Let me preface this blog with: I don’t like Paris. I always find it too expensive and my feet always hurt from walking too much. But I’ve been there a few times at this point and have created a pretty solid list of things I really love doing in Paris:
1. Watching the sunset from the top of the Arc de Triomphe
The Arc is my absolute favourite view of Paris. You can see Sacré Coeur, the Eiffel Tower, and all the way to the business district. All the main Parisian roads lead right to the Arc so you have this astounding view right down the Champs Elysees. I love going up right before the sun sets because then you get a 2 for 1 deal – you can have an amazing view in the day time and then watch as they light up the Eiffel Tour at night. It’s absolutely stunning and I highly recommend it to everyone.
It costs 8€ for adults and 5€ for students. Make sure you arrive at least 45 min before the closing time it says on the website because they frequently start closing the queue off early, especially in the summer, due to crowd control.
(View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe)
2. Wandering through the impressionist wing at Musée D’Orsay
Musée D’Orsay is my favourite museum in Paris and it’s always one of my first stops when I’m in the city. It’s located in the old Paris train station and there is a stunning viewing platform where you can see the city of Paris poking out from behind the old station clock. I love impressionist art and the collection of Monet, Renoir, Degas etc is absolutely amazing.
I always head straight for the impressionist wing, starting at the clock and working my way through the gallery to then exit by the café. If you turn right once leaving the post-impressionist collection, you can walk around the outside of the café and go through a door to the roof terrace. Here you’ll see another great view of Paris, overlooking the Seine and the Louvre. You’ll be able to see all the way to Sacre Coeur – great selfie spot!
The Musée D’Orsay is much smaller than the Louvre but has some amazing works inside. Don’t forget to check out the Van Gogh collection and all the statues in the centre.
If you are visiting Paris for only a couple of days, Musée D’Orsay is way better than the Louvre. The Louvre is just so big that it quickly becomes unmanageable if you want to see it all in one day. This leaves most people heading straight for the Mona Lisa, which explains the huge crowd of tourists you encounter taking photos of it. Go to Musée D’Orsay instead and experience shorter lines, less busy galleries, and a stunning view of Paris from its rooftop café.
(Clock at the Musée D’Orsay)
(View from the roof terrace at the Musée D’Orsay)
(Inside Musée D’Orsay)
3. Picnicking in the Champs de Mars
I love going to the grocery store, grabbing a baguette, good cheese, some fruit, and some wine and heading to the gardens beside the Eiffel Tour for a picnic! This is a cheap way to have lunch with a fantastic view in the centre of Paris.
4. Looking at the statues of the first queens and famous women of France in the Jardin du Luxembourg
This is something I stumbled upon accidentally when I was in Paris a few years ago with one of my favourite travel buddies, Katie. The Luxembourg Gardens are a hidden little paradise in the hear of busy Paris. It’s so green and on a sunny day you can always see family picnicking in the orangery.
The statues of the first queens and famous women of France encircle the little pond that sits right behind the palace. I love starting at one end and slowly making my way around, reading each of the plaques.
(Jardin du Luxembourg)
5. Eating macarons from Ladurée by the Seine
Every time I go to Paris the pastry shop and café Ladurée is a must. I love the little bit of luxury that comes with buying the most precious little French food in the heart of Paris. I always buy a couple and then walk about 5 min to the river to eat them, but Ladurée also has a restaurant café if you’d like to eat in!
(Coffee and Rose Petal macarons by the river)
6. Creating a make-shift Bateaux Mouchée
The Bateaux Mouchée are the Parisian tour boats that serve full meals as they cruise up and down the Seine. It’s one of my mum’s favourite things to do in Paris but for those of us who want something a little less expensive (Bateaux Mouchée tickets can cost anywhere from 60-400€), I really recommend booking a less expensive boat cruise and bringing your own beer and snacks! The boat tour I reall like is Veddettes du Pont Neuf – you can either buy some drinks and food at their bar before you head onto the boat or you can bring it with you from a shop. Make sure you book tickets online and arrive early! It’s a really fun way to learn about the sites of Paris.
(View from our own ‘Bateaux Mouchée’)
7. Exploring the catacombs
The catacombs are a side of Paris that most people don’t get to see. You get to walk through an underground history with a guided audio tour of the tunnels that previous Parisians filled with the bodies of the dead. For a very long stretch you are walking past walls of bones and sculls piled higher than your head. Be warned, it’s quite a bit of walking and you don’t finish the walk in the same place as you start. You also will experience a queue, so try and get there first thing in the morning if you can. Tickets are 12 € for adults or 10 € for students/youths. I can’t recommend this enough, especially for people who like dark and creepy things!
8. Staying in St Germain
St Germain is my favourite district to say in when I’m in Paris. It’s surrounded by Universities so there’s tons of nightlife and it’s so close to Notre Dame. I really prefer it to staying near the Eiffel Tour where things can get really touristy and expensive. There’s amazing shopping and cafes on every corner in St Germain. One of the most famous is Les Deux Magots, where artists including Hemmingway and Picasso used frequent.
9. Seeing the Louvre at night
Going into the Louvre is great, especially if you have the time to really appreciate everything, but I really love just seeing the stunning archetecture of the outside of the museum! Seeing the glass pyramid lit up at night is so beautiful and if you go after the museum closes there’s never a lot of people around. Definitely a must for a diferent perspective of the famous Louvre.
10. Having a café and pastry each morning
This is the best thing about Paris – good coffee and great pastry. Indulging each morning for breakfast is totally OK when you’re on vacation! There are cafes on every corner so find a good one close to where your staying and sit outside with a good book, as the Parisians do.