The Ultimate Travel Guide to Paris
Roaming through France
Ah Paris, the city of romance, classic history and AMAZING cafés! Throughout my 20s, one of my favorite chick flicks has been the 2011 Woody Allen movie, Midnight In Paris. It has helped me dream about being in Paris one day while getting a good laugh through stressful days in college, boy drama and overwhelming weeks at work. By watching this film, I have also gotten many dreamy ideas of places to visit in Paris.
In addition to Midnight in Paris, I have always dreamt of visiting Paris and France in general because my cousins are half French and I have learned a lot about the culture through several years of studying the language in school. Up until a month ago, France has always been a hopeful dream of mine to visit one day.
For my 27th birthday this year, I decided to do a girls’ trip around France with my good friend Courtney. After spending an amazing week traveling to all of these magical places, I could definitely say that France has become one of my new favorite destinations in the world!
Discover everything to do during a trip to the “City of Love”!
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How to Get Around Paris:
On my birthday, June 25, I boarded my overnight flight to Charles de Gaulle Airport in France. One thing I did not realize when I arrived in Paris was that the airport was an hour from the heart of the city. Thankfully, taxis have set rates (55 euros to be exact) that will take you from the airport to your hotel. Since I was with my friend Courtney, we were able to split the fare and it ended up not being too bad for an hour ride.
While you are in Paris, there are plenty of ways to get around the city. Thankfully there are Uber’s; taxis; the RER train, which is a suburban line that goes through and outside of the city; the famous metro that has around 300 stations connected to its network; an exceptional bus system as well as a boat called the Batobus that runs up and down the popular areas along the Seine River in Paris.
In addition to public transportation, you could also get around Paris easily by foot or on a bike. You could also rent a Segway or experience a classic horse and carriage ride around the city. The options are endless!
Where to Stay in Paris:
I have always been all about small boutique hotels. Why? Well, who doesn’t love an inexpensive and ornately space to spend the night? Boutique hotels are ones that feel like they are far from a chain. Even though many of these hotels may be part of a luxury hotel association or owned by a large management company, they provide a creative atmosphere by offering a mix of hip, fun, cozy and elegant space.
During our time in France, we stayed at lovely boutique hotels that were situated in great locations throughout each city and small town we visited. For our first night in Paris, we stayed at the quaint Le Fabe Hotel that was located in the Montparnasse area of the city and not too far from the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg park. During our last night, we stayed at the posh Hôtel Monceau Elysées near the famous Champs-Élysées.
Le Fabe Hotel:
The lovely Le Fabe Hotel is a brand new hotel with a contemporary design. I loved how comforting the hotel was the moment we stepped in. The woman working at the front desk was warm and welcoming, there was a beautiful spiral staircase that stood out and our room featured a bright green color and offered modern amenities.
Hôtel Monceau Élysées:
The charming Hôtel Monceau Élysées is a stunning hotel with an appealing atmosphere. It is perfectly located near the Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Parc Monceau and so much more! One cool thing about Hôtel Monceau Élysées is that the rooms offer different colors and designs. I LOVED our pretty pink room (pictured above)! The view of the stunning Parisian architecture outside was also beautiful.
Where to Eat in Paris:
After we checked into the hotel on our first day in Paris, I knew the first thing I had to do was enjoy a delicious French crêpe from a local café. As we walked from Montparnasse to Jardin du Luxembourg, we spotted a charming café with twinkling lights in a quaint place. Before I move on, I think it is important to know that a French place is similar to a Spanish plaza and Italian piazza. It is a square within a city where several cafés, restaurants and stores are placed next to each other and local residents will meet there at various times throughout the day.
As we sat down at Le Café de la Place, I noticed we were sitting with a bunch of local Parisians who were enjoying life. It was perfect! For “lunch”, I just HAD to get a crêpe with warm chocolate sauce as well as a café au lait (coffee with milk). It was all to die for!
Located near the Musee du Louvre and across from the Jardin des Tuileries is a delicious café with authentic French food. Welcome Café features a warm ambiance and even offers outdoor seating. Just like I had to enjoy a crêpe lunch, I needed to have a traditional escargot dish for dinner. Escargot is a Mediterranean delicacy consisting of cooked land snails. They are usually served as a starter dish, but I had it as my main course with a side of pomme frites (French fries). Even though French fries are truly an American snack, the ones that I ate as my side dish that evening were some of the best fries I’ve ever had! The escargot was amazing too and I enjoyed it with a delicious basil wine sauce.
