Lifestyle · Travel

How to Paris like a Champ

I went to Paris over Thanksgiving, and I did things. This was my third time back, so I took it easy and didn’t do a lot of the must see must do items that a first time tourist might want to experience. So instead of listing the things I did on this previous trip, this post will be about things I think every first time visitor to Paris might be interested in. Paris food blog post coming soon.

First off, if you are going to be in Paris for more than four days, get a museum pass. It’s completely worth it if you plan on hitting most of the major museums and attractions. I did a few museums several times and went up the Notre Dame tower twice because of the pass (free entry, no queue, go as many times as you’d like with the pass). If you are under the age of 26, you may not need one as many places offer free or discounted entry. Check each sight’s website for more information.

If you plan on taking the metro a lot, get a week pass (Navigo Découverte). It gives you unlimited rides around all zones in Paris, including both airports, Disneyland Paris, Chateau de Versailles and Palace of Fontainebleau. You will need a passport photo (3cm x 2.5cm) for the card which you can take in a photo booth at the station for a fee; I came prepared and printed my own photo from home (free). The pass is valid for one week from Monday to Sunday. It can be purchased starting Friday for the next week. This site has great info about the pass.

Now on to the good stuff:

Sights

Notre Dame de Paris

Tower: 10€ or free with museum pass; Cathedral: free to public

You can’t go to Paris and not see this amazing cathedral. The three times I’ve been to this city, I stayed within blocks of the Notre Dame off Boulevard Saint-Germain (central, affordable, lots of things to do in the area). With my museum pass, I went up the tower during the day and evening right before closing to get some great shots of the city. You will need to make a reservation in order to visit the tower. The Cathedral is free with or without the pass and has long queues during peak hours.

Notre Dame on a sunny day
Notre Dame on a sunny day

 

Notre Dame on a rainy night
Notre Dame on a rainy night

 

Inside the cathedral
Inside the cathedral

 

Summer lovin' had me a blast.
Summer lovin’ had me a blast.

 

Summer lovin' happened so fast.
Summer lovin’ happened so fast.

 

 I met a girl crazy for me.
I met a girl crazy for me.

 

Met a boy cute as can be.
Met a boy cute as can be.

 

And then I ate him.
And then I ate him.

 

Pretty views from the tower at night.
Pretty views from the tower at night.

 

Notre Dame on a cloudy night.
Notre Dame on a cloudy night.

 

During the summer, there are fire shows in front of the Cathedral
During the summer, there might be fire shows in front of the Cathedral

If you are in the area and have time, behind the Notre Dame is the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation. This is a memorial to the 200,000 people who were deported from Vichy France to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Entrance is free to the public.

Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation
Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation

 

Sainte-Chapelle

10€ or free with museum pass

This is across from the Notre Dame and is one of the most beautiful and serene places in Paris. I recommend going an hour before they close so you can be among the last people to stay behind (almost alone) in the breathtaking chapel.

Amazing stained glass panes
Amazing stained glass panes

 

Serenity now
Serenity now!

While you are in the area, you might want to visit the Conciergerie. It is 9€ or free with the museum pass. I wouldn’t say this is a must do, but it’s really pretty.. in a cold, foreboding kind of way. It was where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned.

A splendid sight inside the Conciergerie
A splendid sight inside the Conciergerie

 

Tour de Eiffel

16€ lift to 2nd floor, 10€ stairs to 2nd floor. 25€ lift to the top. 19€ stairs + lift to top. No museum pass entry.

This is a no-brainer. If you’re in Paris, you gotta see the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been to the 2nd floor, and I’ve also been to the top. I think the 2nd floor views are already wonderful so going to the top is unnecessary in my opinion, but don’t blame me if you decide to pass and regret it later. I’m a basic girl so I like most of my Paris scenery shots to have the Eiffel Tower in the background; thus, scenic photos taken from the tower aren’t as iconic. Right? Naw? Anyway, after sunset the tower lights up in billions of beautiful sparkling lights on the hour every hour ’til 1am.

I recommend getting to the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro. Just look at that view!
I recommend walking towards the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro. Just look at that view!

 

Poking through the trees
Poking through the trees

 

View from the second level
View from the second level

 

View from the top
View from the top. See that giant building in the back? That (Montparnasse Tower; no museum pass) would be the best place to take city shots of Paris.

