Paris: Where NOT to go

Paris Insider
Monday, October 13, 2008
Skip the view from the top (Photo: Lonely Planet Images)
Skip the view from the top

Best view? Ditch the Eiffel Tower for the Arc de Triomphe

A trip to Paris without seeing the Eiffel tower is like a barbie without tinnies, but while seeing La Tour is a must, the view from the top is not. It is expensive, crowded and the queue for the lift can take well over an hour. The stairs are an alternative, but only reach halfway, and with more than 1700 steps, it's a thigh-burning challenge.

A much better option is the Arc de Triomphe. It's cheaper, a lot less crowded and has a spectacular 360-degree view of the city, including a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower itself.

Avoid the river boat dining rip-off

Bateau-Mouches are long, glass-topped, viewing boats that cruise the Seine. They are a fantastic way to see the city. But avoid the ones that offer lunch or dinner. They are tourist traps where the food is below average and the prices, ridiculous.

Montmartre — the do's and don'ts

Montmatre was once a playground for some of the world's most famous painters from Picasso to Van Gogh. It's easy to see why; it's charming and quintessentially Parisian, but visit at the wrong time and you will find yourself shuffling along at snail's pace in a sea of tourists.

It's best to go early and, if possible, on a weekday morning. You'll see locals heading to work, waiters setting up street tables and be able to explore without the crowds.

If you're hungry, avoid the tacky restaurants near the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, which serve rubbery pizza (at daylight robbery prices) and head to the nearby Rue Des Martyrs. It is one of the prettiest streets in Paris, lined with mouth-watering food shops and eateries. Try the Rose Bakery for organic treats.

Hotel breakfast? Don't bother

While some hotel breakfasts are worth it, many are an overpriced rip-off and the breakfast room is often dingy.

A better option is to head out to a cafe; most serve coffee and croissants in the morning. For half the price, you can sit on the terrace and watch the world go by like a true local.

Classy shopping on the Champs? Forget it

The French claim the Champs-Elysee is the most beautiful avenue in the world, and they may be right. But when it comes to the shops and cafes which line it, the whiff of Frenchness that once hung in the air has been replaced by the whiff of car exhaust fumes, tourist-trap eateries with surly staff and cheap international chain stores.

If you want to check out where the city's rich and glam shop, nip off the Champs to Avenue Montaigne. Top fashion houses from Chanel to Dior have boutiques here. It's a favourite haunt of ladies-who-lunch and their coiffed pooches.

Got any more places to avoid? Have your say using the comments form below.

Next: Near the beaten track

User comments
You might want to check out the ethnic areas in Paris which are Little Sri Lanka just north of Gare du Nord and south of Metro La Chapelle, where you have super indian cuisine and great shoping on indian food and clothes Little Bamako around Chateau d'Eau Metro station, mainly african hair dresser and beauty parlours but you get food shops as well. Little Saigon which is north of Metro Porte d'Italie, the biggest of the three Asian Towns in Paris. Here you find the best vietnamese resturants, huge asian shopping centers. Excellent for an authentic dinner.
Agree that you don't go to Eiffel Tower too many people but just walk the streets and meet the people. Paris is a beautiful city (and I hate cities) The locals are lovely they are proud but they should be. Try to talk French because you are in France dress up and enjoy. Find the cafe's that the locals dine in they are great, discover the back streets. Fall in love again, the French women are stunning. Its only over priced if you go to the tourist hangouts.
Paris was a disappointment for certain. Overpriced, unspectacular food, and sadly zero customer service. We expected to see fashion and to experience outstanding meals. Truly we had neither. The "French" attitude became tiresome very quickly. No smiles anywhere! There are far more beautiful and interesting places to visit and with a smile! The taxi's were horrible as well. Rude and frequently claiming to be lost!!
I am an Australian now living in Paris (5 and half years now), and i still love the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysee, Montmartre, and all the tourist areas. In Montmartre, you need to head down the back stairs (follow the path) and see the real Paris. No tacky tourist shops, but great bars and restaurants, and wonderful boutiques. The Eiffel Tower is a must, the best time to head up is about 2 hours before sunset. You get to see Paris at it's finest. When ever i head up there (which is often) i never tire of the cities beauty. Hint. After visiting the Tower take a small bottle of wine some wonderful french cheese and bread (the monoprix is a 5 min walk, direction Ecole Militare) and sit in the park and enjoy the view. Lights on the tower start on the hour at sunset and last for 10 min until 2am. True about the hotel breakfasts, grab a pound au chocolate (a chocolate croissant) and a great coffee at any or the brasseries around Paris. Just walk Paris, it still delights me everyday.
I agree the trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower is worth the wait - absolutely stunning - especially at sunset. Top of L'Arche de Triomphe is also great for a wonderful view down the Champs D'Elysee and a different perspective.(Also instills a great respect for drivers who tackle the roundabout below!!) You don't have to go up the hundreds of steps to Sacre Coeur - there is a funicular railway to one side which takes you almost to the top.
My wife and I honeymooned in Paris last September. It is the most beautiful city. We read lots of travel guides and articles before leaving, including the one featured above "Paris, Where not to go." I am glad we did not take this article as sound advice. The Eiffel Tower and the view from it is one of the "must sees" of the world. Nowadays you can prepurchase your tickets for a specific lift time, virtually eleminating the queueing on the ground. As the lift rises you see Paris unfold beneath you. The collective intake of breath from everyone in our lift at that sight belies the comments of our "expert" above. Yes, you will need to queue for the lifts to the third level (if that is the ticket you purchased) but, as there is no other way to the top, just enjoy the expereience.By all means view Paris from The Arc de Triomphe, from the Towers of Notre Dame, from the dome of The Basilique du Sacre Coeur, or from the heights of Tour Montparnasse but not at the expense of the Tower herself.
You should avoid the 93rd district, it is one of the most dangerous in france. It is also known as St Denis. Otherwise, you should always be careful on the metro but you should be especially so when taking the RER lines to the farther suburbs. St Germain, at the end of line RER A is a beautiful area to visit, and a great place to appreciate the 'real' french culture. For vintage shopping I suggest Etienne Marcel, it is also the name of the station. Back to Paris in 3 days, can't wait!
I'm planning a trip to Paris in early 2010. Are there neighborhoods I should avoid? I understand some of the surrounding villages have become dangerous.
I visited Paris two years ago, and am in the process of planning my next trip there in the next two months. I must say I have heard horror stories about the line for the eiffel tower, but have not experienced this horror myself. I visited the tower in the evening, around 8pm it was in early January and freezing, however as a result... no line! While I am not suggesting January is the ideal time to visit Paris, unless you have a warm jacket, what I am suggesting is to go up the tower at night. It was the most magical experience of my life! The lights of the city below, seeing all the winding streets lit up was truely a sight to be seen! So there is my suggestion, visit at night, skip the lines and see the twinkling Paris in all its glory!
Skip both the Eiffel Tower and the Arch de Triomphe. Both are overrun with tourists. Head instead to the institut arabe du monde in the 5th. Great views, great location and dirt cheap.