s an exciting Eiffel tower win though. They have €9 French wine at the first-floor bar. I thought this was an incredible price, especially since I can’t get a glass of crappy California wine for less than this at my local dive bar in the USA!

So, expensive for Paris, but not if you’re coming from the USA or Australia!

We’ll have a full guide to the climbing the Eiffel Tower steps with lots of useful tips and information.

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19. Champs-Élysées is Overrated

Mom and tow daughters walking along a street in Paris
Champs-Élysées

Perhaps an unpopular opinion, but I think this most famous street in Paris, possibly in the world, is overrated. It’s just one long street with the biggest shopping brands in the world with exorbitant prices. It’s pretty enough and worth seeing once, but I don’t get why people gush over it.

I thought the girls would like it, but they had no interest at all and wanted to leave. I think that’s a good sign when a teen is not interested.

Three city streets lined with trees
Best view of Champs-Élysées is from the top of the Arc De Triomphe

I’d much rather the charming cobblestone streets filled with French people strolling, zipping around on bikes and motorbikes, and buzzing bars and cafes in St Germain, Latin Quarter and Montmartre.

I guess if you like shopping, it might be you. By the way, the best view of Champs-Élysées is from the top of the Arc de Triomphe! Here is our guide on how to visit the Arc de Triomphe and enjoy some of the best views in Paris.

20. Is Paris Really the City of Love?

Lady holding her hands in the sigh of a love heart
One of Paris’ unique spots is the Wall of Love in Montmartre

Craig’s most repeated comment on Paris: “I don’t understand why it’s known as the City of Love. What makes it more romantic than many other cities we’ve visited?”

We really enjoyed Paris, but it was not our favorite of our Europe trip, and I think Craig was a little underwhelmed by it and thought Verona could be thought of as just as charming and romantic, and said you can find romance and love anywhere, it’s all perspective!

There are of course romantic cafes and charming streets and beautiful parks in Paris, and the ambiance and aesthetic beauty is there, but it’s also in many other cities!

People sitting outside a cafe in Paris
The cafe scene in Paris is charming!

But we did arrive after a red eye from the US with zero sleep so were extremely tired. The green space all around the Eiffel Tower was fenced off due to an event, so it felt more like a construction zone than a romantic place to hang out. And the neighborhoods around the Eiffel Tower are a little boring compared to other neighborhoods.

It was thrilling to see how excited the girls got seeing the Eiffel Tower, though! Again, we really liked it and had a great time, but we don’t get the romantic part of it.

Girl looking over a bridge on the Seine River in Paris
The Seine River is nice!

We do much prefer London and Rome. I find Rome more romantic, and I wonder if people go there thinking Paris will be the City of Love and get disappointed. Or perhaps it is ALL of that and more. Let me know in the comments? or in the Instagram post below. See what others think too!

21. Get Breakfast to Go

Two cups of coffee and croissant
Our staple breakfast in Paris

You’re in Paris, pastries are delicious and affordable. There is no better way to start your day than a chocolate croissant or cup of coffee at boulangeries, patisseries, or food stands. We could feed our family for under €15.

If you want to grab these from a café, take them to go as it will be cheaper. And of course, you can keep eating like that throughout the day. 

22. Picnics are a Thing

caz and girls having a picnic in front of queens hamlet versaille
Our picnic spot in Versailles

There are plenty of beautiful gardens and green spaces to have a picnic in Paris. Head to the local supermarket and bakery, buy some bread, cheese, cured meats, a bottle of wine, and some pastries or macarons for dessert.

You couldn’t find a more enjoyable (and affordable) way to eat lunch in Paris – or dinner – or just snack time. We loved our picnic in front of the Queen’s Hamlet in Versailles.

23. Lunch is Typically the Biggest Meal of the Day

Steak and frits in Paris
We enjoyed this hearty Steak and frits in Paris

In French culture, lunch is typically the main meal of the day and is a leisurely affair. Food is serious business in France, which is why you’ll get amazing quality and flavor.

Enjoy the culinary experience, savor your meal, and expect long, slow lunches that include paired wine.

Dinner will be a smaller, livelier social affair, with many Parisians meeting for Aperitif hour – small snacks and drinks at a café.

24. Café Culture in Paris

People sitting outside a cafe in Paris

There is no doubt about it, one of the best things about Paris is their charming café culture. It might seem a bit unusual at first, seeing the chairs out the front of a café lined side by side facing out, rather than in a circular, more social fashion. This is the French way.