 

Rue Cler, the most famous market street in Paris and not far from the Eiffel Tower
Rue Cler, the most famous market street in Paris and not far from the Eiffel Tower

Arc De Triomphe

17€ or free with museum pass

I went here multiple days in one trip since it was free with the museum pass. Going up the winding steps can be a little tiring *heavy breathing* but the views are worth it. Make sure your bladder is empty before you visit because bathroom queues are long (I spent more time waiting for the toilet than taking photos at the top of the Arc).

Arc de Triomphe at sunset
Arc de Triomphe at sunset

 

Underneath her belly on a sunny day
Underneath her belly on a sunny day

 

Dizzying 284 steps up the Arc
Dizzying 284 steps up the Arc

 

View of the Eiffel Tower during the day
View of the Eiffel Tower during the day

 

After sunset while the Eiffel Tower is sparkling with lights
After sunset while the Eiffel Tower is sparkling with lights

 

After sunset while the Eiffel Tower is sparkling with lights
So pretty

 

The Catacombs of Paris 

Tickets: 13€, no museum pass. Reserve online to avoid a long wait.

It smells a little funky down there, but that’s because there are millions of dead people surrounding you. Walking through the long, dark corridor to get to the catacombs was spookier to me than seeing the actual catacombs.

I see dead people
I see dead people

 

Don't try to steal any bones. It's disrespectful (and they'll check your bags as you leave).
Don’t try to steal any bones. It’s disrespectful (and they’ll check your bags as you leave).


Père Lachaise Cemetery

The resting place of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, the cemetery is the largest in Paris and easy to get lost in. You’ll need a map.

Walking into the cemetery
Walking into the cemetery

 

RIP, Jim Morrison
RIP, Jim Morrison

 

Promenade Plantée

The first elevated park in the world, Promenade Plantée is a magical tree-lined walkway above the East side of Paris. Similar to NYC’s High Line, but a lot greener.

Green covered arbors along the walkway
Green covered arbors along the walkway

 

Lots of greenery
Lots of greenery

 

I want to jog here
I want to jog here

 

Montmartre

My favorite neighborhood in Paris is Montmartre, located in the 18th arrondissement. It was home to many notable artists like Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. If you take a walk through the area you’ll see the following sights:

Basilica du Sacré-Cœur

You’ll get some of the most gorgeous views of Paris from the steps of this church (free). You’ll get an even better view from the Dome (fee). I also visited the crypt inside the church, but according to the website it is now closed for security reasons.

Rare sight of an empty lawn in front of the Sacré-Coeur
Rare sight of an empty lawn in front of the Sacré-Coeur

 

Not so empty view from the steps
Not so empty view from the steps

 

View from the Dome
View from the Dome

 

Lots of stairways on Montmartre. Regrettably I did not take a photo of the most famous steps
Lots of stairways on Montmartre. Regrettably, I did not take a photo of the most famous steps

 

Ivy covered home in Montmartre
Ivy covered home in Montmartre

 

La Maison Rose, a restaurant made famous by the painting of Maurice Utrillo
La Maison Rose, a restaurant made famous by Maurice Utrillo’s painting

 

Le Bateau-Lavoir ("The Boat Wash-house"). Picasso painted Garçon à la pipe (Boy with a Pipe) here in 1905.
Le Bateau-Lavoir (“The Boat Wash-house”). Picasso painted Garçon à la pipe (Boy with a Pipe) here in 1905.

 

Le Moulin de la Galette. Built in 1622, it is one of only 3 remaining windmills in Montmartre. One of the others is at Moulin Rouge
Le Moulin de la Galette. Built in 1622, it is one of only 3 remaining windmills in Montmartre. One of the others is at Moulin Rouge

 

Le Fournil du Village (Voted Best Baguettes in Paris)
Le Fournil du Village (Voted Best Baguettes in Paris)

 

Cute shops and cute streets around ever corner
Cute shops and cute streets around every corner

 

Place du Tertre - open air art gallery. This used to be the main square of a medieval village before it became a part of Paris
Place du Tertre – open air art gallery. This used to be the main square of a medieval village before it became a part of Paris

 

Former residence of Vincent van Gogh
Former residence of Vincent van Gogh

 

Café des 2 Moulins - It takes its name from the two nearby historical windmills, Moulin Rouge and Moulin de la Galette. It is also the café featured in the film Amélie
Café des 2 Moulins – It takes its name from the two nearby historical windmills, Moulin Rouge and Moulin de la Galette. It is also the café featured in the film Amélie

 

Inside Café des 2 Moulins - I had a great burger and fries here.
Inside Café des 2 Moulins – I had a great burger and fries here.

