Paris travel tips: Shopping, dining, saving!

Posted on February 11th, 2011 by Laura Byrne Paquet in How To

Sightseeing

Dodge the museum masses: There will always be crowds at the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and other wildly popular museums. Head to these hot spots early in the morning to get a good spot in line (bring a book and be prepared to wait, unless it’s the middle of winter). Alternatively, try one of Paris’s lesser-known museums: the city is home to dozens of institutions, including museums devoted to stamps, posters, Vladimir Lenin and Edith Piaf. You won’t see the Mona Lisa, but Miss Enigmatic isn’t the be-all and end-all. At the Musée des lettres et manuscrits (Museum of Letters and Manuscripts), for instance, you can see a 1576 letter from Catherine de Medici and a 1944 letter from JFK to one of his PT-109 crew members.

Save some euros: OK, a museum pass that costs 28 Euros and up may not sound “cheap.” But the Paris Museum Pass gets you into 60 museums and famous sites, including the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and Versailles—some of which cost 10 Euros and up on their own. Two-, four- and six-day passes are available.

Dining

Do the prix-fixe: Many restaurants have a three-course “prix-fixe” (fixed price) menu, usually including a small starter, a main course and dessert (and a glass of wine). It’s often an excellent deal, particularly at lunch.

Get tips from an expert: The mouth-watering blog written by American-born chef David Lebovitz, Living the Sweet Life in Paris, is a great source of information for foodies.

Getting Around

DO NOT DRIVE. Once you’ve seen Paris traffic, you’ll understand that no more needs to be said about this tip.

Walk: It’s the real reason French women don’t get fat. Besides, it’s so much easier to stop at tempting shops and cafés when you’re on foot, although the cafés may derail that “not getting fat” idea.

Cycle: Don’t feel like shipping your bike by plane? Can’t say as I blame you. Instead, do as the locals do and join Velib’, a bike-sharing service whose name translates roughly as slang for “bike freedom.” (Click on the small Union Jack at the top of the page to see the site in English.) While the bikes—thousands of them parked at self-service kiosks all over Paris—aren’t technically “free,” they are inexpensive. Buy a one-day or seven-day pass online or at any kiosk, use it to check out a bike, cycle where you want to go, then return the bike to a Velib’ kiosk near your destination. Your bank account will be debited for the time used. It’s that easy.

Take transit: For information on trains, buses, the Metro and more, go to RATP (again, click on the Union Jack). If you’re planning to do a lot of travelling by transit, consider buying a ParisVisite card, which gives you unlimited access to transit within the zone and timeframe you pick. You can buy them at any metro station, bus station or airport. If you think you’ll only take the occasional subway or train, you may be better off buying a pack of 10 tickets (known as a carnet).

Shopping

One could spend one’s life writing about shopping in Paris, guiding people to great Parisian shops or, indeed, actually shopping. So I’m going to leave this section to a couple of experts.

Chic Shopping Paris: This book by American ex-pat Rebecca Perry Magniant draws on her experience as the co-founder of the like-named Chic Shopping Paris tour company. The firm offers bilingual shopping tours on themes ranging from baby supplies and luxury labels to outlet stores and antiquing. You can also set up a customized tour. To get a taste of Magniant’s expertise, check out the Chic Shopping Paris blog.

Paris Chic and Trendy: This pretty little pocket book, written by French fashion journalist Adrienne Ribes-Tiphaine, is an insider’s guide to famous retailers, hidden design studios and other purveyors of French style.

Miscellaneous

Etiquette tip: When you walk into a store, always greet the clerk with a polite “Bonjour.” When you leave, whether you’ve bought anything or not, say “Au revoir.” It’s considered rude to browse in a store without speaking to the staff.

Photo by Paul Paquet.

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