Touring Paris: Tourist Traps

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Tourist traps in Paris like the Moulin Rouge are best avoided

Photo: Stacey Pedersen.

Yes, even in this beautiful city, there are some tourist traps to avoid while touring Paris. The first on the list of most locals would be the Moulin Rouge. Yes, the cancan was invented here, but that was a long time ago and the place now caters exclusively to tourists. The shows have gained a reputation for their lack of originality, and the champagne dinners are an insult to French cuisine. If you want to go to a cabaret, Le Crazy Horse is known for having the best, most sophisticated shows, with stars like Arielle Dombasle or Dita von Teese.

A close second would be dinner on the Bateaux Mouches. The boat tours are great, and dinner is great, but the two make for a very touristy, assembly-line kind of evening, with uninspired food. You’ll be surrounded by hundreds of others just like you, paying top dollar for a quiet, intimate experience that is neither quiet nor intimate. A more fun adventure, in a warmer ambience, can be enjoyed on Le Calife, a charming wood boat that tours the same sights, offering a simple cuisine at less than half the price of the larger boats.

Nothing romantic about a traffic jam of tourists on the Seine

Nothing romantic about a traffic jam of tourists on the Seine.

Another transportation trap is the hop-on/hop-off buses. I’ve tried this tour in London, and while it was a great solution for a handicapped grandmother, I felt like a prisoner, stuck watching a video of the city. All I wanted to do was to get down and get lost. For a “real” visit of Paris for just over a euro, take the No. 69 bus at the Eiffel Tower and sit with locals as you pass the Invalides, Musée d’Orsay, Louvre, Palais Royal, Hôtel de Ville and Bastille, all the way to the Père Lachaise cemetery.

Tourist traps in Paris include cafés on the Champs Elysées where food is served as cars and tourists whiz by

Blech! Industrial food served as cars and tourists whiz by on the Champs Elysées.

Finally, the most famous tourist trap of all could be the Champs Elysées. I do love this boulevard at Christmastime, when hot spiced wine perfumes the air and the lights sparkle in the trees, but for the rest of the year, this is pretty much a large shopping mall featuring international brands you can probably find at home. For a long stroll, with an equally breathtaking view, the Tuileries gardens are a uniquely French option. And for some local shopping, I much prefer the rue Charlot in the Marais, with a stop for an outdoor lunch at the Marché des Enfants Rouges, where mostly locals will cross your path as you are touring Paris.

Related links:

Le Crazy Horse

Le Calife

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