“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
You’ve decided to see Paris! Now What?
I put together some tips from my trip to Paris. This is just a guide on how to begin, the planning, and must see places. This is a day by day of the things I did. Once you get there go wherever your heart and your feet take you. I hope you enjoy it.
Where to Stay
Campanile Paris 15 Tour Eiffel Hotel
30 Rue Saint Charles, Paris, 75015 Booked through booking.com
This hotel is a short ten minute walk from the Eiffel Tower and Champ de Mars. The hotel is well maintained and the rooms are clean and comfortable. The street is quiet and despite the location, filled with locals. A breakfast buffet is offered every morning for 15 additional Euros. The breakfast options include: crêpes, croissants, toast, fruit, yogurt, coffee and tea. Located a block from the hotel there is a supermarket where you could buy ham, bread, pastries and bottled water, and wine for an affordable price. On Boulevard de Grenelle, many restaurant options are available, including subway. Grab a crêpe and begin walking to the Eiffel Tower.
Tip: Eating breakfast at your hotel can be a great idea especially when “all you can eat” can fuel you until lunch or dinner time.
Although I believe the best way to see Paris is walking, sometimes is necessary to take transportation. If you don’t want to take a tour bus, and only hit the tourist areas, hop on the metro. The Paris metro can be a complicated scary thing but it’s extremely efficient. A paper metro map is useful, but PARIS METRO APP works offline. It offers specific directions from station to station and lets you know where to transfer. Taxis are available and the drivers friendly, but be prepared to pay. The fare I payed to get to my hotel was 20 Euros.
What to See?
After an early morning arrival, It’s important to get situated at the hotel. Leave your luggage, change clothes, splash some water on your face, and even take a nap, traveling can be exhausting. When you are ready to begin exploring, don’t be overwhelmed and enjoy every step. Say bonjour to the locals! and remember your way back. The best way to practice broken French is to order a crepe. Grab one on the corner of Boulevard de Grenelle and cross the street to Promenade d’Australie. Walk along the Promenade and get excellent views of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine. If you are not ready to go up the tower and want to admire it, sit on Champ de Mars and sip on some wine.
Tip: Although it is allowed to drink wine, be aware of the vendors that will approach you. They offer overpriced bottles of wine and beer, avoid buying from them, instead get it at one of the markets.
The first day in Paris indulge on a nice meal at one of the Paris restaurants. Sit outside and observe people walk by, no one will rush you. You will feel pressured to see it all in one day, but enjoying it at slower pace will help you enjoy the trip to the fullest.
The eiffel tower opens at 9am. To beat the crowds, it is recommended to arrive before the tower opens, but still be prepared to wait an hour. I arrived there at 8:30 am and the lines were significantly long. Expect the time from start to finish to take over 3hrs. The price I payed to get to the top SOMMET was 13,50 Euros, which was a discounted price for being under 24.
Tip: They don’t check ID so if you look young enough it is easy to get a discount. Once you get to the top it, expect lines, lines, lines, so be ready to wait for people to move before you can get that perfect selfie.
Tip: On Sunday evenings there are barely any lines at the Eiffel Tower.
After experiencing the Eiffel Tower, might be time for lunch. Avoid Starbucks, unless you want to use their free wifi, they have a limited menu. Instead, go to one of the local bakeries, they offer a variety of fresh bread, sandwiches and coffee.
Hop on the Metro at Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel, and get off at Saint Michel Notre Dame and you will arrive at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Located in one of the two islands surrounded by the Seine, Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis. Made famous in Victor Hugo’s Novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Notre Dame is a fine example of French Gothic architecture. Entrance to the Cathedral is free, however you will have to pay to go up the bell tower.
Tip: Be aware of solicitations, people will approach you asking for your signature and then ask for money.
