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A very quick question about Paris

Some of you may have read my recent thread about my trip to London in the summer (my 5th!).

I'm wondering: Is Paris as busy as London? Is it more busy? In other words, if the hustle and bustle of London made me a bit crazy, how would I feel if I went to Paris for 3 or 4 days?

Thanks!

Posted by
8293 posts

In my opinion, unless you speak French fluently, one more stress factor would be added, because Paris is a big and busy city. Of course there will be "hustle and bustle". It is a world capital, and a major tourist destination for people from all over the world. Is there a reason you are not considering all the small towns and rural areas in the U.K. recommended in response to your post about your discomfort in London?

Posted by
620 posts

Just a thought regarding visiting France. I've wanted to for a long time. I'm not ruling out the smaller UK areas--just brainstorming. Thanks!

Posted by
1014 posts

Paris is busy, but in a different way, depending on where you go. The streets around the Louvre are crowded on the side away from the Seine. Between the Seine and the Louvre, surprisingly, the street is easy waling and you can go down several walkways to the Seine. We have done so on many occasions and take a picnic with us and sit, eat, and enjoy the view and the boats sailing by. Walking around Pigalle is not so crowded, except in the early evening, when the tour buses are unloading for the Moulon Rouge. It is also crowded around Galleries Lafayette, and Au Printemps with shoppers galore. So, it just depends on where you wish to go. If you do wish to go to the above stores, go early when they open or during the last 1.5 hours of their openings. The buses full of tourists will not be there. Generally, just strolling around Paris is fairly easy.

Posted by
4661 posts

If London made you a bit crazy, then Paris will likely send you screaming into the night. It's a wonderful city that I return to repeatedly. But, yes it can be very crowded in places. Especially places that tourists ( like you) frequent the most. Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles - rarely without long queues and crowds. And then there's the language difference - certainly not a major problem for most, but it is an added stressor. Shall I also mention the increased risk of pickpockets and/or scammers compared to London?

As for noise levels (I think I remember you were freaking out over hearing sirens), Paris traffic isn't any quieter, and might even be noisier.

I think if you want to visit France, you should stick to towns and villages, just like you were advised for the UK. Same thing applies to Germany, Italy, Spain, ..

Posted by
7677 posts

I am on my way to Paris next month; but given the way your trip to London affected you I would not recommend you go Paris.
France unlike the UK is officially under a state of emergency and you will see the military walking around with assault rifles most tourist sites. I've never seen that in London in 4 trips and my last trip was November 2016.

Posted by
14894 posts

Paris is more relaxing because it has lower prices and more wine to soothe your nervousness. After 3 or 4 days of drinking you should feel ok.

Posted by
2697 posts

I've read your threads. You are not a city person and Paris is a big, noisy, congested place. Why torture yourself?

Posted by
440 posts

Roberto de Firenze. Wine always takes the edge off no matter what the situation, good advice in my opinion

Posted by
14445 posts

Hi,

Comparing my first times visiting London and Paris, London is easier. If you have always wanted to go to Paris, do it but plan first. My second trip to Paris I went solo, had to plan everything, fend for myself but I was four years older too, or at least I thought I did, but it was incomplete. Both cities have a fast pace of life. I found the subway system in London (the Tube) easier to use than that in Paris(Metro) but that is an individual thing. Certain times it vexing, other times easy. Prepare for Paris by learning certain vocab in order to read the signs.

If you generally find big cities a daunting experience to crack, if others can do it, so can you, unless you think "they" have something over you. True, the noise level in Paris can get to you. Sometimes it does not affect me at all, other trips it did, so I left for a smaller town...Fontainebleau, Amiens, Meaux, Beauvais, Chateau-Thierry, Metz, etc. I usually went north or east

If "the hustle and bustle of London" affected you, forget that experience, do it anyway, unless you allow yourself to be psyched out, then you deprive yourself of going. Go to Paris anyway.

Posted by
15526 posts

Paris is like any other big European city: very busy around the main attractions. I find that too often tourists who don't deal with crowds well didn't like the cities they visited because they didn't spend enough time in them, and spent what time they did have running from one of the Top 10's to another! No wonder they didn't have a good time.

I can manage crowds pretty well but we do better with longer stays so we can balance visits to the "tourist magnets" with time away from them. Paris is pretty spread out so finding breathing room isn't difficult to do. For instance? I believe I read on one of your previous posts that you're into cemeteries? Paris' biggies are great places to wander without being overrun. I spent 5 hours in Père-Lachaise, and another 3 or so in Montmartre one morning. We saw very few others, and Père Lachaise is so huge that it can handle a LOT of visitors without bumping a single elbow. I hope to get to Cimetière du Montparnasse next time.

