The City of Lights, Romance, and History
Trip Cost ($ – $$$): $$$
Time to Hit the Highlights: 6 Days
Must See: Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Musee D’Orsay, Jardin de Tuileries, and Versailles
Time of the Year to Visit: Anytime – it is always beautiful in Paris
About the City of Lights
Ahh Paris! The city of lights. Just the thought of jaunting off to this international city sounds romantic and adventurous, so to actually experience it was wondrous. Paris is such an easy place to visit. There is so much to do and so much to eat! Whether you love history, food, sightseeing or shopping, Paris has it all.
We are fortunate to have visited Paris several times in all seasons. However, this last time was a first for both of us, Paris in the Winter. Better yet, Paris at New Years. That meant a beautiful layer of snow on this already beautiful city and fun Christmas markets to walk through day and night. Yes, there’s no bad time to take in the beauty that is Paris.
You can learn more about the city of Paris on their website here: http://en.parisinfo.com/
- There are several Paris airports that you can fly in to depending on your point of origin and how much you want to pay for a ticket. Most people fly in and out of Charles de Gaulle (CDG), but you can also find flights for Orly (ORY).
- Once you’re there, you have several options for getting to the city. You can rent a car (if you have a place to park where you’re staying and are willing to take on the challenge), take a taxi (this can be expensive, especially with traffic), or jump on the train (the cheapest and sometimes fastest option, if you’re willing to figure out which line and stop gets you closest to your destination).
- We stayed at the Westin Paris Vendộme on the Jardin de Tuileries. It’s quite expensive if you don’t have the points, but there are a lot of hotels around the city. Just decide what you want to be close to!
- AirBnB is another great option if you would like more of a home/local experience, as well as the option to cook for yourself!
- Choosing which arrondissement you want to be in is the most important step to figuring out where to stay.
- The Louvre is home to so many amazing treasures, like DaVinci’s Mona Lisa and the ancient statue of the Venus de Milo. The three wings of the museum have so much to offer that it can take you days to truly see it all.
- You may have to wait in line to get into the museum, although there are several entrances, including one via the train station that we think always has the shortest line.
- Once inside the museum be sure to pick up a map! It’s your new best friend. If you have a time limit on your museum visit, be sure to pick out your must-sees and conquer those first! The museum is huge and it can take a while to get around, especially since a lot of the classics are spread out.
- The Mona Lisa lives in the Louvre and is probably one of the most viewed items. Prepare to wait to get into the room to see her, and then prepare yourself to see a painting that is much smaller than you probably imagined.
- If you’re looking to experience more than just paintings and sculptures, a cool experience is walking through Napoleon III’s apartment. Yeah that’s right, the Louvre used to be one awesome mansion and part of it was preserved. It’s crazy elaborate.
Jardin de Tuileries
- The Jardin de Tuileries is a great place to just enjoy a cup of coffee or take a nice stroll.
- The gardens run along the Seine from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde, easily identified by the large obelisk and known for being the place where many people, including Marie Antoinette, met the guillotine during the French Revolution.
- If it’s your first time in Paris, your trip will not be complete without a close up encounter with the Tour Eiffel.
- As you can imagine, the place is crawling with tourists. You may have to wait in long lines to get tickets on the lifts up to the top, but there’s always the option to walk!
- There is also a restaurant inside the Eiffel Tower, but reservations aren’t always easy and you can imagine it costs lots of $$$.
- If you just want to take in the tower from the outside, you can freely walk around and enjoy the surrounding gardens. If you have your heart set on picnicking in the grass, be sure to go at an off time, as the grounds can be super crowded with lots of people who had the same idea!
Le Seine (the big river in the middle of the city)
- It is hard to miss the big river running through the middle of the city.
- To get a better look, explore the various ornate bridges that cross the river, including adding a lock to the love lock bridge! Either bring your own or purchase one from the many vendors selling them on the bridge.
- If you love Impressionism, this art museum is for you. It’s everywhere and it’s beautiful.
- Musee d’Orsay is an old train station that was converted into an art museum. Which means it’s super cool.
