Suggested Duration: 7 Days, 6 Nights
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
March to October
My Thoughts on Paris
Paris happens to be one of my favorite cities on earth. For me, it’s a city that epitomizes love, romance, sex, fine art, haute couture and high fashion. It is also known for its Michelin star restaurants. It is nostalgic, insanely charming and notoriously expensive. Indeed, for me, it is simply "the city of all cities.” Paris is a budget breaker and a city that promises phenomenal moments. It’s one of the cities one must visit between now and heaven. When I think of Paris, I see and think of music; of love; of happily ever after.
This romantic city beckons for all to visit and embodies many charming and wonderful opportunities. I encourage any enthusiastic traveler to leave their blinders at home, dump their inhibitions, reservations, preconceived notions, and/or ideologies at the door of Paris, in order to truly love and appreciate this city. Only open minded and open hearted people will embrace this beautiful land of fashion, art, gastronomy, and love. This is a city of love and a city after my own heart. I've been to Paris quite a number of times, and each time I visit, it never ceases to amaze and delight me.
This city is the capital and most populous city of France. It is situated on the Seine and is in the center of the Ile-de-France region, a.k.a "Paris Region". It is the home of the most visited art museum in the world - the Louvre; noted for its collection of French Impressionist art and home of that famous painting, Mona Lisa. Paris is also known for its Fashion, thanks to the biannually held Paris Fashion Week and its Haute cuisine. Many notable landmarks, such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Basilica of Sacre Coeur on Montmartre and the magnificent Eiffel Tower, can be found here as well. Nearly 22.4 million people visit each year. Paris is a MUST visit for every Travel Enthusiast.
Airports to Fly Into
Where to Stay
The Westin Paris - Vendôme
3 Rue De Castiglione, Paris 75001 +33 1 44 77 11 11
The Westin Paris - Vendôme is one of my favorite hotels in Paris. I highly recommend this hotel located on 3 Rue De Castiglione in Paris, for its desirable location. This hotel is gorgeous and elegant, and features lovely rooms and suites with very high ceilings and grand chandeliers. The rooms are quite luxurious and ornate and their doors open up to a balcony that offer city and/or street views. This hotel offers every possible amenity and you are right next door to the Louvre, mere minutes from the Eiffel Tower, Place and Parc Vendôme; and within walking distance of Av. des Champs-Élysées. Also right next door is Angelina, one of my favorite cafes and restaurants in the world.
Where and What to Eat
Angelina is a traditional Parisian cafe and restaurant known for having THE BEST hot chocolate ever, on earth. It is so thick, rich, and creamy - you'd swear they served you melted chocolate bars in a cup, literally. They are also famous for their amazing pastries. Angelina has been in operation since 1903, and is not for budget conscious individuals. This place is pricey, but I happen to feel it's worth it. Have the Eggs Benedict for breakfast alongside a hearty cup of hot chocolate goodness. You can thank me later, and in advance - you are welcome.
Nestled within the ground floor (main courtyard or somewhat of an open air atrium) of the Westin Vendome is La Terrasse, which offers exceptional culinary service. We had lamb steaks with a heavenly bearnaise sauce at this outdoor restaurant that offered such a unique and tranquil setting.
On Rue Rouget De L’Isle (next building over from the Westin Vendome) is Le Imperial. For the very best steak and breads, ever, visit this restaurant. What impressed me most about this restaurant besides its excellent steak, was the cost.
Located on Av. des Champs-Élysées. For the more refined and expensive taste, Laduree on Av. des Champs-Élysées is my favorite and most recommended spot. Indulge in duck foie gras, or try the chicken dish that comes in a pastry tube-like shell. For starters, order the sea bass dish which you’ll find on the main course menu. I advice you to order this main course as an appetizer because there are 3 microscopic looking pieces of sea bass, but they are absolutely delicious. Expect to shell out somewhere between 77 to 100 Euros. Delish! When in Paris, YOU MUST eat like the Parisians.
