Here it is! My mini travel guide on what to do + see + eat in Paris, France. I visited last week with my boyfriend and his brother (although Dave and I spent an extra few days alone at le weekend). The weather was terribly cold, but the city is so wonderful and beautiful that we braved the cold (fuelled by pastries!) and tried to discover as many things as possible. What follows is a short selection of must-see stuff and little tips for a fabulous stay in the capital of awesomeness.
Lovers’ locks on a bridge next to the Notre Dame.
WHAT TO SEE
My free ticket for the Musée de l’Orangerie!
First tip: if you’re under 26 and live in the EU, you get into most museums (their permanent collections) for free! Remember to take your ID card/passport/driving licence.
Musée de l’Orangerie (1er, Metro Concorde) – my favourite museum. Small, contained, ALL THE GEMS. Monet and Renoir especially.
Musée d’Orsay (7eme, Metro Assemblée Nationale, Metro Solférino) – I couldn’t fully appreciate this gorgeous museum (it was a quick visit and I was exhausted), but it is absolutely glorious – an old train station, beautiful masterpieces.
Churches – let’s mention two obvious ones which you can spend hours just wandering around in – Notre Dame, and the Sacre Coeur.
Shakespeare and Co. (a bookshop just across the river from the Notre Dame) – books in English. A library on the first floor. You’ll feel like you entered a dream world. Until the book you’d like is on the top shelf and you cannot reach it.
The Musée du Louvre (1er, Metro Palais Royale Musée du Louvre) – it’s massive, it’s beautiful, it’s worthy of a whole day (or more!). However, if you’re only in Paris for a short while, get yourself a map as soon as you walk in, try and figure out where you want to go and what you want to see, and stick to those. Then, once you’re done from those, feel free to wander and get lost! That’s when you find some of the best stuff (in my case: IRAN.).
Organ recitals on Saturday evenings at Notre Dame cathedral. They’re called “Auditions” and they’re brilliant. (And free!)
The Quartier Latin (5eme) – the Latin Quarter. Students, great food, beautiful buildings. The cool place to be. Spend a lot of time in the 5th, it’s great.
An adorable (ridiculously cool) couple in the Jewish Quarter.
Le Marais (4eme) – the most beautiful part of Paris, in my opinion. Gorgeous buildings, narrow streets, amazing shops, lots of Jews! So cool.
Parisian food is mostly amazing. (Steak tartare, forever.)
WHAT/WHERE TO EAT
ALL THE FRENCH BREAD.
Boulangeries (feast your eyes on the delicious, fresh selection, and take your pick. I suggest a number of bite-sized treats, or else a pain au chocolat, a croissant au beurre or a croissant aux amandes for breakfast!) They are also fantastic for cheap (and really delicious and fresh) savoury snacks or lunch (baguettes with cheese!)
Steak Tartare at L’Express Bar. Delish.
L’Express Bar (1er, Metro Les Halles) – this place was An Experience. Great food, very French, a lot of loud French men. Very memorable and very delicious.
Crêpes – you have to eat these in France! Sweet or savoury, they’re all good.
Krung Thep (20eme, Metro Belleville) – a strange restaurant with the narrowest space between rows of tables ever! Fantastic Thai food though. The portions aren’t overly generous, but the flavours were fantastic.
Delicious food at Le Restaurant at the Musée d’Orsay.
Le Restaurant at the Musée d’Orsay – such a grand restaurant, and even though the menu is minuscule, the food is delicious and the service is lovely.
Steak at Les Pipos.
Les Pipos (5eme – Metro Cardinal Lemoine) – a lovely little French restaurant in the 5th arrondissement. The food was very good (if a little more on the expensive side). The foie gras I had was perfect, and my boyfriend had a nice slab of meat (above) which was very nicely cooked.
My avocado starter at Chartier.
Chartier (9eme – Metro Grands Boulevards) – an amazing restaurant with really affordable food, fantastic service, and glorious decor.
Le Petit Cardinal (5eme, Metro Cardinal Lemoine) – I only had a hot chocolate and a dessert here, but they were DIVINE, if expensive. But since they were so divine, I had absolutely no problem with their price. I had a strawberry pannacotta, and the hot chocolate, which was seriously the best hot chocolate I have ever had. I’m still in shock about it. It was that good.
Noix from heaven.
Pâtisserie Viennoise (6eme – Metro Cluny-La Sorbonne) – a small pâtisserie with mouthwatering pastries. I had the one above, it had nuts (noix) in it. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but it was actual heaven.
Foie gras at Le Restaurant at the Musée d’Orsay. Delicious.
Eat something that is you associate with being “very French” – steak tartare, foie gras (if you want to!), frogs’ legs, snails, confit de canard… So much goodness. And their steak saignant is to die for.
French red wine. Yes.
French cider – I bought some at supermarkets and was pleasantly surprised; they have some really great stuff.
Order une caraffe d’eau for free tap water at restaurants!
WHAT TO DO
Stay in accommodation that’s as cheap as possible – we stayed at the Hôtel de Paris for most of our time, because we found it to be the cheapest available – it was actually really great (I was expecting it to be awful for some reason) and had a Metro stop (Porte de Pantin) right outside the door. The area wasn’t the best, but there are lots of places nearby where you can eat, and a splendid boulangerie down the road with the BEST chunky croissants at 80c each (this is right outside the Ourck Metro stop).
Next time I’d also love to stay in a Parisian apartment – holidaylettings.co.uk have very affordable, beautiful options. This is one I’d love to visit next time!
Be careful of people trying to sell you things/pick up “rings” that you allegedly “dropped” on the floor/ ask you to sign things, and so on. Just ignore most people. I had too many uncomfortable experiences, but at least they were only uncomfortable, and no one mugged me, tricked me or harmed me.
Enter a French pharmacy – the skincare for sale is normally hard to get in most other places, and it promises to be incredible. A French skincare haul is soon to follow… :)
Do some shopping in those shops you don’t usually have access to. I spent around €70 at H&M in a heartbeat. Oops. I bought a €35 dress and two cardigans (€15 each).
As I mentioned above, don’t forget to take some form of identification with you, and take care of your belongings every single second. It’s annoying, but required.
Pick up a couple of Metro maps as well as a general city map to carry around. Invaluable. (And make the Google Map section for Paris available offline for your phone!)
Travel by Metro, but also walk a lot! Walking around Paris is amazing because the architecture is so fantastic to look at. It was a bit less comfortable to walk around for us since we were there in February (a.k.a. freezing, freezing, freezing!), but I cannot wait to visit in warmer weather (I envisage whole afternoons lounging around in parks!).
Practise your French! French people can normally speak at least a little English, but their first option is always to speak French. It’s been great to gauge how much I can understand and what I can piece together for locals to understand. It was relatively effective, but I’d love to be a bit more knowledgeable. After a few days I was much more comfortable with the language though.
That’s it! Let me know if you’d like to know anything else – and I do thoroughly recommend a visit to Paris; there’s so much to see and it’s such a magical city.
Check out this fantastic stopmotion video of Paris: