Our recent trip to Paris will forever in my mind be one of the best vacations of my life. While I know we’ll be back to Paris, I know it won’t be quite the same as spending 8 days in the most romantic city with your new fiancé.
There is no other city that even compares to Paris–everywhere you turn, any neighborhood you visit–beauty is everywhere. From the white buildings with their beautiful rooftops, the picturesque sidewalk cafes, and how no matter what day it actually is, the feeling in the air is that of a slow, lazy Sunday.
If you’re planning a trip to the city of lights soon (and I really hope you are!) make sure to take note of these 12 must-know Parisian travel tips. (Including how to save your feet with all that walking!)
1. Stay outside of the tourist traps
I can’t emphasize this enough–please, for the love of WHOMEVER–do not stay in a overly-touristy area. For example, alongside the Champs Elysees, near the Louvre, the Tuleries, etc. These are all outstandingly beautiful places in Paris–don’t get me wrong–but you’ll have a completely different view of Paris if you stay here vs. elsewhere in the city–insanely overpriced, hoards of tourists and selfie sticks at every corner–yeah, no thanks.
We stayed in Bastille, which spans portions of both the 11th and 12th Arrondissement, and it was the best decision we ever made! I’d highly recommend staying here, as there is a lot to do–tons of restaurants, bars, and shops–plus, it’s really affordable and has easy access to metro lines that easily get you anywhere in the city.
2. You don’t need dinner reservations
To give you some background–Neal is definitely a planner, and I am the anti-planner. My biggest fear is being pigeonholed into a dinner reservation when we’re halfway across town at a romantic rooftop bar that we don’t want to leave for another 3 hours. So–yeah, you could say we had some disagreements about how the “planning” of this trip should go.
I admit–when we boarded the plane and had not one single dinner reservation in Paris made, I wondered if I was being irresponsible–but I assure you, we didn’t regret it at all.
The beauty of Paris is that you can be spontaneous–there is a wonderful bistro on every corner. I’ve never walked into a random restaurant in Paris and had a terrible dinner.
Be romantic–fly by the seat of your pants. There were several nights (I honestly think literally half of them) where we were having so much fun, we just forgot to eat dinner entirely. If that’s not the definition of an amazing vacation, I don’t know what is.
3. Only bring broken-in shoes
This is a BIG ONE. This is also an easy mistake to make, because Paris’ climate can be so much milder than in most of the U.S. during the summer–your feet might not be used to sneakers at this time of year! Make sure to decide on the footwear you’re bringing a few weeks before you leave, and wear them several times beforehand. This ensures your feet are used to the shoes you’ll be bringing before you pack them. For walking shoes, I brought my broken in Jack Purcell sneakers, which are my favorites! I would also highly recommend Allbirds–which, okay, I’m backtracking on, because they require no break in and they’re made from 100% wool, so they’re temperature controlling and moisture wicking AND they’re super easy to wash!
Now, for my next point…
4. Be prepared for the blisters
Both of us tried to keep our clothing and shoes to a bare minimum, so Neal only brought two pairs of shoes. Both of them, unfortunately, ended up tearing up his feet. I had brought blister bandages for that purpose, but they rubbed off almost immediately and were totally useless.
Desperate, we stopped into a French pharmacy and happened upon Compeed blister cushions, which we were a total god-send. We stocked up on a couple packages, which stayed on for multiple days at a time and seriously made the biggest difference. They are THE BEST.
I ended up having some issues with my sandals rubbing the last few days of the trip–and these totally did the trick to prevent further damage, and I was totally fine to keep walking after I put them on!
I was really bummed when we got to the airport because I had every intention of making one last return trip back to the pharmacy to stock up on them, but we ran out of time.
Funny enough, when we got back to the states, I received an email from Compeed, sharing the news that they had just launched in the U.S. and are now sold at Walgreens (PHEW!) When they asked if I wanted to partner together it took all of two seconds to write back “UM YES!!! I AM SO THANKFUL FOR YOUR MAGICAL BANDAGES!”
So, long story short, if you have issues with blisters–whether it’s everyday or on a big trip–please please, buy them in bulk! I’ve since put them on each time I’ve needed to break in new shoes as well, and they go a long way in preventing them, too.
5. Check the menu prices–everywhere
If you’re being remotely cognizant of your budget while in Paris–make sure to check the menu before you sit down. The beauty of Paris, is that restaurant menus are typically posted on the outside of each restaurant, and there are usually several menus sitting on the sidewalk tables. We found that the price for something like a glass of rosé could vary drastically from block to block. Pay attention, and you won’t get totally robbed!
