Who doesn’t love Paris?
I do. In fact, I was in love with Paris even before I visited it. So, I was super excited when I finally decided to use a short weekend trip to visit a place I have only always dreamt of!
There is so much to see and do in Paris. You can spend weeks or just a couple of days exploring this city – but whatever you do, make sure you take some time out to really experience the city’s vibe, instead of just ticking off a tourists’ checklist.
Keeping that in mind, here are a few things I really recommend doing on a short trip to Paris.
Hop on Hop off bus tours
If you want to explore the city at your pace, this is a great option. These hop on and hop off buses will take you through the most famous spots of Paris, accompanied by an audio guide so you can hear about the history of places as you are seeing them. Sit through the whole journey (approximately 2 hours) or hop off to rest your feet, explore places on foot and then hop back on again!
There are a number of operators that run these buses but the most reliable one, in my opinion, is the Big Bus Tours, who have been around for a long time all around the world. Their tickets are valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours and the bus stops at almost every location you might want to see in Paris on an open-top double-decker bus – a great way to see Paris, especially during a glorious summer day!
Can you believe that the Louvre glass pyramid was one of the most hated buildings once upon a time?
Chinese-American designer, Pei faced harsh criticism on the structure when it opened in 1989. Apparently, almost 90% of Parisians were said to be against the project. Well, I am glad he stood his ground because the iconic glass pyramid today doesn’t need an introduction.
The museum houses countless art pieces. It is divided into eight main galleries: Ancient East, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greeks, Romans and Etruscans; Art of Islam; Art; Sculpture; the art of printing and drawing and decorative arts.
One day is not enough to see the Louvre. Even if you spend a minute going through each piece, you will end up being here for three months! The Mona Lisa, of course, is what attracts most people to the Louvre but there are so many equally beautiful and enchanting artefacts housed in this museum and if you are an art lover, you’ll be in for a treat!
Montmartre was the main highlight of my trip to Paris. I was amazed to see how different it was from the rest of the city. It’s a charming and unique village right in the middle of a metropolis and is a thriving hub for artists – read Renoir, Picasso, and Edith Piaf.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, also known as Sacré-Cœur stands tall on top of the hill of Montmartre and you can’t miss its beauty from anywhere in Montmartre. One of the many reasons for its uniqueness is its glowing white structure. Interestingly, when in contact with water the building’s stone releases a substance that cleans itself helping it to retain its white colour – how impressive is that!
While in Montmartre, make sure you stroll through the streets to really feel the vibe of this charming district and walk up the hill to Sacré-Cœur or take one of the petite trams (which is super cute) up to the Basilica. With a map in your hand, you can start from almost anywhere in Montmartre, but the best spot to start your walking tour is from Blanche metro (which is right next to the Moulin Rouge), and which takes me to my next recommendation.
The Moulin Rouge is arguably one of the most famous cabaret shows in the world. So, when I made my way to Paris, I inevitably decided to see the Moulin Rouge show.
There is an option to combine your show with a 3-course dinner, but we skipped this as we wanted to dine in one of the eateries outside while watching Parisian life. The dress code for the Moulin Rouge is formal as per their website, but you will be fine as long as you are not wearing shorts or trainers.
We booked the 9.00 pm show. After a few security procedures, we were escorted into a grand hall with stunning Parisian décor. It was breath-taking. We were offered a table with two other people which I found a bit annoying in the start as it obstructed my view because of the raised tables but after adjusting our seats we were fine! Moreover, we had a lovely Argentinian couple sharing the table with us and had a nice chat with them about our Parisian holiday. All’s well that ends well, I guess.
The performances, on the other hand, were nothing short of spectacular but what really had my jaw (literally) drop were the series of acrobatic performances in between the singing and dancing. It was such a great and memorable night and I would highly recommend ending your visit to Montmartre with the Moulin Rouge show!
The Eiffel Tower
How can I possibly write a blog on Paris and not mention the legendary Eiffel Tower? If you haven’t seen it before, let me tell you this: no number of pictures, videos or words can prepare you for when you see it in person.
The sheer enormity and architectural genius of this monument is exceptional.
Just like the Louvre glass pyramid, the Eiffel Tower was heavily criticised and protested by a group of prominent French artists. In fact, they signed a petition on Valentine’s Day to protest against it, by calling it “useless” and “monstrous”.
