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7 Perfect Days in Paris (and a little more)

I'm not sure what film or television show started it but growing up, I always had an infatuation with Paris. I even told myself that the first time I had the opportunity to travel internationally, I would hop aboard a flight to France.

I’m not sure what film or television show started it but growing up, I always had an infatuation with Paris. I even told myself that the first time I had the opportunity to travel internationally, I would hop aboard a flight to France. France did not end up being my first trip out of the states but when I finally made it there, it completely surpassed my expectations. While a year in Paris is preferred to discover every beautiful architected alleyway and art-filled museum, seven days will surely give you the opportunity to take a lot of the city in as well a as a bit of the surrounding area.

Day 1: First Day in the City of Lights

Stop 1: The Bateaux Mouches

A relaxing boat ride down the Seine is the perfect first stop to conquer jetlag. It requires minimal movement and attention-span while still offering splendid views of Paris. The cruise lasts a little over an hour and runs about 14 € (roughly 17 USD) and 6 € for children under 12. I purchased our tickets online prior to traveling but you may be able to purchase tickets day-of.

View from the boat, a Parisian building stands above the river behind several green trees. This building is about six stories high a neutral beige and has dozens of windows.

Stop 2: Jardin des Tuileries

From the Bateaux Mouches to the Jardins is about a 25 minute walk but provides you the opportunity to pass landmarks like The Grand Palais, Place de la Concorde, and the Grande Roue de Paris. Fortunately, for about $13 you can rest your legs above the 200-foot Ferris wheel while taking in fews of other popular landmarks like the Arch de Triomphe and Cleopatra’s Needle.

Stop 3: Musee d’Orsay

The Musee d’Orsay is open relatively late (often times to 9:45pm) and so if you still have energy on your arrival day may be a good option for your first museum visit of the trip – artworks include Van Gogh’s self-portrait and Monet’s La Rue Montorgueil. I strongly advice purchasing d’Orsay tickets in advanced (approximately 16 €) as time slots do sell out.

Day 2: I See Dead People

Stop 1: The Catacombs of Paris

Unsurprisingly, my first thoughts of the appropriately titled “most romantic city in the world” did not include dark, under-city tunnels filled with the skeletal remains of six-million Parisians.

Yet, we still made sure to arrive an hour before opening at the Catacombs of Paris as suggested by all the online blogs. I’m unsure if this is usually necessary, but there was only one other party and ourselves waiting in line that early – other visitors finally arriving about fifteen minutes before opening. As to what I suggest – maybe arrive early to be on the safe side. Worst case, you can enjoy a to-go cappuccino and croissant from Paul, the café up the block while enjoying the beautiful streets of Paris before the crowds take over.

Stop 2: The Eiffel Tower

We had pre-purchased timed tickets to the Eiffel Tower about two months before our trip and I’d highly recommend doing so. Be sure to check which ticket you are purchasing as some allow you to go all the way up to the Summit and some only to the second level.

*Tip: Make sure you plan for at least two hours for your visit to the tower if you are planning other activities into your schedule. A visit to the top is not just a quick elevator ride, but several lines and several elevator rides. However, the time, at least during your visit trip to Paris is worth it, as the views from each level are unique.

Stop 3: Enza & Famiglia

It never fails, that regardless of where I travel, I always end up scoping out Italian food at least once. But if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon this lovely spot. Enza & Famiglia has no menu, at least at the time of my visit, and instead wrote their offerings on a chalkboard, something I’ve always loved as these restaurants tend to offer the best of the best or what’s in season in comparison to those with a set menu. I chose my dish due to nothing but the fact that I knew what “aubergine” meant and have always enjoyed a good eggplant and my friend by picking “the one with spaghetti”. Both of our dishes were simple but definitely not lacking flavor in any sense – and the pasta itself, delectable.

Day 3: Il a été tout a commencé avec une souris

The above translates into a popular phrase, “It was all started with a mouse”. As someone who will never be too old or too cultured to visit Walt Disney World on an annual basis, I’ve made it one of my bucket list items to visit all Disney resorts, and thus I could not visit Paris without stopping by Disneyland Paris for the day.

*Tip: Make sure to purchase your tickets online prior to your arrival. The price we ended up paying day of was quite a bit more than the price I had seen on their website while planning and I definitely regretted not purchasing them when I had wanted to.

