Ah Paris, the city of love! I’ve never met a person who had mixed feelings about Paris. You either love it or you hate it! I somehow ended up visiting Paris 3 times over the course of 1 month, but each in a different way. I experienced it solo, as a day trip from London and as a weekend getaway with a friend. It was amazing how different each trip felt based solely on context. I’m not one to shy away from solo travel, but I would never go to Paris alone again. Frankly it’s not a place I feel safe, especially when I speak ZERO French, and Paris is just a place you need to see with other people. It’s a place to marvel, to make meaningful conversation and to appreciate the finer things in life.
I had no idea prior to traveling here, but Paris is an organized network of arrondissements (neighborhoods) that take the shape of a spiral with the lower numbers closest to the center and the larger fanning out at the edges. Planning our itinerary by arrondissement was an absolute game changer! We were able to be smart about saving time and money by planning our activities in an order that made sense, and I can’t tell you how little I was stressed compared to my first trip where I planned my days on an everchaning whim.
So to save you the trouble, I’m sharing my favorite things to do in the most worthwhile arrondissements of the City of Love:
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Saint Chapelle (€10) – Admire the Gothic architecture from this 14th c chapel and a few of the relics from the Crucifixion within. You will be speechless as you stand amidst the 50 ft. tall stained glass windows that cause the interior to feel like the heart of a sparkling jewelry box.
Louvre (€17) – Crane your neck to see the Mona Lisa and take a pic holding the “tiny pyramid,” but don’t let this be a stop and go visit. You can spend a whole day here admiring the history and artwork within, and I mean it when I say this place is HUGE. Definitely buy a ticket in advance but don’t miss your time slot for entry!
Jardin dus Tuileries – Take a stroll through this garden that lies directly behind the Louvre… you know the one with the ferris wheel!
T h r e e | 3
Merci – All I can say is this is the Parisian version of Anthropologie. A charming red VW Bug beckons you in, and you’re overwhelmed by the eclectic collection of home goods, clothing and beauty products within. Dogs wander freely in this trendy little concept shop, and for that reason alone I was hooked. After shopping till you drop, grab a glass of wine and relax at the used book cafe just adjacent.
Marché des Enfants Rouges – The largest covered market in all of Paris serving up cuisine that ranges from traditional French to the more exotic Italian, Lebanese, Moroccan and Japanese.
Upper Marais – Don’t be fooled by the size of one of Paris’ smallest neighborhoods! Take some time to wander this trendy corner where boutiques, restaurants and local French culture abounds.
F o u r | 4
Notre Dame Cathedral – You know the one. 425 ft long, 327 steps to the top of each twin tower… A rose window that’s quite literally like staring into Heaven. This iconic cathedral took almost 200 years to build ,and it’s easy to see why it’s the most popular tourist destination in Paris. I’ve heard it even trumps the Eiffel Tower! Moral of the story, be prepared to arrive early unless you want to wait in an outrageously long line. But the good news is, you have free entry within open hours!
Pop Up Shops – Across from the Notre Dame is the famous Siene River. Along the sidewalk, you’ll notice a sort of flea market of green-roofed shops selling used books, postcards, magnets, memorabilia.. you name it! Many of them sell the same things, but sometimes you come across some rare gems.
Shakespeare & Co – This charming bookshop used to be a popular gathering place for aspiring artists like James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound. You can almost taste the influence of editor Gertrude Stein in every eclectic corner. A piano tucked to the side, a quote wall begging for daily contributions and two stories of books spilling off the shelves. Buy a book used or new + get the special stamp at check-out!
Place des Vosges – Wander around the oldest planned square in Paris, which is filled with children playing in sandboxes, fountains bubbling with joy and a few friendly puppers if you’re lucky. Victor Hugo’s home overlooked this park, and there is LOTS of amazing shopping nearby.
S i x | 6
Saint-Germain-des-Prés – The most postcard-worthy views in all of Paris! If you’re looking for those iconic Paris flats with slanted tin roofs, terraced windows and white facades, this is where you want to wander. Slip into the side streets and admire the shops along the way. Pro tip: this is the neighborhood where you can find Cafe du Flore!
Jardin du Luxembourg – Set aside an hour or two to relax in this romantic garden. Probably the most beautiful in spring, it’s characterized by sandstone facades and a large pool of water in the center where miniature sailboats bob in the directions children are pushing them. Grab a crepe from the walk-up creperie and sit for a while with a good book or good friend.
Chez Fernand – This is one of Paris’ best kept secrets where dining is concerned. The bouef bourganion practically made me sing, and after trying the rice pudding I honestly couldn’t move. Chez Fernand is tucked away in an alleyway you wouldn’t find unless you were looking for it, and it’s filled with locals everyday so make a reservation!
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Musee D’orsay (€12) – Calling all Monet fans! This museum houses a treasure trove of Monet paintings – actually the largest collection in the world of impressionist art. It features some of the most famous peaces from Monet, Manet, Rembrandt, Degas and Cézanne. I could have spent a full day here, so don’t miss this visit!
Eiffel Tower (€17 to go to the top) – Need I say more? Grab a selection of cheeses, baguette, and bottle of wine from a nearby bakery, and soak up the view in a picnic along the Champ de Mars. Return in the evening to watch the lights twinkle for 5 minutes on the hour, every hour, beginning at dusk. My favorite place to watch this is on the steps of the Trocadero, which has a metro stop adjacent!
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Champs Elysees – World class shopping and that famous roundabout. Do NOT try to cross the street anywhere but a cross-walk and be sure to visit Lauduree!
Arc du Triomphe (€12)- Built as a war memorial, this is one of the most iconic landmarks of Paris! Pre-book a ticket and walk up to the top in the evening for a view overlooking the city!
N i n e | 9
Galeries Lafayette – A luxury department store with the most jaw-dropping interior. After you’ve gone green with envy looking at fresh-off-the-runway pieces from Hermes, Prada and Dior, head on up to the rooftop for an excellent view of the city.
T e n | 10
Holybelly – If you eat anywhere in Paris, have brunch here. Trust me and order the pancakes served with fried eggs on top and maple-glazed bacon to complement. And bonus: they speak English!
Canal St. Martin – Rent a bike at one of the public rental areas where you can pick-up/drop-off at will and ride along the canal towards nowhere in particular. With cars buzzing past and the city flying by, nothing gives more of a thrill.
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Sacre-Couer – Watch the sunrise with the best view in all of Paris
Montmartre – Wander around this fairytale village in the early hours of the day when everything is still quiet. La Maison Rose is that cozy pink cafe wth green shutters, but I recommend the Hardware Societie for brunch. The most inventive meal I’ve ever had!
Porte de Clignancourt Les Puces Flea Market – An intricate flea market overflowing with art, jewelry, furniture and vintage knick-knacks. Don’t be surprised when you see the $$$ price tags, as this flea market is no joke. Still worth a visit, and this is actually where Anthropologie buyers get most of their Found pieces to decorate their stores. So go for the inspiration at least!
So yeah, you could spend a lifetime here and still find things to do! The best advice I have is to plan early but leave some time for spontaneous adventures. And leave some room in your belly for crepes, crepes and more crepes!
What’s your favorite section of Paris?