- Go to Marais, Montmartre or the 6th Arrondissement and get absolutely lost.
- If you end up in Marais, walk down Rue de Bretagne to the Marché couvert des Enfants Rouges (amazing market) and pick up a bottle of wine and some cheese on your way to the enchanting park of Place des Vosges. This is one of Paris’s hidden gems!
- If you end up in Montmartre, I’d suggest either taking a 2CV tour of the area, or as I said above, getting intentionally lost. But regardless of which one you choose, afterwards, you have to go find Rue des Abbesses, sit at one of their cafes and soak up the magnificence that surrounds you. I think this is one of the best streets in Paris.
- The 6th Arrondissement is on the ‘Left Bank’, which is on the other side of the river from Montmartre and Marais. It is completely charming and known for its café culture, art galleries and revolutionary intellectualism. It was also the hood of Voltaire and Napoleon. Per the advice of one of my Parisian friends when I asked her what I should do while in ‘the Sixth’, she responded, “You should go to the Pantheon and from there, walk to the Jardin Du Luxembourg. Afterwards, take Rue de Vaugirard and turn right on Boulevard Raspail. At the corner of Raspail / Rue de Sèvres, turn right on Rue de Sèvres and you’ll catch a sight of the incredible boutique Hermes. From there you will see the Square Boucicaut behind you and behind that is the Bon Marché. If you continue to take Rue de Sèvres to Rue de Rennes, it will take you to Saint Germain des Prés.” I took her advice and undoubtedly saw some of the best of Paris.
- On a smaller scale, but worth seeing for its stain glass alone, Saint Germain des Pres is the oldest church in Paris and nestled in one of it’s most iconic neighborhoods. It is also here where the great philosopher René Descartes is buried.
- Buy a bottle of wine and walk down the Seine River at night under the sparkling Parisian sky.
- Père Lachaise is one of the world’s most fascinating cemeteries. It is home to the tombs of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Molière, Chopin, Oscar Wilde and a host of other famous names. Aside from this, the landscape and architecture of the cemetery makes it an art piece unto itself.
- Paris is known for its fashion, among other things, which makes shopping at its second-hand shops and vintage markets a total thrill, for women and men alike. Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen and Marché aux puces de la Porte de Vanves are Paris’s best vintage markets and where you can pick up beautiful antiques, name brand fashion, or oil paintings that may have been composed by some old French Master. Also on Sundays in Marais on Boulevard Beaumarchais, you’ll find an incredible street market with charming antiques and vintage clothing. Last time I was there, I bought a beautiful antique brass vase for $10 and it is still my favorite piece at home.
- I might also suggest a stroll through the gardens of the Palace of Fontainebleau, which is just outside the city.
- You can also see a show at the Palais Garnier, better known as the Opera of Paris and the setting for The Phantom of the Opera.
- If you are visiting Paris with someone you enjoy kissing, you can go recreate Robert Doisneau’s Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville (Kiss by the Town Hall) in front of the Hôtel-de-Ville in the 4th arrondissement.
For the more mainstream ventures:
- If you want to stay on ‘the beaten path’ while in the city, consider buying The Paris Pass, which allows you free access to the most famous Paris museums and monuments, with a hop on, hop off bus tour included in the price.
- For incredible views of the city, you can either go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre or Belleville, the hilltop district where Edith Piaf was born. The latter is a great place to have a sundowner.
- If you’ve eaten one too many baguettes with cheese, you can quickly burn it off by climbing 674 steps to the top of the Eiffel Tower. For the not-so-sporty types, you can opt to take the elevator to the top for under €12.50. I would recommend seeing it both during the day and at night when it sparkles!
- Rent a car or take a 2CV car tour on the Champs Elysees and brave the famous Arc de Triomphe roundabout!