What to See and Do
There are numerous, efficient, and expedient ways to explore Paris. The most relaxing being on Bateaux-Mouches (unique long boats) plying the Seine, offering the best vantage points for photography lovers like me. Another, being the RER… Paris has the biggest and most efficient Metro system in the world and also one of the cheapest in the western world!! The RER is the express rail service that crosses Paris and links the center with the outer suburbs. Parisian subways are well tended, neat, tiled and spotless! They are highly designed and even come equipped with fancy bathrooms. To explore Paris, attempt to utilize its train service; or get on a Hop On Hop Off City Sightseeing bus to explore its sites at your own pace.
Regarded as the grand daddy of all landmarks in Paris, it is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company helped design the tower. It has become a global cultural icon of France, and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. No trip is complete without visiting this iconic wrought-iron lattice tower, and taking an elevator trip to the top. From its observation deck, you can see sweeping views of this magnificent city of light, fashion, and love. The Eiffel Tower is a dominating presence on the city's skyline. It is 1,065 ft tall (81 stories high), and is the tallest structure in Paris. It held the title of tallest structure in the world for 41 years, until it was surpassed by the Chrysler building in NYC.
Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame Cathedral a.k.a "Our Lady of Paris" is a medieval Catholic Cathedral on the Ile de las Cite in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, and is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It is among the largest and most well known church buildings on earth. It displays several small individually crafted statues on the outside that serve as water spouts and column supports, among which are the famous gargoyles. Victor Hugo's "Hunchback" adds to the elegant frame of the Notre Dame. The Cathedral has 387 narrow steps to the top that affords viewing the bell, and its gargoyles in close proximity, alongside unobstructed views of the city of Paris.
The Louvre Museum
To see the original Mona Lisa, it’s imperative to visit the Louvre; one of my favorite sites in Paris. This museum has secured a permanent position in my heart for its stellar grandeur. There are nearly 35,000 objects exhibited here, in three major wings: Sully, Richelieu, and Denon (which houses Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa painting). Some of its collections are Venus the Milo, the Winged Victory, Napoleon III's apartments, etc. It also happens to be a historic monument in Paris. It is the largest palace in Europe and the greatest art collection/museum in the world; mainly for its size, scale of collection, alongside the quality of art it displays. One requires days to view all wings. It is breathtaking and no trip to Paris is complete without seeing it. displays.
Arc de Triomph
a.k.a. "Triumphal Arch of the Star" is another famous monument in Paris at the western end of Av. des Champs-Élysées and the center of Place Charles de Gaulle. It was built to commemorate Napoleon’s victories, and honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Names of these warriors are reflected in its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
Av. des Champs-Élysées
This avenue in the 8th arrondissement of Paris is one of the most famous avenues in the whole wide world and caters to any enthusiastic traveler who isn’t on a stringent budget. This 1.2 mile long, 230 ft wide avenue runs between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is situated. It is known for its luxury shops, high-end cafes and restaurants, theaters, its annual Bastille Day military parades, and serves as the finish point of the Tour de France cycle race. It is the world's most beautiful avenue and it is quite expensive to indulge in.
Montmartre (meaning the Mount of the Martyrs) is a large hill in Paris’s 18th arrondissement (district) with sweeping cinematic views of the city. This historic district is contained in 60 hectares and was established by the City of Paris in 1995. It is primarily known for its white domed Basilica of the Sacre Coeur on its summit and as a nightclub district. Many years ago when I visited, this area was sketchy at nights, but things seem to have changed a lot for the better in Montmartre.
At the summit of butte Montmartre, you’ll find the popular landmark Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, also called Sacre-Coeur Basilica, dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus. It is at the highest point in the city. This Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is the most sacred amongst all that is profane in what is considered the most rebellious neighborhood (Montmartre) in Paris. It began in 1876 and is one of the handful of images that say "Paris" when you behold it. It ranks highly amongst sites to see, and runs closely with the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. Its interiors are lovely, and a mosaic in the apse entitled "Christ in Majesty" is among the largest in the world. To reach the basilica one must climb 270 steps or take a tram.
