We all know that Paris is one of the most visited vacation destinations in the world. It welcomes millions of tourists every single year and remains one of the world’s most treasured spots to enjoy.
It’s also a place that’s very easy to marked and spotted as a tourist. There are a lot of tourist traps around the city and even some scams you’ll want to avoid that are often targeted at those who look like tourists. Parisians have a distinct way of life and if you take advantage of the following tips, you’ll be able to learn a bit more about what it’s like to seem like a local while you visit Paris.
For today’s post, in addition to my own expertise after spending loads of time in Paris as the founder of Paris, Perfected, I’ve also tapped one of my dear friends, Annabelle, who is French and has lived and worked in Paris for many years. Read on for our practical tips to help you navigate Paris like a local!
How To Do Paris Like A Local
Learn some French phrases
Parisians very much respect when tourists try to speak French so you’ll do yourself a favor by learning some key French phrases in advance. I also recommend downloading Google Translate to help you when you’re looking to ask a question or help find your way while in the City of Light.
Don’t dress like a tourist
Wearing clothing emblazoned with American logos and destinations on them or wearing things like fanny packs, baseball caps, overly casual sneakers or other items that make you stand out as a tourist will certainly change the way you are viewed (and sometimes treated) in Paris.
Avoid athleisure and certainly avoid leggings. You’ll be instantly recognized as a tourist. French people don’t really do athleisure and they’re only seen in leggings if going to/from or participating in a workout.
Parisians dress simply and elegantly and you can find loads of ideas on what to pack for Paris so you don’t look like a tourist here. Anything that is overly loud, colorful or over done (read: wearing heavy makeup) will undoubtedly have you pegged as an American tourist.
Avoid tourist traps
Annabelle and I both agree that the Champs Élysées shops are not worthwhile. So aside from seeing the Arc de Triomphe, it’s not worth walking down the Champs Élysées.
As for the Eiffel Tower, decide whether you want to see it up closer or from far away on a rooftop or terrace. The views from going up the tower are fun but I personally prefer the views from a variety of other spots.
Buying things like Eiffel Tower statutes and berets from street vendors will 100% give you away as a tourist as well.
Don’t fall for a scam
There are a variety of scams put on by con artists within Paris to take advantage of tourists. I detail them always for all my Paris, Perfected clients because once you know to spot them, you’ll avoid being taken advantage of.
Parisians love bookings – especially for dinner reservations so you’ll make your life easier if you do some planning ahead and makes most of your reservations in advance. For both meals and museums.
It can also really help to work with a travel planner or Paris expert so that you can get insider tips and tricks for navigating the city and getting to know it better before you arrive. Doing so will also allow you to maximize your time while in Paris.
Don’t get lost in your phone or a map
Avoid using a huge map and looking lost while doing it. And same goes for your phone. Thieves have been known to snatch phones out of your hand – especially on the metro – so it’s not advised to figure out where you’re going out in a main thoroughfare. Annabelle also notes that taking a million photos every few steps or carrying around a large camera will also give you away as a tourist!
Hang by the Seine
One of the most treasured pastimes of Parisians is to take a bottle of wine and some snacks down to the Seine river banks and hang out amidst friends. It’s a delightful way to people watch and take in viewing the boats as they go to and from down the river. Want a view of the Eiffel Tower while you do so? Head to the Seine river bank just below it.
Visit the markets
Annabelle and I agree that you’ll instantly feel like a local if you take advantage of the various Les Marchés early in the morning that occur throughout the city. You can easily Google what days they each take place. I personally love visiting the Marché Raspail every time I am in Paris.
The markets are perfect spots to pick up supplies for a picnic as well.
Visit Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Annabelle said the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is a local’s favorite amidst Paris’s many beautiful parks. Take advantage of people watching in the park and definitely visit the markets to pick up supplies for a picnic.
Other favorite parks that Annabelle recommended Parisians love? Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin des Plantes and La Villette which is a bit off the beaten tourist path but is the third-largest park in Paris and located at the northeastern edge of the city in the 19th arrondissement.
People watch in Saint Germain des Prés
Annabelle and I both agree that the neighborhood of Saint Germain des Prés is unrivaled when it comes to people watching. The 6th arrondissement also has a variety of cafes with terrace seating which are the best spots to people watch.
Don’t dine on major squares or right near the biggest tourist landmarks
While it may seem convenient, you’ll want to avoid cafes and restaurants that are on major squares or streets near landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Believe it or not, bad French food does exist in Paris and you’ll often encounter higher prices and worse service if you don’t take a bit of extra time to head to a side street or go to a well researched place to enjoy a meal.
Feeling like a local in Paris without being Parisian is absolutely possible – it just takes some research and know-how. I hope these tips are helpful as you plan your next trip to Paris.
Avoid Montmartre and Le Marais on the weekends
Annabelle is a Montmartre resident and says it is best to enjoy this popular tourist neighborhood that is home to Sacré-Cœur on weekends. You’re more apt to enjoy it if you head there on a week day or in the evening to enjoy a drink.
And I find the Marais far more enjoyable on a week day – especially in the morning as the neighborhood comes awake – than on weekends when the sidewalks become so crowded it is almost impossible to walk.
Enjoy the smaller museums
Parisians tend to avoid the Louvre due to the crowds but Annabelle notes they enjoy special exhibits at the smaller museums when they are put on and that the Musee Rodin is always a favorite for both tourists and locals.
Watch the world go by in the Tuileries
The Tuileries central location and their proximity to the Louvre make it a popular park for both tourists and locals. It’s a wonderful spot to walk and enjoy on a beautiful day but you’ll also find Parisians pulling up chairs near the fountains and under the shade with a good book or a baguette.
Sit and enjoy your coffee
Café culture in Paris is a way of life and while takeaway coffee is possible at coffee shops, true locals will enjoy their coffee sur place and people watch or read while they enjoy it.
Know how to order coffee
Relatedly, ordering coffee in Paris is much more simple (and therefore can be confusing for tourists) than in America. Know How to Order Coffee in Paris before you travel to Paris.
Enjoy some favorite local restaurants
Whenever I am in Paris Annabelle and I always love enjoying a good meal and she’s taken me to several of her favorites. If you want to enjoy some restaurants that locals love – look no further than Gigi, Poule au Pot, one of the Bouillons (Chartier or Pigalle), one of the Big Mamma Group restaurants (Libertino or Pink Mamma being two of Annabelle’s personal favorites and I also love Obermamma), Coco or Balagan. Happy dining!
Explore new neighborhoods
There’s so much more to Paris than central Paris that is home to many of the top tourist destinations. Try heading to the 11th for a more local vibe or check out the various art galleries and concept stores in the 10th’s Canal Saint Martin neighborhood.
Shop as the Parisians shop
While there are so many great small boutiques throughout Paris – it is also worth visiting some of their more famed stores that Parisians also enjoy shopping amidst tourists at. These include Merci and the department stores Samaritaine, Le Bon Marché and Galeries Lafaytte.