The Paris Bucket List
Bonjour! It’s been a minute since I visited Paris, but after rummaging through my hard drive, I realized I actually had some great photos left over from my graduation trip!
Paris was one of the first cities I visited after graduating from college, and it was without a doubt the most hectic and intimidating travel destinations I’ve ever come across. But with Amélie and The Devil Wears Prada as two of my favorite movies, I completely geeked out the moment I arrived. Here’s a list of things I think you should do when you visit, as well as some tips and gotchas for each location.
Climb the Arc de Triomphe
Get a panoramic view of Paris on top of the Arc de Triomphe. Like many other attractions around Paris, the Arc de Triomphe does not have an elevator, which means you’ll have to climb up its 284 steps to get to the top. You’ll be rewarded at the end of your climb with a stunning view of the Champs-Élysées, which is an avenue filled with cafés and luxury shops.
Vist the Sainte Chapelle
Sainte Chapelle stands out as one of the most dazzling churches in Paris because it’s surrounded in every corner with stained-glass windows. Try to plan your visit on a sunny day to see the light pouring in from all directions.
Have these must-eat Parisian Treats
Crepes: According to my friend who studied abroad in France, Au p'tit grec—located next to Sorbonne University in the Latin Quarter—is arguably the best place to get a crepe in Paris. After eating there myself, I can definitely confirm that statement. This hole-in-the-wall creperie serves both savory and sweet crepes with gooey centers and crunchy exteriors. Expect to wait in line amongst locals and tourists alike to get your hands on one of these delicious street foods.
Pastries: For the best pastries, the same friend recommended a bakery called Du pain et des Idées. Get the "Escargot Pistache" if they have it—it's not really escargot, just a buttery and flaky (snail-shaped) pastry filled with pistachios and chocolate.
Take a day trip to the Palace of Versailles
Venture out of the city to visit the Palace of Versailles. There you can explore the beautiful Hall of Mirrors and the lavish quarters of Louis XIV. Be prepared to do a lot of walking, as this residence is filled with huge gardens and numerous palaces (hey, the royals probably can’t stand each other and need their personal space!). Prepare to spend an entire day getting lost inside this lavish “estate”, which is realistically the size of a small town.
Getting to Versailles from Paris
The cheapest way to get to Versailles from Paris is by train. Round trip tickets cost about 7 Euros per person. Just head to your nearest Metro station and hop on the train to the “Versailles-Château: Rive Gauche” stop.
Enjoy intimate concerts in Parisian Jazz Clubs
Stray from the standard tourist path and enjoy a drink and performance in Paris’s many jazz clubs. Jazz and Bossa Nova are huge in Paris, and you’ll find loads of locals sipping away in the basement of restaurants or bars enjoying music in a super intimate setting. American jazz standards are the most popular repertoire, and some of the musicians themselves are American and will speak English throughout their entire set. Some of my favorite venues were 38 Riv, New Morning, and Sunset Sunside.
Get lost in the Louvre
When you’re ready to be touristy again, head on over to the Louvre, which contains one of the largest collections of art in the world. The Louvre’s size can seem intimidating and it can take hours to explore the entire thing—so set aside plenty of time for it. The museum is literally a walk through history and is filled with famous masterpieces from around the world. One of my favorite exhibits was the Napoleon III Apartments, which is filled with lavish decor and furniture and is slightly reminiscent of Versailles. It hints that the Louvre was actually a royal palace before it became a museum.
Say hi to the Mona Lisa
Because the Louvre is a major tourist destination, buy your tickets ahead of time and visit when the museum first opens at 9AM. Hurry in to see the Mona Lisa first, since this particular gallery will be flooded with hordes of people and their selfie sticks later in the day.
Head up the Eiffel Tower at night
In my opinion, it’s best to visit the Eiffel Tower at night for 2 reasons: to catch the light show and to see the panoramic nighttime view. Look at the entire city light up as the lift stops on multiple floors. Be sure to keep an eye on your belongings, as pick-pockets love to swarm the area around the tower (especially when you’re in a cramped elevator on your way up).
Explore Montmartre and Pigalle
If you’re like me and loved the movie Amélie, then you’ll love the picturesque neighborhood of Montmartre. This area of town is filled with quaint bakeries and cafés and is a great place to take a casual morning stroll. Head up to Sacré-Coeur—a basilica at the very top of the hill—to get one of the best views of Paris and see the Eiffel Tower in context with the rest of the city. Later in the day, head over to the less-innocent Pigalle neighborhood, which is directly at the foot of Montmartre. There you’ll find the famous Moulin Rouge as well as a myriad of bars and restaurants.
… annnnd a bunch of sex shops 🙃
Stay in a cute Parisian Apartment
Ditch the hotel and stay in a Parisian apartment. I was lucky enough to stay in an artist’s loft which was filled from head to toe with his paintings and sculptures. Most apartments are equipped with the very Parisian windowsill adorned with flowers. However, like the rest of the city, these traditional apartment buildings do not have elevators, which means you’ll probably need to climb some steep, spiral staircases on your way up. Be sure to have the flashlight ready on your phone when you head home at night, since most staircases won’t have its own lighting.
After creating this post, I am hugely considering going back in the near future. Perhaps on a solo trip this time?
I also forgot to mention, Paris, je t'aime and Midnight in Paris are also a few of my favorite films! And you bet I’m itching to watch them again now that I mentioned them here 😓