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A Photographer's Guide to Paris

by Philip Greenspun, June 2000

Paris is one of the birthplaces of photography and a city whose casual beauty makes for rich material to anyone willing to walk around slowly and observe carefully. It could be that your eyes will settle on a bit of sculpture on a building facade. Or the arrangement of goods in a shop.

Standard Paris Photos

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If you want to convince your friends that you really were in the City of Light, make sure that you've got some photos of Notre Dame, the area around Ile de la Cite, the Tour Eiffel, and the Champs Elysees with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. There is a variety of ways to make these more interesting than the standard point-and-shoot image. Start by using black and white film. All the great photographers of Paris (e.g., Atget, Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, Kertesz) worked in black and white.

Try using wide-angle lenses with people in the foreground and monuments in back. Parisians are reliably stylish and tourists are reliably clownish. Either way, you've got something entertaining and unique in the foreground. If you're willing to lug a tripod, use a long telephoto lens to compress multiple buildings into flat patterns. If you're emulating Cartier-Bresson and traveling light with just a 50mm lens, it is even more vital that you get comfortable smiling at passersby and snapping their pictures.

People Looking at Art

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Paris is the ultimate place to get photos of people viewing and reacting to art. There is sculpture throughout the city and the museums tend to be camera-friendly if not flash-friendly. The easiest museum in which to create dramatic images of art, people, and structure is the Musee d'Orsay, a converted train station housing art from 1850 through World War I. Another good choice is Centre Pompidou, the modern art museum and cultural center.

Photographic Exhibitions

Pick up a copy of Reponses Photo at a newsstand and turn to the Actuexpos (L'Actualite des Expositions) section for a list of museum and gallery photo exhibitions throughout France, organized by region.

Disneyland Paris

A 40-minute RER ride from the center of Paris and you're in people photography heaven: Disneyland. Try black and white to focus attention on the bizarre attitudes of the crowd, the pained expressions of those who've waited on line for hours. I keep meaning to take a Fuji 617 panoramic camera in there.


For the graves of great artists, marked by fine stone carving, Parisian cemeteries are unexcelled. Visit Cimetiere de Montmartre, the resting place of Hector Berlioz, Henrich Heine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Jacques Offenbach, and Francois Truffaut. Then move south to the Cimetiere du Montparnasse, where you find the graves of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (Statue of Liberty), Charles Baudelaire, Samuel Beckett, Andre Citroen, Alfred Dreyfus (Dreyfus Case), Man Ray, Guy de Maupassant, Camille Saint-Saens, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. You can end your day east of downtown at the Cimitiere du Pere Lachaise (16 Rue du Repos; Metro: Pere Lachaise). Honore de Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Frederic Chopin, Moliere, Yves Montand, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, and Oscar Wilde await you.

Montmartre/Sacre Coeur

Except in winter, the hill of Montmartre is worthwhile for photographing tourists interacting with artists working on the street.

Suggested Day around the Eiffel Tower

Get to the Tour Eiffel when it opens (9:00 am in July and August; 9:30 am the rest of the year). Take some photos from the top and around the base while the sunlight is still coming from an interesting angle.

Proceed to Rue Cler, a pedestrian street market for photographs of people shopping, food and flowers for sale. Save your appetite, though, for the cafe at the Musee Rodin (below).

Proceed on foot to the Musee Rodin at 77 Rue de Varenne. Take some pictures of the Rodin sculptures in the garden. The little cafe in the garden serves nice light lunches in a tranquil environment. As a bonus for Americans, the interior part of the cafe is completely non-smoking.

If you still have energy left, double back to the Hotel des Invalides. This complex, built on an inhuman scale, is not a great place for photography but it contains the important Dome Church within which lies Napoleon's Tomb as well as an interesting army museum. The most unusual part of the museum is a collection of relief maps (Musee des Plans-Reliefs). The light levels are too low for photography but it is interesting nonetheless.

If you're in the mood for more art, there is a lovely small museum devoted primarily to the works of Aristide Maillol at 59 Rue de Grenelle on your way toward the Sevres-Babylone Metro stop.

You can end your day in the brasserie at the historic Hotel Lutetia, right on top of the Sevres-Babylone Metro stop and across the square from the Bon Marche department store.

Skip The Marais

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If you're short on time, you can skip the Marais, every guidebook's favorite Paris neighborhood. This is a gentrified-in-the-1960s quarter of narrow streets that lacks the authenticity of the rest of downtown Paris. For example, there is a street containing some kosher food shops, Rue des Rosiers. You're supposed to see Hassidim walking down the streets in dreadlocks, stocking up for Shabbat. In reality, any Jews that you see are most likely to be from New York and clad in jeans and a T-shirt.

The Marais contains some important museums. The Musee Picasso displays the painter's personal collection of works, i.e., stuff that didn't sell. The museum is further notable for being perhaps the only museum in Paris that has bothered to put up an English translation of its signage. The Museee Carnavalet is even more interesting, though photography seems to be forbidden. This contains paintings and rooms from various periods in Parisian history.

English Bookstore

Brentano's at 37 Avenue L'Opera is better and bigger than the average mall bookstore in the US. WH Smith at 248 Rue de Rivoli is also a good choice for selection. If you want a conversation and a bit of history to go with your Danielle Steele novel, visit Shakespeare and Company, 37 Rue de la Bucherie.

Other Shops

In terms of the way that goods are organized and displayed, Paris is one of the world's finest shopping cities. And the Parisians are thoughtful curious shoppers. This leads to some good photo opportunities. The area around Madeleine contains Fauchon, the most famous name in Paris gourmet foods, and also a variety of more specialized competitors.

A particularly interesting kind of shopping experience is the 19th century gallery or "passage". There are a bunch of these just to the east of the Opera Garnier.

Another interesting theme is the exotic and unfamiliar brand names that you'll find in Paris:


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If you need Internet connectivity from your room, there are but few choices. Sofitel Arc de Triomphe will supposedly have 10base-T jacks in every room for Ethernet-based connectivity by the end of February 2001.

If you don't need Internet connectivity or perhaps you're willing to struggle with a modem and a European ISP, your choices are varied. It is best to decide on a neighborhood first.

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If you're interested in nightlife and shopping, the Opera Quarter is fabulous. I've stayed in the Millenium Hotel, 12 Boulevard Haussman, www.stay-with-us.com, opera@mill-cop.com, (01) 49 49 16 00. It is conveniently situated for the gourmet, with a McDonald's to the left, another McDonald's across the street, and a third down the Boulevard des Italiens. Nearly 20 cinema screens are within a 5-minute walk (look for "VO" or "version originale" if you don't want to strain to understand a French-dubbed "VF" or "version francaise" of your Hollywood classic) and a bunch of good all-night or late-night brasseries. I've never stayed in the Ambassador Hotel, next door at 16 Boulevard Haussman, but it is reputed to be excellent as well. From either hotel, it is about a 20-minute (interesting) walk to the Louvre and Notre Dame.

If you want to wake up and stroll by the river, walk into an art museum, or visit Notre Dame, you can't do better than a hotel smack in the middle of the Ile St-Louis. These will all be small; don't expect the facilities of a palace or business hotel. The DK guide recommends Hotel des Deux-Iles, (01) 43 26 13 35, and Hotel du Jeu de Paume, (01) 43 26 14 18.

If business calls you to the southern portion of the city, the only palace hotel is the Lutetia (www.lutetia-paris.com). This place is steeped in history. The Nazis camped out here during WWII and French Jews who'd survived the war and returned to Paris stayed here right after. To be a good value, the Lutetia would need to add (1) non-smoking rooms, (2) Ethernet drops in the rooms, and (3) better temperature control in its showers.


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The Michelin Red Guides are the most reliable source for restaurants throughout Europe. A Michelin Red Guide Paris is a bit cumbersome to carry around a city, however, and tends not to bother rating quick and simple places. One useful strategy for Paris is to stop into a good hotel and ask the concierge for a recommendation in the neighborhood.

Below are some personal favorites.

Champs Elysees

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This district contains a bunch of Michelin 2-star and 3-star restaurants at which you'll need reservations, a jacket and tie, a long time to eat, and the right attitude. They're all great if you book weeks in advance and dedicate the evening to the experience. If, on the other hand, you want a beautiful fish dinner after a movie, take the advice of the concierge at the Hotel Georges V and visit Le Bistro de Marius at 6 Avenue George V (a few blocks towards the river from the hotel; (01) 40 70 11 76). For about $35 per person they serve a fabulous three-course dinner with wine. They don't take reservations and the dining room is rather smoky.


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Le Petit Bofinger, 20 Boulevard Montmartre, is friendly, open fairly late, and has a large non-smoking section at the back of the restaurant. Menus at $15 and $25.

Just beyond the north wall of the Palais Royal, Le Grand Colbert is a beautifully decorated brasserie (2 Rue Vivienne; (01) 42 86 87 88).