6. Go for a room with a view
Our Air BnB was a complete steal at about $65 per night. It was also kind of a hole, in the most charming way possible–but the biggest selling point was the rooftop access. When I was scouring online for rooftop apartments, I wondered if we’d really ever take full advantage, or if it would just be a “great idea in theory.”
Well, let me assure you–we took full advantage. My favorite memories of the trip are watching the sunset overlooking the Paris rooftops with several glasses of wine. Seriously, it can’t get better. There is no bar happy hour that will beat it. Go for a place with a view!
7. Always have an extra layer
Paris (and much of Europe, to be honest) is known for having temperamental weather. The first few days we were there, it was beautiful in the sun, but as soon as you were in the shade, it got cold really fast. I took my leather jacket (similar ones here and here!) pretty much everywhere I went the first part of the trip until it warmed up to the 80’s each day. Make sure to check the weather before you head out in the morning, and at the very least–stuff a light sweater (that can fold up into nothing!) in your bag–like this one!
8. Buy your touristy tickets ahead of time
So–I know I said you don’t really need to plan anything. However, there’s one little caveat–tourist attractions.
They’re the worst.
Except they’re the best.
I mean–the Eiffel Tower? You’ve gotta see it. Versailles? It’s a must. But waiting in line for hours? Yeah, we don’t do well with that.
In order to get the least of the worst and the best of the best, all you have to do is book ahead of time. We bought our Eiffel Tower tickets a couple weeks before our trip, and we got to skip the line and go straight to the top. (Totally worth it.) Whatever you do–don’t wait in that line.
If you’re visiting Versailles, we bought our tickets ahead of time through the website and arrived right before the doors opened–no line at all! But when we left, oh man–I think we would’ve walked straight into a bar for a beer and waited for the next train home.
9. Walk + Take the subway everywhere
For whatever reason, we avoided taking the subway for the first few days in Paris. (Stupidity.) Once we finally took the plunge, we were shocked at how efficient it was. Coming from a city that has one of the most inefficient, ancient, and embarrassing public transportations system in the United States, we expected it to be slow, dirty, and disgusting–but were pleasantly surprised. (I’d compare it to New York’s subway’s–if you’re familiar.)
Moral of the story–you can take the subway literally everywhere. Funny enough, it took about a max of 20 minutes to get anywhere we wanted to go in the city on the metro–which was pretty equal with Uber in traffic. (Yes, they have Uber there, if you were wondering. Hooray!)
We also walked nearly everywhere the first few days–which was amazing, because it’s the best way to explore the city! The first part of our trip, we probably averaged about 8 miles of walking per day, which is also effective for staving off those extra “vacation” pounds–haha! Again, can’t emphasize the importance of comfy shoes and good band-aids here!
10. Make friends with locals
One of our favorite parts of travel is meeting new people. Even if you aren’t the social butterfly type–go out of your way to talk to people at the bar, strike up a conversation–our favorite nights are always when we make new friends to hang out with, or take a local’s recommendation on an off-the-beaten-path restaurant. It’s so awesome to learn other people’s stories, how they live, and get to know people you normally never would’ve had the chance to meet.
11. Pack a mini capsule wardrobe
A few years ago, if you would’ve told me I’d go to Paris for 8 nights with a little carry-on, I would’ve laughed in your face. But the truth is–I’ve just grown way too impatient to wait for luggage on a carousel, for hair to be blow-dried, or anything more than bare-faced makeup to be applied. You have a whole new country to see! Why are you wasting so much time? You have nobody to impress–so leave all the extra stuff at home.
Pack only the items you love, and if you can, pack in a color scheme, so getting dressed in the morning takes little thought. I loved everything I brought with me to Paris, so it made getting dressed not only a lot more fun, but super fast, too! You can see my example Paris travel capsule wardrobe here and more tips on packing a capsule wardrobe for travel here.
12. Make a short “must-do” list–and wing the rest.
Neal and I both had two things that we really wanted to do when we were in France. His was to visit Normandy, and mine was to visit the Paris Flea Markets (more on both of those later.) I also did a lot of research on Paris’ different neighborhoods (Arrondissements) and spent hours perusing Bright Lights Paris (the most charming book with so many great Parisian recommendations! I can’t speak highly enough about it!)
Aside from this, we really didn’t plan too much, and I’m so glad. When you schedule out your whole vacation, it really doesn’t feel like much of vacation. But when you can wake up and look at your favorite person in the whole world and ask, “what should we do today?”–that’s the best feeling in the world.
Have you traveled to Paris before? What are your trips for Parisian travel?
Thank you to Compeed for sponsoring this post (and for saving our feet in Paris!) and also to GG readers for supporting the brands that allow me to write about the products I love, while creating great content for YOU in the process!