My advice for a Paris visit

This is for another friend, here are my pointers:

1. Find a very good food street/corner and take many of your meals there.  I’ve used Rue Daguerre and around Rue des Arts (Left Bank) for this purpose, but there are many others.  Spend most of your money in the cheese shop, asking them to choose for you, but supplement with bread, fruit, and of course chocolate.  This beats most restaurant meals, noting it won’t be cheap either.  And yes it is worth paying $8 for a bar of chocolate there.

2. Do track down medieval Paris, most of all the cathedrals.  This will bring you by other delights as well.

3. Especially on the Left Bank, Paris is one of the very best walking cities.  Avoid Champs-Élysées and environs, a broad-avenued, chain store-intense corruption of what Paris ought to be.  Avoid Jardin Luxembourg and the surrounding parts as well, they are urban deserts.

4. Get a peek of the major bridges over the Seine, if only by traversing them.

5. You don’t in fact have to stand in line to see the Mona Lisa.  It’s a lovely painting, but at this point in human civilization it is OK to skip it.  You don’t need to hear “Bohemian Rhapsody” again either.  But you should go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  And in the Louvre, don’t neglect the Poussin room, the Michelangelo sculptures, or the Flemish and 17th century works.

6. The Louvre, d’Orsay, Cluny, and Branly (ethnographic) are the essential museums in town.  Check out Grand Palais and Petit Palais for possible exhibits.  When walking around, keep your eye out for posters (yes, posters) advertising exhibits and concerts.

7. If you want to spend forty euros for a very good but not revelatory lunch, find a “cool” area with lots of restaurants and poke your head in at their opening, at 12:30, to ask for a table.  By 12:45 it is too late and you are screwed and back to your favorite cheese shop.  By the way, I don’t think Paris is the best city in which to spend $200 on a meal.

8. In most of the parts of Paris you are likely to frequent, do not try to eat any Asian or “ethnic” foods.  The best restaurants of those kinds are in north Paris, on the way to the airport, but no one visits there.  Couscous in Paris is boring.

9. Belleville is the gentrifying Brooklyn of Paris, with relatively few tourists, if that is what you are looking for.  Avoid Montmartre.  For practical reasons, I’ve spent a lot of my Paris time near Unesco, in a neighborhood that is a bit sterile but very beautiful and it gives you a decent sense of well-to-do residential Paris life.  Develop your mini-Paris residential life somewhere, and make your time there more than just a tourist visit.  The site I should not enjoy but do is Le Dôme des Invalides, also the tomb of Napoleon.

10. The essential Paris movies are lots of Godard (Breathless, Band of Outsiders, others), Jules and Jim, and Triplets of Belleville.  Agnes Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7 for those with an experimental bent.  Eric Rohmer for something light-hearted.  Amélie and Before Sunset are both rewarding, though at the margin Godard usually is what Americans are lacking.

11. Carry along Hugo and Balzac to read.  Flaubert and Proust are wonderful, but they are more “interior” authors and thus you can imbibe them anywhere.  Do not forget Houllebecq’s Submission.  I do not love most of the well-known non-fiction books on Paris; perhaps they become corrupted through the chance of being truly popular.  Do read Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France and try to dig up a useful architectural guide to the city.  I’m also a big fan of Hazel Rowley’s Tete-a-Tete: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.

12. Don’t go expecting Parisians to be rude, I have never (well, once) found that to be the case in more than six months spent in the city.

13. My overall take is this: Paris today is fairly sterile in terms of overall creativity, or for that matter business dynamism.  But Parisians have perfected the art of taste along a number of notable dimensions, like nowhere else in the world.  If your trip allows you to free ride upon those efforts in a meaningful way, it will go very well.


I always felt treatment in Paris to be unfriendly at best and occasionally downright hostile. So much so that I was really pleasantly surprised when finally spending some time in France outside of it...

I spent some time in a small city south of Brest. The locals opinion of Parisians is pretty close to your average American's opinion of New Yorkers.

I find Parisians to be unfriendly. The restaurants owned and run by immigrants seem much more accommodating. Learn the Metro it is the best way to get around and it is often entertaining with musicians performing for tips. Speaking of performers Paris is full of street performers and some of them can be thugs, watch yourself. If you are planning on walking in Paris then you should walk the Champs-Élysées. Walk it from the arc de triomphe to the place de concorde. It is worth seeing. Do it on a Saturday or Sunday when they have open markets set up and yes there will be crowds. Visit the Arc de triomphe and walk the stairs, at least take the stairs down if your not up to walking up. Of course go up the Eiffel Tower and walk to the Jardins du Trocadero for the best pictures. Hint be at the Eiffel Tower early or you will wait in line behind a thousand tourists. Paris is a city of bridges so walk the bridges they are like outdoor museums. Take a river tourist boat, yes it is touristy but you can see the bridges and other sights from a different perspective. Visit Notre Dame, walk along the Canal St Martin (but do it on a weekday preferably between 10 am and 4 pm. Parts of this route can be a little sketchy with homeless camps etc. But they seem to be more calm during the midday.).

Parisiens are not rude per se, but they have a neurotic sense of protocol and manners that is thrown off if: 1) you do not speak French; 2) you do not behave in ways that are expected of you. People there tend to get irritated by excursions from prescribed behavior.

There is a ritualistic politeness in personal interactions that is easily missed if one is not paying attention, but is obvious if you are. When you walk into a store, you should always say bonjour. And then a script follows where each party says something, and the other responds, usually in polite, hushed tones.