St. German Des Pres

Restaurant Paris, inside the Hotel Lutetia, is an 8-table 1-room 1-star temple of cuisine (45 Boulevard Raspail, (01) 49 54 56 90). Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Bottom Line

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There are seven Michelin 3-star restaurants in Paris and several thousand crummy crepe or couscous joints. Those are your starting odds. Unlike the small towns of France, highish prices won't guarantee quality food and service. A crowded brasserie on the Champs Elysees may merely be serving tourists too lazy to ask around, check the guidebooks, or walk a bit. Even the locals aren't necessarily discriminating; fast food chains proliferate and prosper throughout the city.

(One aspect of the French restaurant experience underscores the difference in mobile telecom infrastructures between the US and France. Instead of taking your credit card up to a hard-wired terminal, your waiter will bring a little machine right to your table. This uses the reliable GSM mobile phone network to dial up for credit approval, something that would be impossible in the US where AT&T or Sprint PCS would drop half the calls.)


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In the good old days, the answer would be obvious: Michelin Green Guide to Paris. This is still a useful book and the star system helps one prioritize the numberless sites of the city. However, the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Paris is more useful, especially for a photographer, because the book contains a small snapshot of each site. Thus you're able to make an informed decision as to whether or not the journey will be photographically worthwhile. The Dorling Kindersley guide is also good about indicating whether or not photography is allowed within a site. Finally, the guide contains a Metro/RER map on the back cover, a small street atlas, restaurant recommendations, and hotel listings. Somehow the end result is just a bit weak for planning purposes but it is perfect to keep in your pocket.

Getting There

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If you are visiting the southern portion of the city (left bank), consider trying to find a flight into Orly; it will save you time and money in a taxi. Most international nonstops, however, fly into Aeroport Charles de Gaulle (CDG; also known as "Roissy"). From CDG it is an hour-long $40 taxi ride to the center of Paris or a few dollars on the RER.

For airline choices, see the photo.net guide to international airlines. Bottom line: Air France is most likely to have a nonstop flight from wherever you are. Their people are friendly and relaxed. If you're on a 777 or A340 you'll have personal video in every seat, even in coach. If you must connect, try to take British Airways; it is the best large airline and you fly directly over London on most flights to Paris from the U.S.--i.e., you lose some time changing planes in London but you've not flown any extra distance. American Airlines is the only carrier that I actively avoid.

Getting Around

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Though the Metro is efficient, taxis in Paris are surprisingly cheap, practical, and scenic. Within the tourist areas, a one-way taxi trip is unlikely to cost more than $10. For long trips by yourself, though, you can save the big bucks by taking the RER, a kind of commuter rail.


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American citizens don't need a visa to visit France. Despite the fact that the country is modern and has excellent health care, you should expect to get sick. Either you'll catch a cold on the plane going over or you'll lack immunity to a food or flu virus that is common and harmless over there.

The time in Paris is GMT+1, i.e., one hour ahead of London and six hours ahead of New York. Thus if it is 9:00 am in New York, it is already 3:00 pm in Paris.

Electricity in France is 220V at 50 Hz. Most laptop computer and digital camera power supplies can function on this power and at most you'll need a mechanical adaptor. Business hotel rooms often are equipped with an American-style plug near the desk. If not, the hotel will lend you an adapter.

The country code for France is 33.

Money seems to be the franc rather than the euro. You can get francs with an American ATM card from just about any bank machine. The exchange rate is usually between 6 and 7 francs per dollar. Prices are also marked in euros, each of which is roughly equivalent to one dollar. Supposedly on January 1, 2002 the French will start using Euro bills and coins.

Going Beyond

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France is just a bit smaller than Texas and packed with interesting historical photogenic scenery. You could hop the TGV and get to Marseille in 4 hours (or Milan in about 6!). But it is rather difficult to apply yourself seriously to the craft of photography when the landscape is whizzing past at 185 miles per hour.

Rent a car. Throw the tripod and camera bag in the trunk and poke along from village to village, keeping your eyes open for side roads, backroads, old signs painted on the sides of buildins, etc.

Don't let your ignorance of obscure traffic laws concern you; the French don't follow laws very carefully themselves. Do make sure that you've got a reasonably large car with airbags; France has an auto accident death rate that is, per passenger-mile, 3 times that of Britain or Germany.

Learning French

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To a first approximation, everyone in Paris speaks English. A lot of times the shop assistants are from other European Union countries and, in fact, speak better English than French! Nonetheless, you'll have a much more enjoyable trip if you brush up your junior high school French.

Pimsleur tapes are best but remember that you'll need 30 minutes for 30 days to listen to the cassettes or CDs (Amazon sells French I on CD, French I on cassette, French II on cassette, French III on CD, and French III on cassette)

The Complete Idiot's Guide to French is a pretty good book but its 456 pages of instruction are substantially diluted by the personal reflections of the author, "who has taught in New York City public schools for 20 years and lives in Bayside, New York." The book also contains tips on navigating the exotic commercial waters of France. For example, "check out rates of a few car rentals before you make a decision [on which company to rent from], because rates vary from agency to agency."

As an example of how reduced human capabilities have become in the second half of the 20th century, pick up a used or library copy of Margarita Madrigal's An Invitation to French (1945 reprinted 1972; Simon and Schuster). This is a small-format 200-page book that is almost exclusively in French and conveys more useful dialog and grammar than Complete Idiot's Guide and similar modern books.

You won't learn any French language from Charade, which is in English, but it will give you a good feel for the city.

The French

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The French, especially Parisians, have a reputation for rudeness. This is occasionally confirmed in luxury shops, especially if you're dressed like a schlub. Sifting through 17 years of personal experience, however, I can relate the following anecdotes of French rudeness:

  • Whenever I initiative a conversation or transaction in my broken junior high school French, I get an answer in reasonably good English.
  • In 1983 I was riding as a passenger in a Parisian's car. We were driving past a train station and two people ran frantically into the street to flag us down. They explained that they'd just missed their train, one of the TGVs with reserved seats, but that it would be stopping for 15 minutes at a station in another section of Paris. There weren't any taxis available but if we'd be willing to rush them over to the other station, they might make their train. My friend quickly agreed to drive 20 minutes out of his way to help out these strangers.
  • In 1984 I attended a conference in Italy and met a Parisian computer scientist. He found out that I was going to be stopping next in Paris and was sorry that he'd be out of town that week. He gave me the keys to his centrally located apartment. The morning after I arrived two of his girlfriends turned up to take me sightseeing. He'd called them from his hotel in Italy.
  • In 1984 I was in the Champs Elysees drugstore cafe eating dinner by myself, reading the Herald Tribune. Next to me were two impeccably suited business men from Strasbourg. Next to them was a penniless college student working in Paris as an au pair. At the end of our meals all four of us got into the business guys' huge Renault sedan to be guided around the city by the college girl. We didn't split up until 3:00 am.
  • In 2001 a colleague and I were dining at Le Bistro de Marius. The couple at the adjacent table heard us order two glasses of wine and interrupted to offer us their nearly-untouched second bottle of white wine. We fell into conversation with the businessman and his civil servant wife. When they heard of our plans to visit Disneyland Paris we were given his card and an offer to be shown around Paris personally. Meanwhile we'd been attempting to talk with the waitress in French but she only wanted to speak English. Though she'd never visited the U.S., she'd developed a passion for our country and was actively seeking a restaurant job in the States.

Paris is a big city. People there aren't exactly starved for social contact. But if you're reasonably soft-spoken, good humored, and make an attempt to speak the language, you may be surprised at how friendly the natives turn out to be. Remember that if Parisians didn't like people, they'd probably have moved out to the countryside a long time ago.

Text and pictures copyright 2001 Philip Greenspun These photos were taken with a Canon EOS D30 digital SLR and 17-35/2.8L lens (whose effective focal length is multiplied by 1.6 due to the small imaging sensor in the D30).

Article created June 2000

Readers' Comments

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Paul Ashton , January 24, 2001; 07:05 P.M.

Ah, Paris! A wonderful city. Phil has done an excellent job of describing Paris as well as illustrating his experiences. On my trips there we seem to work all the daylight hours but I have been fortunate to find no line at the Tour Eifel at sundown in June. Wonderful light in all directions!

A few additions: Take the RER or Metro to La Defense and see where they put all the modern architecture. IMO it doesn't quite work and it's all work and no play, not at all Parisienne!

St. Germain is my favorite area. Quite pro-American with excellent restaurants and good hotels.

Use the Metro (trains and buses) and get carnets of tickets. Be sure to understand the zone system on the Metro! Taxis can become very expensive. Be aware that certain times of the year are prone to disruptive strikes to the transport system. Logjams then occur and taxis are impossible to find.

Definitely learn some French. It will be appreciated and you won't be sneered at! One restaurant near the Jardin Luxembourg treated us so badly because we spoke only English that we changed our tactics and never had a bad experience anywhere since. Even if you only speak "un peu" it will be a great help.

I like Paris and I like the people of Paris, even though many of them were born somewhere else!

Finally, on getting there. Continental flies from Houston and Newark, using 777s with massive overhead bins and great service. Better than Air France (which is good) and BA (which could be a lot better). Just my opinion, of course!

Bill Akstens , January 24, 2001; 07:59 P.M.

