“Paris exists to show you that your dreams are real.” Paris is one of my favorite cities because of the amazing wine, food, culture, and architecture. There is just something so romantic about Paris and it’s not something you can find anywhere else. This was Jake’s first time visiting Europe and my third. I had briefly been to Paris for 24 hours when I did a study abroad in college. Since it was his first time abroad (besides our honeymoon in Bora Bora and spending like 1 hour in Canada at Niagara Falls) and I had only been briefly, we decided to focus this trip mainly on the major sightseeing spots. If you’ve seen my other full guide to cities, you know they’re usually planned around restaurants. Since we only had 3 days in Paris, we decided not plan our trip around restaurants this time. We also only had one dinner reservation during our trip, which was our last meal in Paris. We also skipped out on museums due to limited time.
How to get there/transportation:
- Eurostar: Our first leg of the trip was in London, England. We took the Eurostar train to Paris. When we went home we flew from Charles de Gaulle airport.
- Ubers: When you’re in Paris, I highly recommend Ubering. The prices are waaay less than taxis. Please note: you do have to have Wi-Fi to avoid roaming charges, but we usually had luck picking some up. You also need to know your exact drop-off destination. Once your Uber picks you up, you will likely lose Wi-Fi and not be able to change the destination. We learned this in London.
- Hop-On Hop-Off Bus: The hop-on hop-off busses are famous for a reason. We found out on the last day that this in an efficient form of transportation a lot of times. You can see the whole city pretty quickly, and if you plan to have a day where you’re going to a bunch of places that are too far to walk between, it can be cheaper than individually Ubering to each one. I would recommend doing this at least one day if you’re in Paris for 3 nights or less. They have deals for multiple days too.
Where to Stay/How Long: We stayed for 3 nights in Paris and it was not nearly enough. I would recommend at least 4-5 nights. We stayed at the Hilton Paris Opera Hotel. If you can’t speak French (which we definitely can’t) and haven’t been to Paris before, I do recommend staying at an American-owned hotel due to the fact that a majority of the staff will speak English. The concierge was a lifesaver and helped us pick out restaurants and even had converters for our chargers, since our converter broke in London. While I didn’t love the location of our hotel (there wasn’t much to do on our block), it was close to the train station. Next time I want to stay on Champs-Elysees. It seems like a closer walk to a lot of places we wanted to visit.
- Learn key French words and attempt to speak French: Out of respect, I recommend at least attempting to speak French and learning some key words. A lot of the locals did speak some English, but were way more willing to try to communicate with us when we at least attempted French. I am sure some of them got a kick out of our attempts. Most restaurants even have menus with English.
- Tips are included in meals: I had heard this and was unsure if it was true, but we did confirm this with our hotel. The lady at the concierge desk said tips are certainly appreciated, but it’s nothing like America where we tip 15-20%.
- Meals are leisurely: We noticed that unlike America, people in France take their time with meals. As a result, the service is a lot slower too.
- Adapters: In Europe, your American chargers will not work without an adapter. England and France have different outlets, so we bought one that works for both. Unfortunately it stopped working, but luckily our hotel had one we could borrow. This is another reason I was so glad to stay at an American owned hotel. I would also recommend a dual voltage curling iron. When I went to Europe last time my curler didn’t work.
- Check the Weather: At least when we went both times, the weather was colder than I expected. If you need packing tips for the spring, make sure to check this post out.
- Leave Time to Explore: I read this tip on another blog I came across (cannot remember the blog or I would link it) and it’s so true. You won’t have time to see everything so don’t try to do too much in one day. While you do need to plan, leaving room is important. We made the mistake of packing too much in our NYC trip, so being flexible is important. I made an itinerary each day with what I “had” to accomplish and left gaps for things I wanted to see if we had time.
- Download the app Visit A City: This is how I mapped out our entire trip. It was seriously a life saver. Planning this trip was so stressful for me, since Paris is a huge city. Once I got this app it was so much easier to plan. They have sample itineraries and you can customize it. The app will also recommend the order of visiting certain places based on the most efficient logistics. This is something I struggle with, so it was great to have the app do it for me. I highly recommend downloading your itinerary directly to your phone when you’re done or else you won’t be able to access unless you’re on Wi-Fi.
