Paris, France Travel Guide
Paris, oh Paris. I miss this charming city full of history and beauty and wonder. It seems like around every corner there was something beautiful to admire or some delicious pastry to eat (Paris is a sweet-lovers paradise!) I visited Paris for 10 days with my husband over both our birthdays in September, and it was an absolutely incredible time. If you have a significant other, take them to Paris! It’s not called the city of love for nothing. Be prepared for charming streets, gorgeous architecture, the constant sound of music, cute cafes, couples holding hands and kissing a little too passionately for public, laughter, dancing, long walks in the night, the best pastries you’ve ever had, sunshine, art, and sweet, sweet memories that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
10 days was definitely more than enough time to see everything we wanted to see and more, so be prepared for the longest travel guide I’ve ever written!
Where to stay:
There are lots of cute hotels in Paris and some of them offer nice amenities like breakfast, but I prefer a bit more of an “authentic” experience, so for me, Airbnb is always the way to go. Plus, you can find Airbnbs in Paris that are significantly cheaper than many of the hotels. My tip is to do your research on the parts of Paris that you’re most excited to see, and then try to find a nice Airbnb nearby. We ended up staying in a nice, little apartment about 10 minutes from the Eiffel Tower.
How to get around:
The Paris Metro is a great way to get around as it’s cheap, easy to access, and significantly faster than walking. There are entrances all over the city with ticket stations at each one, so just pick up some tickets and you’re set! I would recommend this as the main form of transport.
If you have internet access and need to get somewhere quickly, I would recommend getting an Uber. If you don’t have internet access, then you’ll have to just hop into a taxi when you see one. Both are more expensive options than taking the metro, but they can be faster and more convenient depending on where you are and where you need to go.
What to do:
Sunrise at Place du Trocadero
Watching the sun rise over the Eiffel Tower from Place du Trocadero was one of the most magical moments from our trip. The Eiffel Tower is gorgeous in general, but it’s just something else entirely when it’s surrounded by the beautiful, pink morning sky and dozens of birds swirling overhead. I recommend getting there extra early to soak it all up for as long as you can.
Walk along the Seine
The Seine river brings a mixture of tranquility, energy, and beauty. As you walk along, you can find spots to sit and be alone, buy a book from the Bouquinistes (booksellers), or admire the beautiful bridges. Make sure you walk across the Pont Alexandre III which is regarded as the most extravagant bridge in the city.
Rooftop views at Galerie Lafayette
If you’re interested in getting a glimpse of those classic Parisian rooftop views, then the Galerie Lafayette will provide you with easy access and beautiful views. It can get pretty crowded up there, but the view of the rooftops and the distant Eiffel Tower is worth it.
Walk around the Montmartre neighborhood
The streets of Montmartre are some of the most aesthetically pleasing in Paris. Around each corner is a new Instagram-worthy scene. In fact, I’m sure you’ve probably seen some of these buildings on Instagram or Pinterest. Get your walking shoes on and a dress worth twirling in, because you’ll feel like exploring every inch of these beautiful streets.
Visit the Louvre Museum
Visiting the Louvre is a MUST-DO for all art lovers who visit Paris. Many Paris visitors who are not very interested in art will still visit the Louvre, which is to be expected, but the good news is that most of them will just crowd around the Mona Lisa. Many stunning pieces of art by the world’s most talented artists go completely overlooked which gives ample opportunity to get up close and admire some gorgeous pieces. My advice is to check out the map before you go to scout out where your favorite artists are located. This will help you spend more time looking at your favorite pieces of art and less time trying to find it.
Walk through Cité florale and Square de Montsouris
There are several insanely beautiful parts of Paris, but this was the prettiest little neighborhood that I had come across. I’m talking vine walls like you wouldn’t believe, flowers everywhere, cobblestone streets, and charming old homes. This neighborhood had it all! To make it even better, I saw about 3 people in total walking in this area. The perfect combination of peace and beauty!
Visit Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre Dame is an extremely well known and frequently visited cathedral in Paris. It will be very much worth your time to admire the gorgeous architecture, design, and works of art that make this cathedral so magnificent. Notre Dame looks beautiful during the day, but I would suggest to also visit at night as it takes on a completely different level of beauty when it’s lit up in the dark.
