Top 20 things to do in Magical Paris

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February 19, 2023
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Rsvp Dubai
RSVP Dubai
February 19, 2023
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The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023
July 4, 2023

Paris is one of my favourite cities in the world. It’s a beautiful and vibrant city that showcases wonderful architecture, beautiful museums, incredible food and, arguably, some of the most famous tourist sites in the world.

In no particular order, here’s a list of the top 20 things to do while visiting Paris:

 

  1. Louvre Museum

First on the list is the Louvre Museum. It’s one of the most unique and beautiful museums in the world, as well as one of my personal favourites. It also happens to be the world’s most-visited museum. The museum is well renowned for its glass pyramids and being home to the infamous Mona Lisa. I can’t recommend this museum enough. Even if you’re not particularly an art fan, the Louvre Museum is not to be missed. More information here https://www.louvre.fr/en

  1. Place de la Concorde, Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe

Visit the Place de la Concorde, a once deathly square with an ominous history, and witness the beautiful Luxor Obelisk – a 3300 year old Egyptian obelisk which was erected in the square in 1836. From there you can walk along the 70m wide Champs-Élysées for 1.9km soaking up all the Parisian sights and sounds.  Near the end of this beautiful avenue, you’ll find the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous monuments in Paris which commemorates all the soldiers who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The names of some of them can be found inscribed on the surfaces of the arch. Circumscribing the beautiful Arc de Triomphe, you’ll also witness one of the world’s largest traffic circles, the Étoile. There are 12 avenues that feed into the roundabout and approximately 10 lanes that actually comprise the circle itself. Suffice to say, Parisian drivers handle this chaos like champions.

  1. Cruise the Seine River

I would highly recommend booking a river cruise along the Seine; preferably at night, when the city really comes to life. You’ll get a unique view of some of the popular tourist attractions as well as a close up of the beautiful intricate details on these stunning Parisian bridges. The Pont Alexandre III is my all-time favourite bridge; it’s absolutely exquisite. The Seine River cruise will provide another unique vantage point.

  1. Hop On – Hop Off Bus

Another great way to experience any big city for the first time, is via a tourist “Hop On - Hop Off” bus like that of City Sightseeing or Big Bus. The bus takes you around all the major tourist spots and you can listen to a pre-recorded tour guide (or sometimes a live guide) inform you of all the attractions as you pass by them. Many of these tour companies offer an option inclusive of a river cruise too, so be sure to check all the latest offerings online before booking. You can find more details here https://www.bigbustours.com/en/paris/paris-bus-tours and here https://city-sightseeing.com/en/home

  1. Secret Passages of Paris

These are the prettiest and cutest little passages that take you through narrow walkways of buildings. They are often the most direct route through the city to one’s destination (unbeknown to most tourists). Here’s a few you can visit:

  • Passage des Panoramas
  • Cour du Commerce-Saint-André (if you visit La Jacobine for some local French cuisine, you’ll kill two birds with one stone)
  • Galerie Vivienne
  • Passage Verdeau
  • Passage du Grand-Cerf
  • Passage Jouffroy
  1. Try Some Classic French Cuisine

The food in Paris is fantastic and one simply can’t visit Paris without trying some classic French cuisine. Many restaurants serve great French food so keep your eyes peeled for little gems scattered throughout the city and avoid the tourist traps, usually located on the main streets near famous sites and monuments, boasting signage like “authentic French cuisine”… You’re in Paris, just about everything is authentically French! Some of my favourite classics include croque madame, tartiflette, crème brûlée, coq au vin and of course French onion soup. There are so many great restaurants offering these classic dishes. I can highly recommend visiting La Jacobine in the Latin Quarter. They serve up phenomenal French cuisine like escargot, tartiflette and the best French onion soup I’ve ever tasted. Bonus, La Jacobine is also located in one of the ‘secret passages’ of Paris, so you’ll get to tick off two things from this list at once. If you’re keen to try coq au vin, I can recommend La Chaumière in Notre Dame. To all my South African readers, be warned, rooster meat tastes distinctly different to chicken; however, it’s certainly a great French foodie experience. I can also recommend Les Embruns in Bastille. If you enjoy quiche and crepes, this one is definitely for you. Lastly, Le Saint Jean in Clignancourt, near Montmartre, serves the best croque madame.   

  1. Little Red Door

Little Red Door is a mysterious quaint cocktail bar which is quite easy to miss if you don’t keep your eyes peeled for the literal ‘little red door’. The bar offers unique cocktails which showcase local French produce. They’re also listed as number 5 on the 2022 Worlds 50 Best Bars. If you love cocktails, be sure to add Little Red Door to your list of things to do when visiting Paris. Here’s a link to a full review, including location and costing https://getinmybelly.co.za/2022/09/11/little-red-door-paris/

