Paris’s seductive charms are legendary, and for good reason. Inviting sidewalk cafes, gleaming boutiques, world-class museums, endless things to do, and a fabled restaurant scene make Paris the runway model of cities—beautiful, fashionable, confident, and inspiring envy at every turn.
But with expectations running so high, Paris can—it’s true—occasionally disappoint. When you find yourself elbow-to-elbow with throngs of tourists tucking into yet another overpriced meal, you’ll wonder how the Paris that travelers fall in love with has proved so elusive. Unless, that is, you read and discover how to avoid the top mistakes first-timers make in the City of Light.
We spoke to some experts and compiled a list of the things not to do in Paris—and what to do instead.
1. Don’t spend all your time on the Champs-Élysées
The Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets in the world, and it’s definitely worth a visit. But don’t spend all your time there—the rest of Paris is waiting to be discovered.
2. Don’t forget to explore the neighborhoods
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods), and each has its own unique character. Make sure to explore a few different ones during your stay.
3. Don’t miss out on the amazing museums
With over 100 museums to choose from, it can be tough to know which ones to visit. But don’t miss the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, or Centre Pompidou.
4. Don’t eat at tourist traps
Paris is home to some of the best restaurants in the world, but you’ll have to do some research to find them. Avoid restaurants located on the Champs-Élysées and in other heavily touristed areas.
5. Don’t forget to enjoy the nightlife
Paris is a great city for partying, and there’s something for everyone. Dance all night at a club, listen to jazz at a bar, or sip wine at a sidewalk cafe.
6. Don’t forget to enjoy the city’s natural beauty
Paris is home to some beautiful parks and gardens, including the Jardin des Tuileries, the Jardin du Luxembourg, and the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Spend an afternoon strolling through them and enjoying the fresh air.
7. Don’t be afraid to speak French
Most Parisians will appreciate it if you make an effort to speak their language, even if your French isn’t perfect. You’ll get a lot more out of your trip if you can communicate with the locals.
8. Don’t miss out on the shopping
Paris is home to some of the best shopping in the world, from high-end fashion boutiques to designer outlets. If you’re a shopper, you’ll love Paris.
9. Don’t forget to visit the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is an iconic symbol of Paris, and it’s definitely worth a visit. Make sure to go up to the top for some amazing views of the city.
10. Don’t leave without trying French food
Paris is famous for its culinary tradition, and French food is some of the best in the world. Make sure to try some of the local specialties, such as croissants, baguettes, cheese, and wine.
Paris is a beautiful and fascinating city, and with a little bit of preparation you can avoid the most common mistakes first-time visitors make. So go ahead and book your flight—you won’t regret it.