Paris, France – Traveler’s Guide

Eiffel Tower under a rainy sky in Paris, FranceSometimes I can’t believe it. I actually went to Paris, France the City of Light and one of the most romantic cities in the world for my honeymoon! And I loved it! And I was also a tiny bit disappointed all at the same time. But all in all, Paris is great and I’m so glad that we got to go!

We spent 3 days in Paris at the beginning of May. One of the issues is that it rained on 2 of the 3 days (it was Springtime, guess it’s not surprising). And on one of the days was Labor Day/May Day so almost everything was closed. The other issue is that we had some misunderstandings in terms of how we expected the Paris Pass to work and how it actually worked. Will go into more detail on that below. It all worked out fine though, we saw everything that we wanted while we were in Paris and we kind of needed a rest day at that point in our trip anyways.

Eiffel Tower in Paris, FranceUnique to Paris:

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Museums (Louvre, Orsnay, Orangerie)
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Famous Churches (Notre Dame, Sacré-Cœur, Sainte-Chapelle)
  • Palace of Versailles
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Small Statue of Liberty
  • French Food (there is something for everyone!)

 


Adventures in Paris, France:

Since we spent three days in Paris, we tried to organize things so that they were close together, however that didn’t always work out very well. Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes!

Visit the Eiffel Tower

We booked our tickets in advance directly for the Eiffel Tower online through their website. The idea was to watch the sunset from the tower on our first evening in Paris. That all worked fine with the exception that it was a rainy day and so we got soaked at the Eiffel tower and it was too cloudy for there to be a sunset. Oh well though, the rain kept the crowd away. And we actually ended up with some really neat pictures (see above). And they lit the tower up so that it’s lights sparkled that night! I didn’t even know they did that!

Visit Sacré-Cœur – 

Sacre Coeur in Paris, France

Sacré-Cœur is a big white church that sits on a hill overlooking the city of Paris. We didn’t go into the church but we climbed the steps up to it and then wandered around the neighborhood of Montmartre which has a lot of souvenir shops and restaurants. It’s also where I had my first macaroon!

Visit the Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge in Paris, France

Okay, we didn’t actually visit this one. But after we saw Sacré-Cœur we walked a few blocks downhill and past the Moulin Rouge so we could snap a picture. If you are really into it, they have shows you can buy tickets for.

 

Visit Sainte-Chapelle –

Sainte Chapelle in Paris, France

When you visit Notre Dame, the Sainte-Chapelle opens a little earlier (and they actually opened the doors even earlier than posted), so I recommend making it your first stop. The walls of the church are covered with stained glass. The church is located inside a walled area and people queue outside. When we visited there was a fairly long line of people waiting to visit the courts building and pay parking tickets. Go up to the security guard and ask for the line for Sainte-Chapelle. Once we did that, we realized that there wasn’t a line for Sainte-Chapelle and got right in. After following the signs, we got right into the chapel and were able to take some pretty pictures of the stained glass.

Notre Dame in Paris, FranceVisit Notre-Dame –

We made another tourist error when we visited Notre-Dame. We arrived early in order to beat the crowds and immediately got in line in front of the church. The line moved pretty quickly and we got in the church within about 10 minutes. We wanted to climb to the buttresses, so we looked everywhere for that line. Ultimately we asked the information desk and found out that the line to go up to the buttresses was outside the church! And sure enough, there was a huge line down the left side of the church… so that was disappointing as that’s the line we should’ve got in when we arrived early. I hope you don’t make the same mistake. We ultimately skipped that line in order to move onto the next attraction.

Palace of Versailles in Paris, FranceVisit the Palace of Versailles

We visited the Palace of Versailles in the afternoon by taking the train and getting ourselves there. This website has a great guide on how to get there using public transportation (Mike’s Travel Guide). (Tip: To get to Versailles you have to use a separate metro ticket for Zone 4 while the Paris Pass only covers Zone 1-3 – the cost is pretty minor though). Once we arrived at Versailles we got another surprise when we learned that the Paris Pass does not give you “Skip the Line entry” but we toughed it out, waited in an hour long line and finally got into the palace. The palace is ridiculously crowded and it’s difficult to take good pictures, but it’s so ornate, I’m glad that I saw it.

Arc de Triomphe in Paris, FranceClimb the Arc de Triomphe

I had no idea you could actually climb up in thsi thing! But, it was in our Paris Pass booklet and it was raining a lot and the museum had a long line, so we did it. The climb isn’t bad at all and there’s a gift shop inside the top. Outside you get a decent view of the city (ours was a rainy day so the pictures aren’t great).

Montparnasse Tower

This is another attraction that wasn’t on our radar, but it was in our Paris Pass and we ended up going up in it rather than doing the river cruise in the rain. No complaints about the site or the view, but it’s not really near any other Paris attractions so it’d be further down on my list of recommendations.

Statue of Liberty in Paris, FranceThe Statue of Liberty

We walked a long ways to get close to the Statue of Liberty and discovered that you can really only see the back of it unless you have a boat. Here’s what our best picture looks like.

