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Paris
Paris
08.15.13

Paris is a vast city full of history, art, architecture, food and fashion, with intrigue waiting around almost every corner. Read these tips to find great ways to see the sights and look like a local as you stroll the streets.

Live Like a Local

One way to avoid high costs in the City of Light is to rent an apartment, rather than book a hotel. In addition to friendlier rates, you’ll get a kitchen so you can buy food at neighborhood bakeries and markets, and save on dining out. Paris by Heart leases city apartments owned by Americans, Brits, Australians and New Zealanders, and allows you to search for the perfect pad by district or metro stop. Another option is Haven in Paris, which provides a manager to meet and orient you at the rental unit. The company also offers neighborhood tips for markets, pharmacies and bakeries, as well as 24/7 on-call help.

Walk ’Til You Drop

Paris is a city meant for strolling—as evidenced by the many splendid parks, boulevards, markets, museums, shops, cathedrals and riverside walking paths. Guided walking tours provide historical context as you amble the cobbled streets. Alternatively, you can follow one of two footpaths that cross the entirety of Paris as part of the French Grande Randonnée (or Great Adventure) long-distance footpath system. Whichever way you go, you’ll need a good pair of walking shoes to navigate the cobblestones. Shoppers and museum-goers should consider chic yet comfortable flats. Don’t forget to pack a pair of boots or waterproof shoes for autumn rain.

Free Ways to Have Fun

You don’t need to be among the super-wealthy to enjoy the magic of Paris. Plenty of fabulous sights and activities do not require entry fees:

  • Champs-Elysees: Window-shop at the flagship stores along the top Parisian shopping boulevard
  • City Free Tour: Independent local tour guides offer free walking tours in some of the best areas of Paris
  • Montmartre: Wander the area where Renoir, Picasso, Monet & van Gogh once lived
  • Open street markets: Visit food, flea & flower markets chock-full of products
  • Pere-Lachaise Cemetery: Take a peaceful stroll among the resting places of France’s finest luminaries—including authors, writers, musicians & scientists
  • Place des Vosges: The oldest square in Paris (1612) was once home to Victor Hugo; the picturesque plaza features benches, arched buildings and passageways
  • Street performances: Also known as “busking,” this is a common sight around town; check out the scene near Notre Dame at night for great live music & performance art

Watch Your Bags

Like all major cities, Paris has its fair share of opportunists who will be happy to relieve you of your handbag or wallet. Foil their plans by exercising extra vigilance on crowded buses and metros, the airport RER train and busy tourist spots. To further outwit the perpetrators:

  • Travel with a secure handbag or money belt
  • Don’t leave handbags on the floor, on the seat next to you or hanging on the back of your chair
  • Avoid placing luggage near exit doors on buses & metros
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Watch for distractions or staged “accidents” (jostling in crowds and subways, children asking you to sign petitions, people falling or stumbling)
  • Keep your hands & eyes on your belongings at all times

What to Wear

In the fashion capital of the world, it’s a good idea to pack your travel best. Parisians are elegant and fashionable—and they appreciate visitors who leave the white sneakers, fanny packs and sweats at home. On warm, sunny September days (up to 70°F/21°C), you’ll be all set with a basic dress or flattering jeans, pants and skirts paired with chic tops. Accessorize your outfits with scarves and handbags to create a stylish ensemble. Pack a sweater and light jacket in your tote if you’re going from sightseeing to an evening out. Be prepared with a coat and umbrella for cooler temperatures and rain in October (46°F to 59°F/7°C to 15°C). Evenings are crisp and chilly, and things get downright cold in November (39°F to 48°F/3°C to 8°C). At night, choose nice, dark-colored attire; sport coats and ties for men are generally only needed in Michelin-starred restaurants. Cobblestones and uneven pavements call for shoes or boots with low heels.

Go with a Parisian

Navigating Paris with a guidebook and a list of sights to see is one way to go, but experiencing it through the eyes of a Parisian is even better. In the nonprofit Paris Greeters program, local volunteers take you to their favorite places in their neighborhoods. From markets, special vistas and cafés, to boulangeries and creperies, you’ll get to see Paris with a small group while befriending a local. Walks occur in all districts of the city, but have no pre-set destinations.

Runway Ready

Twice a year, the world flocks to Paris for Fashion Week, where designer lines are unveiled on runways all over the city. Spring shows reveal the autumn/winter ready-to-wear collections, while fall runways showcase the spring/summer designs. During this time, accommodations become hard to find and prices shoot up, so plan accordingly. Unless you are a celebrity or an industry insider, runway tickets are almost impossible to get—although some have reported standing outside a show and getting an invite. Free weekly fashion shows on Fridays at Galeries Lafayette (Paris’ top department store) make a fine substitute. Reservations are mandatory and are best booked via email. Plan to arrive at the store 30 minutes early to score a good seat.

Treasure Hunt at the Louvre

There’s more to the Louvre than the Mona Lisa. This masterpiece museum contains approx. 35,000 pieces of art that draw millions to its doors every year. You can choose an audio guide or go on a guided tour at the museum. Or you can opt for a themed tour, which makes the experience more enticing. Paris Muse has designed creative tours like “Cracking The Da Vinci Code”andinteractive challenges like “Louvre Quest” to pique your interest as you wander through the museum. “Paris Muse Clues” is designed for young treasure hunters and provides a great way to expose kids to art. You can also book your own private group or join others on a public hunt with THATLou, which offers custom-tailored Louvre treasure hunts.

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