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WHAT NOT TO DO IN PARIS – 30 Common mistakes of a first-time visitor

WHAT NOT TO DO IN PARIS – 30 Common mistakes of a first-time visitor

Heading to Paris? It is a glorious, romantic city BUT there are things to know first, which is why we are sharing what NOT to do in Paris.

Before heading off to Paris, a colleague of mine sternly told me that “It’s a very bad idea to go up the Eiffel Tower, just look at it from the gardens”. Man, was she wrong! Heading up the Eiffel Tower was one of the best things we did in Paris and I will always find the time to do it again on our future visits to the city of love.

This isn’t a list of rules or some stern words of advice instead, these are just a few things you may wish to avoid, learning from my mistakes as a first-time visitor in Paris. There are also some top things to do in Paris that you shouldn’t miss!

What NOT to do in Paris

View of Paris from above

1. DO NOT…Rely on your English language

In most tourist areas, you will find people who speak English but do not rely on it. The best restaurants and off-the-beaten-track attractions will likely have staff that do not speak English, so it is worth learning some basic French.

You could also download google translate or a voice-to-text translator app to help you communicate with locals. 

Try learning a little bit of French before your visit, it will come in handy:

  • Bonjour – Hello/Good morning
  • Merci – Thank you
  • S’il Vous plaît – Please
  • Bienvenue – Welcome
  • Au revoir – Goodbye
  • A bientôt – See you soon
  • Enchanté – Nice to meet you
  • Sortie – Exit
The Eiffel Tower at night during local Fair and market

2. DO NOT…Ignore the cliches!

During our stay, we made friends with another couple visiting the city who told us to avoid eating croissants and baguettes and to avoid the typical attractions that are crowded.

But actually, some of the best memories I have of Paris are sitting in a local restaurant, sipping on wine, eating cheese platters followed by numerous macaroons, and watching the city go by. There is nothing wrong with being a tourist! Get yourself a mini Eiffel Tower or Arc De Triomphe magnet, queue for ages to see the postcard-sized Mona Lisa, and eat as many croissants as you can!

3. DO NOT…Forget to dress well

A three-piece suit isn’t necessary but when visiting high-end restaurants, make some effort with your attire as is expected in Paris. 

As one of the fashion captains of the world, there are plenty of places to find fashion and shop for fashion in Paris. For those interested in Fashion history, head to the Musée de la Mode et du Textile inside the Louvre. If you have extra time, head to Le Marais; a chic, expressive district that is full of locals with flair and thrifty, second-hand stores. 

best things to see in Paris

4. DO NOT…Shop at the Champs Elysees

Head to this famous fashion street and do some window shopping on your way to the Arc De Triomphe but unless you want to spend more than you would back home on the same kind of things you can buy at home, don’t bother with actual shopping. Most stores are international brands and packed!

5. DO NOT…Eat near the big attractions

Restaurants overlooking the Eiffel Tower or found on the Champs Elysee may seem perfect but check TripAdvisor reviews and the restaurant’s website for online prices before visiting. Often these restaurants serve mediocre food for triple the price of the nice Parisian restaurant around the corner.

paris food guide

6. DO NOT…Buy water

Water from the tap is perfectly fine so don’t spend a fortune on bottled water during your stay, instead request tap water when in a restaurant or use one of the many Wallace Fountains around the city.

7. DO NOT…Board a train without a ticket

Paris is hot on train tickets so make sure your ticket is valid for your journey to avoid a hefty fine. You can purchase tickets from a ticket machine or ticket agent at most stations and if you plan on taking a train in and out of Paris, book your ticket online to save some money.


8. DO NOT…Over plan your trip

One of the best things about Paris is the experience of getting lost and wandering around this beautiful city. Allow yourself time to do just that, to really appreciate the city of love. Don’t over-plan and over-schedule your day with millions of activities.

9. DO NOT…Rent a car or get a taxi

Paris is a lot bigger than most people give it credit for. Taxis or renting a car may seem like a logical step but the traffic and car parking prices mean these can be expensive luxuries. The Metro system is extensive and relatively inexpensive, so stick with that or catch the Batobus (boat along the river) for a cheaper alternative during the summer months.

Paris food guide

10. DO NOT…Stick to restaurants

Some of the best food in Paris can be found in expensive, book-in-advance restaurants, and if you can afford it then great, knock yourself out. But there is something charming about the boutique cafes, patisseries, and food stalls dotted around the city.

One evening we bought a mini bottle of Champagne from a convenience store, picked up a crepe from a food stall, and sat on the stairs of Trocadero, watching the sunset over the Eiffel Tower; possibly the most romantic and lovely evening we had there.

11. DO NOT…Avoid the local cuisine

There is some amazing food in France but it is unique to the country. You may not be used to these types of dishes but make sure to try local food at least once during your trip!


12. DO NOT…Wait in line at the Eiffel Tower

I am NOT saying that you should skip it but there are ways you can avoid waiting in line by using our tips for visiting the Eiffel Tower. We arrived about half an hour before it opened in the morning and there was already a pretty long queue but it wasn’t half as long as it was by the time we came back down a few hours later. This is one of the best things to do in Paris in a day, even if you are short on time, so just make sure to arrive early.

