Are you trying to decide if Paris is worth visiting? Read on for my full breakdown and tips for Paris!
Paris is one of the most famous and well-known cities in the world. It’s a top tourist destination for people from all over the globe, and with good reason – Paris is full of history, culture, and beauty. But… is it worth visiting? Is Paris worth the hype?
Well, the TL;DR is that I love France and I adore Paris. It’s truly one of my favorite cities in the world.
However, many people come to Paris expecting a kind of sepia-toned, idyllic world, and are startled to realize that the Paris they had in their minds is not the Paris they are experiencing.
There’s actually a name for this surprising realization: The Paris Syndrome. While the Paris Syndrome is a clinical, rare, and extreme case of travel disappointment, the general idea of a disappointment when expectation does not match reality in the City of Love is one that applies to many people.
However, I think that with realistic expectations and knowledge about the pros and cons of visiting Paris, you can be prepared for what Paris is really like and have a great vacation here!
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Is Paris Worth Visiting? Things to Consider
So, what are the pros and cons of visiting Paris?
IMPORTANT NOTE: Before we get into this section, I want to state that I think that many of these cons are actually stereotypes, myths, or are blown out of proportion, and just aren’t the big deal that people think they are. That said, there are legitimate concerns people have.
So, in the following sections, I’ll list pros and different perceived cons of visiting Paris, and address whether this is more of a stereotype, or whether it is an actual downside of visiting the city.
I’ll also give a lot of tips for navigating these issues!
PRO: Gorgeous Architecture
Okay, let’s start with my absolute favorite part of visiting – the absolutely gorgeous architecture.
Paris is known for its stunning architecture, and for good reason. The city was largely rebuilt in the mid-19th century under the direction of Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who created a master plan for the city design.
This plan featured wide, grand boulevards, building facades constructed of stone and with intricate details, and mandating that no building could be taller than six stories in order to maintain the picturesque skyline.
The doors in Paris are absolutely swoon-worthy.
Of course, not every spot in Paris was re-done in Haussmanian architecture (for example, the Latin Quarter).
Either way, the architecture is simply breathtaking, and in my opinion, it’s worth visiting Paris just to wander the streets and marvel at the beautiful buildings.
CON: Is Paris Dirty?
Sometimes people feel that it is not worth visiting Paris because they’ve heard that Paris is a dirty city.
Now, I won’t deny that there is some trash in the streets. However, this varies substantially between different areas of the city, but I’ve never found the streets to be particularly dirty.
A bigger turn-off, in my eyes, is there can be an excessive amount of graffiti in some areas. It stands out so starkly with the otherwise beautiful architecture, which tends to be more jarring for me.
I would say that overall, though, it’s about what I would expect from a big city – some spots are cleaner, some have more trash, and there are some things on the streets here and there, but I’ve rarely felt like the city is just dirty.
👉My Verdict: Sometimes
PRO: Amazing Museums
The Louvre Museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world for good reason. It features some of the most famous pieces of art in the world, including the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and Napoleon’s Coronation.
The museum is housed in an old palace, and its ceilings are practically a work of art by themselves. There is no shortage of things to see in this museum, so it’s definitely worth a visit for anyone traveling to Paris.
Aside from the world-renowned Louvre Museum, there are a number of other great museums in Paris that are worth visiting.
The Musée d’Orsay is housed in an old railway station and contains a large collection of impressionist art, including works by Monet, Renoir, and Degas.
The Rodin museum is dedicated to the work of Auguste Rodin and features some of his most famous sculptures, such as The Thinker and The Gates of Hell.
The Carnavalet museum is dedicated to the history of Paris and includes exhibits on everything from fashion to architecture.
The Centre Pompidou is home to a large collection of modern art, including pieces by Picasso and Matisse.
And finally, the l’Orangerie museum houses a collection of impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, including his famous series Water Lilies.
All these museums are definitely worth a visit for anyone traveling to Paris!
Con: Are Bathrooms Hard to Find?
Public bathrooms in France are MUCH less common than they are in the United States. Often, you have to pay to use the toilets, even in restaurants or at sites like the Eiffel Tower.
