Updated: Sep 13, 2020
A mini-guide to Paris, France
I traveled to Paris in March with my sister Adela for her spring break. Paris is beautiful in March, a bit chilly but it makes it fun to stop for tea and pastries! We spent three days exploring the city by metro; it is safe to say we walked upwards of eight miles per day. I thought navigating Paris was fun.
There is a ton to see, and it can be pretty spread out. So when traveling to Paris, make sure to do your research and have your top things in mind. The food in Paris is something alone I would return for!
Although the restaurant service is notorious for being poor, the food and atmosphere made up for it. I love the way the restaurants are situated in the city, and the way their patios spill over into the streets. I did a ton of research and these are the things you must see your first time in Paris:
This is a lively neighborhood filled with crepe vendors and the hottest shopping: things Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi, Chanel, etc. It is known for its trendy boutiques, vintage shops, and vibrant gay community.
I loved the atmosphere of this area, and Adela had fun trying on berets! Fantastic place to visit on a Sunday afternoon, as there were lots of musicians playing in the nearby restaurants.
Les Halles | Shopping
If you’re going to Paris, be sure to leave room in your suitcase. Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. There is shopping in every nook and cranny of every single street in Paris. I was obsessed with the purses and shoes!
And more often than not, when you pick something up it's upwards of $500 in the fancy areas. If you’re looking for good cheap-ish shopping the “Les Halles” is great stopping, it was recommended to me by a friend who lives in Paris.
For some reason right now, the tennis shoes with giant platforms are in (it kills me)! But it’s really fun to walk around and see what is trending. Don’t go out of your way to look up shopping, likely wherever you are, there will be great shopping!
This famous Catholic cathedral is one of France’s largest icons, next to the Eiffel Tower of course, and it was constructed starting in 1160. Sadly, Adela and I only saw it from the outside, because of our tight travel schedule.
The icon caught fire on April 15th, 2019 and much of the interior has been destroyed. People have pledged millions of dollars to help rebuild this church, and according to The Guardian, (French) President Macron said,
“The fire at Notre Dame reminds us that our history never stops and we will always have challenges to overcome,” Macron said on Tuesday night. “We will rebuild Notre Dame, more beautiful than before – and I want it done in the next five years. We can do it. After the time of testing comes a time of reflection and then of action.” (April 17, 2019)
I look forward to seeing it be rebuilt, and I cannot wait to visit it again in the future. Remember to visit the important icons when you visit places, this is just a reminder that no matter how strong something seems it may not stand forever.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris | Sacré-Cœur
I was blown away by the construction of this church. This church sits on the highest point in the city which allows you to look out over Montmartre and the rest of Paris, and the Eiffel Tower is beautiful when it looks so small.
This is a Catholic church that is dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus. And the inside is even more magnificent, the domed roofs are different and the stained glass work is very charming.
The beloved Montmartre. When I talk to friends about Paris, everyone recommends visiting this district. And now it is clear why. It is everyone's favorite because it is so darling. The entire neighborhood descends down from the Sacré-Cœur, and the roads are steep giving it a San Francisco vibe.
The buildings are odd shapes and wind around the tight streets and boast tons of pastel colors. This area is filled with art and cutesy restaurants, if you are looking for boutiques and non-chain shopping, this will be your stop.
There are lots of people in this area and a few cars, I could have easily spent a day exploring here. A number of museums also reside in this area. We had dinner at the base of the Sacré-Cœur at Café Chappe, and I got the escargot, delicious!
I will forever remember the first time my virgin eyes saw the Eiffel Tower. Adela and I went on a sunrise photo mission of this beauty. I will remember running through the metros and watching the clock as 6:42 AM closed in on us.
When we cut the corner to see the Eiffel Tower, I almost felt like the wind got knocked out of me. The sun was just peeking over the city and the sky was every color of pink and orange. It is indescribable.
We’ve all seen it in pictures, but truly, you have to see it in person. It absolutely towers Paris, and it is spectacular. Seeing it at sunrise is extra extraordinary. The way the sun sat on the horizon, glowing and sparkling over the haze, is something I can’t get out of my head.
And bonus for waking up at 5 AM—no one was around—and that is the best way to see anything. (To get this photo angle- get off at the Trocadero metro stop)
Wow wow woowwww. If you are an art lover, you could spend DAYS at this museum. There are three levels to this museum and you could spend 8+ hours in each. I was really into the sculptures/France 800-1500 section and the Greek 500- 30 BC section.
Of course, the paintings from Spain, France, and Italy from the 1200s to the 1800s are incredible. The Mona Lisa is housed here, and if you go at a busy time, there will be hundreds of people surrounding that 4x5 painting!
My favorite pieces were the Winged Victory of Samothrace, Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, The Three Graces, and Lady Liberty Leading the People! Be sure to buy your tickets in advance as there will be hoards of people, oh and it is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays!
Champ Élysées | Arc de Triumph
This area is known for theaters and high-end shopping, as well as being the end of the Tour de France race. This is a great spot to explore on a sunny day, also if you can find a rooftop bar, bonus points! One of my favorite restaurants on the trip was located here, called Le Paris du Fruit.
There were Bugatti’s galore and police everywhere. This street is super busy with cars and people, but the energy makes it a memorable experience. And of course, the Arc de Triumph is located at the end of the long shopping strip and you can’t leave Paris without getting a shot with it. Check out the humongous French flag in-between the arc, I thought that was really neat.
Paris via my GoPro:
For My Foodies
My sister came to Europe on a mission- a mission to try all the things! And I can’t say I loved that, because I was and am training for my wedding. But Paris does have some food to die for. Of course, you have to try escargot or snails. I have to say, I was impressed, I love snails. I ordered them 2-3 times; they taste like mussels kinda, and I love them in garlic!
And macaroons are another colorful staple you’ll see in Paris; Laudrée is a famous “luxury” bakery that started in France in 1862 that specializes in macaroons. I especially enjoyed their raspberry macaroon, going into Laudrée is an experience, so don’t miss out on that one. Other than that, France is known for its duck, rabbit, eclairs, and crepes galore. You can find most of these items everywhere.
Le Musset Saint-Honoré Paris- This is one of the only restaurants open early around the Lourve. We got to this area around 730 AM to get into the museum and beat the crowds. This place has a lovely patio and inner atmosphere, great omelets, and lattes.
Le Pot-Potin de Lete- We stopped here for a late lunch before we hiked the 270 steps up to the Sacré-Cœur. They get five stars from me! My sister Adela (20) ordered a large glass of wine, and a bottle came out! They have very generous portions of wine for cheap. I had a seared tuna salad and Dela got the braisen lamb—get the lamb! Drool. It was bomb.
Le Paris du Fruit- I stumbled on this one while hangrily perusing Champ Élysées with my head down in my Yelp app. I loved their food, they’ve got a HUGE menu. Literally anything you want—they have. They’ve got fresh-pressed juices, tacos, burgers, seafood, steak, and amazing mushroom soup! Adela also got a stellar dessert. We spent a good three hours there enjoying their atmosphere and resting our feet from a long day of walking.
One of my old volleyball coaches, Amy Wong, is living and playing professional volleyball in Paris so she helped me pick up on navigation. The City Mapper App is fantastic in Paris, so much more accurate than Google Maps or Apple Maps! It easily gives you the best walking/biking/metro/taxi route, and it has so many options.
Thanks for the tip Amy! Adela and I were there for three days and purchased a great three-day public transport pass in the metro station for about $25. The metros are great, on time, and safe and I would highly recommend using them when you visit Paris. It also gives you the real city experience.
Have you been to Paris?! What were your favorite spots? I cannot wait to return!