Okay. This is nearly impossible. But I’m going to do my best to not gush about every single thing, and just give you the lowdown of our very faves from Paris. We were there for a little over two weeks and staying in an apartment, so if you’re just there for a quick trip, choose a few things that sound up your alley. These are all things I would do again and again. (Also, specific posts about eating and shopping are coming soon!)
Getting Around. Paris has one of the best (and most easy to navigate!) public transportation systems ever. Use the Metro. Better yet, ride a Velib bike. The second week we were there, we went basically everywhere on bikes and it was wonderful. It’s only 8 euro for an entire week, and you can check out bikes all over the city. Ride them for up to a half an hour for free, and check them in at your next stop. SmartyPants Tip: Be sure to check the state of your bike before you hop on! We found quite a few busted ones. Here’s the checklist: secure seat, working brakes, full tires, functioning steering/handlebars, basket/bungee intact.
Museums. Truly, some of the most exciting museums I’ve been to! My faves were the Musee d’Orsay, Musee Rodin, and the Centre Pompidou (but mostly because of the Lichtenstein exhibit when we were there). The Louvre is obviously great – go late in the day on a Wednesday when it’s open for extra hours and less crowded. SmartyPants Tip: Every first Sunday of the month is free museum day! Most have no entry fee. Get there early. On one Sunday we did the Musee d’Orsay right at opening, and then wandered over to Musee Rodin. Neither were packed.
Wander Around. My favorite neighborhoods for wandering are Le Marais (cool shops, tiny mazes of streets), the Quartier Latin (cool literary history!), Saint-Germain-des-Prés (glamorous Frenchies for great people watching), Montmartre (old haunt of so many creatives), and the St. Martin Canal area (hip, cool, young). If you’re into it, you can find all of the romantic, crumbly apartments where writers and artists have lived and worked. Wandering around to find those led us to some of the most lovely, out-of-the-way cafes and shops.
Les Jardins. We maybe did way more of this than you would want, but our favorite times were spent with a baguette and a bottle of wine on a picnic blanket in any number of gardens. My faves, and the ones where you can sit on the grass, were the Tuileries near the Jardin du Carrousel, the Champ des Mars, and the Place des Vosges. Another beautiful spot for strolling or sitting with lunch is the Luxembourg gardens, where you can watch little ones sail boats in the fountains. SmartyPants Tip: Take a dinner picnic to the Champ des Mars and watch the sun set. Sit on the patch of grass the farthest from the Eiffel Tower, where the locals hang out. After dark, the tower twinkles every hour on the hour. You will never want to leave.
See the Sights. There are about a million of them in Paris, but these are the ones we loved.
The Place de la Concorde. Situated between the Tuileries and the Champs Elysees. Check out the obelisk, which replaced the guillotine where Marie Antoinette lost her head!
Arc de Triomphe. Just see it from the ground if you like. But the view from the top is pretty spectacular. It’s a small fee and quite a climb unless you take the elevator, but I loved every step of that spiral staircase.
Pere Lachaise Cemetary. Gorgeous, old, crumbly tombstones and tiny mausoleums, on winding cobblestone paths. It’s quiet and beautiful and definitely worth a trip.
Pont Neuf. If you’re with the one you love, take a lock, lock it to the bridge, and throw the key into the Seine.
Pont Alexandre III. This bridge is gorgeous during the day but even more beautiful at night. A perfect view of the Eiffel Tower behind the bridges over the Seine.
Sacre Coeur. It’s a climb up the windy roads of Montmartre, but a spectacular cathedral. We found the sheer number of people a little offputting when we were there, so try to get there earlier or later in the day to avoid the rush.
Versailles. Be careful here, because it can get crazy. Go on a slow day in the early morning (check out their site for busy times). See the chateau for sure, but what I really recommend is making the trek to the Petit Trianon, where Marie Antoinette escaped from the palace for a simpler life. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, and it has its own little tiny village. Highly recommended.
Special Recommendations. If you’re not into the touristy stuff, here’s the real lowdown. Each of these things made me feel like such a Frenchie (or they were just plain fun).
Sit in a café for hours, drinking coffee or wine. Working on your computer or reading a good book optional.
Bike around the islands. The Isle de la Cite and Isle St. Louis both have roads that are nice and easy to bike, that make a circle tour around the islands. They’re tiny, so be careful, but they’re the most beautiful views of the river and the people who live and work on the islands.
Go on a carousel tour. It seems like they’re everywhere in Paris, but every time we would happen upon one of those beautiful vintage carousels I would just have to stop and admire for a while. Just do a search online and map them out. My very favorite is in the Luxembourg gardens – it’s old and beautiful, and the kids try to grab rings from the carousel man as they go around and around.
Go on a photobooth hunt. You know I just go bonkers for photobooths! We hunted around for some and happened upon others. But my faves were the one in BonTon on Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, and the (free!) one in The Kooples shop at Galeries Lafayette.
Hit the markets. Paris is chock full of gorgeous food and flea markets. Make like a local, take some cash, and find something special. Don’t miss the Clignancourt flea market (more detail coming in the shopping post).
And of course, strike up a friendly convo with an English-speaking local whenever you can. We found the locals to be matter-of-fact, but also very kind and welcoming! We always started our conversations in what little French we knew, and usually we’d end up in a combo of French and English. But if you are kind, respectful, and just try to communicate, I’m sure you’ll be met with kindness as well.
I know this is a mouthful, but we were helped along on our trip by other bloggers’ fab information, and I wanted to pay that favor forward. Hopefully if you find yourself in Paris, some of these tips will come in handy! xoxo