Not sure how it took me this long to make it to France, but I finally did earlier this year for the first time! Going through pictures, tickets, maps and odd souvenirs is really making the nostalgia kick-in. But here I am, writing about my week of adventures in Paris! Here are 10 things that I’d totally recommend everyone to do that are both worth your time AND money!
Worth the Money
- Street Crepes on Champs-Élysées (€4). If you don’t eat an ish ton of crepes, chocolate, baguettes and macarons in Paris, have you actually been? No. I found a delicious one in a park a few blocks away from the Champs-Élysées–the Parisian equivalent of Times Square (full of chains, and avoided by locals). Worth every bit of the euro I spent. After eating some darn delicious crepes at Melange Creperie, it was super cool to see where this Houstonian got his inspiration from. Views of the Eiffle Tower didn’t hurt either.
Musical Gardens at Versailles (€27). I haven’t met a palace I didn’t like. Versailles is definitely no exception to the rule with its European crazy over-the-top gold-gilded everything. The palace is located a good ways outside the city and its a bit confusing to get there (Natalie blogged extensively about the confusing train schedule here), but once you get there it’s definitely worth your time! After recently seeing the incredible palaces in Munich, Nuescwanstein, and Vienna, I was most impressed with Versailles Gardens. We went on a Tuesday and enjoyed Musical Gardens where they pipe classical music through the 17 acres of opulence. The gardens are awesome and filled with ponds, fountains, sculptures and adorable vacation
homesmansions. The music totally upgraded the whole experience!
Seine Boat Tour (€12). After walking close to half-marathon mileage through the city each day, sitting on a boat for an hour was a welcome (and educational) relief! We caught a boat tour at Pont Neuf (reminded me of a canal tour I took in Amsterdam) that was beautiful, filled with interesting anecdotes about Parisian history and passed by the Eiffel Tower right when it sparkles at the top of the hour!
The Louvre (€15). You could spend weeks in the Louvre and not make a dent in the collections. So definitely set a time limit and only give yourself 2-3 hours to prevent sensory overload. It’s impossible to see it all, but totally worth the adventure (and the crowds). I wandered for hours through Greek and Roman collections, Egyptian tombs, giant Renaissance paintings, furniture collections from Marie Antoinette, and did a face swap with the Mona Lisa (underwhelming, but you gotta). I also took some cheesy tourist pictures with the block picture with the glass pyramids. When in Paris right?
Lunch at Breizh Cafe (€18). Discovering this foodie gem in the Le Marais neighborhood was definitely a highlight of my trip. A set menu of buckwheat galletes, crepes, and cider is typical Parisian and wildly delicious (and photogenic!).
Shwarma’s at Nortre Dame (€5). One day during my trip, I met up with an old friend who was working in Paris. We grabbed shwarma’s from the Latin District for a few euro and then walked down to the Seine to listen to street music and watch the lights twinkle from Notre Dame. We wrapped up the evening with a simple chocolate tart, and I fell in love with how beautiful the city comes to life at night.
Moulin Rouge (€87). This iconic burlesque show opened the same year as the Eiffel Tower. Originally on what was the outskirts of town, the Moulin Rouge still bears its iconic red windmill and offers plenty of entertainment. While not as gaudy and over the top as the Nicole Kidman film depicts, the show is still quite entertaining with lots of great costumes, acrobats, and [topless] dance numbers. Definitely opt for the champagne tickets package and split a bottle at your table!
Montmartre District Tour (€16). I love the Sandeman’s New Europe walking tours. They have great guides with entertaining anecdotes and provide fabulous recommendations about the city. The Montmartre District is one of their paid tours and takes you through the history of this beautiful, bohemian artist neighborhood. We saw where Van Gogh lived, the cafe from Amélie, the hipster Bobo (“bourgeoisie bohemian”) shops, the art scene, the only vineyard in Paris, and Au Lapin Agile (the oldest cabaret in town).
