American Teen’s Guide to Paris: Travel tips and top sights

By Victoria@celebratetheweekend
In France
May 9th, 2015
30 Comments
13672 Views

This post is written by my 15-year old son Dennis.

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

Over the recent spring break, I went on a week-long trip to Paris, France with my school. We went in a group of 31 kids and 4 French teachers. Our school used the company ACIS to organize the trip and provide a tour guide, but there are many other such organizations. I have put together these travel tips for American teens traveling to Paris, but packing and shopping tips may be useful for some other places in Europe.

1. PACK LIGHT AND COMFORTABLE. The first step to every journey is packing, and this one was no different. There was a 50 pound weight limit for luggage for our Air France flight, but good packing kept me well below that. Since we were going to be gone for seven days, and I knew I would buy some swag overseas to bring home, I packed light and tight in a small carry-on suitcase to make moving around less of a hassle. I packed assuming the worst possible weather situations (this was unpredictable springtime after all), but I only packed clothes that are comfortable (but still acceptable to wear in public) because we were going to be doing a LOT of walking. Try to dress understatedly “European”: going “full American” in flashy sneakers and polos is sure to gain you some looks.

Don’t forget to bring a camera, or, if you are going to be using your smartphone to take pictures, clear your phone memory to allow for the MANY photos you will be taking on this trip (I took over two thousand, so I had to delete several apps on my phone to make room). And as always, don’t forget to bring your charge converter. This is Europe; their sockets are different.

Finally (and most importantly), use money belts to carry your valuables. When my mom told me she was getting me a money belt I thought it was a fashion suicide. I was too young to be dressing up as a 45 year old dad! How wrong I was: wearing a money belt is a)super convenient to have valuables on hand and b) protects you from those infamous European pickpockets.

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

2. BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS. Paris is full of pickpockets. If you find yourself in a crowd, or anywhere else you may be distracted with looking at art or monuments, you are at risk. (They can also distract you “directly” by offering something with an unusual persistence). Never assume they can’t get in your pockets: they can, and they WILL.

3. USE THE METRO. In Paris the metro is very quick transportation to many of key monuments such as the Louvre and the various Arcs.

4. SHOPPING. While tourist shops abound (and often have good prices), they have notoriously bad quality. The Galeries de Lafayette Mall has separate stores for both male and female clothing, and has something for everyone on each of its lavish floors. Most of it is obscenely expensive but good prices can be found. The Latin Quarter also has many good shopping opportunities, such as the Gibert Josef Bookstore. WIth several locations and over five floors their book selection is ENORMOUS. Those looking for bargains can visit the Monoprix, which is essentially a French Walmart. Be aware that the second that you leave Paris, the prices of goods take a nosedive. For example, in Paris a bottle of Coke can sometimes reach 5 euros, while just outside Paris it you would be hard pressed to find a bottle worth more than 2 euros.

5. BE SURE TO VISIT:

The Eiffel Tower is a one of a kind experience, and the line is of a similar quality. The length of the line vacillates from nonexistent to seemingly endless hours of waiting, so plan accordingly. Walking up the tower is nowhere near as terrifying as it sounds, and is a very satisfying experience.

There are cathedrals literally in every town in France, and Paris boasts an overflowing supply. The Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sacré-Cœur Basilica on Montmartre are both breathtaking cathedrals that are well worth your time. Plan to climb the Notre Dame if you can: the view is amazing, and you can even pose with the famed bells of the church!

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

Ringing the Bells of the Notre Dame

 

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

View from the top of Notre Dame

The Montmartre area, with its own unique character, offers some great views of Paris in addition to its famed Basilica.

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

Montmartre

The Arc de Triomphe is also worth the climb, as is seeing the daily procession to the Tomb of the Fallen Soldier next to the Arc. In my opinion. the Arc de Triomphe boasts the best view of Paris, especially at night: not only can you see Paris in all of its bustling glory, but there’s enough space for you to move around and take the kind of pictures you want; there is usually no line to go to the top.