- Ok, Ok, Ok… let’s talk about the Louvre. I am going to say something that will be deemed sacrilegious, however, noteworthy. The Louvre is considered the world’s greatest museum… but that all depends on what you consider ‘great’. If it is 18th century paintings of dogs on the hunt, war scenes, or straight-faced portraits of people you’ve never heard of, then the Louvre is for you. You’ll find 783,000 square feet of exactly that. For the rest of you, I’d go take your money shot in front of its famous pyramid by I.M. Pei, and then either hit the pavement and go see PARIS or visit the impressionists (Picasso, Renoir, Monet) at Musee D’Orsay. Yes, I know Mona is inside the Louvre but she is small and surrounded by thick glass and 300 people with flashing cameras, so I am of the opinion that studying a print of her is much more interesting than going to see her at the Louvre. If you are visiting Paris for longer than an extended weekend, going to the Louvre might make sense, but if you only have two or three days, there are so many other things to spend your time doing. If you do decide to go, buy your tickets in advance! The ticket line at the Louvre is something of an anomaly. It may be one of the longest lines I’ve ever seen. If you buy your tickets in advance online, you get to skip the queue and walk right in.
- Versailles is one of the most well known palaces in the world and the poster child for opulence. It was home to the royal family, political center of France during Louis XIV’s reign and remains to this day completely intact. For these reasons, it has important historical significance in French history. If you enjoy history and are ok with crowds, it is certainly worth seeing. They have an awesome website which contains everything you need to know about its history, opening times, tours, and prices. It would be smart to visit this site and purchase your tickets in advance. Like the Louvre, this will help you avoid lengthy lines.
- Having lived in Europe for a total of seven years, cathedrals and churches have all started to look the same, so when my husband said he wanted to see Notre Dame I was a bit hesitant. I thought if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I could not have been more wrong. Notre Dame is mind-blowing. It is the most awe-inspiring, dignified and glorious cathedral I have ever seen. Don’t let the line scare you. It moves fast and worth every minute of the wait.
- The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a relatively new (1914), yet popular, landmark in Paris and located at the top of Montmartre, the highest point in the city. This stately church was designed by Paul Abadie and built between 1875 and 1914. What I find more interesting than the church itself is the neighborhood it rests in. Montmartre nurtured the great Parisian artists and writers of the 20th century, such as Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh, and Matisse to name a few and today it still gives way to an incredible Bohemian lifestyle. This is also where my favorite street (Rue des Abbesses) is.
- After breaking one of my heels between two disagreeable cobblestones in Germany a few years back, I quickly realized why no one there wears them. Then I went to Paris, where I walked blindly into the birthplace of Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Hermes and Versace wearing my practical German walking boots only to be passed by women in stilettos. This is a city of fashion, so if you are in to discovering the newest wrinkle, you’ve landed in the perfect place. Cutting edge trends and chic Parisian boutiques surround you no matter where in the city you go. With that said, the Louis Vuitton ‘mothership’, called ‘Louis Vuitton Maison Vendôme’, recently redesigned by master architectural auteur Peter Marino, is located in the first arrondissement and whether you have money to spend there or not, you should at least go see this incredible space.
- After all of this walking around your feet probably need a rest, so it is finally time to nestle into the café culture of Paris. And I do mean ‘nestle’. As it is in Vienna, the Parisian café is a place to sit and stay awhile. You may at first think that Parisian waiters are rude, but unlike the Viennese waiters, they actually aren’t. They are simply professional men (most often men) in a hurry, waiting on tourists that are speaking a cocktail of languages. Unlike many of the waiters in English speaking countries who are waiting tables until they get a ‘real job’, for most French waiters this is their career. So go easy on them. They will be around to help you shortly. My favorite Parisian cafés are on the Rue des Abbesses in Montmartre but you can honestly go anywhere in Paris and find the ‘perfect spot’.
- The oldest restaurant in France is in ‘the 6th’ on Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie and is called Procope. It was established in 1686 but still has incredible food, is reasonably priced, and still has the hat that Napoleon left as an IOU, and the table at which Voltaire frequented and drank many of his forty daily cups of coffee.