I have now been to Paris 5 times, which is more than I honestly ever thought I’d get to go. So, I am feeling a little bit spoiled as I write this, but I am offering up some good tips to balance it all out. I have gone solo, I have gone with children, on a romantic trip, and most recently, on a mother-daughter vacay. I have been in every season, and stayed in a hostel, hotels, and on a boat (my favorite!)
Here’s THE list of places to eat and things to see while in the City of Light:
WHERE TO STAY
Personally, I love to stay in or near the 6th arrondissement (an arrondissement is a smaller area within Paris). I like the shops, I like the food, and I like that it’s within easy walking distance of most monuments or less than 10 minutes to the metro. One of my favorite reasons to stay in this area…the Luxembourg Gardens (more about them in the “What to Do” section.”)
I have stayed in a few hotels, most recently the Hotel Saint Paul Rive Gauche (Here’s where you can book a stay https://www.hotelsaintpaulparis.com/.) It was a charming, small locale perfect for the birthday trip I recently took my mom on. The rooms were average sized for Paris (small by American standards), but clean and quiet! I am such a light sleeper, so quiet is important for me.
As I already mentioned, my absolute favorite place to stay was on the Seine river itself. I found a boat, right across from the Louvre, and booked that baby as fast as I could on AirBnB. We could not have been in a better location, and its gentle rocking motion sent me straight to sleep every night. We had a small kitchen, laundry, and a glassed in area to sip coffee whilst we watched the boats zip by. Our host, Rene, was the sweetest, most animated man and was willing to help us whenever we needed (even hauling luggage at the butt crack of dawn).
Now, this particular boat only slept 2 adults, and I would not suggest it for anyone who has a handicap, or if you’re going to mind climbing over another boat to get to it. This is a bit of an “adventurous” home away from home, for Paris at least. Sadly, I no longer saw the exact boat we rented on Airbnb site, but I did see several other options pop up that allowed for stays on the Seine, so check them out and let me know if you stay in one!
WHAT TO SEE
Obviously, a million articles already exist on this. This list is going to be more of the things I really enjoyed, and make it easy for me to imagine I am living the Parisian lifestyle.
- Musee D’Orsay- Can I even say how much I love this museum? Where the Louvre feels massive, this museum is conquerable. Where the Louvre feels like a maze, this museum is full of light and space. Also, the rooftop views are stunning when the top patio is opened. I think it may be one of the best views in all of Paris. I actually have a metal print of the photo I took of that very view in my living room.
- The Eiffel Tower- Quintessential Parisian must. Is it worth going to the top? I’d say yes. I prefer it at night, when it’s all lit up and you get to be a part of the light show that happens every hour, on the hour for about 5 minutes.
- L’Atelier des Lumieres- I am NOT a crier, but I teared up in this very cool art experience. Music, lighting, and famous artworks (usually a few specific artists are the main feature) engulf you in this insane projection show in a very industrial building that is transformed with color and emotion. The art presented changes periodically, so I would check to see who they are featuring when you go. Check out the latest show here https://www.atelier-lumieres.com/en
- The Louvre (from the outside)- So if you’ve never been and are dying to spend half a day or more in a museum, by all means go see Mona Lisa (I have never been so disappointed with a painting in all my life), Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory (she might be worth it). Otherwise, go and admire the ridiculously opulent former palace exterior, the giant glass pyramid, and people watching which is quite good. There is a cafe where you can enjoy the view as well, but you’ll probably pay an arm and leg to eat or drink there
- Jardin du Luxembourg- I love gardens, and fountains, and architecture, and therefore, this beautiful spot holds a special place in my heart. Created by Marie Medici, yes those Medicis, who was at the time the widow of the king of France. Built in 1612, she had it fashioned after a garden in her native Florence. The garden has some beautiful fountains-in particular the Fontaine de Medicis, as well as many statues standing in tribute to queens and other illustrious women of France. There are a few places to grab a snack nearby or in the garden itself which make this an excellent place to relax and breathe in those Parisian good vibes.
