Paris Recommendations:

I have written about Paris before, complete with fairly descriptive recommendations and explanations for said recommendations. . . but with many friends about to embark on a Parisian adventure, I thought it was important to give some current,  somewhat succinct, and perhaps more practical suggestions for prospective visitors.

7 Things I Wholeheartedly Recommend in Paris:

These are listed in no particular order of importance, and are all “worth it” in the extreme. If you don’t want to get caught in crazy touristy traps or the crush of an overwhelmingly over-stimulating museum for the duration of your visit, that’s normal. These are my strong suggestions for anybody visiting who wants to catch a good glimpse of what Paris has to offer . . . and I’ve included some helpful practical info for planning your visit!

Le Musée Rodin

What is it? A gorgeous, stunningly-beautiful-yet-manageable, non-overwhelming, highly worthwhile, indoor-outdoor museum that contains MOSTLY the gorgeous sculptures and artwork of François-Auguste-René Rodin.

Practical information:

  • Entrance fee = 9 Euro, or included with  Paris Museum Pass access
  • Hours of Operation: 10am- 5:45pm (last entrance = 5:15pm), every day BUT Monday
  • Location = 79 Rue De Varenne (closest Metro stops = Varenne or Invalides)

rodin museum - a glimpse

L’Orangerie

What is it? Have you ever seen the GIGANTOR paintings of water-lillies that Monet did? Like: entire walls? This is that.

Practical Information:

  • Entrance fee = 9 Euro, or included with Paris Museum Pass access
  • Hours of Operation: 9am-6pm (last entrance at 5:15pm, also closed on Tuesdays and the morning of July 14th)
  • Location = Jardin des Tuileries (see below -closest Metro stop = Concorde)

Orangerie - on a map

Les Catacombes:

What is it? Lots and lots of bones, stacked eerily underground in a beautiful-yet-terrible reminder of human mortality. It’s morbid, yet memorable; fascinating.

Practical Information:

  • Entrance fee = 8 euro
  • Hours of Operation: 10am-5pm (last entrance at 4pm, also not open on Mondays)
  • Location = 1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy (closest metro stop is Denfert-Rochereau)

catacombs - a glimpse

Le Marché aux Puces

What is it?  Pure magic in the form of one of, if not THE, world’s biggest flea market. Antiques, clothing, housewares, art, EVERYTHING. Feel free to poke around on the M.A.P. website for more info.

Practical information:

  • Hours of Operation: usually open on weekend days, although Sunday seems to be the best bet for the most vendors!
  • Location:  Up and Down and in and around Rue des Rosiers in St. Ouen  (WAAAAAY up North in Paris- closest metro stop is probably at the Porte de Clignancourt)
  • IMPORTANT:  make sure you find the real Antique Market and the actual place because there is also a cruddy couple rows of vendors which can be misleading and cause you to be highly disappointed. . . don’t be fooled by this external nonsense. Find the real “Marché aux Puces” Because on the outside it’s all just crappy modern junk, not the antique mecca that I heard so much about. . . . and then I stepped into the magical old fashioned fairy-tale world that is antiques. . . and it was all better.

puces - a glimpse of what it's like

Versailles – la Domaine de Marie Antoinette

What is it? It’s the place where Marie Antoinette lived out her fantasy of being a peasant/actress/normal human being when, in actuality, she was the Queen of France, and not a popular one. It’s adjacent to the GIGANTIC and opulent chateau of Versailles, and sometimes people skip it because they assume it will just be more of the same opulence and gilt. HOWEVER, it’s beautiful, it’s quaint and it’s akin to setting foot into a setting for an old-fashioned fairy tale.

