I was fortunate to travel around Europe for a month when I graduated from college (a graduation gift from my parents) and one of the cities I wanted to revisit was Paris.
I got my chance to revisit Paris for my 40th birthday present. I spent two weeks with my husband in my favorite city while my parents babysat my kids at home.
My friends who are planning to visit Paris this year asked me for advice on what to see and do in Paris so I figured to make it a post for anyone who gets a chance to visit this lovely city.
For the most part, we only did three tours. I personally like a relaxing vacation itinerary where I don’t feel rushed to view so many tourist places.
TOURS BOOKED ON VIATOR.COM
Three tours we did was booked on Viator.com:
Viator VIP: Palace of Versailles Small-Group Tour with Private Viewing of the Royal Quarters. (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)
The best part of the tour is that you skip the long lines (priority entrance), get to see the famous Hall of Mirrors before the crowds arrive, tour with a small group, and get to see Louis XVI’s rooms which are off-limits to the general public. I was fortunate to get a wonderful tour guide. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes (I wore flats) because the palace grounds are vast and you will be walking a lot around the garden area.
Mont Saint Michel Day Trip (RECOMMEND if you have enough time to do a full-day tour) [more information on St Michel)
My husband enjoyed this tour much more than I did. He said that it was his favorite. It was raining when we went and there were a lot of stairs going to the Benedictine abbey. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this tour for anyone who has difficulty climbing lots of stairs. The abbey was nice to see and I would also recommend wearing comfortable shoes.
I decided to not have dinner at the Moulin Rouge and to have dinner before going to the show. Having hotel pickup and drop-off by a minivan was the best decision since I didn’t have to find a taxi or walk to the metro late at night. I found it safer to travel by a minivan. I wanted to watch this show because it’s the legendary Moulin Rouge cabaret show and wanted to see it for myself. For the most part, the show is like a Las Vegas show (of course the Moulin Rouge is the original) but with women showing their breasts most of the time. By the end of the show you are oblivious to that. I definitely would skip that show the next time I’m in Paris. 🙂
We used the Metro to get everywhere we needed to get to around Paris (including the airport). That was the most inexpensive and efficient way to get around town. We also used the BatoBus to get around via the Seine River which shows you a different view of Paris. There are eight stations which stops at:
- Tour Eiffel
- Musée d’Orsay
- Saint Germain des prés
- Notre Dame
- Jardin des Plantes
- Hôtel de Ville
- Champs Elysées
PLACES VISITED IN PARIS
We visited the following places (via the Metro or Batobus):
- Eiffle Tower
We went to the top of the tower because the line wasn’t long. The first time I visited Paris there was such a long line I decided to skip going to the top of the tower. I’m glad I was able to see the top without waiting too long this time around. If you want to be able to visit the tower and skip the line you can take the Skip-the-Line Eiffel Tower Ticket in Paris or Skip-the-Line Eiffel Tower Tour by Night. Definitely come back to the park before the sunsets so you can have a picnic with your loved one and view the Eiffle Tower in the evening and see the illumination of the Eiffle Tower.
- The Louvre
The first time I came here, I went on a tour and saw all the main masterpieces. This time around I spent my entire day in the museum and tried to see everything and closed the place down. My husband was such a sport for following me all around the gigantic museum. There’s just so much to see and I love museums. Definitely wear comfortable shoes because I was walking so much.
- Musee d’Orsay
This museum was much smaller than the Louvre but I enjoyed their Impressionist collection. I spent more time lining up to get tickets for the museum than actually being in the museum, but it was ok. We weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere. I would probably recommend the Skip-the-Line: Musée d’Orsay Small-Group Walking Tour if you don’t like waiting in line.
- Notre Dame
It was nice attending Sunday mass in this massive church and revisiting this church.
- Arc de Triomphe
We walked down Champs Élysées to get to the Arc de Triomphe. I wouldn’t spend too much time in Champs Élysées since walking down the boulevard reminded me of walking around New York City with shops that are mostly chains stores found in the USA. Once we got to the Arc de Triomphe we took more pictures.
- Faubourge Saint-Honoré district is the pulse of Paris design and fashion. I walked around the area and “window” shopped at some of my favorite designers. Everything in this area is pretty expensive but it’s nice to look around. If you know what stores you want to visit definitely map it out and make sure you know the hours of operation so you don’t waste any time. You’ll be walking a lot so wear comfortable shoes. View the shopping districts in Paris.
- Sacre-Coeur / Montmartre Artists Square (Place du Tertre)
We visited the church and checked out the lovely view near the church and walked down to the artists’ square and had lunch and people watched. We also had an artist do a portrait of us. It was quite expensive and didn’t turn out as good as we hoped for but seeing the portrait made us laugh so many times that the experience made it worth it.
- Les Invalides
We took pictures outside since the golden dome is so pretty. We didn’t go to the museum because I already hit my quota of museums for the week.
We took pictures of it but it’s not the same as the original in Rome. It was also a rainy evening when going around the area.
- Tuleries Garden
Was lovely to view and take in the scenery.
- Palais Garnier
We took pictures of this Paris opera house and did not go inside.
A MUST VISIT if you LOVE macarons and pastries. I recommend the light green one (mint color). The pistachio macaron is yummy!
- La Crêperie de Josselin
I loved going here since I love crêpes. I was lucky enough to come here twice.
- Au Coin des Gourmets
There’s only so much rich, French food I can eat and came across this place walking around (near Notre Dame). The food is Indo Chinese and was comfort food for me. The first time we didn’t have any reservations and had to sit outside and the next time we came we made reservations since the place is tiny and doesn’t have a lot of seating.
If you love Picasso, I’d recommend going to the Picasso Museum. Unfortunately I was unable to visit the museum since it was under renovation. I’ll try to visit next time.
APPS TO DOWNLOAD
- Paris Metro RATP Map and Route Planner
- Uber to help get you a cab around town if you can’t hop on the Metro
I hope this post helps you to finalize what you want to see in Paris. Also view the following resources:
- 20 ultimate things to do in Paris
- Top 20 free things to do in Paris
- 15 things not to do in Paris
- 10 things not to do in Paris
- France Visa information (for visitors that need visas. As a USA Citizen, back in 2015 I just showed my passport and ticket to go back home. I didn’t have to apply for a Visa.)
One more thing, if you don’t want to be seen as a tourist in Paris, try dressing up. My husband mainly wore jeans with button down shirts and comfortable dress shoes. I mainly wore dresses. I don’t like to stick out too much when I’m traveling so I don’t get targeted by a person who pickpockets.
I also broke out my limited French that I learned in high school. Locals were nice and seemed to appreciate that I made an effort to speak French. I knew I blended in when a lady approached me and spoke to me in French and was surprised when she found out I was American.
You may also want to exchange currency in the United States before you travel. The exchange rate and fees are much more favorable in the USA. Just get the Euros in cash and stash it in a money belt. The recommended amount is €60-€80 Euros per person per day (as was quoted to me by a Travelex representative on April 2015). Most of the purchases we made was on our PlayStation card (a CapitalOne card that has no foreign transaction fees).
And don’t forget to bring a foldable bag to carry groceries just in case you want to visit a local grocery to buy fresh fruits, cheese, wine, etc. Their grocery stores don’t normally give you a bag. Have a safe and fun adventure in Paris!