It never fails that when I travel to Paris someone is in my inbox telling me that Paris is gross and “overrated”. And each time I chuckle and think, “to each their own!” because in my opinion, Paris is one the most beautiful cities in the world that lives up to the hype each and every time I visit. (And I’ve visited a lot).
While there are certainly downsides to Paris – what city doesn’t have a downside? The upsides exceed the downsides tenfold. And while there are activities in Paris that are more than overrated, there are activities that many people either don’t know about, or don’t talk about.
Below you’ll find both the downsides and upsides to visiting Paris, plus the most overrated activities in Paris and what to do instead. Then once you visit you can tell me – is Paris overrated?
Is Paris Overrated? The Most Overrated Activities & What to Do Instead
Are you considering a trip to Paris? Don’t miss:
What is Paris Syndrome?
I think because Paris is the most visited city in the world and is widely hyped up, people feel very strongly about Paris when they visit and think that it doesn’t live up to the hype. In fact, due to this phenomenon there’s a real thing known as “Paris syndrome”.
By definition, Paris syndrome is a sense of extreme disappointment when people visit Paris and the city was not how they expected it.
So how can you keep your expectations in check when you travel to Paris and avoid “Paris syndrome”?
Is Paris Disappointing? What to Keep in Mind When Visiting
Of course, just like any city Paris has its downsides. You’ll find trash on the streets, come across pickpockets, and be overwhelmed by the crowds. But even with the downsides, Paris is still an incredible and beautiful city. (As long as you keep your expectations in check)! Here are some things to consider when you visit Paris…
IS PARIS DIRTY?
Just because Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from trash and general “dirty-ness”. One of the more bizarre, dirty, and concerning things that I find happen in Paris time and time again is that people don’t pick up after their dogs when they do the deed. So yes, you’ll sometimes find poop on the streets of Paris, along with trash that people throw on the ground.
Some of the metros are more updated and cleanly, while some of the metros are outdated and have that filth element to them.
Paris isn’t exempt from homelessness so there will be times you might come cross a street with tents and people experiencing homelessness living their lives on the streets. But keep in mind, this happens in every big city around the world.
PARIS IS CROWDED
Being the most visited city in the world, of course means that there will be crowds. And just like everywhere else, the crowds tend to gather at the big tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Lourve Museum, and so forth. If you’d like to skip the crowds, I suggest visiting at shoulder season or in the winter months when less people flock to the city of lights. (By the way, summer time is when Paris sees the highest number of tourists with July being the busiest month of the year).
PARIS IS EXPENSIVE
I’ve had more than one person say to me, “Paris is so expensive; how can you afford to travel there so often?”. In my opinion, Paris is no more expensive than any other big city around the world. You have to remember, you’re visiting France – in Western Europe. Neither France nor Western Europe is known for being particularly cheap.
Where you can save money in Paris is by picking up food at the grocery store and heading out to one of the many beautiful parks to have a picnic, by purchasing a museum pass to help save money on museum entry, and taking the metro instead of taking a taxi. And of course, visiting in the off-season when hotel prices drop.
THE FRENCH ARE RUDE
This is one stereotype that I certainly can’t argue with. Is everyone in Paris rude? Of course not! That’s a complete generalization. But are some people in Paris rude? Of course. I think that the French get this stereotype simply because they are raised in a way that makes them a bit more closed off and refined. Unlike America, it isn’t common to stop your neighbor and chat with them on the street. It isn’t common to smile and say “hello” to everyone on the metro. And while this might be something that you aren’t used to or might make you think someone comes across as rude, remember – you’re in their country with their culture and traditions.
I did have a rather funny thing happen to me while I was in Paris which definitely comes across as rude – but I promise, not all Parisians are like this! I was at a restaurant (one of my favorites that I’ve returned to time and time again), and the menu was in French (like many menus in Paris). My phone did not have any service so I asked the bartender when she had time, if she would explain a few of her top choices on the menu. She looked straight at me and told me, “I don’t have time” and walked away. Sure, that seems rude but truthfully they don’t work on tips and she couldn’t be bothered! I have to respect that.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY STRIKES?
It wouldn’t be a visit to France without at least one strike going on! But truly, the French are always striking. It’s part of their culture! In fact, strikes used to be a symbol of social victory and national unity, and it’s a tradition that has kept on through today.
