Paris is one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities that seemingly has it all; from cute vibrant shops, romantic sights, and amazing restaurants and bakeries to theaters, museums, historical monuments, and breath-taking architecture. In other words, the City of Light has everything one premier travel destination should have. But still, you’ll hear a lot of people who say that Paris is overrated. In this article, we’ll approach some of the most common statements about Paris done by tourists and we’ll try to answer the question “is Paris overrated?” in a neutral and unbiased way.
Paris is just too expensive!
We won’t start with denying or accepting this claim but we’ll look at the facts. Western Europe isn’t the best place for a budget traveler. Sure, there are certain travel hacks you can use to save money but at the end of the day, most of Western Europe is expensive for tourists from other countries because these countries just have a higher living standard and Paris is no exception. After all, this is the capital of one of the world’s largest economies.
But Paris really deserve all the backlash it’s getting for being overrated because it’s just too damn expensive? We don’t hear this that much about Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, or New York? Of course, people still say it but I feel that the expensive argument is used a lot more often to showcase France’s capital as being overrated compared to some of the cities mentioned above (which, by the way, all are arguably more expensive than Paris).
I would sum up my counter-argument to this claim with something one of my Parisian friends told me during my first visit when I was complaining about the prices. His answer was “you’re going to all the wrong places.” Today, having spent a considerable amount of time in Paris, I completely understand what he meant. For every ultra-expensive touristy café, restaurant or shop, there’s an affordable alternative somewhere in Paris. In most cities, you can find good, affordable places anywhere, it seems like most neighborhoods have one. Paris, however, is a different story.
Paris is just too damn crowded!
Sure, Paris has a lot of famous attractions and historical sites but isn’t the city just so crowded? You have to queue up and wait in long lines to see some of the city’s most popular monuments. Is it really worth it?
We hear statements like this all the time and it’s true, Paris is very crowded even with “only” its own 10 million residents. On top of this, close to 30 million people visit every year. Of course it’s crowded! But ask yourself why that’s the case. Millions of people visit Paris because it’s worth it. The Louvre, the Catacombs, the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Orsay…
These are just some of the many iconic sights that thousands of visitors flock into every day. But by visiting these places, you’re barely scratching the surface. On top of these, there are also a lot of fascinating non-touristy hidden places in Paris that are just as beautiful but most people don’t know about them. And with so many unique attractions, we really shouldn’t mention crowdedness as a factor when determining is Paris overrated.
However, there are some negatives that arise as a consequence of crowdedness that should be mentioned. One such example is…
To be completely honest, the main streets of Paris (which is where most of the tourists spend most of their time) are spotless. And if you visit Paris for one day, a few days or a week or two, you might not notice anything else. However, if you get off the beaten track or just check some sporadic streets, you can see that the lesser-known sections of Paris are quite grotty, to put it mildly. Sure, this happens in a lot of cities, but you have to do better when you pretend to be one of the world’s main tourist hubs.
You’d be surprised to see that in many areas of Paris you’ll find a smell that resembles Venice and no, this is not a compliment. Outside of the touristy areas, you’ll find a lot of piles of garbage, homeless people, and even piles of human feces on the sidewalk!
And it’s even worse when it comes to public transport, more particularly, the metro. The metro itself is very efficient but the hygiene in the stations and coaches is questionable, to say the least. Buses aren’t anything better either. Sure, we can say that this is because Paris is a metropolitan city with more than 10 million residents but when we compare it to Tokyo and its public transport efficiency and hygiene, it just makes Paris look bad.
And if you think this point ends here, we’re far from done. Let me just tell you about…
Life away from the touristy areas
In the city center, it’s not uncommon to see families of 5 people living in an apartment of 700 square feet or less. The alternative to this is staying in the suburbs or city outskirts, having more space for less money but also 1 extra hour (or more) commute a day. Many of these neighborhoods are even better organized and cleaner than most parts of Paris but many others are not.
There are neighborhoods that feel like they’re a part of Paris but there are neighborhoods that look like ghetto neighborhoods in Chicago or Brooklyn with high crime rates, such as La Courneuve where even the police is not welcome. Opposed to popular opinion, Paris isn’t just a city with a myriad of historical monuments and romantic places. It’s a city of contrasts, just like any other metropolis. And as more tourists get off the beaten track and see more neighborhoods in Paris, people start getting this idea that Paris isn’t just the city of love. There’s a lot more under its surface…
But isn’t that the case with all cities? There isn’t a single city the size of Paris that one could point out and say “everything in this city is perfect just like it looked in the tourist guidebook”? If you don’t know the answer, let me tell you; such a city doesn’t exist. It’s all about managing your travel expectations.
Parisians are rude
Parisians might not be the friendliest bunch in the world but I honestly drawing such a general conclusion that all or even most Parisians are rude would be a gross stereotype. The reason why a lot of people are under this impression, in my opinion, has a lot to do with the language barrier. The language barrier actually isn’t that harsh as most Parisians speak English but let’s just say that they appreciate their language. And they sure appreciate it when tourists try to speak French. So, next time you converse with a Parisian, try to speak in French and don’t forget to smile. I’m pretty sure no one would be rude to you.
Don’t forget that you’re in a foreign country visiting a city that has 10 million residents and more than 30 million tourists per year. It’s normal for people to get tired of tourists. Paris is a fast-paced city and people have things to get done and oftentimes this is not compatible with tourists who just want to roam around and take in the atmosphere.
