Let me start by saying that Paris is one of the most overwhelming cities that you might visit. Paris needs a minimum of 4 days to ensure that you have touched upon some of the main highlights.
A good plan is a must to make the most out of your visit!
For first time visitors, this suggested 2 days (laid back) itinerary should be an excellent start for your holiday in the city of lights, where you will acquaint yourself more with the city and – most of all – the metro system!
A general rule when you arrive at any city, spend your first day (if you are arriving mid day or in the evening) exploring your neighbourhood: find the nearest supermarket, cafe, metro station, etc.
So with this in mind, let’s kick off the first day…
Start your day with a visit to the Sacre Coeur (metro station: Anvers).
Apart from the stunning church interior (make sure you spend enough time inside to appreciate this piece of art), sitting outside the church on the stairs that lead up to it is one of the most enjoyable things that you will do in Paris. A great opportunity for people watching, and you might be lucky to see some amazing street musicians. But above all, you will enjoy a beautiful view of Paris from the top! Make sure you grab your pain au chocolat while you chill on those stairs and savour the atmosphere.
A word of caution:
Bear in mind that this area is pretty touristic, and hence huge crowds, higher possibility of pick pockets and overpriced restaurants and shops. So avoid getting your souvenirs from this area. However, one place of interest for chocolate lovers is Maison Georges LARNICOL, aptly titled as the chocolate museum! An excellent place to treat yourself to some high quality chocolate, macarons and pastry. Great place to get your friends some sweet gifts too.
Once you have had your fill of the Sacre Coeur, continue climbing up to Montmartre, the art village of Paris! As a photographer, I would say that this is one of the best places for street photography in the city. Extremely charming and colorful houses, cafe’s, shops and art galleries. There’s a very Parisian feel to this place. As you get further into the neighbourhood you will notice less and less tourists. Sip on your coffee in one of those little cafe’s and maybe later have your portrait painted by one of the professional artists on the street.
Time for lunch:
For lunch you can head to the Opera (metro station: Opera).
One of the busiest squares, packed with high end stores, cafe’s and restaurants. A very busy part of town with the Opera house right in the middle looking magnificent amidst all the hustle and bustle of the city. There are plenty of choices for lunch. Here are my personal suggestions:
Hippopotamus for the best steaks in town (extremely popular and hip)
Caffe Concerto for excellent Italian food (owned by a Napolitan family)
Moutarde Street for premium burgers (one of the best I tried in Europe)
Now it is time to come face to face with the Eiffel Tower! Head to the French icon by late afternoon (metro station: Champs de Mars, Bir Hakiem or Trocadero but I suggest the first as it is closer to the tower)
The best time to really see the Eiffel Tower is early evening when the lights are on. However, I suggest you start late afternoon when the sun has not yet set so you can also enjoy the surrounding area before it gets dark! If you didn’t have dessert after lunch then this is your chance to grab a heavenly Nutella and banana crepe from one of the stalls near the tower (they’re all overpriced but we don’t really have a much of a choice here except if you already brought your dessert with you), and eat in the Champs de Mars park right under the tower. Glorious view and a lovely way to chill!
While in Champ de Mars, it will be difficult to get the whole tower in view on your camera except if you are using an extremely wide angle lens! For a better view of the tower from a distance (my favorite to watch the tower all lit up), is Trocadero. Only a 5 minutes walk from the tower. This is where you will get the best view and the best selfie with the Eiffel.
At the top:
Thinking of going to the top of the Eiffel tower? Here are a couple of things to consider: the extremely long queues to get the ticket and your choice of lift or stairs. If you are considering getting to the top via the lift, please buy your ticket online. Buying the ticket on the spot guarantees unbelievably long queues! But if you are considering going up via the stairs, you can do so on the spot as the queue here is obviously much shorter and the ticket is cheaper. It is only a 704 steps climb to the second level if you are feeling fit enough (1700 steps climb to the very top of the tower if you are up to the challenge)!
To end the day on a good note, head to the Champs Elysee (metro station: Charles de Gaule Etoile) for a walk in this fancy street and maybe have a hearty meal at an equally fancy restaurant (if your budget permits). Alternatively you can stay in the Eiffel tower area and take a cruise in the Seine to discover the beautiful banks of the river. It is a joy to watch the city all lit up.
I have two options for you to spend the morning of your second day in the city.
The Louvre museum. This one is for major art and history buffs. And honestly it is for almost anyone who enjoys art in general. Just beware that once you are in you will not be able to get out for at least 4 hours if not more (the first and only time I visited the museum I spent 7 hours inside and there was still plenty to see). The museum is huge and is so rich in material, it won’t be easy to just go in for a quick look and come out the other end. So unless and until you are ready to dedicate a major part of your day to art, don’t go there for the heck of it. Check the opening and closing days of the museum in advance so you are not disappointed on the day you decide to visit. There are restaurants and cafes in the lower ground floor so you won’t starve after your art overdose!
Take a nice picnic in Jardin du Luxembourg. This is for a laid back start of the day. In this beautiful sixty acres of land, you can have a memorable picnic with your friends or even on your own. Buy a baguette from the nearest bakery, your favorite cheese, red grapes maybe and any other items that you would want to have in your breakfast. Need I mention that the park has plenty of photo opportunities for all you shutter bugs?
Next up is the Notre Dame de Paris. A must-see when in Paris although many can argue that it is not the most beautiful church in the city. Yet, it is worth a visit! (it is like visiting Cairo and having to go see the Pyramids of Giza)
Once you are done with the Gothic church, you can pass by the famous Shakespeare and Co. bookstore. I won’t brag much about it here but check out this link to know more. I would say this is a must for any book worm – A MUST!
Head to the Latin Quarter, one of the most visited areas of Paris, the charming St. Michel square (metro station: St. Michel). One of the gems of this city! This is where you will find the famous St. Michel fountain, the Sorbonne university, Pantheon, countless cafe’s and restaurants – it is the go-to place for Parisians as well as tourists, especially during the evening when it is the liveliest! You will spend plenty of time in this neighbourhood, I promise, and you will be happy you did.
Whatever you decide t do, never rush to see everything (believe you will never be able to see everything in one visit). You will end up soar, and you won’t have enough of anything. So take your time and delight in the beauty of this eclectic city.
Would love to hear your suggestions and recommendations too! So leave a comment 🙂