Experiencing Paris through TripAdvisor

When Heather Stimmler-Hall published her recent article on Medium, it really made me think. I had been researching travel media for a while, including TripAdvisor, but it was refreshing to get someone else’s opinion on it.

I try to give the website the benefit of the doubt. Really. I still am trying. But after a lot of discussions, it’s clear, painfully, that TripAdvisor is really just a mess. A mess that once held promise, but that today is really kind of worthless.

Casual tourists don’t see it, however, since they don’t know a destination as intimately as those who live there. But if you know Paris at all, then a quick scan of TripAdvisor’s rankings will give you a good laugh. Here are some of my recent favorites.

Let's DO the Seine

It comes in at #9 and with a Certificate of Excellence: the Seine. The reviews for the Seine vary from take a stroll to take a boat cruise, but in general it's just a stream of consciousness from everyone who has ever seen the river. Some notable excerpts:

Andy W: Runs through the heart of the city so great for keeping you bearings. Pathways along both sides so you can get really close. Can't say much more
No, Andy W, you can’t say much more.

Torinova19933: I hear a lot of people complain that it smells. I am here in Paris winter, and smell nothing. It's nice.

Thanks for that, this really helps me with my next trip to Paris!

#2 Restaurant isn’t even a real restaurant

Paris Picnic is a service where the company will provide you with a picnic starting at 32 euros per person. Personally I’d rather go to the store and stock up on my own cheese and wine, but whatever, I’m not here to judge the company. What I do find funny is that Paris Picnic is the #2 ranked restaurant in Paris, but technically it’s not even a restaurant. 

Granted, they do have a storefront where they say you can enjoy their picnics onsite – but then that’s not a picnic – but the concept really revolves around the delivery system. How is it then that this service has become the #2 restaurant in Paris? Let’s ask john m:

john m: It was nice day with nice Concept . nice staff . this is very nice concept especially in romantic city like paris .

Oh, OK, I get it now. Nice.

Taking any tour ranks up there

On the “Things to do” section, #12, 19, 25, 26, 45, 49 are all basically tours. They aren’t specific companies or experiences per se, but just generic, useless ranks. So great, the #12 thing to do in Paris is to take a private tour? But which one? And how does that compare to the other tours – walking tours, food tours, city tours, bike tours – and how can the tourist possibly choose? What’s the difference? 

Click on tours and activities to find all 400+ tours mixed together and keep researching. Good luck.

#41 of 919 things to do in Paris: The First Arrondissement

I’m not sure why I like this one so much, but I do. I have never prepared an itinerary for a tourist an told them simply to visit the first arrondissement. Certain things within it, yes, but this entire listing doesn’t really help tourists at all. Just ask nouviya:

nouviya: Shopping centers, art galleries, streets, and people won't disappoint you. Take a good walk here and feel the magic.

Oh I’m sure we’ll feel the magic. But is it the only place with galleries, streets, and people in Paris? Well at least there's not a single spot or person in the 1st who will disappoint me. It's confirmed. But these entries for the arrondissements are a bit arbitrary. This one for the Tenth Arrondissement sums it up:

That park isn’t even in the 10th, so really we’re just spouting random facts. Thanks for the clarity.

Reviews for totally useless things

There are plenty of other entries for reviews of random intersections, theaters (not specific shows), and train stations. I guess if you really felt the need to review a train station, TripAdvisor is the only place to let you do it, but I’m still wondering why this information is pertinent to anyone at all. There's very little helpful advice, even if the following guy suggests bringing a compass. 

Check out this review from Rumples.

And I'm confused why you felt the need to write this at all. How has this helped anyone concretely?

Travel guides: “Paris hidden gems”

It may be overly critical, but it’s fun to browse the travel guides prepared by TripAdvisor users. At least writing these guides, it takes some rudimentary knowledge of the city to assemble, so I am fairly confident that a real tourists did write them. Still, I’m sure I could prepare something just as engaging for Moscow or Jakarta if I wanted to (to be clear, I’ve yet to visit either).

I particularly enjoyed a guide entitled “Paris hidden gems” where the author chooses some of the city’s most hidden secrets like Galeries Lafayette, the Rodin Museum, and the show “How to Become Parisian in One Hour.” 

Gems indeed. Stick with the guide books, people.

Burgers beat out fine dining

The #20 restaurant, Roomies beat out David Toutain, #24. Having eaten at David Toutain’s restaurant, I can confirm that it is slightly more of an experience than a burger restaurant like Roomies. Maybe the burgers are phenomenal, but what good is it to rank these restaurants against each other at all? They have absolutely nothing in common.

It just seems kind of ridiculous, especially when, as this one reviewer says, it’s great for a place that’s “clearly not French.” 

I may sound like a grouch, but it's just mesmerizing that so much bad information can still be so highly promoted and consumed. Is this the future of travel? Taking the recommendations of strangers for burger joins in Paris and spending time reading about ways to do a river? Take it all with a grain of salt, please. A huge, enormous grain of salt.

There's gotta be a better way...