Many people dream of visiting Paris, imagining themselves beholding the Eiffel Tower, savoring a delicious croissant, and exploring the Louvre. However, due to these lofty expectations, a peculiar phenomenon called “Paris syndrome” has emerged, stemming from the stark contrast between the idealized vision of Paris and its actual reality. But fear not, with this guide I have meticulously crafted, Paris is poised to captivate you and surpass all the expectations you’ve held.
Having journeyed to Paris on four separate occasions, I have compiled a list of the top attractions and activities to indulge in while exploring this enchanting destination. Let’s delve right in!
- Explore the Eiffel Tower
When contemplating a trip to Paris, the Eiffel Tower invariably ranks as a top must-see attraction – and rightfully so! This iconic symbol of Paris offers a breathtaking spectacle, which is equally enchanting whether you visit during the day or, our personal favorite, witness the shimmering lights at night. A pro tip: for an even more magical view, consider experiencing it from a boat as you glide along the Seine River.
- Marvel at the Louvre
The Louvre stands as the world’s largest art museum, steeped in rich history. Once a royal residence, housing French kings such as Louis XIV, it underwent a transformation during the 14th century’s French Revolution, evolving into a museum of extraordinary magnitude.
The Louvre’s sheer size can overwhelm, with the potential to occupy your days. However, many visitors come primarily to witness its renowned treasures, including the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory, which can be enjoyed in approximately two hours.
To circumvent the lengthy and often tiresome entrance queues, consider these helpful strategies:
- Stroll Along the Champs-Elysées
Is it a bit touristy? Indeed, it is. But, without a doubt, it’s a must-do! The Champs-Elysées stands as one of the world’s most iconic streets, stretching from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. While you’re there, don’t miss the opportunity to step into Ladurée and savor their delectable macarons.
- Explore Sainte-Chapelle
Constructed in 1238, this Gothic-style church is a true architectural marvel! Adorned with an astounding 1,113 stained glass windows, this is a church that unquestionably deserves a spot on your itinerary.
- Visit the Centre Pompidou
When the Centre Pompidou, often referred to as Beaubourg locally, made its debut in 1977, its design was a groundbreaking and somewhat controversial departure for museums, featuring industrial pipes and glass windows. Over 40 years later, it has firmly established itself as a leading institution in the realm of modern art in Paris.
Inside, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in an extensive collection of over 100,000 works, including pieces by Miro dating back to 1905. The offerings span a wide range, encompassing paintings, sculptures, and captivating video installations. Booking your tickets in advance is highly recommended to ensure a seamless visit.
- Explore the Picasso Museum
Nestled within the exquisite Hôtel Salé, this museum is dedicated entirely to the life and artistry of the renowned Spanish painter, Pablo Picasso. If you have an affinity for this exceptional artist, don’t miss the chance to visit this remarkable museum.
- Behold the Arc de Triomphe
Situated on the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe ranks among Paris’s most iconic and beloved landmarks. Erected in honor of those who valiantly fought in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars, it stands as an enduring tribute to their memory. Passing beneath this majestic arch is an experience that will resonate with you for a lifetime.
- Attend a Show at the Palais Garnier Opera House
The Palais Garnier Opera House, designed by Charles Garnier in the traditional Baroque style in 1873, boasts a rich history. Though commissioned by Napoleon, he never had the chance to witness its grandeur. The opulence of this architectural masterpiece is nothing short of breathtaking. If you have a penchant for the performing arts, attending an opera, dance, or ballet performance here is a must-do experience.
Paris is renowned for its enchanting parks, offering the perfect setting for basking in the sunshine or indulging in a delightful picnic with wine and cheese. Here are some of my favorite Parisian parks:
- Bois de Vincennes
Boasting numerous lakes and ponds, a zoo, and even a mini-golf area, this expansive park is truly a sight to behold. As the largest public park in all of Paris, a visit here is a must.
- Bagatelle Park
With its stunning botanical gardens, Bagatelle Park will amaze you with its meticulously groomed lawns and diverse flora.
- Buttes-Chaumont Park
In my humble opinion, Parc Buttes-Chaumont stands as one of the most unique and enchanting green spaces in Paris, nestled within the 19th arrondissement. It possesses the remarkable ability to make you forget that you’re in one of the world’s busiest cities, enveloping you in its tranquil ambiance. This park remains a hidden gem, with many tourists unaware of its existence. Here, you’ll encounter cliffs, artificial valleys, and a breathtaking waterfall – an absolute must-see. Additionally, there’s a serene lake at the base of the cliff, crowned by a Roman temple. Finding the waterfall can sometimes be a bit challenging, but you can seek assistance or simply follow the soothing sound of flowing water.
