It’s a good thing I LOVE this question, because it’s one I get on a regular basis! Friends & family (and sometimes folks I’ve never met!) know how much I love the City of Light, so when they find out they’re heading to France, I’ll get an email or a text: “What should we do?! What are your must-see attractions?!” I get the question so frequently that I have an email template saved with my recommendations and tips, so I figured it’s high time for a blog post- wouldn’t you agree?
If you’re heading to Paris and aren’t sure where to start, here are my top ten favorite spots and/or activities in the city!
1. Wander. This answer will shock none of my regular readers, I’m sure. Wandering and getting lost is how I fell in love with Paris the first time we visited- we spent three days meandering, walking everywhere, passing over the typical tourist spots in favor of finding our own version of Paris FIRST. It was heaven! It’s how we stumbled upon Eglise Saint-Sulpice, it’s how I came across the ballerina painting that now hangs in my office, and so many more treasured memories that Matt & I hold dear!
2. Visit a sidewalk café for a crème and some people watching. If you’ve had an exhausting morning and need to rest your feet, this is the perfect way to recharge- find the closest café, grab a seat outside (the French sit outside almost year-round- many cafés come equipped with outdoor heaters), and observe life as it goes on around you.
3. Walk the grounds of the Louvre + the Tuileries Garden. The Louvre is one of the most splendid buildings I’ve ever encountered, both on the outside and within! If you don’t have time during your trip for a day in the museum, at least make a visit to the courtyard and to the neighboring Tuileries Garden. Within the gardens you’ll find many a Parisian on a midday break, as it’s the perfect place for a relaxing stroll.
4. Dinner at Le 52. My AirBnb host in April suggested this restaurant and it was phenomenal. Contemporary twists on classic dishes, reasonable prices, totally delicious.
5. A visit to Shakespeare & Company. A tiny little bookshop on the left bank, you’ll find a surprisingly satisfactory collection of used books, as well as a sprawling collection of new ones. The employees are all aspiring writers or artists, which can make for an eclectic visit.
6. Wandering through Le Marais. It’s my favorite neighborhood in the entire city! Think: high-end boutiques like Chanel, classic Parisian architecture, French charm around every corner. There are some incredible bakeries in this area as well!
7. Going INTO the Louvre. Sure, the Mona Lisa is beautiful (albeit WAY smaller in real life than I was expecting). But the building itself is an art piece! Unmatched in size, it’s an experience just walking through the expansive wings- the sweeping staircases and marble floors are exquisite. Oh, yes, and there’s also a lot of art hanging on the walls. Gorgeous art! But those marble, checkered floors…
8. Château de Versailles. Duh. This one’s definitely more of a day trip, as it’s 45 minutes outside the city via the RER train (or an uber, if you feel like footing the bill). I’ve been twice and still haven’t seen the complete property- it’s 17 acres of French architecture, garden landscapes, and beauty! My favorite are is the Petite Trianon and Hameau de la Reine (Marie Antoinette’s hamlet where she retreated to a simpler way of life, away from French court).
9. Montmartre. It’s a bit of a hike, but the views from the Sacré-Cœur basilica are unbeatable on a clear day! It’s an artsy part of town that warrants a long stroll, and if you hit the timing right, you may find yourself stumbling upon a weekly farmer’s market with flowers, produce, and meats. If you’re someone who doesn’t do well with stairs (it’s a steep climb up to the basilica), make sure to get out at the Abbesses metro station and pay to take the little blue tram up the hill.
10. The Eiffel Tower, lit up at night. I know this one’s kind of cliché! It took me SEVEN trips to Paris before I finally made it to the tower at night because I didn’t want to be a “typical” tourist. But there’s a reason it’s such a popular attraction- it’s beautiful at night! Every hour, on the hour, the tower sparkles with light for 3-5 minutes. It’s absolutely magical, being there with someone you care about, a bottle of wine and a wedge of brie as you’re seated on the grass. (I don’t have a photo at night, so you’ll have to settle for one during the day!)
If you’re a photographer and are interested in visiting Paris, you should definitely go HERE– just announced yesterday, Katherine Bignon and I are teaching a WORKSHOP in France next July! Get on the list using the link above to be the first ones to know when we release more details, the schedule, and registration!