If you're searching for a destination that effortlessly combines history, culture, and romance, then look no further. Paris, the enchanting capital of France, is a city that captivates the soul and leaves an indelible mark on every traveller fortunate enough to wander its charming streets.
Picture yourself strolling along the Seine, hand in hand with your loved one, as the Eiffel Tower shimmers in the evening light. Feel the buzz of energy as you sip espresso at a sidewalk café, watching fashionable locals and artists alike go about their day. Marvel at world-renowned masterpieces in the Louvre. Lose yourself in the bohemian labyrinth of Montmartre, where creativity flows freely, inspiring painters, writers, and dreamers for centuries.
We have been to Paris twice, both times in winter because we wanted that “white Christmas” as we toured in motors homes through Europe. But I can just imagine how beautiful the Champs Elysées would be in spring with tree’s lining each side of the street and the foliage in full bloom on the Montmartre. No matter what time of the year you go, Paris will be alive with tourists from around the globe.
What is the Best Time of Year to Go to Paris?
Paris is beautiful year-round, but springtime, from April to June, offers pleasant weather and blooming flowers, creating a romantic atmosphere that will sweep you off your feet. Fall, from September to November, paints the city with warm hues and offers milder temperatures, making it an excellent time to explore Parisian streets. However, keep in mind that summer can be crowded, and many locals go on vacation in August, so some shops and restaurants may be closed. Summer in Europe is also the most expensive time to travel.
How Many Days to Stay in Paris?
Ah, the eternal question of how much time one should spend in the City of Light. While a weekend getaway might seem tempting, I highly recommend dedicating at least four to five days to truly immerse yourself in the Parisian charm. This will give you enough time to explore the iconic landmarks, savour French cuisine, and even take day trips to nearby attractions like Versailles or the charming village of Giverny.
What is the Best Area to Stay in Paris?
Paris is divided into several neighbourhoods, each with its unique character. When it comes to choosing accommodation, the Marais district steals my heart every time. Its narrow, winding streets are lined with trendy boutiques, delightful cafes, and historic buildings. Plus, it’s centrally located, making it easy to reach other parts of the city. Le Marais offers a vibrant blend of history and modernity, creating a perfect base for your Parisian adventure.
Paris (like the most of Europe) can be a bit heavy on the wallet. But with careful planning, you can experience the city without breaking the bank. On average, a daily budget of around €100 for food, transportation and attractions should be sufficient. Opt for cosy neighbourhood bistros and cafes for affordable yet delectable meals and consider exploring local markets for picnic supplies. Many museums and attractions offer discounted or free entry on specific days, so make sure to do your research and plan accordingly.
Navigating the Parisian streets is an adventure in itself. The city’s efficient public transportation system is your best friend during your stay. The Métro (subway) is fast and convenient, connecting you to all corners of the city. Consider purchasing a “Paris Visite” card or a “Navigo” pass for unlimited travel on buses, trams and the Métro. If the weather permits, exploring Paris on foot is a fantastic way to discover hidden gems and stumble upon charming cafes tucked away in interesting little alleyways.
- The Eiffel Tower: No trip to Paris would be complete without seeing this iconic landmark. Whether you go to the top or just admire it from afar it’s definitely a point of interest to snap that selfie to make your friends jealous. We found the fee a bit high just to go to the top of the tower to see a view you could see from Montmartre for free. There are two options, walking up or tacking the elevator…each priced accordingly. No matter what time of the year or day you go there will be heavy queues. So if you are wanting to go to the top, be sure to pre-purchase your tickets!
- Champs-Élysées: The main road of Paris boasting the Arc De Triomphe. This is the main shopping district with many high-end brand stores and is also magical to stroll down at night. For an unforgettable experience, I recommend visiting the Arc de Triomphe during sunset or in the evening. The arch is beautifully illuminated, casting a warm glow over the surrounding area. It’s a perfect time to witness the busy roundabout in action, as cars gracefully navigate the intricacies of the traffic circle. If you’re lucky, you might even witness the awe-inspiring sight of the ceremonial procession that passes under the arch on special occasions.
- The Louvre Museum: As you approach the Louvre, you’ll be greeted by the striking glass pyramid, an architectural marvel that serves as the main entrance. There is however a 2nd entrance from the adjacent Mall on an underground level so search for the “Carrousel du Louvre Entrance”
It’s most famous artwork is Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” which was much smaller than I expected, but nonetheless magical to feel her smile as I gazed into her eyes while trying to take a selfie fighting off little girls.
Other famous artworks include paintings by Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Delacroix among others. Beyond paintings, the Louvre is home to an incredible array of sculptures, including the famous Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo.
When visiting the Louvre, it’s worth noting that the museum can get crowded, especially during peak hours. Consider arriving early or after lunch and make sure of the opening days as it was closed on Tuesdays when we visited. Best bet is to purchase a skip-the-line ticket to minimize wait times and ensure a more enjoyable experience.
- Notre-Dame Cathedral: a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and one of the most iconic landmarks in Paris. This majestic cathedral has captured the hearts of millions of visitors from around the world to be a symbol of Parisian heritage and resilience. As you approach Notre-Dame, you’ll be struck by its grandeur and intricate details. The façade, adorned with ornate sculptures and delicate rose windows. Take a moment to marvel at the intricate stonework and the gargoyles that perch on its edges, adding a touch of mystique to the cathedral’s silhouette. We were not able to visit the Cathedral as it was severely damaged by a fire in 2019. It remains closed due to repairs and is scheduled to reopen in December 2024.