It's definitely a much more formal culture than in the US or even the UK.

This. Excellent comment. Foreigners, particularly Anglos, have an arse-about view of the French as chill, relaxed and informal when in reality they are amongst the most stiff, formal and conservative people you'll meet in terms of their social interactions. Parisians have the deserved reputation for rudeness and arrogance of all mega-city types, but the social formality of the French is a very important angle that is consistently misinterpreted by the English, Americans etc.

As a life-long Parisian, most Americans in Paris look seriously rude because they are waaaaaayy too casual.
Imagine someone going around your city in bathing suit talking to you in a foreign language without caring if you understand it and touching your face or torso out of nowhere.
That's how I feel about most American tourists, and I am barely exaggerating.

Perhaps that's why Japanese and Parisiens have gotten along very well historically. Japanese are the Parisiens of the East in terms of, well, manners.

What are the best cities to spend $200 ona meal?

Have you done a travel guide like this for Madrid?

Bamako. Sure, the jollof has a lot of sand in it as well as the occasional fly, but when you order the beef you get the whole cow and you can't beat that for value.

In Osaka or Kobe you can get an amazing meal for $200.

Good guide for this city. I enjoyed reading it.

Napoleon's tomb. Yes, I also went there for some reason. The area seems different somehow. Im glad I went.

Some of my tips for the other virtue signallers:

1. Agree with Tyler that musee d'Orsay is essential and I think it is better than the Lourve. However favourite art museum was the Picasso museum, a must visit.

2. Go to Rodin's garden, no need to go inside just buy the cheap ticket and walk around the garden itself.

3. Two unmissable museums are the Paleontology and comparative Anatomy Gallery and the History of Medicine museum at the University Descartes.

4. French food will be must worse than you expect it to be, and you will eat more cheese than you expect.

5. The Latin Quarter around the University is more interesting than the Marais.

6. Galleries Lafayette is underrated as a Department store and especially their own brand. Find the food court in the building across from the main building and buy some dumplings to take home and eat.

7. Take a day trip to the palace of versailles its an easy train on the RER C line.

8. I normally like visiting foreign supermarkets but French supermarkets aren't that interesting, and also close early and perhaps not at all on Sundays.

9. The following things are scams: Cup-in-ball game, gypsies with petitions about deaf people, people who tie strings around your wrist, people who find gold rings and ask if they're yours. Ignore them.

10. To get to the arc de triumph there's an underground walkway from one of the corners, don't cross the crazy road

"you will eat more cheese than you expect."

Groundskeeper Willie didn't call them cheese-eating surrender monkeys for nothing.

+1 for the Rodin Museum. Take lunch and have a picnic.

Yes, my first two reactions were the same as your #1 and #2.

Definitely the Picasso museum a must.

+1 for #6: and #9 - if you are approached, you are being targeted for pickpocketing.

'But you should go to the top of the Eiffel Tower'

Actually, going to the top is not really worth it - the second level is better, while the top is disappointing. Including the fact that the view of Paris is not improved by going to the top.

The Pompidou is worth at least walking in front of - there tends to be a certain amount of entertainment value in both the building and the people around it.

And for someone with 6 months in Paris, no remarks about walking under the bridges over the Seine is a bit glaring, as is the lack of any mention of using the Metro (which can be intriguingly confusing but very cheap) - Parisians do not seem to have abandoned this 20th century technology, and it also has an interestingly distinctive smell, different from DC's Metro. Along with not noting that Paris has a fascinating street cleaning system - the curbs are flooded, and the flowing water carries away debris. Which is useful considering that much of residential Paris is filled with the end products of dog ownership, requiring a fair amount of attention while walking. The Parisians might have developed taste to an art form, but they are remarkably unconcerned about a number of other things.

Are there more attractive women at the top level than the second? Are people talking too much there? Should you ascend an hour before sunset? What is the most contrarian signal of our own cleverness can we send?


'Are there more attractive women at the top level than the second?'

No idea - but the top level is not very expansive, not does it provide much of an attractive place to actually meet someone.

'Are people talking too much there?'

No idea. One would assume that is highly variable, both in terms of one's perception, and the number of people talking too much at any given time.

'Should you ascend an hour before sunset?'

Absolutely no idea. Especially as the weather would likely play an unpredictable role involving such a framework.

'What is the most contrarian signal of our own cleverness can we send? '

No idea - but since you pay for each level, I'm certain that personally, there will be no need to ever pay to go to the top level again. YMMV, of course. And as an American, it took a while to get used to the idea of always paying for the next level of an attraction, with minimal or no mention that further fees would be required. The place that carried this to a ridiculous extreme was the bishop's residence in Salzburg, by the way. The Eiffel Tower was not particularly noteworthy in terms of deceptive pricing, as I recall.

The suggestion about Montparnasse is quite accurate too - though the Eiffel Tower is not just about the view, it is about the engineering.

(Interesting comment - obviously, the British have an entirely different set of Eiffel Tower perspectives than Americans.)

I should likely add that growing up near DC, where essentially all major museums (a number of which are among the finest found on the globe) are free, it did take a while to get used to the idea that in Europe, free is a rare concept. In terms of DC, this is in major part due to this citizen of the UK, born in Paris -

To give a very specific example of this concept, the USS Constitution, the oldest ship in commission in the USN, is free to visit. The Victory in Portsmouth, however .Compare and contrast -


About the metro: When the buzzer sounds, the doors are REALLY about to close, and hard, and won't reopen.