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

View from the Arc de Triumph at Night

 

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

Arc de Triumph

 

As museums go, the Louvre is a classic and always will be. You could be in the Louvre for months and still not see everything it has to offer.

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

Me and the Venus de Millo. The Louvre.

Versailles is just a quick ride away, and its opulent glory deserves a view. Make sure to rent a bike to cruise around the gardens; this is something that is just as fun as it sounds.

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

Gardens of Versailles

 

 

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

Bike Tour of Versailles

 

And of course, the Jardin du Luxembourg is always there for you to walk around, take in the scenery, and maybe even play a game of Petanque in the courts (balls are free, unless they’ve been stolen since I’ve been gone).

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from an American Teen's Perspective

At the Luxembourg Gardens

Another one of my favorites is the Rodin Garden and its famous sculptures.

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from a Teen's Perspective

Gates of Hell at the Rodin Museum

 

And you cannot leave France without seeing a Castle.

Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from a Teen's Perspective

Royal Chateau de Chambord in Loire Valley: not your average Castle.

6. FOOD. France is well touted for its food, and for a good reason: it is superb. From local dishes such as escargots to more international ones, food in France is universally good. The plentiful sandwiches available at every corner are well suited to be a full meal and are cheap as well (we had breakfasts and dinners provided by our tour, but were on our own for lunch). Make sure to check the menus in advance though: some restaurants have obscene prices and a single coke can set you back almost 8 euros, depending on the location.

And of course, the reason everyone goes to France: pastries. Don’t be discouraged by the prices in Parisian bakeries. I found my macarons heaven at the cafes near Chateau de Chambord  (two hours’ drive away from Paris)  with local stores offering delicious macarons at 1 euro a piece! (The airport offers macarons at nearly 3 euros, so think ahead about those souvenirs to bring home.)

7.  STAY CONNECTED.  There are two ways to have an internet connection on your trip: get an overseas data plan, or use free wifi. Most cafes have wifi, and don’t be afraid to ask for the wifi code at any location. (But some French waiters do not care if the wifi works or not, so don’t be too annoyed when they just give up right in front of you.)

Join me in a few months as I breakdown the country of Japan in a different article!

 

This post is part of the exciting collection of travel stories: #WeekendWanderlust at Casual Traveler, #TheWeeklyPostcard at Travel Notes and beyond and #wkendtravelinspiration at Reflections en Route. Be sure to check them out!

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Travel Notes & Beyond
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30 Comments to “American Teen’s Guide to Paris: Travel tips and top sights”

  1. Sveta says:

    Thanks for the article, Victoria!

  2. Rhonda Albom says:

    Brilliant. I love that this was written by a 15 year old (my 15 year old did my current post as well). Great tips. When I read that you got him a money belt, my thought matched his, but I am glad he got over the fashion issue. We visited many of the same places, but clearly missed some of the keys. Thanks for linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration.
    Rhonda Albom recently posted…Sarah’s Sunday Snapshots #30 – Very Vintage Day OutMy Profile

  3. Corinne says:

    Dennis, Excellent tips! When my youngest daughter was your age, every long weekend she wanted us to go to Paris. She absolutely loved it and always had places to go. Your post reminded me of that time in our lives.

    Victoria, Thanks once again for linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration!
    Corinne recently posted…Weekend Travel Inspiration – Orhan PamukMy Profile

  4. Sounds like you had an amazing time Dennis. You would have felt at home in Paris, with all of the references to St Denis all over the city.
    Paula McInerney recently posted…29 Cheeses from Around the WorldMy Profile

  5. RobRob says:

    Great post! I’m forwarding it on to my travel companions – teenaged and otherwise – for an upcoming Paris trip. Very helpful! Especially the tip about Macaroons, which are my downfall. 😉
    RobRob recently posted…Free Wi-Fi & All-Inclusive Cruising like a NorwegianMy Profile

    • Victoria@celebratetheweekend says:

      Thank you, Rob! Who does not like a good Macaroon:) (they are so difficult to make at home, we tried!)