- Montmartre: a bohemian enclave nestled on a hilltop in the heart of Paris. This vibrant neighbourhood has long been a haven for artists, writers, and dreamers seeking inspiration and creative expression. From its charming cobblestone streets to the iconic Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Montmartre offers a unique and enchanting experience that captures the essence of Parisian charm. As you wander through Montmartre, you’ll be captivated by its quaint atmosphere and picturesque beauty. The neighbourhood’s artistic heritage is evident in every corner, with numerous art studios, galleries, and street artists showcasing their talent. It’s no wonder that famous artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, and Renoir found inspiration in this vibrant district. One of the most famous landmarks in Montmartre is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, a majestic white church perched on the highest point of the hill. Its distinctive domes and stunning views of the city make it a must-visit attraction. Take a leisurely stroll up the hill, and as you reach the basilica, pause to admire the intricate mosaics and enjoy the panoramic vistas that stretch out before you. There are two ways to the top, climbing its many stairs or for the not so athletic there is a funicular to the top. Here you will get breath taking views of Paris (for free if you walked up).I recommend packing some cheese, meats, pate, baguettes and Champaign for a romantic sunset picnic with a view over the city.
- Moulon Rouge: this world-famous cabaret that has been dazzling audiences for over a century. Situated in the Montmartre neighbourhood, the red Moulin Rouge windmill is a symbol of bohemian nightlife, extravagant entertainment, and timeless glamour. The Moulin Rouge is renowned for its spectacular cabaret shows, featuring talented dancers, acrobats, and singers who perform in extravagant costumes and captivating choreography. Prepare to be mesmerized by the energy, precision, and sheer talent on display. The dancers, known as the “Doriss Girls,” are known for their stunning can-can routines, a dance style that originated at the Moulin Rouge itself. The performance is accompanied by a live orchestra, adding a touch of elegance and authenticity to the experience. There are two options: dinner & show, or just the show. It’s also very busy all year round so pre-purchasing your tickets is advisable!
- The Palace of Versailles: take a step back in time to an opulent era of French royalty Located just outside of Paris, this magnificent palace and its sprawling gardens are a testament to the grandeur and extravagance of the French monarchy. The best way to get there is by train. Originally built as a hunting lodge, the Palace of Versailles was transformed by King Louis XIV into a symbol of absolute power and artistic splendour. The palace is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, with its ornate facades, exquisite details, and lavish interiors that will leave you in awe. As you enter the palace, you’ll be greeted by the dazzling Hall of Mirrors, a gallery adorned with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and chandeliers that reflect the light in a mesmerizing display. Wander through the opulent state apartments, where kings and queens once held court and entertained nobility. Each room is a showcase of intricate design, with lavish furnishings, gilded decorations and magnificent painted ceilings that depict scenes from mythology and history. While the interior of the palace is breath-taking, a visit to the Palace of Versailles is not complete without exploring the vast and meticulously manicured gardens. Designed by André Le Nôtre, these expansive gardens are a work of art in themselves, featuring geometric patterns, beautiful fountains, and charming groves. To make the most of your visit to the Palace of Versailles, consider joining a guided tour or renting an audio guide. These resources provide valuable insights into the history, art and stories behind this magnificent palace which will enrich your experience and allow you to appreciate its significance. Being there in winter, I almost froze my nose off standing in winding queues that took what felt like a century to get to the front so get your skip the line tickets here.
Eating and Drinking
Paris, having the most Michelin star chefs in the world is a haven for food enthusiasts, and your taste buds are in for a treat! Indulge in croissants and freshly baked baguettes for breakfast, delectable sweet and savoury pastries that look like master pieces and don’t forget to savour the classic French delicacies like escargots, boeuf bourguignon, and crème brûlée. For a budget-friendly option, try the local street food, such as savoury crêpes or a delicious falafel in the Marais or a croque-monsieur/madame (a ham and cheese toasty where the bread has been dipped in egg, similar to French toast). Of course, no trip to Paris is complete without sampling the wide variety of cheese and sipping on a glass of exquisite French wine.
Paris has captured the hearts and imaginations of travellers from around the world for centuries. It’s a city that effortlessly combines history, culture, and art into a tapestry of experiences that will leave you enchanted and longing to return.
But what truly sets Paris apart is its unique ambiance, that distinctive “je ne sais quoi” that permeates the air. It’s the artistic spirit that lingers in Montmartre, the effortless style of the Parisians, and the sense of timelessness that pervades the city’s cobblestone streets.
A country that has inspired countless poets, writers, and artists throughout history, and it continues to be a source of inspiration for anyone seeking beauty, creativity, and joie de vivre. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in history, revel in art, savour exquisite cuisine, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
So, whether you’re strolling along the Seine River, sipping café au lait at a sidewalk café, or marvelling at the stunning architecture that adorns the city, Paris is not just a destination; it’s an experience. It’s a love affair with a city that captivates, inspires and beckons you to explore, to dream, and to fall in love with life itself.