“There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.” ~Ernest Hemingway
I adore Paris. I dream about it night and day. I love the smells and tastes and sounds, the landmarks and the art. I love the elegance in which Parisians go about their daily life. And the meticulous attention to detail that is taken with each and every move they make; from their carefully assembled outfits to the fine craftsmanship of each cappuccino. Paris doesn’t half-ass anything. In my humble opinion, Paris is the most exquisite city in all the world; a glittering speck of light in a vast and dark world, full of turmoil, we have created.
My fetching desire to be a Parisian began at a very young age. In the fourth grade to be exact. (Although I am quite certain I had a fascination with Paris-related things a good deal before that.) I suppose I concretely recognized it for the first time in fourth grade, during a unit on France, the French artist Monet, and Paris. It was then that I discovered my curious and intense fascination with Paris. I yearned to learn more about the magical city; the art, the history, the fashion, food, and people. I felt a bizarre connection that I could not explain, and an overwhelming urge to get to Paris and never leave.
Since that point, I have never veered from my obsession. And while I may lust after the Eiffel tower, the macarons, the Celine handbags, and the French architecture in Paris, there is truly something for everyone in this divine urban masterpiece. Even my husband thoroughly enjoyed himself on our most recent trip to Paris… and he is far more interested in Phish, baseball, and hiking than Guerlain and art museums.
There are literally thousands of fabulous experiences to have, places to visit, and breathtaking sights to see in Paris. One could literally wander the city for a week with no plan at all, and have an amazing time. But I have gathered a few Paris experiences that I feel to be exceptional. Any one of these options will elevate your Paris experience and create the radiant time-stopping memories we all yearn for. So here are 10 experiences to have in this fantastical city to make your time in Paris absolutely epic. (And a couple of bonuses because… well because Paris.)
“They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris.” ~Oscar Wilde
1| See the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night. Drink champagne. Take cheesy selfies.
There is nothing. I mean nothing. In. The. World. Like watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle. I love everything sparkly and the Eiffel tower, so It’s kind of my ultimate favorite thing. But even if those aren’t your fave things, you will thoroughly enjoy it I promise! It is a wondrous sight to behold. Beginning at 10pm, it will sparkle for 5 minutes on the hour until 2am. If you make it to Paris, don’t miss this. It is easily a memory that will keep you going when times are tough.
2| Check out the Musee Des Arts Décoratifs Fashion Forward exhibit. And the Van Cleef and Arpels gallery. OMG.
I would consider The Fashion Forward exhibit at the Musee Des Arts Décoratifs completely life-changing for anyone who loves and/or appreciates fashion. It takes you through the decades with authentic examples of fashion from all different eras. The displays are breathtaking and the pieces are absolutely stunning. All major fashion houses are featured in at least one decade, and the evolution is exemplified fabulously!
And even if you happen to be in Paris after this exhibit has gone, make a stop at this museum for the Van Cleef and Arpels jewelry gallery. It.Is.Astonishing. And marvelous. It is actually similar to the Fashion Forward exhibit in that it travels through the decades representing each era of style in jewelry. And they truly have an exquisite collection.
Being located next to the Lourve, this museum is super easy to get to. And I would go so far as to say it is somewhat of a hidden gem, overshadowed by the Lourve. There was no wait to get in, and no enormous crowds to fight through. This museum is a must for anyone who appreciates design in any form, even after the Fashion Forward exhibit leaves!
3| Eat at La Grande Cascade
First step: save your money. Second step: spend it all at La Grande Cascade. Third step: Have no regrets.
This place is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And one that I highly suggest! If you can stomach the bill, your tastebuds will be forever grateful. Awarded with a Michelin Star, La Grande Cascade is a historic and beautiful establishment. Located the heart of the Bois de Boulogne, this establishment was actually once a lodge where Napoleon III used to hunt. It is magnificently decorated with an enchanting nod to the art deco period, with a beautiful balance of a retro and modern feeling. And it sits in the middle of a beautiful park complete with a waterfall and walking paths. La Grande Cascade is the perfect spot for an elegant and tranquil retreat and for a evening of amenity.
