Paris, France

As part one of my two month trip across Europe we visited Paris for 6 days. I was so excited for this part of the trip as I haven’t been back to Paris since a young child and was excited to revisit all the museums and galleries with a new found appreciation for art and history( and food…of course I was very excited to eat the food). Since Paris is a huge city with tons of stuff to do and see, I spent a lot of time researching the perfect itinerary and I must say I think the itinerary I created comes pretty close! We had a great time and were able to balance museums and traditional sites with walking around fun neighbourhoods and leisurely meals. Read on below for everything we did! 

Day One

Our plane got in a little bit late, just around 2pm and we headed straight for the city ( after struggling to find both the Paris Museum Pass Kiosk and the RER train). We met our Airbnb host at our flat ( very cute studio in Montmatre) and then got ready to head out. The rest of our day was pretty much defined by our struggle to find the Paris Museum Pass. We started first by walking from our flat to Sacre Coeur ( getting extremely lost and turning a 15min walk into a 40) and then to Anvers station, only to find the kiosk had moved. After strolling around we decided we make the trek to Galleries Layfayette to find it there. Then we proceeded we walk into the Mandarin store and then the women’s store until we finally found the kiosk in the men’s store.

After we got the pass, we decided to officially start our trip by enjoying views of Paris from the Terrace of the Galleries Lafayette, walked around the Opera House and then back up to Sacre Couer which we explored around sunset( 100% recommend, the views are incredible). 


Dinner was then also a bit of struggle as after grabbing a table at the first and speaking in very broken French to the waiter, no one ever returned to give us a menu so we left to find a new place which thankfully gave us menus right away and then delivered excellent food… We henceforth decided to name our trip “Take Two” as it seems to take at least two trys for anything to work for us ( NOTE: this has held true). We grabbed dinner at a local place in Montmartre called Francis Labutte, I grabbed beef tartare and my friend grabbed steak. Food here was great and quite reasonable ( a trend we maintained pretty well for the rest of our trip).

Step Count: 20,989

Day Two


We woke up nice and early to fight off jet lag and to hopefully beat the crowds at Versailles ( we succeeded at the first but not really the second). We took the Metro to Solferino and switched to the Musee D’Orsay to take the RER C to Versailles.


Versailles was amazing, words cannot describe how opulent and impressive this palace is. You can get a free audio guide at the main entrance which is something I would 100% recommend as it I feel the experience was definitely enhanced by the added information. For instance, did you know there are 67 staircases in the main building of Versailles alone?? We spent a couple hours walking around the palace and then entered the gardens. Be careful, as in the summer the garden’s become “musical gardens” and are no longer free on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and some Fridays, so try to plan around this so you don’t pay extra. However, if you can’t avoid it the gardens are probably still worth as they themselves are another 2 hours of exploration. 

Then we headed back into the city to meet our third friend as she had a mixup with her ticket and ended up booking the wrong flight to Paris and came in today. 

We spent the afternoon strolling around Montmartre and then walked to the Louvre as they are open late on Fridays! We got in super quickly with our Pass and were able to see the Mona Lisa and other exhibits without the traditional Louvre mayhem.


Now hungry, we walked over to Bistro de Victories for dinner. This restaurant had come highly recommended as a great place for affordable french food and it delivered on every promise. The waiters were so nice, probably the nicest of the week, and put up with our broken French/use of English. They also answered a bunch of general questions we had. I got the duck confit which was amazing, like seriously amazing. Wine was so cheap here, we split half a bottle of house red for 11EU. I would 10/10 recommend 


Step Count: 27,525


* Since I wear a fitbit and knew we would be walking a lot I thought it would be fun to document my daily steps exploring the city- this day definitely wins ( the Versailles gardens are huge)! 

Day Three

Again we woke up on the earlier side, but a sleep in by yesterday’s 7am standard, to get to the Musee D’Orsay right when it opened. After stopping for croissants and coffee we ended up getting there just after it opened but still didn’t have to wait in any lines which was amazing. We started right at the top in the Impressionism gallery as a) this is my all time favorite type of art and b) it is what the Orsay is known for so we wanted to do that before the crowds. This ended up working perfectly as the gallery was practically empty in the morning and we had unobstructed views of our paintings ( and cliche clock photos of course). Around 11am the gallery began to become full with tours so I would recommend starting at your must-sees early. We then went through the rest of gallery, and dare I say it, I might like Orsay more than the Lourve. It is smaller so you can most of it in one day, it has way less crowds so you actually see the art, the building is stunning and it houses most of my personal favorite pieces of art. 

