Top 10 Tips for Visiting Paris for the First Time

This post contains links to affiliate websites, such as Amazon, and we receive an affiliate commission for any purchases made by you using these links. We appreciate your support!

These tips for visiting Paris for the first time with your kids will help you relax and enjoy your time in the City of Lights. Navigate the French customs, keep everyone fueled and ready for lots of walking, and experience Paris like a pro.

The Eiffel tower seen in the distance with flowering bushes in the front.

Our day trip to Paris was a wonderful highlight of our 6 days in London over spring break.

We scheduled the visit midweek and I didn’t realize just how much we had already adjusted to our home away from home in London.

Paris ended up being a bit of a shock to our systems, it is a far different city than London on many levels. I wish I would have had this list of tips to prepare both myself and my kids before we went.

Paris is a great idea to include in your itinerary, especially if you’re more prepared before you go than we were.

Beware of the Train Station Area

It is true of most major train stations all across Europe — the area around the station itself is not always the safest part of town.

You will generally be just fine getting from Gare du Nord to your transportation option (taxi or uber, etc) to get to your hotel but especially if you’re arriving at night you’ll want to keep aware of your surroundings and keep your children close.

The outside of the train station at night.

Warn Your Kids

It had been so long since I last visited France, I completely forgot to warn the children about the differences in attitudes and the general openness they have about “romance” and the human form.

I couldn’t help but giggle a little bit at my young teen daughter’s reaction to the glowing neon signs on the shops outside the train station when we first arrived in Paris.

A young girl looks concerned as she peers out the window of the car.

A quick heads-up conversation might have made her feel less shocked in the moment.

But whether you’re traveling to London or to Paris, it is a good idea to chat with your kids about the harsher language (SO much swearing), and the kind of content they will see displayed in windows, on billboards, and apparently those glowing neon signs advertising the adult wares within.

Be Prepared to Walk a LOT

Paris is a HUGE city and the major landmarks you dream about seeing are not a simple walk apart. We found we had to walk a lot more and a lot farther than we were used to in London.

You will spend a lot of time on foot getting from Point A to Point B unless you are strategic about the areas you want to stroll.

If seeing ALL the sights in a short visit is important to you, book tickets for the Big Red Bus which is a hop on, hop off style tourist tour.

Otherwise, I recommend picking one or two specific areas and just strolling around at your own pace.

Toilets are Hard to Find

We had a much more difficult time finding public restrooms in Paris than we did in London.

Be sure to use them whenever you stop for a restaurant break or before you leave your museum/tourist attraction.

Know a Few French Phrases

No one in our family speaks French, we all learned Spanish which isn’t exactly useful in Paris.

While most people we encountered spoke English and most menus have the items listed in both French and English, it is common courtesy to know a few simple phrases in French:

  • Please: S’il vous plaît
  • Thank You: Merci
  • Yes: Oui
  • No: Non
  • Excuse Me (Like if you bump someone): Pardon

I’m usually very good about using these social courtesies when I travel but I was unusually stressed and overwhelmed during our time in Paris and reverted back to English in my distraction.

I was corrected by more than one waiter to at least try. It is very important to the Parisians and they will let you know it.

How to Eat Very Well

Unless you’re buying street food to eat as a picnic, plan to take your time when you sit down at a restaurant in Paris.

The waitstaff was prompt and courteous but they try to not rush you through your meal.

Europeans in general take a slower approach to dining than Americans do and this is a lovely habit to pick up when you travel to Paris.

Enjoy your drinks and food. Eat slowly. Take your time and make your meal the most restful part of your day.

While not required, tipping your waiter an additional 10% is greatly appreciated.

Currency Considerations

Since we spent the majority of our vacation in London which uses the pound, we did not have many euros, the currency used in Paris.

There was no need for cash at any point in our day trip so you could plan to use your same payment methods as the rest of your trip.

I strongly recommend a foreign transaction-free credit card that has been loaded into your Apple Wallet for contactless payments.

But be sure to keep the physical card with you for the places in Paris that would require it.

Dress Nicely but Comfortably

Fashion is extremely important in Paris and the locals are always very well dressed.

It’s absolutely ok to wear your comfortable walking shoes, but give a little extra attention to the rest of your outfit for the day.

For a chilly day in April, we simply wore nice sweaters and jeans or dark pants. My daughter added a scarf for a little more flair. We all had our raincoats and wore them most of the day.

Paris isn’t the place to be wearing hoodies and gym wear, especially if you plan to visit any cathedrals.

Specifically for 2024

Paris is hosting the Olympics this summer. It felt like the entire city was under construction as they prepare for the big events.

Plan for extra time traveling by uber or taxi, the traffic was horrendous because of the construction.

Also expect to see a lot of scaffolding, construction cones, and general fixing-up.

Safety Considerations

We were warned before our trip that pickpocketing is a significant problem in Paris.

The two biggest items of concern for us were:

  1. Our Passports
  2. Our Phones: Thieves have been known to grab them right out of your hands or pockets or even drive by on scooters to grab them and go when you’re on the sidewalk.

My husband wore a security travel vest our entire trip and the passports were kept safely in a travel folio that was zipped up in an inside pocket.

I also purchased crossbody phone straps to protect our phones from a simple grab.

You can read more about our travel safety gear here.

The photo collage shows the Eiffel tower next to a Parisian cafe table with chairs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *