Bonjour! This week we asked for your Paris tips. Here are some highlights from the 148 responses. If you learn just thing, let it be that Parisians like to say hello.
If you think Parisians are rude, it might just be that you're not saying hello. "It is considered the height of rudeness to not greet anyone-even when you get on a bus," says Klee. "Anytime you walk into a store, you will be greeted and you must greet the shop-person back," says Scout's Honour. "I noticed that even when I was walking down an alley and another person crossed my path, they would say 'Bonsoir,'" says ceedotkaydot. Add an Au revoir, bonne journee when you leave, says jseb.
And start your conversations in French, even when you know the other person speaks English. Readers all agreed that it's rude to just start talking to Parisians in English. "The best phrase I know in French is Je suis désolé, je ne parle pas français, says JobiWan. "I've seen tourists (mostly American) be treated as annoying tourists because they are pushy and demanding, and yet when I approach the same vendors and tell them I don't speak French (in French), they are much more polite and accommodating. Even those that don't speak English are very pleasant and try to work with you."
You can push it further, says TheMonkeyKing: "We found ourselves to be instant hits in small neighbourhood cafes where we badly mangled local French but in their laughter appreciated our efforts. One place poured us extra wine and another one gave use free desserts with our dinner. If you can sneak in a malaprop, you'll become their darling."
Walk if you can
While the metro is top-notch, Paris is best seen above ground. Sinisterblogger elaborates:
Walk everywhere and don't be afraid to get lost. If you get lost, hop on the Metro (there'll be a station nearby). It's very, very easy. But make a point to get lost. Just wander. Find a cafe off the beaten path, away from the tourists, sit, drink wine, people watch.
Plan less and wander more. Paris is filled with little micro-neighbourhoods and interesting streets. Be sure to take at least one day to just wander about without any real plans or direction. I happened upon an old raised railway line (Promenade Plantee) that they turned into a park. (Similar to the High Line Park in Manhattan)
Papa Van Twee learned this the hard way, after his tour bus broke down. "The next day we skipped the bus, and just walked. It was a lot more fun that way. You can't get to know a city until you've walked it, and Paris is a wonderful city to get to know."
"Ignore anyone approaching you with a clipboard asking if you speak English, or anyone with a poorly made friendship bracelet in their hand," says Kevin Lee Drum.
"I do not feel that the city is generally unsafe, but keep an eye on your valuables, there are many pickpockets," says Frederi.
- "There is one street (rue du Montparnasse) where all the shops are dedicated to crepes." — Frederi
- "Bread shops can only be legally called boulangeries if the dough is kneaded and baked on premises. The great ones will have times posted when the fresh baguettes are out!" — Pull It Surprise
- "Avoid any restaurant that has somebody standing outside trying to lure you in unless you want to eat something that's been dumped out of a bag and microwaved. Look for places that advertise fait maison with a little drawing that looks like a combination of a house and pan with a lid on it — I believe that it is illegal for a restaurant to advertise itself this way unless they actually make their food in-house." — Alan
- "If a restaurant closes at 1op, they stop seating around 8:30p-9p. Unlike in the US you can't just walk in 30 minutes before closing and expect to be seated." — majape
- "Did someone say Steak Frites? Stop at Le Relais de Venise - 271 Boulevard Pereire. There is no menu here; select your wine, and the servers bring out your meal. It starts with a simple walnut vinaigrette salad, followed by your steak frites, which is served with a delicious dijon mustard butter sauce. The main course is presented in two servings, so when you finish your first serving, the second plate is brought over. Top it off with homemade dessert. Excellent! — Herecomesthejudd
- "Relais Odeon. You want to go to the Brassier on the back side, not the fancy cafe on the busy corner. And there's a tiki bar in Pigalle called The Dirty Dick. It is expensive, but serves excellent drinks. The bartenders are fantastic and will take good care of you, especially if you tip well. " — aimawayfromface3
- "If you want something like a latte, you order a creme (or grand creme for a large one) because if you order a café, what you'll get is a very strong espresso." — sg1969
See the Louvre
- "Do not try and do the whole Louvre in a day. Pick one wing and stick with it." — nellburt
- "Pick one or two sections and enjoy the heck out of those. My picks: the basement, and the halls around the Mona Lisa." — Beth Skwarecki
- Or: "Seek out the smaller museums. I love the Picasso museum and Rodin museum. There are others, but those two are fantastic, pretty settings. Have a snack in the Rodin garden or visit a café near the Picasso museum in the fantastic Marais district." — Klee
- "Don't neglect the other wonderful museums. The Musée de l'Orangerie has Monet's water lilies along with a lot of other impressionist work, and the Musée d'Orsay has most of the Manet pieces that you remember from art history class among its impressive collection." — Zerioni
Take the metro
- "Don't put your metro tickets near coins! The magnetic strip on the paper ticket isn't very robust and can de-magnetize." — frslou89
- "You can ask for an exchange at any booth if your tickets are demagnetized!" — Guillame
- "Buy the book of ten tickets, called a carnet [kar-nay], which are sold at a nice discount. You can share them among multiple riders as well. Make sure that you hold on to your ticket until you are finished riding, and have exited the station."
