The Complete Guide For Discovering the Best of Paris
Ah, Paris. With its glorious cuisine, magnificent architecture, and artistic treasures, if you ask me, there is no other city as timeless or instantly recognizable. The charm, the energy, the enchantment — this French capital really is a living dream, which is why it's no surprise so many of us spend time fantasizing about our next Parisian adventure.
But if you're ready to turn those thoughts into reality and are in need of a quick travel guide, you're in luck, as we've got the perfect fix. Combining the quintessential must-see attractions with the best hidden gems, your ultimate itinerary awaits!
First Things First: Tackling Where to Stay!
Because Paris is home to a vast number of fascinating neighborhoods, chances are you'll encounter quite the struggle when trying to decide which one to call home during your stay. My advice? Stay in multiple areas!
As crazy as this might seem, my husband and I used this strategy during our visit, and I couldn't have been happier with our decision. Not only did we get to experience "living like locals" in two diverse districts, but we also were able to get to know each area on a deeper level and didn't feel so rushed zig-zagging our way around the city.
The first place that served as our home base was this adorable studio. Perched high above a quiet street, this apartment was a dream. Although it was a bit small — I'm talking 172-square-feet small — the itty-bitty compact size made it more cozy. Plus, it was nestled right between the Pantheon and Notre Dame, so the location couldn't have been more convenient.
But be warned: this teeny-tiny oasis is a fifth-floor walk-up! While I instantly fell in love with the gorgeous green banister and worn-out hardwoods, I'll admit that by the umpteenth time, they started to lose their appeal. But, hey, nothing like a good glute workout, right?
Although I hated to say goodbye to our first mini casa, my heart practically jumped out of my chest when we stepped foot into the second apartment. I mean, look at that view!
Never did I ever imagine we'd be able to lay our heads down at night with the Eiffel Tower sparkling back at us, but thanks to this Airbnb, that dream became a reality without depleting our bank accounts. And to think this is someone's actual view every single day!
There's no question this charming studio oozed with delight from the inside out. With spectacular views, quaint decor, and an uneven cobblestone street leading up to the entryway, we truly had to force ourselves to leave.
Next Up: Tackling Where to Eat!
Whatever you end up packing for your trip, make sure to bring along your appetite when visiting this city. While you certainly won't have any trouble stumbling upon delicious food, if you happen to be craving a decadent breakfast, head on over to Buvette.
Ironically, I first came across this French restaurant when living in New York City. But as soon as I found out the original location was in Paris, I knew this place had to be on my must-eat list. Hot waffles drizzled with syrup and sandwiching eggs and bacon — oh yeah; it was just as divine as I remembered.
For a satisfying cup of joe, don't miss out on the tastiness that's taking place at Cordonnerie. Also known as Boot Cafe, this hole-in-the-wall coffee shop is quite the hidden gem. Just don't expect to sit inside — it's too much of a tight squeeze.
But if you prefer mouthwatering pastries over a stimulating caffeine jolt, Soul Kitchen is the way to go. Not only does this charming eatery offer an infectious upbeat atmosphere, but the homemade baked goods are also to die for. Let's just say you won't leave here hungry.
OK, I know falafel might not be the first type of food that pops in mind when thinking of Paris. But let me just say you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't stop by L'As du Fallafel. Seriously, this family-owned shop made me a falafel fan for life! Yes, there will be a wait. Yes, it moves fast. And yes, it's 100 percent worth it.
We all know macarons and Paris go hand in hand. So if you happen to adore these colorful cookies as much as I do, treat yourself to some afternoon tea and indulge in a macaron or two (or three or four!) at the iconic Ladurée Paris Royale.
For an extrafun gastronomical experience, head over to Derrière. (Yes, you read the name correctly!) What makes this clandestine restaurant so unique is how each room houses a different theme. So whether you end up eating on a bed or in a room tucked behind a secret door, it'll be a dinner to remember.
And let's not forget about an old-fashioned picnic. Because, hey, no matter how delicious restaurants can be, nothing compares to rolling out a blanket and chowing down right in front of the Eiffel Tower!
Tackling What to Do, See, and Explore!
Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, you simply can't go to Paris without becoming hypnotized by this Iron Lady at least a time or two. And although this is one of the city's main tourist attractions, if you ask me, carving out time to go to the top is undoubtedly worth it. The key, of course, is planning your ascension strategically . . .
See, because more than 7 million people visit this iconic tower each year, to say it can get crowded would be an understatement. My advice? Go as early as possible. Skip those desired snoozes so your visit doesn't become a total time suck.
Although it opens at 9:30 a.m., I suggest getting there a tad bit earlier to be the first in line. Remember: you can always nap later! And, if possible, try to plan your visit closest to your arrival. This way, if there's severe weather or the lines happen to be too long, you can always go another day.
While you can take a lift straight to the top, you also have the choice of climbing the 704 stairs to the second floor if you really want to explore this wrought-iron masterpiece from every angle. Yet no matter how you decide to soar above, you'll be rewarded with epic, awe-inspiring views.
Another can't-miss attraction is Notre Dame de Paris. Translating to "Our Lady of Paris," this medieval Catholic cathedral is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It is also one of the largest and most recognizable churches in the world.
Of course, along with this well-deserved popularity comes massive amounts of crowds, so just as with the Eiffel Tower, be sure to plan your visit accordingly.
While you can tour inside this quintessential cathedral — and/or climb the 422 steps to the top for breathtaking views of the heart of Paris — don't forget to head to the grounds in the back. This angle will bring forth an entirely new perspective.
Despite what angle you gaze upon Notre Dame, though, the truth is any view will forever leave you feeling inspired. And don't even get me started on that lovely rose-colored building sandwiched there in the middle. Be still my heart.
