“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”– Ernest Hemingway
We were having such an incredible time on our two week road trip through Northern France, and we continued on to the City of Lights: Paris, France.
We woke up in Bayeux, France, about two and a half hours from the Palace of Versailles and made our way to visit the Palace before spending the rest of our trip in Paris. If you decide to take a similar trip you could stop at Château Gaillard (Les Andelys), Richard the Lionheart’s castle, on the way to The Palace of Versailles. The Château is open everyday, except Tuesdays, from 10:00am-1:00pm and 2:00pm-6:00pm. There are two tours you can choose from: €3.20 for unguided and €4.50 for the guided tour. Alternatively, you can drive by it because the outer area is free to visit. We decided to skip it due to time constraints and made our way straight to the Palace.
We planned the Palace of Versailles as a stop on our way back to Paris because it was about an hour and a half from where we were staying. You can definitely take the subway from Paris to the Palace, but since we had the car for one last day it worked out well. After our visit at the Palace we dropped our luggage off at the Airbnb and then to drop the car off at the airport. We took the subway back into the city.
As I have written previously, my first suggestion when visiting big cities is to look into the city/attraction passes. We have purchased city passes in several places (Boston, Philly, Rome, Naples, London, and more I am sure) and they are totally worth it if you plan to visit several places each day like we do! For this trip we purchased the Paris Passlib. This particular pass is €62 per person for a 3-day museum pass which includes unlimited attractions, and a fast pass to many of them. We also chose to add on the subway transportation card for about €42. In order to determine if a pass like this is worth it, I usually select all of the attractions I want to visit, then realistically choose the ones I could actually fit in the itinerary, and add up the admission prices…and it is always worth buying a pass. The other great thing about these passes is if you find yourself near an attraction with time to kill, you can often get more use out of your pass than you expected. We also purchased 2 days for the Big Bus tour, that includes a boat cruise on the Seine, and a bus tour at night which was about €59.
Pro Tip: add the pass app to your phone! See why I suggest this in the 3-days in London Post.
Since there is so much to see and do in Paris, there was no way we would be able to do everything we wanted. Below I outline what we were able to fit in, some additional suggestions that we still have on the list for the next time we visit, and some great places to eat! Be sure to note the hours of operation of the museums, many of them are closed on certain days of the week.
- Palace of Versailles Included on the Paris Pass
- Hours: Open Daily 9:00am-5:30pm (closed on Mondays)
- Points of Interest: Hall of Mirrors, War room, Estate of Trianon
- Tips: Get there early and be prepared to battle large groups (well, just use this as a future tip for anywhere you visit). When we visited the Palace we got there before it opened, and there was already a huge line of people waiting (see the slideshow above). However, we had two different friends go within the next couple of weeks and it was a ghost town. If possible go on a weekday which should prove to have fewer people visiting than on a Saturday when we visited.
- Marché Notre-Dame (market)
- This market is located near the Palace of Versailles, we did not get a chance to visit, but it looks like a nice place to walk around, and have lunch.
- Hours: The times vary, so I suggest you like “Les Catacombs” on Facebook for most accurate times/openings.
- Be sure to buy your timed tickets (€29 audio tour ticket) this is NOT included in the Paris Pass.
- Tips/Fun Facts:
- Many people do not know about the Catacombs, this is an underground graveyard that houses over six million people. It was such an interesting place to visit. The audio guide was very informative and even talked about how there are hidden tunnels under the city where people would sneak in and have parties in the 1920s and people would host raves in later years. Talk about a terrifying experience!
- It is a little chilly and damp (in the mid-50s), you may want to bring a sweater.
- Visitors suggest 45 minutes to visit the Catacombs, and that is about how long we were there.
- I would not suggest this tour if you are claustrophobic or do not like the sight of bones and dead people surrounding you at every angle.
- While planning our trip we scheduled to visit the Catacombs a couple days into the trip and bought our timed tickets (€29 audio tour ticket), however we learned leading up to our trip that the Catacombs were on strike. As is turns out, the citizens of Paris tend to strike quite often. Be prepared for things to close without notice due to strikes. On the day we planned to visit Notre Dame is was also closed due to the strike, so remain flexible. To monitor the strikes I “liked” the pages of many of the attractions we planned to visit, including the Catacombs; on these pages they update whether they will be open each day. As we neared our visit, the Catacombs had been closed in the previous couple of weeks. On our first day in Paris, they had re-opened, but their Facebook page said they didn’t know for how long they would remain open that day. We decided to take a chance and try to get in (despite having tickets for two days later). Our tickets were for “skip the line” which was ideal because the line to enter and purchase tickets was probably a mile long- no exaggeration. We got to the front of the line and asked the employee if we could go in, he put up a bit of a fight, but Andrew was able to sweet talk him in to allowing us to visit the catacombs early. This was perfect- mainly because the catacombs were closed for the rest of our trip and weeks following. We nailed our timing, and got lucky with a lackadaisical employee.
