13 Tips for Regency Travelers in Paris

Paris, called by some people the sphere of the world, was a popular tourist destination in the Regency Era. Part of the reason for its popularity had to do with the wide range of sights and activities available there. Regency travelers in Paris could visit the Louvre, drink coffee at one of the many cafes in the Palais-Royal, or stroll through the Tuileries Gardens just as Marie Antoinette or her good friend the Princesse de Lamballe did in the 1700s. Visitors could also attend a horse race, listen to an opera, enjoy a carnival, attend the theatre, or spend time shopping.

Princesse de Lamballe. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Because Regency travelers in Paris were so prevalent, one nineteenth century writer published thirteen tips to help them avoid problems and enjoy their time in the French capital. Here they are (almost) verbatim:

  1. It is an unconverted rule, that inns most frequented are those whose charges are most reasonable. We may add, that the traveller, whose deportment is civil and obliging, will always be better served than the rude and overbearing. To know the best inns is to listen to the voice of common frame, but by no means to depend upon the eulogies of the postilions; however, it may so happen, that in many inns people may be better entertained, and at a lower rate, in one season than another.
  2. A traveller who has no servant will do well to take a note of the name of the inn, and that of the street, at which he puts up, as there are sometimes two houses of this description of the same name.
  3. It is of the greatest importance for a traveller to have a bed-room for himself, as he cannot be too much upon his guard against becoming the dupe of a fellow traveller.
  4. When you go out, leave the key in the care of the landlord, or one of the principal waiters, as this step renders them responsible for your property. If the innkeeper refuses to take charge of your key, you will then do well to remove your most valuable effects to the house of some banker, to whom you have letters of credit, or recommendation, or bills of exchange; and get an acknowledgement of the receipt of them.
  5. If compelled to put up at any inn where you may have any reason to be under apprehensions for the safety of your person, it is good to be provided with a padlock. Be sure also to burn a light, and have your servant…sleep near at hand. If you cannot padlock your door, you may at least barricade it with the chairs and tables in your bed-chamber.
  6. As there are different rules and regulations in various places, the non-observance of which might subject you to inconvenience, the traveller who intends to make any stay will act prudently in making enquiries into these affairs, either of the innkeeper or his servants.
  7. In large places, a valet de place is sometimes indispensable. Do not employ him to make any purchases for you; there is nearly certain to be a collusion between him and the dealer, to wrong you. But with respect to the choice of a valet or a washerwoman, it is generally the most eligible way to refer to the innkeeper with whom you reside.
  8. Innkeepers are in the habit of asking their guests what they would choose to have for dinner, &c; but your best way is to enquire what they have got in the house, otherwise, if you order any thing particular, they will make you pay for that and the ordinary provision in the bargain.
  9. If you are in a bad inn, never eat any ragouts, as these may be made up of scraps and leavings, or other unwholesome matters: rather ask for roast meat, hot or cold; for eggs, milk, butter, &c. In such places, put up also with ordinary wine; for if you ask for other kinds, it is generally drawn from the same cask, and you only lose your money for your pains.
  10. Every traveller, who is alone, may live at a much cheaper rate, and much more agreeably, at a table d’hôte [fixed price for a meal] than if he is served at his own chamber. There is much amusement and information to be acquired at these public tables; and besides, travellers sometimes form very useful connexions. However, they are not without their inconveniences, for, standing too much upon ceremony, a man may pass all the dishes from himself, and run the risk of rising hungry from the table. Families, however, on their travels, have no choice as to eating at home, though at a dearer rate, as innkeepers who keep a public table think they have a right to lay a tax upon the private ones.
  11. The noise of an inn is a thing to which strangers find some difficulty to reconcile themselves. The most tranquil time of night is from ten till about five in the morning. Madame de Genlis, as a remedy for this evil, recommends the putting of a piece of cotton into each ear, well saturated with olive oil, about the size of a large nut, and to add to this a piece of dry cotton; probably forgetting that the ears thus sealed up might be deaf even to the alarm of fire.
  12. At most inns it is best to pay your bills every day, or at farthest every three days. This is a method not very pleasing to many innkeepers; but it is the best way to prevent being fleeced, because your host is always under some apprehension, that if not well treated, you will change your house. It is not necessary to ask what is the sum total of the charge, but to keep and give in a specific account of all you have had. In most inns it is necessary, the moment you step into them, to enquire into the price of the bed, the table d’hôte, &c, unless you would pay three or four times more than the value.
  13. Be careful of receiving from your host, or any other person, any of that small money which you find difficult to pass elsewhere; but, if possible, obtain that large money which you know to be current in the route you are pursuing; and carefully learn not only the current value of all the small money, but also to distinguish one from another, to prevent being cheated. In France it is very common to give strangers in change 15 sous pieces for francs.
Regency travelers

Military review in 1810, in front of Palais des Tuileries. Courtesy of Wikipedia.


  • Tronchet, Louis, Picture of Paris, 1817

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  1. David Prosser on May 5, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    I do believe you’d be better these days to publish the same tips as a guide for Time-Travelers to Paris.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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