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!
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.
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).
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)!
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.
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
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.
Step Count: 21,593
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.
Step Count: 11,848
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.
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
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