During my semester in England, I was fortune enough to take two trips to Paris, after which it became one of my favorite European cities – the metro is extensive and easy to use, the architecture is beautiful, and the bread is…mmm.
Although I can’t provide local insight about particular cafés, restaurants, and alleys to wander around, I do have tourist experience visiting the most famous monuments and museums. If you’re studying abroad in Europe, there is a high chance that you’ll take a weekend trip to Paris and want to see these things, too. Below, I’ve grouped all of the sights and locations by their vicinity to each other in the hopes of helping you with your own itinerary-planning process.
GROUP 1: The Main Monuments
Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel)
– Going up the tower costs about 15 euros and the line is really long. The owner of a bed-and-breakfast I stayed at (La Maison Bacana) told me that it’s not worth it, and that my money would be better spent on a Seine river cruise which is about the same price (see Group 2, Notre Dame for cruise info).
– The tower lights up at sundown, and it sparkles for about 5 minutes at the beginning of each hour. Most Parisians don’t like it because they think it’s gimmicky, but I think it’s magical.
Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile
– Get under the arc via the underground pedestrian tunnel, not by crossing the traffic circle.
– It costs 8 euros to go up to the top of the arc. I haven’t gone up, but I have a friend who said it’s a beautiful panoramic view with lots of lights because it’s the center of a roundabout.
Avenue des Champes-Élysées
– The Arc de Triomphe marks the beginning of Champs Élysées, the “Rodeo Drive” of Paris. It’s lined with designer stores and nice restaurants. Don’t eat here.
– It’s a really long street that eventually takes you to the Louvre, but I would just walk down for a bit and then get on at one of the several metro stops along the street to go to your next destination.
GROUP 2: Museums & More
Notre Dame (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris)
– Free admission, open daily 8am-6:45pm (Sat/Sun to 7:15pm). I visited during Sunday mass which was cool to see.
– There is a river tour that leaves from Pont Neuf near the cathedral. It costs 10-15 euros and they have several cruises that leave throughout the day. Go there sometime in the afternoon to buy a ticket for an evening cruise. I would do the cruise on your last night as a sort of “review” of Paris.
– During the day, there are vendors along the river. I got the posters in this post somewhere around here.
The Louvre (Musée de Louvre)
– If you’re mainly going for the Mona Lisa, you won’t be in the museum for too long (relatively, that is…it still takes a while to get there in that huge, slow-moving crowd). If you want to see more, you could be there for hours or the entire day. And yes, she is quite underwhelming in person (but for some, it must be done).
– Hours: Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays from 9am-6pm. Wednesdays, Fridays from 9am-9:45pm. Tuesdays CLOSED.
– Admission: 12 euros regular admission, free on the first Sunday of each month – and I think if have a student visa (to show that you are staying in Europe for an extended period of time).
– Go early in order to beat the line to get inside (so try to make this the first item of the day).
– I sadly didn’t get to visit, but it’s a former train station that now houses impressionist art.
– Hours: Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays from 9:30am-6pm. Thursdays from 9:30am-9:45pm. Mondays CLOSED.
– Admission: 8.50 euros for 18-25 year-olds, free on the first Sunday of each month (and again, always show your student visa just in case).
GROUP 3: Paris in the Movies
– My favorite spot (out of my limited knowledge of Paris). It’s basically a hilltop and although I found it kind of tricky to get to (I think I just got distracted by a lot of shops and buildings), it’s not too hard to find. You can also pay for a ride up on the “funicular” but walking up seemed more fun to me.
– At Montmartre, you’ll find street artists, cute cafés (including Café de la Gallette, the location of Renoir’s painting of the same name), and the Sacré Coeur, a famous basilica with a great viewpoint. I think this is the Paris that Owen Wilson’s character in Midnight in Paris loves.
GROUP 4: The Palace
Versailles (Château de Versailles)
– The famous palace of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette. Tickets could be 18-25 euros depending on the type you want. I would at least get the “Passport,” which not only gives you admission to the main palace, but also other buildings/estates in the gardens. Check online to see what days are available for the ticket you want and buy in advance.
– To get there, take the C train to “Versailles – Rive Gauche” and then just follow the crowd toward the palace. I think you need a separate/ more expensive metro ticket because it’s in an outer zone of Paris.
– You can pack a picnic to eat in the famous gardens/park! However, you have to check in your bag prior to entering the palace. I arrived in the morning, checked in my stuff, completed the audio tour in the main palace, picked up my stuff, and made my way to the park (free admission) for a Parisian picnic.
– If you want to go to Versailles solely for the park and not the palace, you wouldn’t need to buy a ticket.
+ SOME FAMOUS EATS
– Macarons from Ladurée (several locations)
– Brunch at Café de Flore (172 Blvd. St-Germain)
– L’As du Fallafel (32-34 Rue de Rosiers)
– Hot chocolate at Angelina (226 Rue Rivoli)
– Ice cream at Berthillon (31 Rue St-Louis-en-l’Île)
As I said, these are general things about Paris that I’m sharing from one tourist to another. If you’re going or went on your own weekend trip to Paris, I’d love to read about whatever you picked up while you were there in the comments below!