People near and far always ask me about what to do in Paris. Below I shed some advice. My last trip was in June 2018 where I introduced my husband to France for the first time. It was amazing. I have shared these tips with many friends and hope you enjoy them too.
NEIGHBORHOODS: Neighborhoods in Paris are all so different and it’s very important to understand how Paris is organized to get a feel of them all. Paris is all designed by “arrondissements”. Those are the neighborhoods, they start with 1 and end in 19. You are staying in the 7th (french say “septieme”. Most of the touristy stuff is in 1,2,3,4,5. The arrondissements are separated by the Seine river in the middle. Paris neighborhoods are often classified by “rive gauche” or “rive droite” (right bank / left bank). Also important to know about the Eiffel Tower is that when it first came up – no one liked it! They thought it was an eyesore! Parisians used to sit under the Eiffel Tower because that was the only place you could see the skyline without having it interrupted by the Eiffel Tower.
You MUST picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. In the 7th there are lots of farmers markets (it’s the law to have one in every arrondisement) so go to a boulangerie and get some baguette, get some cheese, get some wine, and enjoy! Rue Cler has vendors and cute restaurants, i have been to Tribeca and it was pretty good.
MARAIS: most beautiful neighborhood of Paris . Here are some food recommendations in the Marais: dinner at Chez Janou. It’s a Provençal typical french food place. Fast casual dining at Minzon. The chef is from Tel Aviv. Get the falafel and giant cauliflower. Les Philosophes has great french onion soup and is a typical cafe lunch that is good. Also casual is L’as du Falafel best falafel in Europe. To see : shopping (Bensimmon store for French girl sneakers), Comptoir des Cotonniers is my favorite women’s fashion store, place des Vosges for an afternoon nap, walk to notre dame. Berthillon on Île de la Cite near Notre Dame. Best ice cream in Paris. Tip – lots of places sell Berthillon. Don’t be a hero and go to the original spot.
11TH ARR: Now – where we stayed was about 15-20 Min walk from Le Marais and more up and coming. It is the 11th arrondisement. It is called Goncourt or Oberkampf or Bastille neighborhood. We LOVED these two wine bars. You go there to get a little small plate or cheese or charcuterie and organic wine. One is called La Buvette. The other is called Septime La Cave. Go there around 7. Also for more fancy food (seafood) inspired by the Basque Country – one of the best chefs in Paris right now – le Dauphin. It is next To his Michelin star restaurant Le Chateaubriand but it is more casual. There is also a to-go wine store next door for wines to bring back to the US. At le Dauphin you don’t have to eat a full meal. Me and nick got lots of wine and apps and our total was only $50. Razor clams. So good.
SAINT-GERMAIN (5th): This is where the Sorbonne is and all of the famous universities in Paris. Very well known for the famous French academics. Very charming area for a stroll. Le Comptoir is a delicious restaurant and known as a more “casual dining” place (although French restaurants always seem fancy to me!). Very typical French bistro with delicious food.
MONTMARTRE (18th): This is where the movie Amélie was filmed. The famous Sacre-Coeur church is worth a visit. Touristy but very cute neighborhood. On top of a huge hill, beware!
FOOD YOU MUST EAT: steak frites, croissant aux amandes, croissant au beurre (the only kind of croissant to order!), pain au chocolat, roasted chicken (they sell this in food carts on the streets with potatoes), sauces “au beurre” or “beurre blanc” ex/ fish dishes like sole meuniere (very light and delicious butter sauce), cassoulet (south of france favorite), pot au feu (beef stew)
There are lots of museums to see. It can be overwhelming. The Louvre is HUGE and most people who go there skip through to the most famous things (Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, etc). I don’t normally recommend going unless you really want to see something in particular. You can see the famous/controversial pyramid
and the architecture of the Louvre from the outside at the Jardin des Tuileries (covered in the Fat Tire Bike tour below). However my favorite museum in Paris
is the Musée D’Orsay. It is a former train station and houses mostly impressionist art from famous Frenchies during the time when everything was happening in Paris
. Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso they were chilling in Montmartre drinking absinthe, picking up ladies and painting masterpieces. There is a café at the top level that looks over this amazing clock. The building is fantastical. Similarly, the Orangerie is amazing. It was a private collection of a Parisian
socialite named Paul Guillaume. He was buds with Albert Barnes of the Barnes Museum in Philadelphia, Nick’s favorite 🙂 This is a much smaller museum and also houses impressionist favorites. I have lots of other museum recommendations (Rodin museum is probably the most romantic place i’ve ever been to, Picasso museum, etc.) but I recommend picking only one or two as there is so much else to see.
: love Fat Tire Bike Tours
. It’s an American company that was founded by a couple of guys from Austin. My friend used to work at the Paris
location (they also have a tour in Barcelona but I have only done the Paris
one). It’s a bike tour that gives you history of the city but it’s mostly all English speakers, and the tour guides are really funny. You get to see all the highlights – which is why I recommend doing this on the first day so you get the lay of the land and then you can focus on the things the tour didn’t cover for the rest of your time. I also strongly recommend going on the Bateaux Moche. These are the boats by the Seine river that give you a quick tour and narrate as you go. There are many different companies that offer these tours and it’s pretty cheap. Finally, another really cool thing we did was download the App Detour
, which is a startup company recently purchased by Bose. They offer walking tours of different neighborhoods. I loved these tours because they are off the beaten path and let you see things you wouldn’t normally see. You use earbuds and you can sync the tour with any travel companions you have so you can stay in sync. We did one about the Canal Saint Martin which was really cool and focused on artists and start-ups in the neighborhood. We also did one about the resistors and artists in Paris
during WWII and walked all along the louvre.
: we always recommend Airbnb. I have stayed in many apartments and I have never had a bad experience. We loved our neighborhood this trip in the 11th and never wanted to leave (linking to our place here
). I am including a link for $30 off your first stay here
HOURS: It is important to note that meal times are very strict. They don’t serve food outside certain hours. So lunch is 12-2 and dinner is 7-11 pm. Normally aperitif is 7-9. The trouble Americans get in is that they expect restaurants to serve food all day long like in the US. Mealtimes are highly respected in France as this is central to their culture. If you have some place you would really like to go make sure they are open, as restaurants are usually open five days a week and there are no consistent open days.
OTHER TIPS: never sit next to the door on the metro (people will grab your bag and run off the train as the doors close). Beware of people who will try to pick pocket you especially during rush hour. They also will ask you if you lost a ring or to sign a paper at every tourist spot. Do not be fooled. French people would never talk to strangers ! They are trying to pick pocket you. For subway get a “carnet” of 10 tickets. You won’t use a metro pass because the best way to see everything is walking. We never took a cab or Uber because the metro is so great. Definitely screenshot the subway map or have a physical copy in your hands because it can be confusing.
I recommend the book “The New Paris” by Lindsay Tramuta
. She is a former Philadelphian and Temple grad that relocated to Paris many moons ago. I used a lot of her recommendations during my trip and I also enjoyed learning about what has changed in the past few years.