- Walking Shoes: Like most big cities, you will walk a lot. A lot of times I would bring an extra pair of shoes to change into if I was going into somewhere nice.
- Sparkling/Tap Water: At restaurants they will often ask you what kind of water you want. Sparkling water is extra, although a lot of times it was my preference. The tap water is perfectly acceptable to drink, so unless you like sparkling water I would recommend that. I also noticed ice isn’t very common at restaurants in drinks unless you specifically ask for it.
What to do/see:
- Shopping: You cannot visit Paris without shopping. Although I didn’t buy much, it was fun to look. I recommend Champs-Elysee and Galerie Lafayette.
- Arc de Triomphe: Although the hike up the winding stairs to the top will wear you out (at least it did for me), it’s 100% worth the view. I loved that you can get a view of the Eiffel Tower too. The way down is much easier.
- Eiffel Tower: The Eiffel Tower is so magical and famous for a reason. My favorite experience was seeing it at night and going up to the “second” floor. You MUST visit at night to see it twinkling, which happens every hour. The top was closed due to wind the night we went, but it was still amazing at the part we were able to go up to. They sell champagne and beer, so it’s a perfect romantic stop. We didn’t pre-buy tickets and didn’t have to wait long, but I would recommend looking into it. Next time I want to go in a warmer month and have a picnic outside.
- Louvre: We didn’t go in the Louvre this trip due to limited time, but you must go visit the grounds. I do want to spend a day there next time. I went during my brief Paris trip and it was too rushed.
- Le Palais Royal: Although we didn’t go inside here as well, the grounds are worth visiting. It is just opposite of the Louvre.
- Umbrellas at Village Royal: When we were riding in an Uber, we drove by there. I was so bummed that we couldn’t stop. It would be the perfect photo spot.
- Alexander Bridge: Not only is the bridge gorgeous, but you get a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower.
- While I don’t regret it, I don’t recommend venturing out of Paris unless you have more than 4-5 days. We did a day trip to Reims and I wish we had just stayed in Paris. You can read about our Reims trip here.
- If it rains on your trip, make sure to check this post out for rainy day activity ideas. Rain seems to follow Jake and I on vacation.
- Notre Dame: Jake and I feel so blessed to have seen the gorgeous Notre Dame Cathedral just weeks before the fire. We lit a candle in memory of his precious “Ma.” As heartbroken as I am, I am so happy to hear that they were able to save a lot of the gorgeous art and plan to rebuild it.
Where to eat:
- Marco Polo: This was by our hotel and had the best lasagna and crepes.
- Vaudeville: Our hotel recommended this spot and the scallops were excellent. We tried snails for the first time there as well and they were surprisingly amazing.
- Any local café: The food in Paris is so fresh and I don’t think you can go wrong with most local cafes. I would just check the menu and determine based on the food you see them bringing out.
- Angelina: We went here for brunch after our hotel recommended it. The Croque Madame was excellent.
Foods/Drinks to try:
- Nutella Crepes
- Anything Italian: We were blown away with how delicious the Italian food is in France.
- Croque Madame
- Macarons: I recommend Laduree. We also tried Pierre Hermes and it was good too.
- Wine: The wine doesn’t have as many preservatives and was delicious. I was surprised by how affordable it is. We would split a carafe and it was so reasonable.
- Champagne: You cannot visit France without real champagne. I recommend trying a “kir royale,” a champagne drink mixed with fruit flavoring.
- Spent a day at the Louvre
- Spend time roaming St. Germaine
- Musée d’Orsay
- Jardin du Luxembourg
- Sacre Coeur
- River cruise (we did one in London, but would love to do it in Paris along the Seine River)
- Cooking class
- Wine tasting (We visited Reims to do Champagne tasting, but I would love to do wine tasting in Paris).
- Palace of Versailles
Stay tuned, a full guide to London, England will be coming soon. Have you been to Paris? If so, what if your favorite thing to do there?