Great guide, really made me want to go again. No night life tips, so I would offer taking in the Folies Bergere. Unforgettable. Also maybe a step-down bar or two in the latin quarter. Wouldn’t try hitting on French women, but Italian tourists are great fun to share drinks with. And the Hotel du Mont Blanc there is a really Parisy-place to stumble back to.

Oh and for other books to read, if you didn’t check out Patrick Modiano back when he got the Nobel, a trip to Paris is much more of a reason than really necessary to do it now. He really was a good pick:

Just a trivial remark from an exiled Parisian. There seems to be a typo in 1. Rue Daguerre is left bank, in the 14th arrondissement (district). The arrondissement 5,6,7 and 13, 14, 15 are left bank. The other ones (up to 20) are right bank.

What cities today offer the best of what Paris used to be?

Bordeaux would be my pick. Lots of small shops, a cultivated urbanity and regional pride, plenty of wine and cheese...

Great guide. The Musee d’Orsay is excellent. Try a bakery in the morning for freshly made bread or croissants.

Canal Saint Martin area worth visiting (lots of Amelie filmed there)

The Discovery of France is worth reading, but I don't find it essential for a Paris trip. Its main achievement with regard to Paris is putting the city in context within the whole country - defining it in contrast with and in relation to the rest of France rather than taking magnifying glass to it. Highly recommended nonetheless.

Surely C'était un rendez-vous is the definitive Paris movie, and only 8 minutes long.

Do spend some time around rue Montmartre in the 2nd, from Grands Boulevards down to Étienne Marcel. Rue du Nil has a great restaurant scene.
Do spend some time in the Jardins du Palais Royal, the most underrated garden in town.
Have a drink along the Canal St Martin if the weather allows it. In Rue Alibert, check Au Quai for it’s great selection of bio and natural wines.

Some thoughts:

3. I agree that Paris is one of the very best walking cities. When me and my now wife - then girlfriend - visited Paris several years ago, our favourite day was one in which we wandered more-or-less aimlessly from La Villette to Île de la Cité over the course of several hours, detouring for anything that caught our interest.

5. I'm glad someone else has made the observation that it's OK to skip the Mona Lisa. It is most definitely overrated; take advantage of this. There are plenty of more interesting things to see in the Louvre and the rest of the museum is less busy because everyone is clambering to get a glimpse of Lisa.

7. This raises the question: In your opinion, which is the best city in which to spend $200 on a meal?

12. Agreed. My general experience with Parisians is that they are perfectly polite and friendly. I am not sure where the stereotype of them as rude comes from, but it is not substantiated by my personal experience, quite the contrary!

Overall, this strikes me as far better advice than your guide to a 10.5 hour layover in Los Angeles. Although I have only spent a few days in each of these cities.

Salespeople at luxury shops in Paris are rude. It sells more.

Ah. I don't tend to frequent luxury shops much. Are they significantly ruder than salespeople at luxury shops elsewhere?

Also, how would being rude sell more? If a salesperson were rude to me, I would be less inclined to make a purchase from them and more likely to take my business elsewhere.

> I’m glad someone else has made the observation that it’s OK to skip the Mona Lisa.

Literally EVERYONE makes this observation.

Literally everyone?!

According to Wikipedia:
'In 2014, 9.3 million people visited the Louvre. Former director Henri Loyrette reckoned that "80 percent of the people only want to see the Mona Lisa."'

Nobody goes to see the Mona Lisa any more, it's too crowded.

Hey, attribution please!

Do the women still not shave their pits? When I was there, they didn't groom their privates and their anuses either, which was pretty gnarly. Back then women everywhere didn't groom their privates, and hairy bushes are fine, but hairy bottoms are a bit too much.

"...they..." How many are we talking about Bob?

Well, maybe he was using a non-binary pronoun. And judging by the grooming, even more so.

The view from the top of the Eiffel tower is underwhelming, you can get much better ones from the big tower in Montparnasse by the cemetery or the arch in La Defense. Ambling along the Promenade Plantee elevated gardens and streets in St Germaine and Le Marais on a Sunday is a great use of time.

Bob, they'll shave if you ask them to. Seriously, just ask.

Hi ! Parisian here - I agree with most pointers.

If you absolutely must splurge on a meal in Paris, I suggest lunch at La Tour d'Argent - much cheaper than dinner (though obviously onerous), and you can enjoy the (exceptional) view by day - the context and scenery alone make it unique, even more so than the food.

The quais de Seine are a pleasant walk. Bikes are a convenient way to visit the city - walking is great too. The metro is underrated imo (much simpler than NYC subway of even the London tube). The RER is great (though often crowded) when it works, but often unreliable.

When you're done with the essentials, it might be fun to walk around residential areas such as the 16th arrondissement. These places are not very touristic, or hip, but are interesting in that they uniformly display a nice Hausmanian architecture that people actually live in (whereas beautiful buildings in the 8th arrondissement have often been transformed into shops). Overall the 16th district (which is mostly sterile) will give you a more accurate view of well-to-do bourgeois Parisian life then the 7th district (which has more tourism, and is more international) if that's what you're into.

The permanent collections of musée Pompidou are good for a history of 20th century art, in France and elsewhere.

Trendy places are to be found in the northeast, although many have become a parody of themselves (Canal St Martin isn't disruptive by any measure, but it's still a nice place to hang out in). Bastille has cool bars.

Buttes Chaumont is a good park - parc Monceau, very cold, but beautiful (especially in the Winter).

Latin quarter... is high variance. Rue de la Huchette is terrible, but some places further uphill are cuter.

