Paris is the city of lights, bohemians, philosophers, fashion, absinthe, but also of student riots, beheadings and poverty. Paris is one of those kind of cities – like NYC – that features in so many movies, you already know it before you arrive. But of course you don’t. And just like NYC even though I’ve been 5 times – I don’t know anything!
But here’s how to spend a cultural and relaxed weekend in Paris with green spots, top sights, hotel recommendation, good food spots and still avoid the ever growing mass tourism in the city of lights. Well, here’s what my sister and I did this year…
TOP SIGHTS FOR THE FIRSTTIMER
If it’s your first time in Paris you should definitely visit some of the highlights. To avoid the crowds visit early spring or late fall. And ehad for the large museum 1,5 hours before closing time.
Most first timers – for obvious reasons – go to:
- Eiffel Tower
- Notre-Dame – go higher: Gothic gargoyles! Why Notre-Dame in Paris, France is worth a trip.
- Monet’s Waterlilies at Musée del’Orangerie
- Arc de Triomphe
- Musee D’orsay
- Louvre – go deeper: More than Mona Lisa! 12 other highlights in the Louvre in Paris, France.
But this is also where everyone else goes, and you’ll most likely spend your time in a queue. If you must, you must. But if you already been a couple of times, or don’t care about the most-wanted list, this is more quiet cultural sights and museum.
- Musée de quai Branly
- Pere Lachaise Cemetrary
- Les Invalides
- New Arc de Triomphe
WHERE TO RELAX
After so much time and energy spent on museums, you need to relax and watch the French life pass you by while drinking champagne or wine or absinthe or pastis or maybe coffee… Repeat in between sights…
Sit down in a café. Sure there are a lot of other tourists, but there are even more cafées, so no problem. as long as you avoid Sartre’s favourite café Café Flore & Les Deux Magots (where I obviously had a pastis reading “Huis Clos” in 1996 on my high school tour).
Or take a stroll. Just like the high line in NYC, Paris has a promenade. We didn’t meet that many tourists, most French people jogging or walking the dog.
Paris is park – city. There are so many. I would highlight the small charming Place des Vosges, the huge Jardin des Tuileries and the relaxed Jardin des Luxembourg.
Eating is very important part of a Paris trip, and of any trip. My partner in crime for city breaks is usually my sister, who is a foodie. So I just followed her lead.
Beginning with #8 in the world: the 3-star Michelin Restaurant Arpege. Vegetables have been the centrepieces at the Arpège since 2001. In 2002, the first vegetable garden was put together .
There are two signature dishes: the “Bouquet de roses” apple tart, a tart that honours both the flower and the fruit. I usually don’t like apple tarts but it good – not too sweet. We also had the “Chaud-froid of egg with chives”. That was delicious!
We headed for lunch and had 11 servings. The lunch is 175 Euro and the dinner. A glass of champagne about 30 euro and wine 20. around Book well in advance!
The French are often happy with a small serving primarily made up of coffée, but my sister’s not.
The breakfast at our hotel (recommendation down below) was so delicious. They have soy milk, rye bread and homemade müesli. You sit in the restaurant (Michelin by the way) inside the courtyard.
Otherwise – Le Pain Quotidien is not French, but from Belgium, but it works great.
You can of course stay at the renowned Ritz Carlton, but the location is actually not that great. You can also stay way cheaper at a crappy hotel, but I already done that several times. Next time, it will probably be an AirBnB, so my earlybird of a sister can eat breakfast while I sleep.
HOTEL LA BACHAUMONT
But this time, we decided to spend a little more to stay in a central location and save transportation time. We stayed in the West end of Marais on Hotel La Bachaumont mentioned in the wallpaper guide. The rate is around 500 euro per night, but we got a huge discount for some reason.
Only 2 things could be better. I had as always written well in advance for a quiet room. Unfortunately we didn’t get that and the noise Thursday evening from the side street was quite load. But the next morning they moved us facing the courtyard, so I can’t complain about the service. But the gym was broken meaning you had to walk to another hotel – which we didn’t. But I can definitely recommend this place.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY
To get there from the airport you can take the bus (no thanks), the train, a taxi and a shuttle. We arrived in Orly and took the train since it only takes 30 minutes, but the taxi can get stuck in traffic, so calculate with 4 minutes. also there were many rumours about shuttle service that was paid and never showed up, so ask the hotel. It’s kind a the same from CDG.
You can just walk around the city, but the distances can be a bit long. And if wearing high heels, the metro is very fast – and again it will probably be faster than a taxi just like London, Bangkok etc. For the metro buy 10 tickets at once -that will save you and you’ll use about just that for two.
What’s your favourite thing about Paris?