Paris has long been one of the most popular travel destination in the world, and it’s easy to see why: The city boasts stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, incredible shopping, top-notch museums and so much more.
But as with any place with a large tourism industry, the locals are not shy to point out the mistakes visitors to the City of Light often make during their stays. We asked people who live in Paris ― from expats to natives ― to share some of the faux pas they’ve observed.
From poor manners to misguided itineraries, here are 15 mistakes tourists often make while visiting Paris ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your travels.
1. Trying To Do Too Much
“One big mistake is to try and cram everything in in a few days. Paris is a beautiful and big city, with so much to see and do. It can also be visually overwhelming and overstimulating trying to take in all its beauty. As a tour guide, I see many of my clients try to fit in what takes a week, into three or four days. My suggestion is to be selective and choose two or three activities at most per day. For instance, one morning do the Louvre, then have a nice leisurely lunch at a café for 60-90 minutes, then an afternoon activity, say a walk through the Marais or Saint-Germain or visit another museum.” ― Richard Nahem, founder of Eye Prefer Paris Tours
2. Not Saying ‘Bonjour’ When You Enter A Store
“Say ‘bonjour’ (or at least ‘hello’) when walking into a store or restaurant. While in many countries simply saying ‘excuse me’ is a polite way to begin asking someone a question, in France it’s absolutely expected that you greet people with a proper ‘bonjour’ when entering their establishment (be it a store, restaurant, even the ticket counter at a tourist attraction). At museums, I’ll often hear the cashier greet people with a ‘bonjour’ or ‘hello’ and the person will respond with the number of tickets they’re looking to purchase ― it really does sound rude! You’ll usually get much better service if you begin an interaction with ‘bonjour,’ so it’s generally worth the effort to remember.” ― Emily Jackson, blogger at The Glittering Unknown
3. Eating In A Hurry At Restaurants
“Unless you go to a fast food chain like McDonald’s, people should expect to spend at least 60-75 minutes for lunch and dinner. Don’t have lunch at 12:15 p.m. and expect to finish in time for your 1 p.m. timed tickets for the Louvre. Service is slower at restaurants in France, and there are fewer service people than in the U.S. Be patient and don’t huff and puff if your food doesn’t come out right away.” ― Nahem
4. Failing To Check Opening Times
“I always encourage people to check opening hours before going anywhere. Paris is not a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week city, and often places are closed one or two days a week or have strange hours. You may have to check official websites or even dig into social media (particularly in August when a lot of Paris closes down) to cross-check when places are open. Hours also may be seasonal, which is another reason to always double check! Paris really can be a game! But it’s part of the adventure.” ― Anne Ditmeyer, founder of Prêt à Voyager and Navigate Paris
carterdayne via Getty Images
It’s important to be aware of your surroundings, especially in transit.
5. Making Yourself Vulnerable To Pickpockets
“Sometimes we forget that Paris with all its charm and beauty is also like any other metropolitan city; with pickpockets, especially in and around the metros at the very touristic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Sacré Cœur. You want to be extra vigilant and keep your valuables in front of you especially in the crowded metros. … I’ve seen and interrupted a lot of pickpocketing.” ― Yanique Francis, blogger at My Parisian Life
“Paris is a safe city, relatively speaking, but be aware of your surroundings. Use the ATM machines inside the bank, not outside. If there are teenagers hanging around, walk out. They may attempt to take your money, move their hands on the keypad, generally distract you. … The metros run so frequently in Paris, that if the cars are packed, watch the next train and see which section tends to be less crowded. Sit in that wagon. If you are at an end station waiting to depart it can happen that someone will run into the car, grab a bag, jump out as the doors close. … If you wear a backpack purse with any valuables, wear it backwards. Otherwise clasp the zippers securely.” ― Colleen Shaughnessy-Larsson, blogger at Colleen’s Paris
6. Purchasing Unnecessary Museum Passes
“Museum passes are only worthwhile if you plan on doing at least two museums a day, otherwise it’s a waste of money. You can buy online tickets for every major museum in Paris and still skip the lines if you do. Also, if you have a museum pass, you sometimes still have to reserve a time online.” ― Nahem
7. Talking Too Loudly
“Anglophone voices carry. Not sure why, not sure how, but they do, more than many other languages, and it not only creates a disruptive environment if you’re in an enclosed space like a metro or restaurant, but it can make you a target for pickpockets or those looking to take advantage of you. Plus, do you really want the whole metro to know private details of your life ― or worse, where you’re staying? Take a cue from the French and keep your voice at a low, even tone to avoid unwanted attention.” ― Jackson
