The best time to visit Paris? Not August
The myth that everything in Europe shuts down in August is not a myth at all and totally happens — especially in countries like Italy, Spain, and you guessed it, France. Most locals leave for vacation this month, and many restaurants and small businesses stay closed for weeks at a time.
But truthfully, every month in Paris has its perks — even August, if avoiding large crowds of Parisians actually sounds appealing to you. Winters aren’t too cold, and Paris during Christmas time is straight out of a movie. And of course, Paris in the springtime is hard to beat.
Learn at least a little of the language
No, you don’t need to be fluent in French to communicate with Parisians, but knowing the basics will make a huge difference. Download Duolingo and get ready to put on your best French accent. The big four: “bonjour” (hello), “au revoir” (goodbye), “s’il vous plait” (please), and “merci” (thank you).
Don’t expect speedy service
In France, leisure is a national pastime. The server will give you plenty of time to look over the menu (just be sure to close it when you’re ready to order, or they will NEVER come). Be prepared to wait a bit between courses. Savour your meal, and feel free to hang out with your coffee when you’ve finished.
Don’t be afraid to use the Paris métro system
The métro system in Paris is super simple and a great way to get around. Over 15 métro lines connect the city underground, linking up with five larger RER lines that head out to surrounding suburbs. Best of all, weekly métro passes will only run you about 22 euros and change. Just be sure to lift the lever on the door if you want to enter or exit — they don’t open automatically.
All of Paris’ museums are free on the first Sunday of the month
Will it be crowded? Yes. Will it save you some money? Yes. Should you cram all of your visits into one Sunday? Absolutely not. Prioritise!
Skip going to the top of the Eiffel Tower
Similar to the Empire State Building in NYC, going to the top of the Eiffel Tower is expensive and not necessarily worth the hype. You can see the city from up high from the top of the Tour Montparnasse and actually have the Eiffel Tower in your view, or head to Montmartre for a sweeping, totally free skyline.
Have a traditional French breakfast on a terrace
You could brunch, I suppose, but a cafe (one shot of espresso – make it a “double” for, um, a double) and a pain au chocolat or a croissant is how the French do it. If you want milk in your coffee order “un café creme” — it’s basically a latte.