So you are finally going to Paris - fulfilling a life-long dream? I bet you have people coming out of the woodwork giving you advice on things to do there! "See the Mona Lisa", "Attend Sunday services at Notre Dame", "Be sure to take a Seine River sightseeing cruise"....the list can go on and on! So I am not going to bore you with more suggestions....I am going to give you my top seven things NOT TO DO in Paris! Because, while "Paris is ALWAYS a good idea", there are lots of ways to waste your time and money. So I hope you enjoy, and take my suggestions to heart.
1. Don't wait in line at the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower isn't one of the world's most visited monuments for nothing, but waiting in long lines is not the ideal way to spend precious vacation time. And you don't have to. Active visitors can walk the 328 steps to the tower's first level and take the lift from there. Quite honestly, the view above the 1st level is not very good...since Paris is so flat, if you go any higher, you are basically looking at the rooftops instead of the buildings. You can also easily go online to http://ticket.toureiffel.fr/ and reserve a time to minimize your wait. The time you'll save skirting lines is worth a little extra cash. You can also make a reservation for lunch or dinner at the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant and get priority access to the elevators - my clients love the lunch at the 58 Tour Eiffel. And if money is no object, your very best bet is to book a table at Alain Ducasse's swanky Le Jules Verne restaurant on the tower's second floor (3-course lunch, €98; dinner, €185). Along with gorgeous views, you'll dine in splendor and arrive like a VIP on a dedicated elevator.
2. Don't waste time on the Champs-Elysees
Though this famous shopping street is still spectacular for an afternoon stroll and some people watching, its shine has been tarnished by dealerships, megastores, and overpriced cafés. Though there are some notable exceptions, you'll find mostly chain stores, and many American ones at that. And definitely don’t stop for a coke or glass of wine. A soda can cost upwards of 8 euro at a café along the Champs-Elysses ($10 USD or so) with no free refills. If you want a true Parisian shopping experience, check out some of the boutiques located in smaller neighborhoods, or even the local street market.
3. Don't avoid (or be scared of) the Metro
The Paris metro system is safe, clean, and one of the most convenient and economical ways to get around—and very user-friendly once you get the hang of it. Pick up a map at the yellow information booth at most metro stations, purchase a “carnet” of 10 tickets (€14.20, half price for kids under 12), and you're good to go. Metros will take you within a few-minutes walk of almost anywhere in Paris, without having to contend with traffic or worry that you're being taken for a ride by a greedy taxi driver. Paris' metro stations are increasingly automated, and though the majority have manned information booths, a few do not, so have cash on hand. Ticketing machines are available in English and will take cash or a credit card with a chip, and you can buy tickets with a standard credit card at any information booth.
4. Don't skip the smaller museums
Sure, you can spend a day fighting crowds in the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay, but Paris is a treasure trove for small, gem-like museums - many of them at one- time private mansions that remain exactly as they were when the inhabitants, famous or not, lived there. The list is long and many of these museums are run by the City of Paris and therefore free (or low cost) to the public. Don't forget the mid-size museums, like the Musée Carnavalet (the museum of the city of Paris), L’Orangerie where Monet’s famous “Water Lilies” paintings are displayed so beautifully (top favorite of my clients), and the excellent Musée Rodin where for the entry fee of only a few Euros, you can enjoy a glass of wine or cup of coffee in the gardens while pondering his famous sculpture “The Thinker”. Don't forget on the first Sunday of the month, admission is free at every museum.
5. Don't rely on taxis late at night
You can spend an hour looking and still not find a taxi; and even if you do, you may still get attitude or the runaround from the driver. Unlike New York and other major cities, you can't depend on flagging down a taxi in Paris, and the taxi stand system is maddening and unreliable, even in the daytime. Smartphone car services, like Uber, LeCab, AlloCab and others operating in Paris, have become an excellent alternative. Increasingly popular (despite semi-successful attempts by taxi drivers to have them legally abolished), they provide fast, reliable service—usually in English—and are almost unfailingly courteous. And you won't have to worry about being “taken for a ride” by a surly taxi driver who thinks you are being lazy for not walking the 20 minutes back to your hotel at 11:00pm.
6. Don't think tours are too “touristy”
There are tons of excellent tours—on foot or bicycle—that can show you sides of Paris you may not see on your own, offer insider tips and historical facts, get you past the lines and into VIP places, and enrich your entire experience. For 20 years, Paris Walks has offered a series of enticing strolls, led by friendly, knowledgeable experts, that explore everything from fashion and chocolate to churches, along with specific neighborhoods and historic themes. For the more adventurous, Fat Tire offers day and nighttime bike (or electric scooter) tours in Paris and beyond that gets you through the lines. And definitely think about taking a day tour outside of Paris to either the Champagne region, the Loire Valley or to Normandy and the D-Day Beaches – either on a big tour bus or a small van with just a few of your new best friends!
7. Don't leave your kids at home
Paris is an amazingly kid-friendly city, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If you follow basic rules of etiquette (and common sense), you and your kids and will have a great time. For starters, every museum, foundation, arts center, and park in the city has a comprehensive list of activities for kids, some in English. Paris's top hotels have added new attractions for kids, including cooking classes and tours, leaving parents some free time to hit the spa. The parks in Paris are amazing – with imaginative playgrounds, puppet theaters, historic merry-go-rounds, fountains and ponds to sail boats in. And don’t forget that Disneyland Paris is a short train ride out of the city! Parisian children are treated like little princes and princesses and your children will be well-pampered during their visit as well!