How to visit Paris ‘like a local’

The best way to enjoy your time in Paris is to live ‘like a local’. And no, that doesn’t necessarily mean finding the newest speakeasy bar or coolest restaurant. It means enjoying Paris like the Parisians do.

And sure, there are a bunch of practical tips like which Metro ticket to buy and which neighbourhood to stay in, but that’s too boring and you can find it elsewhere anyway.

Here are my tips on how to enjoy this amazing city. Yes, after over four years in Paris and six seasons of The Earful Tower podcast, I’m going to call myself a local.

So here is an episode with my 12 tips. You can listen below, which means you’ll learn about the super duper event I have coming up too. Hint: It’s at the exact location where the picture above was taken. Scroll down to read the article and see some pics too!

1. Look up

The street level of Paris isn’t the end of the story. Look up and you’ll get a lot more out of the experience. That’s how I found this enormous hidden angel in the third arrondissement, for example. Read all about her here.

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2. Look down

This is for two reasons: 1: To avoid all the dog poop, and 2: To see all the interesting things at street level, like chasse-roues (see below), the things that once protected the walls from wagon wheels. There’s just so much going on beneath your very nose.

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Some are impressively ornate like this one in the Marais.

3. Say bonjour to everyone

Trust me on this, if you want to make a good impression, just say bonjour all the time, no matter how bad your pronunciation is. Even if you just say it like “Bon Jaw” it will still open doors. People have written whole books about the importance of this word, and they’re exactly right. Now, add a “ca va?” afterwards and the city is yours.

Become an expert on the ca va thing and maybe you can get the rare six-in-a-row, as demonstrated below.

4. Avoid the Metro if you can

Paris is small. It’s a village, even. You’d be surprised how easy it is to walk from A to B, and many of the subway stations are just a tiny distance apart. The added bonus is that walking means you don’t need to go descend into the stinky depths of the underground.

Having said this, the Metro itself is quite interesting. Here are 30 things about it that even the Parisians don’t know. (Did you know the Arts et Metiers station looks like a submarine?)

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5. Eat your baguette on the go

There are very few pleasures in this life that beat taking a bite out of a warm, freshly-baked baguette while walking down the streets of Paris. And while Parisians will usually frown on eating on the go, it’s perfectly acceptable when it comes to baguettes.

PS: Don’t get mixed up. The word baguette can mean ten other things beside bread.

6. Experiment with a tradition

For a few extra centimes, you can get a better kind of baguette called a tradition. Ask for one of those instead of a baguette and thank me later.

And while the video below wasn’t taken in Paris, it’s the perfect explanation for how to order a tradition like a real French person. That’s Camille from French Today, by the way!

7. Grab a classic coffee

The coffee will taste disgusting and may just be overpriced – but the rest of the experience will be just like you imagined. You’ll feel very Parisian and you’ll enjoy the best people-watching on the planet.

8. Grab a good coffee

It’s no secret that I love a specialty coffee in Paris. Check out some of my favourites while you’re here. Try Cafe Mericourt, Le Peloton (pictured below), Coutume, Beans on Fire, or KB. Keep your eye out for me, I may just be there. Here are my tips, by the way, for the best cafe in every single arrondissement of Paris.

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9. Go for an aimless walk

Do NOT fill every second of your itinerary with things to do. Specifically leave one whole morning or afternoon to just wander around. Leave the hotel, turn left, and just go. The French have a word for someone who does this: a flaneur.

Take inspiration from this Earful Tower fan, who came to Paris and walked 340km in 20 days. Or you could just walk down the top 20 streets of the city, according to you Earful Tower followers.

10. Visit the 10th and 11th districts

While the Left Bank is amazing, and the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre are famous for a reason, come to the 10th and 11th districts to see where it’s all really happening. Hit up the top-rated cafes and restaurants, and wander through the streets to take it all in. And don’t miss the Canal Saint-Martin, but watch out for the crocodiles.

11. Don’t be afraid to go through doors

If a door is open in Paris – to a courtyard, a gallery, a garden… just go through it. If you get in trouble, explain that you’re a clueless tourist and you’ll be fine. Some of the most amazing parts of Paris are hidden behind doors, so when they’re open – don’t hesitate to explore.

That’s what me and Adrian Leeds did in a recent Walk Show, see below.

12. Listen to The Earful Tower podcast

And lastly, if you’re reading this website for the first time, you probably didn’t know that it’s the right arm to a podcast about Paris called The Earful Tower. I’ve interviewed loads of experts about this city who’ve come up with some awesome tips or shared their interesting stories. Why not start with the Top 20 guides, where I’ve asked specialists to name the best of in each of the 20 arrondissements of Paris?

You could try the top restaurants in Paris, according to writer Lindsey Tramuta, the top bars of the whole city according to cocktail queen Forest Collins, or the best streets according to April Pett.

And lastly, I believe the best way to prepare for a trip to Paris is to purchase The Earful Tower’s Guide to Paris, a booklet arranged by arrondissement filled with tips to make your stay as perfect as possible. Enjoy!

The Earful Tower’s Guide to Paris

It’s here! After six seasons of making The Earful Tower podcast and 100+ expert guests, I’ve finally put together the ultimate guide to Paris.

€19.99

That’s it for now, here’s today’s episode again. Be sure to subscribe on Patreon for loads more, including fancy event invitations. And for the discount on French Today audiobooks, go via this link.

3 thoughts on “How to visit Paris ‘like a local’

  1. All fabulous suggestions….but I must say to use the metro off peak hours is still a Parisian thing I love to do…arts et Métiers is my metro station and just to go there makes my day…but I do love to flâneur as much as possible!!!…Paris is your oyster…it is a never ending exploration!!

  2. Can I buy your book and have it sent to me in Australia. I am coming to Paris with my husband and another couple next May. I am still a bit old fashion and like a book to read and write notes in. Thanks Kathy

    1. Hello Kathy – I understand your concerns about it being a PDF but the cost of me printing them out and posting them abroad was too high to justify doing any more than the first batch. It’ll remain a PDF for the time being. However, you can always print it at home and bind it there?
      Thanks, Oliver

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