Updated: May 2
Paris, the city of lights, is breathtaking. It's one of those things that has the "X" factor. You don't know what it is exactly, but you know it's there. First of all, it's gorgeous. Forget the main attractions like the Eiffel Tower or Champs Elysees. The natural beauty of the city is in the little roads and corners tucked in between large avenues and buildings. In these cobblestoned alleys, you find small boulangeries that sell freshly baked baguettes, and boules—a few meters from family-owned patisseries and cafes are serving the local neighborhood for decades, some even for centuries. That is where the Parisian charm lies. However, it is critical for first-time visitors to Paris to see the main attractions before immersing in the local scene.
The Eiffel Tower - This magnificent monument is named after the famous engineer Gustav Eiffel, whose company designed this ultimate symbol of Paris. Towering 1083 ft tall, it is the tallest structure in France.
How to get to the Eiffel Tower
On the Metro Line 9, line 8 & line 6.
On the RER Line C.
By bus Line 82, line 42.
By Vélib Free bike loan.
By boat - You can travel by ferry along the Seine.
Best vantage point: The Trocadero
The palace and garden of Trocadero provide the best vantage point to view the tower. Almost all the famous photos of the tower were taken from the Trocadero, including the one with Hitler dancing after the conquest of France.
How to get to the Trocadero
Train: L, N.
Metro: 6, 9.
Bus: 63, 72, 82.
Where to eat after visiting the Eiffel Tower
La Grand Epicierie De Paris De Rive Gouche - This indoor market and food hall has everything you need to taste the flavors of Paris. From crepes to foie gras to cafe au lait, this elegant space is where to eat after posing for selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Address: 38, rue de Sèvres 75007 Paris.
The Louvre - Arguably the most famous museum in the world, this Mecca of culture is host to some of the most valuable artifacts and artistic masterpieces, including Da Vinci's Monalisa, Rodin's sculptures, and Delacroix's patriotic pieces. The museum is large, so you need to devote one full day. Make sure to BOOK in ADVANCE to avoid long lines.
How to get to the Louvre
By Paris Metro, the Louvre has its own metro station on line 1 called Palais-Royal–Musee du Louvre.
If you have time to spare, Jardin de Tuileries is right next to The Louvre. Take a stroll there and see the magnificent fountains and sculptures. Best time to visit here is in the fall for the splendid foliage.
The Palace of Versailles - This palace, along with perhaps the Vatican, remains the symbol of imperial power and wealth. With golden gates, luxurious apartments, and a garden that stretches to infinity, Versailles is a must-see destination.
From the main palace, you can walk around the garden and marvel at the beautiful fountains and manicured trees. Don't forget to visit Marie Antoinette's apartment!
Food inside the palace is expensive, so stop by a market, or grocery (Carre Four is our favorite) and buy some baguette, cheese, wine, water, ham, or even roast chicken (Roti Poulet). It is ok to have a picnic on the palace grounds.
Right outside the Versailles train station is a McDonald's. Go inside and marvel at the French pastries that they sell there. You can only find these in a French McDonalds: Macarons, Pan du Chocolat, Croissants, Eclair etc. You can also use the toilet here for free!
How to get to Versailles
Find a train station nearest to you that connects to the RER line. Ask your hotel concierge, hostel manager, or host in or around Paris how far the nearest RER line-connecting train station is. The RER line is part of the rapid-transit system that connects suburbs of Paris and the city center. If you have access to the internet, you can also search for the closest connection point to your location.
The train stations that connect with the RER C train lines are Musee d'Orsay, Les Invalides, Gare d'Austerlitz, St. Michel-Notre Dame, Pont de l'Alma, and Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel.
Buy a return ticket for the RER line C5 to the Versailles-Rive Gauche station.
Before getting onto the platform to take the train, purchase your return ticket from the ticket office or from a green automatic ticket machine. Payment should be made by cash or credit card. You will receive 2 tickets - 1 for the trip to versailles and 1 for the trip home.
The return trip currently costs about 7 euros per person.
The C5 line is the fastest, cheapest, and most efficient way to get to Versailles.
You can also take the C7 line to the Gare de Versailles-Chantiers station and take a longer walk to Versailles.
Insert your ticket into the turnstile to access the RER platform. After depositing your ticket into the front of the turnstile, retrieve it on the other side. As soon as the turnstile unlocks, pass through it. Follow the directions ahead to find the C5 platform where you will get on the train.
Exit the RER station and walk down Rue de Paris to get to Versailles. After exiting the station, cross the street. Take a left between the green kiosk and cafe onto the Rue de Paris. Follow this road until you reach the Versailles gates.
