Right now it seems like EVERYBODY is planning a trip to Paris. Well, except me. Lucky ducks.
In the time leading up to our Europe trip, I tried to soak up all the information and tips I could in the hopes of making the most of every single minute we spent overseas. So, I’ve decided to share my tips with you!
- learn the metro system. It kind of confused us at first, but once we got the hang of it, it was a really useful (and inexpensive) way to get around the city. You’ll definitely need a map of the metro system (which is included in most guidebooks) and a little patience.
- walk. Hubby and I spent hours just walking the streets and soaking up all the charm of the city. It was unlike any other city that we’ve visited and it was nice to just get out and experience it!
- taxis aren’t cheap (when are they ever, really?), but trying to navigate the metro (and all its stairs) just isn’t worth it. Unless you’re on a super tight budget, splurge for a taxi when you’ve got your luggage with you. (We took a taxi from CDG to the 7th arrondissement – right near the Mussee D’Orsay – and it cost us about 50 euros).
- lines are for suckers. We each ordered a 6-day museum pass before left Canada and were very glad that we did. We estimated that we didn’t really save ourselves any money by purchasing the pass, however, we did save a lot of time, which was just as valuable to us. We ended up using it at five different museums/attractions (Musee D’Orsay, Musee de l’armee, Arc De Triomphe, Louvre, and Versailles) and didn’t have to wait in a single line. If you’re only planning on going to a couple of museums/attractions, you may find that the passes are too pricey. Also note that if you buy a multiple-day pass, it’s only good for that many consecutive days.
want to go up the Eiffel Tower? Buy your ticket and reserve a time before you even leave for your vacation. We went at night (all the way to the top!) and found that best. You’re too high up to really see anything, but going at night lets you really experience why Paris is called the City of Light (to get a great view of the city by day, head to the top of the Arc De Triomphe or Notre Dame). Buy yourself a glass of champagne at the top. It’s way too expensive, but what’s a better time to splurge than when you’re standing on top of Paris? Another great thing to do during a nighttime visit is to grab a snack from one of the vendors at the base of the tower (or bring a bottle of wine!) and then take a seat on the grass in front of the tower to watch the impressive light show that the tower puts on every hour.
- plan out your museum visits. You could spend a whole day in the Louvre and still not see everything. What Hubby and I did was, once we got inside the museum, we grabbed a map and took a seat. We listed all of the things we wanted to see and then planned out a route. This way, we bypassed A LOT of things that didn’t really interest us and spent more time with the things that we had wanted to see (our highlights included exploring the Medieval Louvre and the Napoleon Apartments, seeing The Coronation of Napoleon, The Raft of the Medusa, The Lacemaker, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, and The Venus de Milo).
- make sure to visit Versailles. It’s a great, easy day trip from Paris. It will get you out of the city for a little while, and it’s fun to explore the palace. The most fun that Hubby and I had though was renting bikes and exploring the gardens. It was relaxing, inexpensive, and such saved us so much walking.
EATING AND DRINKING
- before we left we were told that we had to have dinner at Kitchen Galleries Bis (KGB for short). Reservations are a must and it’s pretty expensive, however, it was the best meal I’ve ever eaten. If you go, try the “Discovery Menu”. The chef will ask you if you have any food allergies or aversions and then they prepare and serve you a multi-course meal. Appetizers, a meat dish, a fish dish, and a dessert. You won’t be disappointed by this meal. We ate here 7 months ago and we’re still talking about this dinner. We finished off a bottle of wine with our meal and took a tipsy nighttime stroll through the lively streets back to the apartment. It was a magical night.
- enjoy the cafes. Our first dining experience in France was a tiny cafe a few blocks from the apartment. We stopped for a bite to eat right after dropping our bags off in the apartment. Hubby ordered a “steak” and got a hamburger patty topped with a fried egg and french fries. I ended up with roast chicken in a mushroom gravy. Yes, sometimes the menus can be a little confusing and you don’t get what you expected, but that’s part of the whole charm. Don’t forget to act like the Parisians and sit beside your sweetheart, and not across from them!
- be adventurous. Try things that you wouldn’t normally eat at home. We tried escargots and foie gras. So much about France has to do with the food, so I urge you to jump in with both feet!
- if you’re into food, take a trip to Rue Cler. The food shops here are amazing. My advice would be to go the day before you want to visit Versailles and assemble a picnic lunch for yourselves (Versailles will let you bring in a picnic lunch to eat in the gardens). The cheese shops are unreal.
- buy the cheap wine at the grocery store, it’s delicious. I’m in no way a wine connoisseur, but I have drunk enough of it in my life to know what tastes good and what’s hard to swallow. Buy the 4 euro bottles of Bordeaux. You won’t be disappointed.
- get a bowl of the best French onion soup at Au Pied du Cochon. We knew that we wanted to grab a bowl of soup here so we spent our morning at Le Louvre and then walked here for lunch. It was a good walk through a different part of the city, which was exciting, and the soup and creme brulee were to die for. The only warning I have is that you get A LOT of soup, so come hungry.
- take advantage of Paris’ great city parks and take a minute to unwind. We loved spending time in the Jardin des Tuileries sitting on a bench and reading our guide books or strolling through and enjoying the shade of the trees. I’ve also heard that the Jardin du Luxembourg is a great place to relax. You are on vacation after all.
- pack your manners. Upon entering a shop greet the shopkeeper with a friendly “bonjour” and don’t forget “au revoir” when you leave. S’il vous plait and merci also go a long way. If you master these four words, you’ll be set.
- don’t make yourself a target. Pickpockets are unfortunately everywhere so always be aware of your surroundings.