This private Paris tour is free — and personalized

This private Paris tour is free — and personalized

This private Paris tour is free — and personalized

If I told you that a private guide was waiting to give you a personalized tour of Paris, you’d probably be excited – and a little wary. How much would such a swanky experience cost? Thanks to a remarkable organizer and his volunteers, the answer is nothing!

Paris Greeters is part of the International Greeter Organization and I was lucky enough to experience a volunteer-led tour on my recent trip to France. Organizing everything was easy and I would do it again. Here’s why you should.

An illuminated staircase near the Sacre Coeur de Montmartre basilica in Paris

An illuminated staircase near the Sacre Coeur de Montmartre basilica in Paris

Image copyright: maxoculi / Shutterstock.com

You see the city beyond the guide book

According to the International Greeter Association, “Greeters welcome visitors to their city and take them on a personal two- to three-hour walking tour that shows them the city beyond the guidebooks and off the beaten track. Greeters are volunteers who love their city or region and want to share their enthusiasm and knowledge with you.” Organizing a tour like this gives you the opportunity to see a city in a unique way and to see things that you would not normally discover.

It’s perfect for new or returning visitors

I love Paris, but I know it’s a divisive destination. For every person who loves the City of Lights like me, there is at least one other who says they hated Paris. I think a Paris Greeters Walk could be the perfect solution. Rather than following a cookie cutter route of the top 10 attractions, see the city through a new lens and have a local explain the state of the country.

As a repeat visitor to Paris, I also found this experience incredibly valuable. The majority of my tour took place in the Luxembourg Gardens. This is a place I’ve visited before, but I gained valuable new insight into French history when my guide shared the story behind a group of statues depicting French queens that I had never noticed before.

Tourists and a tour guide on a Paris Greeters tour.

“It is personalized for you and your greeter. This is a chance to make a friend for the morning and get to know the city through their lives and experiences.”

Copyright: Paris Greeters

It’s personalized for both of you

When you request a tour, you need to fill out a simple online form to share some of your interests, e.g. B. City architecture, local life or history and culture. You can also write some information about yourself, what you expect from the tour and what area of ​​the city you are in. I shared that I would be staying in the 7th district (or arrondissement) and I was open to exploring this area or the neighboring towns to get to know ‘my’ Paris better.

The organization got back to me quickly with contact information for my assigned tour guide, but there was no detailed itinerary. I was in her hands! After all, she would share her neighborhood and expertise. In my case, my guide grew up nearby and attended school near the Jardin du Luxembourg.

As a child, her morning stroll would take her around the property, and some physical education programs even took place in the gardens. If I had been assigned a different guide, I would have definitely experienced a completely different tour. That’s the beauty of it. It is personalized for you and your greeter. This is a chance to make a friend for the morning and get to know the city through her life and experiences.

There is a chance for cultural exchange

During your tour, you’ll share a lot about your respective cities and learn a lot about local Parisian life well beyond the tour. I did not share all of my guide’s opinions on politics and world affairs. You probably won’t get into global affairs like we did, but the idea is that you’re open to meeting people who are not only from a different country than you, but may differ from you in many ways.

Sharing about everyday life and the similarities and differences between your countries is a big part of Paris Greeters tours. You don’t just get dry comments.

There are no hints or tips

How many free tours have you taken that were “free” except it’s a “pay what you can” experience and you end up almost tipping generously instead of paying? For me it was a lot. Paris Greeters is not like that. They are volunteers committed to telling the story of their city. They do it for the love of volunteering and for the love of Paris. After the walk, you can donate to the organization online if you wish, but there is no pressure or follow-up to do so.

A colorful street in Paris

A colorful Parisian street

Copyright: Ivan Yohan

You are encouraged to explore more

My guide left me some excellent parting tips. “Push doors open!” she said. It was a reminder that Paris is for exploring and that if there is a building I want to explore, I shouldn’t hesitate. Many churches, semi-private courtyards, and historic sites go unexplored simply because people are reluctant to push open doors. It was advice that served me well throughout my trip.

Pro Tip: Make meetings easy

After the organization connected my guide and I via email, my greeter suggested a time and place to meet. I knew the area in question, but where at this great crossroads should I meet it? Was there a restaurant or shop I was supposed to be standing next to? She cheerfully informed me that she would find me. Uh, hello fear! How would she find me in this great crowd? I assumed she knew what she was doing but I emailed back to say I would be wearing my navy blue scarf.

My guide actually found me with no problem, but I’m glad I had the scarf anyway. If your greeter is similarly relaxed, sharing a photo or identifying feature before the tour can make it easier to connect once you’re on site.

For more information on traveling to Paris, see these articles:

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