Paris seems to be a city one either falls madly in love with or never wants to return to. For me, I fell in love. My heart sung from the sight of the beautiful architecture, the captivating art museums, the delicious croissants and macarons, and the effortlessly chic style of Parisians.
Whilst in Paris I learnt that the rumours of Parisian’s being rude aren’t true, there are a lot of social rules you need to follow and people really do carry around baguettes and eat them straight from the bag they’re carrying them in!
There is SO much to see in Paris, and the sooner you accept that you won’t see everything in one visit, the better. I spent 5 days in Paris and could have easily spent another 5 there without getting bored. There are endless museums, cafés, beautiful buildings, historical icons and stories.
NOTE: I have only shared what I had time to do during my first visit to Paris, because I want to give honest recounts on what I saw, liked and impressed me most.
1. Eiffel Tower, 2. Notre-Dame, 3. Louvre, 4. Arc de Triomphe,
What to do:
Paris is known for its world-class museums and it is imperative you visit at least one during your time here. If I could have, I would have visited about 5, but I had only enough time to visit two.
- Louvre- The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum in the world! With that being said, don’t expect to see everything at the Louvre in one day. I spent 5 hours here, and after that everything started to become a blur anyway. Before you head in, I suggest picking and choosing a few collections you really want to see. Also, even if the rest of museum doesn’t appear to be that busy, when you get to the Mona Lisa it will feel like you’re at a music festival, with everyone pushing to get to the front row. Be patient and stand your ground, you’ll get your turn at the front eventually. This costs 17€ and is a must do in Paris!
- Musée d’Orsay- The d’Orsay was filled with the best impressionist collection I have ever seen! The museum had many artworks by artists such as Monet, Cezanne, Pissaro, Manet, Sisley, Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh. I would say this is in the top 3 best museums I’ve ever been to, so I can’t recommend the museum enough. I booked my ticket online, costing 12€, which can be used any day within three months after the booking date and we didn’t have to wait in line on the day to purchase a ticket.
5. Classic Parisian buildings, 6. Seine, 7. Palace of Versailles,
The city of Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements. Each arrondissement is filled with its own character and icons; just remember you’re not going to get to see all of them during your time here, so you’ll have to pick. This is what I managed to fit in during my time in Paris.
- 1st Arrondissement:
In the first arrondissement you will find the Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries. This is the oldest arrondissement in Paris.
- 2nd Arrondissement:
This area has been long underrated by travellers as there isn’t a famous icon or museum situated here, meaning it is a calm, chic neighbourhood for the locals. There is an abundance of restaurants, bars and accommodation here. I enjoyed wandering around the streets, seeing everyone happily tucking into a meal or sipping on a chilled wine on a hot summers afternoon.
- 4th Arrondissement:
This was the area that my accommodation was in; it is situated on the right bank of the River Seine and includes the historic district of Le Marais and the famous Notre-Dame de Paris. It boasts tonnes of cute Parisian cafés; my favourite in this area was Au Vieux Paris. Paris’ Jewish district is also in this area, mainly on Rue des Rosiers, filled with delicious Israeli/Middle Eastern restaurants and quick eats if you’re hankering for a falafel in Paris!
- 5th Arrondissement:
This is the city’s Latin Quarter. Make sure you wander through the Saint-Michel neighbourhood, The Parthéon and Europe’s oldest university- The Sarbonne. Here I came across two beautiful cafés with quirky facades that I loved: Odette, which is a bakery and Shakespeare and Company, which is a reading library that sells coffee- so cute!
8. Eiffel Tower viewpoint from Trocadero, 9. Sacré-Cœu, 10. Houses along the Seine, 11. La Maison Rose in Montmartre,
- 6th Arrondissement:
There are a lot of parks in Paris; Luxembourg Garden is situated in this arrondissement. Be warned, you can only sit on the grass in certain areas of the park so you may be enjoying your lunch with a hundred perfect strangers as you have to sit so close! Walk through the Saint-German-des-Pres area, enjoying the cafés and boutique shops. Whilst in this area you can’t miss Café de Flore- a beautiful café with a wonderful, flowery façade!
- 7th Arrondissement:
Definitely one of Paris’s most popular districts thanks to the Eiffel Tower! You obviously can’t miss seeing this, no matter if it’s your first or fiftieth time to Paris. Bring a picnic and mat to sit on the grass around the Eiffel Tower for the full Parisian experience. If you are after the best view of the Eiffel Tower walk to Trocadero and take your pictures from there. Musée d’Orsay is also situated in this area.
- 8th Arrondissement:
Here you will find the Champs-Élysées, which has received the title of the ‘most beautiful avenue in the world’, but as a budget-traveller who definitely doesn’t have a spare 10K lying around to purchase a Chanel or Dior bag, I couldn’t really understand what all the fuss is about. Also, I suggest steering clear from any of the cafés along this strip as they’ll be twice the price and not as tasty. The Arc de Triomphe is also here, which is a crazily busy and overwhelming experience that, as a tourist must be endured. If you are dying to get your hands on Ladurée Macarons, they can be found in this area too.
- 18th Arrondissement:
This area is home to Montmartre, and while it is almost impossible to pick a favourite area in Paris, if I HAD to, I think this area would win. You are walking in the footsteps of brilliant artists such Van Gogh and Picasso, and writers such as Hemingway.
