Ah Paris. You stole my heart years ago when I found out about macaroons, La vie en rose and you being the city of love. It was with complete joy that I was able to visit you in the Fall of 2015.
This article has the following:
- My 4 day trip to Paris including feedback on what I liked and didn’t like. Note: This was more of a 3 day Paris with 1 day of travel.
- Tips and tricks I learned while I was there (great info for anyone planning on visiting!)
- Lots of pictures
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
- I would recommend downloading the Ulmon Paris app on your phone or tablet (Android link). This was invaluable on the trip since it allowed for offline map location. Paris can be very confusing to travel in since their streets are a grid system like in North America. Streets are at every angle you can imagine and connect in strange ways. This offline app locates where you are through localization on your phone/tablet and places you on the map to allow you to easily trek through the streets of Paris.
- I would HIGHLY recommend printing out this map. I printed it on a 13″x 19″ sheet on my Epson R2000 printer but I’m sure you could manage with a smaller size. This map was the most used resource that I brought with me. It shows all the Metro lines laid above a map of Paris and it also includes the majority of the tourist attractions.
- The second most handy thing I brought with me was my Gonex daypack (which I had specifically purchased for this Europe trip). For $15-20, this guy folds up into its inner pocket. It’s super light and was amazing to carry around with me during the day with a few bottles of water.
We were arriving to France from Romania and for inter-Europe air travel, our airline choices were pretty restricted. We flew from Tirgu Mures (TGM) to Paris Beauvais airport (BVA) via Wizz Air. The great thing about flying within Europe is that flights are very cheap. We paid approx. $70 USD per ticket (including a $10 USD administration fee) and an extra $40 USD for a checked luggage.
Arriving at Paris Beauvais Airport, we left the airport and purchased return tickets from Beauvais airport to Paris Port Maillot on the Paris Beauvais shuttle bus. It cost us 17 € per person each way. You can save some money by buying online beforehand at the cost of 15,90 € per person each way. To get to the ticket booth, just exit the airport from the arrivals area and turn right. There will be machines for you to buy your tickets and then you can proceed towards the buses. They look like this:
The ride took approx. one hour to arrive at Port Maillot from Beauvais airport. I would recommend that if you are buying your tickets at the machine that you put your tickets with the printed side inwards against each other to prevent the ink from rubbing off. The tickets all count for a one-way trip so it doesn’t matter which of the tickets you use when you board.
I had previously booked an AirBnb flat that was near Port Maillot. (Click on my referral link to save $20 USD on your first trip.) You can check out some of my favourited places in Paris on my AirBnB wishlist (including the place that I stayed at). My accommodations were close enough that we were able to walk from Port Maillot to it in about 20-25 minutes. If you have a lot of luggage, I wouldn’t recommend this. It was a bit of a trek and after a few legs in Europe already along with the cobblestone paths, this was a tiring walk. Port Maillot does have a metro station though which allows for easy access to wherever your accommodations are.
When we arrived at our AirBnb, we saved our location on the Ulmon Paris app (see above) and then headed out. They say that you should see the Eiffel tower twice – once at night and once during the day. Since we arrived in the late afternoon, we decided to visit the Eiffel Tower at night. We walked to the Arc de Triomphe (about 30 mins from our accommodations – use Louise Michel metro station as a point of reference).
A few things to note about the Arc de Triomphe:
- Access to the Arc de Triomphe is through an underground tunnel from the street. Don’t try and cross the street. Look for signs.
- There are stairs. This is good practice if you plan on climbing the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t count them but a quick google search tells me there are 284 steps. (Eiffel Tower has 704 from the ground to the 2nd floor.) There is an elevator available as well.
- Adult tickets were 9,50 € per person at the door. Those under 18 can go in for free with an adult. Those 18-25 and part of EU can also go for free.
- It has an amazing view of the city. The featured picture in this article was taken at the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
- If you go at night like we did, wait until it hits the hour (e.g. 20:00, 21:00, 22:00, etc). The Eiffel Tower starts to sparkle then.
After we saw the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe, we wanted to get a closer look. So we headed to the Eiffel tower by foot. This walk took us about 30 minutes.
