The City of Lights shimmers with romance and sits as a standalone must-see destination atop infinite bucket lists. With a long, intriguing history that is visible around every corner, exquisite fashion, world-class museums, and a food and wine scene unlike any other major city, it’s no surprise that Paris is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
We might imagine scenes of the Eiffel Tower illuminating the Parisian night sky with its twinkling lights and envision ourselves people watching at one of the famous Montmartre cafes with a coffee and traditional French croissant before us. But it’s simply impossible to know everything about the goliath city until we’ve actually ventured there for ourselves there. Here are 10 things that most people don’t know about Paris until they get there.
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10 There Are Plenty Of Scammers Afoot
It’s a rather unfortunate reality, but it’s one we need to be wary about. In high-trafficked tourists areas, of which Paris has plenty of (around The Louvre, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and the Eiffel Tower especially), the eyes of cunning and sneaky swindlers light up when they see you looking jaw-dropped and snapping selfies every five steps.
One of the more common schemes? Fake petitions that ask for donations (which are sometimes so clearly fake that it’s comical since they’re written on cardboard). Two more are the unwanted friendship bracelet (by the time you can say no, it’s already on your wrist and you’re being harassed for cash) and the “I found this gold ring, do you want to buy it for a cheap price?” gag.
9 Illegal vendors are selling Eiffel Tower keyrings Everywhere
If you’ve already had the chance to visit Paris and have set foot anywhere near one of its main attractions, you’ll no doubt understand what we’re talking about. Groups of people set up shop on the main walkways and try to offload low-quality monument replicas for a euro or two. As soon as the local police trot by, the vendors have cradled up their entire portable storefront in a sheet and have hidden behind the nearest bush.
Even though the black market sellers can be pushy, annoying, and at times, aggressive, the trinkets they’re offering aren’t all too expensive. Of course, watch out for any upsells.
If there was one monument that was the icon of France, it would without a shadow of a doubt be the world-famous Eiffel Tower. No visit to Paris is complete without a selfie in front of the iconic Parisian landmark, which has looked over the city since way back in 1889.
As one of the most recognizable man-made structures not only in Europe but across the entire globe, you would assume that it would be Paris’ number one attraction. Well, you’d assume wrong, because it actually sits at number four, behind The Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Sacre Coeur Basilica, according to MSN.
7 Water floods the street nightly
At first sight of what is known as the bouches de lavage (washing outlets), many tourists assume that the sewers are overflowing into the streets. Even though it might look like something of that nature (but thankfully doesn’t smell like it), the nightly rushing water is actually part of a rather ingenious method of keeping the city’s streets clean.
The water pours from out from the 12,000 or so washing outlets scattered across the city in an effort to sweep up roadside debris into the sewer system. While this does mean that you need to hop over a few extra puddles, it’s a clever method of keeping the streets as clean as possible.
If we were to analyze a few lists of the most expensive major cities in Europe, more often than not we’d see Paris up there toward the top. When we add up the high cost of accommodation, food, and the culminated fees of visiting all the world-renowned attractions and museums, Paris can leave a deep hole in our pockets if we’re not careful.
However, with two major airports and a location conveniently sandwiched between the UK and popular tourist destinations to the east, it’s extremely easy and surprisingly cheap to travel from Paris to other major cities. Flights to London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Barcelona can easily be found for around $50 USD, and there are plenty of budget-friendly bus options that move through the City of Lights as well.
5 It boasts the world’s biggest sundial
You might think that a big sundial isn’t all that noteworthy, and that’s exactly why people don’t know about it until they actually explore Paris on their own two feet. This is the kind of fun fact that isn’t quite interesting enough to justify blabbing about to your friends back home, but it is exactly the kind of thing you’d be chuffed to hear while on a free walking tour of the area.
4 The Louvre is free to enter
What’s better than roaming through the world’s most famous and most revered museum? Doing it for free, of course! There is a catch, however: For internationals (not from other European Union countries) under 26 years of age, the Louvre is only free on Friday evenings between 6pm and 9.45pm.
You might think that’s three hours of free time to admire everything on offer just isn’t enough, and you’d be unquestionably correct. In fact, you’ll likely NEVER have enough time. If you spent 30 seconds admiring every piece on offer, all day, every day, apparently you’d need well over three months to see it all.
In case the 380,000 pieces at the Louvre didn’t quite quench your thirst for art, Paris has plenty of other, incredible impressive museums. Plenty of people actually prefer the Musée d’Orsay to the Louvre because of its location inside an old train station, while the Musée Rodin and Musée Picasso are also internationally renowned
Along with the Louvre, these museums are free for everyone – regardless of age or nationality – on the first Sunday of each month. Don’t say we didn’t warn you though – in the popular tourist months the crowds will evidently be enormous, with entry lines likely crawling at a snail’s pace, so make sure to arrive early in the day to avoid frustrating wait times.
2 There are no stop signs
There are plenty of things we notice almost immediately when stepping off the plane at Charles De Gaulle or Orly. The cobblestoned streets, the smell of freshly-baked croissants, the dodgy trinket vendors outside tourist hubs, and of course, the Iron Lady peeking into the sky above the city. But for each of Paris’ eye-catching elements, there are a hundred things that bypass our glance.
One of those irrelevant yet intriguing Parisian characteristics is the lack of stop signs. There are no stop signs within the city. There was one, but it has since been removed. The city’s traffic laws state that cars on the right always have the right of way at both cross intersections and roundabouts.
1 It’s a city unlike any other
You can scour through award-winning guide books, Google the city’s long list of highlights until your heart’s content, listen to other people’s favorite anecdotes, and watch online videos showing off the ‘hidden gems’, but at the end of the day, nothing compares to seeing the unstoppable city of Paris first-hand.
The French capital is a melting pot of intriguing history, fascinating culture, delectable food, authentic local wine, and world-class attractions that make Paris a city beyond compare. If you haven’t seen it with your own eyes, what are you waiting for? If you’re not eating La Duree’s macarons, someone else is.