Ah Paris – City of Lights. City of Love. I may go as far to say it’s my favorite city. Paris is the most visited city in the world (true story) for so many reasons. After a brief time studying there in 2010 I only fell deeper in love with this city and couldn’t wait to return.
Alas, I arrived. And I am still just as in love.
Because we spent five nights in Paris and were hardly going to be in the hotel, I based my hotel choice mostly on affordability and location.
- Hotel Louvre Rivoli – I chose this hotel from a short list of hotels in the Marais district on the Left Bank (a bit trendier than the popular St. Germain, but still centrally located). The price was right at just over $200/night (a rare find in central Paris) and we could walk to nearly everything. However it was certainly a no frills hotel – while still very clean and modern, the rooms and hotel itself was small (typical in Paris). Some staff was friendly, some was not. The 13 Euro breakfast was not filled in a timely manner so we didn’t really get what we paid for and chose to eat out in the city after the second day. But overall, if you aren’t looking for luxury, I would still recommend the hotel.
- Le 1er Étage – This was my second choice. Similarly located and one of the only hotels that includes breakfast, the rate is still cheap around $200/night.
- Other hotels in the area at similar prices include: Hotel Duo, Best Western Hotel Ducs de Bourgogne, and Best Western Hotel Louvre Saint Honore.
- Airbnb – Many people prefer the apartment option and Paris is definitely a great city to take advantage of this. For my tastes, however, I prefer the luxury of having someone make my bed and clean my room every day while on vacation. It’s just a preference.
- Les Deux Magot – Classic french bistro where literary geniuses like Hemingway and Sartre used to dine
- Le 404 – a Moroccan restaurant that comes recommended by Giada. Excellent traditional food, not touristy
- Capannina – an Italian restaurant across from the little church where Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris was filmed
- The Seine River – not a restaurant, but a must-do when you come to Paris. Grab a bottle of wine, a baguette, and some cheese and watch the sunset on the Seine River banks. Locals and tourists alike can never get sick of that view.
And for lunch:
- Rue Cler – this is a street full of cafés. It’s a great spot for lunch, especially while seeing the sites (below).
- Pink Flamingo Canal – although we didn’t make it here, they serve you pizza on the canal. You hold a pink balloon so they know where you are sititng and can deliver to you.
I created my own walking tour starting from our hotel in central Paris. On Day 1 we arrived a bit late from the airport so we hit the local, central sites:
- Île de la Cité: Notre Dame (free entry), Saint Chapelle & Conciergerie (€12.5 joint ticket)
- Île St. Louis: shopping and famous Bethillon ice cream shop
Day 2 was a full day of seeing all that Paris has to offer. In order of our visit, we saw:
- Louvre Museum (€15 – pre-purchased tickets) and then a quick coffee at Café Marly (the café outside of the Louvre that looks out onto the pyramids)
- Walk along the Seine River or Quai d’Orsay to get to the Army Museum and Les Invalides (€11) where Napolean is buried
- Eiffel Tower (€7-11 depending on what level you go up to)
- Arc de Triomphe & Champs-Élysées shopping (if you can afford the high-end stores)
Day 3 – Montmartre and the outskirts of Paris
- Moulin Rouge (if not going to a night show, it’s nice to stop for a quick picture)
- Le Mur je t’aime – the wall with “I Love you” written in 250 languages)
- Take the funicular to the top of the hill to Sacré-Coeur church
- Parc des Buttes-Chaumont: park with a gorgeous waterfall and grotto, Temple de la Sibylle (also stop in at Rosa Bonheur Wine Bar for lunch in the park)
- Continue to Pere Lachaise cemetery, grave sites of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde or visit the Jardin de Plantes (gardens)
In the evening, head back to the center of city to visit on the way to dinner:
- Pantheon church – reminiscent of the one in Rome
- Jardin du Luxembourg – my favorite gardens in Paris
- Normandy D-Day Beaches – this is a must-see for all Americans.
- Versailles & Giverny – we did both stops in one day. Versailles, the beautifully famous palace is a site to see for anyone in Paris. Giverny is not too far away, the home of Monet featuring his magnificent gardens. These are two stops you can’t miss.