The ultimate European destination, Paris is a chic dream. Spend hours getting lost in the Louvre, enjoy a macaron (or two) along the Seine & fall in love with the Eiffel Tower as it sparkles.
This time around, Spring had sprung in Paris and the city streets were filled with tourists! We were lucky to have amazing weather the 5 days we were there and we managed to squeeze in A LOT of things! Here is a list of the things we were able to do, as well as some helpful tips for you:
Hotel Des Nations: St. Germain
We arrived to Gare du Nord on the high-speed train from Amsterdam and went straight to our hotel in the Latin Quarter. We found the deal on Expedia, for a hotel room for 4 people. It comfortably slept four adults (two small pull out sofa beds and two single beds) and was in a great location. (It was across the street from one metro line and walking distance to Notre Dame).
Sandeman’s New Europe Walking Tour
Like in Amsterdam, we were able to take a free walking tour with Sandemans. We always love doing these in every city we visit because you learn a lot about the history, architecture and hidden gems of a place. The best part about the tour is that you decide the amount the tour was worth and tip your guide accordingly! We spent our first morning in Paris, learning lots from our enthusiastic tour guide Paul.
Musée de l’Orangerie
Later that afternoon, we decided to visit the Musée de l’Orangerie, home to many famous impressionists works of art. I’ve never been a huge fan of museums, but I really loved this one. They had two large circular rooms filled with Monet’s water lily paintings. If you are an EU resident aged 18-26, you can enter the museum for FREE. Since Mark and I have our Spanish resident cards, we were able to do this at a lot of places throughout the city! If you are not an EU Resident, but fall between the ages of 18-26, you can get a discounted ticket for 6.50 euros. It costs 16 euros for a regular combo ticket, which also grants you entrance to the Musee d’Orsay–which I recommend if you have the time. Separately, the museums cost 9 euros each. When we visited in the afternoon, the lines were not very long, but if you have already purchased your ticket, there is a shorter line for you. I recommend buying your tickets online in advance to cut out some time.
Obviously for our first night in Paris we had to see the Eiffel Tower Light Show. Every hour on the hour from 9pm till 1am, the tower SPARKLES for 5 minutes. It’s truly magical and I think it’s something I could never get sick of seeing. The first night we viewed the light show from the stretch of grass behind the tower. There seemed to be less people in this area, and we were able to view it from a close distance. We also viewed the light-show from Trocadero (a metro stop on lines 6 or 9). It’s one of the best views in Paris, but can get very crowded. One night we also caught the end of the light show from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which is quite an amazing view. (I’m convinced that anywhere you see it is spectacular, though).
If you are hoping to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower, book your tickets in advance online (at least 2-3 MONTHS before your visit) or expect to wait in line for 2-3 hours! We unfortunately, didn’t get online tickets in time and chose not to wait in line, but we did manage to see some impressive views of Paris from other places. (It costs 17 euros for an adult, and 14.50 for people aged 12-24). You can buy your tickets online here.
Notre Dame / Towers
The next morning we set out early to climb to the top of Notre Dame. Access to the tower is open 10am-6:30pm. Before the towers opened, there was already a long line but we found it moved relatively quickly! It costs 10 euros to climb to the top (or free with your EU Resident card). There are 387 stairs to the very top (a small spiral staircase that leads you up). You first come out at a viewing area, where you can see Paris and the famous bells. Then, there are more stairs that take you to the highest viewing point of the tower for a 360 view of the city. I’m afraid of heights (as you may have read in previous posts) and I didn’t find this to be too difficult for me. I wouldn’t recommend going all the way to the top if you are afraid of heights, however, because the view didn’t seem to be any better in my opinion.
We didn’t see Quasimodo but the view of Paris was spectacular! I loved being able to see the famous gargoyles up close!
Later in the week, we were able to visit Notre Dame Cathedral. Although the line outside may seem daunting, don’t be alarmed, it moves pretty quickly!! It’s free to go inside the Cathedral, so that’s always a plus. (It’s actually the most visited tourist attraction in Paris!) If you don’t want to wait in such a long line, I suggest arriving early when it first opens or later in the day before it closes. We visited on Good Friday, and they had the Crown of Thorns on display. People were allowed to line up and kiss it. It was really interesting to see.
I also suggest visiting Notre Dame at night. The area is much less crowded and the view is just as grand!
Claude Monet’s Gardens
After climbing up (and down) all the many stairs of Notre Dame’s tower, we decided to spend the rest of our day in Giverny, France, visiting Claude Monet’s House & Gardens. Check out our blog post here, for more details about our trip there!