A few more comments on visiting Paris: The hotel rooms are very small by American standards, and it helps knowing this before you go. Conventional shower stalls are rare, so get used to using those flexible handheld nozzles in the bathtub. Some of the hotel elevators are also rather cozy in size, but make up for it in style. The ATM machines require 4 digit PIN codes so you need to have yours changed if it's longer. The Parisians are friendly overall, and it helps if you dress nice and at least attempt to speak some basic French. Also, always greet shopkeepers with the French equivalent of "goodmorning/goodevening sir/madame". And say "thank-you" and "please" often. It's an unwritten requirement. For great vistas of the city consider taking the Tower Tour at Notre Dame cathedral where you walk up the twisty spiral stairs up to the gargoyle balcony high up on the front facade. Cost is moderate. Or, for free, visit the rooftop "Panorama" at the department store Samaritaine on the right bank. Just cross the river at Pont Neuf and you'll see it. It's 9 floors up and offers stunning views of the river, Eifel tower, Montmarte, etc. It's a little tricky finding the right elevator to go up, but it's worth the effort. For an unconventional tour experience go visit the catacombs, where you get to walk a mile through dark tunnels piled high with old bones. If you're patient, you can take tripod shots in the tunnels, but you have to time it right in between all the people walking by. The catacomb hours are somewhat limited, so check in your tour book first.

Kevin Sperl , January 25, 2001; 06:59 A.M.

I am sitting here at IBM/Paris at lunch and was browsing photo.net and came upon this article. How convenient. Pairs IS wonderful (even if the keyboards are messed up :-) ). Just a note on tripods. In 2 locations, Jardin du Luxoumberg and Musee d Armee, I was taking pictures outside and was approached by security gaurds and asked to not take pictures. Othere were taking pictures with "point and shoots" and not being bothered.

Lots of opps for night photos. Everything is lit. Despite the constant rain/drizzle; there are lots of images to make. Merci e, avior

Jay J. Pulli , January 25, 2001; 08:17 A.M.

Boy, the difference between these digital images and previous film-to-PhotoCD transfers stands out immediately. The digicams produce really flat images that just don't have the contrast or saturation of original film images.

Rik Allen , January 26, 2001; 06:01 A.M.

The Catacombs are odd - difficult to do much photography in a dimly lit underground passage where tripods are forbidden, but there are possibilities. Balance the camera on skull and....

Don Seeley , January 26, 2001; 11:41 P.M.

I just read your Paris page (via RobotWisdom.com) and was reminded of my own experience with Parisienne generosity during a brief, 5-day visit.

Such as the non-english speaking shop girl who walked two blocks from her kiosk at 10 o'clock at night to demonstrate how to use my phone card.

Or the panhandler who patiently gave me directions to the post office as well as a language and pronunciation lesson on how to request the number and denomination stamps I needed.

There may indeed be rude Parisiennes, but in 5 days of bumming around the city, I didn't meet one.

Alan Soon , January 27, 2001; 12:54 P.M.

As someone else has pointed out -- these Canon D30 pictures look relatively flat compared to Phil's Kodak scans. Wow. Big difference.

By the way Phil, did you tweak the levels in Photoshop at all?

Ivor Nigel Grate , January 28, 2001; 08:00 A.M.

The best thing I like about Paris is when american tourists who don't speak french ask me for directions. Pretending to be a rude French person who doesn't speak english is so much fun. Giving precise directions (which they can't understand) to where they want to go, is what makes Paris such fun for me.

I was told off for using a tripod in a graveyard once.

The horse outside the musee d'orsay has unfeasibly large testicles, which is as close to sculpture as you're going to et on a monday, when the place is closed.

The house thing, in the middle of Les Jardins Luxembourg serves some Government function (hence the dudes with guns and itchy fingers and aversion to photographers) Don't miss the Medici fountain.

I must remember in future to wait until I'm sober before posting to photo.net

Philip Greenspun , January 30, 2001; 01:15 P.M.

Did I tweak the levels in PhotoShop?!? Of course not! These images are batch-converted using ImageMagick scripts as usual. If I'd hand-tweaked the 10,000 images that I've added to photo.net over the years, I'd have some pretty bad RSI...

Avni Klein , January 31, 2001; 01:21 P.M.

What intruiged me most about Philip's description of Paris was the finding that Hasidic jews there have dreadlocks! How fashionable! Here in New York, they only have sidelocks, alas...

Nikki Schwerdfeger , February 03, 2001; 05:13 P.M.

Liked this article very much. My sixteen-year-old son is going to Madrid and Paris the end of May with a student group. He needs to take pictures for his 4-H project and contests. Your Guide gave us lots of ideas and places to look for. He will be using a standard 35mm Pentax ZX-7. Hope he has as good of luck as with your digital. Thanks!

jm v , February 07, 2001; 05:29 A.M.

Nice (and different for once) photos of the Eiffel Tower. Nice to hear about frenchs from a different point of view. GO! to the Rodin musuem it's free on Sundays and not far from the Army museum, his work is amazing.

Christopher Hawkins , February 12, 2001; 08:14 P.M.

Great city, but..... I got my pocket picked on the metro. It was Saturday, February 3, 2001 at 5:30PM just after getting into a very crowded metro car at the station by the Louvre. Group of 12 - 14 year old boys. Knew it happened and not a thing I could do. Carry only what you need and definitely not in your back pocket. That is what can happen when a country boy from Ohio visits the big city. The good part of the story is that 2 hours later, AMEX got me a $1000 cash advance and all was well with the world.

The National Museum of Modern Art at the Pompidou Centre is a must see. Photographs by Bresson and other excellent photographers.

Marilyn Oakes-Greenspan , February 15, 2001; 04:37 P.M.

Just a note on transportation: While the metro works great, we stayed in an apartment in Montorgueil (about 5 minute walk from Les Halles) and found we could walk just about anywhere: to Notre Dame, Jardins des Luxembourg, Louvre, Trocadero, etc. The only place we didn't walk to was Montmartre. Just to say that if you're not carrying heavy equipment one day, try walking. Paris is very pedestrian friendly (just watch the cars if you cross against the light, and don't slow down!).

moe wizenberg , February 17, 2001; 01:02 A.M.

Leave the tripod at home and use a monopod which also serves as a cane--no one would ever pick on someone with a cane. Cascade designs makes an adjustable height staff staff with the wooden ball handle which is removable leaving a normal tripod screw. Add a small ball head and reattach the knob. Voila! Remove the knob any time you need a monopod. Even better get an old Bolex monopod which already has the screw, add a ball head and get a wooden knob to the top to make a handle. The bolex monopod in collapsed form is only about 22" long and will fit into most suitcases. I've used the monopod in museums, churches etc with no problem as long as photography is permitted.

David Huang , March 01, 2001; 03:00 P.M.

Great article, Phil!

I was in Paris last Thanksgiving weekend. The sky was terribly cloudy and my color photo came out kind of dull; the camera's meter (EOS 1N) probably got fooled. Me and my wife don't speak French, but we did try to communicate with the local with simple greeting phrase. I guess because we don't look French at all, instead of letting us "butchering" their beautiful language, the locals tend to communicate with us in English with smile.

Two suggestions for people going to Paris: 1. Watch out for dog drops! They are everywhere. 2. French eat late (past 8 PM) and so you can avoid dinner crowd if you eat around 7 or so. We found a couple small mom and pop restaurant and I had one of the best meals I ever had.

K. Townsend , March 02, 2001; 05:18 A.M.

I actually moved to Paris about eight months ago from Canada, and it's one of the few places in the world I've ever really felt at home in. (And I've been to 13 countries on 3 continents this past year alone.) In regards to tripods, though, you'll get hassled by the police in most places for having them. They associate tripods with professional photographers, and insist you get a permit, etc. (It happened to me about three months ago, though I was asking for it, really, since I was using a 4x5" View Camera in Parc de Luxembourg. I managed to talk the gaurd into letting me take just one photo, but, he was a lot kinder than you're likely to get in most places.) If possible, I'd recommend high speed film, or a discreet, 'pocketable' mini-tripod.

Try the area around the Bastille as well for photographic equipment. It's Mecca for second-hand equipment. Anything you can imagine, you can find 7 of them for sale in a 5 minute stretch on Blvd. de Beaumarchais. There's probably 30 shops in a 10 minute walk. I'd particularly recommend 'Le Moyen Format' and their new sister store two shops down 'Le Grand Format'. The customer service anywhere in Paris can be quite snobbish, but once you show your face a few times, they tend to warm up to you.

Hope this helps.

Kevin. (http://www.ktownsend.com)

PS: (24 Mars 2006) - I came across this comment I made ages ago, and wanted to point out that many photography shops on Blvd. Beaumarchais have closed in recent years. I suspect this is because of the very high real-estate prices in Paris, combined with the financial resources required to stock digital equipment versus film (who knows the real reason), but some of the biggest stores are still open. Personally, for professional equipment, I always go to Objectif Bastille (not on the same street, but a 10 minute walks away) or Cirque Photo a ways down Blvd. Beaumarchais.

http://www.objectif-bastille.com/ 11 rue Jules C鳡r 75012 Paris


For more expensive items, Objectif Bastille can be cheaper (I saved more than �200 on my Canon 45mm TS-E at Objectif Bastille versus Cirque ... the price at the latter was to me crazy for this particular item, and this when prices are already crazy in Europe compared to the US.)