- The Louvre Included on the Paris Pass
- Hours: open daily 9:00am-6:00pm (closed Tuesdays)
- Time Spent: about 5 hours, but could easily spend a week and still not see everything.
- There are several ways you can enter the famous museum. I read about the various entrance points and we decided to enter at the Le Carrousel Du Louvre and were only behind a few people before opening. You can download the full map of the Louvre so we looked through the art and mapped out the art we wanted to make sure we saw. The Mona Lisa, of course being number one! Since we knew our directions we speed-walked/almost ran to the large room the Mona Lisa is displayed in. We got there with only a few people already there, by the time we turned around to leave the room was completely full of visitors.
- Look up! Look at the doors and the windows. Every part of the Louvre is a work of art.
- Things to See: Mona Lisa (Denon Wing, Room 6), Hammurabi’s Code, Winged Victory of Samothrace (Denon Wing, Daru Staircase), Venus de Milo (Sully Wing, Room 7).
- Fun Facts: As the Louvre is the largest museum in the world, it is difficult to see every piece of work. If you had 100 days you would be able to see every piece of art- but for only 30 seconds!
- Jardin du Palais Royale free admission
- Hours: open daily 8:00am-8:30pm
- After zipping through the Louvre, for about five hours, and seeing as much art as we could take in for one day, we grabbed sandwiches and walked around the Jardin du Palais Royale and got some much needed fresh air.
- Angelina Paris
- Hours: open daily 8:30-7:30pm
- Tips: This is a beautiful restaurant and would be a nice place to rest after spending the day at the Louvre and in the Gardens, you can choose to have a sit-down meal in the restaurant, or walk up to the counter to take away. We got our snacks to-go and ate in the Tuileries Garden across the street.
- Things to try:
- The Mont Blanc is the signature pastry of Angelina’s. It is a creamy and chocolaty dessert that was very heavy in my opinion- I would suggest sharing with a couple people.
- They are also famous for their Hot Chocolate. It seems like it is literally just melted chocolate and is the most decadent thing I have ever had- we each got our own and none of us could finish it. We easily could have split one among the four of us and would have been satisfied.
- Tuileries Garden free admission
- Hours: open daily 7:00am-9:00pm (times vary depending on the time of year)
- Musée de l’Orangerie Included on the Paris Pass
- Hours: open daily 9:00-6:00pm (closed Tuesdays)
- Claude Monet is my favorite artist, so this was easily my favorite museum to visit. It is home to a large collection of his work, including the famous water lilies (insert heart-eye emoji) that line the walls of huge oval rooms. There are also other exhibits that were beautiful and interesting, but nothing compared to the water lilies.
- Place de la Concorde free admission
- This obelisk is located within walking distance of the museums we visited earlier in the day, and is at the end of the Champs-Élysées.
- O Chateau Wine Tasting Included on the Paris Pass
- We ended our day with a fun and informative Wine Tasting in a cozy wine cellar. We learned about the wine regions of France, tried the wines and ate charcuterie surrounded by people from all over the world- India, Germany, Italy, France, and all over the U.S.. A perfect way to end a day of exploring Paris.
- This is included on the Paris Pass, just be sure to contact the restaurant to schedule your tour.
View the map above for a view of the places to visit in a single day.
On our third day in Paris we got up early to catch the metro across town to get breakfast at a bakery before meeting the bus to visit what I kept calling Champagne World! This is what I affectionately called our day trip into the Champagne Region of France where we visited several champagne wineries, and the name kind of stuck.
- Le Grenier à Pain– this was a 20 minute metro from where we were staying and 12 minute walk to Opera Bastille where we were to meet the bus for Champagne World. This bakery is open 7:00am-8:30pm and was one of my favorites. We got some quiche, which was Andrew’s favorite, and some amazing croissants (second best after the croissants we had at our Bed and Breakfast in Mont St. Michel) and ate on a bench while we waited for our bus to arrive.
- Maison Landemaine is another bakery that is near the Opera Bastille (in addition to several other locations) that has really good reviews and I read about on various blogs, they are open 7:00am-8:30pm.