Once the gallery got more crowded around lunch we walked along the Seine and then up through Saint Germaine du Pres. I had heard so many great things about this neighborhood and it definitely did not disappoint. Saint Germaine du Pres is supposed to be the very “quintessential Parisian” neighborhood filled with beautiful old buildings and beautiful stores ranging from small boutiques to many of the expensive international brand names. We even stumbled upon a Michelin Star restaurant decked out in orange decor with the cutest secret courtyard. We wandered into Laduree and got delicious macarons sans line and then continued on to Notre Dame. Read about my macroon tasting mission here! 

 

Notre Dame is free entry and because of this the line can get crazy long, on the day we went the line was on the long side but moved super fast and we got in the Cathedral in under 20 minutes. Notre Dame is purely and simply breathtaking. The cathedral took almost 200 years to build ( that’s older than Canada!!) and is filled with huge detailed stained glass, sculptures and vaulted stone ceilings. I would definitely recommend taking a full walk around the outside of Notre Dame as it is beautiful from all angles and there is a pretty park in the back perfect to take a break from the sun.

After that we went to find Saint Chapelle and got lost/confused (sensing a theme yet?) but quickly found our way on the small island. Saint Chapelle is a beautiful old church was once part of the royal compound that was on the island before it moved to Versailles. The church is now in the middle of the Palace of Justice. Unlike Notre Dame, Saint Chapelle is mostly wood and unlike Notre Dame is does cost money to enter, but it was free with the Museum Pass and breathtakingly beautiful in its own way so I would still recommend giving it a visit.


We journeyed on to Shakespeare and Company back on the left bank and then wondering up through Luxemburg gardens.  Shakespeare and Company was everything I dreamed off and more. They had an incredible selection of books( mostly in English) and even a cat sitting on a leather chair. They asked us not to take any photos inside so I abided ( unlike half of Pinterest or Instagram) and, hence no photos. TIP: Shakespeare and Company has a great water fountain out front to stay hydrated.

Went home for a siesta and then back out again for the Arc de Tromphe and dinner. We decided to go to the Arc de Triomphe for golden hour, which I would 100% recommend as it was absolutely stunning and not too busy ( it starts getting super busy for sunset). The views were absolutely incredible and worth every step ( there is a lot of steps so bring water and comfy shoes). We kept switching sides to see the view from every angle but obviously spent a lot of time gazing at the Eiffel Tower.
 


After this we journeyed around the area to find dinner only to find that pretty much all restaurants were closed ( on a Saturday!? still very confused) and decided to metro back to our neighbourhood where we found a cute little place for mussels and fries and settled in for a very European dinner starting at 11pm. 


Step Count: 22,888

Day Four 

On day four we woke up around 8:30 to get to the Orangerie right after it opened but were stalled by 10km race and a failed hunt for coffee. After finally navigating an entrance to the museum we made a beeline for Monet’s waterlilies. As per my earlier excitement at the D’Orsay, I am a huge fan of Impressionist art and thus a huge HUGE fan of Monet so this was a pretty surreal experience for me. We spent quite a while in the Waterlilies room and then proceeded to explore the rest of the gallery which has quite a good collection of Impressionist to Modern art. 

After finishing up at the museum we decided to take a leisurely stroll from the Orangerie to Trocadero park to see the Eiffel tower. It was a super hot day ( 31 degree celsius) but thanks to shade along the path and the breeze off the Seine the walk wasn’t that bad at all. The Eiffel tower was in full view the entire walk providing lots of photo opportunities (before we even arrived at Trocadero which is just one giant photo opportunity).