Best Restaurants in Paris
Adorned in an elegant and pristine style, Clover Grill offers not only visually appealing aesthetics but also delectable food and beverages. While their specialty lies in beef dishes, you can hardly make a wrong choice from their diverse menu. Don’t forget to indulge in some of their signature cocktails as well.
This Michelin-starred restaurant presents a setting with crisp white tablecloths, impeccable service, tasteful decor, and a symphony of delightful flavors. The restaurant is notably spacious, but the most coveted tables are the ones positioned by the windows, providing enchanting views of the hotel’s internal garden. Without a doubt, this is a restaurant I wholeheartedly recommend!
Situated in the 10th arrondissement, Le 52 serves as a local gathering spot, exuding a cool and vibrant atmosphere, with a menu that undergoes monthly changes, ensuring an ever-evolving culinary experience. The remarkable variety, which extends beyond traditional meat and fish cuts to include sardines, root vegetables, and poultry, makes each visit a memorable gastronomic journey. This diversity is what keeps patrons returning time and time again.
Tips for an Enjoyable Trip to Paris
Paris is undeniably a dream destination, celebrated for its fashion, art, cuisine, and architecture, steeped in history and cultural significance. While it’s renowned for romance, wine, and croissants, Paris offers so much more to explore. Here are some additional tips to help you make the most of your perfect vacation in Paris:
- Opt for Off-Peak Travel
Consider visiting Paris during the shoulder seasons, such as March (early spring) and October (late summer). During these periods, you’ll encounter fewer tourists, enjoy more affordable rates, and witness the city adorned in vibrant greenery.
- Choose a Central Location for Your Accommodation
Paris is divided into 20 districts, each with its unique charm and attractions. Research the neighborhoods that align with your interests, whether it’s Montmartre in the 18th district, the historic Le Marais in the 3rd and 4th districts, or the lively Latin Quarter in the 5th district. Regardless of your choice, keep in mind that public transportation in Paris is convenient and efficient.
- Prioritize Comfortable Footwear
While Parisian streets and sidewalks exude charm, they can be challenging to navigate for first-time visitors. Leave your fancy shoes at the hotel and opt for the utmost comfort in your walking or sports shoes. Your feet will thank you as you explore the city on foot.
- Embrace Public Transportation
In addition to walking, which you’ll do plenty of, consider utilizing the city’s public transportation options. The Paris Metro offers extensive coverage and convenience; you can opt for a Paris Metro ticket or a Paris Visite card for unlimited access. Another eco-friendly option is Velib, a bicycle rental system with over 1,800 stations across the city. Rent an electric or regular bike and return it to the nearest station for a seamless exploration of Paris.
- Learn a Few Words in French
French is undeniably one of the most beautiful languages, albeit challenging to learn. However, even mastering a few words and phrases can significantly enhance your travel experience and leave a positive impression on the locals.
Upon arrival, you’ll quickly notice that it’s customary to greet service personnel with a cheerful “Good morning” or “Good evening” and, of course, express gratitude at the end. Here are a few essential French phrases to learn before your trip to Paris:
- “Bonjour” (Hello/Good morning)
- “Merci” (Thank you)
- “Excusez-moi” (Sorry/Excuse me)
- “D’accord” (Okay)
- “Où est la station de métro la plus proche ?” (Where is the nearest metro station?)
You can easily pick up these phrases using various apps like Duolingo or by using an eSIM while abroad, ensuring access to the internet whenever needed.
- Reserve Restaurant Tables in Advance
Exploring fine dining is a must in Paris, but keep in mind that popular restaurants, especially Michelin-starred ones, tend to fill up quickly. Once you’ve identified the places you want to try, make your reservations well in advance to secure your dining experience.
- Check Opening Hours
As in many European cities, Parisians appreciate their leisurely pace of life. For instance, there’s often an afternoon service break, dinner typically begins around 7:30 pm, and many shops and restaurants close on Sundays. Moreover, opening hours may vary by the day of the week, as Parisians prefer flexibility over strict schedules. Be prepared to adapt accordingly.
- Don’t Forget to Arrange an eSIM
While Paris offers numerous cafes and hotels with free Wi-Fi access, it’s important to note that they often have usage restrictions, and local SIM cards can be expensive. To save time and money, consider using an eSIM. This convenient data solution for travelers has proven to be a game-changer, with affordable prices and excellent customer support.
I trust this guide will prove valuable in planning your Parisian adventure! For further travel inspiration, feel free to explore our blog and discover more articles highlighting diverse destinations worldwide.