Montmarte - This hilly section of Paris is the most charming area in the entire city. This area is where most of the famous impressionist artists lived, and it was the location for some of the most iconic French films in history, including The Red Balloon and Amelie.
Points of Interest
Basilica of Sacre Coeur
Moulin Rouge - The Famous Nightclub. Make sure to sing the Can Can song while there!
Place du Tertre and Eglise Saint-Pierre de Montmartre
La Moulin De La Gallette
Various Museums of Impressionist Artists
The famous bistro where Amelie worked in the film Amelie is still there: Cafe De Deux Moulins located on Rue Lepic. This street is a market street. There's a fantastic rotisserie here, Rotiserrie Dufrenoy, that sells all kinds of roasted meats and vegetables. Get some food and drinks here before heading up, and you can have a picnic by the steps of the famous Sacre Coeur Cathedral.
Notre Dame - While this world-famous cathedral is under construction due to the fire in 2019, it is still worthy of a visit. This structure remains one of the most outstanding achievements of the Middle Ages. Address: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II, Paris
How to get to Notre Dame
Take the Métro to Cité, Saint-Michel, Hôtel de Ville, Maubert-Mutualité, Cluny-La Sorbonne, or Châtelet station. The RER stops at Saint-Michel - Notre-Dame station. Take Bus 21 to the Cité-Palais de Justice or Saint-Michel-Saint-Germain stop or take Bus 24 to Petit Pont, Saint-Michel, or Notre-Dame-Quai de Montebello stop. The Batobus drops passengers off at the Quai de Montebello, about 100 meters from the cathedral.
After you visit the cathedral, go to the Shakespeare & Co bookstore. This legendary bookstore was the hangout of some of the literary giants of the 20th century, such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Also close to Notre Dame is the Latin Quarters. It is touristy but still worthy of a visit. Just don't eat in the restaurants there since they charge tourist prices, and are not very good. One rule of thumb in Paris or anywhere is that if there's a loud and persistent barker inviting tourists to eat in their restaurant, don't.
Since Notre Dame's by the Seine River, walk down the stairs and stroll along the banks. The bank of the Seine is a lovely spot for a picnic.
Champs Elysees - Honestly, I am not a fan of this stretch of land devoted to shopping. But it's interesting to see the flagship stores of some of the top couture brands in the world, such as Louis Vuitton, Channel, and Longchamps. My favorite flagship store here is Laduree. Make sure to get some coffee and macarons here. Another redeeming factor here is the Arc de Triomphe.
How to get to Champs Elysees by Metro
The following transit lines have routes that pass near Avenue Des Champs-Élysées
Train: J, L
Metro: 1, 9
Bus: 28, 72, 73, 93
Food and Dining
Paris is the food capital of the world. Do not leave the city without trying these things:
Baguette (Any local Boulangerie)
Paris Brest (My favorite Parisian pastry) - Buy it from Pierre Herme Patisserie. It's the best.
Jambon Beurre - It's the quintessential Parisian lunch that is made up of only three ingredients: Baguette, Butter, and Ham. The best place to get this is at: Caractere de Bochon on 42 Rue Charlot, Paris.
Cheese - France is the cheese capital of the world, and the best fromagerie in Paris is Laurent Dubois. The shop in at the market square at Maubert-Mutualite in the heart of the Latin Quarter.
Bistro - My favorite place to eat traditional bistro food is Le Comptoir Du Relais at 9 Carr de l'Odéon in the St. Germain neighborhood. Their menu changes by the season, but if you see escargot, pied de cochon, coq au vin or boef bouringnon, go all in.
Crepe - You haven't been to Paris if you haven't had crepes. These thin and crispy pancakes stuffed with sweet and savory fillings are full meals on their own. That is why it is best to have them at creperies instead of stalls that are mostly for tourists. My favorite creperie is Creperie Josseline at 67 Rue du Montparnasse. Here they serve traditional buckwheat crepes from Britanny, which you can have with ham, cheese, bananas, and whatever is on their menu. I adore their cheese crepe and their crepe stuffed with andouille or country-style pork offal sausage.
Croissant - Parisian croissants are like New York pizza - you can't go wrong with it anywhere in the city. However, for the most discerning connoisseurs, it is not so. Find a local neighborhood boulangerie/patisserie and grab one or two of these, then pair it with cafe au lait. You can't go wrong.
Macarons and Eclairs - Hands down, Laduree is the grandmama of these. But if you want to try other places, try the following: