Paris is, as they say, always a good idea.
I have to be completely honest here: I have been waiting 33 years to go to Paris, that is my entire life. For decades I have read about the city, seen it on TV and movies – basically romanticised it to no end. So it is no surprise that I was totally overwhelmed and literally did not understand where to start. Nonetheless, we made the most of time there – did major sightseeing and major strolling around the city.
[ T I P S ]
Plan ahead! Especially if you have a long list of museums or palaces to visit. Buy your tickets ahead of time and skip the lines, you want to spend your time walking around the city not standing in lines. We also found ourselves in Paris over a bank holiday (thanks train strikes!) and a LOT of places were closed, including bistros and national monuments. But thankfully the supermarkets remained open, and until late, unlike Spain.
[ R E C A P ]
Where to Stay: Paris is made up of 20 arrondissements and there is stuff to see in most of them, but I would say for a first time visitor, it makes sense to stay near the 5th arr: Notre Dame/ Latin Quarter, 7th arr: Eiffel Tower , 8th arr: Champs Elysées.
We stayed in the Etoile Saint Honore in the which was walking distance to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysées. It was a nice, comfortable hotel with a big room and even a little happy hour. We had to book this a night before considering a hiccup in our trip (thanks again train strikes!) but we found it at a great price.
What to Do: Breathe in the city, don’t let it overwhelm you and don’t expect too much. Go to the museums and palaces, sit on the bank of the Seine, visit as many bistros as you can. Make like us and grab a baguette and cheese and have a picnic!
What to Eat: Croissants and coffee of course! Oh and cheese, rich French food in general. Just stay away from tourist traps where you end up paying 30 Euros for two coffees (which we did) and stick with little bistros scattered across every neighborhood.
[ I T I N E R A R Y ]
Day 1: Take the day to walk around the city and get a feel for the culture. We arrived in the afternoon and took off on a long walk down the Seine, towards Grand Palais with a view of the Eiffel. It was the most lovely evening. For a full day see below:
- Grand Palais + Petit Palais
- A picnic on the Seine
- Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysées
- Head over to Marais for the evening. This was my favourite area in the city.
Day 2: We only visited the Louvre during our time in Paris, I know there are numerous others to visit but we really wanted to prioritize other things this time around.
- The Louvre: You need a whole day for the museum, but if you just want to do the highlights you can finish it in a half day. We were at the Louvre from 9am to 3pm, and there was still so much to see.
- Walk over to the Notre Dame Cathedral and explore the neighborhood.
- Spend the evening in the Latin Quarter, it’s a vibrant area with shops, restaurants and rich history.
- If you have energy, make your way to Saint Germaine.
Day 3: We hit the Eiffel Tower on Day 3 and Montmarte on our 4th day, but you can easily do both in one day.
- Eiffel Tower: We did not go up to the top, it didn’t seem worth the long wait in line. The tower was impressive as it is and I didn’t think we were missing anything by going up there. On my next trip there, this is something I *might* do, although I’d rather go up on the observation deck of the Arc de Triomphe.
- Take an über to Montmarte! See the Sacre Coeur and this charming little neighborhood which looks like it could be straight out of Beauty and the Beast (in some places at least). For some reason Montmarte was ridiculously crowded when we went, I would advise going on a weekday so you can actually stroll the streets without getting elbowed.