Ten expert tips for planning your Paris trip

So you’re coming to Paris and you want to maximise your time and spend your money wisely. But how to do it?

Here are some suggestions, based on our deep explorations of the city as part of our Paris Countdown series (from which we’re currently on a two-week intermission).

So here they are: Ten expert tips for planning your Paris trip. (You can listen to a fun version of this list in the podcast episode embedded below.)

1) You’ll often pay for the story

If you’re going to a restaurant where Ernest Hemingway used to visit, or if you’re on a cafe terrace with an Eiffel Tower view… you’re going to be charged seemingly unreasonable prices. And we know they seem unreasonable because we get a lot of messages and comments that some dining experiences don’t seem worth it.

But a 40 euro steak is sometimes not just a 40 euro steak. You’re paying for the provenance. The food and drinks will maybe be better across the road, so be sure you don’t confuse a good meal with a good story.

(Pictured above: The restaurant Le Dome, more on our visit here)

2) You don’t need to linger

If you want to make the most of your time in Paris, visit lots of places. Don’t have dinner, dessert, and a drink all at the same restaurant. Grab the main course in one place, then dessert nearby, then a cocktail elsewhere. You’ll feel like you’ve got triple the experience in essentially the same amount of time.

(Pictured above: Our visit to Butte-aux-Cailles. More info here.)

3) Ask the locals for advice

Some of the best places we’ve found on this series have been recommended by waiters, hotel staff, or cafe owners. Or even folks passing by! Guide books and even travel podcasts get dated quickly, so turn to the locals for the most up-to-the-minute tips.

(Pictured above: The Cravan art nouveau cocktail bar. More info here.)

4) Invest in your hotel experience

This is surely true for the whole world, but we’ve noticed in Paris that when we choose a more central hotel, or a slightly better room, then it makes the whole visit better. If you have the means to go up a notch on your hotel (even if it means a shorter stay), then do it. If you’re on a tight budget, ignore this advice. After all, I crashed at a stranger’s house on my first Paris trip and it’s a story I still tell today. But if you have the option, a good hotel makes an unusually big difference.

(Pictured above: Our visit to the Terrass hotel in Montmartre. More info here.)

5) Gimmicks are hit-and-miss

We have favoured a lot of gimmicks during this season because it makes places easier to share. Which bar will you remember us talking about: The good cocktail bar, or the good cocktail bar where the bartenders are in their boxer shorts? Of course it’s the latter. But remember, just like a speakeasy bar or a floating hotel, once the gimmick has been experienced, it’s just another bar, or hotel. Decide if you’re in it for the cool story, or just for a place to sleep or drink. Bonus: The bar below is an excellent place for a beer on a boat!

(Pictured above: A cool bar in the 19th arrondissement. More info here.)

6) The Metro can be horrible

Yes it’s efficient and cheap. But some of our worst experiences this season have been on the Metro. Getting fined despite having valid tickets, getting onto such a crowded train that we were held upright by strangers’ sweaty bodies, and hearing announcements for pickpockets… If you can avoid the Metro, do it. Or at least avoid peak hours at all costs. On the plus side, the Metro can make some for some pretty photos.

(Pictured above: The view from a beautiful island in the 15th. More info here.)

7) Double check opening times

Do not trust the opening hours from online search engines. Paris can still be a bit behind with technology. Websites are often out of date. But the Google “opening hours” are incorrect strangely often. Usually it isn’t a big deal, but if there’s something you truly want to see, it might be worth double checking with a telephone call. Especially if it’s for a small museum or a restaurant.

(Pictured above: A bakery in the 10th arrondissement. More info here.)

8) Don’t ever go door to door

There is so much to see in Paris, so much to find, that if you take a taxi from A to B you’ll miss everything else. Why not walk part of the way, or get off the bus a few stops early. There’s so much more than just the big monuments in Paris and it’s worth exploring.

(Pictured above: A windmill restaurant in the 18th. More info here.)

9) Don’t be fooled by social media

Instagrammers sharing their “secret” photo spots are very often sharing places that are swarming with snap-happy tourists, queuing up for the exact same photo. If you want to recreate that exact photo, then sure, go to the end of rue de l’Université and jostle for the same picture 30 other people are trying to snap.

But better idea: Go and find the real Paris at an authentic restaurant, or in a charming cafe, or along a hidden passageway, and come away with a much better memory (and maybe even a better picture). And as we said in the podcast: Don’t be the person in the middle of the Champs-Elysées risking your life for a photo! There are better things to do in Paris 🙂

(Pictured above: Inside the Train Bleu. More info here.)

10) Go through the open doors

This is an old tip from The Earful Tower but a good one. If the doorway to a private-looking courtyard is open, or if a shop seems a bit intimidating and small, or if a hotel looks a bit too grand and majestic… don’t worry about it… just go in! The worst that will ever happen is someone will ask you to leave. The best that can happen? Why, you’ll discover some kind of wonderland that even we don’t know about.

That’s what happened when I took Patreon members on a one-hour video tour of hidden passageways in the 11th arrondissement, and a two-hour tour of the Philippe Auguste Wall.

(Pictured above: A hidden alley in the 11th. More info here.)

Bonus: Consider getting a private walking tour

Over the spring we’ve been developing our Earful Tours; private walking tours in the Marais and Montmartre. The idea is to showcase the best parts of these districts, while revealing their deepest secrets. The walks are kind of like a live version of an Earful Tower episode, led by a member of the team. They skip the boring scripted historical facts and show you the real Paris, the exciting Paris, and the “wow-I-had-no-idea Paris”. To book a tour or to find out more, click here.

(Pictured above: A view in Montmartre. More info here.)

That’s it!

Below are all the episodes of the Paris countdown so far. We are looking forward to sharing the second half of the season with you next month. A big thanks to all the Patreon members who make this all possible. They get my PDF guide to Paris for free, or, you can buy it here for even more Paris tips.

One thought on “Ten expert tips for planning your Paris trip

  1. We loved the Metro!!! We stayed in the 15th by the La Motte – Picquet Grenelle station! We bought the week-long pass that allowed you not only on the Metro, but the buses and the RER as well! It was fabulous! We took the heavy rail (RER) to Versailles, and buses in the city. We never had a problem and we spoke very little French.

    We went from Charles de Gaulle to Paris, to Montmarte, the Eiffle tower, Notre Dame, etc., and back to Charles de Gaulle all on the Metro!

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