I have always dreamed of going to Paris. The food, the architecture, the sheer romance of it all have enchanted me from a young age.
We finally got the chance to visit the City of Lights for three days on route back from Canada at the end of last year, and from the moment we booked our tickets I was jumping with excitement. Bucket list goals!
I wasn’t disappointed. Paris lives up to it’s reputation in every way. The city is incredibly beautiful and charming, a combination of rich heritage and history, and young energy.
Are you planning a trip? I have put together my Paris Travel Guide with all the things I wanted to know beforehand. If there is anything specific you’d like to ask, pop it in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to help.
Where to stay
I did some research before we booked our accommodation and there are definite mixed feelings on where you should stay when visiting Paris. Personally I thought the area around the Sacre Coeur in Montmarte looked fantastic. There are plenty of really cute eateries and shops to explore and the overall feel is creative and picturesque.
If you want to be in the centre of everything, book close to the Louvre. You’re right by the Champs-Elysees and other popular shopping districts, as well as major tourist attractions. If sight seeing is your main goal, you won’t be disappointed.
If you are keen to experience some nightlife, I have heard from a friend that the Latin Quarter surrounding the Notre Dame is brilliant.
Take note that Paris is big and there is a huge difference between the various Arrondissements. We stayed in the 10th Arrondissement, which I thought was in Montmarte, but it’s actually a short metro ride away. Make sure you book close to where you want to be. The 10th a bit shabbier than the other areas we visited but a great hub for local eateries and shops that aren’t as touristy. Surprisingly the area around the Eiffel Tower is seriously boring so rather skip that.
We used Airbnb, which worked out fine. Take note that the apartments are teeny tiny in Paris, and many of them don’t have bathrooms in the apartment itself. Read the reviews carefully.
We had a good host who helped us navigate from the train station to the apartment. If it wasn’t for her it might have been a bit more difficult to find our way when we arrived. I would recommend mapping out the route to your accommodation beforehand, and making sure you know which metro lines to take.
What to see
We spent three days in Paris and I feel we barely scratched the surface. The city is packed with incredible architecture, street art, eateries, bars and shopping hot spots on nearly every corner, and everything is exceptionally pretty. Seriously, the Parisians have a flair for making things beautiful, whether you’re eating a macaron or stopping at a train station.
What I can say is that the tourist attractions are absolutely worth it. I loved the Sacre-Ceour (plus it’s free to go in) and the surrouding area is brilliant for shops, eateries and street art. Just make peace with steps, steps and more steps.
Go to the Eiffel Tower. We got a tip to visit at night and I am so glad we did. There are fewer people and the structure is magnificent when it’s all lit up.
Notre Dame was another highlight and if you climb the tower (prepare yourself, it’s a workout) you’ll be rewarded with mind blowing city views. The cathedral itself will take your breath away – the sheer size is staggering.
From Notre Dame it’s a short walk to Shakespeare & Co, a book lover’s dream. And next door there’s a tiny little restaurant that does really good French country food in a simple, comfortable environment.
The Louvre is a must, even if you don’t go into the museum. If you do want to go in, you should set out a day just for that. The Palais du Louvre is massive and you want enough time to really experience the artworks that are displayed.
From the Louvre you can walk through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Place de la Concorde and then onward up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Make sure you you stop at Pierre Hermé on the way to stock up on mind blowing macarons.
Honestly though, you’ll discover so much just by walking around. There is something special at every turn, and I’m not exaggerating.
As a tip: Download Google Trips – it’s a brilliant starting point on sites, restaurants and general need-to-know info.
How to get around
We used the metro quite a bit. It was fairly easy to figure out and you can purchase a city pass with around 10 metro tickets, making it really affordable. In general one metro ride is about 2 Euro.
Google Maps is really reliable in telling you which metro line to take and where to switch / get off. Alternatively, just check the map at the metro station to see where the line is going and the best point to get off. And then make sure your line is going in the right direction.
If you mess it up, though, don’t worry. The trains arrive every few minutes and you can just get off and switch trains if you’ve made a mistake.
I would recommend you take the metro to the area you want to be and then explore as much as you can on foot or on a bicycle so that you can see everything in between the tourist hot spots.
Where to eat?
We had a great breakfast/brunch at Holybelly and Allen’s Market, both of which are really cool local hangouts. I also highly recommend trying the macarons at Pierre Hermé, they will blow your socks off. You know that scene in Gossip Girl where Chuck tells Blair he loves her for the first time? Those were Pierre Hermé macarons. And their Champs-Élysées store is a partnership with L’Occitane Provence so just imagine how good it smells in there!
If you can spend big bucks, search the Top 50 Restaurants and book a table at one of these. Unfortunately by that time we were broke AF so we’ll have to go back for our Michelin star experience. As a tip, you often get away cheaper for a lunch service than a dinner.
Is the language an issue?
We got along pretty easily with English, though not everyone can speak it. A few phrases worth knowing are
Bonjour / Bonsoir / Salut (good morning/ good evening/ hello)
Parlez vous anglais? (Do you speak English)
S’il vous plaît (please)
Merci (thank you)
These are pretty much all we needed to use.
When is the best time to visit?
We went in winter, which was a win when it came to skipping hectic crowds. I do, however, think that Paris itself will be more magical in the warmer seasons. I have heard that high summer is insane with tourists and temperatures, so aim for spring or autumn, just before or after high season.
Other things worth knowing
Wifi: You can get wifi and many of the tourist spots and we did fine without buying airtime (we did have wifi at our apartment though). It’s smart to download the city map on Google Maps so that you can use it offline if you need to.
Tourist info: The descriptions at the tourist attractions are often in French so get yourself a good guidebook, or google the spots before you go. This will enhance your experience.
Safety: Be wary of pick-pockets, especially in the tourist areas. After recent terrorist attacks on the city you will see an increase in police presence at all the major spots, with check-in points and metal detectors. In general, however, life goes on.
And are the Parisians rude? In general the people we met were super friendly. If you go to the heavy touristy spots, you might meet some snobbery and eye rolls, but we only encountered that once. If you are friendly and you make a small attempt at some French greeting, you’ll be fine.
Is there anything else you want to know? Pop it in the comments down below and I’ll do my best to help you out.