Everyone said that Trocadero was the best place to get photos of the Eiffel tower and I definitely agree, the view is perfect. It was super busy around lunch but not too busy to still enjoy it. If you wanted to miss the crowds I would suggest going really early or maybe around dinner time. After we got our fill of insta-worthy photos we ventured off to find food for our picnic. I would 10/10 recommend having a picnic overlooking the Eiffel tower, it was probably the most “Paris” our trip to Paris ever felt. We picked up sandwich stuff at Franprix and then desserts at Carette( unanimously voted best macaroons of the trip) and then found some shade in the park. TIP: There is a water fountain in the kids playground area of Trocadero, much better than buying bottles.



Once we were rejuvenated from our picnic ( and my friend’s purse was pooped on by a bird) we decided it was time to see the tower up close. We walked around the Champs de Mars to get all the angels of the Eiffel Tower and even watched people zipline off it. We ended our day of sightseeing by strolling down the Champs d’Elyseses and popping into a couple stores.

After a day of walking in the sun we decided to stay close to home with dinner in Montmartre. Au Pied du Sacre Coeur had gotten amazing reviews online so we decided to check it out. It is a little hard to find but super cute, sitting in its own square by one of the staircases to Sacre Coeur. The food was amazing!!! Slightly more expensive than the rest of our meals ( entrees at 15 instead of 12) but it was worth every bite. I got the rabbit, my friends the duck and chicken with foie gras and all of us raved about our meals. We even decided to splurge and get brown sugar creme brule which was also to die for. 

Step Count: 21,593


Day Five


Today was part two of the Louvre. Because we went on Friday to see the big stuff there was less pressure to get there for opening so we ended up showing up around 9:30-10. It was honestly pretty mayhem here in the morning. The underground entrance from the subway was substantially better than the pyramid entrance and we didn’t wait that long but oh my god there were just people all over the gallery. I really really hate crowds so it was quite overwhelming on the first floors but once we found our way to the top floor for the French paintings it was serene. The top floor is a little hard to find so we pretty much had it to ourselves for most of the morning. We were able to enjoy centuries of French art without having to shove past other tourists heading for the Mona Lisa. I would definitely recommend searching out this floor if you need a break from the crowds.


After this we went on a little bit of an exploration as my friend was a bit sick and needed some medication ( nothing at all serious, everyone is totally fine). We ended up finding a really nice pharmacist who helped us out, so note: be super friendly and other people will follow suit. After that we went in search of the famous L’as du fallafel in Le Marais. We found it pretty easily and only waited in a short line as we were there for a late lunch (2pm). The place is super efficient, they take your order and payment as you wait in line so by the time you are at the front you just grab your falafel and go. These were so good!! Falafel may seem like a weird thing to eat in France but it is a pretty international city with a diverse population. Even one of my friends who would consider herself a falafel connoisseur said these were good so you know it’s true. We found a super cute park to eat our falafel at and then just people watched and basked in Paris daily life.


I really really wanted to try Bertillon ice-cream so we headed to the island to grab some only to realize it is closed on Mondays. I am devastated, but hey, its another reason to come back. After our failed ice-cream attempt ( take two!) we went into the Holocaust memorial, which was incredibly well done! The exhibit does a great job of demonstrating French complicity with the Holocaust and providing a history on anti-Semitism in Europe.


To make up for the lack of ice cream we proceeded to Pierre Herme to complete our taste testing of Paris’s best macaroons AND to L’eclair de Genie to split an eclair. We decided Carette still had the best all around macaroon but Pierre Herme had by far the most interesting flavours. We ate while wandering around Le Marais, also known as the Jewish quarter. This neighbourhood was another one of the favourites. All the streets were beautiful, covered in cute stores, traditional Parisian bistros and even more fun and eclectic food options ( like a plethora of falafel places). If Saint Germaine is the perfectly put together Parisian grandmother, Le Marais is the fun and quirky (but still perfectly put together) cousin. I would definitely recommend just spending an afternoon walking around, exploring the side streets like we did as it really gives you a great feel for Parisian life.

 
After exploring, we headed home for a short siesta. Tonight’s dinner was at the famous Chartier. Charter, also known as Le Bouillon Chartier, is a 200 year old restaurant famous for serving up super affordable classic french fare. When we first arrived we were greeted by a huge line of people also looking to try it out for themselves but thankfully the line moved super fast ( the restaurant is HUGE) and we were inside in under 25 minutes. They also serve small cups of sangria in line for 1EU which makes the line go even quicker. 
 
