Paris is a beautiful city, so it’s no wonder visitors come in droves. But to have a relaxing trip, you need to get away from your fellow travelers and tourists. Over the course of the year I lived in Paris, I learned some great tricks to avoid the crowds and have an authentic Paris experience!
1. Use a different entrance at the Louvre.
You’re probably planning to visit the Louvre while in Paris… just don’t let the entrance line ruin your day. When you arrive at the Louvre, you’re likely to want to head to the glass pyramid and fountains out front. Go ahead and take your pictures there, but do not, I repeat, DO NOT get into that line. It’s the most visible entrance to the Louvre, and to the unsuspecting tourist it definitely looks like the line you need to wait in, but it can take hours.
What most tourists don’t know is that there are actually several other entrances to the museum. My go-to favorite was the entrance in underground mall, the Carrousel du Louvre. The line here never took me more than 5 minutes. Sometimes there was actually no one in that line. So much easier!
2. Or, just head to another museum.
Paris has tons of museums, and they all get far fewer tourists than the Louvre. I was particularly fond of the Rodin museum (pretty art in a pretty house with pretty gardens!) I also recommend the Musée Carnavalet – interesting and FREE!
3. Skip the flagship historic cafés.
Café de Flore. Les Deux Magots. Angelina. These are certainly steeped in history, but they’re also chock-full of tourists. The French do not go here. The French go to any of the million other cafes in Paris, and you should too if you want to experience French café culture with the locals (the further you are from a primary tourist attraction, the better).
That said, I do love Angelina’s hot chocolate. Not to worry, Angelina has other locations across the city! I often stopped by the Luxembourg Gardens location on a cold day, and I never once had to wait for a table to open up.
4. Head to the Eiffel Tower at sunrise.
I know, I know. I’m not an early riser, either. But I discovered this trick by accident when my friends and I decided to hit up every arrondissement in Paris in a single night. We arrived at the Eiffel Tower just before sunrise, and we found that there was not a soul on the Champs de Mars. Not a soul. It was incredible, riding by on our bikes, just us, some pigeons, and the Tour Eiffel!
(Also, be sure to visit the Eiffel Tower in the evening for a picnic with the other picnickers. But it never hurts to pay a second visit!)
5. But climb something other than the Eiffel Tower.
Paris has a lot of things to climb! The major disadvantage of going up the Eiffel Tower (aside from the crowds, the lines, and the wait time) is that you can’t actually see the Eiffel Tower once you get up. And that’s the most important thing to see! So, climb the Arc de Triomphe, climb Montmartre, maybe even climb the towers of Notre Dame (although prepare for a long line there). But there’s really no need to climb the Eiffel Tower.
6. Focus on Versailles’ gardens.
This one may be controversial, but I feel like you can skip the inside of Versailles without missing too much. If you’ve seen one castle, you’ve seen ’em all. Granted, this is one more opulent than most, but mostly what it is is crowded. You’ll be shuffled along from room to room, wildly snapping pictures of random fancy beds before being pushed along.
The gardens, on the other hand, really are magnificent, and they’re so big that you can feel like you’re alone in certain parts. We once visited the gardens at dusk just before closing. No one else was in sight, and it was magical. So, gardens > house.
7. Stay in the 5th or 6th arrondissement.
Admittedly I’m biased, because I lived in the 6th. But really, this is a great location to base yourself in Paris. If you stay too close to the Louvre, Notre Dame, or the Eiffel Tower, half of the people you see on the street will be fellow tourists. Get an Airbnb in the 5th or 6th, and many of the people around you will be Parisians, going about their days, drinking their coffees, sipping their wines. There will still be tourists around, of course, but it’s a much more balanced vibe.
Follow these and you’re sure to have a great trip – and to avoid the crowds in Paris!
Have another great tip for getting the most out of your trip to Paris? Let us know in the comments below!
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