I booked a spontaneous trip to France for two weeks in July and with no plans, I boarded my flight to Paris with a “well, let’s just see how it goes” mindset.
Unfortunately, my Air Transat flight it was not a good start to the trip - the staff were rude and enjoyed a good eye roll and the food was disappointing at best. To say nothing of Charles de Gaulle Airport which looks less like an airport and more like a shipping container depot. The airplanes don’t attach to the terminals and instead, slow-moving buses take 20 minutes to transport passengers a few hundred metres from the plane to the terminal doors. Once inside, bare walls greet you at passport control and into the big empty space that is Terminal 2. Rather undignified for the most romantic city in the word.
But, I was in Paris.
How to Get Around Paris
Metro: this is by far the easiest and most convenient way to get around Paris. Once you take the time to understand how to look up where you’re going and how to use the many different lines to get yourself there, the system is very logical and straightforward. A single ride costs 1,90 euros with day and multi-day passes also available. A trip from the airport into Paris Gare du Nord will cost you 10 euros.
TGV: if you’re heading out of Paris, you’ll need to get on a high-speed regional or international train. Always check the schedules in advance and plan accordingly. The price of these tickets doesn’t change in-person vs online so you can purchase them right before you go to save having to plan too far in advance.
Walk: once you’ve hopped off the metro at your chosen destination, walking is by far the ultimate way to see the city and all its sights. I averaged 20,000 steps per day just by wandering the streets and getting around! Paris is huge and it’s one of those cities that has so much to see that you can walk endlessly and still never seem to see it all.
Bike: many Parisians love to get around by bike and the city is absolutely packed with them!
Autocar: a cheaper alternative to trains, these look like tour buses and, while sometimes may take longer than a train, are an excellent way of getting yourself around the country.
Where to Stay in Paris
Paris offers accommodation types of every sort. While I was in Paris, I stayed at the Generator Hostel which, while not in the centre of the city, is across the street from the Colonel Fabian metro station.
The hostel has its own restaurant offering all meals of the day including a filling breakfast for just 5 euros (book the night before for a discount). The rooms are clean, the bathrooms are great, the beds are very comfortable and, while the area isn’t the best, it’s relatively cheap (30-60 euro a night, depending on room/luck/time of booking). And, they have a rooftop bar with a view of the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. Neat!!
Île de la Cité
Hop off the metro at Cite and put away the map to allow yourself to get lost on a natural little island in the Seine river. The architecture here is beautiful and so typical Parisienne. It's the perfect place to start.
Closest metro line: Cité
You'll want to get here early in the morning, otherwise it'll be packed. The Notre Dame is one of Paris' most iconic symbols and well worth gazing at in awe and wonder. There's a darling café just across the street as well where you can grab your morning coffee and croissant.
Closest metro line: Cité
From the Notre Dame on one end of the little island, walk to the other end where you will find the iconic Love Lock Bridge. The locks used to be locked on Pont des Arts but due to safety concerns and extreme heaviness with all the locks, the locks were moved to a square overlooking the Pont des Arts bridge.
Closest metro line: Pont Neuf
Pont des Arts
This wooden bridge is the next one along from Pont Neuf and connects the Place de l’Institut with the Louvre Museum.
Closest metro line: Louvre Rivoli or Pont Neuf
Musée de Louvre
Next up is a visit to the iconic Parisian museum that is home to the glass-paneled pyramids and the Mona Lisa. The Louvre is huge - there’s a massive courtyard you can walk through surrounded on all sides by the galleries. Inside, there are over 35,000 works of art across four floors and three wings. Plan your route before you go in and start early!
Closest metro line: Louvre Rivoli or Palais Royal Musée du Louvre
Jardin des Tuileries
From the Louvre you can wander your way through the Jardin des Tuilieries, a Parisian garden featuring the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel with pink marble columns, a Ferris wheel, views of the Eiffel Tower and many little cafes and restaurants.
Closest metro line: Louvre Rivoli
Pont Alexandre III
This well-known bridge is home to two grand golden statues and a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower. If you cut along to the Seine after visiting the Jardin des Tuileries before the Champs-Elysees, you can easily spot this bridge.