The strikes can be annoying if they alter your travel plans, but when the French strike it isn’t a dangerous situation. You can still travel to Paris, you might just be a bit more inconvenienced.
PICKPOCKETING IN PARIS
Unfortunately, pickpocketing in Paris is quite common. But it doesn’t happen everywhere! Pickpocketing is most common in tourist areas (especially the Eiffel Tower) and on the metro. To ensure that you don’t fall victim to pickpocketing, here are some simple tips to keep in mind:
- Keep your purse zipped and your hand on your purse at all times
- Don’t keep anything in your pockets
- Don’t let a stranger stop you and try to sell you anything (this is usually a ruse and someone else will pickpocket you)
- Don’t discriminate based on gender or age (as of 2023, there are a group of young girls that ride the metro pickpocketing people)
Overrated Activities in Paris (and What to Do Instead)
I would also argue that there are a few overrated activities in Paris that might make your visit to the city of lights less than ideal. Below you’ll find the activities I would avoid, and what I would do instead!
GOING TO THE TOP OF THE EIFFEL TOWER
You can pay money to take the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower – which you absolutely should not do. The whole point of the Paris skyline (and part of what makes it so uniquely beautiful) is to see the Eiffel Tower. So when you’re on top of the Eiffel Tower looking out, you can’t see the Eiffel Tower in all its glory.
Instead… pay to go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe where you’ll have excellent views of the Eiffel Tower and the rest of the Paris skyline.
IF YOU WANT TO SKIP THE (VERY LONG) LINE TO THE ARC DE TRIOMPHE, BOOK THIS TICKET THAT WILL ALSO GAIN YOU ACCESS TO MORE SELF-GUIDED TOURS AROUND PARIS!
GOING INSIDE THE SACRE-COEUR
One of my favorite attractions in Paris is the Sacre-Coeur, but it’s unnecessary to wait in line to go inside. Instead, heading to the top of Montmartre (where the Sacre-Coeur) is, and looking out over Paris is much more beautiful than the inside of the church. And while the entrance is free, there’s usually a very long line to get in and the wait just isn’t worth it. (By the way, Montmartre is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris. Read about it here!).
Instead… tour the Saint-Chapelle Church; one of the most impressive churches in Paris. Even with the long line, it’s worth it to visit.
BOOK A PRIVATE TOUR OF THE SAINT-CHAPELLE WITH A GUIDE HERE!
VISITING THE MONA LISA
Don’t get me wrong, the Mona Lisa is a huge attraction and one of the most famous paintings in the world. And when you visit Paris you might get caught up in the hype of visiting the Mona Lisa. However, the Mona Lisa is quite overrated in my opinion. If you’re visiting the Lourve, there are so many other great paintings to spend time at. Don’t get caught up in the very crowded, underwhelming, Mona Lisa.
Instead… spend time at the Lourve visiting the other 5,000 paintings in the museum. And if you MUST visit Mona, be the first in line or visit late at night to avoid crowds.
IF YOU ARE SET ON SEEING THE MONA LISA, VISIT WITH A PRIVATE GUIDE SO YOU CAN SKIP THE LINE! BOOK TICKETS HERE.
ONLY VISITING THE LOURVE MUSEUM
Another no-no (in my opinion), and something that might leave you feeling disappointed in Paris is traveling to Paris only to visit the Lourve Museum. The Lourve is great, but there are so many other incredible art museums in Paris – without the crowds. In fact, the Lourve wouldn’t even be in my top three favorite museums in Paris.
Instead… spend time at Musee d’Orsay. There are over 4,000 works of art on display at the Musee d’Orsay, most notably one rendition of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Nights; and many works by Claude Monet. You could spend hours in this beautiful museum.
SKIP THE LINE AND GET AN IMPRESSIONISTS GUIDED TOUR BY BOOKING HERE!
Not only do I hope that this post changes your mind about Paris and encourages you to visit and see for yourself whether or not Paris is overrated, but once you visit, come back and tell me your thoughts. Is Paris overrated?
Enhance Your Visit to Paris With the Recommended Tours Below!
For a more visual look at Paris and more Paris suggestions, make sure to check out my Instagram page/highlight reel by searching “#ppinfrance” or my “France 1” and “France 2” highlight
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no cost to you.