Ahh, Paris – the city of love. I visited Paris during Christmas of 2018. What do I have to say about it? I think Paris is a great place to go for a sightseeing holiday. It is a quirky city full of boutiques, patisseries, and flowers. Oh, and tourists. Lots and lots of tourists. Almost an overwhelming amount of tourists, but that’s the same as any city anywhere nowadays. 

The most spoken language is French, and it was a little more difficult to communicate with others if they did not know English (since I don’t know French). I did feel like a badass when I said “excuse me” and nobody moved to let me through, but then I said “pardon mua” and everybody moved. 

What to expect: pick-pockets, so be very careful when navigating the streets – especially down Champs-Elysees street. Also, mild weather, delicious pastries, and plenty of sights to see. 

The weather in Paris is generally mild throughout the year. Colder months run from December through February. Extreme cold or extreme heat is not very common. The temperatures usually drop to 37 degrees in the winter, and get on average as high as 77 degrees in the summer. Rain comes and goes, and light showers can occur at any time. 

French is the most commonly spoken language in France. However, people working in touristy areas generally know a little bit of English, especially those working in the metro. They understand that they will have a lot of tourists asking questions and needing help. Also, people working in Hotels know some pretty good English as well. 

The Euro is the most common form of currency. There are banks and ATM’s available, especially in popular areas. Also, most hotels, shops, and big restaurants take credit cards, but be aware of foreign transaction fees. I would recommend carrying a little bit of cash on you, because not all places take cards. Generally smaller shops and cafes only take cash, and there are a number of stand alone food trucks that only take cash.

Some treats you must try specific to France include steak and frites, macarons, chocolate chaud, eclairs, croissants, profiteroles, crepes, escargot, frog legs, and croque madame! Crepes are my absolute favorite. I probably ate three alone in Paris. I almost lost count. 

The sheep hanging out on the hill next to the bridge, the bridge walking distance from our Hotel, the Ibis in Issy.

Understanding Paris

Looking at a map of Paris can be very confusing, especially when it is your first time there. It is split up into sections called arrondissements, although I didn’t see any signs in the city itself marking each one. Only on the map. Interesting, right?

There are 20 different arrondissements, but the most popular are the first, third, fourth, eight, and eleventh. When taking the trains, pay attention to what arrondissement you are going to. A majority of the trains run through the center of Paris (the Eiffel Tower area) which encompasses A 3-5. When traveling to places outside of these zones, you will have to switch trains. There are plenty of signs to help you figure out where you need to go, and the train map is color coded by line. That was super helpful as well! 

 

Left to right: Palais de Chaillot stairs, a cute shop on Champs Elysees, snack stand by the bridge, belly of the Arc de Triomphe, the oldest carousel in Issy Square.

Deciphering the Metro

Split up the sights you want to see by area. There are so many things to do in Paris that 48 hours just simply isn’t enough time. We did get to see almost everything we wanted to, but with me being an interior architect and design junkie, I definitely did not have enough time for everything that was on my list. Ideally, the whole city was on my list!

We stayed in Ibis Paris Issy Les Moulineaux de Seine. It was a mouthful and I still have no idea if I pronounced those words correctly to this day. It was located a 10 minute walk from the Line 6 Stop at Marie de’ Issy. We bought a one way ticket from the tourist booth in the airport, along with a pack of 10 train tickets to share, which they call a “carnet”. It cost 14.10 Euros for the pack of ten, and we shared them. When you are getting on the trains, just look for any of the green or yellow signs that say “metro” on them. That’s where they are. The lines are numbered and essentially run back and forth. To figure out where you are headed, look at the maps on the walls with the colored lines. They’re large, and easy to read. If you are going to a major destination, like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, the signs show which stop those landmarks are located at. If it is somewhere else. figure out which stop is closest to your destination. 

For example, our Hotel was in Issy. Coming from the airport, we needed to take three trains to get there. One from the airport which got us to the metro. Then we got off that line at Denfert=Rochereau and hopped on line 6 (light green). We rode line 6 to the Pasteur Stop where we got off and then jumped on line 12 (dark green) towards Mairie de Issy. When changing lines, you must follow the signs to the next line, and sometimes go through the turnstiles again. Also, make sure you know which direction for the line you are going. In our case, when trying to get on Line 6, there were signs pointing us toward line 6 CDG Etoille and Line 6 Nation (Pronounced “na-tee’-on” versus “nation”). We knew our next stop off line six was along the way to Etoille, so that was the line we got on. There are also signs in each train that tell you what stops that line runs, and you can check the walls as you pull up to each stop to see which one you are at, then decide if you are headed in the right direction. You never ave to wait more than 5 minutes for a train.

Our First Day

We arrived in Paris with enough time to explore for a few hours, but because it was December 23, most everything by our hotel was closed. It was almost like a ghost town. We saw a grocery store, and a few flower shops, but that was about it. Our hotel was right by a really cool bridge, and we discovered some sheep hanging out on the hill! We pretty much just walked around, got a few snacks, and then prepared to spend our next day exploring everything!

