If you want to experience French culture in Paris, there are plenty of things for you to do. You don't even have to be fluent in the language to enjoy all that the city has to offer. Instead, just knowing the basics should be enough to let the Paris scene unfold in front of you.
French art galleries, architecture, shopping centers, and much more are waiting for you in the city of lights. But, where should you start to make sure you get the most out of the limited time you have here? From the Eiffel Tower to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés, here are seven things that you can do to get a taste of French culture when visiting Paris.
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Eiffel Tower and The 7th Arrondissement
When in Paris, one of the top things to do is see the Eiffel Tower. The iconic tower is a symbol of both Paris and France, and it offers amazing views of the city. You can either climb up to the top or take the elevator, but either way, be prepared for long lines.
However, there’s also a lot to see and do in the surrounding area, the 7th arrondissement. This is one of the most well-known and affluent areas in Paris, home to many embassies as well as luxury apartments. A stroll through the streets here will give you a good idea of how the other half lives.
Wander across the Invalides to learn more about French history by viewing artifacts from early wars; visit the incomparable Musée d’Orsay to see the works of famous French artists; or have a walk across the Parc du Champ de Mars to experience what people mean when they say “Paris.”
Louvre Museum and the 1st Arrondissement
The Louvre Museum is one of the largest and most famous museums in the world, so it’s no surprise that it’s a must-see when visiting. Home to iconic works like the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, the Louvre is a treasure trove of art and history.
There are plenty of other things to see here as well, from Egyptian antiquities to medieval armor. And, even if you’re not an art enthusiast, the museum itself is worth a visit. It was originally built as a palace in the 12th century and has since been expanded to accommodate its vast collection.
But, when you leave the museum, don't just move on to the next location on your plan. Enjoy what the 1st arrondissement has to give you; it's probably the best neighborhood in Paris for sightseeing.
Stroll through the majestic Tuileries Garden, admire the stained glasswork of Sainte-Chapelle, have a glass of wine in a café located in the garden of the Palais Royale – and then it’s just a walking distance to the Pont Neuf and Île de la Cité.
Montmartre and the 18th Arrondissement
Are you looking for something more quirky, more French, more Parisian? Look no further than Montmartre in the romantic 18th arrondissement. This artists’ district is home to cult brasseries, parks, and cobbled streets. This place offers the best views while retaining a very idyllic, village-like atmosphere.
First off, take the funicular up to the top of the hill to get a great view of Paris. Then, visit the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, a beautiful church that’s even more stunning when lit up at night. And, don’t forget to wander through the streets and stop in at some of the art galleries or cafes to feel like a real Parisian.
Finally, don’t forget to have your picture taken with the Moulin Rouge in the background – it’s an obligatory tourist photo!
Now, when it comes to it… The Moulin Rouge is a world-famous cabaret in Paris that has been running since 1889. If you want to experience the famous French can-can dance, this is the place to go. The dance was actually invented in France and was popularized by the Moulin Rouge.
While the show at the Moulin Rouge has become more modernized over the years, and the building has been rebuilt, it still retains some of its old-world charm. The red windmill on top of the building is hard to miss, and the inside is just as lavish.
Whether you’re a fan of a classic movie or just are looking for an authentic Parisian experience, this is definitely one of the top things to do. Just be warned that tickets can be expensive, so it’s best to book in advance.
Galeries Lafayette and the The Marais Neighborhood
You can’t come to Paris and not go shopping. The Galeries Lafayette is one of the most famous department stores in the world, and it’s located right in the heart of Paris. This store is a combination of luxury brands and more affordable chain stores, so there’s something for everyone.
The building itself is also a work of art, with beautiful Art Nouveau architecture and a gorgeous stained glass dome. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, it’s worth visiting just to see the store.
Now, if you’re unhappy with the Galeries Lafayette and want to act like real French people do, head to the Marais Neigbourhood. Located in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, it’s said to be the best place for shopping, with both affordable fashion stores and chic boutiques located here.
And then, if you get tired, it’s only a short walk to the Notre-Dame de Paris – even though now closed and being rebuilt, it still has a part of that old majesty.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the 6th Arrondissement
Do you want to experience the intellectual side of Paris? Then make your way to Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the 6th arrondissement. Home to the famous Latin Quarter, this the district where you’d find all the famous writers, artists, and city’s intellectuals, like Jean-Paul Sartre – or at least, that’s how it used to be.
Nowadays, it’s a bit more touristy, but there are still plenty of things to do here. With numerous art galleries and antique shops, as well as some of the city’s best small art museums, you won’t be able to get bored there. Even though it’s not as popular as previous places on our list, just trust us on this one.
And, if you need a break from all that walking, stop in one or both of France’s most famous cafes – Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots.
When in Paris: What to Remember
The French way of life is steeped in culture and history. If you want to experience it while visiting Paris, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
For starters, the French are known for being a bit more formal than Americans. So, don’t be surprised if they seem a bit cold at first – give them time to warm up to you, and stay polite.
In addition, the French are very proud of their culture, country, and language. So, don’t be surprised if they get offended if you say something negative about their country or assume that everyone knows English. Learn a few French words in case you need to ask for help – a good first impression makes all the difference.
Fashion takes another important place in Parisian life. Elegance is noticeable even in the most casual of outfits – so get used, for example, to seeing a French woman with that unexplainable je ne sais quoi present in the way she looks.
Finally, the French love to take their time when they eat and enjoy conversation over a meal. Be prepared to relax and take your time when dining out. And, don’t forget to order some wine – after all, it’s an essential part of the French dining experience!
From the many open-air markets and outdoor activities to the major museums and best restaurants – there are many answers to the question “How to experience French culture in Paris?” And this is just a starting point.
So, plan your trip and pack your things. Choose the date when you want to visit Paris carefully – maybe during a national holiday like Bastille Day? – and prepare to properly experience Paris.