To celebrate my birthday a couple of week’s ago the boyf took me to Paris for 3 nights. It was wonderful. We did the obligatory sightseeing, we ate delicious food and we generally soaked up the Parisian atmosphere. It really is a special place and if you have yet to get yourself over to Paris yet get onto that Eurostar website immediately. Of course everyone thinks of the Eiffel Tower when thinking about Paris, but there is so much more. Here is a round-up of some places to see and things to do in Paris when you only have a couple of days.
The infamous cathedral is nestled on a small island on the River Seine in central Paris. The imposing Gothic structure is celebrating it’s 850 anniversary this year so there are plenty of events happening throughout the year. There was quite a long queue when we went but it moves quickly and mostly people are respectful and observe the request for silence. At the statue of Joan of Arc I lit a candle for the strength of women across the world.
Walk across bridges
The River Seine is home to many beautiful bridges that link the banks and a couple of small bridges. It is most romantic to walk across in the evening as they are all lit up.
Hotel de Ville
As it was winter when we went there was an ice skating rink directly outside this huge striking building. If you like architecture you will enjoy it here.
Not far from Hotel de Ville is the Pompidou Centre, a fascinating piece of modernist architecture that plays host to some brilliant modern art. Think Tate Modern but in Paris.
The area around the Pompidou Centre has some great vintage shops, cafes and little shops of interests. I particularly liked the shop devoted to pistachio nuts. This is also a great area to eat falafels.
We were staying in the Montparnasse area and I really enjoyed it. Rue de Gaite has some great restaurants and bars and was positively buzzing in the evenings. And the roads leading off from the Edgar Quintet metro station were fab too.
Oooh, how I love Sacre Cour. This cathedral is one of my favourites (and this is coming from someone who backpacked Europe and visited a gazillion of the things) and is perched high up on the highest hill in the city with a great view of pretty ol’ Paris. This was my second time here and I chose to cheat and take the little side car up the hill instead of the 234 steps. Last time I was there it was the blistering heatwave of 2003 and I climbed the whole way up. Oh. my. word. It was exhausting. Anyway, this time the lazy way was fun and at the top there was a Christmas market full of touristy tit-bits.
The area around Sacre Cour is another infamous area, Montmarte. Known for it’s seedy past and home to the Moulin Rouge. It used play host to artists, poets and vagabonds but is now a delightful area of winding streets, pretty buildings and Parisian culture. I could spend a lot of time hanging out and getting lost in Montmarte.
As a huge fan of Amelie I went in search of the cafe she worked at in the film. It is based in Montmarte on Rue Lepic. It is called Les Deux Moulins. The decor is just as you think it would be and the toilets are horrendous. But it was fun to stop there for a bit. We ate, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The food is a bit pricey for what it is. It’s better for drinks I think.
This is one pretty department store in Paris that is a must. Even if you don’t have any cash to spend it is worth it just to marvel at the incredibly pretty domed roof and then the view from the terrace on the top floor. We had some fun taking photos with the Eiffel Tower in the background. It is based on Boulevard Haussmann.
For the best hot chocolate in Paris head to Angelina Cafe on Rue de Rivoli. It’s a short walk from the Lourve which is, of course, worth a visit too (be warned the Lourve is HUGE and takes a few hours to get round). We turned up at Angelina Cafe at around 6pm to find a long queue of potential patrons outside. The interior is sumptuous Parisian and clearly this place is popular. We chose to pop into the adjacent Angelina Cafe shop to pick up some macaroons and a take-away cup of their famous hot chocolate. This was a much cheaper alternative and quicker too. We walked over to the Jardin des Tuileries which is a lovely park opposite. We found a beautiful carousel with benches dotted around and perched there to watch children come and go on the ride as we sipped our AMAZING hot chocolate and nibbled at the delicious macaroons. Imagine what the best hot chocolate in the world tastes like and that is what the Angelina Cafe hot chocolate was. It was heaven. Oh, and rather romantic too.
We were up early on the Saturday morning to head up to the Flea Market, or Marches aux Puces at St Ouen de Cligancourt. It is slightly tricky to navigate to the markets from the metro station but I found this really useful guide to help (basically keep walking until after the underpass). The area is organised into a series of alleys which tend to have a different ‘personality’ to each other. I was positively overwhelmed by the range of antiques and vintage items on sale. There are hundreds of stores to browse through, and even though they weren’t exactly Car Boot Sales prices you can definitely find some fascinating gems there. There is a tourist office based there who provide handy maps and guidance to the area but they are based unhelpfully on the other side of the markets from the metro station.
There was a brilliant Canaletto exhibition at the Musee Jacquemart-Andre while we were there. Housed in a stunning building not far from the Arc de Triomphe this museum hosts some wonderful exhibits that are definitely worth a visit. Be warned though, the popular exhibitions can attract long queues and they limit the number of viewers at any time. This can be a little frustrating when it is cold outside, but if you enjoy your art it will be worth the wait.
Arc de Triomphe
Another famous landmark of Paris that felt significantly different to the last time I visited. It took me a while of staring at this giant roundabout filled with traffic with this towering structure in the middle to realise what changed. The noise! There are no more beeping of the horns. Paris is a lot quieter on the roads these days. Before there was a cacophony of horns racing around the Arch, now there is just some questionable driving. Nevertheless it is an impressive sight.
I think I ate French macaroons every day that I was in Paris. I was totally won over by the myriad of colours and flavours for this meringue-ganache confectionery. So, of course, we had to visit the birthplace of the French Macaroon, Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées. The façade is decorative. The tea room and shop inside of splendid. The queue outside is long. But it moves. We were so tempted by the tearooms but were sadly at the end of our budget by this time. So we took our place in the queue and marvelled at the intricacies of the décor of this famous patisserie. The macaroons are delicious and the famous boxes feel like such a treat to hold. I am totally won over by the brand and their products. French macaroons are rad. Yep.
Like most European cities this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much architecture, culture, art, food and landmarks to see. It is great to let yourself get lost and stumble across interesting sights along the way. But Paris is every bit as wonderful as you expect it to be. I highly recommend a visit!