I’ve been to Paris before, more than once… And I’ve already developed all the good habits of a typical Arab tourist in Paris. Except that… cities become really interesting when you get to see them like locals do; and when you get to discover little gems here and there; gems that are usually hidden to tourists. This is why, I counted on a couple of friends this time, to show me Paris like a local.
Now before sharing with you the top tips to experience a country like a local, let me confess that I did actually behave like a tourist half of the time. Oh and definitely shopped like one!
So, let’s get to the core!!
How to experience a city like a local versus a tourist? And how to capture the true soul of an old city like Paris? Here are some tips based on my latest Parisian experience, after many “tourist-like” previous trips:
-Take the metro! But make sure you have a local with you because it can get complicated, especially when you have to catch many metros to your destination!
-Hit the supermarket, even if you don’t have anything to buy. Just watch what people are buying and how is their daily consumer behavior.
-Go for a morning run in the city… (Not that I did it .. Well I tried, for 2 minutes!)
-Talk to strangers: This one I definitely did. A lot! (Make sure you catch some French people by the way, if you can)
-Go to houses of worship of different religions, during the time of local activities.
-Find an active park, and visit it on a Sunday. That was nice for me, except that it rained!
-Hit a coffee bar early in the morning, before people get to their jobs. Doing that in Paris means meeting a lot of interesting avid readers!!
-Chat with bartenders at pubs! They tend to be very interesting people (I guarantee that!)
-Shop during sales season; that’s when the locals shop.
-If you have the luxury of time (which I didn’t have), stay a bit longer in every place you visit so you get to watch the local dynamic.
-Visit food places tucked in small backstreets. Pick places that are locally renowned but not targeted by tourists.
-Try street food, at every chance you have!
-Check local boutiques, local brands and local designers… A local shopping spree might end up truly interesting.
-Try to stay at a hotel that is not centrally located, but rather in a dynamic yet non-touristic part of town. I wish I could’ve done that!
Now what do you get from “not” being a tourist? In short, the true cultural experience of a country, whether you visited it before, or not.
I’ll leave you with a few shots of my last visit to Paris… But I did behave partially like a tourist so… I warned you!