Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Four Days in Paris

Spring has arrived in Paris, and so has the first wave of tourists. Of course, Paris is always full of tourists, but April marks the beginning of high season. And why not, with the trees in blossom and the golden sunshine melting the frost off even the chilliest Parisian. I've been getting lots of requests about what there is to see in Paris, other than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, of course. You can't say you've been to Paris without seeing la tour light up with fairy dust every hour on the hour, or exchanging smiles with Mona Lisa. But if there is one thing I have learned during my time as a "local", it's that there is SO MUCH more to Paris than that.

Last month my college roommate Lauren came to Paris for four glorious days of exploration. We had three goals:

1. See the famous tourist sights.
2. Get a sense of the local scene.
3. Not go broke doing it.

There were a few contingencies that made this possible. First, I warned her we would have to walk––A LOT. We averaged 7-10 miles a day while she was here. Paris was made for walking, and I think it's so much more enjoyable to see it this way; we arranged our days with as much walking as possible and avoiding public transport when we could.

We also operated on student-level budgets, so our options as far as food were probably different than those Michelin-seeking stomachs coming to Paris to be wined and dined. But part of the charm of Paris is its markets and picnic culture, popular for locals and tourists alike. If you want other food suggestions, visit Time Out Paris or Paris by Mouth, both of which have lists for the specific arrondissements in Paris and make finding a good restaurant choice easy.

So grab your beret and striped Breton shirt for four fabulous days seeing the best parts of Paris, both famous and local delights:


Airport pick-up and travel into Paris
Remember, Charles de Gaulle Airport is a good 45 minutes outside of Paris. You can take a taxi, which will run you 50-60€ one way, or ride the RER (regional) train B, where a ticket to Paris costs about 10€.

Picnic and Photos at the Eiffel Tower
There is a large market near Trocadero off Avenue President Wilson where you can buy baguettes, cheeses, sausages, fruit, or anything else you might fancy.
7th arrondissement, Metro: Trocadero, Bir-Hakeim

Walk to Musee Rodin via Rue Cler and Hotel des Invalides
From the Champs des Mars (the big park behind the Eiffel Tower) take Rue Saint-Dominique east until you come upon adorable little Rue Cler, a great street market for taking photos. Also a great backup option to the picnic idea if it rains. At the end of Rue Cler, turn right on Rue de Grenelle and follow it east to the beautiful golden-domed Hotel des Invalides. This is a truly beautiful little area of town, so enjoy the stroll. Continue to take a right on Boulevard des Invalides, then a left on Rue de Varenne, which will take you right to Musee Rodin.

Musée Rodin
The museum is under construction until September sadly, (update: up and running and more breathtaking than ever!) but the surrounding gardens are still worth the trip, and you'll still see some of his works there, including The Thinker.
7th arrondissement, 79 Rue de Varenne, 75007

Musée d'Orsay
What some consider the lesser Louvre, I think is by far more succinct and attainable. It's by far my favorite museum in Paris. Start on the fifth floor with the impressionists collections and work your way down. 
7th arrondissement, 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007

La Dernierre Goutte
There is a free wine tasting on Saturdays. Also a good time to drop by some of the famous literary sites while you are in the area.
6th arrondissement, 6 rue de Bourbon de Chateau, 75006

Latin Quarter 
Great for inexpensive dinner options and all the night action. Wine caves, salsa clubs, live jazz, you name it, the Latin Quarter has it.
5th arrondissement, Metro: Saint Michel


Puces de Vanves
This is the best flea market you will find in Paris! I have been to them all, and this one buy far has the best prices and the best set-up. Read my post about it for more details.
14th arrondissement, Metro: Porte de Vanves

Hillsong Service
Even if you aren't a Christian, attending this massive, high-energy bilingual service is a unique and fantastic cultural experience. Hillsong Paris has two morning services in the Bobino Theatre right by Montparnasse, and there is an adorable art market right outside the Edgar Quinet metro with something for everyone. Also, if you can squeeze it in, Des Gateaux et Du Pain is a 15 minutes walk and you will eat the best croissant in Paris. Really.
14th arrondissement, 14-20 Rue de la Gaite, 75014

