Language(s): French, some English
Currency: Euro (1 euro = $1.12)
Must-See: Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Arc de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles, Notre Dame, Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, Pont Alexander III, Jardin de Tuileries
I’ll be honest with you, and anyone who has ever been to Paris might hate me for it, but I was not excited to go to Paris. At all. On top of the high-security situation that we hear about in the news, there are the waiters who ignore your best efforts at speaking French and the generally rude stereotype we often have of French people. While I certainly found a few examples of this, the stereotypes didn’t hold up. Paris was a dream.
There are a million ways to see all of my must-dos, so I’ll just explain how we went about conquering this massive city. First, find a metro map at one of the stations and use it as your Parisian bible. Transportation can get expensive at 1.80 euros per ride, so mark up your map before leaving to make the most of your time on the metro system. For example, if you want to see the Jardin de Tuileries, Notre Dame and the Louvre in one day, you can start at either the Louvre or at Pont Alexander III and walk in a mostly straight line to see it all. The city is beautiful no matter where you go, so for us, our feet were the best form of transportation we used. We averaged about 12 miles per day, so bring comfy shoes!
Before we start, I’ll just say this to all of you budget-conscious people out there (you’re my people): eat at grocery stores and have picnics for most meals and stay in Air BnBs to save a pretty penny. These are two other costs that can ruin a trip to Paris very quickly, plus it’s fun pretending to be a local every once in a while by not staying in a hotel and eating at overpriced restaurants. Just saying.
Let’s get to it. The first day, we decided to get our bearings by starting at Pont Alexander III (pictured above) and walking to the Jardin de Tuileries. The bridge crosses the Seine River and is a great view of a few Parisian landmarks. The golden statues will tell you you’ve arrived. Continue walking towards the large Ferris wheel to arrive at the gardens. Have a sit at one of the ponds and maybe even a picnic. From there, continue on to Notre Dame (you can pass by the Louvre to get here if you like) and look up high for Quazimodo. Entrance is free to the cathedral, but get there early as a long line forms later in the day. After this, we grabbed some crepes and took them to the Eiffel Tower to eat. It’s easy to arrive here. Just look at your hand-dandy map and the tower can easily be found in the middle. I highly suggest staying until dark, because the tower sparkles at night, though do beware of the rat population around these parts (I kid not. There are rats everywhere near the tower, so stick to sitting on stone rather than in the grass). That should sum up day #1 with a variety of landmarks checked off of your must-do list.
On the second day, we devoted our entire morning to Mona Lisa and her glass pyramid palace at the Louvre Museum. Entrance is 15 euros. In order to see Mona, get there at opening hours, with pre-booked tickets in hand (you know that’s mainly why you came to this museum, so come prepared for this one). She can be found very easily by following the signs, so do go see her first. We managed to not have to wait in line at all to see her because we were ready to go when the museum opened at 9:00 am. Once you’ve had your fill, select a few types of art to check out and stick to it. The museum is so large that it is impossible to see it in a day. Don’t believe me? According to CNN, if you spent a minute looking at each piece of art, it would take you 64 days to see the whole thing. I double-dog dare you. We selected Italian painters such as Boticcelli and Northern Europeans such as Rembrandt to pass just a few hours there.The museum also hosts a wealth of sculptures, which are lovely as well.
In the afternoon, we made our way via metro to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. For you art lovers, Montmartre is the place to watch artists live painting and purchase their work. Even Van Gogh painted here during his time in Paris. It’s also where Moulin Rouge is located, so check that out if you wish. The neighborhood is also quiet and perfect for an afternoon coffee. Once the caffeine hits and you’re feeling human again, make your way to Sacre Coeur, an incredible church with panoramic views of Paris. It’s free to enter, but 6 euros if you wish to climb it’s tower. From here, climb down the hill that the cathedral sits upon and catch the metro at the bottom to end your day at the Arc de Triomphe. Head underground to cross the street and stand right under the monument dedicated to France’s unknown soldiers. These activities pretty much wiped us out, so that does it for day #2.
On our third and last day in Paris, we decided to step away from the city for a bit at the Palace of Versailles. Find your way to an RER suburban train towards Versailles
Chateau to get there. It takes about 30 minutes and costs about 3.50 euros each way. Again, plan ahead and pre-book your tickets (entrance is 18 euros for the palace and the gardens and a bit more if you wish to add in Marie Antoinette’s private residence). The line can get long and you won’t want to waste a second outside of the palace. Not only is it a massive building filled with rooms upon rooms, but it’s gardens are so large that you can rent a golf cart to get around them. The Hall of Mirrors is a must see, as well as the large waterfall found in the gardens. You can wander around all day here, so save yourself some time for this. We committed the whole day, which I highly suggest. When you return to the the city, #treatyoself by snacking on pan au chocolat and a coffee at an open-air cafe and cros your fingers your waiter is nice.
As always, comment with questions.
Bye, Bye, Bye,