Should I go to Paris solo?
July 18, 2018 3:17 PM   Subscribe

I’ve never been to Europe (or anywhere besides the US and Canada). Will I regret going alone the first time?

Many things have transpired in the last year of my life, including being able to afford to travel to Europe. There was recently a great sale on flights from the US to Paris so I snatched up a pair of tickets for myself and my boyfriend (long term, committed relationship).

Unfortunately things did not work out with his vacation accrual at work so he canceled his tickets before the deadline for a refund. At his good-natured urging I kept mine. He said that since I have more vacation time than him now, I shouldn’t feel bad about using it on solo vacations if that’s what I want to do. I do want to go to Paris! But not only does he speak better French than me (I... do not really speak it), I feel quite sad about going without him, even though if I were single I’d definitely go and it’s very cheap. I want us to share our first time in France together! But maybe I’m missing some factor here that makes it less sentimental than I think it is?

We travel well together and while we have some different interests (he’s a let’s-see-cathedrals dude, I’m a flaneuse) we also have a lot of overlap (food, cultural events/monuments, military history). There are things I’d love to do in Paris— shopping!— that I would feel guilty wasting his time with. But I could always go solo AFTER our first trip to satisfy my acquisitive side.

I don’t know, am I a fool to cancel and wait until we can both go? We do occasionally vacation solo but always to somewhere we’ve both already been. Another factor is that starting soon I will be traveling internationally for work, and since he doesn’t have much vacation, I will be seeing other places around the world on my own for the first time. Maybe I could save Paris and make it special, since we both have a particular interest in going?

I can see the flip side— if I go solo I will be able to help plan any future trips we take together, so they might be better. If one of us had already gone before we started dating it would not really be an issue. I’m not really hesitant because it will be sad for him, I’m sad for ME, because I want to share the experience almost as much as I want to go. Have you been in a similar situation? Any advice?
posted by stoneandstar to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (37 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It seems like you’re ok with traveling alone, but you’d like to see Paris with him - so maybe you can fly or train to somewhere else in Europe this time and save Paris for another time?

OTOH, if you’re nervous about being bored or lonely or feeling unsafe on your own, I’d encourage you to give it a try. I think most people worry about that a bit if they’ve never traveled alone abroad, but it can be so great!
posted by lunasol at 3:21 PM on July 18, 2018

Response by poster: To correct some bad phrasing, a lot of things have happened in my life in the last year. This is not the last year of my life, as far as I know...
posted by stoneandstar at 3:25 PM on July 18, 2018

You do not need to speak French to go to or enjoy Paris.

I think you'll regret not going and wasting your paid-for ticket. You may not enjoy it as much as you might with a partner, but there is zero chance you're going to get back on the plane saying "I wish I hadn't gone."
posted by DarlingBri at 3:33 PM on July 18, 2018 [19 favorites]

I'd go. Paris is amazing. You going this time by yourself doesn't mean you two can never go together! I know it's disappointing not to have your first trip to Paris be Super Romantic, as Paris is of course very romantic, but there's TONS to do there and a great place to visit solo. AND you've got paid-for tickets.

Go! Paris will be just as romantic with your boyfriend even if you've already been, I promise.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:37 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Traveling alone is awesome, especially abroad. You can do whatever you want, eat whenever you want, not have to worry that your companion isn’t enjoying the museum, whatever. I would totally go.
posted by holborne at 3:39 PM on July 18, 2018 [15 favorites]

I went to Paris before my spouse and then we went together on our honeymoon. Was still a once-in-a-lifetime trip. If it makes you feel better, there are so, so many sights in Paris that would be the high point of any vacation that you could avoid the usual suspects entirely. Instead of Notre Dame, see Augustin in the 8th, which has just been refurbished. Instead of the Eiffel Tower, go up in the balloon (which has an incredible view of the Eiffel Tower) in the far southwest. Instead of Pere Lachaise, see the Montparnasse cemetary in the 14th. Pick an obscure museum instead of one of the big names (I suggest the playing card museum in Issy, a few minutes outside Paris proper) and prepare to be amazed.
posted by wnissen at 3:40 PM on July 18, 2018 [7 favorites]

