Tour de Paris: An Itinerary

{Bon Voyage à Tous!}

Audrey Hepburn once said, “Paris is always a good idea,” and truer words were never spoken. Known as the City of Love to romantics, and the City of Light – as in The Enlightenment – to academics, Paris is sacred to art, culture, fashion, food, literature, philosophy and so much more. Here’s just the start of things to do in Paris!

The Unskippables and Instagram-ables

  1. The Eiffel Tower (Metro: Bir Hakeim) – Nothing’s more magical than the Eiffel Tower sparkling with the power of 20,000 lightbulbs. The sparkles happen on the hour for five beautiful minutes. Plan your visit to the top of this iconic monument around dusk to enjoy both its daytime and nighttime view of Paris. Going up to the top is slightly pricey, but worth it. If you’re not that into heights, have a picnic on the lawns under the Eiffel Tower! Bring some wine – or buy from the sketchy guys with backpacks – and grab a sweet or savory crêpe from the vendors near the carousel.

    Eiffel Tower emaze
    Hang out by the Eiffel Tower! (PC: Emaze)
  2. Notre Dame Cathedral (Metro: Saint Michel) – Built in 1160, this Roman Catholic cathedral is awe-inspiring. You can walk around the cathedral, light a candle, and even go up to the gargoyles in the tower – though visiting the gargoyles and trying to find the Hunchback of Notre Dame is a separate line outside.

    NotreDame Planetware
    This view is only possible if you do a boat ride down the Seine (PC: Planetware)
  3. Sainte-Chapelle (Metro: Saint Michel) – is a total hidden gem, just around the corner from Notre Dame. Originally the royal family’s private chapel, Sainte-Chapelle’s stain-glass is like walking into a rainbow.

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    Sainte-Chapelle is like walking into a rainbow
  4. Arc de Triomphe (Metro: Charles de Gaulle-Étoile) – intricate etchings celebrate the heroes of the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars on this famous archway at the head of the glittering Champs-Élysées.

    Arc de Triomphe
    Yes, this is a pic I took from my iPhone. Paris is just that glorious!
  5. Sacre-Coeur Basilica (Metro: Anvers or Abbesses) – For all my “Amélie” fans, this is a must. Remember the scavenger hunt scene that Amelie sets up for Nino? That’s all filmed around here! For my Bollywood fans in “Queen,” Vijayalakshmi takes Rani here too! Sacre-Coeur is at the top of the Montmartre hill, past all the street performers and artists. You could either get off the metro at Abbesses and wander up the hill, or for a more direct route to Sacre-Coeur exit at Anvers.

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    Sacre-Coeur’s steps is pretty fun spot to chat because of its view of all of Paris below. This pic is from a day Sara, Noelle, and I felt chatty!

ART that’ll make your soul happy

  1. Le Louvre (Metro: Palais Royale/Musée du Louvre) – you could spend a lifetime looking at all the art housed in this palace-turned-museum! It’s truly an art-enthusiast’s delight and is a perfect way to spend a rainy day. The Louvre is split into sections according to different cultures and art styles. You’ll find Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa labeled – confusingly – as “La Jaconde” in the Denon section, which houses Italian, Spanish, and French painters. I’d recommend entering the Louvre from the metro exit beneath it – the ticket line is shorter than the line outside. You can always take your pictures with the Louvre Pyramid after you’re done seeing the museum! Louvre night
  2. Le Musée d’Orsay (Metro: Solférino) – this reconverted train station houses the world’s largest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings! With a variety of exhibits, the Musée d’Orsay is worth a few hours. Overlooking the Seine, the top floor of the museum has my favorite gold clock in the world (And some pretty great pain au chocolat in the café upstairs too!)

    musee d orsay clock
    My Art History class spent a LOT of time here. I’ve even taken an exam timed by that gold clock! Good times 🙂
  3. Musée de l’Orangerie (Metro: Concorde) Designed by Claude Monet, this museum is inside the Tuileries Garden on the Place de la Concorde side. It’s most famous for housing Monet’s eight murals of the Water Lily series. Unlike d’Orsay or the Louvre, this museum is small and won’t take too much of your day.

    Orangerie
    Monet’s water lily murals (PC: Les Nanas de Paname)

WORTH WANDERING

  1. The Champs-Élysées (Metro: Concorde or Charles de Gaulle-Étoile) – Stroll down the famous street to enjoy the general vibe, classy cafés, and luxury stores like the Louis Vuitton flagship. On one end is the Arc du Triomphe and on the other is Place de la Concorde. Both ends have metro stops, making it easy to journey on to your next Paris landmark regardless of which side of the Champs-Élysées you end up. As a foodie I have to recommend La Durée, which is nestled just behind the street’s stores. Their macaroons are legendary.

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    Needless to say, I found happiness on the Champs-Élysées!
  2. Montmartre (Metro: Abbesses) – during the Belle Époque, Montmartre became a gathering ground for artists like Salvador Dali, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh and many more. Many artistic movements began in this hillside hub. You’ll find many street artists painting and selling their work along the cobblestones. At the top of this hill is the Sacre-Coeur Basilica and at the base is Pigalle, the red light district. Can you tell why this hillside caught the artists’ fancy?

