10 Best Tips to Experience Paris Like a Local
When in Paris, it pays to do as the locals do. What do I mean by this? Parisians value people who make the effort to at least somewhat blend into their culture and ways of operating. Learning a few courteous French phrases, for example, can drastically change how you are received in a space.
If you truly want to live the experience of a Parisian for a few days, take the following tips into consideration throughout your trip.
1. Greet Everyone, Everywhere
But only if you’re going to make the effort to do it in French itself! Parisians will welcome you as they would any other local if you show even the mildest effort to speak the local lingo.
Saying ‘bonjour’, ‘merci’ and ‘au revoir’ no matter what exchange you are having will shift the energy of the interaction in a tangible way. It sounds overly simplistic, even silly, but give it a try and want your experience change.
2. Don’t Go to the Eiffel Tower
Another silly suggestion, perhaps, but if there’s one thing local Parisians never do it’s hang out around the Iron Lady. The crowds, the chaos, the catcalling (yes) — why would one risk their inner peace for such an experience?
Instead, admire and appreciate the Eiffel Tower from afar, like the locals do.
3. Hang Out With Parisian Locals
Easier said than done if you’re not accustomed to making friends in hopeless places. But in Paris, anything is possible and it’s not all that difficult to mingle with those who are native to the land.
First, search for the best non-touristy bars and restaurants in your area. Next, go there! Finally, radiate welcoming, non-threatening, non-touristy energy and hope that someone bites. Parisians are friendly people, despite what nay sayers would have you think.
4. Enjoy a Daily L’apéro
By l’apéro I mean “cocktail hour”, which is something locals in Paris enjoy like a ritual when the weather is warm. This hour usually takes place sometime between the end of the work day, and the start of dinner.
It’s an hour when people flock to their favorite cocktail spot or cafe (usually near the rivers) and unwind over mixed drinks, good wine and sometimes finger foods.
5. People Watch in a Parisian Cafe
There are few things more stereotypically Parisian than sitting street-side at a charming cafe, sipping some sort of brewed beverage and watching the world go by.
This pastime is usually enjoyed alone, between errands or on the way to work. Perhaps you’ll nibble on a croissant while you’re at it, and ponder where on Earth all of the passerby’s could possibly be headed. Are they happy? Do they like Paris? Have they ever watched me like I am watching them?
6. Shop in Markets
Grocery stores have their place in Parisian society, but true locals know that nothing beats market produce. The freshest meats, cheeses and veggies are all for sale at village markets, and there is generally at least one per district.
Make a point of meandering, shopping and cooking at home using the things you’ve bought. This is très French, and also just very wholesome.
7. Nosh on Baguettes, Good Cheese and Fine Wine
Another stereotype that has its basis in actual truth; Parisians know how to enjoy the finer things in life, and very often, those things just happen to be edible.
Fresh baked baguette, paired with an aged cheese from somewhere in the country, and an equally as aged wine to bring the whole experience altogether — this is the making for a perfectly Parisian lunch meal, best enjoyed between errands, preferably on a park bench.
8. Don’t Eat in Restaurants That Have English Menus
I could have kicked myself for not learning this simple trick earlier in my move to Paris, but now that I know it, it’s completely changed my experience of eating out in the city.
Restaurants that have gone to the trouble to produce English menus are targeting tourists, so naturally their prices are also set at what tourists are happy to pay when visiting a foreign land. Save your pennies and eat with the locals, at local prices.
9. Try Not to Need a Doggy Bag
It’s not very Parisian to take food home from a restaurant after a meal. Parisians typically don’t leave food on their plates, and if they do, it’s usually minimal (unless the meal itself was inedible, but then they will make sure the restaurant knows this is the case).
Of course, requesting a doggy bag is far better than leaving a heaped plate of food to go to the trash, but generally you want to order to exact moderation of your appetite and try to polish off what’s in front of you.
10. Visit the Smaller, Historic Museums
The Louvre has its time and place, but Parisians have grown to be more partial for the smaller, more intimate museums that are off the tourist radar. The Montmartre Museum, Jacquemart-André Museum and Musée de la Vie Romantique are three favorites where you can always find locals strolling about.
Most of Paris’ smaller museums require advanced bookings if you would like to visit — keep this in mind!