I was lucky enough to go on the most amazing two-week vacation in Europe with my family a few weeks ago! It always seemed to so far in the future as we had started to plan it a year and a half out! But then it came and went so fast, as most vacations do. *sigh* But it was without a doubt, the best vacation filled with so many memories, laughs, adventures, and wine, lots of wine.
We started off our trip in London and finished off the second half of our trip in Paris. I decided to recap the Paris part first as that was highly requested from y'all! We were there for a little over a week so I can't fit it all into one post. I'm thinking about breaking it out in two or three parts -- stuff we actually did, saw, and ate in Paris and then also recap our day trips separately. I'll try to get all of these posts up over the next few weeks so you can use this as a resource if you're planning on going to Paris sometime soon (which it seemed like by all the DMs I got!)
This blog post covers everything we actually did in Paris. I apologize in advance how long this blog post is! But I’m covering everything you need to know so it’s consolidated all into one resource for you!So without further ado, let me go into Part 1 of the perfect Paris guide.
WHERE WE STAYED: My parents decided to rent an apartment instead of getting a hotel which I always love to do when traveling with a group! Apartments make it so much easier to all hang out, especially when you come back from a long day! You can pour yourself a glass of wine and all chill out together. Plus, it’s nice to pick up groceries to have on hand! We typically pick up booze (obviously), snacks, and some breakfast items. Sometimes it’s nice to make yourself some avocado toast or eggs instead of eating pastries every morning (however delicious that is!). We stayed at this apartment and I could not recommend it enough for a larger group (we had 6 people in Paris.) It’s a two story apartment which was nice to have the kids upstairs and then my parents downstairs. We also had a small balcony overlooking the Palais Royal – it was magical! In addition, we were centrally located and very close to a metro stop.
WHAT TO SEE:
If this is your first time to Paris or if you’re only there for a shorter amount of time, I’m marking things with a * which means it’s a can’t miss sight! With any trip, you have to go into it knowing you most likely wont be able to do or see everything on your list. But to me, that’s what makes it fun as it gives you an excuse to go back ;)
Le Marais: This neighborhood is known as the “Jewish Quarter.” I love walking around this neighborhood as it feels like “old Paris” to me. There’s narrow cobblestone streets and beautiful buildings around every corner. We went and grabbed lunch at L’As Du Falafel which I HIGHLY recommend (more details on that below – keep reading!) and then walked off our full bellies by popping into fun eclectic shops and art galleries.
Arc du Triomphe:* Located on the west end of the Champs Elysees, the Arc du Triomphe is a can’t miss Paris monument! I highly recommend going in the evening after dinner and climbing the stairs to the top to catch the sunset and then watch the Eiffel tour sparkle at 9pm. It’s truly magical! You do have to purchase a ticket to go the top ($12 Euros) but I promise it’s worth the price, especially if you have never been! You can purchase your tickets in advance here or buy them at the door.
Eiffel Tower:* An obvious MUST to see regardless if you have already been to Paris or not! Unfortunately (but understandably) the Eiffel is so highly guarded now, there are huge fences all around and you are now required to go through a security checkpoint. Last time I was in Paris when I studied abroad (in 2008) you could freely walk up and purchase tickets to go to the top of the tower. You must now purchase your tickets in advance and for a certain time, so plan on doing that if you want to go to the top! Like the Arc du Triomphe, we went after dinner. We grabbed a bottle of wine and a crepe and sat underneath the tower just talking and drinking for hours and watched the sky catch fire as the sun set. It was a magical Parisian moment. We ended up having so much fun that we stayed not only for the 9pm sparkle of the tower but for the midnight showing as well. You just gotta soak up moments like these!
Sacre Coeur/Montmarte:* This is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris but I have to admit, it was A LOT more crowded than I remembered it being. However this neighborhood still has so much charm no matter how crowded it gets. I recommend starting off going to the top of Sacre Coeur (you can either walk up or pay to take a tram located on the left side). Up top is another beautiful panoramic view of Paris! After you finish at Sacre Coeur, spend time walking around the neighborhood. I love walking around the narrow streets and exploring all the artist markets and galleries. You can literally feel the creative energy bursting at the seams in this neighborhood as it once housed famous artists like Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, and Degas, to name a few.
Saint Chapelle:* The beauty of this Church will literally take your breath away. The stained glass will leave you in awe. An absolute must Paris sight-to-see in my opinion. Pro tip: get there early to avoid waiting in a long line (located on the Ile de la Cite)
Notre Dame:* Also located on the Ile de la Cite, this is another amazing Church to see. I’d recommend getting here early one morning as well as it gets VERY crowded. The lines do move fast, but you wont be able to get a good photo without a million tourists in it. If you don’t care about that, then go at any time! Let me know if you see the hunchback of Notre Dame ;)
Luxembourg Gardens: You won’t regret taking a stroll through Luxembourg Gardens. I’d stop by here if you want a slower afternoon and walk around the gardens. Then find an empty seat and people watch while taking in the beauty that surrounds you!
