Episode 41 What to Skip in Paris

Paris at dusk
Photo James Whitesmith

What to Skip in Paris

Today’s we go onto unexplored territory: we tell you about some things you might want to skip in Paris. It was bound to happen! You can only spend so much time in Paris that it’s important to be selective. Every blogger seems to have set ideas of what to skip and we’re not as black and white as most. Here we try to help you think through it, what’s the best use of your time given your preferences? And, of course, we don’t quite agree on everything. Enjoy!




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This episode was inspired by a 2001 article called Ten Things Not to Do in Paris by Christina Henry de Tessan

Don’t Shop on the Champs Elysées

Champs-Élysées_photo Bretwa
Photo Bretwa

We definitely agree that shopping on the Champs Elysées isn’t what it used to be and can totally be skipped. Shopping around rue des Francs Bourgeois and Le Marais? Yes, very nice. This is a place in Paris where you get medium to high end boutiques. Specialized boutiques that are very French. Avenue Montaigne is where high fashion is, it’s very expensive, you might bump into a movie star there. Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré is very chip, not quite as high-end as Avenue Montaigne, but expensive. For people who want to go cheaper go rue de Rivoli, which is the main shopping drag filled with lots of stores for average folks. Marchés aux Puces, for example Vanves for antiquity. Gallerie Vivienne, one of the Covered Passages, is gorgeous, but a lot of those passages are food places now.  Arc de Triomphe? Yes, worth it.

Eat at Starred Restaurants?

Restaurant la Truffière Paris
Restaurant la Truffière photo Cometstarmoon

You can eat like a king or queen in Paris for $50-$60, we don’t think it’s important to eat in starred restaurants, but if that’s one of your goals, Paris is the right place. Yelp is in France as well and that will help you tremendously. So many choices of restaurants most places. Two places where there aren’t so many choices are the Champs Elysées (not a lot of restaurants there, period!) and Le Latin Quarter close to Notre Dame where it’s all kebab, pizzas and fast food. Le Comptoir in the 6th arrondissement is tiny and they don’t take reservations, so do you really want to stand in line? Most French restaurants offer reservations on-line now. Another tip is to go at lunch rather than dinner, nice restaurants are always cheaper at lunch. Café-Brasseries are the same price all day long and offer great salads, omelettes, steak-frite for a reasonable price. Also at a Brasserie you don’t have to order a whole meal. You can just have a soup or a salad. There are also lots of lunch-only restaurants in Paris and all over France.

You May Not Want to Spend a Whole Day at the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay

Le Louvre photo Class V
Le Louvre, photo Class V

There are people who don’t enjoy museums, and there is so much for them to do in Paris without stepping into museums at all. But, you can also go see wonderful pieces in the Louvre in two hours if you go at 5-7 PM for example, for those of us who are not 100% into art but enjoy it in small doses, that’s a good way to go. Or go see one of the many smaller specialized museums in Paris for something that interests you. It doesn’t have to be an art museum at all! For instance the Carnivalet about the history of the city of Paris, which is free too!

How Do You Dress Appropriately for Paris?

Crowd of French people at a demonstration

French women don’t wear shorts typically, they wear skirts or dresses.  Men can get away with wearing shorts. No short short or tank tops in churches. Suit and tie not needed, even at restaurants. It can be casual, but put some thought into it. French people wear more fitted clothes than Americans in general.

Don’t Go Around in a Cab

Paris Taxi

Unlike the author of this article, we don’t think taking taxis is a bad idea, so long as you get the official taxis. But walking and taking the bus is also a good option.  To rent a Vélib (rental bikes) you may need a credit card with a chip, so not an option for everyone. French bikers are used to the cars, don’t follow their bad announcement. Dog poop in Paris: Paris is a lot cleaner than it used to be. You don’t have to worry about dog do-doo so much any more.  Cleanup rules are enforced most places in Paris.

Don’t Seek Out the Bohemian Ambiance on the Left Bank

Belleville Paris
Quartier Belleville Paris

If you go to the café where Hemmingway or Sartres or James Baldwin hung out, you’ll pay more for your coffee, but they are nice. On the left bank between Saint Germain and Montparnasse there are gorgeous Brasseries that are fun. We think Bohemia has disappeared. Poor unknown artists and musicians were pushed out a long time ago. You might find some Bohemia around the 10th and 11th arrondissements around the Bastille today, but the 50s and 60s are gone. The Belleville area is very mixed, not chic, but real.

Do Go to the Eiffel Tower!!!

Eiffel Tower from Trocadero
Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero

We don’t agree with this blogger on this. The Eiffel Tower is really cool. It’s gorgeous day or night. The view from any of the levels is great. It’s the symbol of Paris for a good reason! It sprinkles like diamonds at night. Really, we think you should go.

Don’t Book the Cheapest Hotel

Hotel Chopin in ParisStay in Arrondissements 1 through 11, don’t go too far out. It’s worth the extra money. If you’d like to see what hotels we recommend, check out our hotel widget on the right side right off the front page. Or you can get an apartment, Air B&B is great for that. Hotels in Paris overall offer small rooms and bathrooms, it’s hard to get around that fact. Youth hostels are also fine for people on a budget of any age.

