7 Things Only Tourists Do in Paris

Like A Local Guide • 30 Jul, 2014

Tourists act pretty much the same all across the globe – they take photos of everything and stroll patiently along the streets as if they have all the time in the world (and they probably do – they are on holidays after all). Our local Paris editor Magali has delved even deeper into the behaviours of these fascinating creatures and put together a list of things that only tourists do in Paris. If you want to avoid looking like a tourist in the French capital, be sure to follow her advice!

1. Wait in lines

It’s a pretty well known fact that Parisians aren’t very patient. There are many places in Paris where queuing is necessary and, as locals hate waiting, they try to visit them as seldom as possible and sometimes even avoid them altogether.

Queuing for exhibitions:
It’s good to know that when you go to see an exhibition, there are often two waiting lines: one for people who didn’t buy tickets online and one for those who did. Buying tickets online will definitely save you time, however sometimes the option won’t available and you’ll have to wait. The funny part is that you’ll often hear French people complaining about the waiting time.

Queuing for metro tickets:
Parisians will scrupulously avoid buying tickets at busy stations like Châtelet-Les-Halles and Porte Maillot. These transport hubs are particularly crowded so you’re better off finding a smaller station and buying your tickets there.

Queuing for a pastry at Angelina on rue de Rivoli:
Many locals will be perplexed when they see you lining up here. Even though the pastries are delicious, the waiting time is not acceptable for the average Parisian. Special tip: there’s another Angelina bakery where you won’t have to wait for an eternity to savour your delicacy. You’ll find it at Porte Maillot in the Palais des Congrès shopping mall. Nevertheless, the waiting time can still be long, especially when there’s a big event at the Palais des Congrès.

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Photo credit: Alexandre Duret-Lutz

2. Climb the Eiffel Tower & the Arc de Triomphe

Parisians are actually very proud of these iconic monuments and love seeing their lights sparkle at night. What’s more, they believe that enjoying the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is a great experience. However, there are a couple of things that prevent many locals from heading to the top: the waiting time and the humungous crowds. As a result, Parisians experience the Eiffel Tower differently to tourists, perhaps in a more authentic way. And it’s the same story with the Arc de Triomphe – Parisians get more excited about the unusual configuration of the square in front of the arch and prefer to observe the continual ballet of cars, buses, motorbikes and bicycles rushing by.

A tip for those who still wish to climb the Eiffel Tower: take the stairs to the first floor – you’ll feel as if you’ve really earned the view.

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Photo credit: Wayne Shipley

3. Have a drink on Avenue des Champs Elysées

If you don’t mind paying for outrageously overpriced drinks, head to one of the many bars located on Avenue des Champs Elysées. Most of the time this world-famous avenue is overcrowded, and you’ll quickly notice that the pedestrians and people seated at the terraces are mostly tourists. However, many Parisians go there to shop because, unlike anywhere else in the city, the boutiques are open on Sundays. Locals also visit Champs Elysées for its cinemas.

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Photo credit: sacratomato_hr

4. Attach a padlock to Pont des Arts

Pont des Arts embodies all that is romantic about Paris for tourists, not locals. Parisians really enjoy walking on the bridge and admiring the stunning views, however you’ll rarely see them attaching “love locks” to the bridge. Just recently Paris City Hall announced that the padlocks will be removed as the bridge is at risk of collapsing under their weight. Moreover, the thousands of keys that are thrown into the Seine pollute its waters.

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Photo credit: Claude Attard

5. Visit the Louvre during rush hour & only see the Mona Lisa

The Louvre Museum is very big and houses a wide variety of magnificent collections. With this in mind, it’s heartbreaking to see so many tourists visit this exceptional museum only to see the Mona Lisa. Her beauty is of course undeniable, but you’ll miss many gems if you only focus on this painting. A good thing to do is to browse the museum’s website in advance to find the artists, periods, collections and exhibitions you are most interested in because you simply won’t have enough time to see everything. Locals, if they can help it, will do everything in their power to avoid going there during rush hour. Parisians prefer to visit the Louvre on Wednesday and Friday nights as it’s open until 9:45 pm.

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Photo credit: Artotem

6. Have a portrait drawn at Place du Tertre in Montmartre 

A few decades ago Montmartre was a bohemian neighbourhood home to many artists and some of them were very famous, Picasso for instance. Nowadays Place du Tertre is full of tourists and wannabe artists who charge a fortune to draw a dull portrait of anyone who pays them. Montmartre still holds a special place in the hearts of Parisians, however they tend to avoid the traditional sightseeing spots and prefer to get lost in the labyrinth of streets.

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Photo credit: Olivier Bruchez

7. Take a Big Bus or riverboat tour

A Big Bus tour is the exact opposite of a local experience – you’ll never find the soul of the city. Jump on a bus with locals instead! It’s a much cheaper option and it still allows you to explore the city. Get lost in the streets of Paris and discover unseen wonders, or do as many locals do and rent a Vélib’ bicycle. I’m sure you’ll have many unique stories to tell your friends once you return home. Bateau Mouche (riverboat) tours are the fluvial version of Big Bus tours and are particularly popular amongst tourists. If you really want to explore the city by boat (we understand, the views from the Seine are picturesque after all), take the Batobus. A greater number of locals take these boats as they’re smaller and have eight stops.

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Photo credit: Melodie Mesiano

da14677ab6c5a4226a219d38083dd1b6-150x150Magali is a project manager in the luxury hospitality industry. She was born in Nice, France. She worked and lived in Paris for six years, but has recently moved to San Francisco, California. The City of Light is still in her heart and she never misses the opportunity to wander its streets and discover new spots each time she returns to France. She also lived in Italy when she was a student. One of her dreams is to travel the entire country in a single month by car.

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    I was in Paris, and frankly I do not like this town. There's a lot of very nice places, but the piston and the ubiquitous dirt did not answer me. French food is also not my favorite.
    Alex - tour krakow • Mar 05, 2015 • Reply