Paris, the city of lights, is my favourite city in the world and in my opinion, great to explore solo! My last four trips to Paris have been on my own and I’ve loved each one more and more.
Aside from reading a Paris guide book, there are some things I’ve done over the years that have made my solo trips more enjoyable. I hope my top 10 solo tips will help you on planning your solo Paris trip.
Tip #1 Pick your Arrondissement
What the heck is an arrondissement? Well, it’s what Paris uses to divide itself into districts, numbered from 1-20. The centre of Paris starts at 1 and then it spirals outwards from there. Which arrondissement is right for you will depend on what you want to see, and how central you want to stay.
For your first visit, I would narrow your stay down to the first 1-10 arrondissements. These districts have most of the museums, and tourist attractions that you will be wanting to visit and you’ll be able to walk to quite a few from your accommodation.
My favourite arrondissement is the 6th. This area is known as Saint Germain des Pres and has wonderful cobblestone streets lined with unique boutiques, cafes and wonderful boulangeries. From my place, I could walk to the infamous Cafe de Flore and have un cafe at one of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris.
It’s a good idea to map out what you want to see and try to stay around that area. This will save you commuting time and allow you to get to know a neighborhood well.
Tip #2 Take the train from the airport to the city
The train is the most economical and straightforward way to get from the airport to the center of the city. Prior to buying a ticket, you will need to take a look at where your hotel is situated to check where to change train lines.
The RER B train lines runs every 10-15 minutes from the airport from 5am to 12am. Multi-use tickets and passes are also available but be careful as tickets & passes are subject to fare zone limits, notably with regards to airports. I usually buy a separate ticket for the airport to the city and then a book of 10 tickets- called a carnet from the vending machines at the station.
A single ticket will take you anywhere within the city of Paris on the Métro and RER networks, and you can transfer between lines–or between the Métro and the RER–on the same ticket. I like having a bunch of tickets in my pocket so I don’t have to keep buying a ticket each time I enter a station.
Major stations from airport to city centre:
- Airport- CDG
- Gare Nord
- Chatelet Les Halles
- Notre Dame
*Keep in mind there can be a lot of walking and stairs between changes in metro lines. If you have a ton of luggage or are exhausted, you may want to think about taking a taxi. It’s pricier but it will save your feet!
Tip #3 Don’t pack too much into one day
There are so many attractions and amazing museums to see in Paris, you could spend months seeing them all. Pick the main attractions you really want to see and rank them in order of priority. Then start visiting each in the order of your list. It’s unlikely you will get see everything, so this way you won’t be as disappointed if you hit your must see places first.
Seeing attractions in Paris will take more time than you think mainly because:
- Waiting in line to get into them takes time- you can wait an hour to get into attractions, especially the Lourve, Musee D’Orsay and Notre Dame.
- The actual size of the attractions and crowds means it takes a lot longer to explore them
- You will be tired from walking more than you think- breaks will be needed.
**Solo tip for not waiting in line too long- Buy tickets online if possible- this is especially important for the Lourve, Musee D’Orsay and the Effiel Tower.
Or, join a guided tour of the museum- a lot of times you skip the line and get to meet other people!
Tip #4 Join a food tour!
One of my most favourite things to do in a new city is to try its local food. Instead of trying to investigate all the local food myself, I find joining a food tour at the beginning of the trip to be a better choice. Not only do I get to try great food, I get to do it with fellow travelers who love food. Also, if I join at the beginning of a trip, I can return to my favourite places. Pretty smart eh?
*Solo Travel tip- For those solo travelers shy about eating dinner alone, I suggest you book a food tour for the evening and cover one of your dinners!
I did a fabulous food tour of Montmarte with Secret food tours and am still dreaming of the coffee eclairs! Read all about it here! There are tons of different food tours to do in Paris so take your pick of what interests you…wine and cheese, sweets, gourmet food, food markets, neighbourhood tours as well as the ultimate chocolate tour.
Tip #5 Avoid the scammers
Traveling alone can leave you open to scams from locals who want to take advantage of your lack of local knowledge. Help prevent this by using these tips to avoid scammers in Paris:
- Scammers are everywhere but they especially love train/metro stations, squares, and tourist attractions. Be extra mindful in these areas.
- On the steps of Sacre Coeur Cathedral you will find the “string scam” where someone will walk up to you like they want to shake your hand and put string on your wrist like a bracelet. Avoid these guys, they will ask for money.
- Be weary of friendly strangers who approach you. They usually don’t have your best interest at heart.
- Avoid anyone asking you to sign a petition, they tend to ask for money after you sign.
- If anyone comes up to you asking if you lost a gold ring, keep walking. The ring is a scam where they will ask you for money after they give it to you.
