This was my third time in Paris and by far my favorite visit. My first two trips were short, only 3 or 4 days and so I was only able to see the main tourist attractions and catch a mere glimpse of the life of Parisians.
On this most recent trip I spent an entire week strolling the streets, visiting museums, and dining in cafes under sunny skies at a leisurely pace, and it was absolutely divine. I’m sharing my favorites to remind those who have been what a marvelous city this is, and to inspire those who have never visited to put Paris on your list!
Whenever anyone asks me what’s the thing I miss most about Paris, it’s hard to say (see all my favorite things below) but the café scene is at the top of the list. Sitting at sidewalk cafés is a lifestyle in Paris, every one makes time to do it and you’ll find them on every street corner. I love how both locals and tourists make a stop at a cafe part of the daily routine where you enjoy a meal, or simply have a café express or glass of rosé wine.
It pretty much blows your mind walking the streets of this city, looking up at the detail on every bridge and building, seeing those iron railings along streets and windowsills, the big beautiful doors that lead to exquisite courtyards, and the stone flourishes on all the facades.
The Parks and Gardens.
Two gardens you must see are the Jardin des Tuileries next to the Louvre Museum and the Jardin du Luxembourg (where children race sailboats), both are formal gardens, filled with trees and flowers, gravel pathways, and many Parisians lounging in the sun.
I also love the very peaceful gardens of the Rodin Museum and the Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, it has four beautiful fountains. We found more informal gardens at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, it’s a nice walk and has more views of Paris from its highest hill.
Paris is world famous for its amazing museums and massive amounts of art, but you can’t see it all in one trip. There are a few not-to-miss museums, The Louvre of course is top of the list. It can be overwhelming because it’s so big but if you hit the highlights it’s manageable in an afternoon. One of my favorites is the Musée d’Orsay, I love the gigantic clocks inside, the views of Paris from the terrace, and the massive amount of impressionist art all housed in a converted train station.
The Musée de l’Orangerie is lovely, also known for the large Monet ‘Water Lilies’ and more impressionist works. The Musée Rodin is filled with amazing sculptures, and the grounds and gardens are manicured and peaceful. If you want to visit a lot of museums and monuments on your visit, I highly recommend purchasing the Museum Pass, it saved us from standing in line many times! (Buy it in the airport or train station on arrival). Two other museums worth a stop if you have time are the Musée de Cluny and the Maison de Victor Hugo (off the Place des Vosges).
You’ll find patisseries all over the city so you can indulge to your heart’s content! Two places we went crazy for were Aux Merveilleux, they create little bites of confectionary heaven unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. Look here to see what I mean. On our second visit we were the last ones in the shop one evening, and all they had left was the coffee flavored ones but we didn’t care we gobbled them all up when we got back to our apartment.
Another delight was sharing a pot of chocolate at Angelina along the Rue de Rivoli, they also have the most decadent desserts and beautiful murals on the wall, so worth the visit!
The Street Walks.
There are four favorite strolls we loved, the first was a walk along the Rue Saint Andres des Arts (off the Boulevard Saint-Germaine) and it’s so charming it feels like a fairy tale. It’s filled with cafes and shops on small pedestrian-only cobblestone streets, we walked down it several times just to soak it all in.
The Rue Cler is a pedestrian market made popular by Rick Steves (his travel guide is great by the way), and worth a visit since it’s a great place to stroll and buy fresh market or specialty foods.
Le Marias is an exquisite neighborhood, you’ll find street after street filled with specialized shops and lovely little cafes, we stayed in an Air B&B apartment here and it was a wonderful neighborhood to “live” in for four days. We walked everywhere but also rented bikes to ride around, so fun! A stroll down the Rue Rambuteau will show off some great shops and cafes.
If you love high end fashion and jewelry, start your walk at the Ritz Carlton, stroll around the Place Vendome to window shop, and walk down Rue Saint Honoré to see the clothing shops.
The Iconic Landmarks
Paris is famous for its many landmarks from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe! Always worth the trip for the photo opp.
The Eiffel Tower:
Champs Elysees & Arc de Triomphe:
Basilica Sacré Coeur:
Like other metropolitan cities, you can rent a bike in Paris and ride it from one place to another then return it at any of the stalls all over town. Remember pedestrians always have the right of way!
Paris is one of those cities where you’ll never know what you’ll find around the corner, you just need to go there and explore it, on foot or by bicycle.
I’ll end with this charming video I shot to give you a taste of the festivities of Bastille Day. My travel companion Karin and I celebrated the national holiday there on July 14th and all around Paris people were joyful and dancing in the streets like you see below. Tragically, this was also the evening of the Nice terrorist attack which I wrote about here. But we must remember to not live in fear, and so I am looking forward to my next visit to France, and most definitely Paris.
We saw much more but I’ll stop here, this post is already long enough! What things have you seen or tasted in Paris that you loved?
See also 20 ultimate things to do in Paris, that article lists a few more great stops!