If you read my last travel post, then you know that I spent the summer of 2015 traveling around Europe. I gave you a few tips and tricks for planning an unforgettable trip and today I’ll be sharing my personal experience and provide you with some helpful recommendations to get the most out of our first destination: PARIS!
WHERE TO STAY
Paris is divided into 20 sectors (numbered 1-20) called “arrondissments” and the smaller the number, the closer you are to the city centre. Our apartment was located in a beautiful area called Le Marais which is located in the 3rd/4th arrondissement putting us very close to the centre of the action! Le Marais is an incredibly charming area with small streets, lovely shops, restaurants, and bakeries as well as an amazing open air Sunday market (Marché de la Bastille) . It was the perfect location in my opinion!
Although we did do a lot of walking during our time in Paris, we also found it inevitable at times to use public transportation. It really is a very large city and if you don’t want to be wasting too much time attempting to reach your destination by foot, the metro is a must! Conveniently enough for us, we were located about a street away from the Bastille metro station. The metro lines are also connected to suburban train lines called RER which can take you out of the city as well as directly to the airport.
WHAT TO SEE/WHAT TO DO
We spent a total of six days in Paris (five days at the beginning of the trip and one at the end) which gave us ample amount of time to explore the city and hit the main attractions!
- Eiffel Tower: You will find tons of people having picnics on the grass whilst enjoying the view of the lit up eiffel tower. For about €12 you can make your way up to the top of the tower but we chose to enjoy the view from the bottom instead.
- Take a walk down La Seine river: Chances are, if you are planning to visit the Louvre, you will walk down La Seine river to get there. It’s a lovely scenic stroll and a great spot for pictures!
- The Louvre: You could probably spend an entire day exploring the Louvre. It is really quite large and incredibly impressive! When I was there, admission was €12 but keep in mind if you are under the age of 26, you can enter the museum for free on Friday evenings. Another really important thing to remember is that the museum is closed on Tuesdays, so if the Louvre is on the top of your priority list, make sure to plan accordingly! ALSO, take note that you DO NOT need to wait in the pyramid entrance’s insanely long line. There is a a side entrance that not many people know about. We were practically the only one’s to use it!
- Les Jardins Luxembourg: After spending about 4 hours at the Louvre, we spent the afternoon relaxing in les Jardins Luxembourg. It is a BEAUTIFUL garden/park, where you can enjoy a lovely picnic and escape the city for a while.
- Sacré Coeur basilica: Head to Montmartre to visit this beautiful cathedral which offers a breathtaking view of the City.
- Boulevard de Clichy & Moulin Rouge: Take a walk down boulevard de Clichy, which is essentially Paris’ Red Light District, and make sure to snap a shot of one of the City’s famous landmarks; The Moulin Rouge.
- Marché de la Bastille: If you can, try and make it a point to check out this open air market in Bastille (one of Le Marais’ neighbouring areas) that is open on Thursdays and Sundays. You can find, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and meats, crêpes and pastries, clothing items, etc. All the food there is incredibly fresh and delicious!
- Île Saint-Louis & Notre-Dame Cathedral: Take a stroll through the charming neighbourhood of Île Saint-Louis until you come across the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Depending on length of the line, you may want to simply enjoy the view from the outside, which is what we did. If you absolutely want to get a glimpse of the inside, the good news is entrance is free!
- Musé d’Orsay: In my opinion, the Musé d’Orsay is just as much worth visiting as the Louvre is simply because they each exhibit a very different style of art. Orsay was originally an old train station that was later converted into a museum, so the layout and design of the museum itself is worth taking a look at! I definitely recommend making some time to visit if you can. If you are between the ages of 18-25 you are eligible for the the reduced fair of €9. Otherwise, regular admission is €12.
- Place Charles de Gaulle & the Arc de Triomphe: Make your way to Place Charles de Gaulle to walk down rue Royale and get a glimpse of another one of the city’s landmarks, the Arc de Triomphe.
- Père Lachaise cemetery: If you still have some time to spare, I HIGHLY recommend stopping by here. This will probably be one of the most beautiful cemeteries you will ever come across in your lifetime. Here, you’ll find the graves of many famous individuals including Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, etc.
- The Catacombes: If you are in Paris long enough, definitely try to make some time to visit the Catacombes. It’s really quite impressive! However, if you only have very limited time, please don’t waste your day in a line-up. There are so many other amazing things to see in Paris, it’s not worth wasting an entire day over!
WHERE TO EAT
- Bistrot de l’Oulette: This adorable restaurant was BY FAR my favorite. It was located right down the street from our apartment and was a recommendation from our host. He told us that this was his favorite restaurant in Le Marais and it did not disappoint! I’m not going to lie, it is quite pricey but worth every penny! I had the “Magret de Canard” and an amazing crème brulée. I probably could have eaten there every night!
- Bistrot Smiley: On the evening we visited Montmatre, we popped in this little bistro for dinner. We decided to go for a large platter of charcuterie, cheeses, sandwiches and sliders for two and it was delicious! It wasn’t expensive and to be honest the platter was so large we most likely could have split it three ways! If you are in the area, I would recommend checking it out.
- Ladurée: Of course, what would a stay in Paris be without making a trip to Ladurée for their famous macarons! I’m not even a huge fan of meringue but these colorful little sweets were HEAVENLY! I don’t really think you can go wrong with any of the flavors but some of my personal favourites are Toffee, salted caramel and the classic Marie-Antoinette tea. What’s really special is that every month they will offer a different selection of Macarons to choose from.
GETTING AWAY – DAY TRIPS
If you’re staying in Paris long enough, I strongly suggest making a day trip outside the city. As I was doing some research prior to leaving, I came across quite a few day trip possibilities that were less than an hour train ride from Paris. Probably the most popular destination, though, was Versailles. I had also gotten many recommendations from friends and family to make the trip there. So thats where we decided to go!
Obviously, if you are going to Versailles, you need to visit the Palace.
Admission is €18 per person and €25 if you chose to visit the castle on the musical fountain show days. This ticket will give you access to the palace, obviously, but also includes access to the gardens, Trianon palaces as well as Marie-Antoinette’s estate. Most people tend to prefer to visit the Castle first and then explore the gardens. However, in order to avoid long lines, we decided to visit the gardens first and by the time we had made our way back to the palace, there were only very few people left waiting to visit!
The gardens are ENORMOUS! You could spend hours walking through the endless passages. After taking some time to explore the grounds, make sure you pick a spot along the water to have a picnic.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience in this beautiful city and found some helpful tips for your own trip planning!