BEST OF PARIS – Top 5 Travel Guide
Best of Paris
Top 5 Travel Guide
Je t’aime Paris…I love Paris! Yes, I admit it, I was nervous the first time I went to Paris. I had heard all the same things you have…Parisians are rude, hold on tight to your purse, dress fancy so you don’t look like a tourist. Well, I am here to tell you to forget all that, Paris is amazing!
I travel a lot and people always ask me which place I like the best. I wish I had a more exotic answer but I love Paris! Paris is a dreamland. The city is split by the beautiful river Siene. The river, and all the recognizable landmarks, make it so easy to get around. Paris is a big city that feels so intimate.
I love doing a “top 5” list of every place I go, this is not a top 5 most popular sites, or a top 5 things you must do. This list is my 5 personal favorite things to do in Paris, activities that have become traditions for my family.
Eiffel Tower Light Show
1. Eiffel Tower Light Show. Everyone goes to the Eiffel Tower to check a box on their must-see list, you kind of have to, right? So, here is the way my family likes to “do” the Eiffel Tower. Did you know the Eiffel Tower does a light show every night, every hour on the hour? The lights flash and twinkle for 5 minutes, at the top of each hour, from sunset to 1:00 am (2:00 am in summer). It is stunning! Some people like to watch this from the Place du Trocadero, but I think the best viewing location is camped out on a blanket, in the park, right behind the Eiffel Tower. Consequently, I am not the only one who likes this spot. There is always a party going on in the evening back there. Tourist and locals bring a blanket, food, drinks and have a nice picnic while waiting for the light show to begin. If you have kids, they can run around and play in the grass. Also, there are venders wandering around offering things like water, laser pointers, souvenirs and light up toys to play with as the sun goes down.
We like to go to one of the many little grocery stores in Paris, and buy some bread, ham, cheese and of course some delicious pastries from our favorite Boulangerie. This has become a tradition for my family and our kids love it! Now that my boys are older, we like to climb the steps after we have eaten. It cost less to climb the steps, than to take the elevator, and there isn’t usually an insane line. Some people think it is crazy to climb all those steps when there is a perfectly good elevator zooming past you, but there is something magical about climbing the steps at night. You can take your time, stop at each level and when the top of the hour hits you are engulfed in the beautiful light show.
Stroll Down the Champs-Elysees
2. Aux Champs-Elysees…Aux Champs-Elysees. Another Paris favorite is to walk the Champs-Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre. This is a beautiful street filled with shops, café’s, restaurants, parks and the most beautiful views as you head toward the Place de la Concorde, past the giant ferris wheel, through the Tuileries Garden into the courtyard of the Louvre. Around the holidays, the streets are lined with little shops called the “Villages de Noel.” In the summertime, you might find a carnival in one of the parks, with rides and fun foods. This is a 2 mile walk but you can take it slow and there are many opportunities to stop, rest, eat ice cream and crepes…for energy, right? I think my favorite part of this walk is the Tuileries Garden. The gardens are 55 acres of beautiful greenery, trees, statuary, tons of seating areas, a few toy boat ponds and play structure for the kids.
The closest Metro stop to the Arc de Triomphe is the “Charles de Gaulle Etoile” stop. If you take the Metro and get off at this stop, it will drop you right across the street from the Arc de Triomphe. Here is a smart traveler tip…don’t try to cross the street to the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc is smack dab in the middle of the biggest and busiest roundabout I have ever seen. The roundabout that has 12 –yes 12– streets pouring onto it. There is an underground tunnel that you should take to cross the street. The tunnels have signs and are easy to find, if you know to look for them. After you get your fill of the Arc de Triomphe take a stroll down the Champs-Elysees. This 2-mile stroll can fill an entire afternoon. Just take it slow and take it all in.
You’re in Paris, Eat a Crepe.
3. Eat A Crepe. I know, this is a no brainer, right? But, I want you to try many different kinds of crepes from a variety of vendors. For example, try a dinner crepe at a sidewalk cafe, filled with ham, cheese, potatoes and topped with a fried egg.
Try a lemon crepe as you check out the artist plaza at the Place du Tertre, in Montmartre, near Sacre Coeur. Maybe try a ham and cheese crepe from an open window café on your way to Notre Dame. And of course, try a basic sugar or Nutella crepe from the cart that is on almost every corner, throughout the city.
There is a reason Paris in known for their crepes. Vive la France!
Eat at a Paris Restaurant or Cafe.
4. Eat at a restaurant and sit outside. Another no brainer, but I have talked to so many people that go to Paris and live on crepes and McDonald’s because they are intimidated by the sidewalk restaurants and cafes. I remember being a little intimidated the first time I ate out in Paris. I wasn’t sure how it worked. Do you have to request a table or just sit when you see an open seat? Why are they looking at me strangely when I sit down at 4:00 and want to order dinner?
A couple good things to know about eating out in Paris.
Here is what I learned about the process. — You can eat out in Paris whenever you want, but not everywhere. The restaurants have set hours. Sometimes they look open, but they will only be serving beverages. Typically, restaurants serve lunch from 12:00 – 2:00 and dinner from 7:00 – 11:00. If it is a busy time of year, you should make a reservation, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if they have room for you.
The staff will probably be able to communicate in English or at the very least have an English menu. If you don’t ask for tap water, you will be paying for your water. You have to ask for the check, they don’t want to rush you. The seats are really close together. A lot of people smoke in France and they do it outside. This means sitting outside for dinner might be too smokie. If you really don’t want to be around the smoke, look for a table inside. The inside environment is pretty cool too. If there is no hostess stand, you can just take any open seat. And finally, tipping your server is not required or expected but a couple Euros is appreciated.
Walk along the River Seine.
5. Walk the Seine. The Seine is your marker when in Paris. So, if you don’t know where you are, finding the Seine will help you get your bearings. There are fun things to do on the left bank and the right bank along the Seine, so cross those beautiful bridges often. Here are some of my favorites. Shop at the Bouquinistes. Bouquinestes are vendors that rent big green boxes along the Seine. Certainly, this is where you can find some fun souvenirs, books, prints, art, posters and have a nice chat with some of the friendliest Parisians around.
Walking the Seine is a good time to check out Notre Dame. Yes, Notre Dame is awesome and you should go through it, but we love the plaza in front of Notre Dame as well. First of all, there is usually a pigeon wrangler there that will help you get a bunch of pigeons to perch on your arm for a picture (if that’s your thing, we think it’s cool). Also, every time we have been there we have seen some very cool street performers. You will find plenty of seating too, so it is a good place to eat your lunch.
In the summertime, city officials create Paris-Plages along the Seine. Paris-Plages means Paris beaches. Beaches are set up along the Seine. The city brings in sand, deck chairs, palm trees, cabanas and umbrellas. Not only do they set up these cute beaches along the Seine, but they also plan tons of fun activities for adults and the kiddos. The plage set up by our hotel had a zip-line that went across the Seine and a big dance floor where some serious swing dancing was going on every night. The Paris-Plages are so fun and best of all, the activities are all free. Merci Paris!
I hope you love Paris too! Please comment below with some of your favorite Paris traditions.