First thing’s first: tomorrow is my grandfather’s seventy-ninth birthday! (You read that correctly: he’ll be 79 years young!) In celebration of his rather impressive life, I’ll be making one of my favorite and definitely the easiest of my grandmother’s recipes this weekend. Stop by the blog on Monday to get the party snack you’ve been missing all of your life. Happy birthday, Poppop!
Now, for your regularly scheduled programming…
I’ve always been a bit of a travel planner, so hopefully someone will get some use out of this plan for three days in Paris! And one more note, I tend to really fill my days spent abroad. Just ask Spencer whose feet gave out on him after the very first day of our honeymoon. (Pack some good walking shoes, that’s all the warning you get!)
On your first day in Paris, you need to hit some of the big sights that make the Paris tick. So take the Metro to the Cité station and the Cathedral of Notre Dame (and get there early because this place gets hoppin’). Make sure to take a spin inside this famous building, but if you want to go up into the Bell Tower, you can queue up on the left side of the cathedral. We got there too late, so if you get to go up and chill with Quasimodo, leave me a comment telling me how not worth it it was. 😉
From there, you should make a judgment call: if you love Impressionism as much as I do, you should probably make it to the Musée d’Orsay. If not, you should probably get there anyway, and then you can love Impressionism as much as I do! The top floor of the museum is a Monet lover’s dream, and there’s also a whole wing devoted to Van Gogh; although I will warn you that it’s nothing like what Doctor Who would have us believe (I don’t think Bill Nighy was even there)!
LUNCH: Restaurant du Musee d’Orsay – No, we didn’t eat here, but I so wanted to, and it’s got amazing reviews. Plus, the space itself looks gorgeous!
It’s about a twenty minute walk from the Musée d’Orsay, so take some time to enjoy Paris and all of its scenery! I promise you that you won’t miss L’Hôtel National de Invalides. It’s a huge, impressive building, which makes sense considering it’s the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte. There are also a lot of interesting collections that center around the military history of France.
DINNER: No recommendations in this area! Pick a cute little Parisian restaurant, and don’t be intimidated. Everyone (especially the servers) are lovely and accommodating!
Spencer and I made it to the Eiffel Tower, obviously, but when you get here, make sure you’ve already purchased your tickets to the top! Otherwise you’ll be waiting for 30 minutes in the rain with no end in sight to the line, and even though your new husband is the best, you’ll both inevitably give up… At least that was our experience. Whether or not you make it all the way, the Eiffel Tower is amazing to see in person (so much bigger than the ones in Las Vegas or Epcot!), and the little area beneath it is so bustling and European.
It was always my dream to make it to the Chateau de Versailles, and WE DID! You could literally spend days just roaming the grounds (but don’t, they’ll probably arrest you), and the inside is more like a museum than a residence. It’s surprisingly easy to get to Versailles: take Line C of the RER train to the Viroflay Rive Gauche station, and from there it’s a very short walk to the palace.
We spent a few hours before lunch touring the building itself, and if the weather had been better, we would’ve spent the afternoon exploring the grounds and Marie Antoinette’s estate aka her peasant cottage (which is less peasant and more manor home, if you ask me).
LUNCH: Le Grand Café d’Orléans – The food at Versailles was surprisingly good since it was a museum and all.
Once you’re back in Paris, take it easy, and then get ready to climb! The stairs leading up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe are narrow and quite spiral, but the view once you get up there is insane. Two words: Champs-Élysées (one hyphenated word?). Plus you can see the Eiffel Tower so well, and you never get tired of looking that beautiful thing. Not the entire time you’re there.
DINNER: Once again, no specific recommendations. We ate lots of macarons and baguettes, okay?
Yes! It’s finally time to go to The Louvre, so jump off at the Palais Royal – Musée de Louvre Metro stop and get there before it opens. This place gets crowded, and if you want to even get close to the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo, be there. You could probably spend an entire week in that museum from open to close and still not see everything, but my personal favorites were Winged Victory and the portrait of Madame du Pompadour. Does anyone else think she was incredibly badass? Yeah, me too.
LUNCH: L’Escargot – It’s surprisingly difficult to find legit French food in Paris that isn’t super expensive, but this place has it all: escargot, frog legs, (French) onion soup. I didn’t think Spencer would ever leave.
Take some time to walk off your rich, buttery lunch with a little stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg. It’s absolutely enormous and so well-maintained. There are statues, exhibits, neatly trimmed hedges the likes of which we never get to see in the US.
DINNER: La Crêperie de Josselin – If you heed none of my recommendations on this list, at least go to this creperie. It’s a tiny little place, and it’s a local favorite, so there will be a line. But it didn’t take us long to make it through it, and the reward is the most authentic crepes I’ve ever had in my life. You’re on vacation, so get a dessert crepe!
From the crêperie, it’s a short walk to Montparnasse Tower. Being completely honest, we never made it here. We were too full and warm and content to do anything but pass out at our hotel. But if you have the energy to ride the elevator up to the top floor of this building, you can get some of the best nighttime views of the city!
Things You Should Know:
- We had a Paris Museum Pass that was worth its weight in gold – 1. It had everything that we wanted to do in Paris plus some, and 2. it gave us quick entry to almost everything, but especially the museums, which get crazy busy even 30 minutes after opening.
- You could get a Paris Pass instead, which includes travel, but unless you’re going to be there for 5+ days, I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead get the Paris Visite Pass! It’s really easy to use and allows you to ride the Metro anytime and as many times as you want throughout the day. (Both of these passes can be purchased way ahead of time online or at the Information kiosks at the airport.)
- I already touched on this trick, but The Paris Metro RATP Map and Route Planner app was a godsend. Make sure you have it uploaded to your phone if you’re heading to Paris; it’s invaluable, which isn’t something I say too often about free apps!
- A friendly “bonjour” and a polite “merci” go a long way! Don’t be intimidated by the French-speakers, but don’t be rude either. If you use short, polite French phrases, I didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t willing to speak English with you!
So there you have it: three perfect days in Paris! There are many more things to see and do, but these are the top ones I would choose if I could do it all over again. Have a great long weekend, everyone! Au revoir!
What are your must-see locations in Paris? Any great restaurants to recommend?
P.S. We spent the second half of our honeymoon in London, and in my humble opinion, it’s worth a read, too!