Practical information:

  • Entrance fee = 10 euro (although that does not include admission to the big palace of Versailles – the TOTAL “passport” ticket to all parts of Versailles is 18 euro)
  • Hours of Operation:
  • Location: Place d’Armes – 78000 Versailles, quickest access for travelers is by RER C, a train quite like the commuter-rail. To quote the website: “To get to the palace of Versailles, make sure to buy a ‘Paris – Versailles Rive Gauche’ ticket for zones 1-4”

domaine de marie antoinette - a glimpse

l’Arc de Triomphe – CLIMB IT

What is it? To quote Akon’s personal assistant, whom I overheard say this to the rapper himself whilst visiting the Arc: “This is a famous french monument.” To quote Sherlock Holmes: “Do your research.” Aside from its historical and cultural importance, if you climb the towers this is the absolute best view of the city of Paris!

Practical information:

  • Entrance fee = 8 euro, or included with Paris Museum Pass access
  • Hours of Operation: 10am to 11pm – cost =  to go up – if you’re there this weekend it’ll be crazy b/c the 14th is Bastille day, so there should also be fireworks and such
  • Location: Place Charles de Gaulle – at the top of the Champs Élysées (closest Metro stops are Georges V or Charles de Gaulle- Etoile)

arc de triomphe - a glimpse

Les Bateaux-Mouches

What is it? It’s a boat tour that takes you up and down the length of the Seine River, allowing you to see the sights and relax your aching tootsies at the same time. You can see the path/direction of these boat tours in the picture below! Bateaux mouche map - explanation

original map via

Practical Information:

  • Entrance Fee = 13,5 Euros
  • Timing information: Frequency – a bateau-mouche leaves about every 20 minutes. Duration –  about an hour and 10 minutes
  • Location/Departure point: Pont de l’Alma (on the northern side, or Rive Droite/Right Bank) at a place called “Port de la Conférence” in the 8th arrondissement (le 8ème).

Bateaux-mouches - a glimpse

In Conclusion:

There are many sights not included on this list. . .including (but not limited to) La Tour Eiffel, Le Musée D’Orsay, and Le Louvre. These are incredible/beautiful/worth while too, but I tried to keep the list above as succinct as can be. ALSO, there is the question of food. Paris has phenomenal food, but you can fall into the touristy food traps like anyone else and miss the magic. I won’t go into food here, but I STRONGLY recommend you check out Parisian food-suggestions from David Lebowitz [x] [x], whose food-blogging about Paris revolutionized my taste-bud experience of this fine city.

eiffel tower

Travel safe, friends, & amusez-vous bien!

 

Paris is Always A Good Idea

I have spent a month of my life in Paris.

That’s like, one 300th of my life. I think. (Math was never my strong point.) Now, this might sound like a big or small percentage to you, but a month is quite a bit of time to be a tourist in one city, even one so scintillating as Paris!  My month of visits were not consecutive, actually. Instead, I have been to Paris three times, each time with people who had never before experienced La Ville Lumière. . . quite a lot of tourism took place, and  each time I discovered different facets of the glittering Jewel that Paris truly is among the dross of urban metropolitan meccas across the continents! Although I will never claim or pretend to know all the delights of Paris, I will share with you a few things that, in my humble opinion, you should not miss if you are planning to visit!

#1: The Café

When your feet first touch down in Paris, the first order of business (after settling into whatever temporary shelter you plan on!)  – depending on when you get there – is to find some cheapy place to snag a bite to eat. (Airplane food just never cuts it!) This is not too hard, as long as you don’t expect a five-star culinary masterpiece for the price of 5 euro! Find a little nook with a lovely view and just quietly camp out . . . maybe sit in a cafe for a half hour, simply because you’re in Paris and you just should. . .