A couple of other suggestions for finding space:
Parks: Paris' green spaces are good spots to lose the mobs. We enjoyed, say, Jardin du Luxembourg very much. While not deserted by any means, neither was it overrun.

Take advantage of any late openings at the "tourist magnets". The Louvre, for instance, is open until 9:45 PM on Wed. and Friday so it's a good opportunity to browse the works while many other tourists are at dinner. The d'Orsay is open until 9:45 on Thursdays, and the Arc de Triomphe is open quite late every evening (hours vary).

Look at visiting some interesting places that a lot of tourists overlook? We thought Musee Cluny/Moyen Age was wonderful, and it wasn't what I'd call "busy" at all. Same for the Pantheon and a couple of others.

Consider skipping some places that will be busy ALL the time: we bizbagged a trip up Eiffel and were never sorry. There are other good vantage spots in Paris. Besides, when you're ON it, you can't SEE it! The Trocadero is a great spot for viewing the Tower at night. Yes, it's a busy place but it's free, and you can stay as long or as little as you wish to.

Sightsee when others aren't: early mornings are great times for hitting some of the more congested areas without being run all over. We also tend to eat very early and have walkabouts when many are occupied with dinner.

Lastly, embrace the crowds while not being in the thick of them. Pulling up a chair at a sidewalk cafe and just doing some people watching is great fun!!! :O)

We spent a week in both London (my second time) and Paris and loved both for the riches of history, architecture and art. Sirens? Yes, you will hear plenty in Paris but they're nothing to worry about: just a factor in any big city. :O)

Posted by
10828 posts

I happen to love being in cities. I find the low height of Paris' buildings makes it seem less urban.
If you don't enjoy cities, I think you would still enjoy Paris. I was recently in London and other than the area around Big Ben, it didn't seem very crowded to me. And if you see armed service members with their Weapons, just know that makes it you safer. It is the same in Rome near important monuments.

Posted by
308 posts

I also love visiting big cities, but sometimes big crowds at the big tourist sites can get to me. It just makes the moments when I stumble into a quiet neighborhood without crowds all the more special. Doing one of Rick's self-guided walking tours usually gets you away from the crowds. Getting up early also gets you away from the crowds. Try to mix and match activities so that you have a quiet neighborhood walk after visiting a crowded tourist site.

Posted by
13636 posts

Well, here' my 2 cents/2euro, a suggestion and a story.

The suggestion:
-I know you don't want to consider a tour, but if you are interested in Paris, consider the RS Best of Paris tour. The whole goal here is to help you feel comfortable in Paris by teaching you skills to manage there plus give you some backup support for your first visit. In general there is sightseeing part of every day and free time every day.

The story:
-I visited Paris several times in the 70's. Wound up hating it. Fast forward to a few years ago and my retirement reward to myself which was to do some RS tours. I booked the 21 BOE and decided to add Best of Paris since it ends in Paris. Did the Paris tour and learned SO much from Rolinka, the guide. Had a wonderful time because she helped me get comfortable in Paris by helping me understand local customs, taught us the Metro (not a big deal if you're from a big city but important if you've never lived where there is public transport), gave us a heads up thru the whisper earphones on when to be wary and why.

The outcome:
-Unfortunately, lol, I have fallen in love with Paris. I spent 2 weeks in 2014 (1 week on the tour, 1 week with a friend), 2015 another 9 or so days, 2016 about a week, 2017 9 nights in April and heading back for another 10 the end of this month. I do find the small streets of the Marais and Latin Quarter to be more claustrophobic than the broader boulevards around the Eiffel Tower.

-To be honest I love London as well.

I agree with what someone said upthread about military patrols. In the spring it appeared they had gone from 3-person patrols to 4-person patrols. It's jarring to see them at first, but then you realize they are there tp protect your safety.

Posted by
620 posts

Well, I certainly have a lot to think about.
Thank you to everyone who weighed in on this discussion.

I still haven't made up my mind what I am doing, though I'm getting closer day by day.

Posted by
238 posts

I thought Paris was way busier then London. I felt it was very hard to get away from crowds anywhere in Paris. London I felt was more leisurely and there were areas I could go to get away from people.

Posted by
915 posts

The Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Rodin Museum, Napoleon's Tomb, Sacre Coeur, and other major museums are busy. You'll see military patrols, and at places like the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower, you'll be annoyed that there are souvenir trinket hawkers.