See the Eiffel Tower (during the day & night!)
Yes, the Eiffel truly sparkles at night! Every hour on the hour, the lights dance and glitter making the Eiffel look even more romantic and magical than it already is. If you go to Paris with your significant other (which you definitely should), you’ll for sure want to take them to watch this beautiful sight with you. It’s very beautiful during the day time as well, and I’m sure you’ll end up visiting it more than once.
Overlook Paris at Sacré-Cœur
Visiting Sacré-Cœur was one of my favorite things we did in Paris! The design of the church itself is magnificent, but one of it’s most attractive features is the location. It’s situated on the highest point in the city which means that the views overlooking Paris are absolutely stunning. We spent an ample amount of time just sitting on the steps in front of the church, eating pastries, and enjoying the gorgeous view. To take it up a notch, we decided to climb up to the dome of the church for even more impressive views. I would highly recommend this as the views are completely worth it, but just know that there are about 300 narrow steps to climb with no lift.
Visit the Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is yet another famous work of art in Paris. As an art graduate, one of the most enjoyable things about visiting Paris was getting to see works of art that I had only ever seen in textbooks or photographs. This was one of those pieces. It was a bit of a solemn experience visiting the Arc due its history. I was also taken aback by its sheer size. It’s huge in person!
Stroll through the Tuileries Garden
After you’ve had a day of rushing around to see all the beautiful things that Paris has to offer, take some time to relax with a stroll through the Tuileries Garden. The garden is adorned with sculptures and flowers and trees and ponds, and it’s quite a sweet experience to enjoy its peaceful beauty. There are lounge chairs set up throughout the garden which are perfect for giving your feet a break or even having a nap. Yes, I saw several people napping!
Buy a book from Shakespeare and Company
This bookstore is a pretty famous place to stop and buy a book, or two, or five. The building itself is so quaint and charming, and it’s absolutely JAM-PACKED with books of all kind. It has a variety wide enough to satisfy any book lover. Be prepared for narrow hallways crowded with people and to get lost in the plethora of books.
Visit the House of Nicolas Flamel (Harry Potter fans)
My husband is a HUGE Harry Potter fan, so of course we had to visit Nicolas Flamel’s house. If you’re into Harry Potter, then this is a fun thing to check out and grab a picture in front of! Plus, they serve food there so if you’re interested in going in, you can. We didn’t eat there, so I can’t say whether the food is good, but it’s a fun option.
Have a picnic in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont
This park is very pretty and charming, and if you’re in the area, I would recommend grabbing some pastries and stopping here for a bite to eat. I wouldn’t say that this is an absolute must-do for when you’re in Paris, but it was definitely a nice change of pace from the typical hustle and bustle of many Parisian streets. It’s nice and relaxing and provides for a few nice views as well!
Take a train to Mont-Saint-Michel
In pictures, Mont-Saint-Michel looked like a magical castle on the sea, the kind of place I could only dream about, so I had to make a point of visiting it. There’s a train that goes from Paris to Mont Saint Michel, so arranging transportation was simply a matter of booking a train ticket. I was SO excited to see the island, and there were definitely a few things that I loved. First, it looks very magical as you walk up to it. The swirling waters with the lone island in the distance makes for quite a dramatic effect. Second, the little side streets on the island were so charming and made me feel like I was on the set of a movie. Third, the abbey was very interesting and beautiful to explore. On the other hand, there were some significant downfalls as well. First, the island truly felt like a tourist “trap” because it’s an island (not super easy to get off of) and there were so many people on it that it felt suffocating. There are some little side streets that you can use to escape the crowding, and if you go here, I HIGHLY suggest you do this. The main streets are so packed with people that it’s hard to enjoy. Second, bring food with you or have a big meal before you get here. In my experience, the restaurants on the island were terrible (bad, slow service with expensive and less than mediocre food.) I saw some people eating food that they had packed from home, and I so wish we had done that because we ended up way overpaying for bad food. Third, be prepared for the weather and lots of walking. You’ll be outside for much of the time, so if it’s supposed to be hot (like it was when we went), then bring lots of water and be prepared to sweat. Overall, this is one of those places that I can’t 100% recommend. If you really want to see what Mont-Saint-Michel looks like, then perhaps it would be worth it. If you dislike crowds and discomfort, then I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to skip this one.