A lot of travelers, especially ones who traveled in Asia or other countries where tourism brings livelihood to a lot of families expect to get the same kind of “royal” treatment in Paris. In other words, they overestimate their own importance thinking that people should be overcome with joy just to see them and that they should speak their language and get their customs and sense of humor just because they arrived in their cities. Don’t expect this in Paris. Again, it’s about managing your expectations more than it is about Paris being overrated.
So if you’re wondering is Paris overrated because Parisians are rude, the answer is no.
What about the strikes?
France and especially Paris, are infamous for the common strikes and we often hear this in a negative perspective. But if you ask yourself is “Paris overrated because of this?” it would be difficult to answer with yes. Yes, strikes are common but if you go back in history and try to understand the background of this, you might change your stance on this.
Strikes and rebellions are the main reason that French people live in the France we know today. Would there be a French Revolution and everything that followed after it if it wasn’t for this mentality? Would workers have the same rights they do today if this revolution didn’t alter the course of history? How would the world look like? Syndicates and workers’ rights are one of the backbones of French society and a part of the people’s mentality.
And when you look at things like this, you can’t really take a stance against these strikes as bad as they can be especially when you’re supposed to be enjoying your vacation
The weather is quite bad
A lot of people think that Paris is overrated because of the bad weather but why is this such a surprise? People seem to forget that London is only 340 kilometers away from London (air distance) and we all joke about London’s bad weather all the time while Paris is held on trial because the weather isn’t always sunny and colorful like in the amazing pictures on Instagram. But don’t let this change your mind about visiting; the weather is still better compared to London and Paris is beautiful throughout the year regardless of this.
What about illegal street vendors and pickpockets?
If you’re visiting some of the city’s most famous attractions, you’ll inevitably notice groups of young men, mostly immigrants from the Middle East or Africa selling cheap souvenirs. Some of them just try to make a living but many harass tourists until they buy something from them. Of course, most of them operate illegally but this isn’t the worst thing about Paris. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There are a lot of pickpockets, hustlers, and conmen that make a living off tricking or robbing tourists. There are numerous incidents related to homeless people and beggars going rampant on the streets too, and the number of terrorist attacks in Paris just keeps increasing as the gap between the growing Muslim population and the rest of France keeps growing. And as reassuring as seeing armed police officers walking around feels, one can’t help but ponder if Paris could have done better and avoided the current state the city is in at the moment…
The nightlife sucks
I wasn’t initially even planning to mention this but I just had to because this claim is ridiculous. Paris has a wide range of rooftop bars, amazing nightclubs, and even street art festivals throughout the year that make the city quite vibrant during nights. The only thing you could potentially criticize are the prices of drinks in the bars/clubs. But we already covered that above.
Oh yeah? Then why even Parisians get sick of Paris?
Hop on the metro on a Friday morning and you’ll see thousands of business people commuting with small suitcases. If you’re wondering why that’s the case, it’s because they are most likely going somewhere for the weekend. For people who dream of visiting Paris, it’s hard to understand why someone who stays in Paris would want to leave Paris so desperately and if so, where would they go?
The truth is, and most people who stay in Paris can confirm this, most Parisians have a love-hate relationship with Paris, just like in the song “Paris” by Camille. In addition to this, the concept of “depaysant” is quite popular in France. Depaysant doesn’t have a direct translation into English but it means to change your habits for a few days (the things and places where you eat and drink, the life you’re leaving, etc.). That’s why a lot of French people love going away from the weekend and discovering places in France off the beaten track. On top of this, there are a lot of day trips you can choose to take from Paris, such as the Versailles Castle, Champagne, Giverny, etc.
To sum up, my answer to the question “Is Paris overrated?” is negative and the main reason for this isn’t anything I mentioned so far. It’s…
The cultural life
Paris is home to some of the most important cultural and historic sites in France. Additionally, there are a lot of shows, expositions, festivals, galleries, art shops, and museums that operate throughout the year. But most important of all, Paris has its people who come from different parts of France and make Paris the city that it is today.
However, let’s not forget that just two centuries ago, Paris was nothing more than a slum troubled by plague and famine. Only a few decades later, it suddenly became the international capital of fashion and glamour. Today, the plague might be gone but poverty and decay still there, just hidden far away from the city’s most touristy area.
But still, if you ask me is Paris overrated, I would say that you’re asking the wrong question. Paris is not overrated but it is overhyped.
While the city isn’t perfect, a lot of people unfairly expect it to be when they visit. The preconceptions people have before visiting leave little room for flaws and a lot of room for potential disappointment. It’s almost like the city of Paris has the status of a celebrity actor who got one famous movie and is now making more money than most other expensive actors. Its glamour and reputation might be fabricated and overexaggerated (by tourism companies, artists, movies, and pop culture in general) but that doesn’t mean they’re non-existent.
And this brings me to the main reason why more people nowadays think that Paris is overrated…
It’s not uniquely glamorous anymore
Paris is still a beautiful city but the thing is, so are many other European cities. For most of the 20th century, which is when Paris developed its reputation as Europe’s flawless tourist hub, Paris’s main competitors were London, Rome, Florence, and Barcelona while most of Eastern Europe was behind the Iron Curtain and very difficult to visit.
But today, there are a lot of beautiful cities in countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, the Balkans, etc. Moreover, you can visit most of these cities for a fraction of the price and suddenly, little, old, overhyped Paris isn’t uniquely glamorous anymore. In fact, the more people travel and share their stories, the more we realize that no city is. But in an era where value-for-money is an important decision factor, a lot of people say that Paris is overrated. And even though I can’t agree with this statement, I can understand where they’re coming from.
So, what do you think? Is Paris overrated? Let us know in the comments!
Like it? Pin it.