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10 Things First-Time Tourists Always End Up Doing in Paris

Paris Insider Guides
by Joe Batruny Jul 25, 2014
1. Huddling around Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

Your everyday tourist knows little more of the Musée du Louvre than the fact that it houses Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. For that very reason, a swarm of tourists can be found buzzing around the masterpiece every minute the museum is open to the public.

The painting measures approximately 30” by 21” — not so epic in scale in comparison to the other work displayed in the Louvre. Unfortunately, many tourists who have seen the painting firsthand will tell you it wasn’t as magnificent as expected.

2. Roaming around the Notre-Dame Cathedral

One of the most famous churches on the planet, the Notre-Dame Cathedral attracts more tourists than the Eiffel Tower. And for good reason — the cathedral’s stained glass windows are some of the most impressive in existence. The South Rose Window, in particular, should be given special attention.

While many tourists will tell you to avoid specific landmarks, few will tell you to skip the Notre-Dame Cathedral, despite the crowds.

3. Upsetting a Parisian by speaking in English

If you’ve been to Paris and didn’t speak un petit peu de Français at the time, you may have started a conversation with a local in English. It probably didn’t go so well. Understandably, an exorbitant number of Parisians dislike being expected to speak in a different tongue off the bat. Well, “dislike” might be an understatement.

4. Butchering the French language after said incident

Every first-time tourist who’s experienced #3 above has likely made it a point to learn a few French phrases to avoid the potential awkwardness again. Such terms include “Bonjour!” and “Parlez-vous Anglais?” among others. Lucky for said first-time tourist, Parisians hate hearing their language butchered far more than they dislike speaking English. The conversation always falls back to English at the drop of a hat.

5. Waiting ages to scale the Eiffel Tower

Okay, so if you visit Paris, it’s your duty to see the Eiffel Tower. Potentially wait up to four hours (yes, four) in line in order to take an elevator to the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower? Not so much.

No matter the length of the line, millions of tourists brave the crowds and make the journey upwards. Visitors in the know often take the stairs to the “second floor” and jump on the elevator from there. A quick heads up: You’ll be climbing 670 steps to arrive at the second floor.

6. Walking the entirety of the Champs-Élysées

A quick stroll on the Champs-Élysées is an enjoyable experience, but there’s no need to walk the street in its entirety. First-time tourists may expect to see something different after the first several minutes of walking. Driven by this anticipation of seeing something novel, they forge on. Surprise! Same old: automobile showrooms, luxury goods boutiques, and overpriced cafés.

Considering the street is one of the most expensive pieces of real estate on Earth, it’s no wonder everything is overpriced. Someone has to pay the rent.

7. Taking a boat tour on the Seine

There’s nothing wrong with taking a “river cruise” on the Seine. Simply put, it’s rather common. There are more off-the-beaten-path boat voyages one can enjoy, but the Seine’s tours are the most popular. They don’t look like anything special from the streets that line the river, but the views from the water provide a unique perspective on the city.

Yes, many first-time tourists do this. No, there’s no valid reason not to.

8. Eating a pain au chocolat on Any Street, Paris

Commonly sold in bakeries and supermarkets all over the city, a pain au chocolat is a morsel of heaven composed of a (viennoiserie) sweet roll with dark chocolate inside. Every tourist looking to experience a slice of Paris goes for a pain au chocolate, croissant, or a crepe. The decision to enjoy all three over the duration of a trip is an advisable one. Always. Bonus points if you can take down all three in one sitting.

9. Unnecessarily taking a cab ride or two

For those with little to no knowledge of Paris, cabs may seem like a great option. “It’s a city! People in cities take taxis!” Parisians, on the other hand, favor the public transportation system. After one too many expensive cab rides (which should end at one), a tourist should too.

The metro, bus, and RER are more than adequate for locals and tourists alike — they’re easy to use, affordable, and reliable.

10. Experiencing sticker shock at the price of food

A first-time tourist might be rather hungry upon arrival and decide to eat fries and hot dogs at the kiosk across from the Eiffel Tower. Twenty-plus euros for two orders of fries and two hot dogs shouldn’t be the norm.

Unfortunately, pastries and coffee might give a first-time tourist sticker shock as well. So will the random banh mis you’ll come across. Well, most perishable items will. That’s okay — it won’t seem as bad the second time around.

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