Ah, Paris. Or, Parigi, as the Italians say. Even the 40 degrees and rainy weather couldn’t destroy this city’s magical charm. Late in March of this year, I was lucky enough to snag a €60 RyanAir flight from Rome to Paris’ ORLY airport. Luckily enough, I happened to have a good friend from college studying abroad in Paris who was nice enough to let me crash on her couch. Not only did she know all the best restaurants, museums and bars (American girls have to celebrate St. Patty’s day, even if it’s in France), but she is also almost fluent in French, a very valuable trait for someone who can’t even pronounce “Bonjour.” However, if you’re not lucky enough to have a Becca waiting to show you around Paris, hopefully this guide can give you some of the insider info to make the most of your time in the city of love!
A short French lesson
Whenever I travel to a new country, I always like to learn a few words of that country’s language. It makes getting around a little easier and, honestly, just seems like the polite thing to do. Here are a few basic French words to learn that will make your time in Paris a little smoother and the locals a little nicer.
Good morning/good day: Bonjour (bon-zhoor)
Good evening: Bon soir (bon-swar)
Goodbye: Au revoir (oh ruh-vwar)
Excuse me/sorry: Excusez-moi (ex-koo-zay mwah)
How are you?: Comment allez-vous? (kom-mohn tah-lay voo)
How much?: Combien? (comb-beeyen)
I don’t understand: Je ne comprends pas (jhuhn kom-prohn pah)
My name is…: Je m’appelle (juh mah-pell)
Please: S’il vous plait (seel voo play)
Thank you: Merci (mare-see)
No: Non (nohn)
Yes: Oui (wee)
Check/bill: L’addition (la dee see oon)
Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous anglais? (par-lay voo zon-glay)
A girl’s gotta eat…
Don’t leave Paris without trying these famous and delicious Parisian foods!
Usually served with potatoes and bread, Duck Confit is one of the most iconic meals in Paris. The Duck is prepared perfectly, so it’s tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. Combined with a delicious glass of French wine, this was one of my best meals in Paris.
For me, macaroons are the very definition of the phrase “do it for the Insta.” Although I did enjoy the delicious macaroons at Ladurée, I would much rather have a chocolate sundae smothered in cookie dough and brownie bits. But let’s be honest, food doesn’t get more photogenic than macaroons. And Ladurée is a must-see in Paris!
Is there anything more French than holding a cheese filled crepe in front of Notre Dame? Street vendors sell them all over the city for €3-6. Different vendors offer different fillings, but some of the most popular ones include nutella, bananas, cheese and caramel (mine was filled with ham and cheese).
Angelina’s Hot Chocolate
Unfortunately, we weren’t the only tourists who craved a hot chocolate on a freezing day in March. Even though we arrived at Angelina’s at an odd time, around 3:00 pm, the wait was too long for us to sit and enjoy their famous hot chocolate in the darling Angelina’s teacups. Instead, we opted to get a cup to-go at the outdoor stand. Whether you’re like us and just looking for a pick-me-up in the cold, or hoping for a sit down meal, Angelina’s is a must-visit in Paris. Make sure to make a reservation!
If you never ordered creme brûlée and obnoxiously took a flash picture of it in the restaurant, did you even go to Paris?
Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it! Escargot are delicious, and you can find them on the appetizer menu at most Parisian restaurants. Just try not to think about the fact that they’re snails…
Don’t make the mistake I did when visiting The Louvre. We arrived around 4:00 pm on a Saturday, only two hours before the museum closed. We barely had enough time to see even the most famous masterpieces: The Mona Lisa, Vénus de Milo, Victoire de Samothrace (Winged Victory) and the Chevaux de Marly. Next time I visit Paris, I plan to put aside a whole day to visit The Louvre. Travel Tip: If you’re studying abroad and between the ages of 18-25, bring your European student ID and you’ll be admitted for free!
You knew this one was coming. The tower is Paris’ most famous monument by a landslide and is always near or at the top of most tourist’s to-do lists. While traveling, I have noticed that many of the most famous sites get hyped up and ultimately end up being underwhelming when you finally do lay eyes on them (The Statue of Liberty is WAY smaller than I imagined). The Eiffel Tower is not one of these sites. I first glimpsed the tower on the cab ride from the airport, when I was still a good 15-20 minutes away from the city. It’s every bit as enormous and beautiful as you imagine it will be. And if you think it’s stunning in the daytime, just wait until you see it at night. The tower is lit up all night every night, but each hour (until 1:00 or 2:00 am) the lights sparkle for five minutes. There’s always men walking around the tower at this time selling wine and champagne so grab a blanket and enjoy one of the most spectacular sights in Europe!
If you can’t get enough of this magnificent tower from the ground, head to the line and purchase a ticket to ride to the top! The best times to do this are during the off-season, or between the months of September-May. If you must visit the tower in the summer, choose a cloudy/rainy day and expect to wait in line for a while. There are many different ticket options to explore the tower. Being our first time in Paris, we chose to buy tickets that would allow us to ride the elevator half-way up, give us time to explore, and then take another elevator all the way up to the top (not my best idea being terrified of heights). Unfortunately, even on a freezing, cloudy day in March the lines were ridiculous and we ended up only having enough time to go half-way up the tower.
If you’re looking to do some shopping in one of the most fashionable cities in the world, look no further than the Champs Elysees. Home to some of the greatest restaurants, cafés, theaters and luxury shops in Paris, it is also the location of the annual Bastille Day parade and the finish line of the Tour de France. Stroll all the way down the Champs Elysees and you’ll come to the famous Arc de Triomphe, another of Paris’ most popular attractions.
Arc de Triomphe
Located at the end of the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe honors France’s fallen soldiers during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Visitors can actually pay a small fee to climb the 40 stairs to the top of the Arc (€8 for adults, €5 for students). Unfortunately, my flight back to Rome left a few hours later and we didn’t have time to go inside the Arc. But however you want to explore it, the Arc de Triomphe is well worth a visit.
Notre Dame (& Paris Point Zero)
Traveling Europe for almost five months, I’ve seen a lot of old churches. Exploring Notre Dame during a service was by far the best. Light streamed into the church from all the stained glass windows while the congregation sang. It was beautiful in almost an eerie type of way. After exploring for quite some time, the church is free to enter, we took some obnoxious pictures outside and then went home to stream The Hunchback of Notre Dame on Netflix. Day well spent.
While we were being obnoxious with the selfie stick (yet again) a local approached us and told us we were standing only feet from Paris Point Zero, or the Bronze Star. It is the point from where everything in Paris is measured, essentially the center of the city. This particular local told us that standing on it meant that someday we would return to Paris, although doing some research online suggested countless other superstitions related to the star.
Shakespeare and Co.
Although not one of the better known sites in Paris, visiting Shakespeare and Co. was one of the highlights of my trip. A blackboard outside gives visitors the history of the store. The owner has kept the shop running for 50 years and the inside is stuffed floor to ceiling with books of every genre. Although officially an English bookstore, they sell books in every language. When you purchase a book, they stamp the inside of it with their logo so you’ll always remember where it came from.
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica located at the highest point in Paris, the Butte Montmartre. The church is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, from it’s lawn, you can see some of the best views of Paris (Eiffel Tower in the background).
…snag a quick and delicious brunch at Hardware Société while you’re in the area.
Writing this article has given me a sad, nostalgic feeling for my few days in the city of love. Hopefully my local friend outside of Notre Dame was right and the Bronze Star will someday bring me back to Paris. Although it’s possible to see many of the sites in only three days, it’s not even close to enough time to explore everything this wonderful city has to offer.