There is no other way to describe the Eiffel tower other than it’s everything you’ve probably imagined. The only thing that was different in how I envisioned it is that I thought it would be bigger. Information about the Eiffel Tower will be covered another day. We just did a quick walk-by at the Eiffel Tower at night and then headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
I won’t recommend restaurants in this article since there are SO MANY and everything that I’ve tried in Paris was delicious regardless of price, or location. I will say however that I’ve noticed the following on pretty much every menu:
- Steak frites
- Creme Brulee
- Ham and Cheese sandwiches (on baguettes)
While in Paris, you MUST try the bread and have some pastries. They are really the best that I’ve ever had (and trust me, we eat a lot of bread and pastries at home – mostly because of my Romanian boyfriend). Another thing to try if you’re on the braver side is escargot. It was my first time trying it and it was delicious. My boyfriend had some previously and said that he didn’t like it. But the one we had in Paris was so delicious.
I would recommend calling it a night early on since the next few days will be tiring.
Our second day was what I had labelled a “Wandering day”. This meant we could do pretty much whatever we felt like in the moment. We had always agreed that we didn’t want every single detail planned beforehand since you never really know how tired you are until you’re on the trip. I had gone on trips in the past where the entire trip was go-go-go and was exhausting to the point that I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore. So you’ll get two thumbs up from me for scheduling some “Wandering days”.
We had breakfast at a nearby bakery and then headed to the Opera area for some shopping. We debated on going to some museums. But since our Day 2 fell on a Tuesday, it happens to land on the one day of the week that the Louvre is closed. I would check beforehand when you’re planning to see what’s closed on what day. Some museums are closed on Mondays. Some on Tuesdays. Versailles for example, is closed on Mondays.
Instead of visiting cultural museums, we decided to check out a different type of “museum”. We found ourselves in pastry shops.
Did I mention that you should try some pastries while you’re in Paris?
We also made a pit stop to Luxembourg gardens. I was a little disappointed with this since when I think of gardens, I normally think of these:
It was still worth a stop-by though. We weren’t allowed in the castle so we just walked by it and continued our search for pastries.
In the evening, we headed to the Moulin Rouge. I would recommend buying tickets beforehand since I’m not even sure if you can get tickets the day of. Ticket prices vary depending on the day of the week and what time show you choose. We went with the cheapest possible, which was 94 € per person for an 11pm show.
Tips and notes about Moulin Rouge:
- I wouldn’t recommend buying drinks. You have the option of buying tickets with champagne. We noticed that A LOT of people opted for this option. You get a full bottle of champagne per table. However, we didn’t opt for this. You can also buy drinks there but they can be pricey. They sell water, beer, and wine. You can ask them for tap water as well. We only ordered a beer but felt like we didn’t need it. The show is spectacular. Most people didn’t even finish their first glass of champagne. So I’d recommend you save yourself the money unless you really want a drink to go with the show.
- The programs are very nice. I think they were 10€ each. They make for a nice souvenir. and you can buy them in line or at the gift shop.
- The 11pm show is the cheapest. There’s an earlier show with dinner but I’ve heard it wasn’t worth it since it can run up to 200€+.
- If you’re going in a number not divisible by 4, you will VERY likely be seated with other people. The tables are set for 4 people so we were paired with another couple. Not a big deal since we’re just there to watch the show but I recognize this might be uncomfortable for some.
- An interesting observation we made was that it appeared that they would seat the men with their backs faced to the stage while the women sat in front of them.
For our third day in Paris, we went to Chateau de Versailles. This trip is a full day trip!
HOW TO GET TO VERSAILLES
I had done some research prior and found that there were a lot of very confusing guides on how to get there. Most of them were overcomplicated. So here’s what I found the simplest way:
- Head to the nearest metro station on the RER C (yellow) line.
- Buy tickets at the GREEN machines. They should say “Billets Paris et Ile-de-France”. Your “ticket+” metro tickets will not work.
- Wait for the train that takes you to “Chateau de Versailles” (heading towards Versailles-Rive Gauche). They come about every 30 mins.
- On your way back, you can board ANY train. They all head back to Paris. I think we heard this question at least 10 times when we boarded the train back to Paris.
I won’t post too many spoiler pictures of Versailles, but it is a must see. The grounds are massive!
We managed to visit the castle, the gardens, Marie Antoinette’s Estate, Petit Trianon, and the Grand Trianon within the day. We walked from the castle through the gardens to the where the Petit Trianon was and explored that area. Hours of walking later, we took a shuttle bus back to the castle and then headed home for a evening activities.
Tips and notes about Chateau de Versailles:
- Pack a lunch. There are some cafes on the grounds but selection is limited.
- You can rent bicycles and golf carts. I can’t remember the prices at the top of my head but they were pretty reasonable. We didn’t get either since we thought it was too cold and wanted to see things by foot.
