It’s been about a year since I went to Paris. I stopped in the city on my way back from Bali for two nights. This was actually my second time being there; I originally went in 2012 for 6 days with my brother and cousin while backpacking all throughout Europe. I must admit, though, I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the city. Yes, the Eiffel tower is spectacular, the pastries delicious, the architecture beautiful and the cobblestone streets charming, but overall I found it to be overrated and a bit too “touristy”.
I wanted to love Paris, I really did. Especially on my first trip there. But after two brief stays in the city, I think I can file it under my, “Been there, done that, no need to return” file.
The purpose of this post is not to discourage anyone from visiting. I am wholeheartedly thankful for my visits there, and with that, I am also glad I got to make my own assumptions about it through first hand experience. However, I do think some tourists love to hype up the city, and I just didn’t think Paris lived up to the high expectations I had after hearing about other people’s experiences. I am more so writing this post to show readers a different side of the city; one rarely talked about.
I learned that sometimes it’s smarter to really research a place to see if it matches well with your personal preferences versus visiting because, “everyone loves it”.
I do wonder though, if there was maybe something I missed while I was out there. Did I visit the wrong attractions/ sites? Eat at the wrong restaurants? I mean, there must be others that feel the same way about Paris as I do.. right? Could people just be talking the city up because it’s the cool thing to do?
Below are 5 reasons why I’ll probably be skipping the city on my next Euro backpacking adventure.
1. The people are not very nice
Maybe, living in the states and my prior backpacking experience through South America had spoiled me with an expectation for excellent customer service and genuine hospitality, but I really felt that Paris lacked immensely in both areas. People were just cold there. I don’t speak French so I understand the language barrier would impede on communication amongst locals, but even when I attempted to ask for directions or locations of particular landmarks, I was often shut down. I remember once, I was at a pharmacy by my hostel ( I was getting a cold) and asking the pharmacist which medicine would help me best and I could tell he was getting annoyed with my questions. He just kind of stared at me a lot and shrugged his shoulders as if stating, “Please bother someone else with your issue.” Interaction with any Parisians remained distant, slightly rude and I mostly felt unwelcomed.
2. The Food was not Impressive
I’ve heard different people rave about French food and swear it is one of the most delicious cuisines. Maybe my pallet is not quite sophisticated enough or maybe I just didn’t eat at the best Parisian restaurants, but I have to humbly disagree. Actually, as I try to remember what exactly “French cuisine” consisted of, I can’t really think of any particular dish that stood out. Spain has paella, Italy has pizza and spaghetti, Germany has specialty sausage and meats and France….. ? I’m just not sure. Aside from the pastries and bread, I was not impressed with the food. It was also costly to eat out.The places that were recommended to us were either too difficult to get into or way too expensive to try. Overall, it was just tough finding a good meal that was accessible and served at an affordable price.
3. Everything is Super Expensive
Paris is definately a city that caters to the wealthy. Known for its couture boutiques all along Champs Elysee and luxurious hotels, the city is a mecca for the rich and famous. Because it’s also such a popular travel destination, visiting the city is an expensive trip. Even while backpacking, we paid more at our Parisian hostels per night than in any other city I’ve ever backpacked through. In addition, shopping (even for non brand items) and any activities you wanted to do, like taking a boat tour on the seine (pictured below), touring Versaille, or entrance fees to popular landmarks were also pricey. It you’re traveling on a budget and trying to do the most or get the most bang for your buck, I would suggest skipping Paris.
4. Overly Touristy/ Dirty
I totally understand that Paris is one of those top cities that everyone around the world wishes to visit, so I went expectant of all the tourism we would encounter. But man, once in the actual city, I realized how ridiculous it could be (maybe this is why locals are rude lol). There were a LOT of people, everywhere. It was a bit draining and somewhat exhausting dealing with all the crowds. We actually weren’t able to go up the Eiffel Tower (on both trips) because the wait was over 4 hours. Traffic also seemed to rival LA’s. With a population of 2,152,000 (and about ten million more people in the metropolitan area) it’s easy to see why the streets are so packed. In addition to the influx of people, the city was pretty dirty. You’ll often find trash and dog poop on Paris’s streets as you’re walking around. In comparison to other European cities, such as Madrid or Amsterdam (both exceptionally clean), Paris lacked immensely. I noticed there weren’t many public trash cans, which probably contributes to the overall problem.
5. Aggressive panhandlers/gypsies:
The beggars and gypsies in Paris were super aggressive. They’d get in our faces, stand way too close for comfort, switch languages as they asked for money (since they were trying to figure out which language we spoke), and then yell at us when we walked away. I generally don’t mind beggars in the slightest, and will drop a couple of pesos/ euros/ dollars into their cups. But the ones in Paris would literally swarm you, almost demanding you give them something. I had to repeatedly check my pockets to make sure my money and phone were still in there. It was a bit perplexing and stressful to walk thought the city streets.
Does anyone have any particular recommendations for other cities in France that are well worth the trip? If you’ve been to Paris, how was your stay in the city?