- Brunch at Eggs & Co. (€14). Adorable little lunch spot in the St. Germain neighborhood where you can get beautiful omelets.
Worth Your Time
- Views from Sacre Coeur Cathedral. The Montmartre cathedral is your typical giant European church, but the views of Paris a top the hill are fabulous! Walking straight down the hill you’ll run into a street packed with tourist shops (shamelessly bought myself a Paris ornament). Once you make it through all the street vendors and annoying scam artists, you’ll end up on a fantastic street called Rue de Richelieu that has a fabulous selection of food. Fun fact, there’s apparently a hostel inside the Sacre Coeurr that costs only €5, however you might be required to take prayer shift in the middle of the night.
- Bumper Cars at Arc De Triomphe. Watching thousands of buses, bikes, cars, and motorcycles feed into one roundabout from 12 angles is mesmerizing and nerve-wracking. If you stay there long enough, you’ll definitely see a wreck or two.
- New Europe Walking Tour. Whenever I’m in a new city, I try to do one of the free New Europe walking tours. They’re daily tours that are perfect to orient you in the city and get recommendations on how to plan the rest of your trip. This 2.5 hour tour started at Fontaine Saint-Michel and hit up most of the main sites nearby. I loved learning about the city’s architecture and how most of the buildings were constructed in a 30 year period in the mid-1800s, which is why the whole city more or less looks the same today.
- Cathedral of Notre Dame. Given that I went to the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, I couldn’t not make a visit to my alma mater’s namesake. The 13 million people that visit annually apparently had the same idea, making it the most visited monument in Paris (yep, even more than the Eiffel Tower!) . The circular rose stain glass is incredible as well as the fact that they constructed the building in the Dark Ages. When the Cathedral was in disrepair and at risk of getting demolished in the 1700s, Victor Hugo essentially saved the cathedral after writing his infamous book Notre Dame (which we know as The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
- Tuileries Garden. If you’re not on art sensory overload, the Tuileries Garden next to the Louvre is worth a stroll. While I was there, FIAC (International Arts Fair) was set up outside and filled the park with modern art and sculptures that were free for visitors.
- Stroll through the Latin Quarter. As with many Parisian neighborhoods, this one is adorable. It’s got the university, Luxembourg Garden and the Shakespeare’s and Company bookshop.
- Explore the Le Marais neighborhood. This Jewish neighborhood was definitely one of my favorites. I found some fantastic falafel from a corner shop and loved exploring all the shops and boutiques. Le Marais has lots of “stock shops” aka outlet shops for designers, as well as vintage thrift stores and delightfully curated boutiques. Some of the places I wanted to included Violette et Leonie, Jacques Genin, and Sandro Stock.
- Relax in Eiffel Tower Park. I deemed waiting in line to go up the Eiffel Tower to get a view of Paris that didn’t include it’s most iconic landmark, not worth my time. BUT the park surrounding the Tower (which still broadcasts TV/radio btw), is a delightful place to relax and snap a
zillionsome pics. Although I didn’t do this, Montparnasse Tower (which most people consider to be the ugliest building in town) ironically has the best views of the city because you can go up high and exclude itself from the view.
- Admire all the bridges. Whether is from below on a boat tour, or from street level from above. There are many bridges worth visiting across the city. My favorite being Pont Alexandre III that is allegedly the mostly extravagant bridge in Paris. All of the locks have been removed from the infamous love locks bridge (and glass put up over the wrought iron fence), but that doesn’t stop people from locking their love to bridges. Pont Neuf is covered in them and there’s lots of people selling locks on the street for that exact purpose. Although, rumor has it they sell you the lock, watch you lock it, and then unlock it with a master key and sell it again.
- Views of City from Bellevue. This neighborhood reminded me a lot of Hong Kong. It’s built up into the hillside, so has some fantastic views of the city–especially at night. It would be a fun place to go out.