The entire experience of Chartier was quite fun, the restaurant is historic with a very busy buzz and the food is quite cheap. It wasn’t at all the best meal I had( chicken was rather meh) but between the great dessert, good cheap wine and fun atmosphere I would still rate this a total success. It is a bit cliche but I am really happy we decided to go here.
After dinner we took the metro back to Trocadero to watch the Eiffel Tower light up at night. This was possibly the magical thing ever. The tower looks beautiful, there were street performers and people drinking wine everywhere. And of course, every hour on the hour the tower glitters which is one of the most beautiful sites ever and was the perfect last night to our Paris trip.
Step Count: 19,712


Day Six

For our last day in Paris (cries) we woke up early to pack up our Airbnb and then headed down to Solferino station to stop at our favourite bakery of the trip and walk to the Rodin Museum. Gosselin bakery is right above Solferino station and we discovered it crossing over to the D’Orsay RER station and promptly went back again and again. Of all the pastries we had these were our favourites ( notably the pain au chocolate and the chausson aux pommes).
 
We got to the Rodin just before it opened and were the first to get in, making a beeline for the gardens and of course the famous Thinker. The Rodin museum was even more beautiful than I thought it would be. First of all, the museum itself is housed in a stunning old mansion ( Hotel Biron) outfitted with chandeliers and a grand staircase. The gardens are perfectly manicured and filled with roses. And of course the art and sculptures up close are way more intricate and surreal than imagined. The museum did an amazing job of showing and explaining how Rodin went about making his sculptures and provided an interesting look into the Parisian artist community at the time. 

After we finished up at the Rodin we made the super short walk to the Invalides for Napoleon’s tomb and the Musee Armee. Napoleon’s tomb might have honestly rivaled Versailles for the amount of the jaw dropping we did at how over the top it was. The tomb is housed in a HUGE domed building outfitted with ceiling paintings, gold and every colour of marble imaginable. Napoleon’s tomb sits in the middle in a giant recessed circular room. My friends and I all joked that for a such a short man it was a huge tomb but oh my gosh was it impressive. 

 

Next up was the Armee which is housed in the building just behind Napoleon’s tomb. This museum goes through the military history and is crazy full of old weapons and military artifacts. We went through the Charles de Gaulle, which I would really recommend as he is such an important and interesting figure in European history ( only problem with this exhibit is the free audio guides can be a little glitchy). We also went through the Louis XIV- Napoleon war history and Paris Commune exhibits, which were also both excellent. Both these exhibits had much more artifacts than the Charles de Gaulle which was mostly just a guided history tour. 

After wandering around the Invalides that was pretty much the end of our Paris trip and we packed up to take the RER to CDG airport to head to Barcelona! 

Step Count: 11,848


Favourite Place:

To be honest I think this one is impossible for Paris I honestly loved everything. Paris is such an incredible city filled with so many different things to do and see. I think our trip struck a good balance between museums/sightseeing and just wandering, eating and soaking up the atmosphere.

Highlights for me would be Monet’s Waterlilies, walking around Saint Germaine and Le Marais, the Rodin museum and seeing the Eiffel Tower at night. 
 
Favourite Food:

Favourite meal is a toss up between duck confit at Bistro Victories ( great affordable classic french food by the Louvre) and  rabbit at Au Pied du Sacre Couer (off the beaten track high quality french restaurant in Montmartre).  Both had incredible food, very friendly waitstaff and a cool atmosphere. Would 100% recommend both to anyone.
For breakfast we went to Gosselin Boulanger three times as it was right above Solferino station and had great and inexpensive pastries for breakfast. 

Where we stayed


We stayed a small Airbnb studio in northern Montmartre. It was small but modern, clean and had all the amenities we needed like AC and laundry. I really liked this neighbourhood. While a bit further away from city centre, it was close to all the Montmartre sites, right above a metro to take a short ride to everything else and had a much more fun, local vibe with lots of small restaurants. 

Airbnb in Montmartre 

Sign up for Airbnb here 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s