Interestingly enough, when my husband and I last visited Paris, the city had just experienced horrific flooding. Thankfully, the high waters did not breed too much damage within the city, and the rain stopped mere days before our arrival. Nonetheless, witnessing the Seine creeping up so closely to the bridges was still certainly a sight to see.
Even the local residents were hypnotized by the intense water levels.
Paris is notoriously known for its efficient public transportation. However, it didn't take long before I realized the best way to explore and absorb the alluring atmosphere is on foot. In doing so, you can fully embrace the city's countless cafe terraces and witness the lively culture in full swing.
And if you have time to spare, I encourage you to forego any agenda you have and simply wander. Go ahead: click off any navigation apps and allow your curiosity to lead the way — even if it is only for a couple of hours.
I can't even begin to describe how much enchantment I stumbled on by freely roaming. What makes this kind of exploring so enticing is the fact that you never know what magic you might discover along the way.
Case in point with this art festival I just so happened to randomly stumble upon. Perusing through the different stalls and getting to know some of the local vendors turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my trip.
Another benefit to wondrously wandering? There's no doubt you'll scope out some of the city's best hidden parks and secluded courtyards; Paris boasts more than 400 of these tucked-away gardens.
See what I mean about seclusion? Just one random turn is all it takes for you to find a serene escape from the clusters of crowds and bustling streets. Trust me: it will just be you, ancient architecture, and the smell of Paris in the air.
As you can probably guess by now, my husband and I didn't really sleep late while in this city. There was just so much to see and so little time. But as with other overly crowded tourist attractions, the early-morning wake-up call was once again worth it when it came to the Louvre. With absolutely no one in sight, we were free to meander around the grounds however we pleased.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris is also another must see. Commonly known as Sacré-Cœur, what makes this popular landmark so unique is how it sits atop the highest point of the entire city.
Although I can't personally vouch for the gorgeous views from the main dome since a blanket of fog covered the sky during the time of our visit, I've heard they will leave anyone speechless.
Now, if you're a lover of all things pink, be sure not to miss La Maison Rose. While you can eat at this cozy little restaurant situated on the Montmartre hill, it's delightful blush exterior is what makes this place more of an attraction. Plus, its corner location became famous by the painting of the acclaimed artist Maurice Utrillo.
To me, the entire neighborhood of Montmartre was utterly endearing. I mean, just look at that unruly ivy!
And then the itty-bitty, teeny-tiny cars!
Did you know you can even climb to the top of the world-renowned Arc de Triomphe? Honoring those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, this arc is one of the most famous monuments in all of Paris. And by making your ascent to the panoramic terrace, you'll be able to feast your eyes on an incredibly unique viewpoint of the city.
If you're yearning for a bit of green space, head over to the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens. Although these gardens were originally part of the Luxembourg Palace, today they are free to stroll through and admire. With its pristine geometric lines and peaceful atmosphere, it's no surprise this area is beloved by locals and travelers alike.
Looking to learn more about French theater? Then be sure not to miss the Palais Garnier. This 1,979-seat opera house — often referred to as Opéra Garnier — is one of the most famous symbols of Paris. However, many people are usually surprised to find out this theater is now mainly used for ballet. Even if you don't have time for a show, I highly recommend taking a tour. In doing so, you'll be able to discover some of the most mythical sites, such as the Grand Stairway.
If you do embark on a tour here, be sure to look up when gazing upon the theater itself. The vault is covered with mosaics of shimmering colors and features themes from the history of music. Simply put: it's a breathtaking work of art.
Along with the opulent interior, the views from atop the outdoor terrace will also leave you mesmerized. Even on the foggiest of days, the city still managed to completely captivate my heart.
For the ultimate shopping experience, don't miss the infamous Galeries Lafayette. Acclaimed for its exquisite architecture, this upscale French department store houses a wide range of brands to suit all budgets.
Even if you don't plan to buy anything, still stop by to take a peek. Because this flagship store has become quite the attraction, it now hosts weekly fashion shows for visitors . . . and they're free.
And don't leave without looking up above. With golden light filtering through, it's no surprise this 141-foot dome is the most iconic part of the entire store.
And then there's the golden hour here. So often the evening pulls the sun down without us even noticing. But not in Paris. Here, the sunsets are so striking, you can't help but embrace this fiery hour.
While there are countless areas to fully embrace the time of dusk, one place in particular that's extra captivating is the Louvre. And the best part? Once the curtain is drawn on the day, this museum immediately lights up the sky. Witnessing just one glimpse here at night will justify why this city is nicknamed "The City of Lights."
Oh, and don't forget to experience a show at the legendary Parisian cabaret, Moulin Rouge. With magnificent dancers, delicious champagne, and — of course — the infamous French Cancan, it is here that an unforgettable evening awaits.
Who says Ferris wheels are just for kids? No matter your age, you'll want to climb aboard the Roue de Paris. That is, if you're not afraid of heights.
Did you know this ride happens to be the world's largest mobile Ferris wheel? Soaring 230 feet into the air, you'll be able to enjoy spectacular views in one of the 48 pods of this wheel rising over Paris. And for an extraspecial treat, hop on at night.
But if you're in the mood for something a bit more low-key, take a nighttime stroll along one of the most elegant, grandiose bridges of all time: the Pont Alexandre III. Spanning across the serene Seine River, this deck-arch bridge is considered one of the most beautiful river crossings on earth!
Did I mention the Pont Alexandre III is a great place to marvel at the illuminated Eiffel Tower? Seeing its beaming beacon shine over the dark sky while becoming hypnotized by the 20,000 twinkling lights will be the perfect manifestation of Until next time . . .