- Champagne World was one of my favorite things we did on this trip. Obviously, if you do not like Champagne, this is not the tour for you. We met at the Opera Bastille at 8:15am to make our way to the champagne region of France. This tour costs about $150 per person and is about 10 hours long. The tour includes the bus ride and a tour guide (our guide was a history major who provided us with amazing history and information along the route) as well as the following:
- Visit to the Nicolas Feuillatte factory with a champagne tasting
- Visit to a Private Champagne cellar
- Stop in Epernay (Lunch is on your own. Our guide walked with us as we got lunch then we all went to another wine tasting during the break),
- A walking tour of Hautvillers which is home to The Abbaye Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers where Dom Pérignon is buried. If you previously thought this was just the name of a nice bottle of Champagne, the namesake comes from the the 18th-century monk who was a pioneer in the champagne-making process.
- Lastly you end at a Private Champagne estate for your last tasting. At this vineyard we bought a couple bottles of champagne to bring home. One we are saving for a special occasion. One didn’t quite make it home, we shared on the bus ride back into Paris.
- Tips: Bring water, sunscreen, and walking shoes. You can leave stuff on the bus which is convenient. Also, be sure to note that knees and shoulders must be covered to enter religious buildings.
- After Champagne World we took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe
- In order to cross the giant traffic circle, use the underground tunnel on the Avenue de la Grande Armee side of the circle, you can access the tunnel from the Wagram exit of the Metro. You can climb 15 flights of stairs to top for great views (open 10:00am-11:00pm), however we were exhausted so we just crossed over to see the torch of the unknown soldier which is under the arch.
- We walked down the Champs-Élysées to grab some dinner at a cafe before making our way to the Airbnb for the night.
On the fourth day we took the Hop on- Hop Off Bus (Day 1). You can stay on the bus and it will take your around the city in about two hours and twenty minutes if you ride straight through, or hop off anywhere you’d like. I have found that the Big Bus company overall has been way better in my experiences when compared to CityBus and other local services. These passes are great because buses come every 5-15 minutes, and you can track them by downloading the app. We rode the bus to the following locations and hopped off to visit:
- Crypte & Cathedral de Notre-Dame Included on the Paris Pass
- Hours: Open daily 10:00-6:00pm (closed Mondays) (Bus Stop #6)
- Sadly, it is temporarily Closed due to the 2019 fire. Be sure to check their website prior to your trip.
- The climb up Notre Dame was not as hard as I expected, but can be difficult for people who are not especially active. No matter how long it takes you to get to the top, even if you have to take a break every five steps, it is worth it to reach the unforgettable sights waiting for you. One of my favorite shots I have ever taken is of the Gargoyle below, where you can see the Eiffel Tower in the background. I feel like it exudes Paris.
- Hours: Open daily 10:00-6:00pm (closed Mondays) (Bus Stop #6)
- Sainte-Chapelle Included on the Paris Pass
- A short walk from Notre Dame, is Sainte-Chapelle, another place where the Paris Pass came in clutch. The line was down the block, but we had a fast pass! Yay! When you enter the Cathedral it is spectacular, but the real beauty is yet to be seen. You’ll make your way into the next room where your jaw will drop in sheer awe. The tall walls of the cathedral are covered in the most beautiful stained glass I have ever seen. Pictures do not do it justice (Bus Stop #6).
- Pantheon Included on the Paris Pass
- We didn’t get to go inside the Pantheon on this trip since they were closed due to a strike, but we did walk around the building; when you visit, if they are not closed, they are typically open 9:00-6:00pm (Bus Stop #6).
The rest of the afternoon was spent meandering through the following museums and riding the remaining portion of the bus route, which is a great way to see the city while resting your feet!
- Musée d’Orsay Included on the Paris Pass
- Hours: open daily 9:30-6:00pm (Bus Stops 2 and 5)
- This museum used to be a Paris railway station and hotel that was built in 1900, it is such a beautiful building. Be sure to go to the top floor balcony for great views, and to see the museum’s famous Giant Clock.
- Go to the second and top floor to see paintings by my guy Monet, and VanGogh’s famous self portrait.
- Musée de l’Armée Included on the Paris Pass
- Hours: open daily 10:00am-6:00pm (Bus Stops 2 and 5)
- What to see: This the location of the Napoléon’s Tomb which is extremely grandiose and ostentatious.
- Museum of Rodin Included on the Paris Pass
- Hours: open daily 10:00am-5:45pm, closed Mondays (Bus Stops 2 and 5)
- What to see: While many of the Rodin sculptures are neat to see, there was one thing I was going for: Le Penseur, “The Thinker.”
