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Top 11 Tourist Mistakes in Paris
(and how to avoid them)

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Mona Lisa at the Louvre

ABOVE: Is it worth standing in line to see the Mona Lisa through bulletproof glass for 15 seconds?

Mistake #6: Sightseeing by the numbers

Seine sightseeing boatMost people who come to Paris want to go up the Eiffel Tower, visit Notre Dame Cathedral, walk or take a sightseeing-boat cruise along the Seine, and--if they're a little more ambitious--head for Montmartre to visit Sacré-Coeur. Not that there's anything wrong with that, to borrow a phrase from Seinfeld--but don't let anyone tell you that you're required to obey the crowd or a canned itinerary.

Louvre MuseumTake the Louvre: Many tourists stand in line for tickets, gawk at a few brand-name artworks like the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, and head for the exit doors in less than an hour.

If you're an art aficionado, then the Louvre is definitely worth your time and money--but if you never visit art museums back home in Buffalo or Bristol, why feign an interest in paintings and sculpture just because you're in Paris? You might be happier exploring the Paris Sewers Museum, getting an aerial view of Paris from a tethered balloon, visiting celebrity graves in Père Lachaise Cemetery, or taking a cruise on the St-Martin Canal.

Sacre-CouerAs for Sacré-Coeur, it's impressive in a grandiose 19th Century sort of way, but it's no rival for  Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Métro ride may not be worth your time unless you plan to spend the day (or at least a few hours) enjoying the village atmosphere on the southern slopes of Montmartre.

Eiffel Tower from staircasePractical tip: During high season, waiting lines for the Eiffel Tower's elevators can be horrendous, but you don't have to join the clueless mob waiting for the lift: Instead,  buy a ticket for the stair entrance and walk up to the first and second levels. The climb isn't as difficult as you might guess, the price is far cheaper than riding the elevators, and you'll avoid the endless queue. (Better yet, visit the Eiffel Tower at night, when the crowds are likely to be smaller and you can enjoy the magic of the hourly light show from the viewing platforms.)

Our advice: In the immortal words of The Mamas & the Papas, "You gotta go where you wanna go, do what you wanna, wanna do." When sightseeing, follow your own desires and common sense.

Next page: Mistake #7: Booking unnecessary tours

Top 11 Tourist Mistakes in Paris:
1. Here, today, gone tomorrow
2. Arriving in high season
3. Staying in the wrong arrondissement
4. Commuting from the suburbs
5. Lugging overloaded bags
6. Sightseeing by the numbers
7. Booking unnecessary tours
8. Driving in Paris
9. Overspending on local transport
10. Being easy prey for pickpockets and purse-snatchers
11. Saying "Adieu" instead of "Au revoir"

About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden is a professional travel writer, book author, and editor who focuses on European cities and transportation.

After 4-1/2 years of covering European travel topics for About.com, Durant and Cheryl Imboden co-founded Europe for Visitors (including Paris for Visitors) in 2001. The site has earned "Best of the Web" honors from Forbes and The Washington Post.

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3rd inset photo copyright © Didier Faucher.