- This spot can still get crowded, but not like the Louvre.
- We’ve all heard of France’s beautiful gothic church called Notre Dame. So if you find yourself exploring France, it’s worth walking over to this beauty and taking it in.
- Think the outside is incredible, wait until you see the inside. There’s nothing like the sun shining through large panes of intricate stained glass to make your jaw drop open.
- While you’re in the area, take the bridge across the river to the 5th arrondissement (the Latin Quarter) where a lot of the younger Parisians hang out.
- The famous street running through the heart of Paris. You can’t miss it because it’s super wide. Basically the French version of a humongous boulevard that leads straight into the Arc de Triomphe.
- There are always people on the Champs and there is a lot of shopping!
- If you happen to be in Paris for New Years, they shut this street down and make it a pedestrian paradise. Free reign on the Champs!
- This street has a famous song associated with it which is super catchy. Check it out here: Warning! It will get stuck in your head.
L’Arc de Triomphe
- If you find yourself on the Champs Elysee, then there’s no doubt the Arc de Triomphe has caught your eye.
- You’ve seen it in pictures, so go check it out in real life. You can access the Arc via tunnels that go under the very busy traffic circle.
- At the base of the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which represents the fallen soldiers who were not identified during World War I.
- You can also venture to the top of the Arc to get a grand view of the Champs, Jardin to Tuileries, Louvre and Tour Eiffel!
- If you happen to be in Paris during the Christmas season, then you must check out the Christmas Markets!
- There are several throughout the city, with a large one right near the Champs Elysee.
- All kinds of vendors line the streets where you can walk, shop and sip on hot mulled wine! We walked with lots of mulled drinks and picked up some delicious fruits and chocolate.
Sacre Coeur de Montmartre (Basilica of the Sacred Heart)
- Looking to take a journey away from the city center? Try walking or training to Sacre Coeur.
- Located in the 18th arrondissement, this basilica sits on the highest point of the city, giving you great views!
- The basilica is also pretty cool itself. The all white exterior stands out on the hill and it’s rounded tops make it particularly fun and interesting.
- If you’re looking for an easy trip by train out of the city, then Versailles is a great pick.
- It’s easy to get to! Just take the RER C line from Gare du Nord to Versailles- Rive Gauche. It’s about a 30 minute ride and a ten minute walk to the castle once you arrive.
- Versailles is the huge, ornate castle of Louis XVI, you know, the famous french king who loved on Marie Antoinette. He built a ridiculous castle that is worth a visit.
- Be sure to take the full tour of the castle (you can move at your own pace, as long as you can squeeze through the crowds), but be sure to catch your breath in the beautiful Hall of Mirrors. Once you’re done with the inside, you can’t help but venture outside to the vast, and well-maintained gardens.
- You may have to wait in line for tickets (buy both the inside and garden tour if you’re interested) and to eventually get in, but it’s a fun journey through an interesting time in France’s history.
- There are so many restaurants in Paris, it is hard to go wrong. If you are looking for quieter and less expensive options, heading a couple blocks away from large tourist attractions is always a good idea.
- Sometimes you don’t need a full meal. In that case, step into a patisserie for some sweets or for a quick sandwich.
- Our favorite meal was at a little restaurant called Le Petit Pontoise in the 5th arrondissement. We needed a reservation for this small, local spot, but it was worth it for their delicious classic french dishes.
- Paris is like any large international city, touristy. Especially is you’re looking to see the big items like the Eiffel Tower.
- Don’t play into stereotypes. The French sometimes get a bad wrap, but frankly they’re super nice people. But more importantly, they’re people. We all have bad days, especially if you live in a big city that is exploding with tourists.
- If you don’t use euros on the reg, don’t worry about taking out a bunch before you leave for your trip. You can easily stop at a local ATM and take out some cash. It’s best to do in bigger chunks due to international withdrawal fees. Best to use an ATM of a large bank to ensure it’s legit.
- If you’re in to theatre or Opera, Paris is a great city to catch a show. Ask your hotel for their recommendations, but look into buying tickets before your arrival, as shows can sell out.