Planning your dream vacation to Paris post lockdown? You may be filled with questions about your visit, especially if it will be your first time visiting the French capital. We’ve compiled a list here of 10 things you should know before you come to Paris.
1. Paris is safe
Paris is a very safe city, statistically it is one of the safest large metropolitan areas in Europe. Typically, the only crimes that tourists have to worry about are petty crimes like pick pocketing, which can be quite a problem in crowded tourist areas like around the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre-Coeur. Violent crimes within the city are very rare. If you are travelling solo, the only areas that you might want to avoid late at night are around the Gare du Nord, the Les Halles metro, Stalingrad and Chateau d’Eau.
2. Basic French phrases
We know that learning French can be very intimidating, especially when the Parisian locals talk in rapid fire French. Luckily, because many French people you’ll come across in restaurants and shops will speak at least a bit of English there is no need to be fluent in French to visit the city. Furthermore most signs and announcements in the Parisian metro system have English translations. However, picking up a few basic French phrases will really go a long way during your trip. Though it seems insignificant, simply saying “Bonjour” will make a huge difference when entering a shop or a restaurant. Some other super easy French phrases to memorize: “Pardon” (Excuse me) “Merci beaucoup” (Thank you very much), “Parlez-vous anglais?” (do you speak English) and “Bonne journée/bonne soirée” (Good day, good evening).
3. The French are actually really nice!
Contrary to popular belief, the French are not rude. They are actually very proud of their city and their culture which has wrongly given them the reputation for being a bit snobbish. Compared to Anglo-Saxons, French social behaviour is very different, which is why they can sometimes seem unfriendly. It is simply due to the fact that in Paris people value politeness and are therefore much more formal than what some tourists may be used to in their home country. However, once you get to know a French person they will open up to you.
4. The Metro is your friend
When visiting Paris, do not be intimidated by taking the metro! It is very convenient and will help you get from point A to B quickly. The Paris metro is one of the oldest subway systems in the world, and it is actually very user friendly. Maps and directions are clearly marked and compared to some other cities, it is usually quite clean. You can also always rely on handy apps like CityMapper to help you navigate your journey.
5. Paris is a walking city
Paris is actually quite a small city, being only 6 miles across. It is actually half the size of Brooklyn. That being said, it makes it quite easy to get around the Paris on foot, and quite enjoyable, too. You could walk from one end of the city to the other in three hours.
6. There is so much more than just the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay
Paris is obviously famous for its world class art museums like the Musée du Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. But did you know there are so many more museums worth a visit than just these two icons? There are actually about 130 museums in the city ranging from the historical monuments to the unusual, like the doll or the vampire museum.
7. You’ll find a green space in every neighbourhood
When Baron Haussmann reconstructed and reorganised Paris in his grand city planning projects during the Second Empire, one of the goals was to bring more green spaces into the city so that the residents could have fresh air. Inspired by London’s great parks, Paris has about 500 green spaces within the city. These oases provide respite to locals and tourists alike. For a real Parisian experience, grab a baguette sandwich from a boulangerie and then enjoy it whilst sitting on a park bench.
8. Many restaurants don’t serve food between 2pm and 7pm
In Paris, lunch is typically served between 12-2pm. If you’re out and about in Paris and are looking for a bite to eat after this time has passed, you may have to search specifically for a restaurant that will say “service continu” – meaning that they serve food at all hours. Most traditional French restaurants take a break between lunch and dinner service. Dinner typically starts at 7pm or 7:30pm, while many French will eat around 9pm.
9. Pharmacies are everywhere and you don’t need a prescription for many medications
If you’re visiting Paris and you happen to start to feel a cold coming on, or if you have any sort of symptom, before trying to find a doctor, simply head over to the nearest pharmacy. Pharmacists will go over your symptoms and any pre-existing conditions or medications you already take and they’ll offer you medical advice and guidance. Most medications do not need a prescription, however if you happen to run out of a foreign prescription while travelling many pharmacists will refill it for you.
10. Paris is a multicultural city
French culture is beloved around world, and French gastronomy is considered to be one of the most refined and elegant cuisines. While you will have no shortage of traditional French restaurants in Paris, remember that Paris is a very multicultural city. With large populations of Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians, Moroccans, Algerians and among many others, there are hundreds of excellent and unique ethic restaurants, bakeries and cafes to try in the city. Specific neighborhoods like Belleville are true melting pots of culture.
Maria Pasca is the Communications & Marketing Director at My Private Paris. My Private Paris is an award-winning boutique travel agency that fully tailors high-end tours and experiences in Paris with the finest local guides.