I've wanted to travel to France for quite a while now. What girl hasn't dreamed of a romantic weekend in Paris, basking in the sun of the French Rivera and frocking through the endless lavender fields... it all sounds so magical. We are slowly making our way through France and will cross off those bucket list items and more eventually.
We were finally able to do a long weekend in Paris! It was spectacular. I absolutely loved the vibe of the city and all the incredible architecture. Even my husband said that he "liked Paris a lot more than he expected" haha. Paris's charm is changing minds left and right. There were also a lot less people, which I'm sure helped.
So, I know there is a sigma that French people are rude and really aren't nice to tourists. We did not experience that at all! There were no poor impressions of any kind. Everyone was very nice and helpful, giving us directions and suggestions for must dos during our time in Paris. Even offering to take pictures of us on their own accord. I feel like these negative connotations have given many people and places bad wraps. Times are changing, people are more open and kindness is infectious. Just because someone had a poor experience doesn't mean that everyone/everywhere is like that. Sometimes people have bad days. It can happen anywhere and to anyone. It can happen to you, today, in your own town. Please get past the negative impressions that have been instilled in our memories and decide for yourself! You may be pleasantly surprised.
The primary language in France is obviously French. It is truly a beautiful language and is so pleasing to the ear. It's one of those languages that you want someone to speak to you and not care what they are saying. Maybe that's why you hear those stories. You know... the ones about the American girl, doing a study abroad program, falling madly in love with a French boy... who turns out to be a fraud ha. Again, all stories, but it truly is a romantic language.
France is also part of the EU so their currency is the Euro. You can easily get Euros from your local bank as well as at the airport. If you intend to stay in the city, you can use your credit card everywhere. Just make sure it has no foreign transaction fees. There are also ATMs all around. Having cash is always a smart move. It's easier to track your spending if the cash disappears vs swiping away.
In the city, you can find any type of food your heart desires. For breakfast, grab a quick croissant and a café. For lunch and dinner there are some fantastic soups and meat/seafood dishes as well as French delicacies. You can't forget about the 'French Fries.' I know there's controversy that they actually came from Belgium, but I'm giving it to the French. They are also known for their sweet and savory crepes. Yummmm. Pretty much all sweets are delicious, let's be honest. Finally, a odd thing we discovered was their Hot Dogs. We kept seeing them on menus and were like... "is it weird that I kind of want one?" They are incredible. It's not like a cheap US Hot Dog. Its more like a beef sausage on a fresh baked baguette with cheese. So good that we almost got another haha.
Drinking in France is great. Everywhere has cocktail, wine and beer happy hours (plural), as well as bottomless brunch options. It's more like a 'happy half day'. Pretty much drinking in France is a more eloquent version of NYC. There are also many wine bars and craft beer spots.
Traveling around France can be easily done by metro/subway/train, bus or rental car, depending where you are going. The underground train system is very easy, with frequent stops which will get you everywhere you want to go. From the airport to the heart the city is an easy train ride. Honestly, we didn't use the subway much at all. Just walk it out! You'll see beautiful things as you meander. Just a heads up, there were quite a few homeless in the stations and you'll pass a good bit on some side streets. There were no issues at all.
Insert 'heart eyed Emoji' ha literally. That's probably the look that was on my face the entire time. It is just so beautiful. From the sites themselves, to the architecture, to the expansive pristine parks, to the quaint side streets, to the French restaurants and more. Seriously, everything about the city itself it was amazing. I would love to go back again.
We were only able to have a long weekend in Paris, but really made the most of it! We experienced many of the 'must see' sites, explored the city and just enjoyed. Take it all in. It truly is a magical place. We saw so many extra things by just wondering around and walking it out. You will be putting in the miles!
Paris is a museum and art lover's paradise. The amount of exhibits you can see should fill anyone and everyone's requirements. I personally am not a big museum person. I can enjoy 1 maybe 2, but then that's enough for me. I'm more of a physical 'in the now' person. I like to see the sites and experience the culture first hand. That is probably why I love the architecture more and seeing art in its original state/home vs a museum curated collection. To each their own! You do you. If you want to see all the museums, go for it. If you want to pass on them, that's fine too! Don't feel pressured either way.
Again, people in Europe are not early risers unless they have to be. If you want to see the city with less people, walk around in the earlish mornings. I'm not talking crazy early, but a little bit earlier. Stroll around and then grab a little breakfast at a café. Even some cafes open later than you'd expect. Also, if you want to beat the lines, go to the sites for opening. When we went, there were zero lines anywhere. I mean zero. We showed our vaccination card and walked right in.
Today Europe is trying to manage COVID life the best they can. A lot of indoor sites and enclosed areas with high tourism require masks and proof of vaccination. That or they will make you take a Rapid Test prior to entry. There were actually small tents right beside the site entrances if you needed a test. Really not a big deal. Just make sure you carry your passport and vaccination card with you at all times.
Due to Covid, some things remained closed unfortunately, including the Moulin Rouge cabaret club and some of the booze river cruises. There are plans for reopening in the fall!
