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Paris Travel Guide: What to Do & See in Paris, France

Let’s travel to: Paris, France

We’ve all dream about falling in love with the most romantic city in the world. To truly discover Paris and fall in love with a city that has charmed so many people, get lost strolling through the charming streets, marvel at the city’s architecture and find the beauty in the most unlikely places.

WHAT TO DO & SEE

  • Enjoy the Parisian parks: Stroll through a park or go for a picnic in a park with some baguette, cheeses, fruit and a bottle of wine
    • A popular place is The Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower
    • Palais Royal - also popular for the black and white pillars
  • Drink wine at night across the river with the view of the Eiffel Tower
    • Get off at Passy station and walk towards the tower
    • Tip: Eiffel tower sparkles on the dot of every hour
  • Montmartre: Spend some time strolling around the streets of Montmartre in the evening
    • Sit on the hill outside the Sacre Coeur and hang out with a bottle of wine and watch the sunset
    • Other things to see around the area:
      • Sacre Coeur
      • Picasso’s studio
      • Van Gogh’s House
      • Cemetery
      • Many cute boutiques and bars
  • Take a French cooking class and learn the art of making croissants, macarons, or a full meal from produce you picked from a local market
  • See the opulence of Chateau de Versailles and tour the grand apartments, beautiful gardens and stunning Hall of Mirrors
  • See a show at the Moulin Rouge
  • Enjoy the beautiful view of Paris during Christmas from Roue de Paris (a 60m tall Ferris wheel) on the Place de la Concorde
  • Take a cruise along the Seine - there is no better way to see Paris!
  • Make your way to Place des Vosges, one of the loveliest squares anywhere, and the oldest in Paris
  • Museums - a trip to Paris isn’t complete without a visit to one of the following:
    • Louvre: Spend hours (or days) getting lost in the Louvre, one of the world’s largest museums and formerly a palace, and make sure to see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo
      • Suggested to start lining up before opening time
      • Getting in: In morning, walk to the Louvre (enter through Rue Du Rivoli instead of Pyramid entrance to avoid line up)
      • Open at 9am (Closed on Tuesdays)
      • On Friday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., admission to the permanent collections is free for under-26s regardless of nationality (upon presentation of ID)
    • Musée d'Orsay: Peruse French art dating from 1848 to 1915 at Musée d'Orsay
      • Largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces by painters including Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, etc
      • Iconic clock window photo taken at this museum
      • Closed on Monday
    • Visit Centre Pompidou if you like modern art
    • Wait for a beautiful day to visit Musée Rodin to stroll around the sculpture garden
    • Carnavalet Museum (history of Paris) in a splendid old mansion with beautiful gardens
      • Free admission
    • Take a dip in the Molitor pool
    • Day trips from Paris: 
      • Giverny for Monet's garden and house - tip: make sure to book tickets online at least 24 hours in advance to skip the long lines
      • Epernay for the champagne houses

Best Views

  • View over Paris from Arc de Triomphe terrace, where you can see everything from the Eiffel Tower to the magnificent Champs Elysees
  • Hidden gem for great shot of Eiffel Tower is on Avenue des Camoens
    • Clear view without single tourist
    • Make way down along water, crossing Pont d’Iéna and walking along Promenade Quai Branly and then back across Pont de Bir-Hakeim
  • Climb to the top of the bell towers of Notre-Dame and take in the view
    • Tip: This is where the iconic photo of the gargoyles looking over Paris is taken from
  • Go out and search for the best views of Paris. Here are some other places to check out:
    • Top of Centre Pompidou
    • Top of Montparnasse Tower
    • Top of Sacre-Coeur

WHAT TO EAT

  • Sit-down meals:
    • Le Petit Prince de Paris for the Duck Confit
    • Le Petit Cler for the Duck
    • Le Bistro Du Perigord for the French onion soup
    • La Mosquée de Paris for Moroccan lunch - try the mint tea
    • Le Potager du Pere Thierry (small place, seats 26 people, so reservation is necessary) - try the egg cocette with foie gras
  • Dessert: 
    • Pierre Herme to indulge in french pastries
      • Macaron flavours to try: Ispahan (lychee, rose and raspberry), olive oil, white truffle and hazelnut
    • Ladur ee - known for their macarons, make a reservation for afternoon tea 
    • Angelina - try their famous hot chocolate
  • Grab & Go: 
    • Du Pain et Des Idees for traditional bakery
    • Breizh Cafe for galettes au sarrasin (buckwheat crepes) followed by a salted caramel crepe with chantilly cream
      • Very long lines but worth the wait
    • L'As du Falafel for the best falafel
      • Expect long lines but they move quickly