Le Vieux Bistrot
After our trip to Giverny, we decided to do dinner in the Latin Quarter, near our hotel. We were lucky enough to stumble upon a quaint little restaurant called Le Vieux Bistrot. We had THE MOST AMAZING meal at this place!! It was so good, we came back again on Friday for our last dinner together in Paris. They have a wide selection of meals, including fondues (cheese, meats and deserts). They also have a select menu, that you pay 19.50 euros for a 3 course meal. Our first night at Le Vieux, Mark and I tried the Fondue. We shared the cheese and meat fondue, which was MORE than enough for 2 people to share. It was really fun cooking the meat in our peanut oil and the cheesy fondue was amazing! Our Mom’s tried the Menu of the day, which is what we all did again the second night we were there. Here are some of the things we would recommend: Starters: goat Cheese Salad, 3 cheese pastry, avocado shrimp salad, mussels with wine, Entrees: Beef Bourguignon, filet of salmon trout, duck leg, vegetarian dish, Desert: Creme Brûlée, Chocolate Mouse, tart au pom . I would consider Le Vieux a must-do in Paris, especially if you’re looking for a quality meal at a good price!
The following day of our trip we decided to visit the Chateau de Versailles! It’s a quick train ride outside of the city and I highly recommend it. For more information about visiting Versailles, check out our blog post here.
The next day, we decided to spend the morning exploring Montmartre, an area of Paris known for it’s art. We loved this area so much, we decided to dedicate an entire blog post about it! Check it out here.
That afternoon, we had time to visit the other impressionist museum (we had bought the combo ticket at the Musée de l’Orangerie earlier in the week). This museum was once a railway station but was converted to a museum in the 1970’s. It holds a lot of Monet, Van Gough and Renoir. In my opinion, the best things are on the top floor, so start there (so you have the most energy) and work your way down.
Through Sandeman’s Tour, we were able to buy discounted tickets for a river cruise along the Seine. They are usually 15 euros but we were able to buy them discounted for 13 euros. The boat company we used was Bateaux Sightseeing Cruise. There are MANY river cruise companies in Paris (some offer dinner and drinks) so you have lots of opportunities to do this. If you are in Paris for only a short amount of time, I recommend doing this, since you see most of the main sights from the boat. You can choose to sit below, with windows or above in the open air. If the weather is nice, I definitely recommend trying to sit on the top, in either the front or the back of the boat for the best views! They have a lot of seating on the boat, so I wouldn’t be worried about getting a good spot. In my opinion, the best time of day to go is 8:00pm!! You cruise up the river during the day, and as you turn around (at 8:30) the sun has started to set and you see the city at night! It’s the best of both words. By the time you are docking, it’s 9:00pm and you can watch the Eiffel Tower Light show from the boat. It’s perfect!
The Louvre / Jardin des Tuileries
On our last full day in Paris, we decided it was time to visit the Louvre. Check out our previous post about our time exploring this grand museum here. After visiting the Louvre, we spent some time sitting outside in the Jardin des Tuileries, which is in front of the Louvre. They have lots of green chairs in the park, for people to relax in.
After touring the Louvre, we walked from the Jardin des Tuileries to the Champs É’lysées. This street is famous for being one of the best shopping streets in the world. It’s home to many famous restaurants, theaters and shops. The annual Bastille day parade is held on the Champs É’lysées in July.
Arc de Triomphe
On our last night in Paris, we decided to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for one last view of the city. It costs 10 euros to go inside and climb to the top (free if you have your EU residents card and are under 26). The Arc was built to honor those who fought in the Napoleonic wars. Napoleon commissioned the arc to be built but never actually saw it completed. His hope was to march under it on his return home, victorious from battle. During WWII, Hitler marched under the Arc with Nazi troops when they occupied France. It is now home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI. It stands at 162 feet tall (49.5 meters) and 48 feet wide (14.62 meters). The Arc de Triomphe is at the end of the Champs É’lysées and is in the middle of a large rotary (roundabout) with 12 avenues jetting off from it.
We ended our last night with our mothers at the Eiffel Tower to watch one final light show. With only 3 short hours of sleep, we saw our Moms off to the airport on Saturday morning. Since our flight wasn’t until later that day, we had a few more hours to explore Paris.
Not far from our hotel was the Panthéon and we decided to check it out. It was once a church dedicated to St. Genevieve but was later converted to a Mausoleum. The front was modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. It is now the resting place for Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Rousseau. We didn’t have time to go inside, but for 7 euros you can visit the Panthéon.
Jardin du Luxembourg
After walking around the outside of the Panthéon, we headed towards the Luxembourg Gardens. Originally the palace and gardens were built in 1612, and now the building is home to the French Senate. The gardens are open to the public and there are many beautiful flower beds and tree-lined walkways, making it the perfect spot for a stroll.
Overall, our trip was an amazing whirlwind time! According to my mother’s fitbit, we walked 65.8 miles in one week and climbed over 314 flights of stairs! (That’s how we were able to manage our diet of baguettes, macarons and champagne all week!) Here are a few more of our favorite photos from our time in Paris…
We hope these tips have helped you plan your trip to Paris! The next 3 weeks will be very busy for us, as we finish the end of the school year and head off on our 10 day vacation to Croatia! Stay tuned for some more blog posts once we’re stateside at the end of the month!
Au Revoir! Amanda