Paris is a city I have wanted to spend more time in for years. I went 11 years ago, for the day. We did the Hop on Hop off bus, and that’s about it.
Since then I’ve longed to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Walk and explore along the Seine. And visit Coco Chanel’s first store.
In this post I’m going to chat about the things I did and ticked off my bucket list. As well as my tips for visiting the best places.
Where to Stay
First of all you’re going to want to stay in a good area. Try and pick a location that is either close to tourist spots, or has good metro links.
The train station at the airport is great, and heads to all parts of Paris. We found it to be busy, so watch with suitcases, but it’s easy to navigate.
We stayed in the Montparnasse area. Here they have great metro links, lots of cafes, bakeries and restaurants. Plus, there is a cool food market there.
I loved this area as it was close enough to get to places across Paris, but still felt out of the hustle and bustle of the main parts.
Our hotel was right opposite the metro station, and was only a 30 minute walk from the Jardin Du Luxembourg.
Although Montparnasse was a good are, if I was to go back to Paris (hopefully soon), I’d love to stay in the Monmartre area, or near Notre Dame.
The location of our hotel meant we had to use the metro a lot. If there was a down side to Paris for me, it was this. The metro had me feeling very uneasy, and the staff on there were so unhelpful. I hate to generalise, but in every station we went to and asked for directions/help, we got rude responses in each one.
For using the metro you have a few ticket options. One is you need to get a one way ticket for each journey you make. It will allow you through one barrier, and out at the other end. You can’t re-use this ticket.
The tickets for each journey are super cheap, so you could just buy one each time. There is also a pass you can buy that accounts for 10 journeys. However, I’m not sure if it tracks your journeys, so you need to remember yourself.
Personally, I would advise buying a single use ticket each time to avoid any hassle. As if you get caught by the Metro Guards with an invalid ticket, they are merciless. Believe me.
I would limit my metro journeys when I go back, and only use it when really necessary. If I was on my own, with a girl friend, or it was the evening, I wouldn’t use it. This may be my personal experience, and you could get on fine, I’m just giving you the heads up.
Hit Up The Tourist Spots
But now I want to lift the mood. Let’s chat tourist spots.
The tourist spots are the things to see in Paris. Whether we admit that to ourselves or not. The Eiffel Tower is iconic. As is the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the banks of the Seine.
The best places to see the Eiffel Tower from, I think, is the Trocadero Plateau, and on Rue de l’Universite.
If you get off at the Trocadero metro, or you’re on the Hop On Hop Off bus, you’ll instantly see the incredible view of the tower. This view honestly does take your breathe away, and feels really special to see.
Getting a snap of the Eiffel Tower from Rue de l’Universite is unique. It’s nestled at the end of a winding Parisian street. You can get right by it here and it’s stature is amazing.
Seeing the Eiffel Tower at night was on my bucket list. It twinkles on the hour, every hour, for 5 minutes. It is so magical to see. I can now tick this off, and say it is a must see.
We didn’t pay to go up it, as we missed pre bookable tickets and didn’t want to wait in the queues. But we found a great alternative.
Arc de Triomphe
Getting aerial views of Paris is a must. There are a few places to do this, but I’m glad we chose the Arc de Triomphe. There are 280 steps to climb, or there is a lift.
The view from the top is amazing. You’re above the busiest roundabout in Europe. You can see right down the Champs-Elysees. You can see the Eiffel Tower, and as far as the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre.
Heading up the Arc de Triomphe is cheaper and quicker than queuing for the Eiffel Tower, and bonus you get it in your view.
I have to admit, I simply went to the Louvre to see da Vinci’s work, the Mona Lisa and The Virgin of the Rocks. The Mona Lisa is the most famous paining in the world, and I’m sure attracts most of the visitors to the Louvre.
