In our last post, I made a big speech about how important it is to keep your Paris itinerary simple and strategic. That way, you leave room to truly soak up the culture and enjoy yourself.
So let’s get right down to it.
In an effort to help you map out your relaxed, targeted itinerary, we narrowed down our absolute favorite things we did in Paris.
Hop on the football bandwagon
As I mentioned earlier, we went to a Paris Saint-Germain football game on our first night in the city. Just doing what we can to assimilate with European culture, you know. This was SO fun. The fans were absolutely nuts, and not in a wasted-Oakland-Raider-fan way. They were so into the game, cheering in complete unison the entire 90 minutes. Alcohol is not allowed in the Parc des Princes stadium, so there weren’t any drunk fans badgering us (very different than NFL games in the U.S.). PSG played Angers that night, and the atmosphere was on fire.
Even if you are just pretending to be a football fan for the duration of your Euro trip, this experience is an absolute MUST. We bought €44 tickets from Viagogo website a couple of months in advance. And don’t stress, you can buy a scarf at Parc des Princes for €15.
Pop some bubbly at La Tour Eiffel (but not until sunset!)
If it’s your first time in Paris, you obviously need to pay your dues at the Eiffel Tower. Brace yourself for wound-up tourists and aggressive street vendors. Wait until just before sunset to head over. After the sun goes down, the tower sparkles (yes, sparkles) on the hour for a few minutes. It is glorious. Swing by this market around the corner to grab a beverage of your choice. Find an available bench at the park behind the tower, and enjoy the show.
Revel in literary heaven without shame
As you cross from the Right Bank over the Île de la Cité, you’ll likely recognize Notre Dame (if not, you can’t miss it). If you want to go inside this massive cathedral, it’s better to get there early (and on a weekday) in order to avoid the lines. If not, keep walking towards the Left Bank, and find the Shakespeare & Company bookstore on the other side of the river.
This historic English bookstore is famous for having once been the social hub of the literary greats of the golden age–Fitzgerald, Hemingway, the whole gang. I am obsessed with this place. It is virtually always crowded with American students and tourists. It’s worth the stop nonetheless. They have beautiful books and a fun vintage section upstairs. They also stamp the inside cover of anything you purchase which you know I just love.
BUT. Just buy one book, if you can help it, at Shakespeare & Company. Book sellers line the entire river, just outside. Find the French versions of your favorite novels at majorly discounted prices.
Scavenger hunt through Saint Germain (then picnic with your findings at the Luxembourg Gardens)
We did this by accident, sort of, but it ended up being just the LOVELIEST afternoon. The Saint Germain neighborhood of Paris was one of our favorite areas to explore. We loved aimlessly roaming the pretty streets and watching effortless chic Parisians live their effortlessly chic lives.
If you’d prefer to put a mission to your wandering, collect a few picnic essentials and head to the Luxembourg Gardens. First, grab a couple of fresh baguettes at Poilâne (rumored to make the best baguette in Paris, and we have to say that it did not disappoint). Then, stop by the Marché Saint-Germain and ask the friendly cheese vendors to help you select a couple of locally-produced, life-changing cheeses to snack on.
Take a lap around the Luxembourg Gardens (constructed in 1612!) before settling down on a bench for a picnic. Make sure to get there with enough time to enjoy your meal before the gardens close just at sundown.
Pack some tissues, and go gawk at Monet’s waterlilies
If you visit one museum the entire time you are in Europe, make it the Musée de l’Orangerie. Even if you are typically the weak link yawning at the back of every museum tour you’ve ever been on, you will still be impressed by Monet’s waterlily murals. You can find the museum in the corner of the Jardin des Tuileries.
Adult admission to get into l’Orangerie costs €9. However, if you are interested in seeing the Musée d’Orsay (more impressionism and post-impressionism in an old train station) as well, you can purchase a joint ticket for €16.
Also, most major museums in Paris are free for everyone the first Sunday of every month. If you can hang with the crowds, take advantage of that deal!
Walk the Champs Elysee, and scale L’Arc de Triomphe
The Champs Elysee is a major boulevard that stretches from the Jardin des Tuileries to the Place Charles de Gaulle (where the L’Arc de Triomphe is). Though many complain about how busy and touristy this is, we definitely think it’s worth checking out if you are in Paris for the first time. It’s easy to access after visiting either the Louvre or L’Orangerie.
Stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries and head up the Champs Elysee, towards the Arc de Triomphe. It is about a mile, but don’t worry. You can make a quick stop at Ladurée for sustenance about halfway up (more on that in our next post).
Once you get to the Arc de Triomphe, DEFINITELY go on top of it. During our time in Paris, we found a few different spots to look out at the city. However, nothing beats the vantage point from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The symmetry of the boulevards stemming out from the Place Charles de Gaulle is unlike anything you can find in the U.S. We absolutely loved it and felt it was worth the 40 stairs and €12.
This is all nice, but we know what you are really thinking. In our next post, we will give you a rundown on the most important part of your trip to Paris–WHERE TO EAT.