Tea at the Paris mosque is good.

Go to Musée Rodin, especially for the gardens and do try the exhibitions at Grand palais if they seem interesting.

Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine is on the Trocadéro, good for the history of french architecture. Walking around te city looking for specific styles can be fun (Guimard and art nouveau, art déco, etc...)

Bois de Boulogne has some nice places (the lakes for example), mentioned in Proust. I agree that Proust is an "interior" author even though, much of the humor in his works hinges on the social satyre of certain signalling games (which often subsist nowadays, in different forms). There is a precise feel to the declining seaside resort that is Balbec, that can still be captured in places such as Etretat, Dinard or Cabourg... Still, better off reading Balzac, Zola, Hugo, ...

For literary types I suggest Musée de la vie romantique (good for honeymooners too), the House of Balzac.

Escapades out of the city: Versailles is a must, then there's Vaux le Vicomte and Fontainebleau, or the Saint Denis basilic, and the Chartres and Rouen cathedrals.

I agree with 13, including the creativity and dynamism parts.


I agree with most of your points.

On La Tour d'Argent, it has been on a long slide, but still good if one sticks to the essentials, the pressed duck and the grand marnier souffle. Of course their legendary wine list is legitimately legendary. When it lost its third star (now down to only one) then longtime owner Claude Terrail declared that "there are worse things than death." Shortly after he said that a three star restaurateur in Cote d'Or committed suicide when it was rumored his restaurant was about to lose its third star.

Excellent post. The best from this thread so far imho (I'm also Parisian...)
I really enjoyed Tyler's suggestions as well, although I have reservations particularly on #9 (Bellevile is overrated, Montmartre is always nice) and #13 (the Parisian region is very lively business-wise but productive areas do not overlap much with touristic places - e.g. La Défense with is the main business district, but also a very boring place and the "plateau de Saclay").

As a (young) Parisian, I would also recommend:
- Science museums! Particularly museum d'histoire naturelle / palais de la découverte / cité des sciences (although I would recommend checking beforehand if they have documentations in English)
- Asian art museums Guimet / Cernuschi (same advice)
- Ballets at the Opera Garnier/Bastille - depending on the programme
- Lots of hip bars near Pigalle, if this is what you are looking for

The city is a lot more diverse than what most people expect, so wandering around is strongly advised to capture some of it

Finally I would suggest renting an apartment on Airbnb in a residential district with some animation, maybe the 17th near Levis / Batignolles or 14th near Pernety or Cité des Fleurs (more "working class" - for lack of a better word)

Approach the Eiffel Tower walking from the Trocadero metro for a great view. Major queues for going up the Eiffel Tower, pre-booking on the Internet is a good idea. Going up the Montparnasse Tower is a good Plan B.

Famous old cafes and restaurants on Boulevard Montparnasse - Le Select, Le Dome, La Cupole worth a look.

Travel infrequently to Paris on business and several other parts of France on holiday. Never had any problems with politeness in Paris as a single English traveller with basic French. In fact the only time I've systemically encountered rudeness in France was in Haute Normandie/Pas de Calais area.

Visit the Place des Vosges on Sunday. The music, the art, the off-beat characters. Fascinating.

The Louvre is so big that unless one has several days to visit it, visit smaller galleries instead. I highly recommend the Picasso museum (not far from the Place des Vosges).

I was fascinated by the Bouquinistes along the Seine. I understand that the number has dwindled since I was there, but I'd still devote a little time browsing.

Don't eat at the famous and very expensive restaurants. Find where locals eat and go there. Something that fascinated me is all the temporary restaurants that appear out of nowhere along the sidewalks about dinner time. If you rent an apartment, plan on eating in. The quality of the produce and fruits and the fish and meats in the little groceries far exceeds what we are accustomed to in America.

Don't rent a car. We have little roundabouts in my low country community that baffle the tourists, who cause all manner of mayhem. The roundabouts in Paris combine massive size, congestion, and breakneck speed. Not for the inexperienced. Walk everywhere. If you must go far, the metro is highly efficient. But I would not have used it absent my French speaking and reading friend. As with all things French, crime is much more subtle than we are accustomed to in America. Yes, they do have pick pockets.

Make an effort to be polite, even if it's a simple hello or goodbye in French.

On my trip to Paris I enjoyed the following...

A walk through the marais and the place des Vosges.

An evening walk along the champs elysee. I think I get what TC is saying here, but when I was there in 99 this was the most beautiful, spectacular piece of urban planning I had ever encountered. Particularly when it ends at the Arc de Triomphe which blew me away by its size and grandiosity. I had seen other wannabe arched in NYC and other European capitals but none compared to the real deal in Paris. Also a walk through place de la Concorde thinking about all the guillotines set up here during the revolution.

Picasso museum. Maybe the best museum in the world to fully understand the work of one artist. And it’s the perfect size where you don’t walk away overwhelmed. It was a joy.

Strolling the streets on the little islands in the Seine. Just plopping down on a park bench and taking it all in was a highlight of one of my days there.

Following the crowd for lunch at one of those places filled with office workers where they sit you with random strangers who probably won’t say a word to you and not even notice your presence. I had an awesome lunch for cheap and got in some great observations of the Parisian business set. Couldn’t believe that nobody batted an eye at a scruffy haired American backpacker at their table!

Like TC says, just wander a bit every day. Paris is the most aesthetically beautiful large city I have ever visited and probably the most unique as well.

One question: why shouldn’t you enjoy the Invalides museum? Because Napoleon is buried there? This was another highlight of my trip.

