Hit the Highlights- Sightseeing in Paris, France
#1 Walk to the top of the Eiffel Tower
There is no such thing as a trip to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower. I’ve seen this incredible structure on three different occasions, and every time was breathtaking. It’s crazy to imagine that the Eiffel Tower was built for the World Fair back in 1889, to demonstrate France’s industrial prowess to the world. Although this building was once considered “the ugliest building in Paris,” it has become a symbol of the city and embraced by Parisians. The Eiffel Tower was the world’s tallest building until 1930, when the Chrysler building was built in New York City.
Travel tip: I suggest hitting this monument first thing in the morning before the lines get too long. You can book a reservation ahead of time here. Do yourself a favor and walk up to the second highest platform. Each little flight of stairs leads to a slightly different perspective of Paris, and you will not want to miss this opportunity to soak in every moment. Plus, walking up those flights of stairs will help offset the fresh baguettes you will be eating at every meal.
#2 Go back to the Eiffel Tower at Night for crepes and champagne in the lawn
Visiting the Eiffel Tower in the evening is one of the most romantic things you can do in Paris. The twinkle is magical, and visitors take in the view from blankets in the park, sipping champagne from the bottle. I love indulging in a Nutella and banana crepe from the nearby crepe stands, while watching the night light up.
Travel tip: Get your timing right; wait until it is completely dark outside before heading over. At the beginning of every hour, until 1am, the Eiffel Tower sparkles for 5 minutes. Pack your own champagne to avoid overpaying for cheap wine on the lawn.
#3 Visit Montmartre to see Sacré-Coeur
This is my absolute favorite thing to see in Paris! The first time I went, I was in high school with one of my best friends, @lauralou819. The design of the basilica is modern with Roman and Byzantine influences. Sacré-Coeur has a unique religious and political history dating back to the Middle Ages and the French Revolution. Sacré-Coeur is the second highest point of the city, behind the Eiffel Tower, and has an incredible view. In the evenings, it is common to see Parisians gathering on the steps to soak in the sites with friends, before heading to a café to share a meal.
Travel Tip: Take the metro to Montmartre to avoid a high taxi or uber fee. This is the second most visited church in Paris, behind the Notre Dame Cathedral, with over 10 million visitors per year.
#4 Visit Notre Dame
I was fortunate enough to visit before the fire, but on my most recent trip, I stopped by the site to see what had remained. The entire area around the church was blocked off, but you can still see the majority of the cathedral. Out of respect, visitors would walk up to the gate and quietly take a photograph or say a prayer. The front area with the rectangular towers had been saved and preserved, but the majority of the wooden roof and spire are missing. Immediately after the fire, LVMH, L’Oréal, and other French billionaires promised funds to help rebuild Notre-Dame. However, the Cathedral has yet to see a single cent from any of the donors that pledged to help over a month ago.
#5 Pack a picnic for Jardin Du Luxembourg
Not many things in Paris are free, but you can wander around the fabulous gardens of Luxembourg at no cost. The gardens are known for their perfectly manicured lawns, tree-lined promenades, brilliant flowerbeds, and picturesque Medici Fountain that was built in 1630. Every time I visit the gardens, I feel like I am in a Jane Austen novel, or the heir to my father’s French countryside estate. *A girl can dream*
Travel tip: Pack a picnic to enjoy overlooking the palace. There are plenty of available public seats, benches, and grassy areas where you can throw down a blanket. If you are looking to romance someone in the afternoon, a picnic in the gardens will do it.
#6 Take an exclusive tour of the Louvre
The home of the Mona Lisa, the Louvre is the biggest museum in the word! It would take you 100 days, non-stop, if you wanted to see every piece in the museum for only 30 seconds. Not to mention, the museum itself is a piece of art! I can’t help but look up at the ceilings in every wing of the Louvre- each is unique and dates back to a different time period significant in French history.
Travel tip:There is no way you will have enough time to plan, research, and study the art in the museum. Instead, I highly suggest planning a private tour. I booked my tour on Airbnb Experiences, and it was the BEST thing I did during my trip. I had been to the Louvre twice before, but I always aimlessly wandered around, not knowing exactly what I was looking at or for. My tour guide was amazing! He taught me so much about the history of the art and what different techniques came from which time periods. After one afternoon, I could spot a DaVinci from miles away and can easily differentiate art from different eras, like romanticism or neoclassicism.
#7 Shop the Champs-Élysée all the way to the Arc di Triomphe
Paris is known for having some of the most prominent fashion houses in the world-- namely, Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, Louboutin, and of course, Louis Vuitton. There is no better way to experience these designers than to stroll up and down the Champs-Élysées, one of the most beautiful avenues in the world. The avenue is lined with top designers and affordable fashion brands, like Zara, Sephora, and H&M. You can dine at a Michelin-star restaurant or experience an excellent meal at any French brasserie. There is something for everyone on the Champs-Élysées.
Travel Tip: I visited on a French holiday, so the Champs-Élysées was blocked off for pedestrians making it more enjoyable. Usually, the street is open to cars, however, on the first Sunday of every month, the area is blocked off for pedestrians!
#8 Tour the Opera Garnier
The Opera Garnier, or Opéra de Paris, is one of the most opulent buildings in Paris. It took roughly 15 years to build and was finally inaugurated in 1875 with a lavish gala. From photos, you may recognize the Grand Staircase or the Grand Foyer with its gorgeous chandeliers. The auditorium is also noteworthy with the richest red velvet and gold leaf details.
Travel Tip: If you plan to visit the opera, make sure you have time to stop by one of the most beautiful department stores only a block away, Galeries Lafayette. When I visited, I did not take a guided tour, but would have loved to hear more about the history from a guide. Next time, I’ll make the time to take a proper tour!
#9 Take a day trip to Versailles
Versailles is about 45 minutes from Paris on the metro, so plan your trip accordingly. You can enter Versailles as early as 9am, and I would suggest going earlier rather than later, since it is always crowded. There are so many incredible sites to take in Versailles. From the Jardins du Château de Versailles, Marie-Antoinette’s estate, and the most famed Hall of Mirrors. Tickets to enter the palace are around 18 euro and can be purchased online ahead of time here.
Travel Tip:I would visit Versailles during the week because it’s less crowded. There are private guided tours available for those who want to gain more historical context.
#10 On a rainy day, learn how to make French pastries
You can’t control the weather, but you can make the most of your time in Paris despite the weather. One of the days I was in Paris, it rained non-stop, and I didn’t want to just hop from museum to museum. Instead, I planned a cooking class. The French are known for pastries, croissants, and indulgent desserts. Over the course of two hours, I made the most gorgeous desserts and felt like an expert baker from the Food Network. Seriously, I couldn’t believe I made them! My mom asked if I could recreate the desserts at home, but unfortunately, I doubt I will ever have the range of ingredients that went into creating those perfect treats.
Travel Tip: I booked a class with Le Chef en Box. If you are interested in learning how to make a variety of traditional French cuisine, you might want to try a class with La Cuisine Paris. Some of La Cuisine Paris’ most popular classes will teach you how to make crêpes, soufflé’s, or a gourmet four-course meal.
Bien à vous,