experiencing déja vu? yes, i wrote a post on paris a couple months ago. i also just spent the past week there, frolicking my days away with wine, cheese, and bread galore. now that i’m back home (and detoxing said delicious shiz from my system), i have a bit more detailed plans to offer to anyone interested in visiting the best city in the world.
but first, a brief overview on paris:
paris is divided into twenty arrondissements, or municipals, each boasting its own charm and character. when asked for recommendations by friends planning trips to paris, i usually suggest staying in the 1st – 8th since they are most central, bordering the seine (which, if you aren’t familiar, is the river that runs right through the middle of the city) on the rive droit (right bank) or rive gauche (left bank). outlying arrondissments like the 18th and 19th, have plenty to offer, too, but the convenience of the 1st-8th can’t be beat for those with limited time in town.
when it comes to getting around, there are a few options. as i mentioned in my previous post on paris, walking is the best way to see paris. if you aren’t able to walk long distances or if you are pressed for time, the paris metro system is easy to navigate and (sometimes) quicker to use; there is even a paris metro app that helps route trips by time and by simplicity. if you plan on using the metro regularly, buy a metro pass or purchase your tickets in packs of ten to cut down on costs. uber is another great option in paris; cars are readily available in every size option (including uberpool), and they are almost always luxury cars with drivers in suits (and who doesn’t want to feel fancy every so often?). different metro stations close at different times, so uber can be helpful on those nights when you finish your second bottle of wine at 1:30am and don’t feel like walking home.
now that you know a bit more about the technicalities, here is a breakdown of my favorite areas to explore within the city:
the 1st (rive droite) — the louvre. the tuileries. the musée de l’orangerie. the palais royal. the best hot chocolate of your life (courtesy of angelina, a long-renowned tea room on rue de rivoli). more shops than you can imagine. arguably the most popular of arrondissements thanks to its picturesque views of the eiffel tower and its many attractions, this is the place to be if you want to embrace your inner bourgeois and have easy access to plenty of english-speakers (since it is more tourist-heavy than some neighborhoods).
the 3rd & 4th (rive droite) — these neighborhoods melt together and form the marais, the fashion/garment district, gay district, and the jewish ghetto. whether you’re shopping for designer or vintage apparel and accessories or all the falafel you could ever want, the marais has it all. grab a sandwich from l’as du fallafel (truly, it’s the best) and walk over to the place des vosges (the city’s oldest planned square) to eat and relax. meander your way to the centre pompidou (4th) for modern art, or walk up to the marché des enfants rouges (3rd) to see local vendors peddling every kind of cuisine imaginable at the city’s oldest covered market (and check out the merci concept store afterward). you can also visit the shoah memorial for a moving look back at the holocaust, or stop by the home of victor hugo to reminisce the story of les miserables. the seine’s two islands, the île saint-louis and the île de la cité, are considered a part of the 4th; these charming islands are home to le berthillon (everyone screams for this ice cream), saint chapelle, and notre dame. i recommend taking a bottle of wine and drinking it along the water’s edge (while also drinking in the killer views).
the 5th (rive gauche) — the latin quarter : home to hemingway, fitzgerald, and the sorbonne. channel your inner julia child and shop the tiny street of rue mouffetard for fresh flowers, produce, and souvenirs. retrace the steps of the lost generation (the american ex-pats famous for relocating to france to embody la vie boheme during the 1920’s), or rub elbows with students of the city’s most prestigious school. try your luck at time traveling á la gil pender in midnight in paris, starting on the steps of l’eglise de saint-étienne-du-mont, right next to the panthéon. because of the large population of students, the latin quarter has a busier nightlife and plenty of dining establishments that won’t break the bank. i am especially fond of the jazz clubs in the 5th since they allow me to be a real-life dancing girl emoji.
the 6th (rive gauche) — saint germain-des-prés : the thinking man’s neighborhood. stroll through the jardin du luxembourg or debate on existentialism over a lunch at café de flore or les deux magots. enjoy the quiet, peaceful, and subtly opulent sights along the streets in saint germain. try dinner at aux prés and find yourself in a cozy restaurant with a mad-men vibe and some hella delicious plates. beware, though, the 6th is one of the priciest neighborhoods. tis the cost of pretense.
the 7th (rive gauche) — the eiffel tower. musée d’orsay. delicious restaurants galore (we tried chez graff on this past trip, and ’twas outstanding. i think i’ll just leave it at these three things.
the 8th (rive droite) — stroll down the champs élysées and pretend you’re about to drop beaucoup dollars at louis vuitton or chanel (or find yourself shocked when you realize the shirtless guy on the street is, indeed, standing in front of an abercrombie & fitch). visit the arc de triomphe, then head to the 16th to the place du trocadéro for a postcard-perfect view of the eiffel tower. if you’ve ever wanted to recreate the photo shoot montage from mary-kate and ashley’s passport to paris (and let’s be real, who hasn’t wanted to do that?), this is the arrondissement for you.
though the above neighborhoods surround the seine and offer more to do, moving away from the heart of the city does’t mean there aren’t sights worth seeing. Here are a few notable attractions in the outlying arrondissements.
the 9th (rive droite) — the phantom of the opéra calls the 9th home (that is your clue to head here and tour the palais garnier).
the 10th (rive droite) — check out place de la république for, more than likely, some sort of protest, demonstration, or rally. this borders the 3rd and 11th, so it’s great to visit after the marais. the canal st. martin also begins in the 10th, and it is a great place to stop for a snack while sitting along the water’s edge.
the 14th (rive gauche) — home to montparnasse tower and cemetery and the more-alluring catacombs.
the 18th (rive droite) — while you may dream of singing a duet with ewan mcgregor at the moulin rouge, it’s best to bypass the not-so-cute tourist trap and go straight to the charming and hilly streets of montmartre. follow amelie’s scavenger hunt around the sacre cœur and climb the steps of the butte to overlook nearly the entire city. it’s totally worth the effort.
the 19th (rive droite)— visit the parc des buttes-chaumont for an escape within the city. it is a charming place for a picnic or a lazy afternoon.
the 20th (rive droite) — here rests pére lachaise cemetery, the eternal home to legends like oscar wilde, edith piaf, jim morrison, and gertrude stein. it’s more beautiful than it is morbid.
if you have enough time to venture outside the city, i recommend spending a day at versailles. it is easily accessible by the suburban metro, the RER, and it is well worth the forty-plus minute ride. walk the grounds to marvel at the gardens, and explore inside the château and marie antoinette’s trianons. it is a sight to behold.
i’ll be the first to admit that it is difficult to see everything paris has to offer in one short trip. perhaps that is why i continue to go back. or maybe it is just the allure of the city’s overall aroma, something my friend i most recently traveled with continued to point out. there is something in the air, a bit floral and romantic, and bit deep and mysterious, and 100% parisian. it is a smell i believe everyone should experience at least once, if able, along with seeing the eiffel tower sparkle every hour, on the hour, during the night. paris is a city of light, a city of love, and a city of magic. it is simply the loveliest.