8. Buying Bread, Wine And Cheese At Supermarkets
“Please don’t buy bread, cheese and wine in a supermarket, or you will get poor industrial products for your money. Every Parisian has his favorite bakery where he can get his ‘baguette de tradition’ and Saturday-Sunday croissant. Mine is Au Levain d’Antan in Montmartre where I live. … Always ask for ‘une baguette de tradition bien cuite s’il vous plaît!’ That’s a matter of good taste. Eat the baguette on the street like a real Parisian. You can sit on a bench, add some cheese and have a glass of wine. Bring your own knife and glasses. But follow my advice, go to a cellarman to get much better wine even if it’s a little more expensive. You can go to La Cave des Abbesses for example. Same for cheese, go to a cheesemonger and choose a well-done Camembert raw milk, some Comté of Jura, Cantal of Auvergne, goat cheese or a fabulous brie (from Melun or Meaux). All these are ‘AOP’ which means ‘Protected Origin Appellation.’ You will find four cheesemongers on the Rue des Martyrs. If you are in a hurry, go to La Grande Épicerie de Paris, where you will find bread, cheeses and wines on the same place.” ― Frédéric Vielcanet, photographer and blogger at Easy Fashion Paris
9. Staying Near The Eiffel Tower
“Don’t fall for the hotels ‘near the Eiffel Tower.’ There are numerous well-known chain hotels within walking distance of the landmark, but they’re surrounded by tourist trap restaurants or worse, located on a rather unattractive stretch of urban freeway. The Eiffel Tower’s surroundings is one of the most touristy areas in Paris where you’ll rarely see locals or find any authentic French culture. I often feel sorry for the thousands of tourists that end up there. Look to stay somewhere in a historic neighborhood like romantic Saint-Germain.” ― Vanessa Grall, founder of Messy Nessy Chic and author of “Don’t Be a Tourist in Paris”
Busà Photography via Getty Images
Locals recommend planning leisure time to walk around the charming streets of Paris.
10. Draping Bags On The Backs of Chairs
“Handbags in restaurants are vulnerable when placed on the back of a chair or on the floor. Buy a bag crochet as a souvenir and use it, attach it to the table, and place the bag between your legs. If you put the bag on the floor, make sure your leg is through the handle or at least the chair leg is through the handle. Tables in Paris restaurants are often closely spaced to one another.” ― Shaughnessy-Larsson
11. Not Taking Advantage Of Nice Weather
“If the weather is nice, I suggest only doing one museum a day, so you can spend time outside exploring the beautiful architecture. Remember if you don’t see it all, you can always come back ― the Louvre will always be here.” ― Nahem
12. Trying To Bring Baguettes And Croissants Home
“If you are a traveler, you cannot bring baguette and croissant home because it would be stale bread. If you really want to bring some bread home, choose a big country bread (au levain ― sourdough bread) not sliced. You can keep it fresh and good for a few days in a paper bag (no plastic bag!).” ― Vielcanet
13. Only Visiting The Major Sites
“Don’t fill up your itinerary with the major museums and landmarks, you’ll end up spending most of your holiday queuing up for things. Visit the smaller and lesser-known museums, archives and flea markets ― there are some real gems in Paris.” ― Grall
“So many travelers who visit Paris only do the ‘tourists tour’ like going to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre Museum. Paris is a city that you have to discover by walking, going by the energies of the city, strolling through the popular neighborhoods like the 18th or the 11th districts which are full of artisans, little shops and streets that make all the charm of Paris.” ― Kenza Sadoun-el Glaoui, YouTube personality
14. Overtipping In Restaurants
“This is a difficult one to grasp, especially for Americans. Although it’s technically called a service charge, your final bill in a restaurant or café in France is all you need to pay. For instance, if the bill says 25€, it includes the tax and tip. However, it is customary to leave a small gratuity usually in coins, somewhere between 3% to 5% of your bill. There’s no tip box or column when you pay with a credit card, so you must leave it in cash. It’s perfectly acceptable not to leave anything at all if you have no coins on you.” ― Nahem
15. Staying In ‘Tourist Mode’
“Often I see tourists treating Paris like a checklist of things to do and see. Through my writing, tours and online experience, I encourage people to explore the city through their own interests. This may mean seeking out a special exhibit of an artist they love or visiting a unique specialty store related to a hobby or passion. I always say Paris is the best city in the world for getting lost, as it’s so walkable, and there’s something unique and special around every corner. When you’re in full-on tourist mode you sometimes forget to slow down and look up. Part of visiting a new culture is about having experiences outside of yourself, so I also encourage people to try new things or something they can’t do at home. These experiences often make the best stories and give you a new perspective on a place, and about yourself.” ― Ditmeyer
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