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    Walking through Montmartre’s artists, cafés, and crooked lanes
  3. The Marais (Metro: Saint-Paul) – is what medieval Paris’ crooked lanes looked like before Napoleon completely razed and reconfigured the city with grand boulevards. Once a place for the aristocracy – you’ll find Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables home here – today the Marais is a place with eclectic cuisines, boutique stores, art galleries, and the museum of medieval history. Definitely go to the Marais if you’re a foodie!

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    Amazing brunch at La Mangérie in the Marais!

SHOPPING

  1. Galleries Lafayette: This opulent mall is filled with only the most exclusive designers and luxury brands. If you want to treat yourself or your S.O. to an only-in-Paris line of Chanel fragrances this is the place to go.
  2. The Marais (Metro: Saint Paul) Shop in the Marais for all your quirky stores and hole-in-the-wall boutiques. You’re bound to find a gem when you stroll through/get lost in the twist and turns of this area.
  3. Rivoli Street (Metro: Rivoli): You’ll find all your souvenirs here as well as interesting street musicians. Rivoli is walking distance from the Louvre, so you could tie this in.

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    Galleries-Lafayette at Christmas

FOOD – Honestly I went as a student, so I stuck a lot with street food like crêpes, baguette sandwiches, shawarmas (they are fab in Paris!), croque monsieurs, etc. I definitely loved these dessert spots though!

  1. Angelina’s – is divine, so come here for a posh high tea and/or desserts. After drinking their hot chocolate, you won’t want to try any place else!

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    Huge thank you to Sasha for taking me to Angelina’s!
  2. La Durée – as I said earlier, their macaroons are legendary. Located on 16 Royale, just off of Champs-Élysée, treat yourself to one of their decadent desserts.

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    Love at Food Sight. (PC: Royfares)
  3. Bérthillon – a French favorite for ice-creams and sorbets.

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    It’s got the Parisian stamp of approval from my French host family!

DAY TRIPS – If you’ve a got few days to spare, you’ll definitely want to check these out!

  1. Château de Versailles (RER C Train to Versailles. Not the metro) – King Louis XIV’s luxurious palace is unparalleled. From the Hall of Mirrors to the gilded gold walls, Versailles is worth the hype. Sidenote, the BBC/Ovation TV show Versailles is amazing! I’m so glad it’s finally available in the U.S.

    Versailles TravelAndLeisure
    The Hall of Mirrors, Versailles. (PC: Travel and Leisure)
  2. Claude Monet’s House in Giverny (The Impressionist Train) – is a surreally beautiful village about a 1h20 long train ride outside of Paris where Claude Monet lived. Catch the Impressionist Train from Paris’ Saint-Lazare station and see the water lily pond for yourself. Bear in mind that Monet’s Garden isn’t open year round. Read more about my experiences in Giverny, an Artist’s Wonderland. 

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    Stepping into the scene of a Monet Painting!
  3. Château de Vaux le Vicomte (Bus or Train) – was so beautiful a property that it invoked the jealousy of King Louis XIV, who had the Marquis Nicolas Fouquet arrested and his family exiled the day after their “house-warming” party, which included fireworks and a play by renowned playwright, Molière. Their grandeur threatened to overshadow the King, who had not yet completed Versailles, and the Crown seized the estate within days.

    VauxLeVicomte EasyGoParis
    Vaux le Vicomte (PC: Easy Go Shuttle)

A Few Tips

  1. Watch your belongings: Paris is downright notorious for pick-pockets. As a Frenchwoman had once phrased it, “Parisians have 2 national sports: football and pick-pocketing. And an emerging one is jumping the turnpikes at metro stops.”
  2. Buy a “Pass Navigo”: The week-long pass will work out cheaper and more efficient than buying your metro tickets every time. That said, definitely avoid the queues by buying your pass before the first day of the month…because that’s when all the locals will be buying their month pass.
  3. GET THE PARIS METRO APP! Seriously this is probably the most helpful thing I’m going to tell you all day. It was such a life-saver. You just plug in the metro station that you’re at and where you want to go, and it’ll tell you the fastest way to get there!
  4. Like all touristy cities, souvenirs are most expensive near landmarks. You’ll find all your magnets and trinkets at a reasonable price in Montmartre, Rivoli, or Marais.
  5. The RER is the main railroad train, which is absolutely different from the metro. It’s useful in getting to Versailles or Disneyland Paris, but apart from that if you find yourself at the RER platform, you’ve taken a wrong turn at the station
  6. Bring portable wifi and charger. Paris is wonderful but is scarce on wifi unless you find a Starbucks. Also you’ll be taking lots of pics and using your map apps, so I’d recommend bringing a portable charger along while you explore.

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    Considering that most my tips were metro/transport related!

There’s no end to all the things I could list to do in and around Paris, as I thoroughly enjoyed my time studying abroad there. It’s a wonderful city and I can’t wait for you to experience it! xoxo #nikitalyfe

Author: Nikita Taimni

A Dubai-based blogger, I write about travel, theatre and lifestyle in the cities I explore around the world. Follow me on Instagram @nikitalyfe and follow via email if you enjoy reading my posts!

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