WHERE TO SHOP

  • Navigate the maze of tiny rooms lined with books at Shakespeare & Co, the most famous independent bookstore in the world
    • The store became a gathering place for famous writers such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Stein
  • Galeries Lafayette provides the ultimate department store shopping experience
    • The one on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th is famous for its decorative glass ceiling overlooking several floors
  • Comptoir de L’Image - a paradise for any magazine or book lover
    • “I can’t imagine any other place I would want to spend a rainy afternoon in Paris.” - The Sartorialist
  • Choose between thousands of bottles of the best wine at Les Caves Augé, where Proust used to go to stock up his cellar
    • The cavistes (wine sellers) will give you information about any grape variety or château you see
    • Offers a tasting day one Saturday each month
  • Take a browse in Deyrolle, a taxidermy shop that has been open since 1831 and a Paris legend
  • Vintage shopping
    • Marche aux Puces St.-Ouen de Clignancourt flea market - Spend a day finding hidden treasures at the countless vendors 
      • Open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays (9 am - 6 pm) 
    • Le Marais - many one-of-a-kind vintage shops

INTERESTING FACTS

  • Nicknamed the City of Lights or City of Love
  • The nickname City of Lights has nothing to do with illuminating power. Light in this case means intellectuals, referring to the high-concentration of writers, artists and academics that have always been drawn to the city
  • Many outraged French intellectuals vigorously opposed to the Eiffel Tower’s construction
  • There is a Statue of Liberty in Paris that faces the Statue of Liberty in America, symbolizing the friendship between the two countries

USEFUL INFORMATION

  • Language: French
  • Currency: Euro
  • Tipping:
    • 5% waitstaff
    • 10% taxi drivers
    • Euro 2-3 tour guides
    • Round up for bartenders
  • Transportation: by foot or with Metro (1.70 euro per one-way journey)
    • Tour Eiffel (Metro stop: Champs de Mars-Tour Eiffel)
    • The Louvre (Metro stop: Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre. Closed on Tuesdays)
    • Musee d’Orsay (Metro stop: Musee d’Orsay. Closed on Mondays)
    • Arc de Triomphe (Metro stop: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile)
    • Catacombs (Metro stop: Denfert-Rocherau)
    • Notre Dame Cathedral (Metro stop: Saint-Michel-Notre Dame)
    • Sacre Coeur & Montmartre (Metro stop: Anvers or Abbesses)
    • Chateau de Versailes (RER stop: Versailles Rive Gauche)
    • Place de la Concorde (Metro stop: Concorde)
    • Palais Garnier (Metro stop: Opera)
  • Best time to visit: Yearround; avoid mid-July to August rush
  • Weather: Cool winters and warm summers. Snow is not common
  • Etiquette
    • Formal and minimize interaction with strangers
    • Speak as much French as you can - it will help you get better treatment than English
      • Hi = Bonjour
      • Goodbye = Au revoir
      • Please = S’il vous plait
      • Thank you = Merci
      • Sorry = Pardon
      • Excuse Me = Excusez-moi
      • I would like (when ordering in restau rant) = Je voudrais
  • Few helpful hints:
    • Purchase ParisPass to skip the line for 60 attractions including The Louvure, Arc de Triomphe and enjoy a free river cruise as well as free metro travel
    • The Eiffel Tower, The Catacombs and the entry to the towers of the Notre Dame cathedral have limits on how many visitors can enter at any given time. To avoid long queues, arrive at least 30 minutes before opening time. Otherwise, plan a queue for at least one hour per attraction
    • All national museums are open free of charge on the first Sunday of the month
    • Paris Museum Pass → Can buy in Paris
      • 2-day pass: €42 → Valid for individual
    • Most of the shops are shut on Sundays so don’t leave your shopping for Sunday or you will be disappointed
    • Bring your student ID to get discounts on transportation and museum admission

LOCAL SPECIALTIES

  • Escargot - snails cooked in garlic and butter
  • Steak tartare - raw beef mixed with spices and an egg
  • Confit de canard - duck cooked in its own fat
  • Cassoulet - dish with beans, sausage and confit de canard
  • Quiche lorraine - quiche with cheese and ham
  • Moules marinieres - mussels cooked in white wine, garlic, and spices
  • Macarons
  • Baguettes
  • Crepe
  • Local cheeses and wines
  • Pain au chocolat
  • Frog’s legs

LIST BY: CAROLYN CHEN

Carolyn Chen has done two backpacking trips around Europe and spent six months studying abroad in Italy. She loves finding the most beautiful scenery, hidden gems and indulging in great food. Find more posts by Carolyn here.

Follow her adventures on Instagram: @carolynjxchen

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