Le Tour Eiffel
Le Tour Eiffel is, undoubtedly, the main event. It’s silhouette is the postmark of Paris in every movie, ever. It’s literally unmissable – by whit I mean, you’ll undoubtedly catch glimpses of it from around the city. Seeing it up close and personal however, is well worth the Metro fair. Should you wish to sit and marvel from below, the area directly underneath the structure was blocked off. Fortunately, there is a darling little park surrounding it that is perfect for a picnic.
A trip to the top will set you back €17 and be prepared to queue. There are three levels visitors can access, with the third being the highest. Unfortunately only the bottom two are wheelchair accessible. When ascending visitors can also choose between taking the lift or climbing the stairs. On certain evenings, the tower remains open until 23:45, ideal if you want a panoramic photo of the Paris night sky.
If you’re looking for a more luxurious Paris experience, there are 5 restaurants situated on (or is that in?) the tower itself. Make a reservation at 58 Tour Eiffel and enjoy dinner looking out over the city of lights.
For musical theatre buffs (like myself) the Palais Garnier is not to be passed up. This stunning opera house has hosted kings, queens and empresses. With it’s sumptuous and decadent design, it’s easy to fall under the spell of Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. Be advised, that the Palais Garnier‘s days of theatre are not behind them. It is still a thriving venue and performances take precedence – you may have to work around them. Because of this, it’s advisable to book ahead. We booked the Treasures of the Opera Garnier Tour through Viator for £14.58 and it was well worth it. The tour was outstanding, our guide was charming and knowledgable. For those of us whose French is a little rusty, tours conducted at the Palais Garnier are held in English.
Paris’ rich history lends itself to curating some incredible museums. Herein lies a problem. If you don’t have time to visit all of Paris infinite museums which do you choose? The Louvre? The Musée de l’Orangerie? The lure of Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhônewon out for us.
The Musee d’Orsay is built within the behemoth of the former Gare d’Orsay, which first opened in 1900. As a result, the cavernous hall is indeed a work of Victorian art in itself. However, housed within it’s historic halls are collections by groundbreaking artists such as Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and, as mentioned, Vincent Van Gogh himself. Planning out your ‘can’t miss’ list of exhibits is advisable. The official Musee d’Orsay website hosts an interactive floor plan alongside a nifty queue time estimator. You can also find information on tickets and accessibility here.
We once again purchased our tickets through Viator, opting to pay a little bit extra for skip-the-line passes. We’d recommend this method. A museum hosting some of Van Gogh’s most incredible pieces, will undoubtedly be busy. The queue outside was, frankly, ridiculous and if you’re only in town for a weekend, time is of the essence.
I was going to open this paragraph with a wry joke about how we’d all seen the Disney film. Then I realised that I hadn’t – awkward. While visiting churches may not be everybody’s cup of tea, they are really the backbone of Parisian architecture. With a name like “Our Lady of Paris” the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris, is certainly a looker. Unfortunately, inclement weather and long queues meant we decided to forgo touring the interior (until our next visit). Like most Parisian attractions, heading there during off-peak will hopefully keep waiting to a minimum. Admission is free however it is important to remember that Notre-Dame is first and foremost a church, still holding regular services and you may need to work around these.
Shopping and Paris are almost synonymous and Galeries Lafayette isn’t a department store, it’s an institution. Galeries Lafayette is to Paris as Harrods is to London. It stocks a mixture of high fashion brands coupled with more contemporary pieces and even a range of own-brand products. Because I am a walking cliche, I stopped here to stock up on a beret. Aside from it’s drool-worthy fashion, Galeries Lafayette is a great place to stop for some photographs. It’s stained glass domed ceiling looks great with an Instagram filter, although it pales in comparison to the real thing.
This particular store should be missed if you are lucky enough to live in North America. As England is sadly a Sephora-free zone, this was definitely on our to-do list. For cosmetic fans, it’s worth the pilgrimage. Sephora has selections of cult brands such as Anastasia Beverly Hills and also a range of own-brands steals including skincare, cosmetics and fragrance. Sephora great to stop by and stock up on difficult to find brands.
Shakespeare and Co.
