We were staying in Paris… Yes, you heard right, I am talking about the city of love! The city so many artists have honoured in their music, films, paintings and writing. It’s a city full of wonder, and a place you cannot really describe unless you have been there. I actually have been in Paris five times now and I can honestly say that I still haven’t seen everything. Which is good, because I will definitely come back several times. Paris is quite the phenomenon, and when you get rid of that thought in your head that it’s a corny place because they say it’s for lovers, you might get lost in a whirlwind of smells, sights, tastes and sounds that leave you wondering. And longing for more! So hop on a plane or train and get your ass there!
Where to stay in Paris
Libertel Montmartre Opéra – When staying in big cities for a trip my motto is to look for something central and comfortable. You are, after all, just staying the night in the hotel. In Paris especially I usually look for hotels near Montmartre, because I feel that this quarter is the perfect starting point for all your trips. And it’s just breathtakingly beautiful. Just don’t get surprised by all the sex shops on Boulevard de Clichy! The beauty starts right behind that.
So because my hotel preferences are quite different for city trips, Libertel Montmartre fits just perfectly into my scheme. It’s extremely central, clean and modern and not too pricy. A city like Paris is incredibly expensive after all. And the staff is very nice. However I cannot say anything regarding the breakfast, and that is because I never book breakfast in Paris. Don’t do that! A good boulangerie (bakery) is just around the corner. Just grab a café au lait and a croissant and find a nice spot at one of the squares. Enjoy the atmosphere. Look at the people. No hotel breakfast can beat that.
Where to eat and drink in Paris
Le Petit Parisien – In case you want to taste some authentic and amazing French food, this is the place to go. It’s cosy, super familiar and the ladies running the place are just wonderful. And I just love the decorations in there, a hotchpotch of old movie posters, chairs, boxes, lamps…it’s like a vintage store. The food still haunts me, a wonderful menu for a really good price.
La Cave à Jojo – Incredibly cute little restaurant slash wine bar at the foot of Montmartre. There are actually a bunch of cute restaurants in that corner, but this one stood out. It’s pretty small and so cosy in there, so don’t be afraid to touch your neighbour’s elbows. Expect small but fine plates that can accompany a glass of wine.
Mi Va Mi – When visiting the Marais, and seem to get lost in the small streets, just follow the smell of oriental spices. It’ll lead you right to Rue des Rosier, a mecca for falafel places. Mi Va Mi is one of the more popular there, although surely not the only one. Be prepared for crisp falafel balls and spicy sauces. Yummy!
Le Proibido – The small bar is a perfect way to experience Parisian bar culture first-hand. As far as I know, you usually get your drink inside, and when it’s warm enough, mingle with the other people on the street. This is the real Parisian feeling! The place is artsy and regularly hosts exhibitions. The drinks are good & strong!
Coutume Café – Not only is the interior of this place pretty cool, the coffee is pretty amazing as well. The place wins you over with its bare wall and lightbulb charm, paired with coffee roasting machinery. The last time I was there they served their water in Erlenmeyer flasks. Pretty cool, huh? Make sure to get some self-roasted coffee there!
Blé Sucré – When thinking of Paris, along the way may come the thought of pastries. Croissants, Madeleines, pains au chocolat – this place is pure heaven for every sweet tooth out there.
Things to do in Paris
Take a walk – Well actually, take lots of walks. A city like Paris can be best discovered by foot, and there’s just no other way to experience its atmosphere. So pack some good pair of shoes, and lay out a plan where you want to go! As I’ve said, Montmartre is always a good place to start, then there’s St. Germain-des-Près and the Quartier Latin. Oh and make sure to visit Marais and Belleville. Every quartier has its own charm, and I promise you that you won’t have enough time to see them all. But, this way you have a reason to come back! I have assembled some ‘walks’ you can take in Paris, which I took from a great book about walks in Paris. It’s only available in German I’m afraid, but you can have my map.
Shopping! – Be sure to pack enough money if you want to take this thing seriously. Of course you can go shopping like the queen at Galeries Lafayette, Dior, Chanel and the like. But I’m pretty sure your budget is as limited as mine. Lucky for us, Paris has so much ‘more’ to offer than expensive boutiques and jewellers. There are actually a bunch of places where you can satisfy your needs. Hunt through the small alleys of Marais to find the best clothes bargains, and pay a visit to Papier Tigre. They have the coolest gifts and stationery!
Rue Daguerre is a melting pot of independent boutiques, and quite the food lover’s paradise. I bet you’ll find something here. And of course I’ll come back to Montmartre, I always do. There are so many jewels hidden on that hill, I always seem to find something new. Like this lamp shop I discovered, ‘Estelle Lemaitre’, I could have bought everything in there!
Musée Rodin and other hidden treasures – Paris has so many museums that you would probably have to book for two weeks to see them all. The Louvre alone takes at least a day to discover when you want to see more than the Mona Lisa (hint: She’s not that great). There are of course the big ones, like Musée d’Orsay or Les Invalides, or Centre Georges Pompidou. If you’re in Paris for the first time, they are certainly a must. However, if you have seen them all or don’t want to do the tourist-stuff, stick to the small ones.
The Musée Montmartre has an incredibly beautiful garden (with an incredible view) and an actual vineyard. Or if you want curiosities, pay the Museum of the History of Medicine a visit. My favourite, however, is still the Musée Rodin. Not only because I love his artwork, but because the collection is situated in a beautiful house, surrounded by wonderful gardens. There you can discover ‘The Gates of Hell’, ‘The Burghers of Calais’ and ‘The Thinker’ and so much more. It’s pretty lovely to sit there and relax, surrounded by such beautiful art and such a beautiful city.
Visit Versailles – If you are lucky enough to spend some time in Paris, a day trip to the city of Versailles doesn’t hurt. There is quite the obvious reason: The Château de Versailles. See where and how the royals have lived then, and be amazed by all the pomp and circumstance. There is of course the huge palace, then the Estate of Trianon, the Royal Stables and of course the massive gardens.
It’s pretty amazing, but there are always so many people as well. Make sure to get there early, and book your tickets beforehand. Otherwise you have to queue twice. But include enough time, because you definitely have to queue once, and that for some time. It’s definitely worth it, trust me! We had some amazing weather, so the waiting wasn’t so hard, and I even ended up with a tan (and a sunburn)! If you have some time left, walk around the small town of Versailles, for it’s pretty cute as well.
Were you in Paris before? Do you like to add something?