I recently went on a short but sweet 5 day trip to Paris with my friend, Sigrid. For years we’ve said that we’d go to Paris for her bachelorette party and we got the wheels turning as soon as the ring was on her finger. 🙂 This wasn’t her bachelorette party (that’s this fall!) but was rather just a special trip for the two of us. We wanted the trip to be relaxing, and really just wanted to enjoy each other’s company. Here’s a few travel tips, our full trip album, and my highlights from the trip!
Travel Tips for Paris –
- You don’t need to know French to travel in Paris, but being willing to at least attempt a few important phrases will go a long way. We only had someone angrily say “in France we speak FRENCH” once, which I consider a win! I printed out this list of Common French Phrases and kept a copy in my purse. That way it was easy to grab and reference (and I didn’t have to use cell data to pull it up). The Google Translate App can also help with signs or menus, especially if you are traveling in more remote areas of France. For the most part Paris has English signs and menus available.
- Take the train! The Paris Metro is extremely easy to use and will get you all over the city quickly, efficiently and affordably. The ticket machines give you the option for English, and the maps are easy to read. If you’re using Google Maps to get around town, it will give you step-by-step (or stop-by-stop, rather?) directions. This website is a great resource, too.
- Bring comfortable shoes and be willing to WALK. Paris is a city best seen by foot, and trust me when I say that you can entertain yourself for hours just by walking around and looking at the buildings or observing Parisians. I wrote this post featuring 3 Pairs of Shoes you Need for Walking, and took most of them on my trip with me.
- Consider getting a European Sim card for your phone and using it for your trip, rather than an international plan for your carrier. Typically this is cheaper and your coverage will probably be better. There are stores at the airport that sell them and will swap it out for you (and then swap it back when you depart). I did this during our trip and it was a lot cheaper than using international data through Verizon. This post does a pretty good job of explaining the process.
Things to Do –
- AirBnB Experiences – We did an Airbnb Experience (short 2-4 hour activities that you can book through their site) that was hosted by a local Parisian woman who works in magazine editing and food blogging. The course was focused on Food Styling and Photography, cost less than $100 each, and was an incredible way to spend an afternoon in Paris. First, you get to hang out in a beautiful Parisian apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower, plus you get to do something productive and learn or improve upon a skill. I really enjoyed using Airbnb Experiences and definitely plan to use it again in different cities.
- Eiffel Tower – The one “touristy” thing we did was climb the Eiffel Tower, and although the lines can initially be a shock, it turns out that most of the long lines are for the elevator that goes straight to the top. The line to get to the stairs was pretty short and fast-moving, and the climb up to the second observation deck wasn’t too much of a struggle. However, the wait and slow-moving procession from the second level observation deck to the top of the tower didn’t appeal to us, so we stopped on the second level to have a glass of wine (there’s a bar up there!) and enjoy the views. We also came back another day with a blanket and good books and stopped at a nearby market to pick up wine and sandwiches. Then we just enjoyed a picnic out on the lawn and enjoyed the view (and people watching).
- Sacre Coeur – “Sacred Heart” is a beautiful church far up on a hill in northern Paris. The walk up involves lots of stairs, but the views from the top are unrivaled. I think I enjoyed the view here more than the Eiffel Tower. The neighborhood around it is also beautiful (“Montemartre“). Definitely plan to spend some time exploring the little bars and restaurants that are tucked into the hillside.
- Saint Michel neighborhood – one night we just asked a bike taxi to take us to his favorite neighborhood, and he took us to Saint Michel. It is a little neighborhood near Notre Dame, built around a public square in the latin quarter, with meandering alleyways that are full of cute little restaurants and bars.
- Tuileries Garden – We skipped the Louvre but did make our way over to see it from the outside and take some photos in front of the pyramid. As you continue from the Louvre toward Tuileries Garden you’ll see the giant ferris wheel. The gardens are beautiful and are another great place to bring a picnic or enjoy a light meal at one of the many little restaurants located inside the park. Eventually you’ll come to a big pond where you’ll find plenty of Parisians relaxing in comfortable green chairs. If you happened to stay out until 4AM the night before, this is a great place to grab a nap (*wink*).
Additional Recommendations (things we didn’t find time for) –
- French Mystique Bike Tours – If our trip would have been longer I would have loved to take the train outside of the city and spend an afternoon biking the French countryside. One night while in a bar we met an American expat named Bruce who runs bike tours. His trips sounded amazing and I wish we could have squeezed one into our itinerary. Next time!
- Wine Day Tours – We had our eyes on this 1-day Champagne Tour but opted to spend more time exploring Paris instead.
- Ballon De Paris – This is a tethered hot air balloon that you can go up in for like $12. We heard that the best time to go is in the morning, when the line is shorter.The views are supposed to be spectacular, but we also had great views at the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coure so didn’t make this a priority during or short trip.
Got other must see/must dos for Paris? Please leave them in the comments section!