All too often we’ve traveled to cities that totally didn’t meet up to the hype and Paris certainly WAS NOT one of those cities. Paris EXCEEDED the hype! Truth be told, I went to Paris 10 years ago while I was backpacking Europe in college, and I just thought it was ‘OK.’ Thus, I wasn’t over the moon to go back, but I’m SO glad I did!
At 21, I don’t think I quite appreciated culture, art, history and architecture quite like I do now. Paris is the EPICENTER of each of those, so we naturally fell in LOVE immediately. If you’ve ever been to New York, you understand what I mean by ‘city buzz’ and Paris, oh its a BUZZZZINGGG! Bzzzzzzz! If you’re planning a trip to the city, the more time you have the better, but you can absolutely see the highlights in only two days! Here’s the low down…
The coolest aspect about Paris is that the city is LARGE and has endless amounts of hostels, couch surfing hosts, hotels and Airbnb’s. Josh and I are forever Airbnb fans, especially when we travel with our fluffy dog, Miesha, because it allows us the freedom to stay in local neighborhoods, as well as cook our own food (and save cash)! I’d absolutely recommend our Airbnb in Paris if you’re a solo traveler or traveling with a friend/partner. It was stylish, safe and super affordable, and was walkable to everything! For $33 off your first AIRBNB booking, click HERE for my discount code!
How to Get Around Paris
Lace up your sneakers ladies and gentleman, because Paris is a walkable city! Maybe you’re not into walking, which is totally cool too, because you have ENDLESS amounts of transport options! Uber’s are readily available all over the city (enter my discount code nicholew2341ui for $5 off your first ride), which makes it great if you’re tired of schlepping around on two feet. There’s also the Paris Metro, which is fairly easy to navigate. Check out this blog post about how to navigate the Paris Metro and other info on public transportation in Paris. There’s also the traditional taxi, although I’m always wary of them and fearful of scams, so we usually stick with Uber. You also have the option of the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus, which makes it super easy to see all the top sights in the city as well. We rented a car to drive all around Europe and had to park it in Paris for the 3 nights we were there, which I WOULD NOT recommend, as parking was over $50USD per day! Major Ouch.
A 2-Day Itinerary of Paris
Day one of Paris can be completed all on foot and will be about 6-7 miles (10km), so be sure to wear comfy shoes! Here is a Google Map Link of the first day loop!
Stop 1: Eiffel Tower
So you’re in Paris…where do you go first?!?! This should be a NO BRAINER-the Eiffel Tower, of COURSE! If time permits, you should see the Tower at all different times of the day, but I HIGHLY advise seeing it at sunset and then at 11pm when it sparkles…it’s truly magical! People often told me that Paris was expensive, but I couldn’t disagree more! Sure it can be pricey if you’re eating at fancy cafes or fine dining restaurants, but if you just eat street food/take away, cook breakfast at your Airbnb, grab a croissant or crepe when you need a snack and just pick up a bottle of wine and watch the sunset in front of the Eiffel Tower, you’ll have the BEST time EVER without breaking the bank.
Stop 2: Arc de Triomphe
After taking in the beauty of the Eiffel Tower, take a beautiful 1.25 mile (2km) walk to the Arc de Triomphe. Built in 1806 to honor the victories of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Arc de Triumph honors those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Be sure to take a look at all the different inscriptions on the inner and outer surface. It is so much more of an intricate structure than I initially thought. Be careful, though! The Arc de Triomphe lies within a busy intersection! This was my second visit to Paris and I never realized until then that you can also go to the top for some incredible panoramic views of the Champs-Élysées, although we didn’t partake. Tickets to the top cost 12 Euros each.
Stop 3: Champs-Élysées
Take a stroll down the famous 1.2 mile (1.9 km) long street of Champs-Élysées. I love everything about this street…the architecture, the stores, the people bustling around…this street offers up so much! There is endless shopping, cafes and street entertainment at every turn. It’s also the finishing point for the Tour de France cycle race! You could spend an entire day exploring on this street alone! Also, you can get souvenirs here if you’re looking to grab something for someone back home (or yourself).
Stop 4: Louvre
What most people don’t realize is that the Louvre is virtually empty in the evenings, so go after an early dinner if you want the Mona Lisa all to yourself. Hoards of people crowd the Louvre in the morning and afternoon, but by the evening, it’s desolate and quiet, making for a much more intimate experience. Do note that hours vary by seasons, so allot at least 2-3 hours prior before closing time! Tickets cost 17 Euros each.
Stop 5: Night Out on the Town
Whether you want to finish your night watching the sunset at the Eiffel Tower with a bottle of wine (the highlight of our trip), or dance until your feet fall off, Paris has an endless amount of nightlife that appeals to just about anyone. Check out this Blog Post from TripSavvy for all the details on your late night out options in Paris!