- Pickpockets tend to work in teams and are prevalent on the metro. Be aware of your money and phone on the metro at all times.
- If you really want someone to take a picture of you, make sure you choose the person. Anyone offering to take the picture could be taking your camera. Use your best judgement.
Tip #6 Research some places to eat ahead of time
One of the challenges of traveling solo is dining alone. In Paris, there are so many wonderful restaurants but some can feel a bit romantic to be taking yourself out for a bite to eat.
I recommend doing a little research before you go to find some restaurants that feel comfortable for you. I usually start by looking for places where there is bar seating. This is my favourite way to dine solo since you are seated near other diners but still have some privacy.
Cafes with some outdoor seating are also a great choice. When I’m in Paris and staying in the 6th arrondisement, you will find me dining outside at Les Deux Magots, where you are free to sit for hours with a coffee after dinner, watching the crowds.
If you are feeling more daring, try the website https://www.eatwith.com/ , where you can dine with locals in their homes. It’s a great way to make some connections with Parisians and get tips for the rest of your trip.
Finally, make sure you plan at least one of your meals around a food tour!
Tip #7 See an event while you are in Paris
There are so many amazing shows and events happening in Paris all the time and just because you are solo, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t join in the fun.
On my last trip to Paris, I got last minute tickets to an Opera at the Palais Garnier. The seats ended up being box seats which had a bit of an obstructed view but only cost me 50 euro! Not too bad for a private box.
Solo tip: Join a meetup group for internationals while in Paris. The group https://www.meetup.com/Paris-going-to-the-theatre-Meetup/ has meet ups to see theatre productions in English. What a great way to spend an evening!
Make sure you check what is happening in Paris well in advance of your trip to secure tickets. I usually use https://en.parisinfo.com/discovering-paris/major-events/what-to-do-in-paris to find something fun to see while in town.
Tip #8 Use your feet, the Metro and Uber to get around town
Staying centrally allows you to walk to most of the main attractions and save yourself the hassle of tickets and train stations. However, if you are in Paris for more than two days, your feet will start to hurt from all the walking and you’ll want to conserve your energy.
The metro in Paris is very easy to use and you should not be afraid to use it as a solo traveler. The trains start about 5:30am and run until 1am (and around 2:00am on Friday/Saturday). I would recommend not using it too late at night, especially if you are staying outside of the tourist areas as it can get a bit sketchy.
Most stations will have a large metro map at the entrance and down at the platform level. All you need for the metro is to know what number/colour line you are on and the direction you are going in. Keep in mind, you can be walking a lot between stations to change train lines. Make sure you Keep your ticket until you leave the station. Staff often check tickets and you might be fined if you can’t prove you have a valid ticket.
I only started to use Uber on my last trip and it’s been a life saver. On my way to see the Opera, I was running late and not near any metro stations. I was able to use wifi to call an Uber and made it in time. If you don’t speak French, Uber is a lot more stress free way to get to your destination than a taxi. I would highly recommend using it when you are tired of walking or it’s later in the evening.
Tip #9 Take a class
In a country known for it’s spectacular boulangeries and delectable duck confit, this is where you want to be taking a cooking class. Choose from croissant making to a three course meal and enjoy eating your creations.
Look for cooking classes where a meal is shared afterwards so you have more time to get to know people and enjoy the food. If you are looking for a gourmet cooking class try LeFoodist. If you prefer something a little more casual, try Meet the French, where you can cook in someone’s home.
Beyond food, try a French perfume workshop and leave with your very own perfume to take home.
Tip #10 Understand the culture
If you take sometime to read up about the French culture and social etiquette prior to arriving in Paris, you will be rewarded by a smoother trip.
Meals in France can differ a lot from meals in your home country: think longer and relaxed! Food is extremely important to the culture here so you should prepare to wait a bit to order, then wait for your food between courses and finally you will need to ask for the bill.
Also, wait staff in Paris aren’t into too much chit chat so don’t feel slighted if they seem abrupt.
Meet and Greets
Interactions with everyone should always begin with Bonjour (day)/Bonsoir (evening). This means when you are entering a shop, restaurant or seeing a friend, this should be the first thing out of your mouth. Even if you don’t speak any other French, knowing this phrase is really appreciated by locals. It is polite and respectful to say this when entering anywhere in Paris.
Don’t start kissing everyone
In Paris, it is customary for friends to greet each other with a kiss. When meeting strangers you will shake there hand. On the off chance, someone does go in for the air kiss, remember that you go to your left and don’t actually kiss them, just do an “air kiss”.
I hope these ten tips have been helpful in planning your solo trip to Paris. As I write this, I am dreaming of sitting on a cafe terrase in Paris eating a pain au chocolat and drinking un cafe. Enjoy your trip!!