Paris: The Guide

Recently, a lot of friends have been asking me for recs and tips on things to do and see in Paris as they are all lucky kids and will be heading over there between now and the end of this year! Whilst being uber jealous on one hand, I wasn’t going to say no when they all asked me to sharing my tips and recs, so here it is for all of you…

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View from top of Eiffel Tower, 2010

See

The Staples

Champs-Elysées, Eiffel Tower, Louvre museum, Orsay museum, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur Basilica, Tuileries gardens, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Moulin Rouge

Opéra Garnier

Besides from it being a beautiful piece of architecture in the middle of one of the popular districts of the city, try and see one of spectacular performances! they are usually last-minute cheaper left-over tickets on the night if you line up 2-3hrs earlier. There is also the Opéra Bastille which mainly shows the ballet performances, but you can check out the overall schedule for both on the main site.

La Défense

The CBD equivalent, give it a go if you’re interested in commerce, modern architecture and trying to figure out the design aesthetic of some interesting buildings.

Versailles

A VERY worth day trip just a short train trip to outside of Paris: if the Hall of Mirrors does not enlighten you, then I’m sure the history of Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette or Louis XVI might just be enough to entice you to visit this grand estate. You could do it in half a day, but you wouldn’t be able to fit in exploring everything there is to offer, such as the phenomenal garden grounds and Marie Antoinette’s private estate.

Giverny

If I was a flower or a bee, this would be my heaven. The habitation and inspiration of the impressionist painter Monet, you’ll get the chance to explore his gardens, water lily pond, his house and the very air that he breathed. There is also a small Impressionist museum close by too which has some splendid works, such as from Caillebotte. This is also a day excursion, consisting of train and public coach to/from Paris.

Luxembourg gardens

Definitely our top public garden, if you would be so lucky to have the chance to go in Summer - do not miss this. It is simply amazing.

Parc Monceau

A beautiful park in the 8th district, which is perfect for strolls and chilling out amongst the large trees, weeping willows and free wi-fi.

Père-Lachaise cemetery

Much more of touristy site full of history than your normal generic tombstone-filled cemetery. The soothing quiet atmosphere is indescribable, and you’ll get to see the burial spots of well known figures such as, Chopin, Delacroix, Marcel Marceau, Jim Morrison and Édith Piaf.

Place des Vosges

A medium-sized square in the Marais which is perfect for lunch with friends or strolling about. In my opinion, completely underrated as I’ve previously mentioned, and also near the House of Victor Hugo.

Les Invalides

A mega complex filled with history, featuring the massive Army Military Museum, the burial site and huge tomb of Napoleon and chapel. This could take half your day at least, but key attractions would be to see his tomb and a quick wonder around the Military Museum which is filled with old army uniforms, weapons, swords and all things dangerous!

Marmottan museum

One of my favourite museums in the world, it is filled with Impressionist pieces (with a lot of Monet), located in the 16th district. Impression, Sunrise anyone? Yes, you’ll find it here.

Georges Pompidou centre

The modern art museum of Paris, the building itself is a modern sight to behold. I’m personally not a huge fan of it as I don’t exactly have a penchant for modern art but for those that are, I’m sure it would be fantastic!

L’Orangerie

Another one of my top art museums, ever. And if you’re a lover of Monet’s master pieces, you will not want to miss it. Or you’ll cry. You’ll see why, I swear.

Carnavalet museum

The museum of the history of Paris throughout the ages. A jam-packed experience, so definitely set aside a few hours at least. Anyone that is in love with Paris itself would not want to miss this.

Do

Climb up the Eiffel Tower and/or Arc de Triomphe for some magnificent views of entire Paris (e.g. see image above).

If you’re tired and want an easy tour around the Seine, take a ride along one of the large bateaux-mouches, they also provide guided commentary in several languages during the ride.

Go to a local supermarket (i.e. Carrefour, Monoprix, Franprix), stock up on amazing french food and have a lunch or dinner picnic on the Pont des Arts - the perfect bridge with a bonus view at sunset.

To fulfill your asian hunger pangs, check out the Chinatown district at Belleville, filled with restaurants and asian supermarkets.

French Open at Roland Garros if you’re lucky the season is on when you are there!