I am a Literature student, so a bookstore will always rank high on my list of must-see places. The store itself has the quaint, quirky feel of an old-fashioned library, although, unfortunately photography inside is not permitted. During our brief trip to the store, just after Notre Dame and before Saint Chapelle, it was a struggle to wade through all the customers. It may be best to time your visits out of peak times. Shakespeare and Co. specialises in books written in English and has a range of genres from crime fiction to philosophy. Get the first page of books purchased stamped at the till for authentication.
The chocolat chaud Angelina is a must-try when in Paris. Angelina’s adorable tea rooms are aesthetically pleasing and a great spot to stop for a bite when you need to stop and refuel from some hardcore sightseeing. There are a variety of locations dotted across the capital. We decided to stop by the Galeries Lafayette cafe for a brunch of eggs benedict with a side of french fries. The prices are a little higher than most Parisian eateries but it’s well worth the tranquility of a place to pause.
Ladurée has long since been an indulgence of mine, with satellite stores across the world. However, the stunning restaurant that lies along the Champs d’Elysee is truly a Parisian icon. Their delicious macarons are hardly a secret and as a result, there tends to be a queue. Choose between a sit down experience or an on-the-go counter service. Snag some of Instagram-worthy pastries and head out for a Parisian picnic.
Fauchon is not really a restaurant but rather a upmarket delicatessen. Paris is full of such places. Fauchon however offers some delightful, hard to find preserves and pastries. So much of French culture is synonymous with it’s cuisine. Trying to balance eating your way through the capital, and taking in all the sights and sounds of the City of Lights is almost impossible. Hence why Fauchon is such a great option for grabbing delicacies on the fly. Drop by their Place de la Madeleine store, pick up some luxury pâté (the duck rillettes is sensational) and a baguette from a local bakery. Enjoy on the banks of the Seine.
It’s crazy that it takes less time to get between London and Paris, than it does to get between London and my home town. Fortunately, thanks to Eurostar, the British and French capitals are only a 2 hours and 15 minute train journey apart. Ticket prices naturally vary, with sales popping up year around. However, the base rate for a return crossing of the channel is around £69. Travellers depart from London’s St. Pancras Station, making it an easy commute on the Metropolitan, Northern, Victoria, Circle and Hammersmith & City lines. The station is also located directly across from King’s Cross.
Complete check in at least 30 minutes before departure, or 45 minutes during peak periods. Leave extra time. A printed ticket may be required, so complete this prior to arriving at St. Pancras.
Arriving in Paris, riders disembark the train at Gare du Nord. Located in the 10th Arrondissement, north of the Seine River, Gare du Nord is an ideal starting point. It is serviced by the 4, 5, B and D Metropolitan lines. However, navigating the Metro fresh off the train may be daunting. Taxis are available outside the western exit.
The Paris Metro system is frankly overwhelming however, is well worth the hassle for the money it saves. It’s great for travelling further afield, for example, to visit Château de Versailles (at the end of the RER C line) will only set you back €3.65. It operates on a very similar basis to the London Underground. Stations are dotted closely throughout the city, with lines connecting them in a spiderweb of possibilities.
Purchase tickets inside any of the many stations. A single will grant you a continuous journey including changes, for as little €1.90. Books of 10 or 20 singles, or carnets, can be bought at the discounted price of €14.90. Day tickets and multi-day tickets are also available, but prices depend on zones of travel. Simply insert your Metro stubs into the reader on the turnstiles and away you go.
Taxis in any capital city are expensive, and so it is wise to use them sparingly. Should you need one however simply flag a vacant taxi down. Find Taxi ranks at key tourist destinations such as Le Tour Eiffel. Uber users will be delighted to know that Uber services are also available throughout Paris.
With planning the perfect trip, however, comes the daunting challenge of finding the perfect hotel.
Check out my review of Hotel Panache, an adorable yet affordable place to stay in when in Paris.
- There’s a Parisian joke that the best view of Paris is from the Observation Deck of the Montparnasse Tower, because it’s is the only place where you can’t see the Montparnasse Tower itself. It’s widely regarded as an eyesore. So, if you’re looking for stunning panoramics of the skyline, skip the Eiffel Tower and head to Montparnasse.
- ‘En vente’ is French for ‘on sale’. Keep this in mind when indulging in some shopping.
- While we’re on the subject, it’s a good idea to learn basic French phrases to make your experience run a little smoother. I picked up a copy of the Lonely Planet Pocket Paris Travel Guide. Aside from containing priceless details about the city, the book also lists some valuable basic French for your trip.