As we all know, they were eventually won over and the Eiffel Tower, today is one of the most recognised symbols in the world after (hold your breath) Mc Donald’s!
If you decide to visit the Eiffel Tower, I’d strongly recommend that you buy tickets only from the official website here.
You’ll come across a number of companies offering a “fast track” or “skip the line” ticket with a tour guide for an exorbitant amount of money, but they will not offer you anything different. To avoid long queues, you need to buy a ticket in advance from the official Eiffel Tower website and that’s your only way of getting fast-track access – other tickets don’t give you any additional or special privileges.
There are two options to go up the tower which you must choose when you buy your tickets online: you can either take the stairs or if you’ve had a long day touring and can’t be bothered, buy the lift access tickets but be prepared to wait in queues during peak times.
Eat at a restaurant at the Eiffel Tower. Instead, walk to nearby Champs De Mars and set up a picnic there with a glass of champagne. You will enjoy amazing views of the Eiffel Tower from almost every spot on this park without breaking the bank. Restaurants on the top are great but what you are essentially paying for is the view and not the food.
Your trip will not be complete if you see the Eiffel Tower once. If you go up the tower in the day, make sure you go back to see it in the night and vice versa as it will offer you two completely different experiences.
Seine River Cruise
I was most looking forward to taking a cruise by the Seine to see Paris from a different perspective.
As we took the hop on and hop off bus tour in the day, we decided to jump on the boat in the night. The starting point of the cruise is from right under the Eiffel Tower. As our cruise was about to leave, the Eiffel Tower lit up like a golden beauty and everyone on the boat was left transfixed. The tour lasted for an hour and because the Eiffel Tower twinkles every hour, we were fortunate to see her closely when she lit up again.
If you plan to take the cruise, I’d recommend the Seine River Cruise with Bateaux Parisiens due to their commentary and boat sizes. They are a reliable company and one I have used in London too.
They also offer dinner and lunch cruises so if you fancy sitting back and enjoying views of Paris with a meal, don’t let anyone stop you!
The Montparnasse Tower, I think is quite underrated. It is the second tallest skyscraper in Paris and its rooftop observation deck, in my opinion, offers the best view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.
The queue at the Montparnasse Tower was surprisingly short when you compare it to the waiting time for the Eiffel Tower. Once in, you will be taken by a lift to the 56th floor at 200 metres above the Paris skyline! If you want to capture the Eiffel Tower from a different perspective along with the city, head over to the Tour Montparnasse on the rooftop panoramic deck.
The best time to visit is sunset where you can see the skyline light up against a beautiful backdrop.
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
The Champs-Élysées is considered to be one of the most famous and beautiful avenues in the world after the Fifth Avenue in New York. Apparently, this avenue used to be the central point for top fashion designers, however, after H&M won a legal battle to put up a store on this avenue, it opened doors to many more affordable brands.
It’s a beautiful street and leads up to one of the most famous monuments of Paris – the Arc De Triomphe. I didn’t climb this but took a lot of pictures!
Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle
Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to visit this beautiful cathedral because I didn’t fully appreciate that you need to book time slots in advance on a mobile app. Highly recommend you visit but make sure (unlike me) you download the Duck The Line app on your phone (available on Apple and Android) before you go to Paris. This is how it works – you open the app when in Paris (it won’t work outside and needs internet, so you can do it from your hotel Wi-Fi) and use it to secure your line at the Notre Dame. It will clearly state your waiting time, so if it’s a long queue, use it to have a nice breakfast/lunch or a delicious hot chocolate at nearby Angelina’s Café (best hot chocolate ever), while Duck the Line waits for you. The app will alert you when it is 20/15/10 minutes before your entry time.
As I couldn’t see Notre Dame, I used the time to visit Saint Chapelle which was a 5 min walk from the Notre Dame. I wasn’t expecting much but as I entered the building, I was left speechless. It’s a 13th-century gothic chapel and has stained glass windows from the floor to ceiling. It will literally take your breath away. It’s a small attraction and queues are not too big but it’s a must visit when in Paris.
Paris is truly a gem of a city and totally lived up to my expectations. Beautiful city, amazing Parisian vibe, friendly locals and great food. I would go back in a heartbeat.
What else would you recommend doing in Paris on a short trip? Drop your comments below!