Guan Yang , March 15, 2001; 12:37 P.M.

The euro paper and metal currency doesn't begin until 2002. However, all electronic transactions happen in euro, so if you have a euro-denominated account and a charge card for that account, and if the store supports it, you will actually be charged in euros when you use the card.

Doug Smith , April 26, 2001; 08:36 P.M.

If you are looking for an interesting neighborhood to photograph, go to the Mont Martre, and instead of hanging out by all the portrait artists on the west side of the Sacre Cour, follow the stairway down on the East side one level down. The stairway in itself is pure romance. There is a small cafe there which has a wooden carving of Blakhawk, the famous American Indian Chief. Its worth stopping there for a Bierre or glass of wine. Follow the street north - Dont miss the neighborhood on the North side of Mont Martre. Keep your eyes open for Art Noveau flourishes on the houses around there.

tamara gold , May 23, 2001; 01:17 A.M.

I am a bit bothered by a few things on your site! Let me first say that while I realize your site is a site dedicated to photography (lovely photography at that), most anyone should know a few simple facts. First, there is no possible way a city can be "one of the birthplaces" of anything. It is either the birthplace of photography or it is not. If it is not THE birthplace of photography, then it was a location instrumental in the beginning stages of photography, but not THE birthplace.

I am afraid I do not have the time to go through the entire site to read the text, so I shall just comment on a few things that caught my eye. Paris is not a city of casual beauty at all. There are very few cities more formal in architecture, lifestyle and culture than Paris. Even those considered common folk are generally mannered and well spoken. With rare exception, Paris is quite formal in all regards. Not casual at all, under any circumstances.

Your reference to the Marais and the people who live and visit there is completely offensive. Your statement that you are supposed to see Hassidim walking down the street left me almost speechless. First of all, Hassidim do not wear dreadlocks, they have payess, or sidelocks of hair and it is for religious reasons the Hassidic men wear them, not as a fashion statement. Additionally, the Hassidim are not animals in a zoo, nor are they there to be the entertainment! They are simply pious people who would probably prefer if the New Yorkers would stay home! You do not go to the Marais to see the Jewish people (We hate to be called Jews, we like to be called Jewish and whether you are Jewish or not is of no import, you have made a major gaffe). The Marais is home to the Place des la Vosges, one of the most beautiful and historic squares in all of Paris. Yes, there are Jewish residents in the Marais, and some wonderful Jewish history, but as Paris is home to the greatest percentage of Europe's Jewish population, I think you will be hard pressed to find a Jewish neighborhood per se. In fact, Paris is home to more Kosher restaurants than New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC and Chicago combined, most of which are not located in the Marais. And, no, I neither keep Kosher nor am I Hassidic.

I find it amusing that you include a large number (in comparison to the number of photographs on your site) of photographs of McDonald's, KFC and other American restaurants, yet you find it so easy to dismiss the couscous and crepe restaurants. Parisians most often frequent the couscous and crepe shops, not the tourists. The creperies are to Paris what McDonald's is to Los Angeles. You do seem to have an unnatural fascination with the American fast food joint! I am sure you also know that one need not frequent either the Michelin 3 star restaurants, nor the couscous restaurants to have a good meal. Some of the best meals I have ever had in Paris have been in restaurants which are not mentioned in a guide book, but those I have found on long walks through the neighborhoods you so readily dismiss. Most well seasoned travelers know to stay far from the Champs Elysees, unless it is to visit the Guerlain shop at number 68. Once seen, there is little reason to go back, unless you want to spend time with only tourists. Don't dismiss the wonders of Paris, spend some time doing things other than taking photos. You should get to know the people and sights of Paris first hand, not only from behind the lens. While the camera is an amazing tool, it does not replace human contact, but you already knew that.

You do have some lovely photos. I am especially fond of the photo taken from atop Tour Eiffel with the shadows playing across the water and over Chaillot. Very nice indeed. In fact, I think I might like that for wallpaper!

Wishing you well and thanking your for allowing me to vent. I do not mean to sound harsh, truly I don't. You have some remarkable photos and a great eye.

Joseph C , June 11, 2001; 12:31 P.M.

Atop the Centre Pompidou is the restaurant Georges. The food is nothing to scream for, but I think it provides one of the finest views of Paris, especially in the evening. To see the Eiffel Tower sparkle each hour, on the hour (for ten minutes), from your dinner table is remarkable.

Hubert Figuiere , June 26, 2001; 07:46 A.M.

As a Parisian (a suburban in fact), I must say that this article was pretty flattering. This is nice. I have recently purchased a brand new SLR 35mm, and I quickly began to shoot some place in Paris, just because I find it is worth. I was willing to do this for weeks, with the sunny weather we had (I works to block ahead of Champs Elysées) and I finally ended up doing this with the new camera.

I found humourous from Philip to compare gourmet restaurants with MacDonald's or KFC. :-)

Thank you for the trip.

Juan Buhler , August 01, 2001; 04:05 A.M.

Just a few comments:

Do not skip Le Marais. Place des Vosges alone is worth the visit.

If you're in Paris on a Sunday or a festive day, renting a bike is a great idea. The RATP rents bicycles, there's a place in Les Halles where you can get one. On Sundays and holidays the roads along the Seine are closed to traffic and open to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Also for a Sunday, my favorite place is the street market on Rue Mouffetard.


A great street market, excellent produce and great photo ops. Robert Doisneau and other greats used to shoot here a lot.

Finally, stay away from McD's, eat crepes instead, they are cheaper and better. Also, try to explore on you own. I'm always amazed at how a place like the front of Notre Dame can be totally crowded with tourists, but a small side street one block from it is empty and silent... BTW, the best exchange rates I found are in the Ile de la Cite, around the block from Notre Dame, on Rue Chanoinesse.

John Whitman , August 17, 2001; 09:53 A.M.

In defense of Philip's take on Paris:

(This is a brief rebuttal to Tamara Gold's criticisms above)

"First, there is no possible way a city can be 'one of the birthplaces' of anything. It is either the birthplace of photography or it is not."

What is THE birthplace of the automobile? Of the computer? Of painting? Answer: there isn't only one. The French think they invented photography; the British claim they did. I think Phil's statement is a fair way to handle the disagreement.

"I am afraid I do not have the time to go through the entire site to read the text..."

Bing! First rule of web critique: don't criticize something you don't know anything about. It takes a maximum of five minutes to read this entire report; your critique had to take at least twice that long to write. If you can't spare five minutes to learn about what you're critiquing, don't bother speaking out.

"Paris is not a city of casual beauty at all.... Paris is quite formal in all regards."

I think Philip's statement is completely correct. He doesn't mean there is no formal beauty; he means that everywhere you look you fijnd something beautiful, even if you're not trying. Lighten up!

"Your reference to the Marais and the people who live and visit there is completely offensive.... Hassidim do not wear dreadlocks... We hate to be called Jews, we like to be called Jewish and whether you are Jewish or not is of no import, you have made a major gaffe."

Philip is Jewish, so I'm sure he's entertained by a fellow Jewish person telling him he has made a "major gaffe" in referring to his own ethnic group. P.S.: the "dreadlocks" reference was a joke (Philip knows exactly what they're called); your predisposition to outrage, however, apparently kept you from seeing any humor in Philip's writeup.

"I find it amusing that you include a large number (in comparison to the number of photographs on your site) of photographs of McDonald's, KFC and other American restaurants, yet you find it so easy to dismiss the couscous and crepe restaurants."

Um, again, you completely missed the humor in these references; Philip was mocking the presence of these American restaurants, not lauding them (but of course, you didn't have time to actually read the text!). By the way, 2 pictures of McDonald's and 1 of KFC out of 61 pictures total doesn't strike me as a "large number"--again, though, I think you saw in Philip's writeup only what you wanted to see.


Tamara, try spending four or five minutes actually reading Philip's writeup again, this time with an open mind and a sense of humor, and you'll be surprised at what you see. Have a nice day!

Robert Reis , August 24, 2001; 10:03 P.M.

Please remember that Paris is becoming quite dangerous. I visit the city every year and every year the risks for someone who does not know the situation become higher. Three tourists have been stabbed in Montmartre in the last month. When I was there in March I saw an old French women assaulted by three Arab girls (under 15!) in the Metro. An American woman friend of mine was grabbed and pulled into a car by three thugs in April - she kicked her way out. Oddly enough it happened in front of my son's apartment. I have photos of blood stains from in front of my last (three star) hotel. Please be cautious.

Albert Knapp MD , December 30, 2001; 11:09 P.M.

All photographers who fly out of France should be aware that the French security services (the ones who let the shoe bomber get away!) will not allow manual inspections of your film. In fact they take a perverse delight in putting it through their X-ray machines that consistently fog ASA 400 film. My suggestion: find a professional lab in Paris and have your film developed before you leave. I learned my lesson...

Sid Clark , January 01, 2002; 09:48 A.M.

I especially appreciated the photos of the banlieue sections, which are often overlooked and neglected quarters, "les coins noir".

Fazal Majid , January 02, 2002; 02:17 A.M.

