Ten (much) better alternatives to the Paris tourist hot spots

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Ten (much) better alternatives to the Paris tourist hot spots
Customers wait in line for ice cream in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and shop on the Champs Elysées? You don't have to, according to Zipporah Alcaraz, because Paris has some far better alternatives to the usual tourist traps.


MYTH #1: You must climb the Eiffel Tower

Although a fantastic site to see, one downside is how much it costs to get to the top. One ticket for an adult to go to the top was €28.30 (as of 2023) and the queue line waiting to go up is horrifying.

Alternative: Head up to Sacré-Coeur. It's a free view of the entire city and you get the chance to visit the beautiful chapel. You can even climb up to the dome for an awesome view of the city with all the best monuments. The struggle of the staircases is definitely worth it (or you could always pay extra for the elevator). There is an admission charge for the dome, but rates vary so ask the ticket office when you arrive.


MYTH #2: Angelina's has the best hot chocolate in the world

The price tag of more than €8 is trop cher, my friends,and it's such a tiny cup. If you get a takeaway, it's cheaper, but it's still unimpressive. 

Alternative: Find an Eric Kayser. That's all I have to say.

MYTH #3: The best shopping is on the Champs-Elysées

Too many people, over priced shops, and no romantic Paris ambiance. The only acceptable time to hit the Champs is for the Christmas markets.

Alternative: Hit the boutiques and thrift shops in Le Marais in the 3rd arrondissement. It's a bit less crowded there, much more local, affordable, AND there are more options. It's basically shopping heaven. If you're a thrifter like me, Kilo Shop is the place to go. They don't charge you on individual pieces, but instead they charge you by the kilo. The best boutiques are on rue Charlot, rue Vieille du Temple, and rue des Rosiers. 

MYTH #4: Ladurée macarons are a must

Ladurée is a dreamlike pastry palace, with an exquisitely detailed interior and a rainbow of macarons. But the taste doesn't match the price. Any macaron in Paris is just as good, maybe even better.

Alternative: Forget about Macarons and get some ice cream. You will forget your name once you have a taste of Berthillon's delicious gift to this earth. They have a wide assortment of flavours, and it's super close to Le Marais, so after you finish your shopping relax with a small cup of heaven.

READ MORE: Visiting France: What activities and places do I need to reserve in advance?

MYTH #5: You have to see the Mona Lisa smile

When you go to see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre museum, the last thing you want to do is smile. The wait can be up to two hours, all for a tiny piece of art. 

Alternative: Go to the Musée d'Orsay. It's not as big as the Louvre, giving you a chance to really take in all of the enchanting pieces around you. The place does not just hold pieces made throughout history, but is itself part of the past, having begun as a train station. 

MYTH #6: You should see the underworld of the Catacombs

Wait times of several hours (and sometimes still over an hour even if you book online or have the "skip the line" pass), claustrophobic, lots of people, and loads of steps. 

Alternative: Pére Lachaise Cemetery is where lovers of famous dead people, nice walks, and beautiful statues should go when they arrive to Paris. And it’s free, outdoors, and there are no queues. You won’t just see random bones like you would in the Catacombs, but you’ll see the deathbeds of famous people such as Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, and more.

MYTH #7: The best place for a 'green' stroll is at the Jardin des Tuileries


This place is a catastrophe. You’ve got crowds passing through from the Louvre, Concorde, Place Vendôme, Palais Royal, and Musée de L’Orangerie. And there are deadly birds trying to attack the delicious baguette you’ve been waiting to eat all day.

Alternative: Jardins in Paris? Forget about it. Let’s talk about Parcs instead! Parc des Buttes Chaumont, in the 19th arrondissement, is the perfect getaway for pretty much anyone in the city. With its freshly cut green sloped hills, and natural hidden treasures, there’s no way you won’t love the magical ambience Buttes Chaumont has. It’s Paris’ equivalent to New York’s Central Park and definitely the place to go to for an afternoon stroll.

MYTH #8: You should take the Hop On Hop Off bus

These buses are hot and sticky, and when you try to see the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe your view is blocked by tourists standing up to take pictures with their selfie sticks. 


Alternative: If you really want to get to know the city and live like a local, get a Vélib Bike. They’re only €1 for every 30 minutes of biking - more info here. You just pick up a bike at one station, then drop it off at another station anywhere else in the city. It’s fantastic! If you aren’t too confident in your biking skills, there’s no need to worry because they have bike lanes on sidewalk and the road. 

READ MORE: Paris to open 55km of new cycling lanes for 2024 Olympics

MYTH #9: You can't miss a walk along the Seine River

Yes, the Seine is a nice place to have a picnic or to stroll around, but in reality it’s only a body of water that’s kind of just there. Most of its bridges except Pont Alexandre III, Pont Des Arts, and Bir Hakeim all look the same. Sometimes it’s so crowded you can barely get around people.You can do better. 

Alternative: If you really want to walk along a body of water, then head for the Canal St. Martin, which has iron bridges caressed between tall green trees. It’s lined with some of the best entertainment, food, and art the city has to offer. If you’re tired of walking and want some food, check out the restaurants with cheap delicious bites. Want to stop and listen to music? Boom! A music venue right in front of your face. You’ll never want to leave.


MYTH #10: Bateaux Mouches boat trips

I only have two words for this experience. Pretty boring.

Alternative: Take the Batobus, which is actually a "hop on hop off" boat and not a bus at all. This means you get a lovely relaxing ride with no traffic or honking horns to ruin your day. A day pass is only €19 online, and €20 on site (for adults), and all you need to do to find the next dock is walk along the Seine.

Zipporah Alcaraz was a student at the American University of Paris in 2016 when this post was originally written. Another version of this article was published on the Peacock Plume blog


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