While we didn’t get to enjoy the nighttime shows, which some people (myself included) may note are the best parts of a Disney trip, we did arrive at opening and so were able to enjoy a good number of rides and both lunch and dinner at the parks. Lunch at Plaza Gardens was good and the buffet options would be great for families with varying palettes, I enjoyed our dinner experience at Bistrot Chez Rémy a lot more. The restaurant offers two different pre-fixe menus at two different price points but it was the theming that did it for me.

Day 4: Breakfast in America and Shopping in France

One of the first things I noticed as someone whose favorite meal of the day is breakfast, is that Parisians do not really do breakfast, at least not the extent that we do in the states. If you go out during breakfast hours, you’ll find that must cafés offer a “petit dejeuner” of coffee or tea, maybe a glass or orange juice, and a croissant or baguette with butter or jam. This was not a difficult transition for me as I could happily eat a Parisian breakfast most of the week – but by day four, especially with the packed schedule we had, I was craving a slightly more filling meal.

Stop 1: Breakfast in America

A quick Apple Maps search led me to Breakfast in America, a small Parisian chain diner started by Craig Carlson, a man from Connecticut who came to Paris and thought that his now favorite city was only missing one thing – “a good ol’ American breakfast”. The menu and atmosphere reflect just that – the design screaming “traditional 50’s diner” and the items being offered like French toast and eggs and bacon.

Stop 2: The Champs-Élysées

A visit to Paris is not complete without a stroll down this renown street even if you don’t plan to do a second of shopping. I personally limited my shopping to a dozen macaroons and a few various croissants from Ladurée.

Stop 3: Angelina

I would be lying if I said Angelina had not made my list of places to visit thanks to the millions of photos other travelers had posted to Instagram. Despite the heat, I opted for a cup of their famous hot chocolate which is thicker and richer than your everyday Dunkin’ Donuts hot chocolate. I also purchased a Mont-Blanc dessert, essentially meringue covered with whipped cream and chestnut créme vermicelli. I left already wanting to return, and now that an Angelina has opened up in my hometown of New York, I’m glad I can quench my Angelina thirst in between trips to Paris.

Stop 5: Montmarte

Montmarte has been titled the most famous hill in Paris, primarily due to it being home to architecturally stunning Basilicia of the Sacré-Coeur. But the area itself is also a nice spot to wind down and provides a decent vantage point of Paris. If there were ever a most quintessential backdrop for a Parisian picnic, this is the place.

Day 5: Strolling the Île de la Cité

Stop 1: The Louvre

While we had purchased a majority of attraction tickets in advanced, we somehow managed to forget to purchase Louvre tickets and so were unable to get in the morning we arrived. Thankfully the famous “pyramid” of the Louvre and surrounding area was nice to wander around as we drank cappuccinos but if the Louvre is a top priority for you, definitely pre-purchase tickets.

Stop 2: The Île de la Cité

I left Paris knowing that the Île de la Cité was my favorite parts of Paris. If I was able, I would fly from New York for the weekend just to spend the day strolling this little piece of the city. There are four must-visit spots you need to hit while visiting:

  • Bertillon (technically on the Île Saint-Louis)
    • I had seen several people proclaim their love for this small gelato shop and their mango sorbet solidified why.
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral
    • I personally did not take the long, winding walk to the hike but I could easily have sat outside admiring Notre-Dame and people-watching for hours. While not as ornate as some other cathedrals I have seen but there is uniquely special about this place.
  • The Sainte Chapelle
    • The Saint Chapelle is beautiful architecturally from the outside but a quick visit inside is needed to appreciate the long stained glass windows.
  • Shakespeare & Co. (technically right off the île de la Cité)
    • It’s a rare occurrence for me to travel to a new location and not scope out a bookstore. Shakespeare & Co. though really feels like a special place from the moment you step inside (though I feel that way about many bookshops). The bookstore is also surrounded by boulangeries and gelato shops, so the delicious smell in the air could definitely add to the appeal.

Stop 3: Luxembourg Gardens

A good portion of Luxembourg Gardens is open grass where you’ll occasionally see couples sharing a small meal or a bottle of wine. But the rest of the area is adjourned with English-style sections of flowers in the brightest shades. Even if you don’t spend lunchtime or an extended period of time here, it’s somewhere you should definitely stroll through.