At least by queuing at 9 am, we weren’t wasting time during the day but just had to get up a little earlier and eat breakfast in the line. If that’s not for you, book yourself on an Easy Pass ‘skip the line’ tour or splurge on a reservation at Le Jules Verne Restaurant on the second floor, where you get a dedicated elevator taking you up. Or try the stairs, the queue is often a lot shorter!

13. DO NOT…Avoid the Latin Quarter

Some people may suggest you avoid the Latin Quarter but actually, this area depicts what Paris looks like in my head! It is a touch of “Old Paris” although yes, crowded with tourists. However, there are plenty of amazing restaurants in the Latin Quarter for you to explore and the area is picturesque and charming. Also, make sure to explore the different neighborhoods in the city to discover the many hidden gems in Paris. 

Reasons to visit Paris

14. DO NOT…Take a Seine Dinner Cruise

As romantic as these may sound, most dinner cruises in Paris costs €100 and have a bad reputation for poor food and overcrowded dining areas. Instead, stick to using the river boat taxis to see the city from the waterways.

15. DO NOT…Stay outside of the city

A common tip for saving money when traveling is to stay on the outskirts of a city and head into the city via local transport. Hotels and Hostels in Paris are expensive but great deals can still be found around the city. Use Agoda, hostelworld or HotelFriend to search for where to stay in Paris and try to stay near a metro station for easy transport around the city.

free things to do in Paris

16. DO NOT…Buy tickets at the door

Avoid long lines at attractions by purchasing your tickets in advance online. Most hotels and hostels will print these off for you and you can save a lot of time and money!

17. DO NOT…Take a Da Vinci Code tour

A friend mentioned doing one of these tours recently but was bitterly disappointed as she saw very few landmarks of Paris nor did anything actually look like the description and scenes from the book/film.

Reasons to visit Paris

18. DO NOT…Pay for entry at the Louvre

If you are an EU citizen and aged between 18-25 or if you are under 18, you don’t need to pay for entry into this popular art museum. If you are in neither of these brackets, then head to the Louvre on the first Sunday of every month for free entrance!

best time to visit Paris

19. DO NOT…Skip the Arc De Triomphe

It amazes me how many friends have visited Paris but has never been to the Arc De Triomphe. OK, I did manage to make myself incredibly dizzy walking up the spiraled staircase but the view from the top (even on the rainy October evening we visited) is worth it. Maybe it’s me, but there is something amazing about being high up above a crowded city.

20. DO NOT…Avoid asking for help

The French have a pretty raw deal, with many travelers and tourists telling the world they are impolite and short-tempered. I completely disagree. During our stay, the locals were incredibly friendly and helped us with directions and translations without us even having to ask in some cases. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

21. DO NOT… throw away your ticket when you take a train or subway

Unlike other destinations in Europe, you will need your train or subway ticket after your journey. This will be used to exit the subway in your final destination and you may need to buy a new ticket or take a fine if you don’t have your ticket with you. Keep it safe and don’t throw it away until after you have arrived at your destination.

22. DO NOT… Only visit the Eiffel Tower

Yes, Pais is known for its iconic landmark and you should definitely visit this famous symbol of Paris. However, there are plenty of amazing attractions in the city, including some great spots that offer fantastic views of the city from above.

Don’t ignore the Louvre Museum, Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triumph and the many museums around the city. 

free things to do in Paris

23. DO NOT… ONLY see the main sights

As listed above, there are some very popular sights to see in Paris. But there are also some attractions that are quiet and less visited. Why not head to Buttes Chaumont, Parc de la Villette or see the Paris State of Liberty?

24. DO NOT… book last minute

There are many places in Europe, where you can book a last-minute trip and get some great deals. Paris is NOT one of them. Paris is such a popular city that hostels and hotels of all budgets book up fast, especially during the summer or European school holidays. 

Instead, plan your trip at least 3 months in advance and book your hotel choice as soon as you can. 

If you are having to book last minute, compare prices across multiple sites and use websites like Expedia or for last-minute deals. 

25. DO NOT…. Forget about safety

Paris is a fairly safe city but it is huge and can get very busy. Just because you are on vacation, it doesn’t mean you should forget all common sense and ignore your items and safety. 

When traveling on public transport, keep your valuable items close to you and bring backpacks to your front whilst in a crowd or on the metro. 

Travel around the city with others during the night and say no to anyone offering to take photos for you outside the major sights. 

26. DO NOT… fall for the scams

Unfortunately, there are quite a few Paris tourist scams that you need to be aware of:

Petition Scam: Outside popular attractions, you may be asked to sign a petition. This is often a scam run by women, who will start demanding money once you sign the form and become quite aggressive if you don’t give them money.

