Paris is one of the most visited cities in the World. The French capital has an old history, beautiful architecture, great food and it has always been the source of inspiration for painters, writers, and other artists. But to really enjoy this stunning city you need to go beyond its tourist attractions and discover Paris like a local.
There is no best time to visit Paris; every season in the City of Light has its own charm. And if the weather is not that nice, there are a lot of exciting museums or indoor things to do in Paris, so you will never be bored there. Also, Paris is a fantastic city for a European weekend getaway, which you can do in different seasons.
Tips for visiting Paris for the first time
Paris is divided into 20 Arrondissements (or Paris Districts)
One of many interesting facts about Paris is how the neighborhoods are organized. They are named as Paris 1, Paris 2, Paris 3., and so on. Paris 1 to Paris 8 are the most central but also the most touristy districts, while Paris 9 to Paris 20 have lesser tourist attractions but more local life. To find the best places to stay in Paris, check this Paris by Arrondissement Guide, with the essence of each district.
Paris is a very walkable city
There is no better way to explore Paris than by foot, the city is packed with cobbled streets, nice green areas and some beautiful avenues. If the weather is nice, wear comfortable shoes and walk, walk and walk.
Parisians are not as rude as people may think
Even if you don’t speak French, try to start a conversation with a “bonjour”, it changes everything and we are sure they will try to help you as much as they can.
Paris is not as expensive as you fear
Book your accommodation in Paris in advance, perhaps in a less touristy district, use the city’s public transportation, and avoid drinking your cappuccino (or beer) in front of Notre Dame. These little tricks can save you lots of money and help you enjoy Paris like a local.
We live in Paris 320 days a year and despite exploring it extensively the city still surprises us, we never get enough of it! If you are planning a trip to Paris, we suggest visiting Paris’s top attractions (more on this at the end of the post) but also try to go off the beaten path to get the essence of the city. Because Paris is much more than the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame, let us give you some advice on how to enjoy Paris like a local.
5 Travel tips to explore Paris like a local
Enjoy the Colorful Street Art of Paris 13
The 13th district of Paris, traditionally a “grey neighborhood”, is today in continuous transformation. Its once characteristic ugly towers or streets without any charm are now highlighted thanks to fantastic street art. Huge and colorful murals by famous street artists from all over the world have invaded the biggest avenues in Paris 13. Today street art is part of the district’s soul and little by little it is becoming a new attraction for those who want non-touristy things to do in Paris. If you really want to discover and visit a city you must go out of the beaten path.
Stroll along the Parisian Canals
The Seine River is the most beautiful avenue in the city, but if you want to go local in Paris, check the street life along the Parisian Canals. We like watching how the locks adjust the level of water to let the boats pass, the canals are also a great place to stroll, for evening picnics by the banks, play pétanque with friends or have a lazy drink in one of its picturesque cafes. From time to time, when the weather is nice, we like to rent an electric self-drive boat to navigate the Parisian canals in our own way, a truly local thing to do in Paris.
Sunny Days at Parc Buttes Chaumont
Parc Buttes Chaumont is one of the biggest and most original green spaces in Paris and its construction on ancient quarries explains its impressive steepness and change in levels and heights. Parc Buttes Chaumont is located in Paris 19 so unlike some other central parks like Tuileries or Parc du Luxembourg, this is a great place to get a glimpse of local life in Paris.
In Parc Buttes Chaumont you can run, have a nice stroll around the lake, enjoy a picnic with friends or just lay on the grass to get some sun on your face. It’s one of the top things to do in Paris with kids, they love the park’s swings, small carousel and traditional Guignol shows (puppet shows). Parc Buttes Chaumont is also our favorite place for jogging, which usually ends with a hot coffee or (if the weather is good) a glass of rosé at Rosa Bonheur.
Enjoy Panoramic Views of the City
We love to see Paris from the heights, gazing across the lights and landmarks that define the city. There are endless opportunities to have a panoramic view of the City of Lights: climbing the stairs of Paris’ most iconic monuments, drinking our favorite cocktails in fancy rooftop bars, or even flying over the city on a hot air balloon!
Explore Paris Local Cuisine
You don’t need to dine in a Michelin starred restaurant in Paris to appreciate the French cuisine. In fact you can go to one of Paris bouillon restaurants and have a perfect meal paired with history and décor.
Local Markets in Paris are a good way to start your local exploration and some of them, like Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, have some areas to eat for a few euros. Local food tours and cooking classes are also a great way to learn about French cuisine and taste some of its dishes. And the guides are always happy to give you some restaurant recommendations where you can eat like a local in Paris. Finally, add a wine tasting tour to your Paris itinerary and learn how to pair your favorite dishes with good French wine.
Another option to experience Paris like a local is to stay in the city longer and live its daily life. If you like children, you can become an Au Pair in France, spend a couple of months there, and truly see the city like a local.
If your desire to enjoy the local French life is not fulfilled yet, check out this French Riviera Itinerary that will take you to the coast of France among some of the most picturesque towns.
Paris Top Attractions
As much as we love going off the beaten path and enjoying the non-touristy things to do in Paris, some of the city’s top attractions are a must, especially if you traveling to Paris for the first time. Here is our list:
- Eiffel Tower – the symbol of Paris and France.
- Louvre Museum – one of the best museums in the world and also one of the biggest!
- Notre Dame Cathedral – the heart of the city and one of the most beautiful gothic cathedrals ever built.
- A walk (or a boat trip) along the Seine – Paris’ most beautiful avenue.
- Panthéon – where the “Grands Hommes de la France” are buried.
- Arche de Triomphe – background of military parades and with great views from the top.
Where to stay in Paris
Looking for the best places to stay in Paris can be an overwhelming task. When it comes to choosing where to stay in Paris my advice is to think about what type of experience you want to have.
Are you looking for a 5-star hotel in Paris? What about renting a villa or a large house for your family? Or do you just need a place to sleep and have a good breakfast? Maybe staying in someone’s house can be an option for a cheap and local Paris experience.
But doesn’t matter your style, here are some good suggestions from top hotels to affordable places to stay in Paris:
Need more Paris travel tips? Check out our guide to Romantic Things to do in Paris and How to run the Paris Marathon, the city of Lights is packed with attractions and activities for any type of traveler.
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Author: Elisa from World in Paris
Quirky Parisian explorers with a preference for the less known sights, we are continuously looking for new ideas and tips to bring you the best of the City of Light. You can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.