"Paris is always a good idea". Even if you're only given 24 hours to explore the City of Love and Lights.
When I tell people my extraordinary husband swept me away for a weekend in Paris, I always get the same response: "WHAT?! Why?" (click here to find out why), followed by "Did you see everything you wanted to?"
Well, everything we thought we could see in a day, we saw in a day. But there's a bunch of things we wanted to see that we knew we wouldn't have time for, which gives us a reason to go back very soon.
Here's a layout of what we did during our 24 hours in Paris and what you should see that we couldn't if somehow you pull a miracle and get all this done with time to spare.
10:00am - Rue Cler
Your first stop in Paris obviously has to be THE Eiffel Tower. But you're going to need to munch on something French, like a croissant or a street crepe, while gazing upon the Iron Lady. This will surely make your Parisian experience the most Parisian it can be. So on your way to the Eiffel Tower, take a stroll down Rue Cler. It's this quaint little cobblestone street lined with adorable little French bakeries, cheese shops, small restaurants, and boutiques. Be sure to grab a street crepe here. They make them right in front of you within like 30 seconds and fold it all up so it's easy to eat on the go.
11:00am - Eiffel Tower
Assuming it's your first time in Paris, like it was mine, there's no doubt the Eiffel Tower is on your to-do list. If it wasn't, it'd be like saying you're having a grilled cheese, but without the cheese. So... you're just having toast? It just doesn't make sense. So get on over the Eiffel Tower and have at it! It looks beautiful from afar, but be sure to walk right up to it and right below it. The architecture is a beaut.
1:00pm - Pont des Arts
Ahh, love is in the air. I'm sure by now you've heard about the "Love Lock" bridge. The famous Paris Love Lock Bridge is technically called "Pont des Arts" or translated, the "Art Bridge". If you haven't heard of it, it's a bridge where couples attach padlocks to the railings of the bridge, often with their names written on the locks to signify their commitment to one another, and then throw away the key into the Seine river below. Although uber cliché, I think it's romantic- polluting the river as a declaration of love. Speaking of cliché- Matt and I didn't add a lock to the bridge because our love can't be defined by a lock and a key. Also because we didn't have a lock and key and didn't want to spend €20 on one from the guy on the corner of the street only to toss it away into the river.
It's also become this huge trend for tourists to do this. So much so, that it had added too much weight onto the bridge to be safe. The city has removed all the grates from the bridge for safety reasons, but they've left a small section on the south end of the bridge untouched, so us tourists can still check The Love Lock Bridge off our list.
1:30pm - Le Louvre
Being an art enthusiast and the occasional artist myself, visiting the world's most famous art museum was definitely on our list of places to hit up. It was incredible to see the ACTUAL paintings that I studied in school- surreal actually. You could spend the entire day here if you wanted to. There's definitely enough things to see. It's HUGE. We went in with the idea of only seeing the few things we wanted to see and then getting out and moving onto the next thing on our list, but of course we couldn't help but wander a bit. Truth be told, we got sucked in to the amazement of it all and spent a bit more time there than we had planned. You'll understand when you get there though- there's no way you'd be able to walk by these ginormous beautiful paintings without stopping.
3:30pm - Notre Dame
I watched the Hunchback of Notre Dame a countless number of times during my childhood so naturally we had to check out where Quasimodo lived. The detail and architecture of this building is stunning. We got there too late, but they allow you to climb to the top of the Notre Dame and I'm sure the view is breathtaking from all the way up there, but I can't tell you for sure because we didn't get a chance to see it. If you do though, let me know how it is! Just be sure to go before 16:00 because that's when they stop letting people go up.
5:30pm - Champs-Elysées
This world famous boulevard has been named "la plus belle avenue du monde", or "the world's most beautiful avenue". It is known for its long stretch of cafes, luxury stores, theatres, and restaurants. It's a beautiful walk to say the least, and there are plenty of potential pit stop options all along the way. Take a nice long stroll, stop for a croissant, and enjoy the Parisian view.
6:30pm - Louis Vuitton Flagship Store
Along your stroll down Champs Elysées, why not stop in on one of the gorgeous luxury stores? Many designers are based out of France, and Louis Vuitton in particular, has their flagship store in Paris. Although you may not want to drop $30,000 on a handbag, it's an interesting experience.
7:30pm - Ladurée
Neither of us had ever had a macaron before visiting Paris. We popped our macaron cherries with the very best from the famous Ladurée in Paris. I don't think it can get any better than that. Because we had never had them before, we weren't expecting much- maybe like a mash up between a cake and an oreo or something. So we bought 2 each to try. Then we immediately went back to buy more. They're DELICIOUS. The little boutique bakery is also unbearably adorable. I just wanted to stand in there and stare at the their decor and the people and the delicious treats, it's all so perfect. It's like candy for your mouth AND your eyes.
9:00pm - Arche de Triomphe
Both the Arche de Triomphe itself and the view from the top of the Arche de Triomphe is breathtaking. Now first things first: you've got to get there. It's in the middle of a giant roundabout with traffic lights and crosswalks everywhere, so Matt and I just walked around the roundabout, stopping at each traffic light and crossing each crosswalk, looking for a way to get to the Arche de Triomphe, which we assumed would be another crosswalk. We figured that if we kept walking, we would eventually find one that leads us there. Until we didn't. Turns out, there are a bunch of subway-looking underground entrances that take you into a tunnel that leads to the Arche de Triomphe...
When you eventually get there, the first thing you'll see is the outside of the arch. This is where the names of generals and battles fought during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars are engraved- all along the outside of the arch. The tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I lies beneath the vault of the arch, where the Memorial flame burns. This time of the night is a perfect time to visit the Arche de Triomphe because the way they've designed the lighting to display the sculptures and engravings of the arch is incredible.
Then off you go into the arch! Get ready for a workout. The narrow, spiral stairs that shoot straight up into the arch is what you're gonna have to climb if you want to reach that unbelievable view of Paris from the very top. When you think you're there, you're not. It just keeps going. It keeps going so much that there are break sections. Like little platforms off the side every now and then for you to step off the stairs and out of the way to catch your breath. But I promise you, it's all worth it once you get to the top.
11:00pm: Dinner at Minipalais
You know how all the movies about food, restaurants, and chefs like "Ratatouille" and "The Hundred-Foot Journey" are set in France? And how fine foods and Michelin Stars are much more common in France than here in North America? Well here's your chance to munch on some of that fine French food without having to pay that fine French price.
Mini Palais, found inside Grand Palais (clever right?), serves a menu designed by chef royalty Eric Frechon, a 3 Michelin Star chef from the famous restaurant Epicure at the Hotel Bristol in Paris. This menu is carried out by is protégé, Stephane d'Aboville, and is nothing short of delightful. The perfect end to a perfect day.
Here's a layout of our route and all the above mentioned stops to help put things into perspective:
If you're Superman and manage to get through all of the above in a single day AND still have enough energy to explore some more, here are some ideas that we have left on our list for the next time we're in town.
The artistic district where historical artists, poets, and writers, such as Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh, once lived.
Le Moulin Rouge
Located near Montmartre, in Pigalle, is the most well-known cabaret in the world, famous for the can-can dance and of course from the movie "Moulin Rouge".
La Basilique de Sacré Coeur
This basilica sits at the top of a hill in Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Apparently it's quite a hike up the hill, but the view of the city is totally worth it. Or so they say.
There's this cute little paper archive that I came across on my girl, Messy Nessy's blog. She talks about this small, narrow, quaint store that sells old newspapers, magazines, and documents. I can almost smell the vintage when I read about it here.
Hotel des Invalides
Here lies Napoleon.