I was able to get around Paris on my own with basic phrases(although I didn't know "laissez-moi tranquille" on my 1st trip) and loved it. GO.
posted by brujita at 3:44 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

wnissen makes an excellent point. There is SO MUCH to see in Paris that you would barely scratch the surface on this trip. I've been there alone and with others and it is just completely enchanting either way.
posted by lunasol at 3:45 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

The answer to any question containing the words “should I go to Paris?” is always YES.
posted by something something at 3:51 PM on July 18, 2018 [18 favorites]

Maybe save something specific to share with him? I say go to Paris as many times as you can.
posted by FencingGal at 3:52 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Go! Paris doesn't need to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and experiencing it (or anyplace, really!) in all sorts of different moods and phases of life and friend/partner configurations makes it a different experience each time. Solo traveling is marvelous.

Wherever you live now, you experienced that place before you met your partner -- does it make your time together any less special?
posted by lazuli at 4:10 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Go. I think it's a lovely idea to be able to scope out the city on foot, shop, and do the things you'd love, and then you can always go back together and hit the cathedrals and things he'd enjoy. I was in a very similar situation earlier this year and while I did feel a little wistful at certain points in the trip, wishing my partner was there to experience something specific with me, on the whole it was a great experience to travel by myself and explore a city I'd always wanted to visit on my own schedule.
posted by stellaluna at 4:12 PM on July 18, 2018

I’m not really hesitant because it will be sad for him, I’m sad for ME, because I want to share the experience almost as much as I want to go.

Daily "travel diary" emails and photos.

It's a different sort of way to share an experience, but that can be new and exciting too.

Later on you can see the cathedrals for the first time with him.
posted by yohko at 4:17 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

It is also seriously ok to see cathedrals and other amazing sights without a partner. You can do that for *you*. You don't have to wait to do amazing things until you can do them with someone else. You are worthy of seeing and doing amazing things all by yourself.
posted by lazuli at 4:28 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've spent time in Paris alone, with my horrible attempts at speaking French which were probably worse than not trying at all, and I had a pleasant time.

Like DarlingBri says, you're not going to say "Gee, I wish I'd put off going to Paris" at the end of the trip.
posted by bunderful at 4:34 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'll say only this: I've traveled with a lot of different boyfriends abroad, and have also done a good deal of it alone. Going abroad alone wins every single time.
posted by sockermom at 4:36 PM on July 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

As a frequent solo female traveler, I think you should go.

BUT I have heard many times from women who have traveled there solo that Paris is one of their least favorite places in Europe as a solo female.

I've never been to Paris so I don't really know why these women didn't like it (and these are women who have traveled solo frequently) but it's a refrain repeated so often that it sticks out in my head.

That being said, I still think you should go! But maybe also do some research online to see what other solo female experiences in Paris have been like (there are many people in this thread who are advocating for solo female travel and that's great but solo female travel is a different thing depending on *where* you go) so you can calibrate your expectations and have a great time. Good luck!
posted by bluelight at 4:41 PM on July 18, 2018

nthing travel alone. Picking one thing about Paris and going all in isn't a bad idea. For instance... Note: I was heartbroken to find that the most wonderful bread I've ever had at Boulangerie Mauclerc is no more! If anyone knows what happened...?
posted by Stilling Still Dreaming at 4:45 PM on July 18, 2018

Go. A flaneuse in Paris is about as rad as life gets.

That said, when I travelled solo to Paris I stayed in montmartre/pigalle and I wouldn’t do that again (I tend to have bad brakes and find myself in compromising situations abroad...pigalle exploits that tendency of mine, so YMMV)

Do eeet.
posted by nikaspark at 4:47 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was also a visible and attractive transfeminine woman in Paris so I attracted a kind of specific attention from men that cis women may not get. Some of my experiences with dudes there were creepy as fuck. Just something to keep in mind.
posted by nikaspark at 4:50 PM on July 18, 2018

I just went to Paris alone earlier this year, and it was fantastic. As other people have said above, think of this trip as reconnaissance to scope out things you'll want to do with your boyfriend.

