Paris is on many people’s bucket list and a place you undoubtedly have to visit at least once. But being a popular destination it comes with a lot of hustle much of which revolves around cultural exploration.
These last couple years of travel taught me that you simply cannot see everything on your wishlist and that’s Okay. The best way to enjoy a city is not by waiting in line, sometimes you have to slow down, step out of the guided tour and look around (not through a camera lens).
During a 6-day visit to Paris my friends and I stayed at an AirBNB in the 10th district, fairly close to everything but far enough from the inner circle loop for it to be affordable. Seemingly ‘shady’ at first the neighborhood turned out to be one of the coolest in the city. The main street of the 10th is a portion of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, starting at Boulevard Saint-Denis, walking away from the city gates. The strip consists of dive bars, patios, cocktail bars and some fantastic ethnic foods including the near by Passage Brady where some of the best Indian restaurants in Paris are located.
Our Paris home neighborhood was a major contrast to areas around top cultural destinations where streets are much busier and the air more stressful. Families and groups of people are pushing their way to entrances and sightseeing points and somehow everyone is running late. Almost all of the research we’ve done prior to the visit told us to come to every museum early and wait in line for a couple hours, a concept that just simply seems hard to enjoy. So here are a 5 tips on how to get through Paris stress-free:
Explore the city on foot: the 3 of us added all of the things we wanted to see and try to an Ulmon city map and took the heavily populated pin clusters on by foot. This enabled us to soak in a lot of the city first-hand, try lesser-known cafes and bars, and check-off a lot of places on our wishlist.
Two-day passes are your all-access key to Paris: pair a 2-day sight-seeing bus tour with a 2-day museum pass and you can see twice as many things as you would without them. The bus stops in front of, or close to most cultural points and the museum pass comes with a line bypass so you don’t have to stand in lines or ride crowed trains!
Timing is everything: In general Google’s popular times chart is fairly accurate and proved to be very helpful. As a rule, weekdays are much more tolerable than weekends. You do need to come early to some places such as Palace of Versailles, the Notre Dame and the Catacombs of Paris. The Louvre, on the other hand, slows down after 3pm on weekdays. We got there at around 4pm, begun our tour from the 4th floor and saw almost everything with very few crowds (most of those are on the Mona Lisa room).
Visit the historically dark places of Paris: Catacombs of Paris and Père Lachaise Cemetery are both fantastic historic points. Catacombs are a small port of the ancient Mines of Paris tunnel network and house the remains of more than six million people. Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris and a home to Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Frédéric Chopin, among many others. Today, Père Lachaise is seen as a city park where people come for walks and picnics.
Tip: Père Lachaise needs more than an hour and you will likely get lost, but it’s worth it.
Take the time to rest and enjoy a meal: these long exploration days deserve a nice meal and many breaks. Take advantage of patios for rest stops, have a cold beer while people watching from a sidewalk. And do not, I repeat do not, be rush about your meal choices, culinary Paris has a lot to offer and that cold croque monsieur can seriously ruin your appetite.
Note: do not eat in the touristy areas, the restaurants in those are known to be over-priced and serve lesser quality meals.