Montmartre and Sacre-Ceour
Yes, it's touristy. Yes, you will regret it if you don't go. The Sacre-Ceour part only takes about 10 minutes to tour, but the view is incredible. If you wander out of the church doors and take the discrete road to the right, you will wander your way into Place du Tertre, where artists have been painting for centuries. It's a good spot to stock up on postcards (0,20c each!).
18th arrondissement, Metro: Anvers

Dinner at Chartiers
A bustling classic French restaurant with waiters in penguin suits and menu prices that won't give you heartburn. We ordered a three course meal (appetizer, main course, dessert) and split a bottle of wine for under 25€ each. You won't find that very many places in Paris.
9th Arrondissement, 7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009


Pick any old cafe and settle in for some people watching. If you really want all the feels, buy today's print of Le Monde and order a croissant and an espresso. Oh-la-la!

Arch de Triomphe and Champs E'lysée
You can go through the tunnels to get photos beneath the arch. But you can also wander out in the middle of boulevard at the first crosswalk and get some amazing shots of the Arch as well. Make sure to check out the major brands along the Champs, and be sure to grab some of those scrumptious macarons from Ladurée as well!
8th arrondisement, Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008

Lunch at Tuileries
Either pack your lunch or buy a sandwich from the little stands in the middle of garden. They are overpriced of course, but you won't find anything cheaper in the area. Then pull up a couple of chairs and get in some sunbathing and people watching.
1st arrondissement, Metro: Tuileries

Famous for their hot chocolate and Mont Blanc dessert, I suggest you get one or the other or split the two. These are not your granny's recipes. These are treats so decadent, so naughty, you will need to just put your conscience aside for a moment and indulge.
1st arrondissement, 226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001

Of course you have to go see the Mona Lisa. Just don't make it your whole day. Go in the afternoon when the lines are shorter, and go through the Carousel entrance instead of the Pyramid. It's faster.
1st arrondissement, Metro: Louvre-Rivoli

Notre Dame
The entrance line goes fast, so don't be discouraged by the length. The line for the towers, however, is another story, and since your time is limited, it could be better to choose another vantage point to see the Paris skyline (Eiffel Tower, Sacre Ceour, etc)
4th arrondissement, 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004

Dinner at Cafe Louis Phillipe
Twinkle lights, river view, French cooking. What more could you ask for? It's one of the most picturesque cafes in Paris. If you're lucky, you may be serenaded by a swarthy accordion player.
4th arrondisement, 66 Quai de l'Hôtel de ville, 75004


Breakfast in the Haute Marais
While the 4th arrondissement is full of plenty of touristy fun, the 3rd arrondissement is the quieter, chicer neighbor with tiny cafes and concept shops just begging to be explored. Expect streets full of charm and not tourists. See my post for where to get a good cup of coffee.
3rd arrondisement, Metro: Temple

Lunch at Canal Saint-Martin
This cool hipster neighborhood is the rebel younger brother of the Marais, with designer glasses and a thrift shop leather jacket. Here you will find the scene a little rougher, a little truer, and so deliciously varied. Everyone gathers along the canal for a picnic at lunch.
10th arrondissement, Metro: République

Île Saint-Louis
For a truly leisurely afternoon, stroll the idyllic tiny island that remains a favorite amongst the local Paris crowd. And be sure to grab a cone of the famous Berthillon's ice cream. Look for the long line.
4th arrondissement, Metro: Pont Marie

Bike Ride along the Seine
Take in the whole Paris scene from the best seat in the city, the Velib! Rent one of these city bikes and take to the quays. (Note: you need a credit card with a chip for the rental stations.)

Dinner in a Dinner Cruise
Nothing will give your last night in Paris that special something like dining like royalty and cruising through the City of Light at twilight. There are plenty of options to be found on Google for every budget.

Additional planning tips:
Public museums are closed Tuesdays.
Most stores are closed Sundays, and sometimes Mondays, too.
Markets are open two days a week, one day usually on the weekends.
Lines for big sites will be smallest two hours before close, not first thing in the morning.

I hope to be seeing you in Paris soon!

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