DISH NOT TO MISS: Macaroni black truffle, foie gras, celery root, oven-grilled with parmesan. It will bring tears to your eyes. Happy delicious tears because you don’t know how to handle the magic in your mouth.
SUPER TIP: If you book through certain websites, like The Fork, you can receive 40% off the ál a carte menu. It will certainly still be an indulgent meal for your wallet, but the opulent cuisine is more than worth it. And the experience is one you will never forget.
4| Wander through the streets of St Germain. Sift through the bookstores and collect a bunch of wondrous papery goodies at the stationary stores.
While you’re there, grab gelato at Grom and stop at Macarons Gourmands.
And L’Éclair de Génie.
Ok fine eat all the desserts you see.
Wash them all down with a tiny coffee.
All of this is very important stuff. Don’t skip any of it! 😉
Oh how I wish I had weeks and months and years to spend in the Latin Quarter of Paris. It is such a charming historic area! The cobblestone streets are narrow and lined with colorful restaurants and shops. And while it is a bustling area, there is a peacefulness that resides here. It feels cozy and safe. And exudes radiant energy. It also just so happens that many of the best confectionaries in Paris are all concentrated here. You will just have to suck it up like I did and try all the desserts in the area so as to not miss any! I suffered through it pretty well. 😉
We will start with Grom. You HAVE to try Grom. I discovered this magical gelato in Italy with my now husband, Yaron. It instantly became our obsession and anywhere we travel in the world now that has a Grom, we find it. (Not a ton of places btw.) We love Grom because the gelato is fantabulous, but it is also made from the highest quality and responsibly sourced ingredients. So it may be Italian, and you are in Paris, but it is freaking awesome and the best gelato I have ever had! You will not be disappointed.
Fave Flavors: Crema di Grom is Yaron’s favorite, and Nocciola (hazelnut) is mine. But seriously. Any and all flavors are spectacular!
This place has my absolute favorite macarons of all time. They are made each day in house by hand, with natural ingredients like fresh fruit. They also have the most flavors to choose from of any other place I have found! Macarons Gourmands is adorable, the service is excellent, and the macarons are delectable. The pineapple was my favorite. It was beautifully fresh and just sweet enough! And so so pretty! If you are into macarons, try this place! And check out my post for more great macaron suggestions: My 5 Fave Macaron Spots in Paris (And some other desserty wonderfulness.)
THIS wonderful little place is heaven on earth for sure. They have the prettiest, fanciest baby eclairs you ever did see. And they are FREAKING DELICIOUS! And squishy, and gooey in the center, and lovely. And did I mention they’re fancy? Well they are. Do not leave without trying the no 177 Caramel Beuree Salé eclair! Mascarpone, caramel, seasalt, and brûlée crisps? It is my life.
And don’t forget the book stores and cutie little stationary stores!
The Latin Quarter so many fabulous book stores! And stationary stores! Cutie little shops full of beautiful books, fancy pens and notebooks, glittery birthday cards and rubber stamps. It is not hard to lose your entire day rifling through one store if you aren’t careful!
5| Chow down at L’As Du Fallafel. Explore Le Marais.
Le Marais encompasses the Jewish Quarter, and offers a sublime balance of trendy and artsy shops and galleries with old world charm. It is really a fun and fabulous area! The cobblestone streets are clean and lined with boutiques, art galleries, jewish bakeries, flower shops, and fromageries. Le Marais is full of energy, and is also home to quite a few museums, including the Museé National Picasso.
My favorite part of Le Marais, besides Yaron taking part in a Jewish blessing with Tefillin, was L’As Du Fallafel. L’As Du Falafel is a kosher middle eastern restaurant located in the Jewish quarter of Le Marais. I have eaten a lot of Middle Eastern food. I love it and crave it. And this fallafel was absolutely some of the best I have ever had. I would even venture as far as to say it was THE best I have ever had. The hummus was out of this world, and the eggplant! OMG the eggplant.
TIP: Eat in. There is always a line, but it moves fast and is totally worth it. Eating this while walking around looked like a nightmare. I would much prefer sitting down. Also, get the french fries!
Less exciting note: While we were in Paris, most of the museums were closed due to the flooding, so we were unable to explore the museums in Le Marais. (Thank goodness we got into the Louvre the day before it closed for flooding.) So, long story short, I don’t have much insight to offer on the many museums in Le Marais, but next time I will be sure to visit them!
