Ah Paris… the city of love and one like no other. I always thought it was the ultimate cliché and never could quite get myself to revisit the city that has always captured everyone’s hearts. I finally got myself over last April and needless to say, was blown away.
It makes for the perfect weekend getaway – transporting you to another world, but I promise you’re going to be craving far more of the city than you’ll on your first visit, but I’ll do my best to give you a taste of everything! Disclaimer – this list does contain the clichés but if it’s your first time in the city, you NEED to be a tourist and tick these off your list!
Um… hello… I hate to state the obvious but the beauty of this place cannot be understated. It’s a go-to on everyone’s list for a reason and there’s just something about standing by this monument that can take your breath away. Built as the entrance of the 1889 World’s Fair (yes, it’s got an incredible history), putting France on the map across the world, this cultural icon became a pioneering marvel in the engineering world, and continues to leave you staring in awe – no, I’m not exaggerating.
The views from the Trocadero Plaza are some of the best, particularly against the banister of the stairs with their view of the Tower
Walk around to the Alleé Adrienne Lecouvrer or one of the other side streets around that corner for a view of the Tower between those classic Parisian buildings
This palace is truly spectacular, and the grounds make for the perfect afternoon stroll. Enjoy the garden mazes and the interiors of the former seat of French political power – definitely worth a guide inside at least once. If you can, spend a night at the Trianon Palace Versailles, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel – a gorgeous property that lets you live like the Bourbons and sits a stone’s throw away from Versailles.
My favourite haunt in the city, climb up the steps to the top with a view across the city and a set of stairs that have starred in almost every Parisian-inspired flick you’ve grown up watching. Explore the art stores in the winding alleys and streets behind the Basilica du Sacré-Cœur, and sip on a coffee and pastry at one of the many hidden cafes before trailing down the streets to….
One of your must-visit museums in Paris, this gem reeks of character as it sits housed in the beaux-arts Gare d’Orsay railway station. One of the largest collections of French impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, this museum – one of the largest art museums in Europe – houses masterpieces by Monet and Van Gogh, Cézanne and Renoir.
Arc de Triomphe
One of the most famous structures from the World War era, the Arc stands at the west end of the Champs Élysées, at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. Honouring the soldiers of the wars, including the tomb of the unknown soldier, this is one of my favourite spots in a city that marks its history despite the many transitions it has since made. The view of the city from the top is easily one of the most iconic – an unmissable Instagram snap!
Think Moulin Rouge, think Paris’ red light district, the remnants of the old bohemiam bourgeoise … and you’re in Pigalle. Grab a show at the historic cabaret followed by a drink at Glass for an evening out on the town in a true revival of Paris from many decades ago, with a touch of Brooklyn vibes. Stop for a pastry at Gilles Marchal or have yourself lunch at any of the restaurants in the winding streets below Place Pigalle.
Could you possibly go to Paris and not have a staring contest with the Mona Lisa, or get that quintessential shot outside the pyramidal glass building dominating the square, and nearly every Parisian Instagram? You’re going to need at least half a day to even attempt to do this place justice but make the trip – there is no comparison for the kind of treasures in store!
Saint Germain des Prés
This beautiful little neighbourhood is a true gem in the city – side streets filled with little pastry stores for your devouring (hit up Pierre Hermé for the perfect macaron!) and churches galore, particularly the Church of Saint Germain des Prés. A relatively undiscovered church square that is incredibly beautiful and quaint is the Church of Saint-Sulpice within the Rue Bonaparte right on the border of Saint Germain des Prés and the Odéon Quartier.
There’s no way you’re visiting Paris and haven’t heard of Napoleon Bonaparte… obviously. Visit his tomb in this amazing matrix of museums and monuments highlighted by the baroque domes of another century. Formerly a hospital and care centre for wounded soldiers during the era of Louis IV, it is now a majestic complex of military museums and a testament to French Baroque architecture.
If you grew up on stories of the hunchback, you obviously can’t miss this! An absolutely stunning medieval cathedral that marks the Parisian skyline on the Île de la Cité in the 4e arrondissement. One of the most gorgeous cathedrals and architectural achievements, you absolutely cannot miss this!
Place de la Bastille
I hate to break it to you… but the prison no longer stands. The July Column exists in the square – another monument from the French Revolution, this icon still sends shivers through you as you stand in the main plaza with the outline of the former prison marked in the pavement around you. Explore the Eastern districts of Paris while you’re here and admire the remnants of a place that still exists as a symbol of everything this beautiful city stands for.
I couldn’t possibly give you a Paris hit list without including this institution! Hit up the original store – the first ever in Paris that kick-started the trend and the pastry pilgrimage as it exists today – Ladurée Paris Royale on Rue Royale! Fun fact – the store first opened in Geneva, but its expansion to Paris is what truly launched the revolutionary macaron!
The sugar coma continues and a visit to Paris won’t be complete without a trip to this classic joint. If there’s only once you do have a penchant for ice cream in Paris, this is where you need to go! Hit up the original store right by Notre Dame – and be prepared to stand in line but I promise it’ll be worth it!
And finally…. A perfect night out in Paris – stop for a luxurious dinner at Le Drouant par Antoine Westermann, one of my all-time favourite restaurants with the most exquisite menu that will leave you absolutely drooling! Some favourites to order – the Porto wine duck foie gras, Sea Bream Tartare with Cilantro, Fried Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Crispy Vegetables, and the Lamb shoulder, confit. Definitely go for the 4 plates of Hors d’oeuvres (amazing value at €28!) and get a bottle of their house wine for the ultimate start to your night before you explore Paris’ arrondisements at night, bar hopping your way through them!