A friend recently asked for recommendations of places to see in Paris, France.
Usually I pass on my blog postings on specific cities when people ask me for travel suggestions. At the time I visited Paris, I wasn’t blogging about my travels. Paris was a place I loved too much, and as such I decided to write about it before my memory became foggy!
I stayed for 10 days in Paris! I was there from Dec 13th 2014 to Dec 25th 2014. I stayed with family. My dad’s brother and his family lives in Paris. Part of what made my trip so special was the family I have there! They always had different kind of pastries picked up from the local bakery for breakfast. My aunt who is an amazing cook made us some incredible dinners including crepes! I loved the crepe she made more so then the ones I ate in various places in Paris! My Uncle and cousins came along with me and my brother to many of the places we visited. To show us places that they enjoyed in Paris. We also spend Christmas with them and that was such a memorable and fun experience. Good company can very much influence how much you love a trip. I think one of the reasons I remember Paris so fondly is the family I stayed with and the care with which they took care of us !
We were picked up by car from the airport by family, and also went to Palace of Versailles and some of the malls using the car. For almost everything else we used the subway system in Paris. It can be a bit confusing at first, use the signs/maps posted and ask questions (to the staff who speak English, or anyone else who stops to help) and you can get around without much trouble. Make sure to read about the different lines and the concept of zones of the subway system. Be careful with your valuables and always be aware of your surroundings in the subway. Pickpockets are common and you will constantly hear announcement on the train about pickpockets.
Champs-Elysees & Arc de Triomphe
Champs-Elysees is a famous street in Paris. On both sides there are street vendors and famous stores. If you go to Paris you must walk down this street. The street vendors sell all kind of food and souvenirs. We visited here the first night we were in Paris and on the 2nd last day of our trip during the day time. We also passed around this area many times. We bought different type of foods from the vendors. Did not do much shopping in the stores on this street. I found shopping to be expensive compared to North America and not good value for my money! If you walk straight down Champs-Elysees you will hit Arc de Triomphe. Arc de Triomphe is a famous monument in Paris. It is there to honor those who died in the French Revolutionary War. Similar to the Eiffel tour it is also a symbol of Paris. There are a few metro stops where you can get off at to get to this street.
The Eiffel Tower
Most days we were in France we took the train to downtown Paris and just walked around. We had passed the Eiffel tower and the area around it many times. During the day time and at night time. It is a stunning sight from anywhere in Paris. I recommend allocating a day to just go see the tower and wander the area around it. Paris is the perfect city to wander aimlessly. To find a café or restaurant and just sit there enjoying it and watch the people and the city around you. It is filled with so much history and some of the buildings have been around for centuries. For someone like me who is from North America there is just something so very intriguing about an old city like Paris. We went up the tower at night time. The view from the tower was stunning as well! I was there in December, so there wasn’t that much of a line. I have heard the lines can be quite long in the summer. I definitely recommend seeing the tower during both day time and at night time.
The Louvre is the largest Museum in the world and it has an amazing collection of art work and sculptures. I love paintings and if you enjoy art and museums I would recommend dedicating an entire day for it. Such breathtaking collection of paintings! Go early right when it opens and go see some of the more famous paintings before the crowd starts pouring in. You can also rent an audio guide which I found to be really helpful and informative. I found most of the tourists were just interested in the Mona Lisa. Such a shame! The entire museum is filled with treasures! Also the underground area near the Louvre had nice shops and restaurants ( if you need a break from all the stunning architecture ) .
More than the Louvre I enjoyed the Museum de Orsay. I like impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Orsay has many pieces from this era. Van Gogh and Monet are my favorite artists and this museum has the most Van Gogh paintings. The area around the museum is also very beautiful for a stroll. The museum itself is a former railway station located on the left bank of the Seine. I went to this museum on my own and enjoyed the alone time to wander and collect my thoughts.
Notre Dame Cathedral
I also visited the Notre Dame Cathedral. This was a beautiful church and the area around it had many street vendors selling all kinds of merchandises. We also had dinner at a near by restaurant. We visited the church and spend the next few hours walking the neighborhoods near the Church. Highly recommend visiting this area as well.
Sacre –Coeur Basilica also known as The White Church
The white church is another interesting place in Paris. It sits on a hill and gives you different view of the city. The Moulin Rouge is near the white Church. There are also many souvenir shops near the white church if you needed some souvenirs. In Paris always be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables protected. This is an area where I noticed some people that made me a bit uncomfortable. I was with a group of 4 other people. Just right below the church there was a chocolate place. I loved the chocolate and cookies out of the chocolate stores of Paris.
Palace de Versailles
Palace de Versailles is a bit outside Paris. This palace is located in the city Versailles. A charming city. You can either take the train there or drive. We drove here. Beautiful Palace stunningly designed inside and out. Gives you a great view of how royalty lived. The grounds around the palace are beautifully designed. It is the first true castle/palace I have been to ! In some areas I can almost imagine knights riding down the path (I watch too many tv shows set in a historic setting) . I would recommend reading about the place before visiting it or taking a guided tour! There are a lot of areas to cover, so do allocate a day if you can afford the time!
Jardin du Luxembourg
We visited this garden. It is a beautiful garden in the middle of the city with nice fountains. We were there in December so didn’t have a chance to see all the flowers and greenery that I imagine would be there in the summer. Nevertheless it was a beautiful place to visit. I highly recommend it especially if you are visiting in the summer months .
Different Neighborhoods of Paris
Since I stayed with family they took me to different neighborhoods of Paris. Just to explore and enjoy the restaurants. We took the metro to most such neighborhoods. I have posted some photos below of the different areas we have visited.
Neighborhoods we visited (it may not be all, but I tried to capture as many as I remembered) :
- The Right Bank
- Champs-Élysées and Western Paris (8e, 16e and 17e)
- Opéra and Canal St-Martin (9e and 10e)
- Pigalle and Montmartre (18e)
- République, Bastille and Eastern Paris (11e and 12e)
- Latin Quarter (5e)
- St-Germain-des-Prés and Luxembourg (6e)
- Eiffel Tower and Nearby (7e)
- Montparnasse and Southern Paris (13e, 14e and 15e)
I visited most of the neighborhoods highlighted by this article and recommend a visit to each one . This article gives a good overview of each of the neighborhood.
Things I recommend against doing:
Centre Pompidou – I didn’t like this building nor did I find it fascinating. This is the only place I really didn’t like in Paris!
We were there in December. There were many Christmas Markets open at that time and it was a wonderful experience visiting some of them. I would imagine depending on the time of the year Paris may have different activities/festivals going on. Do take the time to look it up and visit! Paris is a stunning city that I don’t think I can get tired of! I would love to go back!