I’ve Been to Paris 15 Times—And These Are the Most Overhyped Tourist Attractions
Don't fall for these tourist traps when you visit the City of Lights.
The secret to enjoying Paris even more
I lived in France in my 20s and would escape to Paris any free moment I had. There is just something about the City of Lights that you can’t get anywhere else. Since returning to the States, I’ve visited Paris another eight times (so far). My frequent visits have made me an expert on many things. For example, I know which bakery to stand in line at 5 a.m. for the freshest baguettes and what days to avoid the metro. I also learned a few lessons the hard way and figured out which overhyped attractions it’s better to skip. Here’s how to make your trip to Paris exponentially better. And wherever you travel, it’s always a good idea to know how to avoid the line at popular tourist destinations.
Going up the Eiffel Tower
If you’re in Paris, of course you’ll want to check out the Eiffel Tower. It’s truly amazing to see its architectural majesty all in one glance. Going up the actual Eiffel Tower, on the other hand, is a huge, costly process that isn’t worth the hassle. The only great thing about actually going up the structure is the view. Instead of pre-purchasing tickets or standing in line for hours, opt for one of the city’s rooftop to get the same views—and less of a headache. One great option: Hotel Raphael’s rooftop. Open between May and September, the hotel is located near the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées. You can take in breathtaking views of these two landmarks as well as the Eiffel Tower itself. By the way, this is how much it costs to light the Eiffel Tower every day.
Purchasing souvenirs at gift shops
We all want to take a slice of Paris home, which is what makes souvenirs so attractive. Museum and attraction gift shops are the places where most people make their purchases. But these gift shops are always overpriced, and once you buy something, you have to lug around your loot all day. Instead of shopping for souvenirs like a newbie, check out the individual vendors outside larger attractions like the Louvre. They offer the same types of souvenirs at a discount, and you can even bargain with them and get a better price if you purchase multiple souvenirs. It’s smart to visit them at the end of the day when they’re looking to get rid of their stock. Plus, if you buy then, you won’t have to carry your items around all day. Here’s how to get those souvenirs home—and pack smart overall.
Drinks at Bar Hemingway
Bar Hemingway is a classic stop for anyone who visits Paris. Located inside the beautiful Ritz hotel, the bar celebrates Ernest Hemingway as an almost mythological creature. If you’re in the market for drinks that are almost 40 bucks apiece, knock yourself out. If you prefer to be nicer to your wallet, visit the bar but skip the drinks altogether. The bar staff is used to tourists, and they are incredibly friendly when it comes to photo-taking. So, go inside, sneak a peek at the interior, and ask the friendly staff for a photo—no bar tab needed! If you want a memento of the experience, you can purchase the newspaper-like menu for a few euros instead of spending your per diem on a few drinks. For more ways to save on your trip to Paris, learn how you can actually travel for free.
Lunch in the Louvre Plaza
A lovely afternoon at the Louvre is a must-do in Paris. You can expect to leave this epic institution feeling inspired. You can also expect to get hunger pangs after walking around for a few hours. Although it’s tempting to sit down for a refreshment or a quick bite at one of the restaurants directly surrounding the Louvre in the plaza, avoid them at all costs. Menu prices are inflated, and the food is always less than stellar. Restaurant owners here know their customers are all tourists, so there’s no incentive to give you great food or service that will make you come back. Instead of settling for these restaurants, opt for one of the many kiosks near the museum or head to the underground mall near below the Louvre’s pyramid. Here are more of the most popular museums in the world.
Cozying up for hot chocolate at Angelina
This legendary tea room has been in operation since 1903 and has been featured in countless movies for good reason. The Belle Époque–style interiors are picture-perfect, and the hot chocolate is amazing. But here’s the typical experience there: After a long wait, you snag a tiny table and sit down for their famously thick hot chocolate and a pastry. Unfortunately, you may leave underwhelmed when you’re rushed out of your seat and have to pay your large bill. Insiders know to skip this whole ordeal and sneak into Angelina’s gift shop instead. You can go right up to the counter to purchase take-home pastries and their famous hot chocolate mix.
Shopping on Champs-Élysées
Champs-Élysées is like the Rodeo Drive of Paris. It’s tempting to drop your cash at one of the many fancy boutiques, but it’s smarter to save your pennies for other shopping areas like Rue Saint-Honoré. Champs-Élysées stores know they cater to tourists, and as a result, their merchandise rarely goes on sale. You can find lower prices online or at sister boutiques. Rue Saint-Honoré houses many of the same fashion houses, but they tend to have more sales because Parisians also shop at those locations. These are the brilliant buys travel pros never leave the house without.
Trekking down to the Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most popular attractions in Paris. That being said, first-timers always assume they have to head to the actual arc in order to admire it. But the arc is smack in the middle of a busy intersection, and getting there is tricky and inconvenient. Instead of trekking to the Arc de Triomphe, take in all of its splendor from a rooftop. Hotel Raphael’s rooftop is also perfect for this.
Taking bus tours
Gone are the days when you had to sit atop a bus in order to take in all of the sights in a short amount of time. Forget about the constant stops, the noisy seat neighbors, and the harsh sun hitting you on the upper bus level. For a few euros, you can now rent your own electric scooter and take in Paris at your own pace. Companies like Lime have a big footprint in the City of Lights, making it easy for you to get around. Download the app before you go on your trip and create an account. You can plan your own route and only hit the attractions that interest you. For amazing travel experiences closer to home, try these iconic adventures in each of the 50 states.
Eating at restaurants inside Versailles
There is nothing like a day trip to Versailles. The historic palace was the official residence of the French monarchy from 1682 until the start of the French Revolution in 1789. You can anticipate rooms and hallways full of beautiful art, jewels, furniture, and, of course, mirrors. You should also anticipate that your tour will take a few hours. When you least expect it, hunger will hit and you will be about 10 miles away from Paris proper. Instead of ducking into the palace restaurants for a quick bite, you should plan ahead and pack a snack. The restaurant interiors are not worth the inflated food prices, and the experience isn’t what it’s advertised to be.
Racking up a huge wine bill
France is famous for its wine, and what better city to enjoy it than Paris, oui? But you don’t have to rack up an enormous wine bill during your meals in order to appreciate the amazing bottles Paris has to offer. Instead, head to the local supermarket and buy traditional French wine at cost. The French take their wine very seriously, and the supermarket will have an amazing selection. Your hotel is very likely to let you enjoy it in their lobby and even uncork it for you for a small fee. In case you were wondering, pricier wines really do taste better than cheap ones—but not for the reason you think.
Splurging on a hotel suite
Paris has some of the most historic hotels a city can offer. More often than not, these gorgeous hotels come with a hefty price tag. Instead of splurging on your hotel room because you want to experience these buildings, head to the lobby for a drink or book breakfast at their restaurant instead. Le Meurice is a great example of a legendary hotel with a bar that’s very friendly to walk-ins. Take in the art and the epic surroundings that way and you won’t spend a bundle on a suite you’ll barely be in.
Only visiting traditional museums
Although there is nothing that compares to the Lourve and the Musée d’Orsay, you don’t need to stick to traditional museums to make your Paris trip memorable. For example, French luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently opened the Fondation Louis Vuitton art museum. The tickets are more affordable and easier to score than the Louvre’s, but you will still find amazing art you can write home about. Next, check out these 20 places you need to go in 2020, according to travel experts.