Honestly I kept putting it off writing this post because there is SO much to write about Paris and I didn’t know where to start. I guess my best advice is to start by reading this Paris Travel Guide below, and read about unique things to do in Paris here and practical tips for traveling to Paris here. Decide what you need to book tickets for in advance and plan around that (our two big planned events were the Louvre and the catacomb tour).
Paris Travel Guide: Touristy Things
You absolutely must do the Eiffel Tower. My husband was like “what’s so great about the Eiffel Tower; isn’t it just another tourist spot?” but once we got there he was like “oh I get it now.” I don’t know what it is, but there is just something magical, romantic, and awe-inspiring about it. Go during the day so that you can really see it, take a good picture and admire it. You can go up the tower, but if you want to get a good view of Paris I actually recommend you climb up the Arc de Triompe or go to a rooftop bar instead.
You definitely definitely definitely have to go to the Eiffel Tower at night, too. Yes, it lights up at night, but every hour on the hour it twinkles into a five minute magical lights show. Here’s my advice: we took the M6 to get there and got off at the Charles de Gaulle stop. Directly to the right of the metro exit, there is a small grocery store. Go inside, buy a bottle of champagne (G. H. Mumm = YUM) (also buy the full bottle, not a half bottle – trust me), and then walk to the Eiffel Tower. Find a spot in the grass. Drink that champagne and stay through the top of the hour.
Arc de Triomphe
This iconic monument was created to honor those who fought for France in the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. In order to get to the Arc, you have to go through an underground tunnel — don’t try to cross the busy traffic circle!! You can climb up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to get a panoramic view of Paris and you can see the Eiffel Tower from there.
The last time I went to Paris, we were there for such a short time and didn’t have a chance to go into the Louvre. This was on the top of my “must do” list for this trip. The Louvre can get super busy, so to make the best use of your time make sure to buy your tickets online ahead of time! You have to schedule the time you are going to go into the Louvre, but you’ll be able to skip a huge line by doing this. To enter, you’ll just go to the Louvre pyramid and they’ll scan your tickets there.
The Louvre is huge and there is so much to see! Make sure to eat a good breakfast and wear comfortable walking shoes. The Mona Lisa is underwhelming, but you still have to see it since you’re there. My favorite exhibitions were the Napoleon Apartments in the Decorative Arts section and the Pavillon de l’Horloge, which showed how the Louvre went from being a Palace to becoming a museum.
Luckily I had the chance to go into the Notre Dame on my first trip to Paris. Currently it is completely closed for restoration from the fire. The front is completely blocked off so you can’t even see it, but if you cross the bridge and walk around, you can see the back of the cathedral from across the river. It sent chills down my spine.
If you get a chance, I highly recommend walking around Montmartre, the hilly, cobbled art district of Paris. On my first trip to Paris, we took this free walking tour around Montmartre and I loved hearing about the history of this area. This time around, we slowly wandered up and down the streets, people watching and shopping. At the top of the hill is the Sacre Coeur Basilica – go inside and walk around (it’s beautiful) and then sit on the steps outside to take in the panoramic view of the city below.
We just so happened to plan our trip to Paris on the same weekend of the Grape Harvest Festival (aka. wine fest/amazing timing). It was wonderful – we were walking up the huge hill to get to the Sacre Coeur, and at the top we found a wine fest with really amazing food vendors. The Paris 20km race was also going on that weekend, sooo we plan on coming back the same weekend next year! Timmer is going to run the 20km, which ends at the Eiffel Tower and runs alone the Seine. Let us know if you want to join!
The Luxembourg Gardens are crazy beautiful and were modeled after the Biboli Gardens in Florence. This is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll to walk off a heavy lunch. Tourists and locals alike enjoy the parks surrounding the Luxembourg Palace, lounging in shade under a tree or kicking around the soccer ball with their kids. The pond in front of the Palace was buzzing with kids sailing their toy boats, and this is the perfect spot to find a seat in the sun, people watch, and take in the beauty of Paris.
Paris Travel Guide: Food & Drink
It’s so hard to write down food and drink recs for Paris because there are so many good places to choose from. Most of the places below are ones that we stumbled across, but there are a few that we scoped out ahead of time.
Baieta – We agreed we would splurge on one pricier restaurant while in Paris. Baieta is the restaurant of Chef Julia Sedefdjian, who is the youngest female chef to have a Michelin star (#girlpower). We did the tasting menu and I was definitely full by the end. My favorites were the fried egg yolk and the Bouillabaieta – her take on the French fish stew. It was so good!
Le Bon Georges – This Parisian bistro is amazing. It is one of my favorite meals that we had in Paris. The service was great, the menu comes out on a chalkboard because it changes daily, the winelist was superb…and the quail was cooked to perfection. We ended the meal with the cheese board (we still had wine left to drink) and it was the best way to end our lunch.
Legrand Filles and Fils – In this blog post I talked about going to wine bars, and this one was my favorite. The tasting bar of Caves Legrand is located inside the Galeries Vivienne and attached is a fine grocery store, which is the perfect place to stock up on picnic food to enjoy in front of the Eiffel Tower. I loved this wine bar – an amazing selection of impressive wine to taste (or buy by the bottle) and they had the best cheese board! This was definitely one of my highlights of this trip.
Regis Huitrerie – Oysters in Paris? Yes please! This trendy little oyster bar was another highlight of the trip. It is located in the chic Saint Germain area of Paris which is filled with cute cafes and shops. This oyster bar is tiny – it only fits around 14 people inside and a handful more outside, but luckily we didn’t have to wait. The oysters were fresh and delicious and we also ordered some sea urchin and a glass of wine, of course.
Astair – We stumbled upon Astair when we were walking through the Passage des Panoramas and right as I said I wanted escargot and foie gras for dinner. Astair had both on the menu so we agreed to come back for dinner. The escargot was so good, we ended up getting another order, but my favorite thing on the menu was actually the perfectly cooked egg. Our waiter recommended it, and it was so flavorful and unique.
Monsieur Madame – We passed by this little bistro on our way to our hotel one night, and decided we had to check it out for breakfast the next day. We knew we had to have the typical Parisian terrace experience (i.e., sit outside with both chairs facing outward toward the street). This place was perfect! Their breakfast special included a hot drink (coffee), a fresh juice, three eggs, ham, a fresh pastry (croissant), and a fruit cup. It was the perfect meal before a busy day of exploring, and was the perfect spot for morning people watching. Plus, the restaurant also has a super cute boutique in the basement!
Creatures (the Galeries Lafayette Rooftop bar) – As I mentioned above, the best way to get a view of the city is to head to a rooftop bar. This one was perfect – tasty drinks and a view of the Eiffel Tower. It is located on top of the Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann, and the Galeries itself is a place to admire. True it’s a department store, but it is really beautiful. On the rooftop you can walk around and take in the view, or you can have a drink and a bite to eat at Creatures. When we went, there was a line to get in, but the line moved really quickly and we didn’t have to wait for more than 15-20 minutes.
Other Food/Drink Recs
Other noteworthy places we went to include Angelina for some hot chocolate. Get it to go and split one – one will be plenty. Pierre Herme has really delicious and unique flavored macroons. We also went to the Ritz for a drink after our cabaret show the last night. I love how snazzy I feel whenever I’m drinking at the Ritz, and this one was beautiful and elegant. Great people watching, delicious drinks, and attentive bartender.
Next Trip to Paris
There is so so so much more to see and explore in Paris! We can’t wait to visit a few more art museums and to try a bunch of other restaurants. What else should we add to our Paris Travel Guide?!