  1. Make Use of Public Transport

Paris has an extensive public transport network including the underground metro, buses and the RER. Metro stations are located throughout the city and there are large maps near the entrances of all stations making the city fairly easy to navigate. The metro is also affordable and very well priced, especially when compared to some other European subway transport systems. It will also give you the opportunity to walk between metro stations, allowing you to get a feel for the city on foot and eye out some potential hidden gems. There’s really no need to take taxis in Paris. Look out for the weekly tourist pass which allows access to all public transport including the airport leg; currently (as at June 2023) this goes for around EUR 35. However, it runs from Monday to Sunday so if you’re arriving after Wednesday it may not be worthwhile and you’re probably better off buying a bundle of 10 metro trips. This tourist pass is available at all major stations including the one at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

  1. Shopping in Paris

Paris is one of the most fashion-conscious cities in the world and, arguably, one of the best cities for shopping. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping locations. The city offers many renowned spots including the Galeries Lafayette (I’d recommend the original flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann – there’s also free roof top access where you can enjoy the city views), the many stores along the Champs-Élysées as well as the areas of Le Marais, Les Halles and Saint-Germain-des-Prés. While Paris is notorious for housing some of the most exclusive high-end fashion brands – like Dior, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, etc. – there are countless chain stores that offer affordable shopping too.  

  1. Notre-Dame Cathedral

The Notre-Dame Cathedral is a not-to-be-missed tourist attraction. It’s a gorgeous medieval Catholic church located on the Île de la Cité (the central island within the Seine River). The Notre-Dame is a very popular site so be sure to arrive early in the morning to beat the crowds. The cathedral is currently undergoing some construction and refurbishment due to the 2019 fire; entrance to the cathedral is therefore not possible. The scaffolding has been decorated and provides you with some historic details about the cathedral as well as details of the planned refurbishment. So even if you visit Paris before the refurbishment is complete, it’s still highly recommended. The area of Notre-Dame itself is also charming and full of character. You can browse the local artwork, buy some souvenirs from the street vendors and scout for some new books while exploring the island. You can find more details about the cathedral here https://www.notredamedeparis.fr/en/

  1. The Cambridge Public House

The Cambridge Public House is a quintessential pub style bar offering phenomenal cocktails and freshly baked snacks. The menu changes periodically giving one the option to visit on every trip to Paris ;-) The mixologists will keep you entertained with their fascinating and impressive cocktailing making skills. The Cambridge Public House is also listed on the 2021 World’s 50 Best Bars. If you enjoy sipping on fabulous cocktails, this one is for you. Here’s a link to a full review, including location and costing https://getinmybelly.co.za/2022/08/29/the-cambridge-public-house-paris/

  1. Sacré Coeur de Montmartre

The Sacré Coeur is a gorgeous and impressive Roman Catholic church located at the top of the Montmartre Hill. You can take the funicular up to Sacré Coeur or brave the steep walk up. Aside from the beautiful church, you’ll also experience spectacular views of the city from the top of the hill. Again, this is a popular tourist attraction so best to visit early in the morning if you’re travelling during peak season (European summer).

  1. Restaurant Anne

If you’re looking for a special foodie experience, I can’t recommend Restaurant Anne enough. Restaurant Anne is a Michelin star restaurant headed up by Chef Mathieu Pacaud. For those who don’t know, Chef Mathieu was essentially born into the culinary industry; he is the son of two highly renowned French chefs. Restaurant Anne is located in the beautiful 5 star hotel, Pavillon de la Reine & Spa, in the heart of Place des Vosges. Here’s a link to a full review of Restaurant Anne including location and costing https://getinmybelly.co.za/2022/05/24/restaurant-anne-paris/ 

  1. Picnic in a Parisian Park

There are numerous beautiful parks scattered throughout the city of Paris. Another great way to enjoy the city is to pack a picnic basket and spend some time in your favourite park. For your picnic basket I’m going to recommend a classic French baguette from a local boulangerie (bakery in English). Baguettes are a big deal in Paris and every year the city hosts a competition for the best baguette (Grand Prix de la Baguette de Traditional Francaise de la Ville De Paris). The winning boulangerie is awarded a contract to supply the president and the palace with daily bread for a year. I visited Aux Désirs de Manon (Manon’s Desires in English) in Le Marais and the baguette was absolutely phenomenal (best bread I have ever tasted). You’ll also need some croissants, panne au chocolat, cheese, cold meats, macarons, perhaps a patisserie treat or two and a bottle of wine (yes, you can drink in public in Paris – as long as you’re not a nuisance to anyone else, no one will mind). I can recommend visiting the Cédric Grolet bakery near the Paris Opera House. You can’t go wrong with these magnificent pastries. I’d also recommend visiting one of the Fou de Pâtisserie branches for a beautiful and delicious sweet treat. I visited the boutique store on Rue des Martyrs.  If you’re in Le Marais, you can pop past the food market to pick up a few things too and enjoy your picnic at the trendy Place des Vosges. Some other garden and park options include the Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre and the Jardin du Luxembourg at the immaculate Luxembourg Palace. Another great and very popular choice is the Parc du Champ-de-Mars where you can take in views of the iconic Eiffel Tower while enjoying your snacks and wine.

  1. Parisian Brunch

Parisians love a long leisurely boozy brunch. Their brunch spot of choice is typically a café seated outside along the road walkway while soaking up the sun. This is the quintessential Parisian Sunday outing and I highly recommend you experience it for yourself. Brunch is often a three course set menu enjoyed with bubbly. There are many incredible spots, popular with locals, scattered throughout the city. One of my favourites is Café du Centre, located in Sentier, and I can certainly recommend them.