Stop 4: Tour Montparnasse

The Eiffel Tower offers a cool view of Paris but in my opinion, the best view of Paris includes the Eiffel Tower itself. For 18 €, the Tour Montparnasse offers this dreamy view of the city. The observation deck is also spacious enough that on a crowded night, you were still able to wander around and get a view from different angles.

Locals however are less fond of the building often referring to it as “the middle finger of Paris”, which due to its more modern and bulkier architecture in comparison to the rest of Paris, is completely understandable. That being said, you don’t have to pay attention to how ugly the building is if you’re on top of it, just the beautifully lit ones down below.

Day 6: Let them Eat Cake!

Stop 1: Versailles

Virtually every one of my friends who had already been to Paris when I mentioned my trip made sure to persuade me to visit Versailles during my stay. Luckily, there are dozens of tours that offer transportation from Paris to Versailles (the half-day tour I booked linked here).

The specific tour I booked required us to meet at a café in the 15th arrondissement at 8:30am. From there we all walked to the train station and were passed our roundtrip tickets for the day. The ride from Paris to Versailles is no more than 30-40 minutes and so if you’d rather travel to Versailles sans tour, the ride is simple enough to manage.

A little backstory: The Palace of Versailles, a World Heritage Site is one of the most famous French landmarks and between 1662 and 1789 was the home to the Kings of France. It is also where Marie-Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI, is to have infamously said to the starving civilians during the French Revolution, “Let them eat cake!” Though, it now turns out she may have never said this at all.

The Palace of Versailles is also home to the well-known “Hall of Mirrors”.

Similar to those neighbors who want to have the most extravagant backyard on the block, King Louis XIV wanted the most intricate gardens in all of France, adding ornate fountains and block of florals in both French and English styles.

Fun little tidbit about Louis XIV I learned from our knowledgeable tour guide: He loved to show off his calves in portraits. Why? Well, because he was not only king but also a very talented ballet dancer which was something commonly practiced amongst the rich and royal. If you had muscular calves, people knew you well off; and if you had muscular arms, it was known you were poorer and worked in the fields. Be sure to take in the many portraits of Louis showcasing his calves while touring the palace.

Stop 2: Musee des Arts Decoratifs

Day 7: A Little Old House with a Garden

I thoroughly loved every single one of my days spent in Paris but my day spent roaming Monet’s garden is easily in the top three. Similar to Versailles, I had booked this day-trip to Giverny to make transportation a bit easier – plus this specific tour included a scenic bike ride and a few photogenic stops.

The tour began with a roughly 45-minute bus ride to the commune of Vernon. As soon as we broke the city, I knew that this was just the tour I needed – a break from the city into the French countryside. Upon arrival, our tour guide led us to a storage unit where we would each get our bikes and helmets. From there we rode to a quaint market, where we had time to make purchases for our picnic lunch: naturally, I grabbed some meat, some cheese, a baguette, and a way larger-than-I-anticipated bottle of cider.

Is there anything more perfect than a picnic in the French countryside along the Seine? There is only one answer here and it is no. Following our lunch, we biked to our final destination and were given an hour-and-a-half to explore Monet’s home and gardens, which despite strolling still left me with a half an hour to spare. But just a two-minute walk up the road is Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny which was a great way to spend that time.

The last stop on this seven-day itinerary was the airport which was the last place I wanted to be as Paris had not only lived up to but entirely passed my expectations. That paired with the little taste I got of the French countryside means that I’ll definitely be back to check of the rest of the country.

Q&A

Q: What should I wear in Paris?

A: I can only answer this based on the time of year, I visited. In July, Paris can get very warm – but it varies. Some days I wore jeans and a t-shirt paired with a light cardigan but for other, much warmer days, I wore light summer dresses. Regardless of the heat however, if you plan to enter any churches or places of worship maybe carry a cardigan or sweatshirt in your bag.

Q: Where should I stay in Paris?

I personally stayed in an Airbnb when I went to Paris and loved the authentic feel of staying in a cute studio with a view of Notre Dame. It didn’t hurt that I was also walking distance to a supermarket, convenience store, and a major train line. But here is a list of higher-rated hotels.

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