Musée d'Orsay in Paris, FranceVisit Museums

Paris has a very, very long list of museums. I’m just going to talk about the ones we wanted to see.

  • Orangerie Museum in Paris, FranceLouvre – This was the biggest disappointment of the trip. We had a Paris Pass that advertised Fast TracLouvre Museum in Paris, Francek Entry. However, when we got there the line for Paris Pass holders was over 2 hours long! Honestly, it was shorter to buy a ticket than to stand in the line of people who already had a pass….. And it was pouring rain at the time. So we opted not to go to the Louvre. (This picture of me by the pyramid is the only thing I have.) If you plan to go to the Louvre buy a TIMED TICKET. That line was empty.
  • Orsnay – Since we had bought the Paris Pass, I wanted to make a quick stop in the Orsnay to see the Van Gogh paintings. The Fast Track entry got us right into the museum and I saw everything that I wanted to see within 30 minutes. I really liked the way they set up this museum with the open space that still showed off the old train station windows.
  • Orangerie – Lastly, we stopped in the Orangerie. This museum is another one that you can pretty much get right into. I may offend a lot of artists, but there’s not a lot to this museum other than the two oval shaped rooms with Monet’s Water Lillies. If that’s all that you want to see, you can visit this museum in under 30 minutes. If you have the Paris Pass, I recommend at least stopping in, the Lily paintings are really impressive.

Next time I visit Paris: 

  • Go inside the Louvre Museum (This time I’m going to buy a ticket for a specific time.)
  • Disneyland
  • Day trips to the countryside to see Castles, Monet’s Gardens, etc.

Transportation:

We used Uber to get from the airport downtown and back to the airport. While in Paris we used a subway card that was good for 2 whole days. We live in Washington, DC and are used to subways, but we found the Paris one to be very user friendly and a quick, cheap way to get around.

 


Hotels in Paris, France:

Sofitel Paris Baltimore – For our trip we splurged a little bit (it was our honeymoon) and stayed at the 5-stay hotel between the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. The hotel is right across the street from the Boissière metro station on the green line and was a pretty short metro ride to everything we wanted to see. That being said, I didn’t feel like there was much around our hotel. It felt like we spent a lot of time walking trying to find places to eat for lunch and dinner. The inside of our hotel was wonderful and the mattress was the softest that I have ever slept on ever. It was heavenly that our only sleep-in day on our trip was in Paris at this hotel.


Restaurants/ Meals & Drinks in Paris, France:

Macaroons in Paris, France

I’m probably a terrible person to talk about French foods. I just can’t get into the idea of Foie Gras or Escargot or some of their other famous dishes. That being said, we did love the Macarons, the French Onion Soup, and Crepes that we had while in France. Below are some of my recommendations:

Biscuiterie de Montmartre – In the Montmartre neighborhood is the first store we spotted selling Macarons and so we stopped in and each picked one to eat while we walked. Yum!

Amazing Waffles in Paris, France

Coffee Crepes – We stumbled into this place while walking to the Louvre from Notre Dame and it’s one of my most memorable meals of the entire 24 day trip. On Google Maps, next door to “Resto Louvre” with the yellow awning. Brian and I shared a savory egg and chorizo crepe and this amazing waffle topped with caramel sauce. Yum! Full post & map here!

The other restaurants in Paris were near our hotel and not especially memorable, although I did enjoy the French Onion Soup and bread at a couple of them. If you’re looking for the best Foie Gras in Paris, I’m afraid we’re not going to be any help! 🙂

Another resource that I find really helpful is this French Food Culture guide by ElizabethEverywhere.com. She really explains the vocabulary and gives you a list of the 10 foods you should make sure to try while you’re in Paris!

 


Tips/ Things to Know before you visit Paris, France:

  • Try to learn as much French as you can to get around, particularly the names of foods. I struggled with pronunciation and the waiting staff doesn’t seem to speak much English (or they don’t care). It’s okay, I was in their country, I should’ve learned the names before I went.
  • If you are leaving Paris and haven’t had a chance to try a Macaron yet, there are at least 2 stands in the airport. The toffee ones are my favorite! 🙂
  • The Paris Pass – I was incredibly disappointed in this. When I bought it, it seemed like a great value for our itinerary, however, I don’t think it was all that I expected it to be. Here are the issues that we had:
    • The pass doesn’t let you skip the line at the Louvre, despite the Paris Pass website advertising “Fast Track Entry”. When we arrived the line to buy a ticket was shorter than the Paris Pass entrance line.
    • The Paris Pass doesn’t let you skip the line at Versailles either. This line was an hour long when we were there on an afternoon in May.
    • The Paris Pass only covers zones 1-3 on the metro, so for Versailles you have to buy a separate metro ticket.
    • The Paris Pass doesn’t include the Eiffel Tower (we knew this and bought separate tickets, but I’m just pointing it out).
    • Unless you plan to go to a lot of the more expensive museums the Paris Pass is just not worth it.

My Time Spent in the City:

  • 3 nights in May 2017, at the Sofitel Paris Baltimore

Hope you find our travel guide helpful!

Traveler's Guide to Paris, France