The only downside I noticed was that without another person who also had an agenda, it was easy to succumb to options paralysis, and I occasionally found myself meandering. On the other hand, there's no better city to meander in.

Not speaking French shouldn't be a huge obstacle. Learn a few basic phrases--showing that you're making an effort goes a long way.

And a piece of advice for when you do go back with your boyfriend: if he's a cathedral guy, do not miss Amiens.
posted by MrBadExample at 4:54 PM on July 18, 2018

For all that I've loved traveling with loved ones, I always spend at least part of the trip wishing I was by myself so I could just go where I wanted when I wanted and look at the stuff I was interested in without having to defer to or negotiate with other people's desires and preferences. If you can afford it, rock on to that city of light with your own bad self.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:14 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

there are many people in this thread who are advocating for solo female travel and that's great but solo female travel is a different thing depending on *where* you go

I have been in Paris solo multiple times. I've loved it every time. (I've also been with a partner, and with a tour group. Solo was wonderful.)
posted by lazuli at 5:25 PM on July 18, 2018

Go go go go ...

I have been twice solo, had a ball both times. Once when married, once just after starting a new relationship (years later we subsequently spent a week there together). Send long emails, photos, Skype, whatever, but it is something not to be missed (just) because you have to leave a loved one at home.

A note of warning though: you will not be home after the trip before you start making plans to visit again, this time with said loved one. Ask me how I know this ;-)
posted by GeeEmm at 7:30 PM on July 18, 2018

Best answer: I've been to Paris, but a long time ago and not alone. However, I am here to rep for traveling alone just in general (I am also a lady, and also on the flaneuse end of the spectrum). It's the best. It's a complete holiday from emotional labor and you can do exactly whatever the fuck you want. No one else's happiness or entertainment is a factor. I recommend a good e-book, some nice headphones, a secure, comfortable pickpocket-proof money carrier, and a shared cloud photo folder so your boyfriend can see all your pics.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:39 PM on July 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Always. Take. The trip.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:25 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been to Paris as a solo female traveller twice and had a great time, and I think it would be a shame to miss out, I have rusty school-level French and it wasn't a problem in the tourist areas. Maybe sit down with your boyfriend and a guide to Paris and work out what you'd really like to do together as a couple and save those for the next visit, and make your own perfect solo itinerary doing all the things he's not interested in? There is so much to see in Paris it won't be difficult to have two completely different experiences. Alternatively, Paris is well connected by train to the rest of France - you could head somewhere else on this trip and save the Paris experience for when you travel together.
posted by penguinliz at 9:05 PM on July 18, 2018

One thing I've realised in my life: trips of a lifetime get so much pressure put on them that sometimes it can get too much. I grew up in New Zealand and the first time I went to Paris (alone) I wanted everything to be so perfect that I really stressed myself out. I never even expected to go to Europe! Fast forward to so many Paris trips I can't remember how many.

It's great alone, you can set your own pace, you can make some discoveries that you can take him back to... The museums are wonderful and the supermarkets all have amazing picnic options for dinner. It's helpful to have an itinerary so you can clump neighbourhoods and activities together. You will have an amazing solo time!
posted by teststrip at 11:21 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’ve gone to Paris with a tour group, with my sister, with a college boyfriend who grew up there, and alone. My French is middling. My favorite trips were with the sister and alone— even though the alone trips were for work! So, my vote:

Go. Skip some of the classic things as you won’t be able to do them all anyhow, and save them for a future trip with your beau.

Browse past askme questions about visiting Paris; there are so many good answers, and many specific to solo travelers. Go look for space invaders, or find a lovely bookstore, or visit every ice cream shop around Notre Dame (you can save the cathedral itself for a later trip). Paris is a great city to explore on your own, and it’ll be a different experience than you can get with a partner; same the other way around.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been more annoyed traveling alone as a woman in the south of France than I ever was in Paris. Might have to do with where you go in the city, or just luck; I only have my own scattered experiences Togo on here.
posted by nat at 1:25 AM on July 19, 2018

Yup, go.