  1. Paris Parkrun du Bois de Boulogne

If you enjoy staying active while travelling, I’d recommend partaking in the Paris Parkrun du Bois de Boulogne. It’s an organised 5km route, which can either be run or walked, through this beautiful park area (this is the largest park in the city). It’s well organised and a great way to burn off some of those croissants and baguettes. The Parkrun du Bois de Boulogne, in particular, is one of my absolute favourites; the area is uniquely beautiful and peaceful. Here’s a link with some details https://www.parkrun.fr/boisdeboulogne/ Please do check the Parkrun website, as all Parkrun events in France were temporarily suspended on my last visit to Paris (hopefully they will be up and running again soon).

  1. Moulin Rouge

A trip to the Moulin Rouge is highly recommended when visiting Paris (especially if it’s your first time). You can book tickets to a cabaret show and enjoy a few drinks in this vibrant part of the city; the birthplace of the can-can. Be sure to dress up; there’s a strict dress code. Here’s a link with some details https://www.moulinrouge.fr/en/homepage/

  1. Accommodation Recommendations

There are so many accommodation options in Paris since it’s one of the most toured cities in the world. Do your research and look out for good deals that suit both your expectations and your budget. Some areas are considered are little more ‘unsavoury’ than others, by European standards, due to petty crime.  But in all honesty, as a seasoned traveller, I can tell you that this is something one can expect in just about any busy metropolis in the world so I wouldn’t be too concerned. My tips for accommodation include ensuring your hotel is within walking distance of a metro station as well as checking Trip Advisor reviews for your preferred options. You don’t want to get a ‘good deal’ only to find out the hotel is filthy and unhygienic (that’s a sure way to put a damper on your holiday). If you’re on a tight budget look out for self-catering short-term rentals like Airbnb. I can recommend the Hôtel Mercure Paris Gare du Nord La Fayette in Bastille for a great hotel stay as well as the Holiday Inn Paris Opéra if you’re looking for an amazing central location and lovely hotel. The Holiday Inn Paris Opéra is also great value for money. I recently also had a great stay at the Holiday Inn Gare de l'Est. If you prefer a 5 star spoil and fantastic breakfast, I’d highly recommend the Hôtel Balzac, a stone throwaway from the Champs-Élysées, near the Arc de Triomphe.  

  1. Eiffel Tower

No list of Parisian highlights is complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. If you travel via Air France, you can catch the film – Eiffel – on the plane and learn all about the history and construction of the tower through the first-hand experience of the engineer. There’s much controversy about whether or not it’s worth actually going up the Eiffel Tower. If you’re visiting Paris for the first time, I’m strongly going to recommend it! Yes, it is busy and crowded but the views are absolutely breath taking. Paris is also one of the most structured and neatly designed cities, so it’s great to be able to see all those patterns from about 300m above. You’ll also get a close-up appreciation of the intricacies of the tower design (so for my fellow engineers, and perhaps architects, you’ll love it). I’d also recommend visiting out of peak season, if possible, or alternatively arriving early in the morning before the hordes of tourists that prefer to sleep in.

  1. Day trip to Reims Champagne

If you’re a frequent visitor of Paris or have a long stay in Paris, I’d highly recommend a day trip to Reims in the Champagne region. You can take a train from Paris and spend the day wandering about Reims. Be sure to book a cellar tour and tasting well in advance as the Champagne houses book up ahead of time. I visited Taittinger a few months ago and can highly recommend them. They are one of a few Champagne houses owned and managed by the family whose name is actually on the label. You’ll experience an underground cellar tour and witness some of the impressive underground caves and tunnels of Reims all while learning about the making of Champagne. Of course, you’ll also enjoy a glass or two of some fabulous bubbly! I’d also suggest avoiding the more main stream commercial brands as their tours and tastings cost far more and are far less personal (I’m sure you can guess those I’m referring to).

  1. Moonshiner

I know I said Top 20 things to do in Paris, but I only recently visited Moonshiner on my latest trip to Paris. After having visited I can categorically say, that no trip to Paris is complete, without having visited Moonshiner (similarly, no list of top things to do, could be complete without it either). Moonshiner is a quintessential speakeasy that is inspired by the clandestine drinking locations of the prohibition era. This gorgeous little bar is tucked away behind a pizza restaurant and to enter it, you have to walk through the large refrigerator of the pizzeria before finally being transported back in time to the most charmingly quaint bar. The cocktails, themselves, are also incredible. The Taboulé – a tasty tipple consisting of vodka, mint, parsley, cucumber, clarified tomato, rye vodka and amaretto – comes highly recommended. Moonshiner is probably one of the most impressive bars I have ever visited; I cannot recommend this bar enough. You can find more details here https://moonshinerbar.fr/ and here https://www.theworlds50best.com/discovery/Establishments/France/Paris/Moonshiner.html

For more tourist information be sure to visit https://en.parisinfo.com/ and https://www.introducingparis.com/

 

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