6| Try a new smelly moldy cheese you’re kind of afraid of… pair it with a french baguette and some wine.
Have you ever stepped foot into an authentic French Fromagerie? It is a marvelous experience. Full of curiosity and whimsy. And cheesy smells. Kind of smelly cheesy smells. But that’s what it’s all about. Get the smelly cheese! Choose the one that creeps you out! You may be pleasantly surprised. And don’t forget the baguette and wine. Visit a boulangerie for your French baguette, and there are so many great places to pick up wine in Paris for a great price. Have a romantic picnic, or just chow down by yourself. Whatever works for you. Don’t chicken out on this! Let me know how you like your smelly cheese!
7| Watch tourist maniacs stand in the middle of the busy Champs Élysées… try it at your own risk.
Champs Élysées is one of the busiest streets in the world, and is teeming with people all hours of the day and night. I actually do not know why cars drive on this road, because it is so incredibly dangerous for everyone involved. I would avoid it at all costs if I lived there.
So everyone walks into the middle of the road and takes photos. I guess it’s the thing to do? I mean, it does make for a great photo so I guess I get it. There are so many people on the Champs Élysees though. If you’re not into crowds you probably will want to get the hell away from this place, but I would still suggest at least making a quick pit stop to check out the Arc di Triomphe. It is a magnificent historic monument.
There is also shopping on the Champs Élysées of course! And if shopping is your thing, then by all means please shop your heart out! May I suggest though, making an effort to shop at places you don’t have at home. Many of the shops on Champs Élysées are chain stores that we have here in the US, and in most of the world. (i.e Gap, etc.) If you make an effort to shop at specialty stores while in Paris, ones that are exclusive to Paris and/or France, you will enjoy your purchases more, and for a much longer time. I promise! Go to the Gap at home. Just a suggestion. 😉
And don’t forget a selfie in front of the Arc di Triomphe! (You can also climb it if you’re brave and in great shape!)
8| Take in the sights of the city from Sacré Coeur. Explore Montmartre.
We did not get to explore Montmartre and visit the Sacré Coeur Basilica during this trip to Paris, but I have been there before. And once you have visited this magnificent Basilica, you don’t soon forget it. I didn’t feel that I could complete my Paris suggestions without including this, because it is truly a glorious monument and a fabulous neighborhood in Paris.
The Sacré Coeur, or Sacred Heart Basilica, is a world renowned monument that sits at the top of the hill of Montmartre. In order to reach the Basilica, you have to climb 270 steps. The steps are a pain, but the panoramic view of Paris from the Basilica is stunning! It is absolutely the best view in the city and will make your spine tingle.
The Montmartre neighborhood is a great place to wander and explore as well. There are quaint streets lined with shops and cafes, and this is the area where you will find the Moulin Rouge. Remember to take caution in this area if you happen visit at night, but don’t let night deter you from visiting. Sacré Coeur is a gorgeous sight after daylight, and the view of the city beneath the stars is spectacular.
9| Go to the Louvre. Spend some time. Do your research. Prepare to be blown away. (And probably underwhelmed by The Mona Lisa.)
The Louvre is not the type of museum that you can run through in a day. It is not somewhere that you visit once. And it is not the place to try out new shoes. It is, however, a wonder of the world in its own right. I could write pages and pages about the Louvre in all of its magnificence About the architecture, which pieces to see, the history, the elaborate ceilings. But I am a full fledged art nerd, so I will spare you the details and cut to the chase. (I will, however, create another post specifically for the Louvre for you other art lovers who are interested!)
So, how to go about visiting the Louvre? First, do not try to see the entire museum in one day. I mean, if your main mission is getting your exercise in, go ahead and do that. But if you’re there for the art, don’t bother. This does not mean that you should take several days of your travels to visit the Louvre. You can, but most of us don’t have the luxury of dedicating days and days to one museum. The best way to do it, is take a day, and plan your Louvre day well. This will ensure you see everything on your list. You will surely discover new beautiful works of art while there, but if you plan well you will make sure you don’t miss anything you want to see. You will also enjoy it better having done a little bit of research and knowing something about the pieces you are seeing.