Walk 4 blocks beyond the Eiffel Tower and follow a side street into a neighborhood, and it may be you and two other people on the sidewalk. As with London and Rome, as with Paris, if you want quiet, you can find it, but it won't be at the major sites. The 7 day RS tour is a good idea. Again, It won't be any quieter at the big sites, but you'll be with others and the situation will feel more in control.

Posted by
437 posts

When I was in Paris in December, I began to feel the military patrols were comforting in a way. They were everywhere and patrolled in groups but I found that we felt safe and I was grateful for their presence. You can make the same mental shift, a siren means people are actively helping others and you are safer because they exist.

The Christmas markets were crowded and lively with families and children, great memories. The Christmas window displays were excellent and it was worth putting up with crowds -- mostly Parisian families with little kids on the raised viewing platforms and generations posing together.

When we tired of the crowds it was easy to walk a block away to a quiet street or restaurant.

Go to Paris. In 30 years you'll regret not going when you could.

Enjoy the planning and the trip!

Posted by
14445 posts

I have seen military patrols in Paris since 1984, that time at Gare du Nord. Those military patrols I saw in 1990s and into the 21st century were patrols of three, sometimes a woman among them.

Posted by
620 posts

I traveled domestically shortly after 9/11. Our local tiny airport had members of the National Guard on duty. It was a bit scary. Not sure how I would feel about armed folks roaming the streets of Paris.

Lots to consider here....

Posted by
15526 posts

Our local tiny airport had members of the National Guard on duty. It
was a bit scary. Not sure how I would feel about armed folks roaming
the streets of Paris.

It's not scary at all, IMHO. It's reassuring to know that there are many trained eyes watching, and ears listening, for possible trouble. Police and armed military personnel were common - especially near the Louvre, the train stations and other heavily visited areas - when we were there in 2009, and that didn't spook either of us, once we got used to it. I would imagine that there may be even more of that now than when we were there.

I felt safer there than in some American cities.

Posted by
4603 posts

"Not sure how I would feel about armed folks roaming the streets of Paris." I don't mean to minimize your concerns at all because your thoughts certainly have merit, but to me having armed militia / police walking about is preferable to the situation in most U.S. cities where they are not present, but one doesn't know who among the folks in the crowd are armed with concealed weapons.

Posted by
11294 posts

Given your reaction to London, I think you should stay away from Paris, and other big cities as well.

But there's a very easy way to make this decision for yourself. You said you don't spend much time in Philadelphia or New York. Well, do that now. Go to both of these cities (even if just for a day), and see how they make you feel. If you feel comfortable in both of these places, then you can consider Paris. If one or both make you uncomfortable (even a bit), don't even think of going to Paris. Instead, follow the suggestions above to go to smaller places - in any country you choose to visit.

Remember, no place is a must-see, no matter how famous it is, and no matter what anyone else thinks of it. If you will have a better time staying out of big cities, then do that - and don't worry what anyone else thinks.

Posted by
620 posts

Dear Harold: I've been to both NYC and Philadelphia several times. Last time I was in NY was right after a blizzard in 2010? 2011? Went to see "The Nutcracker." Never liked the crowds but was pretty excited about being there and seeing the performance.

Last time I was in Philly (two years in a row) was for a punk show at Underground Arts. I don't like driving into Philly, but I do like the museums I have visited there. One of my best friends lives there, actually, and I've never been to stay at her house. Perhaps now is the time to plan a long weekend. I know I'd like to visit the Barnes Foundation and the Franklin Institute, as well as the wonderful zoo there.

Thanks for the very practical suggestion!

Posted by
35 posts

Go to Paris! London also makes me a bit crazy after a day or so, but Paris is my favorite place in all the world. You didn't mention what time or year you were thinking about going. I've been there in January, May, September, October and December. None of these times felt as crowded, noisy or chaotic as London. As others mentioned, there will be crowds at the famous tourist attractions, but there are always quiet places just around the corner. Plus, I've found that if you plan carefully and visit the most popular sites either early in the day or later in the afternoon, the crowds are much less. Don't let the language difference deter you either. Many people speak at least enough English to be understood, and if they don't, there's usually someone else around who does. Or try out your limited French vocabulary. It's fun!
If you like good wine, great food, fantastic art, beautiful architecture, etc., etc., Paris is the place for you!

Posted by
620 posts

Denverite--My travel time is limited to the end of May to the end of August. I work at a school and we can't take time off during the year. Sad, because I would love to visit when the "pig pile" (as Rick says) isn't around!!