CLIMB THE STAIRS OF THE EIFFEL TOWER
You can't go to Paris without climbing the Eiffel Tower! It is the most iconic site in the entire city. It really is spectacular to see. It's mind-blowing that this structure was built out of iron over 130 years ago. You can see this beauty from many places all over the city. It is super cool just walking around, looking over, and there she is! You have to climb the tower. It seriously isn't bad at all. What I didn't realize is that you can only climb the stairs to the 2nd platform and then you must take the elevator up to the top. If you don't want to climb/can't you can take the elevator from the base as well. From the tower, you have panoramic views of the entire city. You can point out cathedrals and places you are planning to go. There are some restaurants/cafes on the tower itself as well. You must see the Eiffel Tower at night! Grab a towel and a bottle of wine or two and sit in the park, Parc de Champ de Mars, to watch it light up at night. Make sure to get there before dusk so you can see the lights turn on. It's super cool. Every hour you will see the sparkle and shine light show, so make sure you stick around for it.
STROLL THE GARDENS AND PARKS
The parks and gardens in this city are literally gorgeous. They are immaculate with trimmed shrubbery vibrant flowers and incredible fountains. It is so enjoyable to walk around and take in the Paris vibes. A lot of the parks have restaurants, cafes and pop up stands where you can grab lunch and sit off. Prices are very reasonable as well. In my opinion, the two prettiest, other than Versailles, were Jardin de Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg. These are very large. You will wonder into so many more quaint parks through your journeys as well. Also, a lot of the palaces and other historical sites have small gardens on the premises as well. Guess what, you will also probably find some awesome vantage points of the Eiffel Tower. All from different angles that you haven't seen before.
WALK ALONG THE SEINE RIVER
Walking the river is super nice. There are pedestrian walking paths up top as well as little ramps that go down to the water as well. You'll find small flea markets and pop up shops as well as many river bars and restaurants along the way. In the evening, it's fun to do a mini bar hop as you go. Most places also do 'to go' drinks and happy hours specials, so feel free to grab a cocktail and stroll around. You'll see river cruises and booze cruises too. Whatever atmosphere you are looking for can be found.
GAZE AT THE BEAUTY OF THE SAINTE-CHAPELLE
Seriously though, the Sainte-Chapelle is absolutely gorgeous. From the outside, you'll be thinking, it's just another old church. Once you go inside and climb the spiral stone stairs, the chapel transforms. I have never seen such vibrant and intricate stained glass in my life. Each and every glass pane is different. The depicted scenes each tell their own story. It's beautiful. You won't be spending a lot of time here, but it's for sure worth a visit.
RECONSTRUCTION OF NOTRE-DAME
I'm sure you all remember the tragedy of the Notre-Dame Cathedral catching fire a few years ago. Incredible teams from around the world have been working tirelessly to reconstruct the cathedral piece by piece. The goal is to have Notre-Dame reopened to the public in 2024. Make sure you head over to see it. The French have created an exhibit on the side of the construction site explaining the destruction and the progress made. There is also an exhibit of children's artwork from around the world, depicting their vision of Notre-Dame. This idea was a way to bring unity and have faith in what the cathedral stands for.
VISIT ONE OF
THE MANY MUSEUMS
So many museums so little time. You could spend days visiting the museums of Paris if you wanted. Not really my thing, but to each their own. Probably the most well known are The Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, and The Centre Pompidou. There are so many more though. It really depends on that type of exhibits you enjoy to determine where you go. We only had enough time to quickly see one museum, so we decided on The Louvre. The Louvre is actually the 2nd largest museum in the world and home to the Mona Lisa. I always heard that the Mona Lisa is a very small painting, but it's tiny compared to the hall of murals right beside it.
VERSAILLES PALACE AND GARDENS
On our last day in Paris, we were trying to truncate our 'must do' list. We couldn't see it all. Versailles was on our list, obviously, but we needed to grab the train to get there and couldn't decide. Only a half hour, but still, that's less time in the city. I am so glad we went! The palace is incredible with so many original pieces making it back to their home. I'm not going to give you a history lesson, but read up on it. You'll also obviously learn a lot there. You can choose to do the audio tour or just read the plaques throughout. Whatever is your preference. After exiting the palace tour, you enter the gardens. Holy cow, they are out of this world. The gardens cover almost 2,000 acres. Like whattttt???!!! Many people visiting, choose to spend a full day just in the gardens. You'll see bikers, runners, picnics, small cafes etc. You can event rent golf carts to drive all around. That's how vast these gardens are. If we had more time, I would have loved to just sit off all day and have a picnic.
ENJOY THE ARCHITECTURE EVERYWHERE
There are more sites in Paris than you could ever see in one trip. For instance, above is the Arc de Triomphe, which you can tour and look off the top if you so choose. You'll see such a variety of structures and buildings. Each one has fantastic architecture, with more intricate teeny tiny details to marvel at. The architecture is what I love about old European cities. It's so unique with such a story to tell. As you walk around, keep your eyes open and just take it all in. It really is incredible.
WONDER AROUND THE
Seriously though, strolling around without a true end location in mind, is the best way to explore. You will discover so many hidden gems that you don't read about online. The city is gorgeous. Just embrace its vibes. You never know what you will find around the corner. We wondered upon a super cool strip of low-key bars and restaurants quietly tucked away from the river and grabbed a drink. Do and go see whatever catches your eye. Get your steps in! You'll be eating and drinking your way through Paris anyhow. Wear sneakers for sure. Your body will be tired. We averaged over 15 miles a day without even thinking about it. We just like to explore. But again, if that much walking isn't your thing, the metro is very easy. You can't miss the signs. They look like their own version of a retro art exhibit.