As we strolled through the Champs-Élysées on our last night in Paris, we stumbled upon a Belgian restaurant with outdoor seating. To be completely honest, the Champs-Élysées is a major tourist trap, so there are a lot of restaurants with American influence. Not that I am saying that American restaurants are a no-go for me, but when I am traveling, I like to enjoy authentic food from that prospective country or region I am visiting.
Léon de Bruxelles had a great menu where we both were able to find an amazing dish. One thing I discovered during my time in France was that the chicken was AMAZING! So during my last night in Paris, it was only proper that I got a delicious chicken dinner with a savory sauce as well as potatoes and veggies on the side.
I am sure many of you have heard of the famous macaroon shop called Ladurée. If you haven’t, it is a French luxury bakery that is best known for their wide selection of flavorful macaroons. Ladurée opened in 1862 and has grown in popularity over the years. Nowadays, the bakery sells over 15,000 macaroons worldwide.
Ladurée originated in Paris, but also has locations in the United States and other countries throughout the world. You could find a Ladurée in these American cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington D.C. and Glendale, California.
On the morning of our last day in Paris, it was a MUST to grab my last French crêpe of the trip. As my friend Courtney and I strolled through the quaint neighborhood of Montmarte we were disappointed to see that many of the cafés were closed. Unlike here in the U.S. where most cafés open early, the cafés in France don’t normally open until noon. Thankfully, we found a quaint brasserie called La Mère Catherine that was located right in the heart of the Artists Quarter. I enjoyed a delicious crêpe with my favorite Nutella and strawberry filling. It was, yet again, amazing!
Click here to discover more places to eat and drink in Paris.
Everything To Do and See in Paris:
Take a Stroll through Le Jardin du Luxembourg:
One of our first stops in Paris was to the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg, an inner-city oasis filled with gorgeous terraces, gardens, fountains and a palace called Palais du Luxembourg.
When we first arrived in the gardens, I was awestruck by the lush greenery, stunning monuments and liveliness all around. There were children happily enjoying the playgrounds, students studying, couples strolling and friends catching up.
Pay a Visit to Shakespeare and Company:
Known as one of the most famous independent bookstores in the world, Shakespeare and Company is where you can find books written by some of the most iconic writers in history such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Allen Ginsberg to name a few.
As much as I would have loved to go into the bookstore and pretend like I was being brought back in time, there was way too much to see than standing in a line wrapped around the block. If you are staying in Paris for a few days, I would definitely recommend visiting Shakespeare and Company, but if you are only there for a day or two like we were, I wouldn’t waste your time by standing in the long lines.
Pretend you’re in the Disney Film while Visiting Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris:
If you were a child in the 90s or had children or grandchildren during that time period, then you probably remembered the Disney movie Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Since I was such a Disney fanatic growing up, I knew the Notre-Dame Cathedral had to be one of the first Parisian landmarks I needed to see.
When we finally made our way to the front of the cathedral I had to pinch myself to confirm that I was in front of this famous landmark. Notre-Dame is a Gothic cathedral that features sculptures and magnificent stained glass windows. I was amazed by all of the details, especially the flying buttresses! In addition, there are hints of Romanesque architecture to admire.
Admire the Best Art in the Musee du Louvre:
The famous Louvre Museum is the world’s largest art museum and a historic wonder in Paris. It is located in the heart of the city, outside of the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries, and is the perfect place to wander both on the inside and outside.
Honestly, as amazing as it is, the Louvre is huge and it takes hours upon hours to walk through. If you are limited with time, like we were, it is best to save the Louvre for a time when you will stay in Paris for a longer period because once you are in the museum, you are going to want to see it all! It is, however, amazing to see the outside and admire the gorgeous architecture. I had so much fun taking this fun shot with the iconic glass pyramid.
The Louvre holds tens of thousands of famous art pieces from Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek antiquities, to masterpieces by world-renowned artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rembrandt. One famous masterpiece that I am dying to see in the Louvre is the famous Mona Lisa. I remember recreating the wonderful piece of art when I was in elementary school and promised myself I would see the real artwork one day. (I guess when I return to Paris.)
Relax in the Jardin des Tuileries:
Located right outside of the Louvre is the Tuileries Gardens. It is in these gorgeous gardens where you will find local Parisians working out, doing yoga, studying, enjoying a picnic and catching up with friends. During the summer months, there is a lovely carnival that includes a Ferris wheel, carousel and swings.
