When you talk about Paris, everyone can picture a certain image or express an opinion about it even without ever having been there. For most people this image looks very positive. Paris is beautiful, romantic and culturally very sophisticated. La plus belle ville du monde. There is also a group of people who don`t like Paris, or think that it is overrated. Those people are often not understood by the Paris lovers, and seen as negative people who don`t appreciate beauty. Haters gonna gate.
I`ve always enjoyed provocations, especially towards people who believe in such a naive image of a city of 10 million people. But to be honest, my opinion about Paris is a lot more nuanced. After having lived there for half a year, I`m still not sure whether I should love or hate Paris. That`s why I made this list with ten likes and dislikes, what to do and what to avoid doing when you`re in Paris.
Restaurants & food.
Paris has many restaurants of all sorts. For people with a small (student) budget, Rue Mouffetard in the Quartier Latin is the place to be. The cobblestone streets and waiters who show you the menu on the street make it very charming. I lost count of the amount of cozy diners I had there.
Every museum in Paris has one or two nocturnes every week. This means that the museum is open until late in the evening. Perfect time to avoid long cues and masses in front of famous pictures.
For those who get bored with the snobby, romantic image of Paris like me, my advice would be to try to look for alternatives for this. Luckily those alternatives are also present. Despite the fact that standing in line for two hours is no exception, I really recommend the catacombs. The endless rows of bones and skulls are impressive. Poems on the wall complete this very special atmosphere
Wandering around in a beautiful quarter.
Once again the Quartier Latin deserves to me mentioned here. Just like Le Marais, where a coffee on a terrace at Place des Vosges and a falafel in Rue des Rosiers can`t be missed. Less known is the artistic neighborhood called Butte-aux-Calles with its graffiti and above all the Basque restaurant Chez Gladines where a salad is a complete meal containing lots of cheese, bacon, potatoes, bread,… Last but not least there is Montmartre, where you shouldn`t make the mistake of only visiting the very busy Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre. Go and have a pancake in the red bar with live piano music, look for the only vineyard in Paris and take a break in Jardins Renoirs.
Cheap beer during happy hour in Le Cristal on Friday night.
Definitely the least interesting thing for tourists because Le Cristal is a very simple but nice bar close to UNESCO. The happy hour on Friday night has more than once been the moment I was looking forward to all week.
Partying in the open air with a view on the Seine is something you should definitely do in summer. Despite what you could expect with this location, Nuba is not at all pretentious or expensive (well, at least to Parisian standards). There is a relaxed vibe and the music is a good change after the commercial music you can hear in every bar in Bastille.
When walking next to or doing a boat tour on the Seine you can see wonderful things, but don`t forget there is more than just the Seine. Canal Saint-Martin and Basin de la Vilette are a lot more cozy. One of my favorite nights in Paris was a bluegrass concert on a boat on Basin de la Vilette. Only fifty people there, simple, cheap beer, a bit alternative and very nice people to talk to.
I`m not talking about Jardin du Luxembourg or Jardin de Tuleries here. Enjoy the view in Parc de Belleville or climb Butes-Chaumont. Picnic is always a good idea, for instance at Champs de Mars right next to the Eiffel tower on a Friday night after work.
Cinema and pancakes at Montparnasse.
Once the sun is gone, the countless neon’s from the cinemas and cafes in Montparnasse start lighting up. Tour Montparnasse is the highest skyscrapper in Paris and offers a beautiful view at Paris. Since Gare Montparnasse used to be the only train connection to Bretagne, there are a lot of creperies in the area. Crêperie Josselin is one I can definitely recommend.
Marching for the republic.
My most memorable moment was in my first weekend in Paris, where France showed it is at its best when they are attacked. Over a million people marching for freedom of expression is not something you can see every day. Republican values are deeply rooted in French society, something I always admired.
Liberté d’expression! Vive la république!
Bars & drinks.
Bars in Paris are expensive and pretentious. A good pub where you can go sit at the bar and have a chat with a friend is hard to find. Ordering a beer at a bar is not appreciated. A waitress will let you know that you`ll be served at your table, which can take a while too. And of course the waitress won`t be friendly.
Too busy, expensive and boring. If you`ve seen it once, there is absolutely no reason to go back.
The cathedral in Paris is a simple church compared to many other cathedrals. Totally overrated.
Admiration of the Eiffel tower.
When it`s sunny weather it can be a nice view, but when it`s cloudy or raining you can see that it`s actually just a huge pile of rust. The Eiffel tower is overrated, even though you won`t find a lot of Parisians who agree on this. Climbing it is completey unnecessary if you like it since you`ll see all of the Parisian skyline… without the Eiffel tower!
Selfies at the Mona Lisa.
Selfies as such are already ridiculous so don`t make it worse by making your way through hundreds of Chinese people with a selfiestick trying to make a picture with the most overrated painting ever. Get amazed by the paintings of Eugene Delacroix in the next hall. Also please visit the Louvre during a nocturne, during the day you`ll lose too much time. And don`t forget Musée d’Orsay which is a lot more beautiful, less big and busy and has a lot more French art.
Going out at Bastille.
Most bouncers are jerks who pressure you to buy an expensive bottle of cava, pints are ten euros and taste like piss, music is the same everywhere. Also, forget about entering the place if you don`t have enough girls in your company. Seriously, stay way from Bastille. If this is what you`re looking for, there are better destinations to go to.
Talking to Parisians.
At times they can be unexpectedly friendly (a nice `bonjour`, opening doors for you in the subway) but there is a reason why Parisians are not known as kind people. Pretentious, demeaning to Belgians, always pointing out your accent in French,… For the locals you`ll better stay at home. The arrogance is unseen. Good example is the idea to make Paris into the bike capital of the world. I`m sure Amsterdam or Copenhagen really have no reason to worry for losing this title but who in Paris even realizes that there are still cities outside la ville lumiere..
Paris is not just romance and ‘le bonheur’ like certain commercials would like to make us believe. My biggest problem with Paris has very little to do with the city itself but rather with the ignorant way people want to see it. With some sort of admiration for keeping up appearances, pretension and selective blindness. Notice that you can only see rich, white people in expensive neighborhoods. Where are the immigrants, homeless and beggars? Well yeah, they just don`t fit into the picture.
If you want to climb the Eiffel tower, see Montmartre and walk the Champs Elysées all at the same day you`ll be exhausted and will have been on the metro for most of the time. And that`s a shame, you`ll have no idea how the city looks like above the ground. Walking tours can be possible, certain things are very close to each other. Another possibility I can recommend is renting a bike with Velib.
This video makes every explanation unnecessary.
Ironically I haven`t become any wiser by making this list. There are just as much reasons to love as to hate Paris. Everything depends on your focus and what you`ll see or want to see when you`re there. In the end every place in the world is just what you make of it yourself.
“Au début, Dieu créa le plus beau pays du monde. Il le remplit de tous les miracles et les beautés et le nomma la France. Mais, pour le mettre en position égale aux autres pays, il décida de le peupler par les gens…le Français.”
I guess it is all just summarized in this one quote.