There are also free public bathrooms “pods” on the street. These pods are exactly what they sound like – freestanding little rooms right on the sidewalk.
However, lines for these move very slowly (the pods run a disinfect cycle between every visitor) and they are often not very clean, and often out of order. Seriously, expect 1 in 3 to be kind of nasty inside.
👉My Verdict: Absolutely true
Tip: Always take full advantage of the bathrooms at any of any museums or big monuments (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe), or restaurants you visit.
PRO: Beautiful Parks and Gardens Everywhere
For a big capital city, Paris has a lot of greenspace. And a lot of BEAUTIFUL greenspaces.
Each of the different parks and gardens of Paris comes with their own unique charm and features. Some of the most famous parks in Paris include the Jardin de Luxembourg, the Jardin de Tuileries, and the Champs de Mars.
The Jardin de Luxembourg is located in the 6th arrondissement near the Senate building, and is noted for its lovely green lawns, fountains, statues, and palace.
The Jardin de Tuileries is located next to the Louvre Museum and is famous for its green chairs surrounding basins and fountains.
The Champs de Mars is the park leading up to the Eiffel Tower, providing great views of the tower from below.
I love strolling the gardens and parks of Paris – it’s one of my favorite things to do and for sure a worthy activity when visiting the city.
Read More: 13 Beautiful Parks and Gardens of Paris
CON – Is Paris Expensive?
Paris is known for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. While there are some affordable options, in general, Paris is not a cheap destination.
The reason for this high cost of living comes down to a few factors. Firstly, Paris is a popular tourist destination, so demand for housing and other services is high. Secondly, the city has high taxes, which drives up prices on everything from food to transportation to entertainment.
However, one nice thing is that the price already includes the tax and tip. This means that restaurant meals end up being much less than you’d expect if you’re coming from the US, where tax and tip are added on top of the menu prices.
👉My Verdict: True. However, while Paris can be expensive, with a little bit of planning you can find ways to enjoy the city without breaking the bank. For example, instead of eating in restaurants for every meal, try putting together an easy picnic.
I do this AALLLLL the time in Paris and it’s super easy and delicious – read my post about how to create the perfect picnic in Paris here.
PRO: Delicious Food and Pastries
Boulangeries (bakeries) are a big part of the French culture, and for good reason. The bread is some of the best in the world – I’m legit drooling just thinking about it.
You can find a boulangerie on almost every corner in France – be sure to try some of the classic French breads, like baguettes, croissants, and pain au chocolat, and some of the more fancy pastries like millefeuille, Paris-Brest, or tarte aux fraises.
And know that true French baguettes are nothing like the American counterpart of “French bread.” Baguettes in France are crusty and crackly on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside and absolute heaven paired with butter or cheese.
Honestly, it’s almost worth visiting Paris just for the bread!
PRO: Iconic Monuments
As you walk through the streets of Paris, you cannot help but be in awe of the impressive monuments you find around the city.
The most famous of these is, of course, the Eiffel Tower, which was constructed for the 1889 World’s Fair and has since become an iconic symbol of Paris. Another well-known monument includes the Arc de Triomphe, which was built to honor the soldiers who fought in the French Revolution.
And of course, no visit to Paris would be complete without a stop at either the Place de la Concorde or Place Vendome – two of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe.
Con: Are There Scams in Paris?
There are a few scams and pushy behavior that you may encounter in Paris.
The first is the bracelet scam. This one happens mostly at Sacre Coeur, where men will come up to you, quickly weave a bracelet from string onto your wrist without asking, and then demand payment. If anyone tries to start a bracelet, or if they ask you to hold their string, say no forcefully and walk away.
The second is the gold ring scam, where the scammer will pretend to have found a ring and then ask if you’d like to buy it. The ring is a fake. Don’t fall for this.
The third, and the one I have encountered over and over and over again, is the petition-signing scam. It’s usually run by younger teenagers or children, and they ask you to sign a petition on their clipboard. If you sign, they’ll demand money, sometimes forcefully, as a donation to their cause. They may also pickpocket you.
Honestly, sometimes even saying a polite “Oh I’m sorry, no thank you” will be seen as encouragement, so I usually just ignore, or just say a confident “no” and continue on.
