Paris… cobbled laneways, stunning architecture, and immaculately dressed Parisians riding effortlessly through the streets... the rich history, breathtaking art, and boulangeries and patisseries that look like they belong in a Wes Anderson film. It’s safe to say I fell completely in love with this divine city.
My fondest memories of Paris are by far the simplest; an early morning walk along the Seine river with a fresh pastry in hand, seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time peeking through the beautiful parisian buildings, purchasing fresh produce at our local fruit shop, and watching the sunset by the river to the sound of buskers performing quintessential Parisian tunes.
After spending a week exploring this beautiful city with my husband Mike, I thought I’d put together a little curated guide to the places and sights we discovered and loved!
I’m no expert on Paris, but if you have a question or know of an amazing place that I should add to my list, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!
PS: You can also find a custom Google map at the end of this post with all my recommendations bookmarked for easy reference. ☺
NEIGHBOURHOODS (a few of our favourites)
Paris is made up of twenty arrondissements in the form of a clockwise spiral. They are often likened to a snail shell spiralling out from the north bank of the Seine, each with their own individual charm and beauty. Here are a few of our favourites:
One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Paris. Home to the sweetest patisseries, boulangeries, sidewalk cafes and beautiful boutique clothing stores. We stayed at the Hotel de l'universite just a few streets back from the river Seine and a short stroll to the Louvre Museum and Notre-Dame Cathedral. The streets in this neighbourhood are pretty close to perfect and we really loved staying here.
Le Marais was another one of our favourite neighbourhoods in Paris. It’s one of the city’s oldest and most fascinating areas, filled with historic charm, parisian cobblestone streets and boutique shops. The modern restaurants and cafes with a love for good coffee, reminded us a lot of the Melbourne cafe scene. See the food section below for a few of our recommendations.
Home to the Eiffel Tower, the 7th Arrondissement is another neighbourhood not to be missed! We made our way down Rue Cler, one of the best market streets in Paris, picked up a selection of fruit, cheese and fresh baguette, and had the perfect picnic in the gardens surrounding the Eiffel Tower. Lovely!
The Arc de Triomphe stands proudly in the 8th arrondissement. Built by French Emperor Napoleon to commemorate his military victories, the Arc de Triomphe is located over well known traffic circle, Place Charles de Gaulle. I recommend climbing the Arc de Triomphe for the most stunning views of Paris (that includes the Eiffel Tower).
Ile de la Cité
Ile de la Cité is the island in the centre of the Seine river and home to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. It is the centre of Paris and the location where the medieval city was refounded. We witnessed many amazing sunsets from this beautiful location.
High on a hill over-looking Paris, Montmartre is home to the famous Basilica du Sacré Coeur and the quaint artists district. It was quite a distance from where we were staying so we hired a few street-side bikes and explored the surrounding neighbourhoods along the way.
FOOD & COFFEE
Josephine Boulangerie & Patisserie
Only a few minutes walk from our hotel was our favourite boulangerie and patisserie, that had the most amazing pain aux raisins. It was only logical that we visited Josephine’s every morning for fresh breakfast pastries. ☺
GREAT coffee, breakfast and a beautiful shop front.
The oldest and might I say cutest sweet shop in Paris. Famous for its waffles, French butter caramels and homemade marshmallows.
L’éclair de Génie
L’éclair de Génie is a boutique éclair store in the Marais district that has reinvented the classic éclair. We tried the passion fruit with raspberry, dark chocolate, mascarpone salted butter caramel and raspberry with fig. SO good!
Merci is nestled in the heart of the historic quarter of Paris known as the Haut Marais, and has the perfect combination of homewares, clothing and furniture, spread over three picture perfect floors. Add to that two cafes, with fabulous fresh and beautiful food and a stunning yet cosy cafe featuring floor to ceiling book shelves. A must visit if you’re in the area.
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte is known for the best ‘steak frittes’ in Paris. This was on my list of places to visit and we happened to stumble across it on our first night in Paris after a 20+ hour journey from Australia.
For the ultimate cheese plate visit Fromagerie Sanders, a family-run fromagerie in the Marché Saint Germain. Mike and I didn't have time to visit this place but it’s on the top of our list for next time as it was highly recommended.
With labels like "pastry provocateur", "avant-garde pastry chef” and “a magician with tastes" a Pierre Herme Boutique is a must visit for a delicious and perhaps out of the ordinary sweet treat. He truly has a way with flavours. Divine macarons like olive oil and vanilla (so good!), apricot and pistachio, and matcha green tea and black sesame. One of my favourite macaron flavours is the lychee, raspberry and rose, also known as Ispahan. The Ispahan croissant and macaron are a must!
