“Paris is always a good idea!”
What can be said about Paris that hasn’t already been said? Over the years, I’ve given personalised itineraries of this great city to friends and family, and I’ve come to the the conclusion that there are five things everyone must do when in Paris. It’s not a list for those who simply want to see Paris, rather one for those who want to truly experience it.
1. Enjoy Paris from a Parisian Cafe
Perhaps it’s the dream of inspiring the artisan within, the nostalgia of the bygone ‘Années folles’ era, or just to take a moment to really sit, observe, and be in Paris, the Parisian Cafe experience is a must. The type of cafe I’m referring to is not your third wave coffee experience but rather a cafe-restaurant offering a full menu. The decor offers cream walls, plush red or green tapestry, tiled flooring, and round tables under umbrellas spilled out onto the sidewalk. Yet, even if you decide to forgo the traditional Parisian Cafe for a contemporary experience, the act of an unrushed sit down meal allows you time to really contemplate your time in this grand city – its architecture, the people, the food, the smells, the sounds, the traffic, the street signs and lights, the design of the pavement and manhole covers. Sit and enjoy being in Paris!
2. Take a stroll through it’s beautiful city streets
Paris may be a large city but it’s still very walkable. From the Louvre, walk through the Louvre-Tuileries park, past Place de la Concorde, up Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, then make your way down to the Eiffel Tower. Alternatively, the walk from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower can be done via the Seine River with its picturesque bridges. Or walk east to the Île de la Cité which is home to Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, and Pont Nerf, among others. Cross over to the historic Latin Quarter and have a wander through its famous streets, visit the iconic bookstore Shakespeare & Company, see the Place Saint-Michel fountain, dip in and out of churches, shops, and cafes, catch a glimpse of the infamous Sorbonne University, and take a tour of the Pantheon.
As you walk around you’ll discover churches, old city gates, beautiful bridges, quaint cafes, small courtyard gardens, street markets, plazas full of people, street musicians, and oh so much more. Fall in love with the Luxembourg Gardens, Les Invalides with its impressive dome, the Marais District (former Jewish Quarter) which is close to the Pompidou Centre, Les Halles, Palais Garnier (Opera House) made famous by ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, and Montmartre. Uncover the layers of Paris, both the beautiful and the gritty: the incessant street hawkers by all the big tourist attractions, pickpockets preying on vulnerable tourists, and mini tent cities for the homeless. Even if you do decide on a bus tour, make sure to get out and walk around a bit to really see the details of this wonderful city.
3. Visit one of its many museums
Aside from being a living museum, Paris is every museum-lovers dream and to suggest only one would be a disservice to its wonderful museums which cater to all interests. It’s not that the Louvre, its most famous museum, isn’t worth a visit, but if you’re pressed for time and not much of an art lover, consider visiting a museum that interests you. In Paris you’ll discover museums dedicated to archeology, architecture, art, decorative arts, design, fashion, film, law, medicine, military, musical instruments, natural history, photography, religion, science and technology, sex, sports, and wine.
My favourite is the Museé d’Orsay, an art museum focused mainly on Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art all housed in a former railway station on the Seine river. I could suggest a few others, but they’re things that interest me. You, on the other hand, might have other interests and in a city with over 100 museums you’re sure to find one suited perfectly for you.
4. Visit a monument or church
For monuments and churches, you’ll see plenty just by walking around (or on a tourist bus if that’s your thing), but there are definitely some worth their entrance fees like the Arc de Triomphe, Dôme des Invalides, and my personal favourites: Opéra Garnier and the Panthéon.
As for churches, Paris has quite a few so even though the Notre Dame is currently undergoing extensive repairs after its 2019 fire, you’ll definitely be impressed by other ones. Close to the Notre Dame is Sainte Chapelle, a small gothic church which has the most magnificent stained glass windows which are best enjoyed on a sunny day. Or, if you’re in the Montmartre neighbourhood check out the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. This iconic white church, sits on top of a hill overlooking Paris, and is a popular stop for those looking out for gorgeous views of the city.
5. Go up the Eiffel Tower
Finally, a trip to Paris is not complete without going up its most iconic monument, the one and only, ‘la tour Eiffel’. Take in the magnificent views from its different levels. Be in the moment. Again and again and again. Restrict your photo and video taking time to have your best experience. This is the City of Love, and like any true love, it deserves to be treasured and what better place to do so than on top of the Iron Lady who guards her city day and night. Relish the here and now for you are IN Paris. Let the memory of how you feel standing above this remarkable city be the gift you take home with you. And if you haven’t already, fall in love with Paris!