Musee d’Orsay:* This is my favorite museum in Paris! This museum houses one of the largest collections of impressionist painters.
The Louvre: We didn’t go into The Louvre on this trip (as we had already been) but I definitely recommend going if you’re a first timer! It’s the world’s largerst art museum and of course houses the famous Mona Lisa.
The Seine: If you’re unfamiliar, the Seine is the river that flows through Paris. I recommend going on an evening riverboat cruise or taking a picnic along the river! You can book a nice riverboat cruise in advance (that will require men in jackets) or find a more touristy one day-of that will be less fancy! Whichever floats your boat ;)
Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres: This is the oldest church in Paris and one of the oldest Romanesque churches in France! The inside of the church is absolutely stunning and has the most beautifully vibrant colors and patterns.
Musee de l’orangerie:* This museum is located in the Tuileries Gardens next to the Place de la Concorde. This museum is an absolute must as it houses Monet’s famous water lilies. They were so much bigger and more beautiful that I anticipated. Can’t recommend this museum enough!
Palais Royal: If you plan on going to The Louvre, I recommend also popping over to the Palais Royal as it’s very close! Located within the courtyard, you’ll find beautiful gardens in the middle and high-end boutiques (some of the best vintage shopping in Paris!) and cafés. You’ll also find the “Les Deux Plauteux”art installation here as well (aka the black and white columns). I gotta say, they make for a cute insta pic!
Jardin des Tuileries: On one side you have The Louvre and on the other you have the Musee de L’orangerie with the beautiful Tuileries Gardens in between. Here you can also find a “funfair” in the summer months (like a small carnival). It’s fun to go to this in the evening! You can walk around eating cotton candy and playing fun games. You can also ride the swings and catch a pretty epic view of the Eiffel Tour from the top!
Moulin Rouge: I think the Moulin Rouge is definitely something you have to see in your lifetime! I'm definitely glad we went, but to be honest, I wasn't all that blown away. I was absolutely entertained, but maybe I was just expecting something different?! Definitely a fun experience though! Tickets are pricey, but you do get a whole bottle of champagne which was fun :) Get there at least 20 minutes early to get a good table!
WHERE TO SHOP:
· Champs Elysees/Avenue Montaigne: best known for high-end fashion boutiques
· Palais Royal/Rue Saint Honore: best for vintage designer fashions and upscale boutiques
· Galeries Lafayette: Prestigious French department store chain
· St. Germain-de-Pres: Best for home design stores
· Rue de Rivoli: Best for chain stores and boutiques
· Saint Ouen Flea Market: the largest flea market in Paris! Only open on weekends so plan accordingly.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK: I recommend planning ahead a few restaurants but other than that I love to just see where the day takes me! There’s too many charming restaurants in Paris and just happening upon them is part of the fun. Here below are some of my favorites we enjoyed while in Paris!
Hotel Athenee: I can’t afford to stay here, but it’s fun to grab a drink at this swanky hotel on Avenue Montaigne.
Pink Mamma: Hands down the best meal I had in Paris. Get there 15 minutes before the restaurant opens and get in line! So worth it. Also recommend to check out other Big Mamma restaurants. We tried to go to Populare for pizza (another restaurant owned by the group) but the wait was too long for us!
L’As Du Falafel: Great lunch place and literally one of the best falafels you will ever have in your life. Get there early to avoid a long line as this is a very popular place amongst locals and tourists!
Café Saint-Regis: A delicious café on the Ile Saint-Louis we ended up going to TWICE! The second time was not intended as the first restaurant we tried to go to wouldn’t let us wait for a table haha. Great dinner or lunch spot with the best French onion soup I’ve ever had.
Ralphs: Owned by Ralph Lauren, this restaurant has amazing food and a beautiful patio in the Saint-Germain-de-Pres neighborhood. Definitely recommend grabbing lunch, dinner, or drinks here!
Café de Flore: This is one of the oldest café’s in Paris! This is a fun spot to grab lunch outside and people watch as Parisians walk by.
Hemingway Bar: Located inside the Ritz, this famous bar was once a favorite spot of F. Scott Fitzgerald and of course Hemingway.
Laduree Paris: Take a break from shopping on the Champs Elysees and grab lunch and macarons from this iconic Paris institution.
Angelina: This place is known for their hot chocolate and it’s absolutely worth it even on a hot day (like I did haha).
WHAT TO PACK: Packing varies depending on what time of year you’re visiting! If you’re visiting in the summer months, I definitely recommend wearing easy sundresses, shorts, and flowy tops as it’s quite hot! Then of course warmer layers in the cooler months. Be comfortable during the day but it’s Paris after all, so don’t be afraid to dress up a little in the evening! I’ve rounded up some selects that I wore during my trip along with other items that would be ideal for Paris!