Jardin du Luxembourg
One of the most beautiful gardens you’ll come across in the 6th arrondissement of Paris is Jardin du Luxembourg. It is a 60-acre park in which Napoleon dedicated to children. Luxembourg Palace which was designed for the widow of King Henry IV of France is also on the premises.
For theater lovers, visit Moulin Rouge; a cabaret in Paris. Remember, you’re not going for the food, you’re visiting for its theatrical energy, its vibe, and the atmosphere.
Museum of Mankind
Musee de l’Homme which lags behind in modernization has been subject to some debate for a long time. It houses an admirable collection of artifacts of mankind. I liked it. One gallery shows the evolution of mankind with a timeline diorama that helps you make sense of the various prehistoric periods. Outside the palace, the gardens lead down towards the Seine.
Pont des Arts
or Passerelle des Arts is a pedestrian bridge in Paris which crosses the River Seine. It links the Institute of France and the central square of the Palais du Louvre. Its also called the "Lovers Bridge" because it houses thousands of Love Locks. Thousands of lovers have been engraving their names on padlocks and then locking them onto the railings of this bridge; then throwing the key into the River Seine to solidify their love.
Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde has been iconic for eons and is one of the major public squares in Paris. It is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city's eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. It was the site of many notable public executions, including the execution of King Louis XVI, during the French Revolution. During the day, the water fountain is typically off and comes on in the evening.
This square at the end of the street and the Vendome park (directly opposite) in the 1st arrondissement of Paris are pure delights to behold. In the summers, there’s a fair setup with rides, vendors with the usual fair staples and tons of activities to indulge in. The park also links to the Tuileries Gardens, one of Paris’s favorite parks, laid out in the 17th century.
Also known as Hotel National des Invalids, contains museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France. It is located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. Originally, this building was designed to house those hurt in the war, but was turned into a museum (Musee de l'Armee), as it stands today. This complex includes French-style gardens, a war hospital, a large museum, a cathedral, a housing area, and a store with Napoleon memorabilia and French history.
One of my favorite bridges in Paris is Alma bridge. It was originally built in 1855 and rebuilt in the 1970’s. Take a lovely stroll to and on this bridge to discover many gold statues beneath and along its trim, and a statue of a soldier known as Zouave, who survived the rebuilding of the bridge. This statue was incorporated into the bridge's design and is used as a watermark to gauge the water levels of the Seine River when it rises.
The River Seine has always been the heart and soul of Paris, and dates back to 250 and 200 BC. It is a major inland port, and many have arrived via this waterway. It is awesome that it is in the center of Paris and features some of the city's oldest and most majestic historical monuments, such Trocadero Square; The Eiffel Tower; Grand Palais; Concorde; Musee du Louvre; Hotel des Invalides; Musee D'Orsay; Notre Dame; Institut de France; Hotel de Ville; La Grande Bibliotheque, Bercy; and many many more.
La Madeleine church is a Roman Catholic church occupying a commanding position in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, not very far from the Westin Vendome hotel. It was designed in its present form as a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army. It is built in the Neo-Classical style and was inspired by the Maison Carree in Nimes, and is one of the best preserved of all Roman temples. It has 52 Corinthian columns around the building, each 20 meters high, and has 3 domes. If time permits, a stop at the church will be well worth the visit.
My Favorite Quotes
Paris is one of those cities you can never get tired of and one in which you secretly wished you had the nerves to move to.... Bonjour.
- Lynda 'Kechy
Paris is always a good idea.
- Audrey Hepburn
If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
- Ernest Hemingway
The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay, I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café.
- Oscar Hammerstein II
To know Paris is to know a great deal.