Closest metro line: Invalides
You can't visit Paris without wandering down the iconic Champs-Élysées…or can you? When I envisioned it prior to my visit, I thought of haute couture and expensive taste, so while I did spot a grand Louis Vuitton store and the beautiful original Ladurée and their macarons, I was a bit underwhelmed because it felt like just another street packed with tourists and not much to see.
Closest metro line: Champs-Élysées Clemenceau
Arc de Triomphe
The best views of the Arc are from the side corners, not only because they show the depth of the building, but are also because they're rarely crowded! An underground tunnel provides direct access to the centre of the circle and the Arc. Entrance to the top is 12 euros for an adult (or free for EU passport holders aged 18-25!). At the end of a long climb up a circular staircase, you are greeted with the most incredible view of the entire Parisian landscape. You can see down all twelve avenues, spotting French windows, pastel buildings, Parisian landmark and most notably, the Eiffel Tower, bold on the skyline.
Closest metro line: Charles de Gaulle-Étoile
From the Arc, walk along Avenue Kleber to reach one of the best viewpoints of the Eiffel Tower. An expansive platform beckons for photographs and memory makers cluster in every open spot. Do be aware that this place is incredibly busy - if you want to go anywhere in Paris without fighting the crowds, go early.
Closest metro line: Trocadero
Parc du Champ de Mars
I came here at dawn to try and capture the Eiffel Tower sans crowds and it was a wonderful little spot to capture all the angles of the iconic tower.
Closest metro line: Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel
Jardin du Luxembourg
One of the most well-known places in Paris, this is a relaxing little spot to find yourself one of those green metal chairs and enjoy the Parisian air. I did feel it to be prettier in pictures than in real life. At certain times of year, the Musée du Luxembourg at one end of the garden is also open with specialized exhibits.
Closest metro line: RER Luxembourg
A quick walk up from the Luxembourg Gardens leads to the Pantheon which early in the morning is deserted and perfectly framed in the waking sunlight.
Closest metro line: RER Luxembourg
Housing paintings of some of the most well-known painters in the entire world including Van Gogh, Monet and Degas in a gorgeously renovated old train station, this museum was a highlight of my time in Paris. I loved Monet’s water lilies (the very ones I had sat in in Giverny) and Degas’ little dancer. She captured my heart, her skirt still stiff but yellowing with age. Growing up as a dancer, these pieces of art had provided me a source of beauty and inspiration.
Closest metro line: Musée d'Orsay
Sacré - Cœur
In the middle of the Montmartre district is the distinctive Sacré - Cœur, the iconic basilica of Paris’ skyline. Snap some beautiful shots from the round staircase, flowers and all.
Closest metro line: Anvers
I went for a wander through Paris’ famous art district, home to quirky musicians, bustling restaurants, loads of souvenir shops and fun streets. Be sure to snap a shot of the famous Moulin Rouge!
Closest metro line: Absesses or Anvers
Where to Eat in Paris
La Malakoff Café
This little café has a view directly over the Eiffel Tower offering a simple breakfast or petit dejeuner with a croissant or pain au chocolate served with jus d’orange and a café au lait.
There’s a sweet crêperie a block down from the Pantheon with seats facing directly towards the incredible structure where you can enjoy a lovely sugar crêpe for breakfast.
While in Paris, the hometown of the macaron, there is no better place to go than the original Ladurée. While expensive, the first bite will remind you why you just dropped 2 euro on a single tiny cookie and you will then proceed to marvel at the genius who came up with the idea of building an empire based on two tiny cookies with some cream pressed between.
Lavish green and gold interiors with plush red carpeting enticed both the high-society and the foodie fanatics in to have a sip of their secret recipe chocolat chaud. The first drop passed my lips and in that moment I knew no other hot chocolate would suffice again. I must say that the hazelnut patisserie was the winner on my table this morning; a flax seed base with layers of chocolate cake and hazelnut cream, a hazelnut icing, gold-coated hazelnuts and a thin slice of chocolate wrapped around. Are you drooling yet?
Location: Jardin des Tuileries