Whilst here, ensure you walk up to the Sacré-Cœu, the beautiful Basilica at the top of the hill. If you keep walking around the church you will be immersed by Montmartre’s art-culture hub; it is filled with delightful cafés, people painting on art easels set up around restaurants, and brightly coloured buildings that all go together so neatly- as perfect as a picture. In my opinion, the two prettiest café facades are La Maison Rose and Le Consulat. I also treated myself to a few macarons at Christophe Roussel, which were delicious.
12. Palace of Versailles, 13. Classic Parisian buildings, 14. Palace of Versailles gardens, 15. Café de Flore,
Day trip to Palace of Versailles:
- If I am to be honest, this was my least favourite and most disappointing “must-do” during my time in France. I think the problem was my expectations were too high, and that always leads to disappointment. In saying that, I am still glad I went because I always would have said that I wished I’d gone.
- How to get here: You can get a metro from Notre Dam station that takes 40 minutes and costs 7,30€. Then walk 10 minutes to the palace.
- Arrive early: I arrived here at 9:10am to a HUGE line, and didn’t get into the palace until 10am. If you want to beat the crowds, arrive early around 8:30am. However, it wasn’t that bad and we had plenty of time to see everything we wanted.
- Audio guide: In the palace you get a free audio guide which explains what you are seeing.
- The gardens: The gardens were peaceful as we visited when an orchestral concert was on, but they were nothing special. I’m not sure if I just didn’t see the “main” gardens that I’ve seen in pictures before, but I left feeling disappointed.
16. Arc de Triomphe du Carrouse, 17. The Louvre, 18. Palace of Versailles, 19. Au Vieux Paris,
I went on a Sandeman’s walking tour one afternoon. The tour was fine; I would have liked some background on Marie Antoinette and more on the French Revolution, but I guess it isn’t possible to fit the entirety of French history into a two-hour walking tour. The tour took you around some of the main sites such as the Notre-Dam, the Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries and served its purpose for providing a broader background over Parisian history in the main city centre.
20. Palace of Versailles, 21. Le Consulat, 22. Odette,
- Expensive: Paris is expensive! If you’re travelling on a budget I would suggest minimising your time here, or even reconsidering visiting at all. Food is expensive, accommodation is expensive and museums aren’t cheap, making for a very costly holiday as you can’t come to Paris and miss out on eating, sleeping and visiting the museums. However, if you’re after a luxurious city to visit rich in art, culture and architecture, and you have money to spend, definitely make your way to Paris.
- Cost effective: If you are travelling with a friend or partner it is possible to minimise the costs a bit. My friend and I got a tiny studio apartment in the Le Marais area (4th Arrondissement) with a double bed and kitchen; costing us each $415AUD for 5 nights which isn’t terrible for the excellent location. We shared the bed and cooked 3/5 of our meals in the apartment.
- For lunch we would find the nearest supermarket and get ourselves a baguette, cheese, strawberries and some chips or crackers. Not the healthiest of lunches, but we were on a budget and enjoyed picnicking around Paris.
- Drinking water: It is safe to drink the tap water in Paris! If you ask for tap water in a restaurant and they say no, politely tell them that it is against the law for them to neglect providing you with tap water. Fill up water bottles the night before, so you don’t have to buy a new one every day. Water adds up!
- Taxi from the airport: This should cost you 50€ from the airport to the city centre. If you are splitting it with someone/s it isn’t that expensive, as it takes about 50 minutes to the city centre.
- Public transport: Paris has a metro station every 500m, so no matter how lost you are you can find a metro and a map to navigate your way to where you need to be.
23. Palace of Versailles, 24. Luxembourg Garden, 25. Palace of Versailles, 26. Rue des Rosiers,
- Speaking English: Everyone (okay, mostly) speaks English in Paris! A couple of years ago tourists who didn’t speak French had a hard time communicating with the Parisians due to a language barrier- to which I was worried about upon arrival- but I can assure you that if you say “Bonjour!” with a smile, and politely ask if they speak English, they will help you the best they can.
- The French are not rude: Despite unfair stereotypes that have been placed on the French, namely the Parisians, I didn’t have one rude encounter with a Parisian the entirety of my visit! I found everyone to be polite and helpful if asked a question. Just remember, the French are a different culture to Australian’s, American’s or the English, they aren’t as outspoken and forward, but this doesn’t mean they are rude.
- Parks: There are many parks in Paris, but a lot of parks don’t actually allow you to sit on the grass. So if you’re unsure and no one is sitting on the grass already, don’t sit on the grass just in case, or you may be shooed away by a security guard.
27. Seine, 28. Louvre, 29. Champs-Élysées, 30. Palace of Versailles,
- Food: Make sure you have a savoury crepe for lunch or dinner at least once! Snails are a tourist trap and not something the French eat often, or ever… Croissants are everywhere, and you should have one each morning because why not? Macarons are the sweetest and prettiest treat you will find in France. You don’t need to hunt down Ladurée for the best macaron- they’re overpriced and that local shop on your street that sells them probably taste just as good! Make sure you have a baguette with cheese while staring up at the Eiffel Tower at least once. Spend an afternoon drinking wine in a café.
- Air conditioning: Paris does not have air conditioning! While I guess that makes sense, as it is only hot for about 2 months of the year, it gets really hot! There is also no reprieve from the heat as trains and buses don’t have air con. I just thought this was something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of travelling at the peak of summer- next time I go to Paris I’ll visit in Spring or Autumn for a less sweaty visit.