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Secrets of Paris Tours & Travel Planning

NOTE: Heather is not currently accepting any new tour clients in 2023.

How Secrets of Paris Tours are Different

 It’s not what you see, but how you see it. Tourists have been coming to Paris for hundreds of years to enjoy the city’s historic monuments, gourmet cuisine, culture treasures, and luxury boutiques. They take photos, visit museums, cruise the Seine, and walk the winding streets. But looking is not experiencing, and seeing is not understanding. Our Secrets of Paris Tours are experiences created to help visitors break away from the shallow, mass-market tours that offer no context and little insight into what really makes Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

Whether it’s your first trip to Paris or your fifteenth, Heather and her team will show you a side of the city you’ve never seen before in our friendly and relaxed tours. We’ll not only guide you through some of the most charming, hidden corners of the city, but will also shed new light on the most famous — yet often misunderstood – monuments of Paris.

The city’s rich history is always fascinating, but many guests also appreciate learning about modern French culture, the latest nightspots, what it’s like to study or live in France, or even how to use those mystifying hand-held showers often found in Parisian hotels! The Secrets of Paris tours aim to be cross-cultural experiences, giving you a better understanding of the real Paris, not just the postcard-perfect city seen on glossy tourism office brochures, nor the politically-skewed impression of France often portrayed in the press. Secrets of Paris tour experiences are educational, entertaining, eye-opening, and – most importantly – fun!

Hell is other people. A private tour means that you don’t have to “share” your guide with anyone else. Private tours are interactive, more like a discussion than a lecture. You get your guide’s full attention. You get to ask as many dumb questions as you want. Your guide will take as many photos of you posing in front of the Eiffel Tower as you want. And you don’t have to find the “meeting place” because your guide will meet you right at your hotel or rental apartment.

You’re in Charge. All Secrets of Paris custom tours are designed to fit each client, not our own rigid agenda. That means the itinerary for the day was designed around your interests, budget and energy level. Custom tours are adaptive, flexible and easy-going. The pace is as fast or slow as you want, and at any moment you can decide to stop at a café, pop into a boutique, drop by the pharmacy for tissues, or have your guide take you on a detour to feed a sudden French pastry craving. We like to run relaxed, informal tours that feel like you’re hanging out with a friend…but a friend who happen to be an expert on Paris! 

Caveat Emptor! Once you’ve experienced the level of service, freedom and personal attention that come with private custom tours, you’ll never be able to join the herd again.

We Don’t Sell Tours, We Share Our Experiences

We’re Paris experts, but we’re not typical tour guides. We are travel writers, authors, artists and journalists specializing in Paris. As longtime residents (many with French or dual citizenship), we’re passionate about sharing what we love most about our city with visitors looking for more than a canned recitation of dates and facts. Sure, we can recount fascinating historical anecdotes that rival the Game of Thrones or explain the difference between Gothic and Romanesque architecture if you really want to know, but we’ve also got the inside dirt on which neighborhoods have the best shopping, the best places to eat without reservations, where to go salsa dancing, how to get the best service, and why most advice about Paris museums is completely wrong. We don’t consider ourselves “experts” just because we live here, and we didn’t just read a bunch of books in school. We are the ones who write those guide books, articles and websites that attracted many of you to Paris in the first place. We not only promise you a memorable tour, we also give you the tips and information to help you better enjoy the rest of your stay in Paris. 

We’re on Your Side. Our years of research and experience writing about the Paris tourism industry mean we know it inside out, but we’re not part of the “system” because we work for YOU! And if you’ve read this far, it means you know that matters. We’re here to help you get the best out of Paris, not sell you over-priced “passes”, tickets to tacky shows, or encourage you to book generic, pre-packaged tours just so we can get the kickbacks. We’re not afraid to challenge the status quo or call out the bad deals that unscrupulous Paris tour operators always promote. In fact, we even recommend other tour companies if we think they can give you a better or less-expensive tour than we would be able to do ourselves, whether they offer us a referral commission or not. We’re here to do what we’re good at: helping visitors by sharing our expertise and insider knowledge about Paris.

Fun and relaxed, but not simplistic. You won’t be subjected to a frogmarch through Paris full of instantly-forgotten dates and names. How many King Louis’ can you expect to remember on your vacation, anyway? Having said that, we love it when you ask “Why?” These are interactive tours, not academic lectures. We can keep it light and easy, but we’re also happy to dive deep into any topic that catches your interest, whether it’s urban planning under the Second Empire as we stroll Haussmann’s boulevards, or what it’s like to be a student in Paris today as we cross the courtyard of the Sorbonne.

You’re treated like a guest, not a client. We’ll meet you at your hotel or apartment rental at the start of a tour, and stay with you for any snack or lunch breaks. Having said that, we take professionalism seriously. Don’t expect us to show up in our running clothes (unless it’s a running tour), check our phone during a tour, or otherwise act unprofessional in any way. We’re a bit old-school, so punctuality, discretion, and respect are important. And we never roll our eyes at “stupid questions” (secretly, those are our favorites). As Emily Post would say, good manners are meant to put everyone at ease. 😉

We are 100% legal. Because we love Paris and wouldn’t dream of freeloading by registering overseas, Secrets of Paris is a locally-owned French business. That means 20% of all tour fees are paid to the French Value Added Tax. We also only work with licensed museum guides when recommending museum tours (but rest assured they’re fun and passionate like all Secrets of Paris guides). This may translate into higher prices than some tour companies, but all that dough keeps Paris running smoothly and looking sharp! 

Custom Orientation Tours

First time in Paris? Let us give you a crash course orientation to the city. In just two hours you’ll learn how to use the metro, understand the general layout of the city in relation to its most famous monuments, get a brief refresher course on Parisian history from the oldest point in the city, and pick up tips and tricks to getting the best service in Parisian cafés and avoid the worst faux pas. And of course you’ll also have the chance to ask all the questions you want, especially the stupid ones you’re too polite to ask your hotel concierge. The two hours will fly by!

Living Like a Local? If you’re staying in Paris for an extended visit of several weeks to several months we can give you an extended introduction to your neighborhood so you feel like a local from the start, including the best food markets, bakeries, closest post office, laundromats, convenience stores, banks, pharmacies, newsstands, and the most convenient public transportation links and anything you need to feel “at home in Paris”. For this orientation we meet you at your rental apartment before taking a stroll around your neighborhood, with information tailored to your specific needs and prior knowledge of Paris. 

Custom Travel Planning Sessions

Planning a trip to Paris and don’t know where to start? Overwhelmed by recommendations, Top Ten lists, and conflicting advice? Worried about wasting money on the wrong “pass” or getting ripped off at overpriced tourist traps? Frustrated with the same one-size-fits-all itineraries found in every guide book and travel site? With so many things to see and do in Paris, you might need a little extra help in planning your trip.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could talk to a local Paris expert for an hour to sort it all out? Our Paris Travel Planning Sessions – by phone or Skype – are the ideal way to sort through the confusion and fit all of the pieces of your ideal Paris vacation into a customized, day-by-day itinerary personalized for your specific needs, interests, budget and time frame.

How to Book a Tour or Planning Session

The Bad News. The Secrets of Paris team is made up of writers, journalists, and teachers who spend most of their time researching and writing about Paris or preparing our custom tours. This means we only schedule a small handful of tours each month (another reason we book each tour personally, not through some automated booking system or smartphone app most tour operators use these days). We encourage you to book as far in advance as possible (for the current year only, though). 

Pricing. The price of a Secrets of Paris tour really depends on type of tour, duration, how many people (no more than 5), how we’ll be getting around Paris, and your guide’s availability. That said, most of our custom tours are between €200 (2-hour Orientation) and €1500 (full day tour with a driver).

Still interested? Let’s talk! Contact us to discuss your tour, with your phone and best time to call (don’t forget to let us know what time zone you’re in!) and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.