Day 2 will definitely call for some kind of transportation. See the section above about how to get around, for more details. Each of these places can be chosen based upon your interest, but I HIGHLY recommend Montmartre if you have to choose just one.
Montmartre is like the Village for New Yorkers, although it’s grown quite touristy over the years. Fortunately, it’s easy to take the metro here. You could literally spend an entire day just roaming the cobble-stoned streets and taking in all the sights, which I highly suggest if you’re looking for something different. While you’re there, DO NOT MISS the Dali Museum (I’m a super fan) and of course the iconic Sacré Coeur, Montmartre’s stunning basilica. Climb the 222 steps to the top for an incredible view over Paris (bring a bottle of wine and some snacks for the perfect lunch on top of the world)! Also if you get a chance, check out the ‘I Love You Wall’ and the Montmartre Museum.
The Marais is medieval Paris. I’m told that when you arrive, you will literally feel like you’ve stepped into another city entirely! Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to visit this beautiful area of Paris, but if you have the time, you must go for me (and message me once you do to let me know how you liked it)! You can read more about the Marais from my friends at Lonely Planet.
Château de Versailles
The Versailles Palace, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the royal residence of France under Louis XIV until the French Revolution began in 1789. It is located 12 miles (20km) southwest of the city center of Paris. If you have time to spare, don’t miss this one as well!
What to Eat
Paris is like New York City, the options are absolutely ENDLESS! The best advice I have is to discover the area that you’re staying in and find some local hidden gems. Don’t go to all the posh spots that are #1 on TripAdvisor or the restaurants right next to the Eiffel Tower, because they’re more often than not, disappointing. These restaurants know you’re a tourist and they’re only going to see you once, so they don’t generally give a damn. That being said, the following foods should be on your MUST try list while visiting the city:
If you’ve never had creme brûlée, you’re in for a treat. This delectable dessert is super lite and tastes like warm, soft custard. On top is seared, caramelized sugar, so it adds a bit of a crunch. I absolutely LOVE it. It goes great with a cup of coffee in the afternoon, or as a post-dinner dessert.
You cannot come to Paris without getting a crepe. That would be like coming to New York City and not eating pizza! What I love the most about crepes is they are great at any time of day, and they can be either sweet or savory, depending on your palate. Whether it’s the early morning for breakfast stuffed with eggs, cheese and veggies, or as a snack stuffed with Nutella and strawberries/bananas (my fave), anything and everything goes inside of a crepe. There is a crepe stand just in front of the Eiffel Tower that is just perfect if you want to grab one (or two), sit on a bench and take in the views. You’ll never feel more Parisian at that very moment!
I always think that macaroons are too beautiful to eat! They’re like little colorful circles of art! A macaroon is a small cookie made from ground nuts with sugar and sometimes jam. They are absolutely perfect with an afternoon cappuccino or even for breakfast (hey, you’re in Paris, you can eat cookies for breakfast, you know)! You cannot come to Paris without eating a macaroon…or two…or ten! Bon Appetit!
I seriously love cheese and I love that each region of the world has their own different varieties. Fortunately, France has so much to offer in this department of queso. Stop into any cafe that offers up a cheese board and try as many as you can! If you’re looking to learn more about each different type, check out this Blog Post from Culture Trip for all the details! Yum yum yum!
Baguettes and wine…yes please! What goes better with cheese than wine? What goes better with anything in life than wine…ummmm… nothing! If you know me by now, I am a HUGE wine drinker and France definitely has some delicious wine (although I personally prefer wine from the Balkans more than anywhere else in the world). You could go on a wine tasting tour while you visiting or simply just hit up a local grocery story to try different types, whichever suits your fancy! If you’re a wine connoisseur and want the specifics, you can read up on the 12 Must Try Classic French Wines here!
Falafel @ L’as du Falafel
While exploring around, we did find the most AMAZING falafel take-away restaurant (falafel…did you just say falafel, in Paris…are you crazy?!). If you don’t know me by now, I’m obsessed with Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine (I’m a vegetarian, but Josh is a true carnivore), so I basically run at any chance to try a new falafel and kebab place. My falafel kebab from L’as du Falafel was sooooo delicious, I went back two nights in a row to eat it! The coolest part is L’as du Falafel is open until 11pm, so you can grab a kebab at the end of your day, or maybe before you head out for a night on the town!
Are You Ready to Go?!
Paris is truly a magical city. TheBEST way to really get to know it is to explore it on your own. Get lost in the streets, talk to locals, relax and enjoy the architecture, history and art! I fell in love with Paris this trip, not for the shiny, romantic city that it is, but for the real, raw soul that exists inside it’s limits, which can only be discovered if you’re eyes are open to discovering it! Au Revoir!