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

This post is written by Dennis, then 15.

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.

For an extensive list of Paris activities (and to book your own, check out this Get your Guide site).

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.)

Follow me as I give you a daily breakdown of my trip to a country of Japan !

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30 thoughts on “American Teen’s Guide to Paris: Travel tips and top sights”

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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. 😉

    1. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

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

  4. 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 🙂

    1. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

      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!

  5. 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

    1. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

      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)

  6. 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).

    1. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

      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:)

    1. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

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

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. Pingback: 2015 Year in Pictures of weekend celebrations

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