I’m sure it’s changed a lot in the past 20 years but man, did Paris leave a strong impression on me.

Very food advices, I think. this is what I do when I am a tourist in my own city, when I come back during summer or for work. I do not think these advices are less valuable now that they were in 1999.

meant "very good advices", sorry.

What about Père Lachaise Cemetery? August Comte, who inspired the Brazilian 1889 Revolution, Oscar Wilde, Allan Kardec, George Méliès, Balzac and Arago are buried there.

It's dead these days.

But it shall rise again!

I'll add Edith Piaf to the list.

Jim Morrison, Marcel Proust, Moliere, and Frederic Chopin too. It's a cavalcade of famous corpses!

It is a great place. A friend of mine visited it and said it is very beautiful and one can feel Brazilian history come alive.

I hear you can really feel Brazilian history come alive at the grave of U.S. president Benjamin Harrison. Also Dayton, Ohio for some reason.

It is a lie. There are no reasons for that, at all.

Free-riding on another culture’s comparative advantage is actually a pretty accurate way of describing tourism

Nothing about Paris tourism is free.

Go to the Centre Pompidou, they have a magnificent collection of modern art, especially Yves Klein.
The Musée Albert Kahn in the suburbs is a treat in itself - a French banker sponsored a "planetary archive" with thousands upon thousands of autochromes from the 1910s. Very interesting, and the garden is quite beautiful.

Go to a market in the late morning and buy oysters, some white wine, bread, cheese and some charcuterie.

#5. Going to see the Mona Lisa and being disappointed (by the crowds, by the small size, by the reflective glass) is the only thing that makes the experience memorable. And perhaps it will lead you away from the 'fetishization of the original' in art. The Mona Lisa is best experienced as a high-quality print or displayed on good monitor (as is the case for most paintings). There's a French web site that hosts a high-res scan ( -- although it doesn't seem to be working at the moment (perhaps it's on strike as well). But, really, you're already so familiar with the Mona Lisa, that further exposures are unlikely to provide any marginal value. Don't waste your time seeking out the originals of art you already know well.

'The Mona Lisa is best experienced as a high-quality print or displayed on good monitor'

No, it is simply differently experienced. Better or worse is subjective.

One of the most surprising things about seeing art in person is that printed or displayed images are not the same thing, The truth of this being most dramatically seen at an exhibition of Van Gogh's skull paintings at the old Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. The impasto turned at least one of the most striking 'paintings' into a sculpture, essentially.

"No, it is simply differently experienced. Better or worse is subjective."

Yes, well, seeing it partially occluded by the back of another tourist's head is also a different experience -- you might claim it's better to be able to see the whole painting rather than only part of it, but who can really say? That's just your opinion, man.

"The impasto turned at least one of the most striking ‘paintings’ into a sculpture, essentially."

But that is an exception. It is worth going to see sculptures (and buildings and spaces) in person. Though it doesn't have to be the original. If you are in Florence and pressed for time, I'd say that it's better to go see the copy of David standing in its original location than the original tucked away in a museum.

'Yes, well, seeing it partially occluded by the back of another tourist’s head is also a different experience'

Well, luckily., seeing this painting for free at the National Gallery of Art in DC did not include that experience -'_Benci or here (with an amazing long address string that might not survive posting - )

'But that is an exception.'

Almost by definition, all great art is exceptional. Though I cannot agree with the sentiment, many people say that the actual presence of a Rothko painting is indescribable - and considering their size, clearly impossible to duplicate in a book or on a screen.

"Well, luckily., seeing this painting for free at the National Gallery of Art in DC did not include that experience"

That painting is a nice example. With that link you provided it's possible to experience both the overall composition and to zoom in to admire the artistic craftsmanship of the details. The highlights in her ringlets -- almost down to the individual strand of hair -- are stunning. And I have now, just in a minute, from the comfort of my desk chair, experienced that work of art in a deeper way that would be possible in person. I could not approach the real thing closely enough (within inches) to see the same things -- at least not without setting off an alarm or having a security person come charging across the room.

Until a computer screen is big enough to view the entire painting, a screen won't be sufficient. They're usually too small. It is a tool to improve the experience, as you mention below with the ringlets. But seeing something with the naked eye, if possible, is always going to be better than a pixel on a screen. When a painting is under glass it's true that it takes a way a lot. But that's not always the case. Same as when you mention big crowds. The Mona Lisa might actually be an example where a computer screen is better than the real thing, but that's a rare example.

Until a computer screen is big enough to view the entire painting, a screen won’t be sufficient.

Well, in the case of Genevra de' Benci, the original is apparently only about 15 inches square, so my 4K monitor is actually big enough. And my 4K flat screen TV is larger than the great majority of paintings.

But why is actual size more important than visual angle (determined by both size and distance)? And at an art gallery, don't you often view the same painting from different distances to appreciate different aspects of it? And how is that different --perceptually, psychologically -- than panning and zooming an image (except that the latter is much more convenient).

But seeing something with the naked eye, if possible, is always going to be better than a pixel on a screen.