- Montmartre/Sacre Coeur- I love coming to Montmartre, and it probably has something to do with the artists live painting in Place du Tertre, the views from the steps of Sacre Coeur, and the vintage carousel at the bottom of the hill that just brings me a vision of what Paris at the turn of the 20th century might have felt like. Midnight in Paris anyone?
- Musee de Mineralogie- Total niche thing to do, but if you’re into rocks and crystals, this place is a must see. We spent at least an hour in this museum on a rainy day, and were pleasantly surprised at the amount in the collection. Not only that, but the museum is located inside an academic building, not sure if it’s a university or trade school, but it MADE me want to go back to school- in Europe. Only one other couple came in while we were browsing, so we basically had the whole place to ourselves. Most of the descriptions were in French, but they did have an English pamphlet. There was also a very sweet man overseeing the museum and he explained some interesting things about the structure of some of the minerals in French. I am not sure if there is a live English guide or not, but the collection alone doesn’t really need words.
WHERE TO EAT
- Les Ombres- If you want to see the Eiffel Tower and the have the most amazing photos, book dinner here. Seriously, some of the best views I have seen, and they have a prix fixe menu that’s truly affordable for Paris. Food is pretty good, but the views will not disappoint. Make sure to ask for an outdoor table, or if it’s too cold, ask for a table by the window. https://www.lesombres-restaurant.com/
- Pink Mama- So, I know like every Instagrammer has been here, but I really do recommend it. The building exterior is markedly nothing noteworthy for Paris (though it is pinkish tile) but the inside is SO charming, the food was fresh and delicious, and the waiters were singing and escorting people up the three flights of stairs to our seats. So, the staff was genuinely pumped and jolly to be serving there which is a rarity in Paris. Do try the Burrate-it’s so fresh and creamy- I am still dreaming about it months later.
- Boulangeries Paul- Not a restaurant at this location, but the perfect little food stand situated at the top left of the Trocadero. I love going here, grabbing a crepe with ham, cheese, and an egg, and staying full until dinner for about $7. It’s cheap, quick, and a yummy handheld meal you can carry around whilst snapping photos of the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero Fountains. Perfect for the budget traveler.
- Hot chocolate and dessert at Angelina- more like porridge than hot chocolate: the thickest, creamiest hot chocolate you’ve ever had. It’s so thick, you could definitely share it with a friend to make sure you have room for dessert. As beautiful as they are tasty, the desserts here are hard to start eating as they’re little mini works of art. Once you do, you won’t stop. In fact, I couldn’t decide which to get, so I ordered two. Get your sugar fix here as there are three locations for you to choose from!
- Jardin de Luxembourg- This is a picnic heaven; grab your wine*, your cheese, bread, and baguette, or snag a lunch to go from the Monoprix (the closest thing to Target in Paris). This is another way to save money in Paris, and one way to give you a glimpse of that Parisian lifestyle most of us would like to have, but can’t afford. Ah, c’est la vie!
- Treize Bakery- Sometimes, a Texan needs a Texan breakfast, and you can get it at Treize Bakery. They serve brunch all day which includes fried eggs, french toast, BISCUITS with pecan crusted chicken, and some really good juices. It seems the entire menu is influenced by cooking in the southern US, and come to find out, it actually is. I was told one of the owners hails from across the pond 🙂
- 5.10 on the Seine- Last but not least, this is not a restaurant at all. In fact, it’s a leftover from my study abroad days when we would buy a 5.10 euro bottle of wine*, and take it to a bridge with a view of the Eiffel Tower. We’d pour our drinks, and clink our cups as the Eiffel Tower sparkled it’s way into our memories forever. We met so many neat people this way, and had so many good conversations. It doesn’t get much better than that!
I hope that gives you some good ideas for what to do and where to eat in Paris! If you have any suggestions, or want to know more about travel in Paris , feel free to drop a comment for me below.
*Also, please note, French open container laws seem to be changing all the time. I am told it currently varies by arrondissement. Check with your hotel or local guides before popping a bottle just any old place.
Love and Luck,