Go out! There is always so much going on every day, be it comedies, clubbing, theatre, sketch shows etc, and they normally wouldn’t break your budget. Some good websites to check out what’s going on: Cityvox, Evene, Sortir à ParisParis Bouge.

Shop

Tuileries - Rue de Rivoli, Rue Saint Honoré

Want to hang out with all the cool kids? Think Colette, Annick Goutal, Fifi Chachnil etc.

Montparnasse - Rue de Vaugirard, Rue de Rennes

Wicked long road, filled with shoe stores and fashion boutiques (mostly Parisian chains). Have fun!

Opéra/Auber area

Mix of high street and couture central. You’ve got your department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps (Le Bon Marché is not situated in this area, but definitely a department store must-visit), the top international chains like Zara, Uniqlo, H&M, Mango, French chains like André, Naf Naf etc. The Repetto boutique is also here!

Marais - Rue Vielle du Temple

Has a large array of chic and upper class boutiques, some vintage and accessories stores. Definitely rocking Parisian cool vibe here.

Bastille - Come On Eileen

The ultimate vintage lover’s haven.

FNAC

The French chain-store equivalent of Dick Smith/Dymocks combined: all things electronic, books and music.

Madeleine - Place de la Madeleine

Fauchon + Ladurée ♥

Saint-German-des-Prés

You can find Le Bon Marché department store near here, as well as several chic Parisian boutiques and the coolest cafés and spots to hang out during the day and night.

Champs Elysées

Way too touristy an area to have a great shopping experience in my opinion, but is nevertheless filled with boutique after boutique. A lot of the large high-end designer brands fill this strip, and if you’re into that kind of thing, don’t forget Avenue Montaigne.

Eat

There are clearly thousands of places to eat around Paris, but to be concise I’ve picked my favourite chains, dessert places, patisserie and a few restaurants:

Place Monge, Rue Mouffetard

A well known area for great eats, very lively in the evenings particularly end of week and week-ends. Also a yuppyish area too.

Chez Gladines

They don’t take bookings but it is without a doubt, my favourite place for a not too expensive dinner out of all the places I have tried in Paris. They make a killer Confit du Canard, which is my favourite French main!

Chez Clément

A restaurant chain around with a seasonal menu that changes. Pretty good dig for medium-priced French cuisine.

Galeries Lafayette food hall

Warning: Not your regular supermarket. You might end up leaving the place with considerably less weight in your wallet/pocket. Think exquisite delicacies like Japanese-inspired macarons, delicious French camembert, jam in so many flavours you lose count, and stacks and stacks of French dessert in formations that you just want to frame.

Au Pied de Fouet

Top more-expensive restaurant in the 7th district. Absolutely divine.

Pomme de Pain

French baguette/salad chain, freshly made and delicious!

Paul patisserie

The best place for your quintessential french patisseries. To die for.

Pierre Hermé

Even better than Ladurée some would say! They make macarons & chocolates.

La Maison du Chocolat

With a name like The house of chocolate, it better be good!

For more restaurants and reviews, a good site to check out isrestoaparis.fr

Tips

When booking accommodation, I would recommend looking into the 1-8, 11-16 arrondissements (districts) of Paris. The more central it is and closer to several metro lines, the more convenient in getting around, such as the yellow Line 1 (good for lots of touristy spots). My preferred areas would be 4-8 and 14 as I consider them to be more charming and lovely districts.

There is no obligation to tip at every place you eat. Bread is normally free.

Try not to have too much luggage if you plan on catching the metro from the airport to/from your hotel/hostel. Metro elevators are pretty much non-existant, and steep stairs abundant.

If you need to push past someone or accidentally step on someone’s toe, simply say pardon and you’ll be sweet!

Often, when you going through the turnstile at the metro/train station, you might suddenly feel someone pushed up behind you - don’t be alarmed. They’re normally just rascals and/or cheapskates who don’t have a ticket, don’t want to get caught by ticket patrollers and are hence, using you to get through the barrier. Just smile and continue to push through. They normally thank you in a flurry afterwards.

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And there you have it: my guide to Paris! For those that are venturing off soon, I hope you have an AMAZING time as I’m sure you will!

(This post first appeared on Les Deux - my previous blog)