  6. Sarah Ebner says:

    Great post. We recently went to Paris and wrote our own post on tips travelling with kids, but mine are a bit younger (not much) and we certainly did not find macarons which were as cheap as yours 🙂
    Sarah Ebner recently posted…Keeping Bees At St Ermin’s Hotel, LondonMy Profile

  7. What a sweet Mother’s Day gift! Looks like Dennis had a great time in Paris, and took a lot of very nice photos! You should make him write more for the blog!
    Jolanta aka Casual Traveler recently posted…Memorable Travel Experiences: A Collaborative PostMy Profile

    • Victoria@celebratetheweekend says:

      Thank you, Jolanta! That is my intent, especially because he goes on some of his trips separately from us- with the school or the grandparents!

  8. Connie Reed says:

    What a fabulous experience for you Dennis, and great tips for travelers of any age.
    Connie Reed recently posted…Meet Rick Fisher, Magician and VentriloquistMy Profile

  9. Looks like lots of fun! When we were in Paris it was quite late in our travels and we decided not to go to the Louvre – probably not the best plan. Glad that you enjoyed it though! And totally agree with the camera – I couldn’t live without it
    Sarah E. Albom recently posted…Sarah’s Sunday Snapshots #30 – Very Vintage Day OutMy Profile

    • Victoria@celebratetheweekend says:

      Thank you Sarah! I typically dont go to the Museums when only having a few days in the city and save them for a return visit unless they are of Louvre calibre! There will be a next time for you in Paris i am sure (You must be so proud having your own blog series! I cant wait for Dennis’ new posts after his trips this summer to Japan and Europe)

  10. Anda says:

    Excellent advice. We use a money belt whenever we travel outside USA, although in summer it’s sort of inconvenient (you sweat too much around your waist).
    Anda recently posted…TBEX 2015 and Highlights of Costa BravaMy Profile

  11. Great blog! we saw many of the same things with our 7YO. She was less enthusiastic about the Louvre. but she loved the luxembourg gardens and the macarons.
    eileen @ FamiliesGo! recently posted…#MOMtravelchat Twitter Party RSVPMy Profile

    • Victoria@celebratetheweekend says:

      We are lucky our kids love Museums. we have been taking them since they are very little- but I know this “strategy” does not work for all the kids. It’s great that your daughter found her own things to enjoy in Paris:)

  12. Arnie says:

    This was a well written article. After reading it, we are going to climb the Arc du Triomphe, too.
    Arnie recently posted…Top Cities to Visit in Europe: 2015My Profile

    • Victoria@celebratetheweekend says:

      Thank you, Arnie. I myself have not heard about the Arc climbing tip- until Dennis wrote about it:)

  13. Our daughter in 10 going on 15, and will go crazy when we show her this post. She has been bugging us to take her to Paris for ages! I was around 15 the first time I went to Paris, and it has always held a very special place in my heart. Lots of great information here – thanks for sharing!
    The Adventure Ahead recently posted…Feasting at the Farmer’s Market in Puerto ViejoMy Profile

  14. Carol Colborn says:

    Wow…a travel blogger in the making. You must be so proud!

  15. Victoria@celebratetheweekend says:

    Thank you, Carol, I am:)

  16. What a well done post, Dennis. I’m glad that he had a wonderful time in Paris. It is such a great city and there really is something for all ages. I like all the tips and good to know that teenage boys can appreciate art, shopping and architecture in a romantic city. Now, I know where to get cheap macarons in France. Great picture taking too!
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted…Eating at Botin in Madrid: The World’s Oldest RestaurantMy Profile

  17. Victoria@celebratetheweekend says:

    Thank you for noticing all the details, Mary!

  18. […] went on a busy week-long school trip to Paris, France and started a series of the Teen Perspective posts on the […]

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