Travel Guide: Paris, France

Paris was easily one of the cities I was most looking forward to spending time in while I was in Europe, as it has been near the top of my travel bucket list since I was sixteen. And let me tell you: it was well worth the wait. Despite meeting other travelers along the way who had expressed that Paris was overrated, I refused to lose my wide-eyed wonder and excitement for the city of love… and it did not disappoint, as I fell in love hard and fast. Six days hardly felt like enough time — as I’m convinced that I could have spent many more days wandering the charming streets and arrondissements that make up metropolitan Paris — and yet they gave me enough of a taste to know that I will definitely return some day. And while there are so, so many things you can and should do if you find yourself in Paris, I wanted to compile a short list to get you started. So here is a little guide for your (hopefully) next weekend getaway in Paris…

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Getting Around Paris

Navigating one’s way through Paris may be seem intimidating at first, but it really is quite easily, thanks to a great public transit system. I really think that public transportation in Europe is the actual best, especially compared to the States, where I feel like there are only a handful of cities with a decent transit system. But much like most big cities throughout Europe, I found getting around Paris to be an almost no-brainer. Just be sure to have Google Maps downloaded on your phone, and — whether you’re connecting to wifi or have data abroad — use the heck out of it. The Parisian metro and bus systems weave through the different arrondissements (you can purchase metro tickets/passes at almost any metro station), and Google Maps will tell you what line to take, where to board, and when it will arrive. So. stinking. easy. To be honest, though, there there is nothing quite like walking your way through Paris, so try to do so as much as possible. One night, after watching the Eiffel Tower light up from the Trocadéro, I opted to walk a mile or two along the Seine river before taking the metro back to my apartment, and it was magical. What, with Midnight in Paris being one of my favorite movies, it all felt like something right out of a film, and I loved getting to take in the city by night while walking. I also walked from my apartment up through the Monmartre area, giving me the opportunity to see so many cute shops, sweet patisseries, and live street music that I would have missed if I would have opted for a bus or train. And again, you can use Google Maps to navigate the city by foot, so no matter how you choose to get around, I want to assure you that there is no reason to be overwhelmed. Even if you get lost, I found the people of Paris to be very kind and helpful, so don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

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What to Do in Paris

There are so many amazing things one can choose do in Paris, but if you could only pick a few key points of interest to make sure that you have on your list for a weekend in the city, here is where I thin you should go:

MUST Do’s & VIEWS

For the best views in Paris, make sure to head to the world-famous Eiffel Tower and sometimes overlooked Arc de Triomphe. Both landmarks are quintessentially Parisian — with the former being one of the most recognized pieces of architecture in the world — and both are absolutely stunning in person. And the Arc gives some of the most grand views of Paris, so I recommend booking tickets for both in advance, as lines can get long very quickly. And when it comes to the Eiffel Tower, also be sure to plan a picnic and spend the evening watching the lights come on after the sun sets, keeping your eyes peeled for when it begins to sparkle for a few minutes at the top of each hour post sunset (until 1:00 AM). You can either claim a spot on the lawn directly in front of the tower, or choose to take it all in from across the Seine River at the Trocadéro. Both options provide a unique and lovely way to experience the magic of Paris by night. Another spectacular view of the city can be found from the steps of Sacré-Cœur, also known as the basilica of the “sacred heart” of Paris. It’s an old Roman Catholic Church set up on a hill in the northern Monmartre area of the city, providing sweeping views of Paris and some of the most entertaining street performers you can imagine. You will find plenty of tourists at all of these spots, to be sure, but I can promise you that they are worth it and not to be missed.

Exploring the Arrondissements

The city of Paris is divided up into twenty unique arrondissements, or neighborhoods. While I was there, I stayed in a small apartment in the 9th arrondissement, or the opera district. It was close to a metro stop, and within walking distance of the Monmartre area (18th arronidissement), which happened to be one of my favorite neighborhoods to wander through. From quaint bakeries to one-of-a-kind shops, it would have been both easy and pleasant to spend hours getting lost in Monmartre. Another arrondissement to be sure to explore are the Latin Quarter (5th) where you can find the famous Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, the cutest and — let’s be honest — most instagrammable Odette, a darling patisserie featuring delicious cream-filled pastries and other sweet treats, and so much more, Le Marais (3rd), St. Germain (6th), and Champs-Élysées (8th) also shouldn’t be missed, and don’t forget that you will find yourself in the 7th arrondissement when visiting the Eiffel Tower.

Museums & Churches

Of course, there are plenty of incredible places to see throughout Paris, but if you’re an art and/or museum person, you should make it a priority to try to visit the Louvre and/or Musee d’Orsay. The former can be found just outside of Jardin des Tuileries (a favorite spot of mine to people read, rest, and people-watch) and houses many famous paintings, including the renown “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci. The latter is located on the left bank of the Seine housed in a former railway station which mainly houses French art, including paintings, furniture, sculptures, and photographs. For either or both museum, be sure to book tickets in advance and arrive early. As for more famous churches, make sure to check out Notre-Dame, a stunning medieval cathedral complete with a bored gargoyle (look for it!), and Sainte-Chapelle, famous for its spectacular abundance of stained-glass, both of which are located in the 4th arrondissement.

Venturing Out

If you find that you have an extra day or two, you have a few options of things to do just outside of Paris, if you should choose. The first would be to visit Versailles, a stunning palace that served as the royal residence of France from 1692 until the beginning of the French Revolution. If you’re feeling something a bit more “magical,” take the half hour metro ride outside of the city to Disneyland Paris for what is destined to be a fun-filled day.

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What to Eat in Paris

My biggest piece of advice when it comes to eating in Paris is this: do your best to avoid the tourist traps, and you’ll be sure to find yourself quite pleased with all of the food you come across. Paris could easily be considered a foodie’s dream, as French cuisine tends to err on the side of fresh, delicious, and inspired. No matter where you end up, make sure to order the classics at some point: croque monsieur (or a croque madame, depending on your preference), a sweet and a savory crepe (because duh), and plenty of macarons.

One of my favorite little spots — one that I went back to many times before leaving the city — came recommended by my friend Becca and was called Biglove Caffe. Locate in Le Marais, Biglove is a small restaurant that boasts yummy cocktails and naturally gluten-free pizza (yas), and their Burrata Sound System one was probably the best pizza I had throughout my entire Europe trip (including Italy, sue me). So yes, I highly recommend adding Biglove — and any other Big Mama restaurant — to your short list of places to eat.

Rue Cler, a world-famous market street located in the 7th arrondissement, is a great spot to linger to grab beautiful florals, fresh market finds, or a bite to eat. If you find yourself in this dreamy area of Paris, I highly recommend stopping in at L’Eclair for a meal, Here, I got the seasonal special: a salmon poke bowl that was honestly so freaking good. Also on this street is a French favorite beloved by many: Laduree. While they can be found all throughout the city, this particular location is a great one to stop in at for macarons either after your meal or before heading to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic. Be sure to ask the person at the register for their favorite macaron flavor, as they are sure to never steer you wrong. Another sweet spot for your daily croissant fix in this area is Artisan Boulanger. After all, calories don’t count in Paris, right?

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As you can probably tell from my absolute gushing throughout the post, Paris stole my heart in a big way, quickly becoming one of my favorite cities that I had the chance to explore while traveling through Europe. It’s big and beautiful and complex and full of its own unique sense of magic, and I hope that many of you are have the chance to take it all in someday soon, because — trust me — it’s spectacular.

Have you been to Paris or are you hoping to visit soon?
What else should one do while in Paris?

 
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