Sometimes preparing for a trip to Paris can seem daunting. With so many world-class museums, beautiful landmarks, attractive neighborhoods, delicious bakeries, authentic bistros, and charming small streets — how do you even start to prepare?
Before you feel completely overwhelmed, take a deep breath. And maybe pour a glass of wine (French, of course).
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• When is the best time of the year to visit Paris?
We’ve got a list of 10 simple ways to prepare for your trip to Paris, from the somewhat obvious (book train tickets in advance) to a few ideas that might surprise you (watch a fun movie).
Enjoy and remember to have fun… You’re going to Paris!
1. Watch the film “Paris, Je T’Aime” (2006)
Many movies are set in Paris, but this is one of the best for pre-Paris education. The multiple stories taking place across Paris are a great intro to the city’s many different districts. The vignettes are split between French and English, so there’s no need to feel intimidated by the language.
Above, check out one of my favorite clips from the film about the 14th arrondissement.
2. Read a French history book
People always talk to me about various novels, usually historical fiction or straight up fiction, that are set in Paris. However, very few seem to read about events that actually happened here. A little context will go a long way, especially when visiting a city like Paris that’s drenched in history.
Try Andrew Hussey’s “Paris: The Secret History”, or Stephen Clarke’s “Paris Revealed: The Secret Life of a City” for something a bit lighter.
3. Book the big stuff now
It’s an obvious one worth repeating. Don’t put off flights, trains, rental cars, and hotels until the last minute. Restaurants, cafes, and museums will fall into place once you arrive, but you can’t just roll up to Paris in high season and expect to find a great budget hotel at the snap of your finger. Book the big stuff now!
Related: 10 Best budget hotels in Paris | How to book your own train tickets on the TGV
4. Learn at least a few words of French
Bring a book or a smartphone with an offline app to translate some of the harder stuff, of course. But know the basics without looking in a book. “Hello” and “thank you” (bonjour and merci) are the absolute bare minimum, but maybe brush up on some basic vocabulary (numbers, directions, and cuisine) to make things easier on yourself.
To get you started, here are 10 French phrases to help you save and 22 sayings to learn before you go.
5. Plan (some) outfits in advance
Tourists have a tendency to fret about how they look in Paris when, honestly, no one cares how you look while you’re out sightseeing. Just relax and be presentable and comfortable.
But if you’ll be having a high-end dinner or going to the opera, plan on packing at least a decent pair of shoes and one nice evening outfit. If you head into an upscale restaurant wearing sneakers and shorts, you’re going to feel a bit silly. For last-minute fashion emergencies, try these high-end designers at cheapo prices.
6. Fast. Just Kidding. Sort of.
There’s no reason to go on a hardcore diet before coming to Paris, especially considering how much you’ll walk once you get here. But you’re going to want to eat a lot of delicious things (from classic dishes to breakfast pastries), and nobody wants to visit Paris with someone who’s complaining about the calories. Maybe just take an extra jog or two before visiting, so you can “experience” everything guilt-free.
Related: 8 Paris dinners for under €10 and how to eat your way through Paris for under €20 a day
7. Watch a documentary
Even if you don’t have the time for #2 above, you can still learn a few new things about France before flying over. Youtube is packed with short programs about Paris. The BBC does quite a few good ones, like this one on the Revolution or this one on the Louvre (above). You’ll enjoy your visit, even more, when you know a bit about what happened before you arrive.
8. Invest in, and break in, good shoes
I may repeat this one from time to time, but it’s really important. Don’t buy new shoes the day before your trip and then break them in for 10 hours your first day in Paris. Just don’t. You’ll hate yourself for it.
Break those shoes in well, and break them in early.
9. Make a trip wish list
Don’t fuss with trying to do everything on your trip to Paris. Find the things you actually want to do and make it happen. Start by writing down your priorities. If you want to sit in a café for an afternoon, do it. If you want to go to the Rodin Museum or the Louvre, do it. If you want to relax along the canal with beer and pizza… call me and I’ll be there.
Related: How to beat the crowds at top attractions in Paris | 20 overlooked attractions in Paris
10. Think about the logistics now
You should think about some of the logistics before heading over. How will you charge your electronics? (Pack a couple adapters!) How do you get to the city from the airport? What time is your flight’s check-in? How much should you tip? Did you buy a plan for your smartphone or will you buy a SIM card when you get there? Did you call your bank to say you were traveling? How do you use the ATM?
Figuring out these small details will help make everything go much more smoothly, so you can focus on enjoying all the city has to offer. Take some time to do some research in advance, so you have more time for sitting at that outdoor cafe.
Other tips for preparing for your trip
How do you prepare for your trip to Paris? Share your tips with us in the comments section below!