- Eat Only in Posh Neighborhoods
The best food in France is not actually French at all, especially when it comes to Paris. Don’t be fooled by posh neighborhoods. Some of the tastiest and most authentic food lies in small restaurants tucked away in unexpected neighborhoods. Sticking to the obvious locales will ensure you pay premium prices for mediocre meals (unless you’re willing to spring for true Michelin-rated fare). Instead, enjoy a delicious Senegalese meal in the 11th, Cambodian in the 10th, or if you’re really looking for some authentic French cuisine, head to the 12th and hit up this hidden gem that doesn’t even have a website.
Some of the best meals in Paris will cost you little more than 15 euros.
- Take the Metro
Paris boasts an impressive public transit system, but if you rely too heavily on it, you will miss out on the particular experience and charm of Paris’ winding streets and huge, radiating boulevards. Unless you are truly going across town, go for a walk – or better yet, rent a bike – as you take in the architecture, the transitions between neighborhoods, and the varying communities that make Paris such a vibrant city. Also, note that if you are traveling with children, strollers, or a wheelchair, Paris metro system is notoriously inaccessible, so save yourself the headache and stay above-ground.
- Avoid “Sketchy” Areas
Remember those no-go zones? They represent some of the most ethnically-diverse and historically significant areas of Paris. Skip out on these and you will miss out on excellent shopping, incredible food, and the true rhythm of life in the métropole.
- Go to the Louvre
Yes, the Louvre is the museum to visit when in Paris. But if that is all you do, you will miss out on the smaller, but equally significant museums Paris has to offer. So skip the One and instead check out the Orangerie, the Musee de la Chasse et Nature in the Marais, or even the Picasso Museum, which only recently reopened after a long renovation. Everyone wants to see the Mona Lisa, but not everyone knows about the other gems hiding out in plain sight.
- Eat Breakfast
While the French boast a rich culinary tradition, they don’t exactly do breakfast. Unless you’re staying at a ritzy hotel that offers American-style breakfast or are willing to find a place that specializes in this sort of meal, you’re going to be sorely disappointed (and pay an arm and a leg for a mediocre meal). Instead, you should embrace the French way and enjoy one of the many pastries you can get any café for little more than a few euros. You’ll be surprised how filling you petit déj turns out to be. And you’ll have room for lunch!
- Visit the Tour de Montparnasse
Beware of the Tour de Montparnasse, Paris’ other Tour. The only reason you want to go here is if a) you want to take a train, or b) get a panoramic view of Paris (15 euros). Yes, it is the highest point in the city, but you could also trek up to Montmartre, where you get a view and a historically-significant Basilica (free!). Or, brave the crowds and climb to the top (or middle) of the Eiffel Tower.
- Try to Speak Slang
Whatever you do, do not buy a phrase book with French slang. If you insist on speaking French, buy a book that teaches you standard phrases. Chances are you will be understood more often and those you encounter will thank you for not butchering their language (too much).
- Walk side-by-side
Don’t be like Scarlett Johansson and make a fool of yourself. This is France. The sidewalks are narrow. There are chairs, tables, people. Don’t take up too much space, and don’t be rude. You’ll notice this in the metro as well, and it is usually how you spot a foreigner: when it gets crowded and people shuffle in, foreigners push back (ah, personal space). Don’t push back! Go with the flow. Be aware of your surroundings and fit in, don’t stand out.
- Not say Hello
You know how the French are rude? They actually aren’t. It’s YOU! When you enter a shop, or stop a stranger to ask a question, always say hello first.
Say thank you and goodbye. It is more than just etiquette. It is the foundation of social interaction (and the proper form vous is also a good thing to know).
- Buy Grocery Store Wine
Good wine is not hard to find in Paris. What’s more, it is not terribly expensive. So don’t be a fool and buy a bottle at a grocery store or chain wine shop. Seek out a legitimate wine shop and speak with a caviste. Give him or her your price range. You will be pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of wines you encounter. Then head off to one of Paris’ many parks, or the Canal de Saint Martin, and enjoy your bottle with friends.