Get lost at the Palace of Versailles
Oh, Versailles. Versailles was a mixed bag for me, but overall I did not enjoy our visit. I’m glad I saw it at least once, and there were definitely some positive experiences. The palace was as grand as I had expected it to be with paintings and luxurious fabrics and long, meticulously detailed corridors. The gardens too were absolutely massive and were filled with flowers, fountains, and enough pathways that you could (and we did) find yourself completely alone. That’s saying a lot considering Versailles was completely packed—which brings me to my negative experiences. Just to enter into the palace, there were two extremely long lines. The first line is to get your tickets, and then you had to stand in another line to wait your turn to get inside. Overall, we waited outside for about 2 hours. My advice to cut down on the time is to have one person stand in line to get tickets while everyone else waits in line to get in. Once inside, the chateau is absolutely beautiful, but it’s so crowded that I felt like we were being quickly pushed through with not a lot of opportunity to truly take it all in. The gardens, on the other hand, were a significant improvement with the crowding. I would highly suggest to not skip the gardens as they were the most enjoyable part of our visit. Overall, the wait was so long and there was so much crowding in the chateau that I would not care to visit ever again. With that being said, you may want to experience Versailles at least once and to explore the beautiful gardens.
Stand in awe of Sainte-Chapelle
When I first saw a picture of Sainte-Chapelle years ago, I remember thinking to myself that I HAD to see this place some day. It absolutely took my breath away with it’s almost floor-to-ceiling glittery blue and purple stained glass windows. I do wish I could have experienced it all alone, as the sounds and crowding of other people slightly took away from its beauty. However, it was still stunning none the less.
Wander the streets
If you don’t like having much on your itinerary or you like to explore with no plan or destination in mind, then Paris is the perfect place for you. The streets of Paris are beautiful, and even with no destination in mind, you will surely come upon a cute cafe, gorgeous buildings, street musicians, and more. The street musicians, in particular, were one of my favorites things about wandering around in Paris. Many of them were so lively, and I loved listening to them perform while people cheered or danced around them.
What to eat:
L'As du Fallafel
L'As du Fallafel is the BOMB DOT COM. It’s delicious, decently fast, and inexpensive. We didn’t want to drop a ton of money on food in Paris, so we ended up opting for more affordable options like L'As du Fallafel. With that being said, it was absolutely delicious and we ended up going back several times. We had more expensive meals than this one at other locations, and this was still our favorite spot in Paris. The low price is just the cherry on top.
We visited Café Oberkampf on a bit of a whim without knowing what to expect, and we almost didn’t even try it, but I’m so glad we did. The food here is light and fresh and doesn’t leave your stomach feeling heavy. It’s great for if you’re looking for a light brunch or lunch and a good cup of coffee.
If you go to Paris, you must MUST visit this pastry shop. This place has the best croissant au beurre and chocolate croissant of all the places we visited in Paris. Absolutely delicious. You won’t be able to eat another croissant without being slightly disappointed that it’s not one of the flaky, buttery, delicious croissants from Blé sucré.
Hot chocolate at Les Deux Magots
Angelina is the most popular spot for hot chocolate in Paris, but the line was so long when we got there that it seemed like we would be waiting for hours. Pretty promptly we decided "nah, it’s not worth it” and took a note from Phil Rosenthal (from I’ll Have What Phil’s Having and Somebody Feed Phil,) and we went to Les Deux Magots instead. We didn’t try Angelina so I don’t have much to compare it to, but let me just say that this hot chocolate was absolutely amazing. We went back for it a couple times since we knew how much we would miss it once we left (and we were right.) I’d love to go back for some of that hot chocolate right now.
The macarons from Pierre Hermé were glorious, melt in your mouth, flavorful, goodness. We visited several times and tried almost all the flavors (none were disappointing!) I would highly recommend trying these at least once, but I bet you would go back for more. They also have nice tins to package the macarons in which is great for if you want to bring some home for yourself or as a gift.
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