Staying away from tourist traps is important to create memorable experiences. Paris, being one of the most visited cities in the world, is full of these tourist traps. Tourist traps are known for being overpriced and low quality. To steer clear of these, it take some research and preparation before your trip.
Here are some of the tips and tricks we used during our trip to steer clear of the scams:
1. Stay in a neighborhood
Staying in a neighborhood of a city is a great way to ensure that there will be more local spots. This more local clientele is mainly driven by lower rent prices and more of a community feel. If that wasn’t enough to sway you, the accommodations are typically cheaper than being in the touristy city center.
If you’re going to be in Paris for longer than 3 days, we recommend switching neighborhoods during your stay to get to see different areas. We stayed in Monmarte for the first half of our trip and the 11th arrondismont (near the Bastille) for the second half. Monmarte was gorgeous and scenic. While still distanced from the crowds, we had a quick walk up to the Sacre Coer. The 11th arrondismont felt very young and hip with bars and foodie-approved restaurants on every corner.
2. Use the Google Maps “Where the Locals Eat” feature
We are true Google Maps lovers and often use it to read reviews. There is a feature on Google Maps where you can select “Explore Local Food and Drinks.” It then will come up with various options such as Best Lunch Spots, Quick Dinner, etc. One of these options is called Where the Locals Eat.
Google Maps somehow uses GPS to determine not only who is a local, but where these locals are eating. We have found some true gems using this feature and highly recommend using it while in Paris.
3. Go to the food markets
Farmers markets and other food markets are great places to get a cheap bite to eat or picnic ingredients. These places are most frequented by locals because, unlike tourists, they have the need to buy fresh produce. Talking to the vendors at food markets is a great way to interact with Parisians and practice your language skills. Typically, the vendors are very friendly because they are passionate about their product and appreciate your interest in it.
4. Attend Mass at Notre Dame
While it’s free to enter Notre Dame, the lines for security can be insanely long during peak tourist season. If you plan on attending a mass, you can hop right to the front, get the security guards attention, and tell him or her you are going to a mass. The guard will gladly let you through and the people who have been waiting for hours will be jealous.
Furthermore, it is a once in a lifetime experience to attend a service at this beautiful cathedral. The cathedral has multiple daily mass and weekend mass options so check the website before planning your visit.
5. Eat at boulangeries
As true bread and pastry lovers, we definitely frequented the boulangeries during our time in Paris. For breakfast, we would often grab a croissant from a boulangerie and then head over to a street café for an espresso and some ambience. Even if the street café was touristy, our tab was low since we were only purchasing an espresso.
Boulangeries are perfect for a quick picnic lunch as well. Pick up a sandwich and head to a scenic viewpoint or grassy area.
6. Hang out in the parks and gardens
Speaking of grassy areas, the parks and gardens in Paris are the living rooms of the locals. Parisian apartments are notoriously small, causing a mass exodus outside during the warmer months. To truly feel like a non-tourist, spend an hour or so relaxing in a lawn chair and people watching. Check out our previous post about best Picnic Spots in Paris for some of our favorite places:
Another great thing about Paris is the no open container laws. This means that you can bring a beer or bottle of wine and enjoy it freely (plus save some cash).
7. Buy tickets online for the Lourve, Orsay, Rodin, Saint Chappelle, and Orangarie
We looked into all of our options thoroughly for museum entrances, including buying the Paris Pass. We even considered waiting until we got on site to purchase tickets. After comparing prices, we found that the best option was to buy the Lourve, Orsay, Rodin, and Orangarie passes online and printing them at home.
This option saved us the frantic feeling of having to “get our money’s worth” with the Paris Pass while ensuring that we did not have to wait in long lines. With printing our tickets ahead of time, the only lines that we had to wait in were for security and baggage checks, which seemed to all move quickly.
For the Lourve, we bought our tickets on the official website. This is the only ticket where you must designate a time and date. For the other tickets mentioned above, we used Ticketmaster to buy passes. These tickets were not timed and were good for up to a year after purchase.
8. Utilize happy hours
Paris has very generous happy hours with prices sometimes half of what you would pay during prime times. These happy hours often run late, until about 8PM, because Parisians usually eat a late dinner and tend to enjoy an aperitif (pre-dinner drink). Furthermore, locals love happy hours because they aren’t there to splurge their life savings, unlike some tourists.
We recommend looking up some happy hours near your accommodation or planning a DIY happy hour pub crawl. We used the Time Out Paris website to find some great suggestions.
While Paris sometimes can feel overwhelmingly touristy, there are definitely authentic experiences to be had everywhere. With a little preparation, you can ensure that you avoid all of the tourist traps and get to experience life like a local during your vacation.