What to see and what to skip in Paris

The appeal of Paris is as universal as it is timeless.

— -- The appeal of Paris is as universal as it is timeless.

But special circumstances make this an especially attractive year to visit: a drop in tourism numbers, a weaker euro, and hotter airfare competition have suddenly converged to make the City of Lights a bargain travel option. That’s why it’s on Travelzoo’s WOW Deal Destinations list for 2017.

Planning your own Paris visit? These tips will get you going.

Skip the Cab, Buy the Card

“If you get the five-zone ticket for 63 euros, it covers your train into the city (and back) from terminal 1, the metro within Paris, and the train to Versailles and Fontainebleau,” she says. “Given that a taxi to the city is at minimum 37 euros each way, and the train to Versailles is 7 euros round-trip (Fontainebleau even more), this was an easy way for us to get around Paris, as well as saving us money overall.”

Skip the Champs-Elysees, Shop Chic

But my colleague Stephan Renard, head of publishing in Travelzoo’s Paris office, is not so sure. In unabashed French style, he says, “A real Parisian symbol for many, I find Champs-Elysees rather unpleasant, especially in the evenings and on weekends. The shops are boring and devoid of personality, and the restaurants are nowhere near as good as you would expect from Paris. If you must tick it off your list go early to avoid crowds and leave time to explore so much more of what the city has to offer.”

Instead, Renard sends shoppers to Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, which is home to almost every major international fashion brand, and Place Vendome, a historic square that’s teeming with ritzy hotels and famous designers. “These are the places to visit for the real ‘chic a la Française,’” he says.

Barlow adds, “If you’re less focused on global brands, stroll around Montmartre, where you’ll find some unique smaller shops.”

For hungry shoppers, Renard suggests La Grande Epicerie inside the exquisite Le Bon Marché department store. Located in the seventh arrondissement, or district, the 30,000-square-foot shop features more than 30,000 gourmet products – an international array of artisan meats, cheeses, fruits, seafood, pastries, breads, even high-end wines, as well as various venues in which to taste them.

“The shop inspired one of France’s most famous writers, Emile Zola, for his novel Au Bonheur des Dames (or The Ladies’ Delight),” says Renard. “It’s on the pricey side, but certainly worth a look.”

Skip Lunch, Try the Cheese

“They took a small group of us down to the basement and walked us through the art of making cheese,” he says. “The thing I found fascinating was how different cheese can taste depending on how you eat it. They had us put the cheese in our mouths, chew it up, and then pour wine through it. Then they had us eat the cheese alone and learn how to still smell it after we swallowed it, which was fun and strange!”

Skip the Restaurant, Hone Your Skills

“The ladies, wanting to test whether the gifts were real, would scratch the mirrors in the dining rooms – those mirrors with the scratches still hang on the walls!” she says. “The ambiance is intimate and luxurious, and the food is fine dining.”

Skip the Roundabout, Climb the Arc

Skip the Eiffel Tower, Catch a Different View

Skip the Louvre, Go Small

Many smaller museums can be unique alternatives to the Louvre. The Sewers of Paris museum is a 1,500-foot underground path dotted with machine models that showcase the history of Paris’ sewer system -- complete with stomach-turning odors. The Musée Carnavalet, inside a 16th-century building, features 140 rooms that chronologically highlight the city’s history. At the Musée de la Magie, check out magic tricks and devices that span three centuries, or catch a magic show. At the Musée du Vin Paris near the Eiffel Tower, admission to exhibits and artifacts that trace the history French winemaking comes with a glass of wine. And at the Musée de Montmartre, the former residence of various artistic greats, stroll the gardens that once inspired August Renoir.

Skip the Ticket (If you qualify)

Skip the Walking Tour, Tour by Boat

Skip the Boat, Tour by Citroen

Skip the Champ de Mars, Go Urban

Did I miss your favorite Paris spot? Share your favorites with me on Twitter @GabeSaglie.

Gabe Saglie is Senior Editor for Travelzoo, which features exclusive deals on Paris hotels, flights, activities, restaurants, spas and shows at www.travelzoo.com.