The Marais district is nowadays much more of a gay district than a jewish one (Paris beat San Francisco to having the first openly gay mayor, so I guess the phrase "Gay Paree" takes on a whole new meaning). And Tamara is right - half of Europe's jewish population is concentrated in either Paris or London. Even the archbishop of Paris, Mgr Lustiger, is jewish :-)

Just because the French are westerners does not mean they think or react just like Americans. If you want some good references on how to cope with this, you may want to try the delightfully entertaining "French or Foe" by Polly Platt, or for a more highbrow alternative, "The French" by Theodore Zeldin.

Image Attachment: STB_0042.JPG

Milos Bozovic , January 04, 2002; 03:29 A.M.

I've been to Paris last december, between christmas and new year. I really enjoyed my stay even if the weather was not so good. Following the tips from this page I visited some of the no so popular places. Especially the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is something nice. I suppose if you go there on a sunny day, the parc will be full of people. We spent some hours all alone in the parc since it was raining but the parc did not loose any of its charme.

Rather disappointing I found the Blvd. de Beaumarchais where all those camera shops are situated. Some of them were closed and the ones with open doors did not have anything special (for me at last). I was looking for Contax equipment and found quite nothing. What I found were standard lenses at high prices.

Travelling light will save you a lot of energy for let's say, climbing up the stairs of the Notre Dame! Once on the top you can enjoy a beautiful view of Paris. Go there before sunset but bear in mind that the last tour is 45mins before they close!

Also don't skip St. Germain de Pres for shopping or the Quartier Latin around the St. Germain for dinner. Lots of greek restaurants there.

Using only my little Contax and the Planar 50/1.4 I experienced no troubles in taking photographs, whether it was in Jardin du Luxembourg, at Louvre or somewhere else. Also other people travelling with much larger equipments and also tripods were not touched by police officers or security guards. That's my experience so far.

For the winter season I recommend using Ilford Delta 400 and Kodak TMax 3200, on bright, sunny days you can use even 200 or 100 ASA films. For this I used the Fuji NPC 160, rated at 120.

Okay, that's all so far and I hope you'll be able to benefit even from my comments ;)



Allan Møller , February 04, 2002; 05:01 A.M.

I enjoyed this article very much, but I was surprised to see that no one mentions the area of "La Defence" It's a great place in Paris to Visit, especially if you want a break from all the busy traffic and the crowds of people. It's large open spaces, dominated by the "New" Arc Du Triomphe, by Danish arcitect Von Sprechelsen, and modern art displays, is a real difference from the other regions of the city.

Additionally, there is a fantastic view of the city from the top of the New Arc Du Triomphe, wich is also a very good art museum, showing sculptures and paintings. A very good place to escape and relax, and look at modern art, if that's your interest.

Anotehr note on Paris: Don't go there in july/august as I did. I was very hot and smog was heavy. Go in spring (April) or late summer september or october. oh, and do take a wide angle (24 mm or more) It makes it easier to photograph the monumentos parisien buildings.

/Allan M. (Denmark)

Mikul Falcone , February 15, 2002; 04:48 P.M.

Notre Dame Cathedral Interior

As tired and touristey as Notre Dame cathedral may seem, and acutally be, please don't pass it up. I have never been so moved by a location in my life. The history from Roman temple to church, cathedral and cathedral again is palpable. The photographic opportunities are phenomenal, but the light is very dim inside even at noon in the summer. 1/8s at f1.8 was what I was getting.

Steven Weiss , July 19, 2002; 12:43 P.M.

I have just returned from a week in Paris, and I have to put my two cents in about what to see and what to photograph. First, I would not skip the Marais; in fact I would recommend making it your first or second stop in any touring/walking you do. I found Marais pretty, colorful, lively, and very Jewish (contrary to what Phil says). I spotted many orthodox Jews, and while I didn't photograph any of them (I think that rude), there is certainly of wealth of photo subject matter here.

The main areas around Notre Dame, St. Germaine, Place St. Michel, and Place Dauphine are just a delight. You could shoot people in cafes, as well as architecture (and the river) all day here. The possibilities are endless. Good subjects include street musicians, people with their dogs (they bring them to restaurants!), and of course churches, statues and bridges.

Montmartre, Montparnasse (surprisingly beautiful neighborhood), the Latin Quarter--all offer limitless opportunity for street photography.

Rue Cler was, to me, a big disappointment. I found other markets that were more active and lively with images. The area east of there, and just to the east of Invalides, was a delight, with great churches and streets leading to the Pantheon.

The approach to the Eiffel Tower from the east (from Ecole Militaire), which hardly anyone seems to use, offers some stunning photo opportunities. Most people approach from the Trocadero, NW of the tower.

Almost all museums allow photo w/o flash.

The best views are from the roof of the Samaritaine hotel on the Right Bank.

Most important--always carry metro tickets and change for bathrooms!

Marcus Erne , July 25, 2002; 06:53 A.M.

One thing that needs to be added is that Paris is super-expensive!!!

9 EUR for a mid-size draft (beer) in any of the street cafes, is really ridiculous!!! Food is overpriced, too. For me as a German by factor 3x at least. Although I like the city as such, I will come back with my own supplies next time. Paris is one more proof that the Euro makes our (European) lives more expensive!

Good luck with the weather, because my one day visit on the 13th was lousy!!!

Those that have only one day to spend may get a ticket for the red bus line. They have a stop at the north end of the Eiffeltower, price 22 EUR for 2 days! The bus stops at all the mayor sites, leaving out only the Sacre Coer...

Cheers, M.

Dominique Lavie , August 05, 2002; 01:27 A.M.

Don't stop taking photos just because it gets dark too. Paris spends quite a lot on lighting loads of monuments at night. The main monuments are good, but other smaller spots are good too eg. St Michelle fountain just over on the left bank. There are a couple of good spots around the Gare du Nord area - in particular - a very arty stair case that splits in the middle then curves up: that has featured in some old black and white photos and various french films, including "Amelie" recently. That staircase is runs from Gare de l'est on the far left of the station - (if you are facing the station). I'll attempt to attach a copy of my photo of this.

And as a side comment - Gare du Nord is a much cheaper area than the very centre. Beers are 2 euros and you can get a 3 course dinner for 9 euros.

Bill Akstens , October 09, 2002; 12:10 P.M.

I just returned from my second visit to Paris, and found many photographic opportunities. The market street Rue de Buci in St Germain des Pres was very active and full of interesting subjects. I also found the entire riverfront area to be inspiring, with many interesting bridges, walkways, and statues to study. In particular, the Pont des Artes (with its graceful support structures and the dome of the French Institute at its south end) and Pont Alexandre III (with its amazing lamp posts and statuary) kept me clicking away for a long time. My favorite image on Alexander's bridge was to frame the statue hanging off the west side of the bridge looking out over the river, with the Eiffel tower and Baton Mouche boats in the distance (standard 50mm lens). The front yard of the Invalides was also quite interesting with its manicured bushes and displays of old cannons.

Michael Andrassy , November 25, 2002; 06:34 P.M.

I've been in Paris a couple of times and every time it's been just great. I do recommend to get on Tour Montparnasse at night (it should be open until midnight) in order to get a great view on Paris by night. That way you'll see it from above including the illuminated Tour Eiffel.

Nerrida Dempster , December 10, 2002; 08:01 A.M.

In Phil's article, he stated: "Except in winter, the hill of Montmartre is worthwhile for photographing tourists interacting with artists working on the street."

There were still plenty of street artists and tourists there on Dec 9th 2002. Go and climb the stairs of Montmartre, it's well worth the visit.

Holly Helterhoff , March 04, 2003; 04:18 P.M.

I just returned from my first visit to Paris - what a wonderful city with wonderful people.

A few suggestions: Do your homework re: stained glass. Everywhere you turn there is an opportunity to photograph this, in cathedrals, cemetaries, etc., and sometimes it is tricky. I should have experimented at home more before I toured, and also sought out some reading, I think.

Also, in the Louvre you can use flash in most (too many?) situations. My husband and I had expected no flash, and were very surprised.

The cane/tripod idea was a good suggestion. I wish we had brought one in the catacombes. We knew they would be dark, but seriously, they are dark!!! And the cathedrals on an overcast day or in the morning are dark too.

Charles Worthington , May 11, 2003; 11:56 P.M.

Parc de Luxembourg

Death of a genre

As of 1st Jan 2003 a new civil right 'droit a l'image' means that if you follow the genre of Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, Riboud, Brassai and other French masters you are likely to get into trouble with a maximum fine of $16k. Whilst I doubt most of us will get our stuff published in France - in order to get into real trouble - the French are well versed in their new right and protest, as only the French can, the moment a camera appears. I myself have been 'roughed up' by the local gendarme whilst photographing in the Parc de Luxembourg. Added to that - are you American? If so, they are going to love you for calling them a bunch of cheese eating monkeys (I know you didn't personally but anti American sentiment is still riding high in many parts of Europe, especially France.) Expect some extra grief when they discover the miscreant photographer is a yank (as I'm afraid you will be called).

I've photographed Paris for many years and the whole new privacy laws have killed it for me. It's ironic that the birthplace of street photography can have turned so strongly against the genre.

Good luck and go careful. PS Try the Bois de Bologne after dark...

