Stepping into the city of lights is like stepping into a dream. The picturesque gleam of the Champs-Elysées, the emblematic charm of the Eiffel Tower, the Gothic columns of the Notre-Dame - Paris alone would overwhelm any fairytale fanatic. But the charm could easily rub on you once you find yourself lost among a frantic crowd of people hastily making their way when what you had in mind was a leisurely, romantic stroll.
The secret to not losing the initial charm is to travel like a local. Here are some handy tips:
If you want to shop in Paris, you will be better off avoiding the packed couture-lined boulevards. Instead, head over to where most local shoppers go. The famed avenue of the Champs-Elysées, for example, is already concentrated with global chain stores that you can easily find anywhere else. If you want the real Parisian fashion, come to the North Marais. The Atelier Couronnes, Jamini or La Trésorerie are great options for hunting home merchandise. For exclusive Parisian-designed goods, the Les Halles and the Printemps Hommes will never disappoint.
Just north of the Palais Royal, you can take a time-trip in the Galerie Vivienne via quirky, antiquarian shops that date back to the city's earliest trade years.
(source: Vamos Para Paris)
Not that you can’t splurge in Michelin-starred restaurants. If you can, do so! It will be worth every dollar. But if you can’t always pop up $500 for every meal, local bistros established by reputed Michelin-starred chefs are great alternatives.
In this case, you might want to book dinner at the Le Comptoir du Relais right now, as tables are crazily booked even months ahead. If you can't, visit chef Jean-Francois Piège's Clover and Clover Grill which feature a great menu for lesser bucks.
And even if you survive the throng of people snapping at Mona Lisa to post on their ‘Grams, you couldn’t really expect to see all the wonders at once. You don’t have to. France’s artistic marvels are not concentrated in the Louvre. The Musée Marmottan, for example, is home to the world's largest collection of Claude Monet's impressionist works. The Musée Rodin houses 6,600 sculptures, 8,000 drawings, 8,000 old photographs, and 7,000 objets d’art.
The Musée d’Orsay hangs chefs-d'œuvre of the likes of Van Gogh, Delacroix, Corot, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Gauguin as well as Cézanne and Toulouse-Lautrec. Be amazed by the magnificent glass-roofed central hall of the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais and witness the timeline of architectural grandeur at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine.
The city of Paris is not for commuters. Traffic can be terrifying. If you really need to get someplace not within walking distance, you need to call your cab ahead. But don’t expect the journey to be a breeze. Another great alternative for transport is the Métro which is cheaper and more efficient than your Uber or your cab.
Otherwise, if the goal is to enjoy the city, the best way to get the most out of the experience is to take your time and let the city’s charm engulf you. Go window shopping and occasionally stop by one of the many outdoor cafes. Watch the people, sip a good cup of coffee. Read a book. It’s all in the details. There’s a reason this city inspired so many literary geniuses.
Perhaps for most, a trip to Paris isn’t complete without snapping a photo of the infamous structure. But while before, you can simply walk up to it and enjoy the view to your heart’s content, now tourists have to endure strict security checkpoints in light of the recent Paris terrorist attacks.
No, you don’t have to spend hours for a photo. You can actually head to the Arc de Triomphe OR if you’re visiting around June to September, climb the the Tour Saint Jacques to get a better view of the iconic tower. This way, you don’t have risk safety or spend so much time being in line with all the tourists gathering under the perimeter of the Eiffel.
It might not be cheap to stay in the city center but it’s worth the experience to spend a night in the City of Lights. Find a good hotel that offers the best services for the price. For more adventurous travelers, try to couchsurf and stay with local hosts in the city. Or, if you want better privacy, rent a serviced or self-catering apartment.
Notre Dame - Galande, a luxury apartment accommodation in Paris.
Although the metro is a highly efficient transport system for Parisians, if you’re a tourist visiting the city for the first time and want to see a grander perspective of the streets before you travel on foot, choose to travel by bus instead. Not necessarily because it’s faster, but because you will be able to see more.
A fleet of six strange-looking glass-covered trimarans regularly cruise up and down the River Seine to take Parisian locals and tourists to top tourist attractions in the city. These boats are a great alternative to the metro. There are five stops on the left bank of the Seine including the iconic Eiffel Tower, the Impressionist museum of Musee d’Orsay, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Jardin des Plantes, and the Saint-Germain-des-Pres area of Paris.
Meanwhile, on the right bank, there are three stops including the Louvre, the famous avenue of Champs Elysees, and the Hotel de Ville.
There are currently 8 Batobus stations in the heart of Paris. If you’re not sure when you’ll be visiting, check their service timetable here.
One of the most popular and perhaps necessary apps when in Paris, Velib has been widely used by both locals and travelers to see Paris in a much more personal - and perhaps a little adventurous - way. It’s a large-scale bicycle-sharing system and the first to offer electric bikes. Velib lets you find a nearby docking station, choose bike-friendly routes, map the number of distance covered, buy a pass that you can use for a whole week, and even change your subscription. You can download the Velib app for Android here or from the App Store here.
Not only does it save you time from waiting in line, it also gives you breathtaking views of the city less the bounty of the crowd. The Montparnasse Tower is a 210-metre office skyscraper considered the third tallest building in Paris. The view from the 56th floor of the building is panoramic, with up to 40km vistas of the metro on a good day. This is actually the only skyscraper you can see in Paris so it definitely does stand out. It has one of the fastest lifts in the world!
Normal entry price is €17 for adults and €9.50 for children. Use metro lines 4, 6, 12, 13 to get there or take 28, 58, 82, 88, 89, 91, 92, 94, 95, and 96 if you opt to go by bus.