One of the first cities in the world to get electricity, Paris was quickly dubbed the City of Lights (La Ville Lumière) and has since become synonymous with romance, with people travelling the world over to spend time in the City of Love.
Paris can be somewhat polarising too though. Before our visit, I must admit, neither Nathan nor I placed Paris at the top of our must-see list before moving on from Europe – quite the opposite in fact. Nathan had very little interest in seeing the French capital and though I wanted to, it was largely to set eyes on some of the iconic monuments and to make up my own mind once and for all about the city.
So, with our visit to Paris behind us, did it live up to the hype or fall flat?
It certainly did – and then some!
We fell in love with Paris’ architecture and iconic monuments, found Parisians to be incredibly warm and inviting and had a ball just walking around soaking everything up. It’s not every day most people get to just meander around Paris!
What to See and Do in Paris
Whether you’ve been to Paris or not, there’s no doubt that you’ll have a mental list of many of the top spots you’ll want to visit.
That being said, there are literally hundreds of fantastic city guides already out there (like this amazing Parisian walking guide from our very own Nadine and our favourite 2-day Paris itinerary) so our intention is to point out all of our must-see spots.
We really enjoyed everything we saw and did in Paris and recommend you check out all of the following locations…
The city’s very own happiest place on earth also happens to be chock-full of crowds if you hit it at the same time of year as us. Unfortunately, on the day we visited we experienced a number of ride shut-downs and temporary malfunctions but even with those challenges it was worth a visit. There’s nowhere like Disney to experience a touch of magic.
Wander through Montmartre
A beautiful part of town (and close to our first accommodation, Le Village – a great budget option), Montemartre is home to a range of shops, restaurants and cafes and just at the end of the district, the infamous Moulin Rouge. Here, at the birthplace of the can-can, talented performers sing and dance every day. The show isn’t cheap but we’ve been assured it’s well worth the money if your budget will stretch… and if not, the iconic exterior of the building still makes for an awesome photo!
Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris)
Perched high atop the summit of the butte Montmartre, this Roman Catholic church provides unparalleled views out over Paris from the highest natural vantage point in the city. Should you choose, you’re able to tour the church, or do as we did and enjoy its gorgeous architecture from the outside and the sound of talented buskers serenading the crowd.
Enjoy Some Macarons
There’s not much better than a macaron in Paris – trust us! Though Ladurée are known for their sweet treats we have it on good authority that they’re not actually the best in town. Skip the crazy lines and instead head to one of the Pierre Hermé stores where you’ll find the most incredibly chewy, flavourful macarons you could ever wish for.
Alternatively, if you’re wanting to learn how to make an ever-lasting supply of macarons for yourself, you can learn from the master himself, Jean Yves. The winner of Masterchef France (both for the macaron challenge and the overall competition), he’ll talk you through all of the intricacies of making these delicious but challenging biscuits.
The Eiffel Tower
If there’s one place that really doesn’t need an introduction, it’s this beauty! With tickets available both on the day and online (just buy a few days ahead of time and skip the lines – something we can highly recommended having wasted hours in lines!)
You’ll have the choice of two different access levels and the ability to climb the stairs or hop in a lift to save your legs. We decided to climb to the main viewing platform as the line was much shorter for this than it was for the lifts – it’s a fair climb but absolutely manageable with a little time and a bottle of water.
Soak Up the Seine
The Seine River flows gently through Paris, offering beautiful views from its many bridges. Sadly the Pont des Arts (once known for its ‘love locks’) has had its locks removed but if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll find other bridges in the area still proudly displaying their symbols of everlasting love in the city.
Not far from the Seine, you’ll also find Notre-Dame de Paris. Lined with the most incredibly detailed sculptures, it’s a testament, both to art and religion.
Home to some of the most coveted fine art in the world (and one of the most famous pyramids anywhere, with exception of the originals), the Louve is the cultural centre of this amazing city. Violinists played in the square as the sun shone down on the day we visited – French perfection without
Violinists played in the square as the sun shone down on the day we visited – French perfection without doubt – even without stepping foot inside the galleries.
Arc de Triomphe – The best views in Paris!
As with the Eiffel Tower, tickets can be purchased in advance for the Arc de Triomphe and it’s well worth doing. We felt a little like royalty whizzing past everyone in line, heading straight to the top of the tower!
The stairs are narrow and winding but the views from the top are spectacular and I’d go as far as to say, they offer the best vantage point of the Eiffel Tower anywhere. If you’re able to plan your visit to coincide with sunset, I can imagine you’d be rewarded with the most incredible photos!
What to Watch For – Don’t get scammed
Though Paris is gorgeous, there are a fair few scams around. Keep your eyes peeled and hang onto your money so you can really enjoy this city!