After dinner at La Briciola (This was probably in the top five best Pizzas I have ever had- and we had pizza daily when we were in Italy), we ended the night with the “Paris at Night” Bus Tour that departs at 9:15pm from Champs-Elysees (Bus Stop 8) and lasts two hours. There were two really great parts of this night tour:
- Listening to “Moulin Rouge” on the audio guide as we approached the cabaret house. We were not able to make it to this part of town on our trip so being able to at least see it all lit up and dazzling was really cool. Seeing a cabaret show is definitely on this list for a future trip.
- The absolute best part of having the hop on-hop off bus tour tickets is that at the end of the night tour you end directly in front of the Eiffel Tower right before the light show begins. I have dreamed of visiting Paris my entire life, so this was such a surreal moment seeing the famous light show.
- An important thing to note: the nighttime light show is protected under France’s copyright law as an artistic work- it is illegal to share, sell, or publish photos and videos of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night without prior permission from the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel. Sooo I will not be sharing the photos and videos I took of this iconic show.
On our last full day in Paris we had our second day for the Hop on- Hop Off Bus, so we hopped on our way to Montmartre. This neighborhood, located on a hill is one of the highest points of Paris, is famous for the artistic history: it was home to Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and many other artists. The entire area is beautiful, each of the small streets and each building is gorgeous. When I move to Paris, this is the arrondissement where I want to live. It is also home to the magnificent Basilica Sacré-Cœur. Here you can see amazing views of Paris from a very different angle that complements the views you see from Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. While visiting Montmartre be sure to check out these places:
- Place du Tertre and Saint Pierre de Montmartre is only a three minute walk from Sacré-Coeur. This is the location of an adorable square of cafes and art. Artist’s line the square selling their paintings and various other pieces of work.
- My biggest regret from this trip is not purchasing an original painting to bring home. We were rushing around to be sure we were not late to our Eiffel Tower tour later in the day. Oh well, when I live there I will have plenty of time to pick out the perfect painting.
- Picasso’s first Workshop is located at 49 Rue Gabrielle.
- Le Mur des Je T’aime (The wall of love)
So you are probably wondering about our visit to the Eiffel Tower? Yes, we had seen it here and there when exploring Paris, but it wasn’t until the last full day in the city that we actually had tickets to go inside the tower. There are three different levels you can visit depending on your interests. We decided on the middle level. We had tour tickets for 3:30 in the afternoon on mine and Andrew’s 10-year dating anniversary, so we decided to splurge on overpriced champagne and macaroons- a great way to celebrate! Near the Eiffel tower you can also check out the Mini Statue of Liberty, relax or picnic at the Champ de Mars, and visit Trocadero Palace.
After an exciting day in Montmartre and visiting the Eiffel Tower we took the one hour River Cruise that was included with our Bus tickets. It departs from the Eiffel Tower (Bus Stop 8) every 30 minutes starting at 10:00am, and the last tour is at 10:30pm. We had a nice time just floating along the Seine and observing the passing city.
Andrew’s bucket item was to go to a Michelin Starred restaurant while in Paris, so on our last night he made reservations at Saturne (which is now closed). We had an 8-course meal that was prepared by the chef and each course was a total surprise. I ate so many things that night that are typically not in my diet, like pigeon for example (which are giant by the way)! This was totally out of my comfort zone, but was such a fun experience! See the 8 courses below:
On our last day in Paris, Matt and Janick left pretty early and me and Andrew had the day together. We first visited Stohrer, which is the oldest patisserie in Paris (est. in 1730), and explored Montorgueil (a street lined with markets). Along the way we picked up a baguette and a bottle of cidre here, and meat and cheeses there, and made our way to have a picnic on the Seine (my bucket list item). We also stopped by the famous Laduree (several locations throughout Paris) for macaroons. It was the perfect Parisienne morning, and a perfect way to end our trip.
There are so many other streets in Paris that were left to be explored. Rue Cler is a street area near the 1st and 2nd arrondissement with markets and cafes, and Le Marais spreads across the 3rd and 4th arrondissement. I read that both of these locations are great places to visit. After our picnic on the Seine River is was that dreaded time of heading to the airport. We scheduled a shuttle to for convenience and time sake.
Things to Eat in Paris:
- Bakeries: I have eaten Croissants and Pain au Chocolat at pretty much every bakery I have ever been to. Here is a list of places that are supposed to be top notch. We only made it to a few (indicated with an *).
- *Du Pain et des Idees. Go here. If you are only in Paris for one day and can only eat one pastry, this is the place. I got a Pain au Chocolat and a mixed berry escargot (I may have eaten both on the street within minutes): this was the best pastry I have ever had in my entire life, and I know pastries. While you are there, please over-night me a baker’s dozen.