Olivier Ffrench , November 18, 2003; 03:58 P.M.

Sunset on the Seine

Being French and having spent the last 6 years in Paris I cannot help adding a few comments :-)

The jardin du Luxembourg is very near the Senate, one of our two legislative chambers, which explains the abundance of cops hunting down every tripod there.
I have been shooting with a tripod in many other public places including the Louvre, the Trocadéro and the François Mitterrand Library and never had a problem with it.

It might not be obvious but many monuments in Paris are in fact copyrighted. All the recent ones (like the Louvres Pyramid) are. The Eiffel Tower lighting is copyrighted. Artists retain rights on all their sculptures, buildings, etc... and can theorically prevent any use of photos of these.
Of course, this kind of rule is not easy to enforce outside France :-)

As for the photography subjects, Philip as covered many of them it seems. I would add that the Seine and its bridges offer very interesting points of view, especially in the evening or early morning. To get the sunset, choose a bridge in the west (Alexander III or Bir Hakeim Bridges are nice), to get the sunrise go to the bridges near Bercy or the eastern part of the Ile de la Cité.

One last thing: unlike Charles Worthington, I would avoid the Bois de Boulogne at night, unless in a car with doors and windows safely closed :-)))

Octavio Bustard , February 07, 2004; 05:05 A.M.

As an American living in Paris, I can attest to the beauty and grace of this city. What was really suprising to me is the kindness and pleasantness of the average Parisian. English speakers will do well to remember the following basic etiquette rules: 1) Try to speak alittle French, even if its really bad; They'll reply in English. But if you just barge ahead in English they'll be offended (wouldnt you be offended if a Frenchman approached you in NYC and expected you to speak Fench?). 2) ALWAYS great strangers, shop assistants etc with "Bon Jour" or "Bonsoir" and always refer to them as Madame or Monsieur and upon taking your leave "au revior." Such basic courtesies are EXPECTED in French society and ignorance of them by tourists is, I am convinced, why Parisians can wrongly be seen as rude. It's you who are rude, not them! 3) Be sensitive about taking photos of people without their permission. The French have a thing about being photographed. 4) Use the metro; its safe and amazingly efficient. 5) DONT skip la Marais. Its a wonderful part of the city.While there, visit the Photography museums Hotel Sully and Maison Europeene de la Photographie for wonderful photo exhibits. 6) For authentic Paris, avoid the tourist traps like Montmarte/Pigalle or the latin quarter; waunder instead around the Bastille area, or spend a Sunday afternoon waundering thru the Canal Saint Martin, or walk up rue Mouffetard and spend an afternoon in a sidewalk cafe on the Place de la Contrascarpe (just find Hemingway's house on any tourist map). 7) Finally, be polite and don't expect everything to be like 'at home.' If you do, you may be pleasantly suprised to find it BETTER than home. Bon voyage!

sogeri pilpoil , February 09, 2004; 08:24 P.M.

Hem... The "tourist" didn't give you the address of the most famous american café in Paris, so called Harry's Bar... Big mistake ! Easy to find : ask to any taxi driver or any kellner. Crazy hours...

You're right, Tim. La rue Mouffetard MUST be seen on saturday's morning market. Then you'll see yuppies and Grand Ma's shopping. Take a seat out of a café, I promise you a lot of fun. Don't hesitate, if you are by any older area in the city, to seat and look. You will learn from this that parisians take time to have a cultural life style. This is amazing how you can't imagine all those people read and study, have a deep knowledge of a special field. And yes, sometimes, they forget to be urbans, they might be a bit rude, but never unpolite, almost everytime disagree. Don't worry, keep smile, they are ready to discuss with you for hours. Because they are hooked, passionated. Try to discover their hobby, you will discover marvellous and kind persons...

A very typical way of feeding in Paris-Les Halles : Opposite side of the garden, from St-Eustache church : Le Louchebem. Until the 70s, "Les Halles" was the main market for all parisians. Butchers used to have their breaktime and their lunches in this restaurant. Real parisian butchers are quite uneasy to say that a restaurant is good enough, but first it won't be sparkling or expensive, always honest. Then comes the quality of food.

John Peri , May 24, 2004; 03:09 P.M.

To Sogeri: The original Harry's Bar of the 1920 and 30's (Paris, Venice, Rome) was made famous by Ernest Hemingway who frequented it and included it in one of his novels and radio talks. It has primarily become of interest to tourists, but receives very little following locally.

Cyril Z. , June 04, 2004; 07:49 A.M.

Browsing the comment, I read that some of you were told not to take photographs while on tripod. This is "normal" regarding local laws. You can photograph freely all open spaces of Paris ( non-public parts are submitted to local rules ) but only in a point-and-shoot technique. Tripods are allowed only if the photographer has an authorization from the Police "Prefecture", or from the mayor.

So when a security guard tell you about not taking pictures, he only means that you have to drop your tripod to shoot.

That's what I has to add

Robin Mackay , November 26, 2004; 01:25 P.M.

This is some really useful information to write down and take with you : Earlier this year I was in Paris and I lost the winder from my Pentax leaving the camera pretty much unusable, a potential disaster. First I went to MATPHOT, at 30 Bvd de la Bastille (12th Arrond.). The guy there couldn't help (however you can buy every type of film there, and hire equipment) but he directed me to PRO SERVICE at 85 Bvd Port Royal (13th Arrond. phone 43 31 83 00) This is a fantastic little shop, every surface and wall covered with cameras of every description, with three engineers working silently side by side at a workbench. They took a winder off another camera they had in, and charged me only the replacement cost. Definitely worth knowing about!

Michel Claude , April 17, 2005; 09:51 A.M.

Come on BKWAAS! Your comment is offensive. What do you know about international politics? I am curious to know what is fluff for you. Let see more of your pictures...

Luis Argüelles , September 11, 2006; 02:14 P.M.

While visiting the Loira Valley for a week, I dedicated a day to Paris. It was a 450 km trip by car in order to spend five hours in the French Capital. Whas it a crazy movement?... absolutely not!. You can see my photographic Essay, "5 hours in Paris" at:


Anders Hingel , October 01, 2006; 06:43 A.M.

I find these suggestions from Philip Greenspun very well made. I have only three corrections to suggest: Don't skip Le Marais (still worthwhile and genuin. Go through Le Marais to Places des Vosges); skip Disneyland that has certainly nothing what so ever to do with Paris; and the Picasso museum does not contain stuf he could not sell, but is one of three Picesso museums in Europe with paintings, sculptures and drawings etc he luckily for us all did not want to sell during his lifetime and that the family has managed to keep united.

Ryszard Lebmor , October 12, 2006; 03:39 A.M.

Great city ! I was there in 10.2005
In my opinion metro is the best idea to move very quickly !
See my: Paris photos

Denis Vu , October 23, 2006; 02:27 P.M.


Has there been a change in French law regarding the use of the tripod in Paris? I would hate to have to pack it to find out that the "flics" are going to toss it out.



Kylie Henderson , March 06, 2007; 10:42 P.M.

HI, My mum and I are going to Paris in September 2007 and being a photographer have very much enjoyed your photo's and talk of the Parisians thanks a heap

Gavin B , April 07, 2007; 04:22 A.M.

Great page. Have just put together my own photos of the City of Light

I'm sure it's been said before, but it's worth noting that in 2003 (or perhaps even as early as 2002), the Eiffel Tower company patented the lighting system on the Eiffel Tower, and if you use a close up photograph of the Eiffel Tower for commercial purposes, they might track you down and demand you cough up payment. Disgusting abuse of copyright I know!

I have heard of photographers trying to photograph the French Senate in the Jardin du Luxembourg, whilst using a tripod and having a tap on the shoulder by a policeman.

Suzanne Krueger , June 16, 2007; 10:37 P.M.

In planning for my third trip to Paris, I came upon this site when searching for "photography museums in Paris".....what a delight to read all the comments. I am not a seasoned photographer but love to take interesting photos and am always surprised when I get ONE! I was however surprised that no one mentioned St. Chapelle on the Ile de la Cite....the stained glass is unsurpassed in color and brillance, the chapels, both lower and upper, provide some interesting photo-ops....in the afternoon the sun will be shining through the south facade...the best light for this spectacular "show". If you are planning a longer stay in Paris ( a week or more), consider renting an apt. Much less expensive than a hotel room and much more space and amenities...a few good sites are parissweethome.com and parisattitude.com

There 400 parcs in Paris. I loved the Buttes Chaumont and of course Jardin du Luxembourg...but have you seen Parc Monceau... I agree Place des Voges should not be missed...there is a very nice cafe..Nectarine in the arcade..not too expensive and a wonderful place to people watch. Parisians love and utilize their wonderful gardens and parcs. And if you are near the Pompidou Center stop by the fun and colorful Stravinsky Fountain in the square between St. Merri and the museum. And for you gelato lovers....Amorino is the best outside of Tuscany and the way they present the finished cone is a "work of art". Merci pour l'information et au revoir~

David Broad , June 21, 2007; 01:32 P.M.