That's not my experience. Paintings in museums are often dimly/unevenly lit (in part to protect the work from damage), and there's often a shadow from the heavy frame or glare from the varnish. Prints and scans never include these flaws. And where a painting has faded or shows color shifts, that can be corrected in the scan and print -- making it possible to see how the work appeared originally and not in its deteriorated state. This same approach to 'restoring' paintings is sometimes even done with the original:

"That’s not my experience. Paintings in museums are often dimly/unevenly lit (in part to protect the work from damage), and there’s often a shadow from the heavy frame or glare from the varnish. Prints and scans never include these flaws. And where a painting has faded or shows color shifts, that can be corrected in the scan and print — making it possible to see how the work appeared originally and not in its deteriorated state. This same approach to ‘restoring’ paintings is sometimes even done with the original:"

These are good points and I hear you. Recently I've been thinking the same thing quite often in museums I've visited. But I think you're still missing something from a reproduction. It's like going to a live concert, or hearing the recording afterward. Something about being the presence of the painting, seeing the brushwork and it's thickness especially, that I don't think can be fully conveyed through a screen.

Perhaps they're best viewed as compliments for each other?

For what it’s worth, I do remember sitting down in the Uffizi and staring at Boticelli’s Venus for a good hour, completely still, in awe, and hardly able to move my eyes away.
I can’t imagine doing that with a screen of sorts, unless heavily sedated.

Mentally note the streets named after mathematicians:

10. Le Pont du Nord (and much else of Jacques Rivette); The Parisian-set films of Jean Rouch (Chronicle of a Summer, Little by Little, The Punishment); Who Are You, Polly Magoo? (William Klein); Holy Motors (Leos Carax).

stay in the latin quarter (arrondissements 5 and 6)
in the marais, the musee picasso is a must see

An underrated museum that we actually almost skipped is the Orangerie. Highly recommended. I’m a big fan of independent guided tours - by someone who can give you both the standard background and an idiosyncratic perspective - and we found a great one at Orangerie.

Rod Dreher on his blog talked about how bad the coffee is now in Paris. To the point he was actively searching out Starbucks. I found this crazy, but it's been so long since I've been in Paris perhaps something horrible happened to the coffee culture since I was there.

Does anybody with recent experience have an opinion on this? One of the pleasures of my stay in Paris was stopping for a long while at one of the beautiful cafes, perhaps the Cafe Deux Magots?, reading and enjoying a perfect cafe creme.

I’m talking espresso. I have found the coffee is Europe to be mostly awful. It seems that the original lever machines that were widespread gave way to motorized machines and now over the last 10+ these in turn gave way to pod or other automated machines.

Naturally there are still places here and there in Europe that offer a genuine espresso. However, nowadays the finest espresso is found in Australia and on the West coast of North America.

I think he was referring to espresso too. Wow, I'm shocked. A real shame. I learned to like coffee living in Madrid.

I traveled most recently in Italy in the fall of '16, and found the coffee there still delicious. The sheer essence of coffee that is no more than a sip or three. It's so intense they usually give you a water chaser.

The coffee in France is famously bad. Some say it is because they buy from former French colonies whose coffee plantations are low elevation and grow inferior beans. Could be.

But there is also that perception among Americans because coffee in America has gotten quite good over the last 20 years. So while a random ham sandwich from any cafe in France is many times better than what ifsfound in the US, it is surprising to find the coffee at the same cafe that is no better or even worse than your local American coffee shop.

My Italian friends had another explanation about why coffee is bad in Paris (and often worse in the rest of France). First, coffee is espresso in Paris : no one ever drinks a long coffee made in a traditional coffee machine with paper filter outside of home. Now French bar have good professional espresso (that French call Expresso, or even Express) machines, but they do not use them well: they should be washed thoroughly very frequently, even several times an hour, in order to remove the fat left by the coffee powder. Otherwise you have the taste of that fat, which is quite sour, in your coffee, and that's what makes it bad.

5. Top of Tour Montparnasse, not top of Eiffel Tower. The top of Tour Montparnasse is the only vista in Paris not polluted by Tour Montparnasse.

5.Audioguide tour of the architecture of the Louvre: Treasures you would not notice otherwise. Also the exhibit of the ancient Louvre in the basement.

14: Got kids? The science museum is incredible.

Very sad post that has made me less likely to go to Paris in the future. The highlight of the city is expensive cheese??

See the Catacombs. Standing amid thousands of long-dead people stacked like logs will give a new perspective on your life.

I translate.
#1 Being an American you are clueless about cheese and choco.

#2 Always say loudly "I prefer the English cathedrals."

#3 You are so stupid and ignorant that you hadn't realised that strolling in Paris is a great pleasure.

#4 Investigate the proposition that the best view of a bridge is rarely from the bridge itself.

#5 Mr Cowen's opinions on the Mona Lisa and Poussin are quite the opposite of mine.

#6 Museums are essential.

#7 Lunch!!!

#8. Mr Cowen and I are of like mind on Parisian couscous.

#9. Don't piss about - buy a flat.

#10 Mr Cowen proposes that you waste your precious time in Paris by sitting in the dark.

#11 Mr Cowen recommends Robb's excellent The Discovery of France but omits his Parisians. Hmmm.

#12 Mr Cowen doesn't recognise rudeness.

#13 Blether, blether, blether, still a nice spot to visit.

I like the juxtaposition of #3 and #12 on this list. You're a clown.

You didn’t tell him or us anything new. But that’s fine, we wouldn’t be reading this is we weren’t observant.

Sorry for hogging the thread, but on the topic of movies set in Paris, a great but obscure one is 'The Mother and the Whore' by Jean Eustache. It was made a little bit after the heyday of the new wave in the 60's, but still can fit into that movement, or at least it is the continuation of it. (I love Godard and Rohmer as well but they're already mentioned above and don't need any more praise).