In addition, the Tuileries Gardens’ two ponds are perfect for relaxation and the Musée de l’Orangerie is where you can find the works of Claude Monet.
Walk Over the Pont Alexandre:
Now, if you are really looking to relive the movie Midnight in Paris, the Pont Alexandre is the place to go! Widely known as the most ornate and extravagant bridge in Paris, it is here where Gil (Owen Wilson) meets Gabrielle again to walk her home in the rain. It is super romantic and you could catch gorgeous views of the Eiffel Tower and Seine River.
As the most beautiful bridge that spans the Seine, it also connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower.
Spend the Evening at the Eiffel Tower:
As the most iconic structure in Paris, it is impossible to travel to the city and not see the Eiffel Tower! This amazing wrought iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars is named after the engineer, Gustave Eiffel, who designed and constructed the icon in 1887 for the 1889 World’s Fair.
Courtney and I decided to visit the Tower in the evening so that we could see it lit up at night. If you are looking for great views of the Eiffel Tower, there are 10 amazing spots to see it in the city: Place du Torcadero, the Seine River, one of the famous bridges, Champs de Mars, the top of Sacré-Cœur, the top of Notre-Dame, Centre Georges Pompidou, underneath the Eiffel Tower, the Eiffel Tower Steps and those hidden spots throughout the city. We enjoyed the views from underneath the Eiffel Tower. It was so beautiful lit up at night! On some nights, especially on a holiday, you may be able to catch the Eiffel’s sparkling lights. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it during our time in Paris.
There are so many ways to enjoy the Eiffel Tower! You could purchase some amazing French wine, baguettes, ham and cheese and have a picnic; enjoy the views from the tower or savor some delicious snacks at the tower’s macaroon or champagne bar.
Take a Cruise along the Seine River:
For centuries, the river Seine has been a powerful attraction for poets, painters, philosophers, novelists, architects, lovers and tourists. Doing a short boat tour on the Seine River is a great way to see the popular spots in Paris. These short river cruises allow you to take in many of the highlights of the city such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, etc.
There are a plethora of different options and companies to choose from when it comes to choosing the perfect river cruise in Paris. It is all about doing your research based on what you want to see, how much time you have and your budget. Unfortunately, Courtney and I did not have enough time in Paris to do a river cruise on the Seine, but next time for sure!
Walk the Champs-Élysées:
Strolling through the most famous avenue in the world is a must during your time in Paris. The Champs-Élysées is full of glory and grandeur and can be described as an avenue similar to New York’s 5th Avenue and Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive. The avenue is full of top designer shops; fine dining restaurants and so much more! The Champs-Élysées means “Elysian Fields”, which indicates that someone thought this street was heaven on earth at one point.
One of the first things we saw on the Champs-Élysées was the beautiful Arc de Triomphe. This wondrous landmark honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. I was so amazed by how beautiful it was.
Wander through Monceau Parc:
On our last morning in Paris, Courtney and I took a stroll through Parc Monceau. This lovely park is more than one-third the size of Jardin du Luxembourg and features an English-style garden.
I adored this park and loved the beautiful fountains, bridges, carousel and wildlife that were featured here. In the park, we saw children having fun in a summer camp program, workers enjoying a lunch break, fitness gurus working out and students studying.
Enjoy the Charm of Montmarte:
Ah Montmarte, my favorite area in Paris! One of the reasons why I love Montmarte is because it is quieter than the rest of Paris, it offers so much charm, there are some of the cutest cafés and it is a place where you could spot some amazing Parisian art.
Some of the highlights of Montmarte are, of course, the iconic cafés of Le Consulat and La Maison Rose; Sacré-Cœur church; Moulin Rouge theater and those countless storybook areas from the classic movie Amélie.
Our first stop in Montmarte was to the beautiful Sacré-Cœur. It is at this church where you could get the best views of Paris. To get an even better view of the city, you could climb its 300 stairs to the dome!
From Sacré-Cœur, we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at a charming café; admired the talented artwork in the Artists Quarter; strolled the storybook streets and visited the iconic Moulin Rouge theater. (When I come back to Paris in the future, I promise myself that I will see a show there!)
Click here to discover everything else you could do or see in Paris.
Overall, I had an amazing time in Paris and would definitely visit the city again in the future. If you have any questions about my time in Paris or my trip to France in general, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact me via social media or leave a comment below.
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