#2: The Musée Rodin

Then, when you’re as re-charged as your jet-lag allows, you should pack up your bag and wander off in the direction of Le Musée Rodin on the Rue de Varennes, but only if you want a gorgeous indoor-outdoor breathtaking fine art and sculpture experience. Hopefully you are not taking your trip too too  soon because it actually is closed for renovations until April 3rd. . . but it’s my favorite museum in Paris, and quite possibly the whole world. So, it is worth the wait. Many people go to Paris to see Le Louvre, which is monstrously large and – truthfully- quite overwhelming! Le Musée Rodin has an utterly different feel, an underlying tranquility; the small sculpture-laden château is nowhere near as overwhelming as the Louvre! Although the Louvre houses thousands upon thousands of treasures worth-seeing (which are very cool if you don’t mind feeling a little dazed and in shock at all the stuff to see!), Le Musée Rodin is like a breath of fresh air! You walk through the little gate and feel like you’ve stepped back into the time of Rodin himself. Your feet will crunch on the white stones that scatter the path leading up to Rodin’s past home. If you’re lucky, the rose bushes that fill the gardens will be in full bloom and your first view of Le Penseur (The Thinker) will be framed with a riotous array of petals, rendering the serious statue’s expression closer to a calm contemplative thought rather than a mental state of turmoil.
Most people only know Rodin’s Thinker, or at least know it best of all his work, but it is just the tiniest tip of the most incredibly exquisite ice-berg I have ever encountered. When you walk inside, you will see the most delicate and provocative sculptures you can imagine.

#3:Le Centre Pompidou

After viewing your fill of Rodin masterpieces, if it’s not late in the day and you still have time, I’d assess my mood. If I wanted to do some cool walking/exploring/shopping and see some awesome street performers and such I would head to the big square in front of the Centre Pompidou and chill there for a while. It’s honestly not a museum I would bother going into unless you’re obsessed with modern weird art, but there’s usually a lot of fun going on outside! I’d probably watch the street performers until I got bored and then I would go walk around le Marais district, which is pretty nearby and wonderfully full of cute cafés, patisseries, bakeries and both expensive and consignment shops. It’s a nice outdoor place to walk about and you see so much in Paris just by walking around.

#4:Les Catacombes

If you have time, descending into the Catacombs are ridiculously cool, but if it was my only day visiting Paris, I’m not sure I would make the catacombs the main event. Lots of stairs are involved and it’s a little bit depressy if you start to reflect alot on the plaques, but it’s a fascinating experience if you want to do something a little morbid!

#5: Dinner

After this part, I’d probably be hungry for dinner from all the walking, so I’d find a place to eat. You have a couple options at this point. Now if you’re in the Marais, doing Paris on-the-cheap, and you like falafel (not something you usually associate with France, I know) there are two places that are pretty much insanely famous to go to for falafel. They are right across the street from eachother (the more famous one is called L’As du Falafel).
This is not a convenient sit-down place but you can get food to go, so if you want a “real” restaurant and a chance to get off your feet, I’d go elsewhere. Actually, usually I’m not much of a one for recommendations, but if you want the classic French “steak-frites” which is delicious (although I think a little far away from this area, you might have to hop a metro), it’s called Le Sévero. They legitimately ONLY serve steak-frites and the menu price is fixed (I think around 19 euro) but they give you a lot of tasty food and they have good wine and desserts if you want to spend a little more… and it’s a nice place to sit and listen to street musicians and relax and eat.
If I remember, it’s pretty near a metro stop (not to mention it’s right by wherea whole bunch of famous people used to hang – Sartre, Hemingway and Picasso to name a few)

#6: Dessert

Okay, I know I’m talking about food a lot, but it IS unfortunately very possible- and even easy- to go to Paris and not eat well, so I think that’s something I want to give you an escape from if possible, I promise I’ll get back to the actual things-to-do soon! So, now it is crucial that you get dessert =D=D, especially if you stayed in le marais for dinner, which doesn’t appeal to people who are tired from walking, but would probably be more convenient of a segue into the next things you want to do, since it’s very central.
If you are in Le Marais, you should totally walk south towards the Seine, which will take you right to the bridge over to Ile St. Louis. It’s the perfect stop-over for famous ice cream at Berthillon (Which is worth it – if you’re gonna do it, don’t go to a substitute that “sells berthillon icecream”, go for the real deal!)

#7: Notre Dame de Paris

After that keep walking through Ile St. Louis and you can walk right onto the Ile de France to see Notre Dame. It’s gorgeous and wonderful to walk through and see the rose window and such… sometimes you catch beautiful music too… but honestly, it’s not really worth going up the towers, unless you want to see the gargoyles much closer. I mean, it’s cool, but not the coolest thing in Paris to climb (which I’ll get to, don’t worry)!