This knocked my socks off the first time I saw it in my early 20's in college. I re-watched it a few years ago and it didn't move me as much. Still, it's entirely set (and I believe filmed) in Paris and will give you a visual glimpse of cafe life as it existed in the 70's. Slackers hanging out, drinking aperitifs, reading Balzac, and discussing women. My young ideal of the life of a Parisian! (not referring to the rest of the movie, which is pretty dark and kind of depressing, but still moving).

I don't believe it is on DVD yet. The other Eustache movie I have seen, "My Little Loves" is wonderful and very different from 'Mother and the Whore', but not set in Paris. This one is even harder to find.

Great film. If you like this sort of (to some) infuriatingly French film then check out Late August, Early September. I love both of these.

Thanks for the recs, I will check them out.

My recommendations: I studied in France, but only visited Paris, so some of these depend on speaking French. Also, these are based on having little money, since I was a student.

1) If you drink, wine is much better value in France than cocktails.
2) At most restaurants, get the menu; it may only be available for lunch.
3) Go to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont; watch guignol. (The shows there seem less tourist-focused than those in the more central areas.)
4) I'll disagree on couscous; it may be better elsewhere, but the area around Parc des Buttes-Chaumont has excellent couscous. Get merguez.
5) Go to the Comedie Francaise and see a Moliere play. (Or anything else, I suppose--but Moliere is their specialty.) You can stand in line for a last-minute, poor seat for 5 euro and the plays are still impressive.
6) If I had to choose between day trips, I'd pick Chartres over Versailles.

1) is perfectly right. Complement (for those who have a little money). After a nice dinner, if you want an alcohol, instead of the more traditional brandy (cognac, armagnac), try a good calvados...

What is this "art of taste" that Parisians have perfected?

Two tips: 1) for women: carry a purse that zips up securely; and 2) for men: cargo pants that have zipped or tightly buttoned pockets. Pickpocketing is an industry in Paris.

Read Zola as well, the Parisian Rougon-Macquart novels, especially the financial ones (La Curee and L'Argent) and the one about Le Bon Marche/the Bezos of 19th century Paris (Au bonheur des dames).

I have had quite nice Japanese food near Palais Royal. Avoid Italian food.

And go to the Musee Nissim de camando.

One memorable experience I had was attending a concert at La Sainte Chapelle. A group called Ars Antiqua (different I think from the American ensemble with the same name) performed their eponymous music with period instruments, including vocals by a countertenor.

I don't know if that chapel was used for solely musical purposes in medieval times, but it was cool to sit in the pews listening to music that might've been the same music that people in those pews listened to hundreds of years ago.

Also I agree with the commenter who suggests seeing the view from the Tour Montparnasse, a better view than from the Eiffel Tower (but by all means go to the Eiffel Tower too, I mean how can you not go).

Only an idiot would eat "Mexican" food in Paris.
My experience is that the French cannot even cook pasta properly in an "Italian" restaurant.
If you eat Basque ( food, is that ethnic?

5. It's France, for goodness' sake! See Chardin and Watteau in the 18th century French rooms (and, if it's sunny , van Eyck's Chancellor Rolin and the Virgin).
6. If you don't need masterpieces and want museums with a Parisian flavor, try the Cognacq-Jay and Carnavalet. The Pompidou was rejected by Mr.C, but the Matisses there are excellent.
That said: if you aren't in the highly touristed spots, rudeness shouldn't be a problem (and I had good couscous near the Cluny, so there).

1# Food has never been better in Paris for the past 30 years. You can eat wonderful meals for 20 euros. Check websites like and avoid Brasseries. Only tourists and countryside people eat there.
Spending time in Paris and eating mostly cheese is as stupid as going to Tokyo and eat only sushis.

2# There is only one medieval cathedral in Paris and this is Notre Dame. I am not sure Tyler really knows what the word cathedral means.

3# "Jardin Luxembourg" (sic, the real name is Jardin DU Luxembourg) is just sticked to the latin quarter, one of the liveliest areas of Paris. Hardly a urban desert.

4# ok

5# If you go to the Louvre, you can as well go see some French painters. That is after all most of the collection. Don't be snobbish, there are great and famous pieces.

6# There are 206 museums in Paris and Tyler managed to recommend only the obvious ones. (By the way, it is "Orsay" not "d'Orsay". You say "Louvre", notre "du Louvre". French grammar.)
Musée de la chasse is great and surprising, Musée Carnavalet about Paris history is a hidden gem (there is for example the real full room of Proust kept just as it was when he died"), Musée Jacquemart-André is a nice discovery of a lavish city castle under the second Empire, etc. etc.

7# Seriously, just go to Going to a restaurant in Paris at random is dangerous. There are only three categories: Michelin starred restaurants, small and trendy lefooding type restaurant, shit.
If you want to spend 200 euros on a good meal, go to L'Abeille at the Shangri La.
But the sweet spot is 400 euros at l'Arpège or the Plazza Athénée. Skip Guy Savoy, overrated.

8# Agreed

9# Belleville is too rough for most tourists. Try rather the 9th district where all the cool bars and restaurants have opened for the past 6 years.

10# Tyler forgot Les quatre cents coups by Truffaut, le Samouraï by Melville, Ascenseur pour l'échafaud by Malle, Les enfants du Paradis by Carnet, etc. etc.

11# Another good reason to dismiss Flaubert as a good introduction to Paris is that only one of his books, l'éducation sentimentale, takes place in Paris...

12# Well, I am rude.

13# I don't know, Paris is most of the time ranked as the second or third best European city for business innovation, usually after London and Berlin. Calling it sterile is quite a stretch.