A few others that we didn’t have time to visit:
(my schedule was a little ambitious for 5 days… there were countless food places that I wanted to visit but not enough meals in the day ☺)
SIGHTS TO SEE
Place Des Vosges
Built by Henri IV in 1612, the Place des Vosges is the oldest planned square in Paris and one of the finest in the city. It is located in the Marais district, and it straddles the dividing-line between the 3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris. The square is lined with beautiful chestnut trees and surrounded by symmetrical Parisian apartments. For us it was the perfect spot to relax in the sun, people watch, and enjoy a coffee and eclairs from L’éclair de Génie.
‘Le Marais’ Neighbourhood (for shopping)
Le Marais is one of the city’s oldest and most fascinating areas, filled with historic charm and parisian cobblestone streets. Explore streets Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Rue des Rosiers and their surrounding streets for beautiful shop fronts and boutique stores.
A few of our favourites:
Home Autour du Monde Francs Bourgeois - a fabulous homewares and design store.
Diptyque - if you are a lover of candles, this store is a must.
Ofr - a little further north is this delightful magazine and bookstore.
COS - a favourite clothing store of mine.
L’éclair de Génie - Boutique éclair store.
Meert - Oldest and might I say cutest sweet shop in Paris.
L'As Du Fallafel - locals have declared this place to have the best falafel in Paris.
The Musée de l'Orangerie
This little museum is an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, located in the west corner of the Tuileries garden. It is home to 8 famous waterlily paintings by Claude Monet (I could have stayed and stared at them for hours, although Mike didn’t quite feel the same way ☺).
Have a picnic in the gardens surrounding the Eiffel Tower
We made our way down Rue Cler, one of the best market streets in Paris, picked up a selection of fruit, cheese and fresh baguette, and had a picnic in the Champ de Mars with the perfect view of the iron lady. Another amazing and popular viewing spot of the Eiffel Tower is across the river at the Palais de Chaillot.
The Musée Rodin is a museum dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin and his most famous piece ‘The Thinker’. I loved our time here, exploring the gardens, viewing the sculptures, watching art students paint and draw, and gushing over ‘The Hôtel Biron’, the stunning building on the grounds. Be sure to visit this beautiful museum if only for an hour or two. It’s so worth it and is quite close to the Eiffel Tower.
The Louvre is one of the world's largest museums and is a historic monument and central landmark of the city. If it’s your first time to Paris then you have to visit, if only to see Mona (I may have been a little star struck when I first saw her). Other highlights of the museum would be ‘The Winged Victory of Samothrace’ sculpture and the ‘The Wedding at Cana’ oil painting (the largest painting in the museum). Mike also loved the Napoleon III Apartments. As it’s the world's most visited museum, it’s best to arrive first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. Also, the Louvre at dusk is especially beautiful.
The Tuileries is a public garden located between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde. The gardens are truly breathtaking and are an excellent place to take a long walk alongside sculptures from Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, and even Roy Lichtenstein. It’s also home to the Jeu de Paume and its collection of contemporary art, along with The Musée de l'Orangerie, which houses Monet’s famous Water Lilies.
Climb the Arch de Triomph
For a beautiful view of Paris, that includes the Eiffel tower, climb the Arch de Triomph. It’s also not as busy as the crowds lining up to climb the Eiffel Tower.
Notre-Dame is a historic Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. We found visiting the cathedral first thing in the morning or early evening was best to avoid the tourist mayhem.
A FEW TIPS
- One of my favourite memories of Paris is riding bikes through the beautiful streets. Paris is equipped with the Vélib system, a well designed, and much talked about, bike-share system that has over 20,000 bikes around the city. It is such a fun and wonderful way to really experience the city.
- Be polite. Obviously a general rule wherever you go. A simple ‘bonjour madame or monsieur’, ‘s’il vous plait’ and ‘merci’ will go a long way. And of course smile! A big smile is universally understood.
- Make reservations for popular restaurants in advance and buy your tickets for major sights online before you go.
- If it’s your first time in Paris, take a ‘hop on, hop off’ tourist bus around the city to familiarise yourself with the city's sights and surroundings.
- We found saving/starring places in Google Maps on our phones was a super easy way to plan and navigate to all the sights we wanted to visit, and also to see what was around us at the time.
*Click the MENU button ≡ on the top left hand side of the map to view a master list of locations.