Merci Philip for the wonderful page! I am going to be teaching in Paris next summer -- The Sociology of Photography. My students will be American college students. We will read about the history of photography, concentrating on France and of course Paris. We will also spend three days a week in the field, and we will visit museums. A full schedule. I have already taken note of several suggestions on this board, and welcome additional ideas about how to utilize Paris as a classroom about photography and how it shapes our vision and lives. Thank you in advance for your thoughts...

Laurent Vuillard , September 26, 2007; 04:46 P.M.

"If you're short on time, you can skip the Marais, every guidebook's favorite Paris neighborhood" How can you say that?? OK some bits (close to the Seine) are touristy but you'll see an amazing cluster of XVII, XVIII century buildings, have a look in the courtyards, its th emost beatiful architecture in Paris which survived the "r鮯vations" which gutted many parts of the city. And there is always the Boullevard Beaumarchais not far away with all the 2nd hand camera shops! So the Marais is not so bad, you even display a picute from the place des Vosges, I agree , it's not the best place to eat, few restaurants and ever fewer good ones whatever the price!

Laurent Vuillard , September 26, 2007; 04:55 P.M.

Milos , you said that "Also other people travelling with much larger equipments and also tripods were not touched by police officers or security guards. That's my experience so far". Its not mine you need a permit to use a tripod anywhere near the Louvre or Jardin des tuileries, I was stopped 15sec after opening a tripod to use a 4X5 there and told I needed a permit. Being French, I immediately argued , libert頥tc etc and so on for five minutes ,but with no success ! But at the mus饠d'Orsay I could use a 4X5 on tripod without pb sompeyears ago. Just play the tourit it may work although as pointed out even the "flics" (cops, do NOT call them that way!) probably speak some form of English by now, maybe you'll fence them off with a mega US accent??

Laurent Vuillard , September 26, 2007; 05:04 P.M.

Travelers using the underground "RER" from Roissy : BEWARE!! There are direct trains to and from Paris center which are fine (and fast) and trains that do stop in some of the worse surburbs in the direct north of Paris (e.g."Aulnay" "Courneuve"). As a rule only use the direct trains (as we French users of GDG do)! the ones that stop everywhere may be unpleasant and must at any rate not be used at night. There are amny trains so just wait a bit for the next direct one. Alternative is a bus, from I think terminal 1, that drives you direct to the Opera right in the center Non stop! Taxis are about 25? now.

Laurent Vuillard , September 26, 2007; 05:09 P.M.

Travellers to PARIS CDG airport BEWARE: The RER trains connecting to city center pass through some fairly rough surburbs so use only the direct trains to PAris center and not the ones that stop everywhere (particularly in the evening) ! This is what we, French, do , this remains a fast 45min way of connecting. Alternatively there is a (not so cheap, not so fast) direct bus to the Opera or Gare de Lyon for those connecting to long distance TGV trains. Paris Center is very safe but for the odd pickpocket.

Greg Embree , November 24, 2007; 06:10 A.M.

Thanks to Phil for a great article and for the commentary by other posters. My wife and I just returned from a nine-day vacation in Paris, and I have some recent observations that might be helpful to other photographers planning a visit to that wonderful city.

The weather was mostly gray, raw, and wet, so I used either black and white film or--when using color film--limited the amount of sky in my compositions and used an 81B warming filter to avoid a tone of overall gloom. There were two-and-a-half days of gloriously blue skies.

One advantage to visiting Paris in November, in addition to fewer tourists, is the chance to view the Armistice Day parade down the Champs-Elysees. The weather that day was perfect. Getting a good vantage point along the avenue for photography was no problem.

The only places we visited where photography was forbidden were the interior of Sacre Coeur and the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art. In the other museums, the only photographic restrictions were "no flash" and "no tripod." Some bag checkers at museum entrances would politely remind me--when they spotted my Slik mini-tripod--that I couldn't use it.

At no time did any policeman or other rule-enforcer give me any aggravation for any of the pictures I was taking. My lack of a full-size tripod may have been a factor.

I carried my film in my carry-on baggage, and it went through the airport security X-rays coming and going with no ill effects that I could perceive.

My kit included a Nikon F3 and four lenses:

--16mm Zenitar f/2.8 semi-fisheye. --28 mm Nikkor f/2.0. --50 mm Nikkor f/1.8. --105 mm Nikkor f/2.5.

My other camera was an Olympus Stylus Epic, a little film point-and-shoot with a fixed-focal-length lens of 35mm and f/2.8 maximum aperture. This camera gets lots of adoring discussion on the Web. My own two cents is that I consider it a $79 miracle machine. I used it for at least half of the photos I took during the nine days, with Fuji Superia 400 color print film or Ilford XP2 Super 400 (a C-41 process black and white film). I read in Photography for Dummies that point-and-shoot cameras are engineered to work best with ISO 400 film, so that's what I use in my Stylus Epic.

For my F3, my films were a mixture of Kodak Gold 200 color print film and Ilford Pan F Plus 50 black and white. While in Paris, I purchased three rolls of Kodak Ektachrome 100 color slide film for the Armistice Day parade.

The chief reason I took film cameras and not my Nikon D200 digital SLR and its AF lenses or my Nikon CoolPix 4300 digital point-and-shoot was weather. The forecasts predicted frequent rain throughout the first week of our visit. I didn't want to risk damage to $2300 worth of digital camera equipment.

A second--and significant--reason for using film cameras was pure eccentricity. I love using my manual-focus Nikon F3 and its prime lenses. Focusing is easy, and I enjoy all the clicking and clacking involved with changing lenses, screwing on filters, and loading film. Also, I don't mind backing up or moving forward to get the best composition. As for the Olympus Stylus Epic, it is a capable little camera and a joy to use.

Admittedly, mine were the only film cameras I saw in Paris the entire nine days. They might have been the only film cameras in use in all of Europe while we were there.

I also brought along a Vivitar 283 elecronic flash, the Slik mini-tripod mentioned above, and a stack of 52mm filters. Of the latter, the two I used the most were the polarizing filter and the 81B warming filter. The total weight of my camera bag was 8.2 pounds (3.7 kilograms), excluding film and the Vivitar 283, which I left in my hotel room. I never reached a point in the trip where I regarded my bag as an unbearable encumbrance. I was happy to have all my gear with me as we toured the city and I would do it again.

No museum required me to leave my camera bag in the coat-check. In fact, most museum coat-checks would accept only coats?no bags of any sort, camera or otherwise.

I used the Slik mini-tripod inside Notre Dame for several photos, bracing it against a pilaster or on a horizontal ledge. The DW-3 viewfinder--a waist-level device that can replace the normal HP viewfinder on the Nikon F3--came in handy for the Notre Dame shots, given the F3's often awkward angle. Nobody gave me any aggravation inside Notre Dame while I was making my photographs.

Inside Ste.-Chapelle, things were trickier. To get the composition I wanted, I couldn't brace the F3 and Slik against a wall, column, or pilaster, so I steadied my F3 by bracing the mini-tripod against my chest. Surprisingly effective.

What would I do differently? I would have left the Vivitar 283 at home. I never used it, aside from some inessential pix of my wife and me in our hotel room. It stayed in our hotel room during the entire trip. I was glad that I had the Zenitar super-wide-angle for the shots I had planned inside Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle, but on future visits I might replace the Zenitar with either my Nikkor 200mm f/4.0 or my Samyang 500mm f/8.0. A long telephoto would have gotten more use and would have captured more images than did the Zenitar. Still, I have no regrets having taken the Zenitar this time around.

With regard to film, I would use speeds no slower than ISO 400. My results with the Ilford 50 were particularly disappointing.

When we returned from our trip, I ordered my film to be processed as "develop only" to save money. I spent much of last weekend scanning the negatives and slides with a Nikon Coolscan V. The Ilford 50 negatives didn't scan well, except for just a few shots. The rest came out inexplicably dark and uncorrectable in my Paint Shop Pro 9. The negatives look evenly exposed, and the previews of those negatives on my computer screen looked normal, but the actual scans (and trial prints) came out a thick black in the shadow areas and blown out white in the highlight areas. The problem might have been user error. I asked my local lab to scan my Ilford 50 negatives onto a CD, which they did successfully.

I did all my post processing with Paint Shop Pro 9, mainly straightening and cropping. For some of the shots with the Olympus Stylus Epic, I used the "One-Step Photo Fix" button in PSP--chiefly to remove a fluorescent or tungsten color cast. For some Stylus Epic night shots, I had to clone out some lens flare. For some of the parade photos, I enhanced the contrast. My most extensive work on any of the photos was in my shot of the Arc de Triomphe; I removed a distracting woman from the composition.

Here are some comments on the purely tourism aspects of the trip:

My wife and I found Paris the friendliest city we've visited in a long time. My previous visits there were in 1974, 1976, and--with my wife--in 1980. Each time, I came away baffled by Paris's bad reputation among Americans. This time was no different. Everyone we encountered was as warm, polite, and helpful as one could wish for.

Before the trip, I polished up on my two years of high-school French with the French in Action DVDs, reaching lesson 27 (out of 52) before the trip. Part of the delight of foreign travel for me is using a foreign language, so I used French as much as possible.

My approach was probably overkill. An American who knows the eight basic tourist phrases and who accommodates himself to the local folkways will do fine.