If you’re wanting to go, a great tip is to visit on a Wednesday or Friday evening. The Louvre is open late on these evenings and we arrived about 7pm and walked straight in to the ticket office with no queue. Earlier that day when we walked by, the queue had a 2 hour waiting time.
Going late does limit your viewing time, but if you head straight to what you want to see then you’ll be fine. I highly recommend doing this, as it turned out to be one of the stand out moments of the holiday for me. I was SO starstruck by the Mona Lisa, I can’t explain the feeling of seeing it.
River Banks of the Seine
The banks of the Seine are an UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s not hard to see why. Wandering along them for hours is one of the best ways to spend your time in Paris. The shopping along them is also the best. You will find all kinds on the stalls from old books, homeware prints, tourist tat (my fave), even vintage jewellery.
Grab a take out coffee and pastry and stroll along, stopping to watch the sketch artists also.
My favourite part to walk along is from Notre Dame towards the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. It’s a long walk, but worth it. You’ll also pass the Grand and Petite Palais, the Orsay Museum, and beautiful bridges such as Ponts des Arts and Ponts des Alma.
Meandering on city breaks is my favourite, you stumble up on so much.
I’m so glad we did the walk from our hotel to Jardin du Luxembourg (definitely worth seeing). The gardens are beautiful as it is, as is seeing the palace. But come out of here and walk towards Notre Dame and you’ll meander through some lovely streets in this area.
I fell in love with the oldest coffee shop in Paris, Le Procope. Napoleon used to drink and dine here, they even have some memorabilia of his. The street it is on has the old Parisian feel to it.
Continuing on from here and towards Notre Dame you’ll pass through little back streets that have lovely vintage finds and gifts in them. This is probably my favourite area of Paris.
I would without a doubt recommend doing a walking tour in Paris. There is so much to see. But choose an area that has a lot of history but you may have never visited before. For us we chose Montmartre. I fell in love with this area.
The walking tour was with Discover Walks, and lasted for 2 hours. There is no cost to this tour, but a good tip at the end is recommended for your guide.
We loved this tour. You begin at the Moulin Rouge, and end at the Sacre Coeur. All in between you’ll learn about one of the oldest areas of Paris, hear about the locals’ traits, and stories of famous artists such as Renoir and Van Gogh, who lived there.
It’s a marvellous part of the city to see.
Where to Eat
Me and Ste like our food, but we’re not massive foodies. We don’t like spending a lot on supposedly “good food”. So our outlook is we eat well, but for cheap.
In honesty we try and scope out cheap and cheerful places.
Our tradition when we are away is to find a Hard Rock Cafe. We love them, so we headed to the one in Paris. The Hard Rocks are great for food, as the menu is pretty much the same all over the world. Look out for their Happy Hour, as we visited them then and got a sharer and side dishes for half price, as well as cocktails.
Paris for me is all about bakeries. I would eat from a bakery for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are bakeries everywhere in Paris, one of the most famous ones is Paul’s.
There was a Paul’s around the corner from our hotel, and we went every morning and afternoon. The bakeries are great because they serve great hot food too. You can get panini’s, pizza slices and hot dogs.
On my next trip there I really want to have a Hot Chocolate in Angelina’s. They’re world famous.
Ticking Off My Paris Bucket List
We covered all of the City doing what we wanted to do. I had dreams of standing under the twinkling tower at night, and I did it. For years I have wanted to see Coco Chanel’s apartment building and store, and we did. I even picked myself up a lipstick from there.
Just strolling along the Seine for hours, grabbing a coffee, and seeing the Eiffel Tower peak in and out of view was special. I felt like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.
Paris for me is a mix of things in my mind. Although parts to me are quite sinister, I still feel like it is such a magical place. Behind every old cafe door is a brooding artist, or an incognito Hollywood star.
I can’t wait to return and tick some more things off my must see list. I hope this guide has been good for you if you’re visiting soon.
If you have been to Paris before, what are your favourite things to do there? What should I go see next?
Au Revoir, Jessi xoxo