I've gone alone multiple times (single female), no trouble. There are so many sights that you can see some of them now and some of them later with your boyfriend. You can also focus on doing the things YOU enjoy rather than the things he would enjoy. You can make a note of the things you really loved that you'd like to see/do again when you return with him.

Also, not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet, and your boyfriend may break up. Sorry, but it's true! My coworker and I once had an opportunity for a business trip to the other side of the planet. We were both really excited about it but he ultimately decided not to go because he felt guilty going without his fiancee and wanted to wait and go with her at some point. Well, they broke up so it never happened. Don't wait to do the things you want to do or visit the places you want to visit.
posted by sunflower16 at 4:19 AM on July 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've been solo travelling as a (white) woman for 15 years now and love it.

Also a flâneuse and live in Paris, so yes, nthing that it is a wonderful city in that configuration :)

A little bit of French is better than none, you'll do fine.

Paris is lovely and such a neat experience.
posted by fraula at 4:55 AM on July 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

My first trip to Paris was alone, in my twenties. It was amazing! It is wonderful to only worry about your own needs, and you get to do exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it. Paris is a huge, amazing city that would take several trips (lifetimes?) to get to know, so there's no need to "save it" for a single trip with the boyfriend. I've been three times, and the third time was with my husband, his first time. It was fun to take him to places I wanted to see again, as well as to just wander with him. Please go and bon voyage!
posted by honey badger at 5:43 AM on July 19, 2018

I agree with everyone who says that you don't need to speak French to have a great time. However, speaking languages is awesome anyway, so how about finding a language school and signing up for beginner's lessons for a week, if you're going to be there that long? I did this on a solo trip to Rome years ago and it was really fun to mix up the sightseeing with the language stuff. I think it should be fairly easy to find a school that will offer just morning or just afternoon classes, leaving the rest of the time to indulge your flaneuse side (or hang out with your language school classmates if you want to and you're lucky enough to have classmates you happen to hit it off with). Then when you go back to Paris with your boyfriend you can have fun trying out your skills together. Also, I love wnissen's idea of going and deliberately avoiding all the biggest traditional tourist attractions - there is so much else to see, it'd be like you were going to a cool, alt-universe Paris...
posted by FavourableChicken at 6:38 AM on July 19, 2018

Just went to Paris this February, alone, for the first time ever. Had an amazing time, A++++++++ would go again (though, possibly, not in February). The only letdown was that I was fully expecting Parisians to be rude and was kind of looking forward to it; however, everyone was so lovely and friendly and I've never met so many nice people in my life. FWIW I only speak a vanishingly small amount of French, and that with a terrible accent.

In summary: GO! You will not regret it!
posted by orrnyereg at 9:44 AM on July 19, 2018

Best answer: I agree with everyone who has said PARIS! PARIS! OMG PARIS!

However, you clearly want to save your first time in Paris for a vacation with your boyfriend. That's valid too.

So, change your ticket and go to London! And if you can't change your ticket, London is a short train ride away from Paris. Ditto other European cities.

But no matter what destination you decide on, do take the solo vacation.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:47 AM on July 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I’ve been to a number of European cities on my own for business travel — Rome, Zurich, Vienna — and you should go, go, go. I love my family and I love traveling with them, but there are also especial delights you can only access alone — this will be especially true for you, as a flaneuse. I’ve particularly learned that I enjoy art museums far more when I’m alone and can spend as long or as little time on each piece as I wish.

Have a wonderful trip!
posted by Andrhia at 11:43 AM on July 19, 2018

I went to Paris alone for two weeks and stayed two months. I did have a friend there but he was working most of the time andf some friends from the states visited for three days, but mainly I just wandered and had coffee and wierd cocktails. It was great.
posted by Che boludo! at 8:55 PM on July 31, 2018

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