Crossover to the the next island and get an ice cream cone from Maison Berthillon, 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, 75004. www.berthillion.fr
Get off the island and walk along the Seine until you reach perhaps the most famous book store, Shakespeare and Company, 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France. Originally owned by New Jersey native Sylvia Beach, Shakespeare and Company became a gathering place for artists and writers from the “Lost Generation” such as, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
Tip: Purchase a book here and ask them to stamp it, it makes for a great souvenir.Shakespeare and Company
Walk down Boulevard Saint-Michel and you will find shopping, cafes, and Université Paris-Sorbonne, a great place to drink coffee with the intellectuals. This road also leads to Le Jardin du Luxembourg. Sit in one of the benches and enjoy the park and the beautiful gardens.
It’s Friday afternoon and you’re in Paris. Get lost in a small street and see the city like a Local. Rue de Seine is a wonderful street to take. It has bakeries, Parisian architecture, and small art galleries where you can watch the artist paint. Keep taking this street towards the Seine and you will find yourself steps from Pont des Arts.
Visitors toss and turn over the best time to go to the Louvre. In my opinion, the afternoon is the best time to do it, after 5 pm to be precise. I entered through the famous glass pyramids and paid 12 Euros for my ticket. Right away you will notice how large the museum is and it can be quite overwhelming. Just remember the reason you went to the Louvre and follow the crowds.
Tip: Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.louvre.fr you can also find maps and list of exhibitions.
Many people surround the Mona Lisa and it is almost impossible to take a picture alone with the iconic painting. If you are a true art lover, once you take a selfie with the Mona Lisa, there are plenty of paintings and sculptures to see. Some of the galleries are so empty you can sit on a bench and admire the art practically by yourself.
Wake up early and get on the metro at the Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel station and hop on RER C towards Versailles. The trip takes roughly 30 min. You can stop at the supermarket and get croissants for 50 cents so you can indulge on the train on the way to Versailles. The line to purchase tickets isn’t very long when you arrive early in the morning. The tickets vary in price. Purchase the passport for 18 euros and it allows access to the Château, the Châteaux de Trianon and the Estate of Marie-Antoinette, as well as the temporary exhibitions and the gardens.
Tip: Tickets can be purchased online in advance but dates sale out fast. I recommend buying in advance or buying at the gate. www.chateauversailles.fr
On the train back to Paris make a stop at Musée d’Orsay. In this magnificent homage to architecture and art, you will get to experience the most beautiful pieces of art. In this former rail station, the grand clock is the center piece and all of the collections are located in the various secret galleries. Impressionists paintings and sculptures, from Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Picasso, among others. Entrance to this museum is only 11 euros and it has an outdoor area with a lovely view of Paris.
Tip: Photographing the art isn’t allowed in this museum, so don’t be the person who is watched and asked multiple times to put your camera away.
Check out the website for museum hours and list of exhibitions www.musee-orsay.fr
Walking around in museums can be very exhausting, so to continue enjoying Paris go back to the hotel. Naps in the middle of the afternoon aren’t a bad idea, and it’s not going to waste your time. It will help you keep going for more evening adventures. Head out to dinner, eat a delicious dish, a glass of wine, and have a crepe and espresso for dessert. If you haven’t seen the Eiffel tower at night yet, then this is the opportunity.
The lights turn on at 8pm and the light show last for five minutes, then shuts off and continues every hour until 1 am. Get a great view of the Eiffel tower from Trocadèro.
Parisians love Sundays and a lot of things are closed. Don’t expect the local supermarket to be opened. Get on the metro and go see Sacrè Coeur and Montmartre. Get off at the Abbesses train station. The climb up is filled with interesting things to see, and if you need last minute souvenirs this is the place to get them. Entrance to Sacrè Coeur is free and if you are there on a Sunday you can be lucky and make it there for mass. The view from here overlooks not only iconic landmarks, but rooftops of Paris.
Tip: Check out this blog post from a native Parisian for extra tips on what to see and do in Paris. Infinitylo
Take the metro back from Abbesses to Ligne 2 and get off at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile. This will take you directly to Arc de Triomphe. There is an underground tunnel to help you cross the street. Signs point it out but it is easy to get lost and not find it. Keep in mind people are very helpful.