What NOT to do or see in Paris

Paris is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and everyone knows that. What are also obvious are the must-sees – Eiffel, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Orsay, and the list goes on. Given that there is so much to do and see, the trick question is what should be avoided. Here’s my list:

1. Go up Eiffel
Why? Because (a) the queue is so long and you don’t want to be wasting two hours (b) Even if you book in advance, given that the weather is erratic, you won’t necessarily see Paris at its best light (c) because you don’t see Eiffel up there (I know that’s obvious :P). And what’s a view without Eiffel? If you really, really must go, there is very little value going to the top. Buy a ticket with access until the second floor which has the same view.

View from Eiffel. Not bad at all! But wait til you see the others!

View from Eiffel. Not bad at all! But wait til you see the others!

What you should do instead:

Go up Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, or Tour Montparnasse. And go before sunset, so you get two views in one!

View from Tour Montparnasse

View from Tour Montparnasse

View from Arc de Triomphe

View from Notre Dame

View from Notre Dame

2. Take the Seine Cruise
If you have unruly tourists who keep standing up and shouting, you won’t see anything sitting down. Furthermore, the photos won’t be as spectacular from the river. And if you have attention deficit like me, it is a grueling one hour of guided tour!

What you should do instead:

In my opinion Paris is much better seen on foot. One great walking trip: Walk from the Louvre to Concorde via Rue St. Honore to Champs Élysées to Avenue Montaigne and cross Pont de l’Alma to Eiffel. You’ll be absorbing Paris first hand and have opportunities to stop for a snack or shop.

3. Shop for designer goods in Galleries Lafayette

Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Galleries Lafayette is like a buffet. It has a bit of everything. So if you’re unsure what you like to shop for, that’s a good overview. However, space is limited and EVERYONE goes there! So there’s not much stock left.

What you should do instead:

Just like in eating, you only get quality if you go for a la carte. If you already know which designer brands to buy, I suggest going to Avenue Montaigne where Dior, Chanel, and Prada Loewe have huge branches (It’s part of the recommended stroll in #1!).

4. Watch Moulin Rouge

I found it overpriced, way too “Las Vegas” for me, and noisy. I actually walked out of the show barely halfway into it. The costumes are beautiful and the girls are gorgeous, but I guess seeing topless beautiful women just prancing around is not my cup of tea, nor are the slapstick magic stunts in between.

What you should do instead:
Walk and see Paris by night – and take your camera and tripod with you. I missed this because of Moulin Rouge, next time this will be on my list!

5. Go during Chinese Golden Week

It has nothing to do with where people come from, but with any nationality in 10 busloads, you will not have your serene and peaceful holiday.

What you should do instead:
Just don’t go during Chinese holidays.

6. Buy breakfast from your hotel

If you had a choice of buying a room with breakfast or without, definitely choose one without. Unless you stay in a 5-star hotel, the breakfasts in hotels are lackluster and expensive!

What you should do instead:

Go to a nearby boulangerie. If you see a Paul nearby, try that too. It costs less than EUR 2 for a croissant or pain au chocolat, and they’re heavenly! The reviews of the Paul store in Singapore are lackluster, so aim for the real thing!

Paul in Avenue des Champs Elysees

Paul in Avenue des Champs Elysees

7. Wait until the last minute to go to the airport

Unless you are going by cab, you have to leave some buffer for some transport breakdown. I was so “fortunate” that the RER B was due for repairs that weekend and I had to detour with a bus that took 45 minutes more.

What you should do instead:
Go at least three hours before departure

8. Go to more than two museums in one day

There is really such a thing as museum overload. Your mind just does not absorb anymore. You see but you don’t appreciate. For example, doing Louvre AND Orsay on the same day will not make you appreciate the works of art as much.

What you should do instead:

Do varied things in a day. Perhaps do Notre Dame and Louvre on one day, Orsay and Saint Chapelle on another. And fill in lull times with shopping.

9. Take the hop on hop off bus

I really don’t know why people do this. It is an inefficient way to travel and it is not that cheap. Spend that EUR 20-30 on some macaroons and some tea time!

What you should do instead:
Walking + Metro do the trick. And you would need to burn off the calories from all the food anyway 🙂

10. Queue for cash tax refund at Charles de Gaulle Airport

Perhaps I went during a busy time, I queued for 2 hours. Totally not fun!

What you should do:

If you bought all your goods in France, get your cash in downtown tax refund booths, and get it stamped at the airport, and send the document after. If you bought goods from other EU countries, unless you’re claiming a lot, do a credit card refund instead.

Learning while you travel is half the fun! A bientot, Paris!

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