More than a few years ago now, I made my first solo visit to Paris. I learned a lot, about travelling alone and about myself. Later, I shared that initial experience over at My French Life™, along with my thoughts on why Paris is an excellent destination for solo female travellers.
Nobody will be surprised to discover that I still believe that Paris is an ideal city to explore if you are travelling on your own. Which is kind of a good thing, because I’ve just left Scott back in Germany to spend a little ‘me time’ in the City of Light, as well as to catch up with a dear friend and her young daughter who are popping over from London to say hello.
As I prepared for this little jaunt I realised that while I’d offered a few tips for travelling solo in Paris in the My French Life™ piece, it was probably time to share some more meaningful suggestions on how to get the most out of a trip to Paris, while travelling on your own.
Travelling Solo In Paris
Make Travel Plans
Some adventurous souls can easily head to a new city on their own with nothing more than a passport and their credit card. That collection of souls doesn’t include mine. Personally I find I am more relaxed when I am as organised as possible. My advice is to book your travel plans – doesn’t matter if it is a train, plane or an automobile – as well as your accommodation. You might want to book any ‘must do’ activities too.
It is also worthwhile having a vague idea of where you need to be and how you are going to get there. For example, it’s much better to know which Métro line you need to head for rather than trying to sort it out on one of those big maps with people milling around you at the station (there are some excellent Métro apps now that work well without a wifi connection). And if it is your first time in Paris, you might want to take a cab/car to your accommodation. Keep copies of your tickets with you, together with maps or directions on how to get where you are going.
Leave Some Space In Those Travel Plans
Plans are one thing but don’t fill up your days with so much that you put yourself under pressure. Travel takes you out of your comfort zone. Things that you might manage quickly and easily at home – like finding your hotel or a restaurant – can take way longer when you are travelling. This is especially true if your French isn’t strong. And then there are the seemingly inevitable transport delays. Knowing you don’t have to rush and that you have time to sort yourself out can take a lot of stress out of proceedings. And let’s face it, a little bit of time to just be in Paris is never a bad thing.
Stay Somewhere Central To The Things You Want To Do
There is so much to see and do in Paris – you simply can’t be close to everything. And while the Métro makes it easy to navigate the city, you see so much more if you can walk in Paris. Obviously, choosing to stay relatively close to your chosen activities will lessen the chance of tired feet and legs. If there is no clear Parisian arrondissement to base yourself in, staying close to the centre of Paris (on either the right or left bank of the river) is probably your best bet
Back Up Your Documents
Regardless of whether you store your travel paraphernalia digitally or travel with ‘old school’ paper copies make sure you leave a copy with a friend or family member so you can access them if they happen to get mislaid while you are travelling.
Pack Lightly And Stylishly
Yes. Yes. I know I harp on about packing lightly all the time. But it is important. If you are on your own, you need to be able to manoeuvre your luggage without injuring yourself. Or exhausting yourself. The stylish part probably needs no further explanation. You are going to be in Paris after all. Look to pack neutral colours, travel friendly fabrics and don’t forget that most Parisian of accessories – a scarf. You can read more tips on packing for Paris here.
Use Your Time Wisely
It’s worth knowing what you want to do while you are in Paris. You see, the city has a magical way of stealing time. You think you are going to sit down in the Palais-Royal (or the Jardin des Tuileries or the Jardin du Luxembourg) for just a minute and suddenly two hours have slipped away as you enjoy the passing spectacle. Which could be perfectly fine if people watching is on your list of things to do. But it probably isn’t the only item on your must do list.
When you travel on your own, it can be easy to get distracted. Or put things off. Having a list can keep you on track and stop you from getting to the end of your trip disappointed in what you did or didn’t do.
If you are looking for ideas – good options for solo travellers in Paris keen to get away from the big names include any of the smaller museums (I like the Rodin, Carnavalet and l’Orangerie), and the Sainte-Chapelle is stunning on a sunny day. Head to Le Bon Marché or Galeries Lafayette for a spot of shopping – although all of Paris’ small boutiques are likely to meet all of your shopping needs.
Take Something To Read
A book in any format is a handy thing to have in your bag. It can stave off boredom while travelling solo in Paris and can provide excellent distraction if you find eating alone a challenge.
Take A Journal
Solo travel provides space that we don’t always get in our busy lives. And all sorts of ideas, emotions and feelings can bubble up. A little journalling can help you capture both your creativity and any lessons you might learn while you are on your own.
Now, it is worth noting that the tips I’ve shared are limited to my own personal experience. And I know that many Distant Francophile readers travel to Paris on their own way more often than I’ll ever be able to experience. I’m hoping all the lovely readers with years of solo travels stamped on their passports will share their advice with fellow francophiles in the comments section below. Thank you so much in advance.
And until next time – au revoir.
4 thoughts on “Travelling Solo In Paris”
I have rented a number of Paris apartments over the years. A few years ago, I spent 6 months alone in Paris. I agree with your idea of visiting some of the smaller museums. The Cluny with its tapestries is central, the Picasso Museum at Place des Vosges where you can also visit Victor Hugo’s house and the nearby Carnavalet. City of Paris museums are free and if you want to visit many of the larger museums, buy the pass to avoid waiting in long lineups. It is certainly wise to stay in a central location if your time is limited. I have stayed mostly on the Left Bank because I attended classes at the Sorbonne but I also enjoyed living above Café Hugo at Place des Vosges. The nearby synagogue and Jewish quarter offer a different aspect of Paris. Certainly, you must leave time to flâner (stroll) through parks and gardens, and along the river, to window shop and to people watch. The stylish part does matter. One visiting friend was stopped frequently by street people (gypsies?) because her wardrobe was conspicuously North American. If approached on the street, do not engage or you might find your wallet gone. In years of solo Paris visits, I have never been robbed. My cousin, a woman in her 60’s who does not speak French attended tango dances in different arrondissements several nights and had no problem. Whatever you like to do, Paris, you can enjoy as a solo visitor. Invest in stylish walking shoes or buy some in Paris. My favourite are designed by Thierry Rabotin. Expensive but I buy a pair when I visit Paris and I now have a collection. For a Francophile moment, before you visit, read Cara Black’s mystery novels which are set in different Paris quartiers.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights Joanne. I love the idea of attending classes (either academic or creative) in Paris. A class would certainly give a solo visit purpose. You are right about Paris having something for everyone. And I really must check out the shoes – Thierry Rabotin has been mentioned time and time again in the comments on DF.
These are good tips for everybody!
I think it’s easier to eat at a fancy restaurant at lunch vs. dinner. Many of the better restaurants require reservations at dinner (and sometimes also at lunch but less so), and the maître d’hotel is less likely to raise an eyebrow at a solo diner at lunch. You’ll get better service, plus lunches are less expensive.
I usually would go dancing at night in Paris (tango!!!) and so I would eat something light as an early dinner and take a quick nap before changing into evening wear. The fact that I was headed someplace (and it’s easy enough to go dancing solo if you know the basic steps) gave me an alternative to a long dinner alone.
Thank you so much Catherine. I couldn’t agree with you more about choosing to dine out for lunch rather than dinner. In fact, lunch is my preferred meal out while I’m in Paris regardless of whether I’m travelling alone or with Scott. And as for dancing the tango – well, it just sounds like the perfect way to spend an evening in Paris while travelling solo.