- "Get an unlimited subway/rail pass, and take a little time studying the routes. The unlimited passes require a passport photo to be glued onto it (not scanned), so keep an extra printed photo with you when you go up to get one." — HehMan
- "A lot of the metro trains require you to open the door when the train stops by using the door knob. There are 2 trains in paris: Metro and RER. RER is heavier rail, metro is metro. You can ride both with a metro pass, but only RER within the city limits. Metros travel on the right, and RERs travel on the left." — MPD01605
- "Don't eat or drink on the Metro (this is a 'rule' that is slowly falling by the wayside, but it still drives enough people crazy that you'll get dirty looks)." — Alan
- "To get across the roundabout to the Arc De Triomphe, there are stairways leading down to tunnels that run underneath." — JRE
- "If you speak enough French to wing it, you can ask the museums and other touristy places to give you a European Union discount." — dFruh
- "GET OUT OF PARIS! Go to Versaille, the countryside, whatever. We took a day trip to Monet's house and gardens out in Giverny and the ride there on the tour bus was ALMOST as special as the actual tour." — Crapflinger
- "While the Eiffel Tower is amazing to go up into the lines and cost can be really long and expensive, the Arc De Triomphe is cheaper and normally has pretty short lines. Plus you can see the entire city from the top with some amazing views." — Max
- "Pop into any old cathedral and you'll get a spectacular architecture/art gallery experience for free. We stayed near Saint-Eustache, which is not a big deal at all as Paris cathedrals go, but it was still very wow." — Beth Skwarecki
- "The Eiffel Tower is farther away than you think it is. We were walking everywhere, as you do, and we looked up and thought 'Well it's right there, let's just walk.' Cut to two sweaty exhausted people queuing for the tour much later than expected. The plus side was, we got to see the city all lit up after dark. So, tip number two is do the Eiffel Tower in the evening." — Zerioni
- "Go to the Galeries Lafayette Department store on Boulevard Haussman to see the beautiful architecture. Then take the elevator to the 6th floor, climb one more flight of stairs and find yourself on the roof with amazing views of all of Paris. This is the only way I know of to see this kind of view for free." — Mary
- "Get a 1-week pass for the Velib bike share system in Paris. You can buy one online ahead of time. Even with the 1-week pass, you only get 30 minutes of usage before you start to incur a fee. Just bike for less than 30 minutes at a time, park the Velib, do some stuff wherever you are, get another Velib." — anynymous_tipster
- "Be comfortable and wear what you like, but know that appearances can be important in unexpected ways in Paris. For starters, Parisians rarely wear shorts, so if you're wearing them you'll almost certainly be taken for a tourist. Ditto for oversized clothing." — Alan
- "Montmartre: Hit up Dali's studio, it's worth it. Nothing like the museum in Figueres, but still, pretty cool. Also: Look for the sculpture of the guy sticking out of the wall. It's based on a famous French story whose name escapes me at the moment. Also: Try to have drinks/dinner at the Lapin Agile; it's where Picasso and everyone used to be intellectual at each other back in the day." — sinisterblogger
- "Go to: La Gare Jazz (Metro Corentin Cariou). Free jazz concert with cool beer and delicious saucisson in an abandoned train station!" — Nitnelav
- Take a trip to Versailles, many readers say. "People tend to skip it because it's a little far, and takes a lot of the day, but I always advise against it," says LuckyMc44. "I'd rather spend a day in Versailles than see 10 sights."
- Guillaume gives a breakdown of all the arrondisements (the districts, numbered clockwise from the city center). Here's the intro: "You'll find old, bourgeois people in the 7th, 8th, 16th. Young people, bobos, hipsters in the 9th, 10th, 11th, 18th, 19th, 20th."
- "Except for very fancy places, French people are not expecting any great level of service anywhere, so in practice, you won't be getting one either. This, for most visitors, appears as rudeness while in reality this is just normality." — jseb
- "Parisbymouth.com. It was, and still is, the website I send anyone to who is headed to Paris. I scouted places to eat (sorted by arrondissement or places open on Sunday or Monday, among many other helpful ways), read reviews, and even booked one of their tours." — Nick K