Day 2

8 AM:

Wake up, get on the metro, and head over to the Arc De Triomphe. This spot can get pretty busy, pretty quick, but getting here early can help you avoid traffic driving around the arc, as well as people at the arc. The arc itself sits at the center of a large roundabout that you cannot cross over. The only way to get across the street is by going underground to the metro. It pops you up in the center of the circle, directly under the arc. To avoid paying to get over there, we just went up through the “exit” stairs. Everyone else was doing it!

 From there, walk down Champs Elysees as long as your heart pleases. It is packed with hundreds of stores, shopping malls, and cafes. Even the McDonalds was unbelievably crowded. In my opinion, that is the best spot for shopping! I could browse through those stores for days. 

 

11 AM:

Either grab lunch at one of the many spots along Champs Elysees, or head downt to the metro and take a train over to the Eiffel Tower. Enjoy a delicious lunch in that area at Kong, Le Perchoir, or Georges, which all offer stunning views of the Eiffel tower. They can be a bit pricier but they are totally worth it. These are pretty popular spots on the weekend, and around sunset. You’ll know why when you see the views for yourself. 

 

Views of the Arc Dew Triomphe.

1 PM:

Waltz around the perimeter of the Eiffel Tower. If you walk past the carousel and across the river, the giant building you see framed at the end of the fountain is the Palais de Chaillot. It may look packed with people, but this is a great spot to get a very instagrammable picture on the wall of the stairs. Use props to make your photo extra special!

 

2 PM:

Take the metro to the next stop at the Louvre. It is so cool to finally see it in person after learning about it in history class. You could look at it from outside, or spend a good amount of time inside. The Louvre is home to ultra famous works of art, including the Mona Lisa. It is much smaller in person but it is still so exciting to be standing a few feet away from it. To some it could be a disappointment if you don’t get there early, because there is constantly a crowd around it. When you leave the Louvre, take in the sights of the Palais Royale. Then walk through the Tuileries Garden, sit by the pond and watch the ducks, and even see the Place de la Concorde.

 

Views of the the Louvre.  I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every time someone took a picture pretending to poke the tip of it!

4:30 PM:

Across the river from the Louvre is the Orsay Museum, or Musee d’Orsay. They have tickets starting from 12,40 Euros. This museum can easily take up a couple hours of your day. 

6 PM:

Enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants with a view of the Eiffel Tower. A very modern option would be Le Ciel de Paris. Another good option is Les Ombres, which offers a three course meal for 68 Euro. Take your time eating. 

Dark:

 After nightfall, the Eiffel Tower sparkles for a good 10 minutes. It’s a feast for the eyes. I managed to get it on film even though we were a good distance away! Keep your eye out for it. It’s so romantic to sit by the river, in the gardens, or on a bench and watch it with your sweetheart. 

A nighttime view of the Pont Alexandre III.

  • Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris: A famous masterpiece of Gothic Architecture. It is also the center of the religious life of France. Who wouldn’t want to go there on a weekly basis? 
  • Montmarte Cemetary: Many famous poets, writers, and other people are buried here. 
  • Sainte Chapelle: Home to 1,113 stained glass windows, this is a stunning sight.
  • Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmarte: A Romano-Byzantine structure, whose dome resides as the second-highest point in Paris. 
  • Luxembourg Palace and Gardens: With just over a 100 statues and fountains, this is the largest park in Paris and is known for its calming atmosphere.
  • Gardens of Versaille: Versaille Palace and the Gardens of Versailles are amazing sights. In Versaille you will see the spectacular Hall of Mirrors that made history when it was built, as well as glamour and gold accents everywhere you look.

One of the nicest fountains I’ve ever seen.

A lone man feeding his duckies.

  • Tour the Catacombs: The catacombs are underground tunnels that are home to over six million dead bodies whose bones line the walls. Go late at night for an extra spooky adventure.
  • Seine River Hop On Hop Off Tour: These are great because they enable you to hop on where you choose, and off where you choose, while never having to stop at traffic lights. How convenient.
  • Enjoy a River Dinner Cruise: What’s better than eating while softly floating down the gorgeous Parisian Rivers?
  • See a Show at the Moulin Rouge: Also located in Montamarte, the Moulin Rouge is home to the most famous cabaret in the world with fun costumes, can-can dancers, and music. You can opt to upgrade your ticket to include a French feast and champagne!
  • Take Part in Friday Night Roller Skating: It’s typically called the Pari Roller, and is the world’s biggest weekly roller skating event. Anyone can take part in it. All you need are a pair of roller skates and a smile!

The best time to visit Paris would be in the Spring and summer months when the fountains are flowing and the flowers are blooming. They add such a pretty charm to photos. Eating at the local food carts can be save a ton of dough and is just as tasty as anywhere else. Always keep your belongings in a zipper pocket or purse to protect them from pick-pockets. Be sure to wake up at sunrise and stay out until sunset to catch the views of the gorgeous Paris sun!