- There is a “shuttle bus”. It goes from the castle to the Petit trianon, Grand Trianon, and in the middle of the Gardens. I would recommend that if you take it, walk to the gardens stop. The one at the castle always had huge line-ups. That way you get to see the grounds instead of waiting in line for an hour. Note that it does cost 4€ per person and you can buy it from the driver or at the castle.
In the evening, we headed to the Opera. Paris has two opera houses. The Palais Garnier and Opera Bastille. The Palais Garnier was the nicer one. Take a look:
I had read previously that you aren’t able to see inside Palais Garnier unless you had the Paris Citypass or if you were going to see an opera itself. This was my first time at an Opera so I wasn’t sure what to expect or what seating would be like. Tickets range from about 50 € and go in the hundreds.
Tips and notes about Palais Garnier:
- You can preview what your view will be like in the theatre when you purchase your ticket. If you can, DO NOT buy tickets in the amphitheatre. These seats are very uncomfortable and you pretty much have no leg space. These are however the cheapest tickets, but trust me. Pay a little more to watch the opera comfortably.
- I purchased the program online for 12€ but you can also buy them there. If you buy them online, you must bring your ticket print-out AND the program print-out.
- Please dress up for the Opera. I would recommend wearing something nicer. People dress up for the Moulin Rouge, but I found more people dressed up for the Opera whereas there were quite a few people wearing a plain tee and jeans for Moulin Rouge.
On the last day, we headed to the Eiffel Tower for our day viewing.
If this is your first time Paris, you’ll of course want to see the Eiffel Tower. We decided to walk up the 704 stairs to the second floor. Tickets were 7 € for the stairs. On each floor of the Eiffel tower, you could find large painted circles on the ground or posters on the walls that said “Place to Kiss”. It made it a nice scavenger hunt to find them all. We counted 5. And yes, that is me doing a cartwheel in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Tips and Notes on the Eiffel Tower:
- Take the stairs. There was no line when we went. And they are definitely do-able. The lines for the elevators were probably anywhere between 45 mins-2 hours.
- Each step is numbered, so what I did was made it a goal to not take a break until I had gone up 300 steps. There are plenty of landings though if you need to take a break.
- You can only climb to the 2nd floor. From there, you buy a ticket that takes you to the top – another 6€ per person. (So if you climb to the 2nd floor, you’ll get both the stairs and elevator experience). 😉
- Make sure you head out in the back after to take pictures. The Champ de Mars grounds are the best place to get some fun Eiffel Tower photos (like the one of me doing a cartwheel). There will be lots of people there. You can’t miss it.
- This was the one tourist attraction that made me feel uneasy about pickpockets. Please watch your things when you’re on the ground.
We spent about 2 hours at the Eiffel Tower, had lunch and then headed to the Louvre Museum.
I kid you not when I say this place is MASSIVE. There are three major wings and each wing has three floors. Some four floors. You could easily spend days here. We spent about five hours and quickly walked through as much as we could so we could see things. Tickets are 15 € per person.
Tips and notes on the Louvre Museum:
- Go in through the metro stop. There was no line to get in through security this way. I’ve heard the entrance from the outside had lines of up to 2 hour wait just to get through security checks.
- Buy the tickets at the machines. The lines for the machines are MUCH shorter than the regular ticketing booth. You can find the machines next to the ticketing booths.
- If you are limited on time, here are the things I would recommend you see:
- Napoleon’s Apartments. These were honestly more grand in my opinion than what you can see at Chateau de Versailles. These rooms were absolutely exquisite and had HUGE wow factor.
- The Mona Lisa. Though note that there will be A LOT of people here. The Mona Lisa is kept in a large room and it’s the only painting in the center of the room. It’s very crowded and will be difficult to get a picture of it close up.
- The Statue Garden. I’ve never seen anything like this before and was very impressed with how much light and the relaxed environment. All three of these things are featured in the images above.
- Skip the cafes here. We took a quick look at them and they weren’t that nice. But maybe that’s because I was expecting to dine somewhere that looked like Napoleon’s Apartments.
And there you have it. Lots of choices of what to do in Paris, but these were all of the “Must-See’s” on my list. We had to catch our flight to Dublin after the Louvre so we couldn’t stay longer but we definitely plan on coming back.
If you want a little piece of Paris in your home, check out my free La Vie En Rose Paris Print that you can download and print out at home.