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As I’ve admitted before, I have a minor Paris addiction.
Ok, it’s actually a full-blown obsession requiring an intervention. I own Paris-themed home décor of every variety—from an Eiffel Tower hand towel holder to a tissue box cover bearing French script—and in the past year I’ve read not one but THREE books about Americans relocating to Paris. I know. It’s a bit extreme.
Further Reading: Books Every Francophile Should Read
It started with a family trip to Paris when I was 16. During that brief visit I ate Nutella crêpes for every meal and made a mad dash around the city in an attempt to experience as much as possible. Naturally, I fell head-over-heels in love.
So when Sam and I started planning a 16-day trip to Europe last fall, we quickly agreed that Paris should be one of our stops.
You’re probably thinking someone as infatuated with Paris as I am would do an excellent job putting an itinerary together. Sadly, you’re wrong. As I’ve mentioned, our travel plans typically go as smoothly as a second grade talent show, and our time in Paris was no exception.
First, it rained our entire first day there. Second, we bought the two-day Paris Museum Pass, which meant playing a game of itinerary Tetris as we attempted to cram all our activities into two consecutive days. We enjoyed our time in Paris, but it didn’t turn out the way we’d intended.
Further reading: Paris Museum Pass: Is it Worth the Price?
So rather than offering a suggested itinerary (since I wouldn’t inflict ours on a rabid dog), here is a list of 15 experiences you must have in Paris:
1. Have a picnic in Jardin des Tuileries
A lovely garden located in the 1st arrondissement, the Jardin des Tuileries is the perfect location for a leisurely picnic lunch or afternoon stroll.
113 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
2. Explore the Louvre
Whether you’re an art history buff or not, a visit to the Louvre is exhilarating. Some claim that simply glancing at every piece of art on display would take nine months. So don’t expect to see everything in one visit! But be sure to check out more than the Mona Lisa. This is about the experience, not Paris bingo.
75001 Paris, France
3. Relax in the Jardin du Luxembourg
Another beautiful garden and a favorite with the locals, the Jardin du Luxembourg is a fabulous place to slow down with a gelato or baguette and people watch.
The Jardin du Luxembourg is especially popular with families.
75006 Paris, France
4. Drink hot chocolate at Angelina
Inordinately decadent and served with a side of whipped cream, drinking the hot chocolate at Angelina is a life-changing experience. Ignore the fact that it contains a month’s worth of calories and costs more than liquid gold. It is absolutely worth the price. I defy you to find better hot chocolate anywhere in the world.
226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
5. Wander artsy Montmartre
With its cobblestone streets and picturesque eateries, Montmartre is the Paris of people’s imaginations. Due to its quirky charm, Montmartre has long been favored by artists, and has counted Van Gogh, Renoir, and Picasso among its residents.
Be sure to visit Sacré-Cœur, a beautiful white church at the top of the hill. Not only is it a lovely cathedral, but the view from its steps is one of the best in the city.
35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
Further reading: Visiting Montmartre: Paris’ Artsy Neighborhood
6. Admire impressionist paintings at Musée d’Orsay
Located on the left bank of the Seine in a converted train station, Musée d’Orsay is another museum worth visiting. Though significantly smaller than the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay contains a striking collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings by some of the greatest artists of all time, including Monet and Van Gogh.
1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France
7. Take a day trip to Versailles
Though technically outside the city, a day trip to Versailles is a must when visiting Paris. Spend the day admiring the opulent palace, perfectly manicured gardens, and Marie Antoinette’s idyllic peasant village.
Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
Further reading: A Guide to Visiting Versailles Palace
8. Visit Notre Dame
The Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris dates to the 14th century and is a beautiful example of French Gothic architecture. Its massive size means it can accommodate more than 6,000 people.
If you’re up for a challenge, climb the 400 steps to the top of the tower and take in the sweeping views of the city.
6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France
9. Stroll across Pont Neuf
Numerous bridges span the river Seine, and all of them are lovely. Our favorite was Pont Neuf. Completed in 1606, it’s Paris’ oldest remaining bridge.
Sam was mostly excited to visit this bridge because of its role in The Bourne Identity. Yes, he had to reenact the scene.
75001 Paris, France
10. Browse the books at Shakespeare and Co.
As a book lover, I was in heaven at Shakespeare and Co., the famed English language bookstore in the heart of Paris. The original shop was a popular haunt for literary giants such as Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound. Though the original shop closed during the German occupation, the current shop by the same name was opened in 1951 and continues the literary tradition.
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
11. Climb the Arc de Triomphe
One of the most iconic structures in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe was built in 1836 to commemorate Napoleon’s 1805 victory at Austerlitz.
If you climb the monument at night, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Champs-Élysées and the glittering Eiffel Tower.
Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
12. Sample macaroons at Ladurée
I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to macaroons than at Ladurée, the place they were invented. Each flavor we tasted was heavenly, but chocolate was easily the best. Not surprising since I am a chocoholic who would last longer without water than without my daily dose of dark chocolate.
We visited the Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées, but you can find them at multiple locations in the city.
75 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris, France
13. Explore the Right Bank Covered Passages
Given our track record with weather, we try to have a “rainy day” activity for each destination we visit. In Paris, exploring the Right Bank Covered Passages was a perfect option for a gloomy, drizzly day. These beautiful covered shopping arcades are home to cafés, used bookshops, and boutiques.
Avoid visiting on Sundays, as many of the shops will be closed.
14. Find a delicious bakery
Everyone who visits Paris dreams of popping into a beautiful local bakery to grab a baguette or croissant. We expected to be stumbling over bakeries on every street corner as the aroma of freshly baked bread wafted through the air.
In reality, though Paris is undoubtedly home to many wonderful bakeries, we had a much harder time finding them than we anticipated. Maybe because were staying in an Airbnb apartment in a more industrial neighborhood, we didn’t seem to come across many great breakfast options nearby.
Then, on our last morning in the city, we discovered Eric Kayser, which was only a few streets from where we were staying. We ordered pain au chocolat so fresh from the oven it was still warm. We kicked ourselves for not finding a good bakery sooner!
15. Marvel at the Eiffel Tower
Obviously, no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. While most people choose to take the elevator up to the top, we didn’t for two reasons. First, we’re cheap and the Eiffel Tower isn’t covered in the Paris Museum Pass. Second, since the Eiffel Tower is the most iconic landmark on the Parisian skyline, we preferred city views that included it.
Instead, we took in the views from the nearby Champ de Mars.
Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France
What is at the top of your Paris bucket list?
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