When you go on one of EF’s 250+ international or North American tours, you’re bound to meet some pretty incredible people along the way. While your Tour Director is with you from the second you arrive in your first city through getting you on your plane home and will facilitate lots of walking tours, you’ll also have the unique opportunity to spend time with a local expert during guided sightseeing. Think of your local guide as a personal dictionary—they know everything there is to know about the city, neighborhood, or museum you’re in (and are happy to answer any of your questions!).
Take Brian, for example. If you’re on a guided tour of Paris, France on an EF trip (like Paris, Strasbourg & Lyon), you might meet him—or at the very least, another local guide who knows as much as he does.
We caught up with Brian to chat about the process of becoming a local guide and what his normal day-to-day routine is like. He also gave us some amazing, lesser-known neighborhoods worth exploring with your students on your next EF tour to Paris.
I’m originally from the United States, so my undergraduate studies focused on languages and literature. And to become a licensed local guide in France, you have to have a master’s degree in one of several subjects—it can be art history, history, languages, etc. So I came to France to study art history at the Sorbonne for my master’s.
From there, you’re required to complete another year-long program here in France. Some are more professionally oriented around tourism, but then you also take a deeper dive into history and art. For my final exam, I was given three postcards—one of a French sculpture, one of a French piece of architecture, and one of a French painting. I had to complete one dissertation in two languages on each postcard, totaling three dissertations.
As I was finishing up my undergraduate program in the United States, I went to visit my sister at the University of Maryland. I met her roommate, who was from Paris, and she’s who ultimately brought me here. And since I was passionate about art history and wanted to study it, this was the perfect city to move to. I moved here in 1994 and have been a licensed local guide since 2000.
I love my schedule because every day is different. Even if I do the same type of guided tour of Paris multiple times in a day, the people change every tour, so there’s always a different dynamic, and it’s always fun!
I’m a huge fan of urban art. I got more into it during the height of COVID-19 when we were restricted to only exploring our own neighborhoods. The 13th district is a huge hub for street art here in Paris—my neighborhood has done a lot to create more space for big murals. There’s a lot of artists who come because it’s an area where they can express themselves. Not many tourists know about it or would think to venture over there, and it’s one of my favorite places in the city.
I also love the Marais district. It’s across from the Notre-Dame Cathedral on the right bank of the Seine River. It’s the most historical neighborhood by square foot, architecturally speaking, and it has delicious food, vibrant culture, beautiful parks and museums—a little bit of everything. It’s like its own little village in the middle of the big city.
While it’s right across from the Notre-Dame Cathedral, not everybody necessarily goes to discover it. If an EF group is exploring the Latin Quarter with their Tour Director (which is a big student area that kids usually love), they can easily make the short walk across the river to explore the Marais neighborhood during their free time.
A: For most students, it’s usually their first time out of the United States. And I think it’s so exciting to be able to share a little bit of the history of Paris with younger minds that are usually so receptive to traveling and experiencing new things. They’re generally just so open and excited about everything they’re learning about and seeing. And that makes my job incredibly easy and fulfilling.