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What to Pack for Paris This Spring (and What to Hack)

Story by Dani Lazar

There’s nothing like springtime in Paris. The flowers are in bloom, the weather is warming up and lingering over lunch, drinks and dinner at the city’s outdoor cafés becomes a true pleasure. So when preparing for your visit to the French capital, there are definitely certain items you should pack in your suitcase for season. Likewise, there are things that you should just leave at home.

WHAT TO PACK

An umbrella. Paris is famous for it’s fickle weather. Case in point: While you may find yourself spending the day in the Jardin du Luxembourg along with every other Parisian, soaking up the perfect sunshine at warm temperatures one day, the next day will inevitably bring cooler temps and intermittent rain showers.  Avoid a soaking and pack a  compact umbrella. (Or you’ll find yourself buying one from Monoprix or one of the grands magasins.

A stylish trench coat. Again, the weather in Paris tends to have a split personality, so be prepared … and be stylish, while you’re at it. You don’t need to run out and buy a Burberry, but the trench coat never goes out of style and looks great with anything in your wardrobe. Well, almost everything.

A stylish-yet-comfortable pair of walking shoes. During your visit to the French capital, you will be undoubtedly be spending most of your time on your feet, traipsing from museum to jardin to café. Whatever you do, don’t even think of putting a pair of brand new shoes on your feet upon your arrival in Paris—because that may be the last day of your trip where you’ll be able to walk without wincing in pain. Even the softest leather walking shoes need time to be broken in, so take a week or two with new shoes at home and break them in.

Black pants. You just can go wrong with a good pair of black pants. They dress up any top, and with the right pair of shoes and accessories, can make an evening ensemble look as chic as any Parisian’s. If you’re young enough, you can even get away with a pair of black designer jeans.

A purse or bag that can be completely sealed. That fabulous Prada tote bag you’re carrying-the one with the single clasp to bring the two sides together? Pickpockets love these. While you’re busy taking a photo of the Eiffel Tower, or window shopping along the rue de Rivoli, they’re reaching in to your open back and grabbing your wallet. And you’ll never even notice until you’re trying to pay for something. So be smart and carry a bag that zips shut.

WHAT TO HACK

Your hairdryer. Even with an adapter, your American hairdryer will blow a fuse in your hotel room or vacation apartment. It’s just too powerful for a French outlet, and almost every single hotel and guest apartment in the French capital has a hairdryer for you to use. So free up some valuable space in your suitcase, and leave your hairdryer at home.

Your sneakers. If you’re okay with looking like a tourist, then by all means pack your white Nike’s. But Parisians don’t wear these athletic shoes as a practice—unless they happen to be going for a run or to the gym. There is an exception to this rule, however. If you want to wear your Chuck Taylor’s or Converse sneakers, they’re actually quite popular among the 20- and 30-something crowd in Paris. You’ll find them on sale throughout the city. You may even consider buying a pair of Pataugas—a chic French brand of sneaker—while you’re in Paris.

Birkenstocks. Really… these admittedly comfortable sandals don’t belong on the feet of anyone visiting Paris.  Anyone.

Shorts. How to spot a tourist in Paris? They’re usually wearing a pair of khaki shorts (with sneakers or hiking boots). Parisians don’t. In fact, the only shorts you’ll see on Parisians are fashionable short-shorts worn by incredibly thin and leggy mademoiselles, usually accompanied by flowing and fabulous tops, and long men-shorts—the kind made by Armani or other Italian designers and worn by fashion-conscious men.

Guidebooks. Really? In this day and age? Even if you don’t have an iPhone, and iPad or a similar device, with everything you need on the Internet, do you really need to pack a guidebook? Why not print out what you need from the Internet and bring along the pages you need on a daily basis. It’s easier to carry, and you won’t stick out like a tourist.

 

Photo of trench coat at top of page courtesy of Honestly…WTF.

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9 Responses to “What to Pack for Paris This Spring (and What to Hack)”

  1. Sari says:

    We play a game called “Guess Where” in Paris. We can easily pick out the tourists by what they’re wearing, but then we have to narrow it down to where they’re from.

  2. ModernMom says:

    I’m making the trip to Paris in less then 33 days, not that I’m counting. Loved this post! Thank you:)

  3. mslewis says:

    Great article!! I’m printing it out and putting it in my “Paris” folder for my next trip . . . hopefully in November!!

  4. SG says:

    For spring, get a pair of comfortable wedges.

  5. DorothyNYC says:

    Interesting, but you left out scarves (or a scarf), a must-have. I was surprised, too, that you left out colors. You blend in better with the natives in Paris if you’re wearing neutrals (taupe, brown, black, gray) with one or two pops of color.
    Americans are usually easy to spot. White sneakers, of course, but, sadly, they’re overweight. In defense of Americans in Paris (and the rest of Europe), European tourists in NY wear all the things they make fun of when seen on American tourists in Europe. ;-)
    Finally, I like to carry a fold-up, light weight fabric shopping bag. Europeans are always surprised (and usually comment) when they see an American with a reusable bag.
    Love the website.

  6. Marguerite says:

    Bonjour! I just returned from Paris Wednesday April 28th. Some observations from our rambles through the left and right bank streets. Women of all ages wearing dark jeans and ballet flats. The weather was very warm for April, so no coats were spotted. Very thin, light scarves in soft, grayed down colors, often matching the top. Big sunglasses, ususally tortoise brown. Handbags seem to still be fairly large. Crossbody bags on the younger more casually dressed ladies. Probably the nicest look was the simple linen shift or sheath dress. Neutral colors still rule. I saw no one wearing stilletos during the daytime. I wish I had packed: a second pair of jeans and a white linen shirt. Hope this helps!

  7. Susan says:

    This is great. I travel a lot and one of the games I play is to see how many times I get asked for directions. My goal: look like a local. I also blog (DesignDestinations.org) for the fun of it and try to find non-touristy spots to visit, photograph and write about. I think this blog does a great job. Thank you. sjs

  8. Linda Donahue says:

    You nailed it, Marguerite. Thanks for adding to the look!

  9. Linda Donahue says:

    Good additions, Dorothy NYC! Scarves are usually a given, but with the warm weather this spring, there are fewer scarves to be seen here. (I know, surprise.) And, absolutely, a reusable bag is a great idea! But the ones sold in Monoprix, Franprix and Carrefour are big and are popular gifts for mes amis in the U.S.

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