The last one is the begging woman with a note. Usually they ask “speak English?” and then hold up a note written in English about why they need money. I’ll admit, this one makes me uncomfortable because some people could be legitimately on the streets.
From everything I’ve read, though, this is a scam and you should just say no and keep going. At this point, I usually pre-emptively say “no” or ignore if someone holding a scrap of paper asks if I speak English.
👉My Verdict: Yes, there are definitely scams, but they usually occur in specific places in Paris. The vast majority of these scams happen around Sacré Coeur, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and near the Chatelet/Les Halles metro station.
My biggest advice is now you know what to expect with some of these scams, say no confidently and move on, and don’t let it bother you. You know that someone is going to ask you to sign a petition. Just say no, keep walking, and don’t give it another thought.
PRO: Impressive Haute Couture and Street Style
Paris is known for its high-end fashion brands and haute couture. The city is home to some of the most famous fashion designers in the world, and you can find people walking down the streets dressed in the latest creations from Chanel, Dior, Prada, and more.
And Parisian street style is just as impressive as the runway shows. You can see locals wearing everything from designer clothes to simple jeans and a T-shirt.
The stereotype of well-dressed Parisian women is so strong that you might be a little surprised that Parisian men also dress exceptionally well. 👌
Honestly, I don’t know how they do it, but it’s really true that no matter what they’re wearing, Parisians always look stylish.
CON: Do Parisian Smoke a Lot?
Unfortunately, Parisians are well-known for their love of smoking, and it’s not uncommon to see people lighting up on the street or in restaurants.
Although the rate of smoking is decreasing over the past few years, a full 30% of French people smoke cigarettes (!!!). That number is just so crazy to me.
So yes, there will be times when you’ll smell cigarette smoke on the street.
👉My verdict: True. It’s not like you’ll constantly be enveloped in a haze of cigarette smoke, but sometimes you will smell it.
PRO: Scenic Bridges Over the River
The Seine is a river that runs through the heart of Paris, and it’s one of the things that makes the city so special. The river is lined with beautiful bridges, and each one has its own unique charm. Some of the most famous bridges in Paris are the Pont des Arts, Pont Neuf, Pont Alexandre III, and more.
The Pont Alexandre III bridge was built in the late 1800s and it’s decorated with intricate gold details. This is the fanciest bridge in Paris and is gorgeous!
CON: Is Paris Crowded?
Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and with good reasons, as we discussed above. However, this popularity also comes with a downside- Paris can often be very crowded.
The streets of Paris can be full of people, especially in the summer months when tourism is at its peak. Trying to visit the most famous of the tourist attractions can really feel like you’re packed in.
Public transportation can also be extremely crowded during rush hour, and occasionally you’ll have to wait for another train before being able to board.
👉My Verdict: It really depends heavily on when you visit and what attraction you’re at. But the top sites in Paris can definitely be crowded.
Tip: There are a few ways to avoid the crowds in Paris. One is to visit in the fall, winter, or spring (although fall has become an increasingly popular time to visit Paris).
Another is to visit the most famous attractions first thing in the morning before crowds show up.
And finally, another is to explore all the hidden gems and less popular spots around the city. There is so much more to Paris than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre!
PRO: It’s easy to visit nearby cities from Paris
Thanks to its central location and well-developed transportation system, it’s easy to visit nearby cities like Mont St Michel, the Normandy coast, the chateaux in the Loire Valley, Strasbourg in the Alsace region of France, and even international cities like London and Brussels.
Plus, the Palace of Versailles is only 30 minutes away from the city center and is a must-see for any visitor to Paris.
PRO: The Metro System
If you’re looking for a convenient and affordable way to get around Paris, the metro system is definitely the way to go.
With over 300 stations spread throughout the city, it’s easy to find a station close by no matter where you are. And with trains running every few minutes, you never have to wait long for a ride.
Plus, tickets are relatively cheap compared to other transportation options in Paris.
Tip: You must have your current metro ticket on you for the duration of your time in the metro system. Occasionally, officials will be checking passengers for tickets and you can be fined if you don’t have the right one.