There are only 2 cities I know very well in the world, Tokyo and Paris. And for both of them, Tyler seems (imho) to not really get them.

I agree with you on 1-3, although baguettes are not what they used to be. Le Jardin du Luxembourg is my wife's favorite spot on the entire planet, and I like it a lot too. Did so when ai was five years old and living there 64 years ago as well.

Regarding 5, some of the other Leonardos are nearly as wonderful as La Joconde, but much easier to view, not being mobbed by crowds.

6. Claims that other museums beat the Louvre do not fly. There are better collections of Impressionists in the US than in Paris, although Les Nympheas at L'Orangerie is in a world of its own.

7. L'Arpege is by far the worst three star restaurant I have ever been to. Guy Savoy is good for lunch. Some of the ones that used to be good have slipped, with L'Ambroisie perhaps most dramatically, although still better than L'Arpege.

8. Following the rule that one can get good food of the former colonies in the European capital city, Vietnamese food is the one good ethnic cuisine in Paris, just as Indian food is good in London and Indonesian food is good in Amsterdam.

12. On rudeness, they are much politer than they were half a century ago. French outside of Paris have always been politer, except when they are not.

Oh, and regarding the Eiffel Tower, my favorite place there when I was five, if you go only to one of the first two levels, I suggest walking up and down. Much cooler than riding.

A follow-up question on #8: in your judgment, is the Algerian food in Paris not good, or are you not counting Algeria as a former colony (an admittedly controversial question).

Not only Algeria, but Morocco and Tunisia as well as west African nations. I am not as down on the couscous as some commentators here, but I would say that those restaurants are better in Marseilles than in Paris. Not all Vietnamese places are all that good, but the best are really outstanding, with these restaurants at times even having a Michelin star (never more than one to my knowledge). The better ones tend to be nearer or even into the suburbs these days, with some very good ones in southern Paris, not just northern as Tyler claims for some Asian foods.

TripAdvisor claims Le Bistrot d'Indochine is best in the city, which also has Cambodian and Laotian. It is at 49 rue de Dantzig in the south of the city, I have been there twice, and it is really outstanding.

Thank you for sharing. I hope travel will be given a larger percentage of posts in the near future. It seems to have died off recently, the last real series being your trip to Lagos. Also, I believe your MIT lecture is today or tomorrow. I hope it went well -- or good luck! -- and that a video will be posted soon.

Woody Allen's Mignight in Paris should be added to that list.

Also, eating everything at Pierre Herme should be added to that list.

I don’t think Paris is the best city in which to spend $200 on a meal.

No doubt it isn't. Neither is any other city in the world, because the notion of the "best city in which to spend $200 on a meal" is nonsense. There are probably restaurants in the world where it is worth spending $200 on a meal, if you can afford it and think you will really appreciate it, but why talk about a city? That makes sense if you are talking generically about cities where, say, there are many good inexpensive places to eat, though even there "the best" is a dubious term, not to mention that few have tried every possibility even once.

Just a few more tips:
- Buy a museum pass. At popular museums, it lets you skip the line. And it makes it easy to sample less well known museums.
- At the Louvre, the Islamic art is breathtaking, Napoleon's apartment is lots of fun and the artifacts from ancient Iraq are amazing.
- Right next door to the Louvre, check out the the Musee des Arts Decoratifs. The best of every kind of decorative art - jewelry, couture, model rooms and a great collection of Florentine art.
- Musee Guimet is a must for anyone who loves Asian art.

Why is Montmartre "avoid"?

Crowds are bad, but the view is good, even beats the ones at tops of Tour Montparnasse and Eiffel Tower.

Super touristy. Felt almost gimicky and fake to me, like a re-creation of what Paris in Moulin Rouge is supposed to feel like. A bit like the touristy parts of Venice. But the views are great like Barkley says. I was staying nearby so I stopped to check it out, but I wouldn't put it high on my list of places to visit in Paris.

3/ Paris is walkable everywhere, not only on the left bank. Walk around and hop in the subway when tired. I don't understand your advice about the Jardin du Luxembourg, it's one of the most beautiful... The streets around are also very nice.

6/ I wouldn't list Branly (or even Cluny) as a must-do unless it's really your thing. The Louvre is an essential museum, Orsay comes next (from a tourist perspective). Anything else is a matter of personal choice (Pompidou, Arts Deco, Musée de l'Armée...) The permanent exhibits of the Petit Palais are free, the building is worth checking out.

8/ "boring" couscous... yeah right. I guess you don't know where to look.

9/ why wouldn't you enjoy the Invalides? It's one of the best museum in town, in one of the most beautiful buildings. It has a vibrant history that lives to this day (cf. the commemoration for the fallen gendarme yesterday)

12/ Parisians are not especially rude compared to other big cities. I think we come off as rude to Americans because we're not amused or very patient regarding your average behavior. Americans tend to feel like they own the place... But it's not Disneyland or Venice. It's a real city of 13 million people with a very strong culture and habits.

13/ I don't see how Paris may come off as sterile or economically slow. It is the largest city in the EU and has the largest GDP. It has one of the largest cultural offer in the world. Of course most of it revolves around French culture and language, so I guess it can be dismissed by a foreigner...

Doesn't the typical Parisian look down on America and Americans? That's why I haven't gone and don't plan to. It's like, "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?" Pass.

2 things Tyler missed:
- les passages de Paris
- le Palais Royal
Thanks for your attention

If you want the best French food in Paris, hop on a train to Lyon. Just sayin'.

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