 

The infamous Moulin Rouge
The infamous Moulin Rouge

 

Shopping

Paris does supermarkets and department stores better than the US. There’s so much to see, buy, and eat that it is sensory overload, but in a good way. My favorite is Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche. Our first time there it took us an hour to decide what to eat, but after our meal we sampled other spots inside the market and everything was delicious.

Another slightly overcrowded but recommended market is Galeries Lafayette. Try going during the weekday because it gets crazy claustrophobic on the weekends. While you’re there, go to the rooftop for some scenic views of Paris.

Galeries Lafayette all dressed up for Christmas
Galeries Lafayette all dressed up for Christmas

 

A view from the rooftop
A view from the rooftop

If you’re in Paris on a Sunday or Thursday, the Marché Bastille has groceries, food, souvenirs, clothing, housewares, and just about anything you’d want from an outdoor street market. It’s a fun place to window shop and grab a crêpe while you’re walking from stall to stall.

Marché Bastille on a Sunday afternoon
Marché Bastille on a Sunday afternoon

If you want to hit boutique shops, the hipster area in town is in Le Marais. Lots of cute French shops, but also lots of clothing store chains. If you’re in the area, visit Le BHV Marais (a favorite department store for locals).

 

Museums

Musée du Louvre

Tickets: 15€ or free with museum pass

Just thinking about The Louvre is overwhelming and makes my brain tired. It is a massive museum that was originally built as a fortress. I recommend hiring a tour guide to show you the most notable works of art as well as explain the history of the museum. If you don’t want a guide (they are expensive), Rick Steve’s Paris Travel Guide book will walk you through the can’t-miss highlights.

Rare sight of no tourists in front of the Louvre pyramid
It’ll take more than a day to get through all of the Louvre

 

Our tour guide walking us through where the moat of the fortress was
Our tour guide walking us through where the moat of the fortress was

 

You know you're here just for her
You know you’re here just for her

 

Turn around. The Wedding Feast at Cana is an amazing painting.
Across from Mona Lisa… turn around. The Wedding Feast at Cana is an amazing painting.

 

Big pyramid and baby pyramid
Big pyramid and baby pyramid

 

The Louvre at night
The Louvre at night

 

Musée d’Orsay 

Tickets: 12€ or free with museum pass

My favorite and most beautiful museum in Paris, the Orsay (originally a railway station) houses the largest collection of  impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.

Beauty inside the Orsay
Beauty inside the Orsay

 

A view of Paris though the clock
A view of Paris though the clock. You can see the Sacré-Cœur.

 

Looking through my photos from my three trips to Paris, this is the one painting at the Orsay that I took a photo of on each trip. Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Looking through my photos from my three trips to Paris, this is the one painting at the Orsay that I took a photo of on each trip. Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

 

Enjoy lunch at the gorgeous restaurant inside the museum
Enjoy lunch at the gorgeous restaurant inside the museum


Musée de l’Orangerie

Tickets: 9€ or free with museum pass

A very small but wonderful art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Loved the oval rooms covered in Monet’s water-lily paintings.

Monet's Nymphéas
Monet’s Nymphéas

 

Musée national Picasso-Paris 

Tickets: 12,5€ or free with museum pass

Great museum for fans of Picasso, but even if you don’t appreciate his art stop by just to see the cool building.

Sitting inside the museum
Sitting inside the museum

 

Where does the mirror start and stop?
Where does the mirror start and end?

 

Musée Rodin 

Tickets: 10€ or free with museum pass

I really liked the garden outside of the museum. Worth a visit to see The Thinker.

The Thinker with a view of the Dome that houses Napoléon's tomb
The Thinker with a view of the Dome that houses Napoléon’s tomb

 

Musée de l’Armée – Tombeau de Napoléon 1er 

Tickets: check site for price or free with museum pass

Dôme des Invalides, tomb of Napoleon I
Dôme des Invalides, tomb of Napoleon I

 

Inside the dome
Inside the dome

 

Big ass coffin
Big ass coffin

 

Centre Pompidou 

Tickets: 14€ or free with museum pass

A modern art museum designed in the style of high-tech architecture.

