Paris, France, the City of Light. With grand boulevards, world-class art museums, chic boutiques, and countless crêpe stands, Paris is the world capital for art, fashion, and food. You may hear a lot of warning about French people being rude, but not so. Learn a few basic French phrases – making an effort to speak their language will help the French to immediately open up to you. For instance, “where is the Metro?” is “Où est le métro?”.
Here’s are the Paris attractions to visit (and what to skip).
Visiting the Eiffel Tower is practically mandatory. SKIP going up – you’ll stand in several lines, including one for each lift and the line for tickets. Your Instagram photo will be more magnificent WITH the Eiffel Tower in it, so climb the Arc de Triomphe to get the city view that clearly shows you are in Paris. At night, the Eiffel Tower puts on a sparkling light display (10 minutes long) which happens every hour, on the hour, until 1AM.
The Arc de Triomphe, at the west end of the Champs-Elysees, was planned by Napoleon to commemorate all of his military successes. The monument is considered the linchpin of the historic axis (L’Axe historique) — a sequence of monuments and thoroughfares on a route which stretches from the Louvre Palace to the outskirts of Paris.
Notre Dame Cathedral, with its French Gothic Architecture, features flying buttresses, portals surrounded by ornate carvings and many gargoyles on the roof. Walk around the outside of the cathedral, and tour the interior. Also, climb up the 387 steps to the top of the towers to get up-close with the gargoyles overlooking the city. I skipped this climb when I was there – don’t make the same mistake!
Near the Notre Dame Cathedral is a little Gothic gem known as Sainte Chapelle (Holy Church). The plain lower chapel was for servants and an ornate stained glass laden upper chapel was reserved for the king and court member.
Musee D’Orsay, which houses Europe’s greatest Impressionist collection, was converted from an old train station. The museum holds French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including an extensive collection of paintings from: Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Manet, Degas and so many more.
The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum holds some of the greatest works – from Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to the Venus de Milo to the Winged Victory. More than 25,000 people visit the Louvre every day, and almost everyone lines up to see the Mona Lisa painting. Skip it. The actual Mona Lisa painting is much smaller than the posters they sell in the gift shop.
Skip the lines – and gain free entry – at over 60 museums and monuments in and around Paris with the Paris Museum Pass. Choose from 2, 4, or 6-day passes.
Personally, I would skip the fancy French restaurants. Their portions are generally too small for this girl. (What can I say, I like good eats!)
Instead, pick up some baguettes, cheese and wine from a supermarket. Have a picnic at Parc du Champ de Mars under the Eiffel Tower, or on the banks of the Seine overlooking Notre Dame.
Part of the Parisian food experience is ordering from the crepe stand. Crêpes are the all-time classic French food. Around the city you’ll encounter hundreds of stalls and cafés selling these paper-thin pancakes. The topping options varies from place to place, but the classics are: lemon and sugar, Nutella, or Nutella and banana. This might come in handy: Combien ça coûte? (How much does that cost?)
The bakeries and corner cafés feel anchored in another time. Find a boulangerie (bakery) for your baguette, croissant, or brioche fix. Enjoy your coffee at any number of small cafes on the grand boulevards.
Dessert! Oui, s’il vous plaît (yes, please). Indulge in colorful little macarons at world-renowned patisserie, Ladurée (responsible for the creation of the macaron).
A Paris Metro Pass gives you unlimited use of the Paris Metro system (the best and most economic way to see Paris). In case you get lost, remember to ask “Où est le métro?”.
Find out what time the sun sets, and book a river cruise on the Seine for that hour. Skip the dinner cruise, unless you are prepared to spend an additional 100 euros.
WHERE TO STAY
Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, the is former home of Napoleon Bonaparte’s grandnephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte. Book a room with commanding views of the Eiffel Tower and the River Seine.
A few steps from the Champs-Elysées, the Saint James Paris is a 100-year old château surrounded by its own private garden, offering a unique experience of grandeur and intimacy, classicism and extravagance.