Paris is a city that feels very nostalgic; theres a familiar feeling, something reminiscent, even when visiting the city for the first time. It's romantic and charming, filled with delicious food & wine, friendly people, rich history, and beautiful architecture. Everywhere you look there's a new cafe to try, neighborhood to explore, and ample history to discover.
This past summer was my second time visiting Paris, and I feel so lucky to that I was able to return. The second time around I was older and brought a fresh perspective to the table. I feel like I saw the city, people, food, and culture with a new set of eyes. Now I have a more complex understanding and appreciation for this romantic city.
We went to Paris at the end of June to celebrate my boyfriend's mom's 60th birthday. She had always dreamt of visiting Paris, so TJ, his sister Jen, and I decided that this was the perfect time to take her. The weather was super hot; the locals told us they were experiencing an extreme heatwave. Despite the heat our timing was perfect. We hit it at the beginning of summer, but before the huge influx of tourists arrived. The attractions were busy but not overly crowded, we got around easily, and never had to wait for primo seating at a cafe or restaurant.
Of course when seeing Paris for the first (or second) time, there's a long list of the touristy must-sees and do's. There's an endless list of museums and cathedrals to explore, jardines (gardens), shopping, and of course the iconic Eiffel Tour, just to name a few. As with all trips, there's never enough time to do it all, so it's best to prioritize the top must-sees/do's and go from there. To me, it's also extremely important to allow for spontaneous adventures and going with the flow. These moments of unexpected adventure and exploring usually lead to some of the most memorable experiences.
We spent 4 days in Paris and definitely made the most of the time we spent there. We hit up many of the iconic places in Paris, but also took the time to sit back and take in the sights, scenes, and tastes that Paris had to offer. Many of my favorite memories of this city were spent on a cafe patio, outdoors, eating amazing food, and sipping on a chilled glass of wine.
Where we stayed: We stayed at a small, 4-star boutique hotel called Hotel La Lanterne. It is a stylish and comfortable hotel, located in the 5th Arrondissements (district). It is just 5 minutes walking distance from Notre Dame. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful, the rooms were sleek, clean, and updated, has an indoor swimming pool, and the breakfast they served was on point. After a long day of exploring, those beds were some of the most comfortable I could think of.
What we did:
- River cruise on the Sein. This is a beautiful and relaxing way to see the sights in Paris. They even have a bar on the riverboat, so we popped some champagne and celebrated our arrival.
- Paris Office de Tourisme. A good place to buy tickets and get information for different attractions. We got asked multiple times by the grumpy Parisian behind the desk if we could read or if what we were looking for was on the list; he thought we were dumb as rocks. Pretty hilarious.
- Tulleries Garden. Beautiful grounds and statues.
- Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Shopping avenue that ends at the Arc de Triomphe.
- Arc de Triomphe. Buy the tickets, go to the top. The spectacular 360 degree views do not disappoint.
- The Louvre. Was told buy a local that Americans pronounce this funny (also that Americans smile all the time, while Parisians frown). Obviously some epic art and architecture here, also expect crowds and to elbow your way to the front of a lot of people with cell phones to see the Mona Lisa. I got a great picture of a guy taking a picture of that good looking lady.
- Notre Dame. I stopped for two seconds to take a picture in the courtyard outside and immediately lost everyone. Lines to get in can be long, but are totally worth it. Beautiful architecture, sculptures, stained glass, candles, and a massive organ just to name a few. Breathtakingly beautiful.
- Moulin Rouge. This show blew me away!! It was so much better than I had ever expected and then some. If you buy tickets online you can get a complimentary half bottle of champagne per person (we got 2 bottles because there was four of us). This is a must see in Paris. It had everything from roller skaters and hoop spinners, to mini ponies and massive snakes.
- Palace of Versasailles. Just a short drive out of Paris. Beautiful grounds, architecture, gold, and chandilliers. Really crowded with a lot of large tour groups. We had a small tour group with an amazing guide named Natasha.
- Champ de Mars. A place where locals and tourists alike gather on the lawn to drink wine and watch the light show on the Eiffel Tower. This was the perfect way to end our Paris trip. We sipped champagne on the grass and watched the iconic tower light up. It doesn't get much better than that!!
- Eiffel Tour. We took the elevator up the tour and took in the nighttime views.
What we ate/drank:
- Le Coupe-Chou. This restaurant consists of different rooms with some dating as far back as the 14th to 18th centuries. Cozy space, delicious wine, and the best tiramisu I have ever had.
- Chez Papa. This restaurant was recommend to me by one of my French friends who was born and raised Paris. Must be an adventurous eater to eat here. We couldn't read the menu and literally had no clue what we ordered. We were recommended the foie gras trio (it is a luxury food for Parisians). Foie gras is specially fattened duck or goose liver; TJ was not a fan.
- Prescription Cocktail Club. Reminded me a of a bar you would find in LA. Cozy, dark space, cool furniture, nice bartenders, and yummy cocktails (not strong by American standards but tasty nonetheless.) https://www.facebook.com/Prescription-Cocktail-Club-198121943593/?rf=197589633704800
- Le Flore en I'lle. Cafe across the street from Notre Dame. This was the first place I have ever tried escargot. We all liked it so much we ordered a second round. We also had some bomb onion soup (not called "French onion soup" when you're in France), and refreshing white wine.
- Chez Paul. So-so food, but seemed like a cool neighborhood with lot of bars.
- Maison Souquet. This is a MUST for a cocktail or two. Its a boudoir hotel right around the corner from the Moulin Rouge. We stopped there for a pre-show drink and could not have been more pleasantly surprised. Amazing decor, overly friendly staff, and good cocktails. Their bathroom is in the basement though, which I am positive is haunted; so get in and out of there as fast as possible. https://www.maisonsouquet.com/en/
- Marrow. TJ's friend from the states recommended this restaurant to us; his friend is the owner/chef there. It was definitely a locals spot and seemed a little hipster to me, like something you would find in LA. No English menu, but our server was very patient in explaining what was on it. Good cocktails and the octopus was delish.
- Take advantage of Uber. It is fun to experience the subway system, but for the majority of the time we took Ubers. It took all the hassle and stress out of figuring out where we needed to go and how to get there.
- Smile, be kind, be patient. There is a language barrier but most everyone we met was kind and willing to help us out when we needed.
- Eat cheese. Eat bread. The cheese and bread were always so phenomenal; we ate them both for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Treat yo'self.