Look familiar? Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center was modeled after this
Look familiar? Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center resembles the Pompidou Center

 

Homes across from the Pompidou
Homes across from the Pompidou

 

Paris is very pretty from the Pompidou
Paris is very pretty from the Pompidou

 

Musée des égouts de Paris 

Tickets: 4,4€ or free with museum pass

I could tell you that I only went here because it was free with my museum pass, but really I came for the poop. If you are claustrophobic and have a nose, I don’t recommend you go (unless you really love poop, which there was none visible on the tour).

Warning! Do not proceed unless you want to upchuck your lunch
Warning! Do not proceed unless you want to continuously gag

 

Day Trips outside of Paris

Palace of Versailles 

Train: 7,1€ round trip or free with the Navigo Découverte metro pass

Less than an hour train ride from Paris, the Château of Versailles is a stunning display of France’s historic royalty and power. I recommend getting there early before the horde of tourists overtake the palace and gardens. Entrance into the Palace is free with your museum pass.

The golden gate to the Palace, replaced in 2008 more than 200 years after being torn down during the French Revolution
The golden gate to the Palace, replaced in 2008 more than 200 years after being torn down during the French Revolution

 

The Hall of Mirrors, the most famous room in the Palace
The Hall of Mirrors, the most famous room in the Palace

 

Every room in the Palace is grand and majestic
Every room in the Palace is grand and majestic

 

Latona's Fountain in the Garden of Versailles
Latona’s Fountain in the Garden of Versailles

 

Beautiful grounds in the garden
Beautiful grounds in the garden

 

Rent a bike to explore the gardens
Rent a bike to explore the gardens

Versailles is so big that I only had time to visit the Palace and the Gardens. I did not venture into the rest of the city.

 

Château de Fontainebleau  

Train: Purchase a single metro ride, or free with the Navigo Découverte metro pass; Then take the bus €1.90 – pay as you get on

About a 40 minute train ride from Paris, the Château de Fontainebleau is not quite as majestic as the Palace of Versailles, but it is impressive and worth a visit. It’s a lot smaller than Versailles, so you’ll have time to stroll through the quaint town and enjoy a long lunch. Entrance into the Château is free with your museum pass.

Château de Fontainebleau
Château de Fontainebleau

 

Looks like a painting, right? The rooms inside the Château de Fontainebleau are incredible
Looks like a painting, right? The rooms inside the Château de Fontainebleau are incredible

 

Story time inside the Château
Story time inside the Château

 

Disneyland Paris 

Train: purchase a single Metro ticket, or free with the Navigo Découverte metro pass

I love everything Disney, so it was a must for me to visit Disneyland Paris. It’s not quite as magical as it is in LA or Orlando, but it was still fun and had a lot of the same rides. The queues were short during off-season so we rode the best rides several times, and that made visiting worth it. Disney Paris is comprised of two parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. I purchased a park hopper ticket which allowed multiple entry into each side. Pro tip: purchase your tickets online beforehand to save money, and use the French version of the site to save a lot more money. Print your tickets and show them at either entrance gate.

Walking out of the metro and seeing this made me pee a little with excitement
Walking out of the metro and seeing this made me pee a little with excitement

 

The excitement is rushing through my veins as I approach the castle
The excitement is rushing through my veins as I approach the castle

 

It's so beautifullll
It’s so beautifullll

 

Stay for the fireworks show
Stay for the fireworks show

 

In closing

If you don’t follow my guide and visit any of the sights I mentioned above, then what the hell are you here for? Just kidding! If you don’t follow my guide, you’ll still have the most marvelous time in Paris because you’re in Paris! Every street is picturesque, every park is beautiful, and everything about Paris is so romantic. Thus, I will leave you with random photos around the city.

Quai de la Tournelle
Quai de la Tournelle

 

Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg

 

Pont-Neuf
Pont-Neuf

 

Even their Métropolitain entrances are beautiful
Even their Métropolitain entrances are beautiful

 

Jardin des Tuileries
Jardin des Tuileries

 

Random beautiful street in Paris
Random beautiful street in Paris

 

Grand Palais
Grand Palais

 

Tour Eiffel from my Seine River cruise
Tour Eiffel from my Seine River cruise

 

Palais-Royal Garden
Palais-Royal Garden

 

Looking smug af at Palais-Royal. Merci beaucoup, Paris. Always a pleasure to be inside you.
Looking smug af at Palais-Royal. Merci beaucoup, Paris! Always a pleasure to be inside you.

 

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments what your favorites are in Paris! Paris food blog post coming next…

2 thoughts on “How to Paris like a Champ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.