Bracelet Scam: Another scam that happens in Paris, is the bracelet scam. Someone will wrap a bracelet around your write, say how good you look, and then insist you buy it as you are already wearing it. Unless you want it, boldly tell them you do not want the bracelet and give it back to them. 

Photo Scam: Not as common, but this scam comes in different forms. If you are in a quiet, dark area, do not let someone take a photograph for you as they may run off with your camera or phone. A more common scam is people offering to take pictures in front of iconic landmarks and then charging you.  

27. DO NOT… Over Tip

Tipping in Europe is not as common or as important as it is in the US. You can still tip for food service but stick to giving the change from a meal/drink rather than a heft percentage on top of your bill. 

28. DO NOT… forget the essentials

Paris is a great place to explore but you don’t want to spend the first day or two finding those items you may have left at home. 

We recommend packing a universal travel adapter or a European travel adapter, and an extension plug if you have lots of devices (hotels don’t always have lots of plug sockets). 

Choose a good travel camera and pack extra memory cards for all those photos you are taking. Bring a portable power bank with you to keep your phone full of power for the whole day and always bring a travel umbrella no matter what the season. 

Paris can become chilly in the evenings, especially during the Spring and Autumn months, so bring a light jacket and pack layers. 

Also, make sure to bring comfortable shoes! Paris is full of cobblestone stress, so don’t expect to be wearing high heels or flip-flops around the city. 

29. DO NOT… Travel during the high season

June to August is the most popular time to visit Paris. We share the best times to visit Paris and these months are great for those who can only travel during the summer; expect warm weather! 

However this is the busiest time in the city, so you will find yourself queuing longer for everything; from attractions to restaurants! Plus, hotel and flight prices jump up during this time too. 

Instead, plan a trip in April, May, or September, when the weather is still pleasant but you don’t have crowds to compete with. 

ALSO DO NOT… visit Paris at the end of the Tour de France race

If you want to see the final spring down the Champs Elysees, then you should head here for the Tour de France. But, if you have no interest in this, then avoid visiting Paris around the time that the race ends; it is an incredibly busy time in the city! 

30. DO NOT… book a hotel too far from the Metro

Paris has a lot to offer but getting between the major sites can be a challenge; taxis are expensive and rush hour traffic is frustrating. Instead, stick to using the metro but get yourself accommodation near a metro stop to make life easier for yourself. No one wants to walk for 20+ minutes after a long day exploring this romantic city.

What not to do in Paris

Non-touristy things to do in Paris

Whilst in Paris, make sure you check out some of the non-touristy, hidden gems in Paris and don’t just stick to the busy and crowded attractions.

  • Parc des Buttes-Chaumont – There are some fantastic parks in Paris and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a quieter, more local park in Northeast Paris.
  • Musée Rodin – For art lovers, head to Musee Rodin for works from the French sculptor, including the famous piece; The Thinker.
  • Shakespeare and Co–Head to this well-known bookstore and a favorite haunt for the likes of Hemingway and James Joyce. La Régulière is also a wonderful little bookstore with all sorts of treasures inside and a lot fewer tourists.
  • Marchés aux Puces – As the tourists all head to Champs Elysees, why not visit Marchés aux Puces for better shops, fewer crowds and a more local vibe?

Things to know before you go to Paris


What should I avoid in Paris?

Along with the tips above, also never buy tickets for attractions and shows on the day of the event and never take the Paris’ Abbesses Metro Station stairs. Don’t take cases everywhere and don’t just see the famous sights.

Do and don’ts in Paris France?

Do eat where the locals eat in Paris and Don’t stick to chain restaurants. Do visit the tourist sights in Paris and do arrive early and book your tickets in advance. But don’t only see these sights, go off-the-beaten path and visit the quieter neighbourhoods in the city too. 

What should I avoid in France?

Things to think about whilst visiting France is to no speak louder than others, don’t wave vigorously at waiters to get their attention and don’t leave your cell phone out when you are having a meal or coffee with friends. 

What are some non-touristy things to do in Paris?

Some non-touristy things to do in Paris include visiting the street art in Belleville, visiting the Vampire Museum, exploring the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg, see the Roman ruins in the 5th arrondissement or is it the Musee Rodin; perfect for art lovers. 

Is Paris dangerous at night?

Paris is a safe city and can be visited at night. You can use the Metro during the evening too and there are many attractions that stay open in the evening. As with most major cities in Europe and the world, make sure to keep your belongings on you closely as Paris does have pickpockets. 

How much money should you bring to Paris?

The Cost of travel in Paris depends on how you travel but you will need at least €70 if you are travelling on a budget, sticking to hostels, local food and supermarkets whilst those looking to eat out and want a private room will need at least €120 per couple.

And remember to get out of Paris and see the beautiful towns and villages of France. Families and anyone who is a child at heart can also visit Disneyland Paris! 

I hope that helps you prepare for your next trip! Have you got any other tips and advice for me and fellow readers? Share them in the comments below. Don’t forget to check out what to do in 24 hours in Paris.

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Thursday 26th of November 2020

Agree with you about staying somewhere outside the city. cuz l really saved so much money with it!

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