- *Le Grenier à Pain has multiple locations: one near Sacré-Cœur and one near Opera Bastille. Andrew really liked the country-style Quiche Lorraine, and I loved their croissants.
- *Stohrer is the oldest patisserie in Paris (est. in 1730). They are known for their Baba au Rhum.
- Blé Sucré
- Boulangerie Julien
- Maison Landemaine
- Angelina’s: be sure to try their Mont Blanc pastry and African Hot Chocolate.
- Berthillon ice cream is located throughout the city.
- Ladurée sells famous macaroons and has several locations.
- La Briciola is a pizza restaurant that served some of the best pizza I have ever had. I read in multiple places while planning the trip that it was the best pizza outside of Italy. I think it was better than many of the pizzas I had in Italy. It is also located in the same neighborhood as Le Perchoir, which looks like a really neat rooftop bar that we were not able to make it to.
- Other places still on my list:
Things to note
Museums that are Closed on Mondays: Musée d’Orsay, Musée de la Monnaie, Petit Palais, Musée Rodin, The crypt of Notre-Dame, The Palace of Versailles
The Paris Pass is beyond worth it! There are so many museums and attractions included in the city as well as the surrounding area. Here is the list below, with the arrondisment where it is located. We also made stops into places that were on the list that we happened to be nearby that were not on the schedule if we found ourselves with extra time.
Places we visited
- Palace of Versailles
- Musée du Louvre, Paris 1st
- Musée National de l’Orangerie, Paris 1st (Monet’s Water Lilies)
- Tours de Notre-Dame de Paris, Paris 4th
- Crypte archéologique du parvis Notre-Dame, Paris 4th
- Panthéon, Paris 5th (we arrived too late to able to go inside)
- Sainte-Chapelle, Paris 1st
- Arc de Triomphe, Paris 8th (we didn’t have time or energy to climb to the top)
- Musée d’Orsay, Paris 7th (Van Gogh Self-Portrait)
- Musée Rodin, Paris 7th (Le Penseur– “The Thinker”)
- Musée de l’Armée, Tombeau de Napoléon 1er, Paris 7th (Napoleon’s Tomb)
- Musée des Égouts de Paris, Paris 7th (Sewer Museum)
- Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Paris 19th
- Conciergerie, Paris 1st
- Centre Pompidou – Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris 4th
- Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, Paris 16th
- Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris 1st
- Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris 3rd
- Musée du quai Branly, Paris 7th
- Chapelle Expiatoire, Paris 8th
- La Cinémathèque française, Paris 12th
- Musée national Eugène Delacroix, Paris 6th
- Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris 5th
- Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme, Paris 3th
- Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris 16th
- Musée de Cluny – le monde médiéval, Paris 5th
- Musée des plans-reliefs, Paris 7th
- Musée de la musique, Paris 19th
- Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris 8th
- Les Arts décoratifs – Collection Mode et Textile, Paris 1st
- Les Arts décoratifs – Collection Publicité et Graphisme, Paris 1st
- Musée national Gustave Moreau, Paris 9th
- Palais de la découverte, Paris 8th
- Musée Picasso, Paris 3th
- Palais de la Porte Dorée – Musée national de l’histoire de l’Immigration, Paris 12th
- Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération, Paris 7th
Where to Stay:
Below you will find a neat graphic that shows the various points of interest and which arrondissement in which they are located. We stayed in La Defense our first night in Paris before we explored the northern part of France. When we returned to Paris we stayed near the 10th arrondissement in an Airbnb. This Airbnb was in a kind of sketchy neighborhood (which I was prepared for because of the reviews, but it was just fine since we were only there to sleep and shower) but very close to a metro station which was perfect for getting around.
- Buy the Paris Pass
- Stay near all the happenings, or at least near a metro station for easy transportation. We used the Metro and bus system with ease, and only used one Uber while in Paris.
- Double check strikes going on in the city- Paris is evidently known for their citizen strikes, so follow the museums on social media for up to date information.
- Be flexible with your schedule, prepare for mishaps, and roll with it.
- Learn some French. Yes, most people speak English “a little” but why not immerse yourself in their culture while your there? Plus you will receive a better response if you give it a try.
- Check out Free Tours
- Buy tickets ahead of time! There is no reason to ever waste your precious vacation time waiting in line!
- Become familiar with the French Names of the Museums and attractions, sometimes these are not translated (i.e. Eiffel Tower vs. Tour de Eiffel).
So what did we miss? I know we missed a lot, so I will keep a running list of things to see, do, and of course eat, for my next visit to the city of lights.