One important local folkway alien to most Americans is the practice of greeting a store owner or restaurant owner on entering his or her establishment with "Bonjour, Monsieur/Madame" or, if it's after sunset, "Bonsoir, Monsieur/Madame." Do this even if you are entering a store just to browse around. When leaving, you say "Au revoir, Monsieur/Madame."

Paris is much cleaner than I recall from previous visits. The city now has special sidewalk cleaning machines that run each night. Walking along Paris's sidewalks is now no longer the hazardous obstacle course it used to be.

In conclusion, despite the gray skies and raw wind, we had the time of our lives. It was a sublime nine days, made all the more so by the joy and challenge of trying to capture the time and place on film. For me, Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, and one of the friendliest. Any photographer will find the city a picture-taking paradise. Bon voyage!

Here's where I posted some of my photographs: http://picasaweb.google.com/gregembree90/ParisNov2007

Laurent Vuillard , December 04, 2007; 04:22 P.M.

Comments from a native: 1) Do not miss one ot two of the not so famous museums such as Musee Guimet (oriental arts with its library and its small japanese garden in the annexe a few numbers away) or Victor Hugo's flat place des vosges. 2) Do rely on a guide for restaurants ,as they are many bad ones. The only alternative to a guide is to stick to (relatively) inexpensive brasseries away from the main tourist spots (anywhere near Notre Dame or across the Seine in the 5th district near the river or boullevard St Michel is to be avoided) the last trend in horror being the chineese restaurant hastingly converted into a japanese one! 3) Forget about a brekfast,it's usually mean in hotels even for we, French lighbreakfasters !

Jo Harter-Tong , February 16, 2008; 09:08 A.M.

A big thanks to the original poster & to all people who have added comments & beautiful images, your advice has been invaluable! I am flying to Paris today, my first visit abroad since I became interested in photography. Thanks Greg Embree for your information about photography in museums etc, as I was worried that I would have to leave my camera in the cloakroom in such places. I will be shooting a combination of digital & film & am incredibly excited! I will post any feedback from my trip here next week.


Cole Cyccone , July 29, 2008; 03:06 P.M.

QUESTION Im in paris for a month, and i really need to rent some camera gear for a shoot soon. Does anybody know a good photo store (i meen where i can rent a digital back and get some MF film, and 4x5 film) no FNAC or something. Also good film developing place where i can get 220 film developed with a proof sheet. THANK YOU any help is appreciated.

Amy Pang , August 15, 2008; 06:47 A.M.

One night in Paris 3

Thanks to the original poster and all those who contribute. Very informative. Hv travel to Paris one night in July 27 2008 and taken a few shots. Wish you like it.

Sophie Larouet , September 10, 2008; 11:41 A.M.

As a native, I can only thank you for your comments on the beauty of our city. As a photographer, I will try to give you a few adresses of good museums and galleries :

First of all, a lot of big musuems start the past five years to dedicate room and money to photography. This is the case for the Orsay Musem, and the so-called BNF, that is to say the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. Orsay will deal mostly with XIX photography, as you will find either very ancient or contemporary photography at the BNF. Here are the sites of these museums: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html http://www.bnf.fr/pages/zNavigat/frame/version_anglaise.htm?ancre=english.htm

to those, you should add the new version of the museum called "Jeu de Paume", created in 2004 and entirely dedicated to photography. This museum has two spaces : Hotel de Sully in the famous and not-to-be skipped Marais, and the place called Jeu de Paume at the Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre. http://www.jeudepaume.org

Also in the Marais, you can find in a beautifull XVIIe century building the MEP : Maison Europenne de la Photographie http://www.mep-fr.org

More in the south of the city, you will find two other place, very interesting, dealing more about photojournalism : the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson http://www.henricartierbresson.org/

and the Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau (search with the word Maison Doisneau, they will get their own site very soon, or write to know the exhibitions : maisondelaphotographie@agglo-valdebievre.fr)

Anyway, you will find all these adresses and much more in a bilingal all-about-photo magazine :Photographie Internationale, 2 euros, which you can find at the MEP, Maison Doisneau, and others places, as equipment dealers as Prophot.

Have a nice trip in Paris!

See R , October 03, 2008; 02:06 A.M.

Nice review by Phil in 2001 and nice updated comments...thanks all!

I noted, however, that Phil's original list of "graves of great artists, marked by fine stone carving" in Paris did not include any painters. I have compiled a list of painters' graves below categorized by the 3 cemeteries mentioned by Phil, although I know that some have passed away since the original review, and also I didn't check to see if they actually had stone carvings. Still, I think some of the following should be mentioned here, especially those artists in all caps:

Cimetiere de Montmartre: Victor Brauner, Alfred Arthur Brunel de Neuville, Théodore Chassériau, EDGAR DEGAS, Narcisse Virgilio Diaz, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Francis Picabia, Francisque Poulbot, Ary Scheffer, Gustave Moreau, Constant Troyon, Horace Vernet

Cimetiere du Montparnasse: Jean-Michel Atlan, Jean Béraud, William-Adolphe Bouguereau (realist style), Othon Friesz, Jean Robert Ipousteguy, Gustave Jundt, KIKI ("QUEEN OF MONTPARNASSE"), Jean Henri Lefortier, Julio Ruelas, Boris Taslitzky, Adolphe Willette,

Cimitiere du Pere Lachaise: Karel Appel, Gustave Caillebotte, Jean-Baptiste Clément, Jacques-Louis David (Napolean's court painter), AMADEO MODIGLIANI

Bruce Robbins , December 17, 2008; 05:30 A.M.

Notre Dame in S

I've been to Paris four times now - five if you include a scary cross-city drive in a rental car - and can't wait to go back. I've got loads of pics of the city and a lot of advice for photographers which I've put together in a blog. If you're heading for Paris, it will give you some good ideas for subjects for your camera and the best places to take photographs. It's at: http://paristravelogue.blogspot.com/

Hope you like it. And have a safe journey!

laura soria , January 09, 2009; 10:04 P.M.

does someone knows if its there a special licence or permission that a photographer with model and team needs to shoot in the streets of Paris?

Jose Alvarez , June 05, 2009; 03:48 P.M.

Waooooo Merci

Sophie Pasquet , November 22, 2009; 07:12 P.M.

I have also started a small blog about photography in Paris, where you can find information on places to pictures, to experience photography and learn a little. I am still working on the content, but feedback and ideas would be welcome. It is at http://www.sophiepasquet.com/en/paris-photo-blog. Thanks for stopping by.

Best regards,

Larry Davis , January 11, 2010; 12:59 P.M.

Tony in the Carnavalet Museum in the Marais. Is he happy?

I have been living in Paris 12 years and I own a travel company that specializes in creating unique and interesting experiences for visitors to Paris. I was a little disappointed with this article.

The article tries to cover too much in too little space, so it is a rather superficial scan of places to visit rather than an indepth look into some of the really exciting places to visit.

Does a anyone let alone a photographer really need to be told - Go visit the Eiffel Tower?. Really!!! All the photos of my local food street rue Cler. Don't tell me - you must have been reading Rick Steves guide, he's crazy about Rue Cler.this place and the 7th. And sorry, don't agree with many of the places one shouldk not visit like the Marais. You are kidding? That's one of the first places I took my friend National Geographic photographer Tony Boccaccio on a recent visit here.

We offer photo tours with local photographers in 36 cities around the world. So if you are coming to Paris and want one of our photographers to show you around the real Paris, check out our range of Photo Tours

or if you want to follow my travels in Paris visit my blog The Truth About Paris

So as my friend's bilingual French Poodle says "Too-de-loo for now"

Sophie Pasquet , February 02, 2010; 06:42 P.M.

Louvre and Pyramid at night

I have completely relaunched my Paris Photography Blog, with more information, an expanded rage of Paris eCards and information about the Photo Tours in Paris that I now offer.

The site is now at: http://www.betterparisphotos.com.

Hope to see you there.


Andrzej Szewczyk , March 14, 2010; 06:28 A.M.

Tour Eiffel

It is one of my favourite cities in Europe. I believe 3 or 4 intensive sightseeing days are enough time to spend in Paris.It is just a paradise for photographers.

Martin Soler , August 09, 2010; 05:27 P.M.

A great article and pretty accurate, although a tad old. Most hotels now have WIFI and it's free in any decent hotels. 

I've had fun shooting Paris for a while now: http://martinsoler.com/category/paris/

I recently took this "street photo" in Paris: 

Pierre P. , January 14, 2012; 11:42 A.M.

Hi everyone !

Thanks Phil for this contribution (made a while ago already !)

I just was looking for some contribution about Paris & photography, and I found your article. It is always interesting to get the point of view from people abroad about your own city. I also gave me some ideas I will try to practice on (and hopefully show the results here :-) ). All the best,

Pierre -

Jim Morris , July 22, 2014; 11:25 A.M.

Does anyone know where this photo was taken?



Aamir Zakaria , August 14, 2014; 10:02 A.M.

Paris Photography - A 3 week adventure

The Eiffel Moon


Thanks for the informative post and discussion.  I'm in the midst of a 3-week Paris photograph adventure at the moment, and these comments have been very helpful.   I've posted some of my own observations here:


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