- Henry Miller
Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant.
- Honore de Balzac
London is a riddle. Paris is an explanation.
- G. K. Chesterson
There is but one Paris and however hard living may be here, and if it became worse and harder even – the French air clears up the brain and does good – a world of good.
- Vincent Willem Van Gogh
Everything in this city has a quality that defies analysis but enables you to say without hesitation: 'That is Paris'.
- Julian Green
TIPS TO REMEMBER WHILE VISITING PARIS
1. As the saying goes “When in Rome, act like the Romans - The same and more applies to Paris. There is a certain level of etiquette required in Paris, albeit one may not require finishing school, it does pay to at least be mindful of the French. Tourists who are loud and obnoxious certainly get the stinky eye in Paris. Most come with a pre-conceived notion or idea that the French hate Americans or most tourists. Truth is, some tourists are LOUD and renege on using their indoor voice in public. A certain level of decorum and manners are expected in Paris, and ensuring to bring them along with you on this enchanting trip could pay off in spades.
2. Bring an Umbrella - You can never be too prepared, rain or shine.
3. The French eat like Tweetie birds - Americans are known for their super-size meal proportions, and even get offended when their Parisian meals are presented, LIVE. The proportions are myopic and microscopic; resulting in major disappointment for a first timer. So if you want to indulge in French cuisine, eat a Big Mac, heck, eat whatever you believe would fill you up before venturing into a French Cafe or Restaurant, and save everyone else the drama.
4. Be Prepared To Pay More for EVERYTHING - France, particularly Paris, tends to be very expensive. Embracing this through and through and remembering YOLO will assist in ensuring you have the best time, ever!
5. VAT Refund - As always, one of the most overlooked things while traveling for shoppers like me are the VAT refunds. At the end of every vacation that involved a shopping spree, you could be splendidly surprised to have extra spending money at the airport for more duty free shopping if you remember to claim your taxes. Millions of Euros and Dollars are forfeited each year just for this oversight. It’s imperative that while you shop in Paris, or anywhere in the world for that matter, to collect your tax forms and receipts, and be ready to hand those in at the airport for an always welcome surprise. $$$$. You can reclaim in cash, or get a credit refund on the credit card used to purchase those items.
6. Don’t forget to travel with a credit card that has “NO FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES”. This offers additional savings.
7. Due to the exchange rate fluctuations, it is imperative to NEVER CHANGE your dollars or currency at the airport. This will save you A LOT in commission and fees from Bureau de Changes and prevent you from being high-way raped on the exchange rate. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS get your first set of funds directly from the ATM at the airport upon arrival in Paris, or any other city of the world. If you are utilizing a bank with no subsidiaries in the country, then you’ll get charged $5 for the transaction, alongside a $2.50 transaction fee at the cash point or ATM. You also will be getting the best exchange rate during this transaction. The cumulation of both fees beat ‘hands down’ what you would have received if you made the mistake of changing your currency at the airport.
8. Buy a SIM card - For international travelers like me, SIM cards could be a life saver and a true best friend. It allows you to keep in touch with loved ones and access emails or social media, and is a lot more inexpensive than going through your phone provider. Just make sure you are getting the right SIM card for what you desire on your trip, swap that for your U.S. SIM and away you go.
9. I once knew a man who traveled all the way to a third world country with $0 in his pocket and on his person (hand to God). That defies reasoning to me and is truly mind boggling. Remember to ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS (to the tenth degree) have cash on you. Whatever your local currency is, you must at least have a decent amount to get you by, in event you arrive and there is no ATM. Also remember that depending on the country you visit, they may not accept your desired go to credit card (mine being AMEX). So make room for incidentals, surprises, and be mindful that not every country functions are seamlessly as the United States.
10. Always remember to have a photocopy of your passport with you, wherever you go. This helps with your VAT, and it also helps with sites that require a copy of your ID to enter.