#8: Les Bateaux-Mouches

So, now, you should totally walk back accross the seine from Notre dame (I don’t really recommend going over the bridge to the southern side because you’re immediately in tourist mecca for a while at that point -and I mean, the least-legit, most unlikeable parts of tourist mecca). Now if you are at this point as the sun is starting to set, you are in LUCK/have planned admirably, because one of the BEST things to do in Paris (particularly if it’s your first trip) is to take a bateau-mouche trip on the seine. Typically, you go down right next to the Seine (there are big signs and it’s not far from Notre Dame) and hop a boat, they leave about every 15 minutes and they cost about 8 euro and they are super touristy, but they also let you go all the way up and down the seine and see everything in a really laid-back, enjoyable way. Ride on top if you do this. I don’t know why you would ride inside, actually.
 Now the reason why it’s ideal to do this at sunset or dusk (although I’ve done it in the day too and it’s nice then as well) is that , at this point, you’re gonna be wiped and might want to sit and enjoy Paris a little. BUT , more imporantly, it is gorgeous to watch the sun set on the Seine and see the Paris lights come on. REALLY gorgeous.

#9: The Ballet at L’Opéra Garner

Now, another evening option, if you want to do something more culturally heavy, would involve a little pre-planning, but is highly worth-it! If you have any inclination to go to a “show” of sorts, I would pack my best day-to-evening sundress rather than scrubby jeans for this day. Then, when you get to Paris/around 11 in the morning,go to the Opera Garnier ticketing booth (all the way around the left hand side of the opera, if you’re facing the front of the building) and get the last-minute tickets for whatever ballet/opera/show is playing.
I’d recommend the ballets. I’ve seen two. Tickets can be as cheap as 8-10 euro if you don’t mind craning your neck, and you can get some for like 30-45 euro that are actually pretty good. . . the first time I went to Paris, seeing the ballet was my absolute favorite thing I did.
If you do this, be sure to soak in all the beauty.
The Opera Garnier is STUNNING; you feel like you’ve stepped into an old movie set when you’re in a red velvet opera box. The interior is exceedingly glittery and over-the-top opulent, so be sure to explore it a little while you’re inside.
During intermission, you should also go out on the balcony and look out at Rue de l’Opera at night . . . while surreptitiously looking at all the snazzy people who dress to the nines for opera, which is also worth seeing!

#10: Tall Monuments

There are two monuments in Paris that are wondrous for very similar and different reasons!

La Tour Eiffel

First, there’s the Eiffel Tower. People told me it was overrated. They were wrong. IF you go, I recommend going at night.  Make sure you get to see the tower sparkle; the lighting of it is insane and every 15 min or half hour the whole thing twinkles and its impossible to capture on a camera or film, you just have to see it in real life! I love the Eiffel tower and, in my opinion, it’s TOTALLY not overrated. Going up to the top, however, is overrated. It’s just not that exciting to see the Paris skyline from that angle. . . it is exceedingly tiny and doesn’t have a whole lot of things you know to look for, especially without the Eiffel Tower being prominent on the skyline to distinguish the fact that you’re in Paris! It is great to go underneath, sometimes choirs sing underneath, which adds another dimension to the loveliness. Very magical to see! It is however a teeny bit hard to get to.
It’s a decent walk from the center of town, although it never seemed like it would be before I set out. Unfortunately, there is also only one metro stop near La Tour Eiffel, and it’s a little distance from the Champs de Mars. Also important to note: it stops running kind of early and you’ll want to make sure you get the last train back to wherever you are staying, unless you feel 100% comfortable walking the poorly-lit way back. down the Seine.  Ultimately this is all your call and if you are not one to like the eiffel tower in general, just pass on it, you’ll definitely see it from the boat and/or on the skyline a lot.

