J’adore Paris. In fact, I love it so much I already booked a trip back with my friend Zahra when she visits me in March. Prior to visiting I never had a strong desire to see Paris. I guess I had this stereotype in my mind that all French people hated American tourists and would make my trip miserable. Boy was I wrong. Maybe some French people are rude, but so can be Americans. And if I was a chic macaron-eating, chain-smoking, Chanel-clad Parisian, I might act a bit superior once in awhile too. Fortunately, the French folks we met were very accommodating to our pathetic (read: nonexistent) French-speaking attempts and I adored seeing sights in person I’ve been eyeing in travel books for years. We spent a total of four days in Parisian heaven – here’s how we divided and conquered the City of Light to see as much as possible.
We kicked off the trip with every Paris traveler’s top priority, the Eiffel Tower. After our photo shoot, we walked to the Arc de Triomphe. For €8 we climbed to the top of the Arc and from there had views of the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the Eiffel Tower, and the hilltop of Sacré-Coeur. We also saw the memorial for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI and the eternal flame lit for all unknown fallen soldiers from both world wars.
We spent the afternoon wandering, eating macarons, and taking pictures of all the fancy buildings along Rue de St. Germain. During a wifi break at a cafe we realized the Louvre was open late on Friday nights* (until 9:45pm instead of 6pm). Since it was Friday we decided it was meant to be and meandered over to Mona’s place.
Bonus – if you’re 26 and under you’ll enjoy free entry on Friday nights, too! The cashier practically tried to give me free entrance based on my youthful appearance but my conscience got the best of me and I admitted that I was actually an old lady. Le sigh.
The Louvre contains over 400,000 pieces of artwork and historic objects and occupies a former palace. You could easily spend a full day there but you might want to jump into the Seine River afterwards. After three hours both Tim and I were practically racing past amazing pieces of artwork towards the exit in hopes of maintaining some semblance of sanity.
P.S. In the photo above notice how protected the Mona Lisa is? She’s housed behind bulletproof glass after several attempts to damage and steal her (some successful). She is one tough lady. Seeing her in person made me ask myself, why is she so famous again? If you’re curious how her eyebrows were accidentally removed during cleaning or why her skin is tinted green, here’s a quick YouTube lesson.
We were both so exhausted after the Louvre we slept in until lunchtime. We wandered around the streets of Le Marais, a really fancy part of town. Our lunch consisted of Moroccan food from a vendor at the Marche des Enfants Rouges, the oldest covered market in Paris. So tasty!
Next stop was the Place de Vosges, near the Marais and one of the oldest planned squares in Paris.
From there we ventured towards Notre Dame. You can enter free of charge (God is generous) after waiting in a long line (queue for my British readers) and enjoy the beautiful stained glass windows, architecture, and religious artifacts. If you decide to climb to the top there is a small fee and separate side entrance for that. We just enjoyed the free views inside and out because I wanted to increase my macaron budget. Seriously.
After a day of rest from museums, Tim and I gathered the courage to see one more museum, the Musée d’Orsay. Actually, I had to give him a pep talk because he could have cared less, but we were both so glad we went. The Musée d’Orsay is well known for its collection of Impressionist works by Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, and others. It was my favorite museum I’ve ever seen because I recognized so many famous paintings.
The winter weather cleared for us after we left the museum and the sun was shining, so we took the metro towards the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur to see if all the fuss about good views was true.
The streets surrounding the Sacré-Coeur comprise a neighborhood known as Montmarte – AKA the best place to get pickpocketed in Paris because of the hoards of tourists streaming down from Sacré-Coeur. It’s totally worth the paranoia of holding your purse close though – the streets are quaint and made of cobblestone, and the shops and cafes are plentiful.
Our last day was spent buying souvenirs, eating some more macarons and chocolate, and putting a lock on the Pont des Artes bridge. We also walked across Pont Neuf bridge which translates to “New Bridge” but is actually the oldest bridge in Paris.
Know Before You Go:
- The Louvre is open late on Wednesdays and Fridays but closed Tuesday, so plan accordingly. Also, wear comfortable shoes and have a snack or meal beforehand to stay sane.
- Many tourist activities are closed on Monday (Louvre closed on Tuesdays).
- If traveling by Eurostar to Paris is an option for you – take it! Much easier than flying and dealing with airports.
- Buy a pack of 10 Metro (Paris’ answer to the Tube) tickets on the Eurostar. It’s a few bucks more expensive than buying them at a Metro station but it saves you the hassle of having to figure it out at the train station when you arrive.
- Save your Eurostar train ticket for 2-for-1 entry to the Musée d’Orsay.
- Museum fans have the option to buy a Museum Pass for entry to over 60 museums. Not my cup of tea, but a good deal if it’s yours.
- If you like chocolate you don’t have to look far to find tasty treats. Buy any Cote d’Azur or Lindt chocolate bar at a corner market. Take a bite and realize that American chocolate is horrifying.
I’ll leave you with Tim’s favorite picture of this Paris police officer outside the Louvre: