Updated: Jul 17, 2020
I’m so excited to finally share my Paris Travel Journal! Included in this story are all the places I visited and any tips I can share that may help you with your next trip. Here’s where I stayed, ate and visited:
We travelled by metro. Having never been to Paris before, I was a little skeptical at first, but I found myself pleasantly surprised after just a few rides. The lines were actually very straightforward and easy to navigate. In my opinion, on of the only downsides to the metro is that you can't see much of the city underground! While I still believe that it's one of the best forms of transportation for first-timers, I'd also like to trying busing around the city on my next visit.
TIP!: The metro is a prime spot for pickpocketing, and those snatchers are FAST. Please be very cautious of your belongings in crowded public places.
Must-do things in Paris:
1. Climb the Eiffel Tower
It's a bit of a hike up the stairs so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. If you'd like to spend more time at the Tower, there are lunch+dinner reservations available at two different restaurants on the first and second floors. Reservations include passes to the main observation deck .
Photography tip!: If you're looking to take beautiful shots of the Eiffel Tower, exit the metro at Trocadero- one stop before the Eiffel Tower. It's only a about a fifteen minute walk to the base of the Eiffel, but offers a much more stunning view.
2. Jardins du Trocadero
Wondering where those beautiful staircase portraits are from? That's the staircase leading to the Trocadero gardens. You can reach it from the metro line B, getting off at Trocadero station. If you have the time, I'd strongly suggest visiting it the early morning- the sunrise is beautiful and the steps can get quite busy with tourists after 9.
Photography Tip: This was one of the places I had to visit more than once on my four-day trip. If you have the time, I'd also suggest watching the tower at night. There's a light show every night, every hour on the hour, where the tower is covered in golden lights for five minutes.
Paris' most famous high-end shopping avenue. Beware of pickpockets!
4. Notre Dame Cathedral
Ah, the famous Notre Dame- one of the most famous attractions in Paris. Security moves pretty quickly, so don't panic when you see the loooong line a people in front of the entrance. Admission to the cathedral is free, but you'll need to pay a little extra to climb the tower (~€8.50) and the crypt (~€6). Access to both is included in the Paris Pass, however, it's worth noting that while the tower view (and getting to see the gargoyles up close) is amazing, there isn't a lift and it's quite a difficult climb. Some would argue that it's not worth the trek for anyone with foot/knee pains, so be sure to do your research ahead of time!
While you're in the area, be sure to stop by A. lacroix patissier for some delicious desserts. It's a fairly small shop that we stumbled upon a little way down the road, but the "Notre Dame" apple-shaped treat is truly something. The coffee is pretty good too!
5. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is the grand archway at the end of Champs-Elysees avenue. It's a grand piece of architecture during the day, but most don't know that it also offers spectacular rooftop views of the Eiffel tower at night! Definitely my favourite (classic) nighttime view of the tower so far. Kids under 17 get in for free and an adult fare is about €8 during summer months. If you're planning to head up, I strongly suggest wearing comfortable shoes (more climbing up an incredible spiral staircase, however, there is also a lift) and a jacket in case it gets chilly. While it's best to check the ticket hours before your visit, the ticket office usually closes at 10:30pm and the monument at 11pm. We went up at around 9:30 in mid August, and had a stunning view of the sunset over Paris.
Note: Be careful crossing the streets surrounding the Arc. To reach the monument itself, find the entrance to the underground tunnel. It should look like a metro entrance directly facing the Arc de Triomphe. Please don't go running across the roundabout.
Photography Tip: If you're planning to visit at night, it will probably be dark by the time you get to the top. Adjust your shutter speed accordingly. There's also a light show every night, every hour on the hour, where the tower is covered in golden lights for five minutes.
6. The Louvre Museum
Okay, where to start? Seriously. This place is enormous! The world's largest art museum. You could literally spend days and days wondering around and not even get to all the parts of the museum.
The Louvre has a beautiful exterior view, and so I'll leave the decision whether or not to enter the museum up to you. Like all museums, it isn't for everyone. Because we had such a short time in Paris (and we're not super keen on art history ourselves) we opted to just snap a few pictures with the iconic Pyramid centerpiece and continue exploring other parts parts of the city. However, it's completely up to you! My best friend (a talented artist) would argue that its one of the best things to see for any kind of creator.
7. Musée d'Orsay
If touring the Louvre seems a bit daunting, perhaps you might be a little more comfortable spending some time at the (much smaller) Musee d'Orsay instead- just off the Left Bank of the Seine.
The museum is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built for the 1900 World Fair. It now holds french art from paintings and sculptures to furniture and photography.
A not-to-miss feature of the Musée d'Orsay is the famous clock tower on the fifth floor. While I haven't been myself (I guess I'll just have to go back!), I heard it's best to arrive early and head straight up the fifth floor before touring the museum. Some people will definitely wonder what you're doing and staff might even redirect you to the other exhibits, but remember that you can always come back to the museum after snapping a few (tourist-free) shots with the clock.
8. Centre Georges Pompidou
If you're looking to do some more shopping in Paris, another stop is the area surrounding Centre Georges Pompidou (the Centre itself is also a museum for the arts). Unlike Champs-Elysees, it's packed with more American stores but still has a very European architectural style.
9. Sacre Coeur Basilica
Sacre Coeur is another beautiful church located in Montmartre- an area of Paris known for its artistic history. The basilica is open 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily, and admission is free. While you're in the area, another great stop is the Moulin Rouge for a taste of the famous night life.
Other amazing things to do:
10. Afternoon Coffee at Printemps Rooftop Cafe
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the charming views of the city and Eiffel Tower. To get there, head to the top floor of Paris Galeries Lafayette (the shopping centre).
11. The Catacombs of Paris
An underground tunnel network that holds the remains of more than six million people dating back to ancient burial tombs. Honestly, this one's probably for the history geeks/those interested in staring at an excessive amount of ancient skulls. (Aka. me.)
12. The Latin Quarter
Take in the life and the buzz and the food. It's definitely one of my favourite areas in Paris- there's just so much culture and energy!
13. While you're there, be sure to stop by the Abbey Bookshop on la rue parcheminerie. Step away from the famous Shakespeare and Co (which is also a great spot to visit) and slip away from the crowds of Notre Dame. Soon enough, you'll come across a cobbled path with books spilling out onto the street. Here you'll find a variety of English books and literature. Grab some coffee, and enjoy the feeling of reading in a little European bookstore.
14. Visit a local farmer's market. It's a great way to spend your morning and immerse yourself in some local french produce! The Bastille Farmers Market is by far Paris' largest and most famous market, though it is only open on Thursdays and Sundays!
Well, there you have it- my Paris travel journal! As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or requests for future content- seriously, I'd love to hear from you!
Until next time,