Don’t miss the rest of our responsible tourism guides:
Thinking of visiting Paris? You’re not alone. The city’s visitor bureau announced an uptick in tourism, citing more than 40 million tourists in 2017 with 23 million hotel arrivals.
Despite suffering a lull in tourism, Paris has exceeded its prior visitor numbers. But the city is more than simply fresh croissants, long strolls along the Seine and the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. Whether you’re traveling to the City of Light for business or pleasure, responsible tourism in Paris is a must. Here’s how to get started.
Start with “Bonjour”
While more and more Parisians may speak English (and be happy to practice their language skills with you), it’s better to start your conversation in French.
When greeting someone new, start by saying “bonjour.” Here in France, not only is it a matter of politesse to greet shopkeepers or servers when walking into an establishment, but your questions feel less abrupt to locals when you start by saying hello first.
Even if you don’t speak French, getting a grasp of the basics (bonjour, merci, and parlez-vous anglais?) can smooth the path to a friendly and meaningful interaction—even if you do need to switch to English.
Explore Off The Beaten Path
The Louvre, Musée Orsay, and the Eiffel Tower may top the lists for sight-seeing, but there’s more to Paris than the heavy-hitters.
Exploring smaller museums like Musée Gustave Moreau, Musée Maillol and Musée Jacquemart-André makes for a deeper connection with what Paris has to offer. Investing time in cultural activities is a worthwhile effort as well. Strolling through the manicured gardens of the Tuileries or le Jardin du Palais Royal, or playing a few rounds of pétanque with friends, makes for a far more enjoyable trip than rushing to check items off a list.
Don’t forget to look up from your smartphone, even if it means getting a little lost. Stepping beyond the confines of Tourist Paris can reveal eateries, artisanal shops and local haunts that will make your stay much more memorable.
While it may be tempting to glide through the multiple layers of Les Halles for name brands, shopping small is one way to boost the local economy and bring home something unique to remember your time in Paris.
Shops like La Super Marquette, Le Rocketship and Sept Cinq work directly with artisans and small businesses to source their wares, while pop-up maker’s markets at community-driven locations like La Recyclerie and Les Grands Voisins offer visitors the chance to shop directly with locals.
Still interested in Paris’ tempting window displays? Opt for French brands like chic fashion from Sézane or St. James, kitchen must-haves from the legendary E.Dehillerin or flavorful jams and savory preserves from La Chambre des Confitures.
Take Public Transport
Say no to bus tours in favor of getting around Paris like a Parisian. Take advantage of the city’s well-connected web of transport options, from the métro to buses to trams.
Better still, take a walk. Unlike many European capitals, Paris is quite walkable. Thanks to 19th-century city planning by Baron Haussmann, visitors and locals alike can enjoy the lines of perspective that allow monuments to take center stage.
Tired? Hop on the métro to get from Point A to Point B efficiently for less than €2. By saying no to companies like Uber, you’re supporting both the local infrastructure and our planet.
Quick Dos and Don’ts for Responsible Travel in Paris
- Do skip chain restaurants in favor of local eateries.
- Don’t sign up for bus tours—invest in local, small group tours instead.
- Do try Vélib’, Paris’ rental bike system for sustainable transport, rather than calling an Uber
- Don’t be afraid to ask locals for recommendations. If you have a connection with someone, chances are they’ll be happy to share one of their favorite places.
- Do choose smaller, locally owned hotels like Hotel des Grands Ecoles or Hotel des Arts rather than Holiday Inn or Ibis.
- Don’t just stick to St. Germain-des-Pres and the Marais. Make sure to eat your way through local quartiers like Belleville and Canal St. Martin, too.
Follow these tips and you can leave Madrid knowing you’ve been a great tourist. Don’t stop there—take a look at the rest of our responsible tourism guides:
Lauren Sarazen is a Paris-based writer and graduate student in literature at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. Falling in love with the French capital during her semester abroad, she has called Paris her home since 2014. She contributes to publications such as The Washington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Shondaland, and intermittently blogs at her website.