You have dreamed your whole life to go to Paris, so what is holding you back? Maybe your significant other or best friend would rather spend a vacation on a beach or hiking on a mountain, but you want to stroll the cobblestones and start every morning with a warm croissant and café on a terrace. I am here to tell you if you want to go, GO!
Paris is one of the easiest cities to visit alone and I have done it more than ten times now. It is easy to navigate, safe, and there are plenty of things to do. When I am in Paris I spend much of my time researching French history, strolling through museums and spending hours sitting on a terrace enjoying a glass or four of French wine. However, the beauty of Paris is that you can make it all your own and anything you want.
My first trip to Paris, many years ago when a friend used her airline miles to get me a ticket, I arrived to visit the city that I had loved even before I ever set foot in it. It was to be a short, six-day trip and then onto Florence where my friend lived. After two days, she said to me one hot and muggy day, “I think you should go back to Paris.” The thought of turning around by myself and heading back to Paris at first sounded pretty scary, but after a lovely lunch and lots of wine, it sounded better and better. A ticket was purchased, hotel secured, and the next day I was back on a plane, heading straight to Paris.
Arriving at Orly, luggage in hand and off to grab a taxi I went. Well, so I thought. Following the taxi signs, I was approached by a man asking if I needed a taxi, well how easy can this be, Oui Oui! As we walked towards the cars, we stopped at a motorcycle. With my large luggage in tow, wondering how this was going to happen and picturing myself dying on the way into the city of love, I told myself that I could do this. Strapping my suitcase and myself, and gripping for my life, it was onto Paris. If you have been in a car on a Paris highway you will recall seeing the motorcycles zipping in-between cars, well this guy wasn’t any different.
Half way through the trip, my sweaty hands loosened their grip and before I knew it, we were flying by the Jardin du Luxembourg and Place Saint Michel. I wanted to let go and open my arms and embrace being back in Paris, but let’s not get too crazy. It took under 30 minutes during rush hour to get to my hotel, cost about twice as much as it should have, but for the 75 euros I bought a since of freedom I didn’t even know I had, and that is priceless. I was standing on the Pont des Arts as sunset fell and knew I was exactly where I should be. [Editor’s note: The taxi ride from the airport has a fixed price now, mandated by law: 50 euros from CDG to the right bank, 55 euros to the left bank; 30 euros from Orly to the left bank, and 35 euros from Orly to the right bank.]
When you travel on your own, the whole day is open to you– as is the city. If you want to spend four hours in the Cour Puget of the Musée du Louvre, you can. Perhaps walking aimlessly through the streets on an early Sunday morning stopping along the way at a café for that perfect croissant is more on your agenda; you can do that as well. Your time is yours to do with as you would like, so soak it all in.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you plan that solo voyage. Location and safety being the biggest but don’t let any of that scare you. For myself, I stay fairly central on the left or right bank which is a lovely walk to the museums where I spend a lot of my time. Saint Germain is a bustling area at all hours of the day and late into the evening and walking late into the night is never a problem. As a solo woman traveling, I recommend staying in Saint Germain, the Marais, Opera and Latin Quarter areas, especially if you will be walking at night. I have never had a moment that I did not feel safe walking in Paris, even if it was the wee hours of the morning. Be aware of your surroundings and your belongings at all times and walk with confidence and you won’t have any problems.
One of the greatest pleasures in Paris is the delicious food, and traveling alone should not stop you from enjoying every single morsel. One of the advantages of traveling alone is that you are able to meet some wonderful people and a restaurant is the perfect place to make some connections. It is not uncommon to see many people eating alone day and night reading a book or channeling their inner Hemingway and writing away. Lunch is a great way to enjoy some of the best restaurants in Paris and save a little money as well. Inside the café may be a bit intimidating and if that’s the case, grab one of the iconic Paris café chairs on the terrace and as a bonus it comes complete with a live show as people pass by you. The Parisian terrace is the solo traveler’s best friend and the close seats can lead to wonderful conversations.
Getting around Paris is very easy either on foot or by metro. I firmly believe the best way to see Paris is to walk the many cobbled streets. The true sense of Paris can only be found on foot by the savvy flâneur, when you take your time and find all sorts of hidden gems and historical facts that you would miss whizzing through the underground. But if some sites are located a bit farther than a slow stroll allows, the metro is a quick and easy way to venture out to them. Paris just announced their new Navigo pass that is great for the visitor and replaces the metro tickets that would frequently become demagnetized as I have found out more times than I would like. At many of the entrances of the metro stations, you will find an attendant who can help you purchase the card and load your amount. There are also multilingual, easy-to-use kiosks where you can buy individual tickets or reload your card.
There are a few things to watch out for on the metro. You might run into scammers trying to sell you tickets, distracting you at the kiosk to pickpocket you, or grabbing and stealing your phone just as the doors close and they leap out of the metro car. But keep this in mind. Over a million people travel on the Paris metro system every single day without problems. Following a few safety tips will have you mastering it like a pro. When on the metro, try not to stand too close to the door; in peak hours this could be hard to avoid, if you have no choice just be aware of your belongings. A cross body purse with a zipper closure, worn on the front of your body, is your best bet. When in the situation of a large group of people, simply put your hand over the closed opening of your purse. This gives the would-be thief the impression you are paying attention and not an easy target. One other little tip dans le métro is to avoid eye contact. Making eye contact with a man on the metro is an invitation for contact. (Maybe that is what you want, and after all, you are in the City of Love.) But keep in mind that French men are not shy, so just be sure it’s a welcome advance before you start batting those lovely lashes.
There is nothing stopping you as the solo female traveler in Paris, however, if you have a day when you want to meet other people there are some great ways to do it. A walking tour is a fantastic option to connect with fellow travelers. There are many offered all over Paris (Context Travel is a Bonjour Paris favorite), and simply pick a theme that interests you and join the fun. You will spend a few hours with people that share the same curiosities as you, and many tours, including my own, end with a drink at a café where you can really connect with others over a glass of Champagne.
Speaking of wine, another great place to meet people is at the local wine bars. A more relaxed and fun environment then the terrace cafes, the standup wine bars turn into a party later in the night and it’s impossible not to have a great time. At the Odéon treasure by Yves Camdeborde, L’avant Comptoir de la Terre, any given night turns into an Elton John sing-a-long while you dine on Brochette Foie Gras Piquillos and the Champagne never stops flowing. You are all friends by the end of the night.
If you want to go to enjoy all the beauty that is Paris, I hope you take all this as your permission to go do just that. Paris will feed your soul and mine finally came alive that first night I arrived by myself. Nothing should keep you from sitting in one of those green Luxembourg chairs, a great book in your hand, as the hours tick away under the shade of the trees around the Fontaine Médicis. After all, we only live once and these moments should not be missed. Now I think back to that motorcycle taxi ride from Orly and how scared I was at that moment and where it lead me to today as my arms are wrapped around a Frenchman and on the back of a motorcycle with a bottle of Champagne in my bag as we race to the Champ-de-Mars. Well, I would not change a single thing.
If you are looking to travel solo to Paris and have any questions, feel free to reach out. Happy to inspire and push you to take the leap, you won’t regret it.
Tip: Our sister company, France Today Travels, is launching a brand new Parisian adventure designed especially for women. Experiences include a visit of the famous Saint-Ouen flea markets with an antiques expert, an insider’s peek into designer ateliers with a fashion blogger, and a food walk in a trendy neighborhood. If you’d like to create memories of authentic, unique experiences enjoyed with enthusiastic, like-minded, female friends, then get in touch here.