Paris has a way of stealing first-time visitors’ hearts within hours of arrival. To help get your impending love affair off on the right foot, follow our quick tips on when to go and what to expect.
When to Go: There’s no bad time to see Paris, though the most consistently pleasant weather generally arrives in late spring and early autumn. Summertime is lovely, as well, though it’s also the busiest tourism season, which means longer queues for major attractions and higher airfares; winter is just the opposite.
Note that August is when most Parisians vacation, so the city is far quieter and many shops and restaurants are closed, particularly outside the main tourist areas.
Language: Do not expect that or assume locals speak English—first ask if they do (“parlez-vous anglais?”), and if they don’t, be prepared in advance by having a bookmarked phrasebook or translation app handy.
Score courtesy points by saying “bonjour,” not necessarily to anyone in particular, when entering stores and restaurants, and “merci, au revoir” when leaving.
Tipping: Modest tips are appreciated; large tips are unnecessary. Round up the fare for taxi drivers, leave 5% to 10% at restaurants—even though service charges are included on the bill—and give hotel housekeeping staff up to €5 (US$5.60) per stay (more for stays longer than three days). Tips of €2 (US$2.20) are appropriate for porters who carry your bag to the room. If you take a guided tour at a museum or other attraction, tip the guide €1 (US$1.10) or €2 (US$2.20) afterwards.
Café Culture: One of the great joys of Parisian life is settling into a sidewalk café table and watching the world go by. Once you find a table, it’s yours until you’re ready to leave, even if you only buy one thing, as it’s considered impolite to rush guests.