I like to keep all my unused metro tickets in a little pocket of my purse, and then when I pull one out to use for a ride, I keep that ticket in my pants pocket while I’m in the metro system. Then when I exit, I toss it in trash – this helps me keep track of my tickets.
Con – Is there the Smell of Pee?
An unfortunate experience of visiting Paris is that sometimes, you can smell pee. This happens most often in metro stations (but varies considerably between stations – some are nice, and some have some smelly areas).
👉My Verdict: Yes, on occasion
PRO: French is a Beautiful Language
One of my favorite parts of visiting France is listening to all the French being spoken! French is such a lyrical and poetic language and it’s really a treat to hear it being spoken as you walk down the street.
CON – Does Anyone Speak English?
While official stats say that only 20-30% of French people speak English, I’ve found that most French people that you will interface with as a tourist in Paris speak English quite well. So, I’ve found that the “myth” that French people don’t speak English very well is very unfounded.
While many people can speak English with you, it is polite to go into a conversation by asking “do you speak English?” instead of assuming that they do.
👉My Verdict: You will find plenty of French people that speak English
For a more detailed breakdown about how often French people speak English, and a bunch of tips for interacting with French people, check out my “Do French People Speak English“ post!
Con: Are Parisians Rude?
There is definitely the stereotype that Parisians are rude, and perhaps in some ways this could be true. Parisians do tend to be more aloof and arrogant than people in other countries, and even more than people in other cities in France.
Some of this is just due to France having a different culture than many other countries. French people by nature tend to keep more to themselves, and it is not culturally normal to walk down the street and smile at people.
In other ways, I would say that Parisians are more polite than in other countries. When you enter a shop or store, everyone always says “bonjour.” When you leave, everyone always says “goodbye, have a good day.” Always.
Other uses of polite language are very common in French.
French people also appreciate when foreigners respect and appreciate their language. So, asking politely, “excuse me, do you speak English” is generally going to be more well-received than just walking up to someone and speaking in English, without saying hello, please, or thank you.
👉My Verdict: Are there rude people in Paris? Absolutely. There are rude people in every city and country around the world. But I would not classify Parisians in general as rude.
In general, I’ve rarely come across anyone who was rude to me in France. While most people aren’t going to be super warm and immediately welcoming, I’ve had interactions with dozens and dozens of French people and had 99% positive or neutral interactions.
Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Paris
(I recommend walking up the stairs to the second level, and then taking the elevator to the top from there)
Arc de Triomphe
Walk the Seine River
Jardin de Tuileries
Top 5 Hidden Gems in Paris
Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Marché d’Aligre or Marché Saxe-Breteuil
(two open air markets that locals love!)
A Few Other Tips for Visiting Paris
Paris Museum Pass
There are two city passes available in Paris: the Paris Museum Pass and the Paris Pass.
The Paris Pass is more expensive, and in my opinion, not worth it.
I do think that the Paris Museum Pass is a good value and can save you time and money, so I do recommend that one.
The Arrondissement System
Paris is made up of 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods). Each one has a different feel and vibe.
I have a dedicated post on the best arrondissements to stay in Paris for first time visitors here!
And here’s a handy map of the arrondissements:
France uses type C plugs for their electrical cords, so if you’re traveling from the United States, you will definitely need a power adaptor. I like this set of 3 – it’s affordable and you can charge multiple devices at once.
Some of the top museums in Paris are closed one day a week. Notably, the Louvre is closed on Tuesday, and Versailles is closed on Monday, so be prepared for that when planning your itinerary.
However, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe are open every day.
The Perfect Paris Itinerary
Speaking of itinerary planning, I have what I unashamedly consider to be the best itinerary for your Paris trip, for anywhere from 3-7 days. I’ve taken multiple people to Paris for their first visit, and this is essentially what I always follow!
Final Thoughts on If Paris Is Worth Visiting
I 100% think that Paris is worth visiting – it’s an incredible city unlike any other in the world. Of course, there are some cons to visiting – no place is perfect, and there are some downsides to the city.
However, I really think that just being prepared and knowledgeable about both the pros and the cons of the city will help you have a great vacation in Paris. If you’re trying to decide should you visit Paris, I definitely say yes!