- You’ll notice people (generally middle-aged women) walking around with clipboards asking you to sign your name. Sometimes these people will pretend to be deaf, other times they’ll approach you with perfect English – whatever the case, they’ll ask you to sign your name (assuring you that’s all they want) before then pushing you into making a ‘donation’ – by which point you’ve signed your name to the fact that you will donate to their cause (and may have quietly been pick-pocketed). Inevitably, the money doesn’t ever go past their own pockets.
- Around key points, you’ll notice men offering to tie threads of cotton around the wrists of tourists. Again, they’ll start by hooking you in with a ‘bracelet’ and will then separate you from your group and pressure you into paying for this ‘service’. Should the payment be too low, they’ve been known to cut the cotton off and march off, money in hand regardless.
- The final scam we spotted around the city involves a fair bit of organisation. Always on cardboard boxes or the ground (which we later witnessed, allows for a quick getaway from the police), a person will pop a few cups down. Soon someone steps up, offering money to guess which cup the ball is sitting under. The game goes on with more and more people joining – money starts to change hands very quickly (€50+ at a time, we’re not playing here) and of course the majority are seen to win. Next, you’ll find yourself invited to play what looks like a sure-thing – only nothing could be further from the truth. We stood back and watched one of these ‘games’ from the start where it became very clear that all of the initial players who stepped into the game over a period of ten minutes were in on it. By all means, watch if you’d like (or quietly warn people off if you’d like) but don’t hand over a cent of your money.
How to Get Around
Within the City
Paris is incredibly well serviced by the metro. It is in fact, one of the densest metro-systems anywhere in the world, with a whopping 245 stations all within 87 square kilometres. Thanks to this, it covers a large part of the city, is affordable and easy to travel on.
The metro is normally open from about 5.30am until 12.40am from Sunday until Thursday (perfect for your CDG Airport transfers as you’ll see below) and from 5.30am and 1.40am on Fridays, Saturdays and on days before a public holiday.
Should you need to, you can supplement your metro tickets with buses, taxis or do as we did and walk from place to place – sure, it’ll take longer but you’re there to see Paris after all!
To and From the Airports
Charles de Gaulle
If you’re arriving in Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), Paris’ main airport, simply follow the signs towards the train and catch the RER B, getting off at Paris Nord. Trains leave every 7-15 minutes and will take approximately half an hour. They run from 5am until midnight, the journey itself is very comfortable and when you get off the train, you’ll find yourself at the metro for easy onward travel.
For journeys back to the airport, follow these instructions in reverse but remember to allow yourself plenty of time to check in as it can be a busy airport.
If you’re flying on a budget carrier, you may find yourself flying in or out of BVA Airport. Planning is especially important here for your outbound flight as the airport is not serviced by trains and is a fair way out of the city (the last thing you want to be is at the mercy of a taxi fare!)
We found the best mode of transport to be via shuttle bus. Tickets for the BVA shuttle can be purchased online (the cheaper option) or in person just before you board the bus. Journeys last approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to cover the 75 kilometres out of the city.
From the airport, you’ll find the Paris-Beauvais Shuttles located between terminal 1 and 2.
Leaving from Paris, the shuttles are an easy walk from the Porte Maillot stop on the yellow metro line (likely in the direction of La Défense).
Where to Stay
After a busy day out exploring, there’s nothing better than coming back to a comfortable home-away-from-home and that’s exactly what Adèle & Jules offers.
Trendy, quite and unashamedly boutique, this hotel (or should I say, hotels – one building named Adèle and the other Jules), is well located and super stylish.
Each day, guests are invited to enjoy a delicious breakfast spread (served in the lounge or directly to your room, should you prefer to treat yourself to breakfast-in-bed!) and a complimentary (and tasty) afternoon tea is offered each afternoon.
If you’d prefer to hit the gym, Adèle & Jules have their own fitness room but between the delicious food, comfortable bed and beautiful balcony, we knew exactly where we’d be spending our precious hotel time (and it wasn’t at the gym!)
Pro Tip: If you’re looking to save some money whilst in town, we suggest choosing accommodation from this awesome collection of hostels in Paris!
If you’re planning a visit to France and are travelling on a passport from outside of the European Union, you will need to investigate the appropriate visa requirements.
Frances falls within the Schengen Area and generally provides visa-free access to citizens of Europe, the Americas and counties in the Commonwealth.
Before booking your visit to the country, we suggest you check the French visa requirements first – nobody wants to get turned around at the border!
Paris is a dream city for many and for good reason. It’s exciting, vibrant, romantic and downright iconic. If you’re spending time in Europe, we can unequivocally recommend a visit to this magical city.
As they say, Paris is always a good idea, and we couldn’t agree more.
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Thank you to Hotel Adèle & Jules and Le Village for hosting us whilst we were in Paris. As always, all thoughts are our own.