TIP: Don’t forget to look up! The ceilings are spectacular! They are elaborate works of art in their own right!
Mona Lisa TIP: Set your expectations when going in to see the Mona Lisa. It is an incredible piece of art, with a long and fascinating history, and so much mystery behind it. But if we’re being honest, it is not overly impressive in person. It is much smaller than you would expect, and behind some serious plastic/glass to protect it. There are also crazy crowds around it at all times, so it is kind of difficult to get a close look. BUT, none of these are reasons that you shouldn’t go see Mona Lisa. She is, after all, the most famous painting of all time, and was created by none other than the master Leonardo da Vinci! It is definitely worth it to pay a visit, but I wish someone had better prepared me for what I was going to see. So there you go. You’re welcome.
SUPER TIP: Buy your tickets to the Louvre in advance. This will allow you to skip the very long line. (And believe me, it can be VERY LONG.)
FYI: The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays and offers free admission the first Sunday of every month. It also stays open late (until 9:45pm) on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Must see works:
- The Big 3: The Mona Lisa, Venus d Milo, Winged Victory
- Virgin of the Rocks Leonardo Da Vinci
- Oath of the Horatii Jaques-Louis David
- Grande Odalisque
- Madonna of Chancellor Rolin Jan Van Eyck
- Coronation of the Virgin Fra Angelico
- The Raft of Medusa Theodore Gericault
- The Embarkation for Cythera Jean-Anttione Watteau
- The Code of Hammurabi
Look out for my Louvre post coming soon for more info on these (and other) fabulous masterpieces!
And while at the Louvre, don’t forget to take a stroll through the beautiful Jardin Des Tuileries!
The Tuileries Gardens are simply stunning. And enormous! The gardens cover a long stretch between the Louvre and the Seine river, specifically the Place de la Concorde square. This lush expanse of greenery and gardens is the perfect place to catch some fresh air at any time of day. Anything you could want out of a garden or a park is here. There are benches to sit on, ponds with ducklings, paths in all directions, and some fabulous and priceless statues by artists like Rodin.
10| Drink hot chocolate at Angelina… everyday.
Hot chocolate has never quite been to this level. At least that I have had. Angelina does not mess around with their hot chocolate. *Shoutout to my lil sis Angelina who also doesn’t mess around with her hot chocolate!* But yes, it is literally three different types of chocolate melted. Then you drink it. It is serious. And it is rich. And thick. And gooey. And AMAZING!! I’m sure it’s healthy too…
That’s all. It is magic in your mouth. It may be too rich for some people. But not me. I drank it everyday while I was there. And I miss it every day now.
There will be a line. It is worth the wait. There is a restaurant also, so sometimes the line is for seating to the actual restaurant. Double check so that you are in the right line and you may not have to wait as long!
And don’t forget to choose a sweet treat to go with your hot chocolate! I highly reccomend trying their selection of incredible pastries and macarons to die for! (See my post: My 5 Fave Macaron Spots in Paris.)
Bonus suggestion: Take the subway. Don’t freak out if you go the wrong way. Argue with your travel partner about whose fault it is. JK it’s their fault I bet.
The subway system in Paris is one of my faves in the world. It is clean, efficient, and fairly entertaining. As with any subway system though, it can be a bit confusing at times. Don’t get frustrated. You will go the wrong way. Probably more than once. Just take a deep breath and find your way onto the train going the right direction. Think of it as a learning experience and an adventure. One that may involve a lot of stairs.
TIP: Don’t forget to keep your subway ticket! You may have to use it to leave the station! I learned this the hard way. A few times.
Oh yeah, and share a street crepe! (Or don’t share if you’re anything like me with your fave foods.) Banana and nutella is my all time fave.
And Wander. Discover. Get lost. Take a step back. Relax.
And Finally, (And quite possibly most importantly,) be in the Present. I mean, you are in PARIS! So, do what you want, and have fun! Enjoy every moment you have in the most beautiful city in the world!
“Just add three letters to Paris and you have Paradise.” ~Jules Renard
Thank you for reading and I would love to hear what other fabulous Paris experiences and suggestions you have! Happy traveling!! xoxo