L’arc de Triomphe

Second, and maybe alternatively, one really cool place to go and NOT to miss climbing up is the Arc de Triomphe. It’s in a cool neighbourhood (ritzy and sometimes expensive with the champs elysees) and the Georges V metrostop is really close to it. If you do this, you can see the famous street the champs elysees, you can go on the underground pass to the arc, you’ll see where the famous tour de france pictures all happen and you’ll see the tomb of the unknown soldier underneath the arch. . . and all of this before you go up to the top, which does cost some money but is HIGHLY cool if you feel like climbing something for a good view. The Arc is equidistant from the eiffel tower and the sacre coeur (the white cathedral up on the hill in montmartre, which is not something you’ll probably have time to climb all the way to and is prettier from far away than from close up!). You can also see the huge awkward square of La Défense, if you want to, but it’s not glaring if you don’t like it.=D The top of the Arc de Triomphe is less crowded than a lot of touristy draws and has one of the best views in Paris, in my humble opinion. .. definitely my favorite view.

*Dessert

So, a final place I must mention, which is going to be food-related (sorry), is Ladurée, a bakery that’s been on Rue Royale since 1862.
It’s somewhat expensive and fancy and pretty fabulous; like the Tiffany’s of Patisseries (probably not a place I’d go to for a meal/any extended period of time if I only had one day in Paris…), but the one thing that is super famous from Ladurée and totally worth trying if you feel like getting a Parisian treat, are the macarons.
They’re obscenely good. Eating a vanilla bean macaron, or maybe a caramel one, might be how I would like to die.
They’re better than chocolate. Which is a big deal. They’re beautiful too, which sounds weird, but is true!

Summary of The Best Possible Day in Paris

Morning/Afternoon:

  • arrive, grab something to eat and some coffee while the city wakes up
  • mosey to the Musée Rodin and see all of the gorgeous sculptures, inside and outside
  • hop a metro to the Opéra Garnier, where you can buy tickets to the ballet, if that’s in your evening agenda
  • since Rue Royale isn’t far, I’d probably get macarons at this point!
  • head over to the Centre Pompidou
  • explore a little on the way (probably stumble onto some cool monuments or stop and see the Louvre pyramids if you overshoot! If it’s rainy out, I might even sub a trip to the Louvre in for the Pompidou experience!)
  • See if there are any cool street musicians or performers about in Pompidou
  • walk to le Marais, exploring on the way (there’s le Tour St. Jacques and other interesting spots all along the way)
  • grab some yummy falafel at L’As du Falafal as a very late lunch/early dinner
  • walk south towards Ile St. Louis (you’ll see a bunch of state buildings on the way)
  • get Berthillon ice cream and eat it while you walk over Pont St. Louis to Notre Dame.

Night time:

EITHER

  • Do a walk-through of Notre Dame de Paris
  • walk back north towards the bateaux-mouches stations and take a boat trip as the sun sets.
  • disembark and either grab a taxi to the Eiffel Tower or head to the Champs Elysées (if you take the metro to Georges V, you’ll still have a chance to walk a bit to see the Arc)

OR

  • head back towards the Palais Garnier (Rue de l’Opéra) and maybe clean myself up a bit.
  • watch a gorgeous ballet/opera and explore the palais during intermission
  • post-opera, either grab a taxi to the eiffel tower or head to the Champs Elysées (if you take the metro to Georges V, you’ll still have a chance to walk a bit to see the Arc)

End the Evening:

  • Seeing the Eiffel Tower or seeing and climbing the Arc de Triomphe, but no matter which you choose, enjoy the view
  • if you’re at the Arc, maybe grab a glass (or 3) of red wine at a Champs Elysées bistro (touristy, but acceptable) before going back to where you’re staying and totally crashing from exhaustion!
So, I utterly lack the ability to be succinct.=D I did narrow it down a lot, believe it or not, but feel free to ignore whatever of it you’d like! Above all, have fun! It was Audrey Hepburn who said that Paris is always a good idea, and Hemingway who called the magical city of lights a “moveable feast” . . . so dig in with vigor, friends!

Bon voyage!