Don’t Fill Up on Croissants

CroissantsThat’s ridiculous advice! Fill up on whatever you like and makes you happy! Elyse would rather have a croissant than a macaroon–sacrilege!!! Maybe don’t go nuts on the bread, which is amazing and cheap, don’t over-do. Elyse also thinks that croissants and bread are better in Paris than anywhere else even in France. Whaaaaaat? We think you should try different things. For instance cold cuts (charcuterie) and cheeses. Beware of the temptation to eat steak-frites every day too. Get the dishes of the day, that’s always a good bet.

Don’t Buy into Stereotypes Against the French

Stereotypical FrenchmanThis past week Elyse had three instances where people heard her talk about places and they came out to add some story to her explanations. French people are not nasty overall. Waiters are over-worked and tend to not be patient if you take too long to decide what you want to eat. There aren’t that many waiters in French restaurants, they end up with lots of tables and they have to run all the time. So, make up your mind quick in restaurants. Be aware of locals who want to get past you if you’re going slowly.

 Bâteaux Mouches

Bateaux Mouches Paris
Bateaux Mouches photo Joe deSousa

We think they are fun and it’s a great way to see Paris. Mostly it’s 10€, take it near the Pont-Neuf, the commentary is getting better and easier to understand. You’ll see the bridges, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Orsay, it’s really nice and takes an hour. Also Guinguettes are back in Paris in the summer-time. These are places where they setup a dance-floor and there’s music, and places to get a drink, usually along the rivers.

Musée Rodin

The Thinker Musée Rodin Paris
The Thinker Musée Rodin Paris

Go if you love sculpture, Elyse says it’s one of the minor museums that you can skip. It’s one of Annie’s favorites, so it depends on what you like.

Walking Along the Seine

Along the Seine in Paris

Up near the road you’ll see very small book sellers and those are good. Walking below close to the water is not as agreeable, not dangerous, you may run into bad odors.

Rue des Martyrs

Cool, new “in” neighborhood. Get off at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and it’s a nice area, but nothing special, maybe you can skip it.

Rue des Martyrs Paris
Rue des Martyrs Paris

 

13 thoughts on “Episode 41 What to Skip in Paris”

    1. HI GUYS

      I didnt say to skip it!!! I also didnt say it isnt worth going to the Louvre or Orsay – they are the two most important art museums to see in Paris but you dont have to spend a day there, just go for a few hours and see the important pieces or a section that you like. As for Rodin, it is a small museum with a gorgeous garden filled with his sculptures but it isnt my must see for a short first trip to Paris – If you want to try one that is in a great location go to the Museum of Architecture at Trocadero, it gives you ,, on a 1 to 1 scale, all the magnificent architectural heritage of the country and then some. Besides,, the location, across from the Eiffel Tower, is super for photos.

  1. The Rodin Museum is one of my favorites as well. I love the gardens with its sculptures. And a relatively short walk to the Invalides, which is also an enjoyable visit.
    Makes for a lovely half day.

  2. I love croissants, the Eiffel tower and cruising the Seine on a Bâteaux Mouche but I’m not as interested in dining in a cafe frequented by an author or artist. I really want to visit the Rodin Museum on our next visit and we will probably return to the Champs Elysee just to admire the wide boulevard and the Arc de Triomphe. So much to take in and I cannot wait to return. Thanks for all the tips and I love the podcast 🙂

  3. Hi Annie and Elyse,
    • Rodin Museum: Entrance is 9€. You can see the gardens for only 2€. There is a combo Orsay/Rodin Museum pass for 15€.
    • In the day time, a solo female can walk safely down by the water on the Left Bank from the Arc de Triomphe all the way to Île Saint Louis without bad smells, beggars etc!! Such a beautiful walk. See cross trainers, couples to hipsters drinking at restaurants by the water. The dancers are towards the end.
    • The Eiffel Tower has a new “glass” floor to view below now.
    • Some bateau companies have discounted tix if you buy online. I saved 5€. I love to ride on the Seine every visit to Paris.
    • Palais Royal gardens and covered walkways are FREE with roses, a pond with fountain and people having lunch outdoors.

    Elyse’s question about “a la mode” was hilarious in another podcast!!!!!! French meaning – is “in the fashion” and Amer. meaning is a scoop of ice cream on a slice of apple pie!

    Still Love the podcasts. Bravo for you both.

  4. Good evening, a great blog with which I almost totally agree. We were in Paris for 8 months before we were went to the top of the Eiffel Tower with visitors who had it on their check list. Have lunch at Le Ciel instead. But, in my view, one should walk under the tower and walk to see it the on the hour evening twinkling.
    I was somewhat surprised by the desire to be in or near the city centre. The Metro is so efficient and cost effective, one could have a hotel almost anywhere and be minutes.10/15, from anywhere in the city.

  5. Hello!
    I just finished listening to this episode and am loving all your insights and tips to visiting France. My husband and I will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary this May and we are planning a trip to Paris this June. I am very interested in your hotel recommendations that you mentioned in this podcast however I cannot find the hotel widget on the front page. Do you have another list somewhere else on your site?
    Thank you in advance!

    1. I totally forgot about the Hotel widget, thank you for mentioning it! Will fix it in the next few days and you should see it in the right hand-side bar.

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