And Parisian cafes are just as cute and charming as you imagined completely decorated in flowers with Bohemian vibes.

Get ready to enjoy watching life pass you by as you sip on a café au lait or an evening champagne.

The Australian in me would like you to know that the coffee in Paris is NOT amazing. I am happy to report after traveling to over 60 countries, and now drinking a lot of coffee in France and Italy, that Australia still (so far) has the best coffee in the world. New Zealand is nipping at our heels! The USA is in clear last place.

25. Expect Slow Service

Family having dinner
Dinner at Le Clou de Pairs was good but SLOW!

Like most of Europe, service in Paris is slow and inattentive. You will be flagging and chasing down servers the entire time, especially for water that you so desperately need in the middle of summer – we’ve been spoiled in the US.

It can really drag out your eating time too. So be ready to go with your order, order everything all at once, and ask for the bill as soon as possible.

26. Ask for Tap Water…often

As we mentioned in the point above, and in our Europe travel tips post, don’t expect to get glasses of water unless you ask for it – including getting refills and it won’t be iced or in pint sized glasses. You’ll always feel thirsty!

Ask for carafes of tap water. You won’t be charged for tap water, but you will for still or sparkling. Always say tap!

27. Water Fountains are Free and Elegant

caz getting water out of a fountain in paris
Free refills at fountains are appreciated

Tap water in Paris is safe to drink, so there’s no need to buy bottled water. We strongly advise against single use plastic water bottles. Carry your own refillable water bottle as Paris has water fountains all over the city.

And only Paris could have water fountains that are so elaborate and elegant!

28. You Don’t Need to Tip

people sitting at table in L'été en pente douce restaurant with bright blue walls and painted roof
No, they don’t expect a 20%+ tip

Not going to lie, I loved this. The price is the price! Tipping in restaurants is not as common in Paris as it is in some other countries. A 10-15% service charge may be included in the bill, so don’t tip if that is on there.

Of course, you can always tip if you want, and sometimes we did. In Europe, it’s typically 10%, or leave some small change, or round up the total. 

29. Be Aware of Restaurant Opening Times

people sitting at cafes on square in paris

Typically, in Paris lunch is served from around noon – 2pm and dinner is served from around 7pm – 10:30pm. All day service restaurants may be just for the tourists. You can always duck into a bakery (boulangerie), patisserie or supermarket for a sandwich or treat.

You may need to reserve tables. Paris can get very busy. You can avoid this by eating earlier and away from the busy tourist areas.

30. Gluten Free is Not Common

You can find gluten free, but it’s not as common as Italy. I did eat a couple of pastries and did not react anywhere near as badly as I would in the US.

31. When is the Best Time to Visit Paris?

Mom and two daughters sitting in a park in Paris
Tulleries gardens is beautiful

Definitely not July and August! That is when the whole of Europe is on summer break and America as well.

There will also be more closures during August, since Parisians are on holiday and it’s hot in August. Good times to travel are May and September and October (the best months to travel anywhere in the world really).

32. How Long Do You Need In Paris?

We recommend you spend at least 3 days in Paris. But if you have more time at your disposal, 4-5 days would be ideal so you can travel slowly and take more of the atmosphere in and spread out those busy attractions.

You’ll especially want more time if you plan on taking a few day trips like to The Palace of Versailles, Giverny Gardens, or the Loire Valley Castles.

33. You’ll Pay for Restrooms

Again, this is fairly normal in Europe. Always carry 50c coins in case of emergencies. Otherwise, use toilets at attractions, cafes and restaurants so you don’t have to pay!

34. Can You Get Free Wi-Fi in Paris?

People sitting outside at a cafe in Paris

You will mostly get free, fast wi-fi everywhere, including cafes, accommodation, airports, trains, and even entire cities. You’ll have to ask restaurants and cafes for the passwords, but they are pretty good at giving them to you.

If you have an unlocked phone, it’s most cost effective (and easiest) to get an eSim from Airola.

35. Accessing And Using Money in Paris

Lady buying coffee and pastries from a cafe in Paris
Buying pastries from a cafe in Paris

The currency used in Paris (and throughout France) is the Euro. Most places take credit cards but carry some cash for smaller businesses.

A man at the markets in Versailles gave me a mini lecture on the importance of carrying cash in France. It did mean we bought extra macarons for our picnic to reach the €10 limit for card payments! ATMs are everywhere.

Use cards whenever you can, especially if you point hack and your card has no foreign transaction fees. We used our credit card.

Tap and go is very popular in Europe, and typically all everyone offers. But if it doesn’t work, they still have chip facilities.

36. Is Paris Safe?

Mom and two daughters walking walking the streets of Paris
We walked everywhere without issues

Paris is generally a safe city, but considering the amount of police sirens we heard constantly, we kind of wandered why?

But do be cautious of pickpockets, especially in crowded tourist areas. Keep your belongings secure and be aware of your surroundings. I always use a money belt or cross body bag and carry minimal cash.

The French quite like protesting and strikes, and the city has seen a lot of disruptions because of them, including closures of attractions, canceled flights and transport, and lots of garbage piling up in the streets. 

There were also riots in France during July 2023. Keep an eye on any strikes or protests happening as you may have to adjust your itinerary. The riots are rare, and don’t be frightened, just be aware!

37. Will I Need To Know French?

People sitting outside a cafe in Paris
A little French can go a long way

While French is the official language, many Parisians speak English, especially in tourist areas. However, learning a few basic French phrases can go a long way in showing respect and making interactions more pleasant.

There is a negative stereotype that Parisians aren’t friendly. While they have a more reserved and direct approach to interactions – kind of like New Yorkers – I’ve never found them too unfriendly or unapproachable on all trips to Paris.

 I think the more you try to engage, especially with a few words of French, the more likelihood of a warmer interaction.

Keep it simple with hello, please, thank you, excuse me, cheers… You can add more as you learn them!

  • Good DayBonjour /bon zor/
  • Good EveningBonsoir /bon swah/
  • Good ByeAu Revoir /oh-ruh-vwah/
  • PleaseS’il vous plaît /see voo play/
  • Thank youMerci /mer-sea/
  • Excuse me & sorrypardon /pahr-doah/
  • You’re WelcomeDe rien /duh-rhee-uh/
  • Ma’amMadame /mah-dahm/
  • SirMonsieur /mis-eeyuh/
  • YesOui /we/
  • NoNon /no/
  • Do You Speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? /par-lay voo an-glay/
  • Bathroom? = toilettes

38. Be Considerate in What You Wear

Lady standing under a monument in Paris called Arc De Triomphe
Arc De Triomphe

Parisians tend to dress stylishly and more formally than in some other places. When visiting attractions, especially religious sites, modest attire is appreciated. I tend to carry a light scarf in my bag that I can throw around my shoulders when entering a church.

39. Locals Love To Smoke

One final thing you might want to be aware of before going to Paris is that Parisians love to smoke cigarettes. It’s normal to smoke in the street, when sitting outside on terraces at bars and cafes, or when queuing up for attractions.

Smoking is forbidden in enclosed spaces, but they still allow smoking outside, so if you don’t like the smell of smoke then I recommend you look for tables inside when visiting restaurants.

Our BEST of in Paris

Family of four inside a palace in France
Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versaille

Since our readers love our personal perspectives, here were our Paris favorites on our 4-Day trip.

  • BEST TOUR: Our Montmartre Like a Local food tour
  • BECAUSE you can’t come to Paris and NOT do it: Climb the Eiffel Tower
  • BEST PARIS VIEW: Montparnasse Tower and from top of Arc de Triomphe.
  • MOST SUPRISING ATTRACTION: Sainte Chappelle (wow!) & the Basilica Sacre Coer dome climb
  • WISH We DIDN’T MISS: Paris Catacombs
  • BEST COFFEE: On our last day we discovered Azur Cafe near the Champs Elysee that had good craft coffee.
  • BEST NEIGHBORHOODS: Montmartre, St Germain and Latin Quarter (we did not do all of them)
  • BEST DAY TRIP: The Palace of Versailles

Final Thoughts On Things To Know Before Going To Paris

Lady taking photo up high through a window of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
View from top of Montparnassee Tower

As you prepare for the trip of a lifetime to France’s capital city, keep in mind these things to know before you travel to Paris.

They will help you plan for more memorable days, help you save money, and give you greater confidence on your Paris visit, which really is one of the most popular tourist cities in the world.

Remember, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much on your Paris trip. Leave space in your itinerary to wander through the gardens, admire the views, and soak up the elegant Parisian cafe culture.

You can read more in our Paris essential experiences for first time visitors guide, in the top things to do in Paris post, and in our handy tips for planning a trip to Europe, especially with kids and our itinerary for four days in Paris.

Are there any other important things to know before going to Paris that you can share? Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

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