Over my trips I stayed in some really nice hotels, decent hostels and one awful place without AC during the blistering hot summer. My personal recommendation would be to check out Airbnb.com to snag a great apartment in a nice location for an affordable rate. (You can get a $25 discount if you use this link) Staying near a metro station or near the city center is pretty important since you will be traveling mostly by metro.
Paris Pass: City Passes are generally a waste of money since they only offer a few attractions you actually want to see. But the Paris Pass offers 60+ great sights and it is worth buying just so you can skip the 2+ hour line at the Louvre and some other attractions. Prices vary from (120-210 Euro depending on number of days) More information can be found here.
The metro in Paris is by far my least favorite underground transportation that I have used while traveling. The metro is dirty, complicated and not that well organized. Also, I hate the tickets and gate system in use. The small tickets are unreliable and easy to loose. Regardless of these downfalls, it still beats the alternatives. TIP: Paris Pass includes a transport pass which is good for the Bus , Metro and hop-off hop-on bus tour.
Recently I wrote a post about the Most Overrated Tourist Attractions in the World, which featured the Mona Lisa at the top of the list. Although it was an underwhelming experience, but managing your expectations is important. Luckily, Paris has plenty of attractions that meet and exceed their reputations.
The Louvre: Everyone who has been to the Louvre in Paris has mixed opinions. Over my five visits to Paris I went to the Louvre a few times and this opinion never changed. You wait in a massive line (unless you have the Paris Pass) and then follow the rushing crowds to see the iconic Mona Lisa or are just too overwhelmed with art to know what to do with yourself. The Mona Lisa is tiny (H: 77 cm; L: 53 cm) and they don’t let you get really that close to it, which is understandable. My other gripe with the Louvre is that every caption is in French; so to read about the painting you need to purchase an audio guide. Shouldn’t Italian painters at least have their native language listed to describe their masterpieces? I don’t think everything should cater to be in English, but there should be some better alternatives. The Louvre is for sure worth it if you’re a big art fan. If not I would recommend spending more time in some other galleries. I guess the Louvre is just one of those places you need to see.
Saint Chappelle is one of the most beautiful interior churches I have seen The 360-degree stained glass just blew me away. Usually the lines are not too long and this is a fairly short attraction to see. It is a great spot to stop by when walking to Notre Dame
Notre Dame showcases some astounding architecture, most stunning in my opinion is the gothic style and flying buttresses (arched exterior supports). The interior is a bit underwhelming, but still beautiful. I think I am desensitized to the inside of churches since I think they all look similar. Regardless though, it is worth entering and roaming around one of the world’s most famous cathedrals.
Eiffel is one sexy architectural masterpiece. One monument you’ll never get sick of. It doesn’t really need much introduction, but make sure you grab a bottle of wine and watch the sparkle light show at night. It goes off every hour on the hour after sunset. TIP: to skip the massive 2-3 hour lines make a lunch or dinner reservation at the restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. The food is actually reasonably affordable, delicious and comes with VIP entrance (aka you don’t have to wait in a long line).
Sacré-Cœur Basilica is another stunning cathedral with a great view of the city. If you are out of shape make sure to take the tram up to the top instead of the long walk.
Arc de Triomphe was a lot bigger than I expected. It is worth checking out the lookout at the top to witness the beautifully organized roads that all lead to the Arc De Triomphe. The view up top is magnificent and really puts the entire city in perspective.
Musee d’orsay was my favorite art gallery since it is more intimate and not so overwhelming compared to the Louvre. The lines are still pretty long to enter, but you can skip them with the Paris Pass.
The Centre Pompidou is a modern art museum that showcases the biggest collection of Modern Art in Europe. The museum changes exhibits frequently and had a really cool Disney themed wonderland when we attended. The museum also displays some wonderful works from Salvador Dali. Beware that there is some pretty awful New Modern art here as well. One display was literally just a bedroom set with trash everywhere. Throwing trash around in a fake bedroom isn’t art in my eyes. Luckily there is a lot of good to outweigh the bad pieces in this museum.
Père Lachaise Cemetery. I know what you are thinking? Why would I go to a cemetery I thought the same thing, but it is actually pretty cool to see the grave sites of famous people like Chopin, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde.
Palace of Versailles: The palace is located outside of Paris and is pretty spectacular. I preferred Marie Antoinette’s house to the actual interior of the palace. Her house is located quite far from the palace, so I would recommend renting a bike and riding around the massive area.
Paris Sewer Museum: Not sure how or why we ended up at this smelly and dirty underground sewer museum. We really were just out of things to see I guess. Anyway, it wasn’t worth it and I don’t recommend it.
Moulin Rouge- The red light district is a great area for nightlife, but more on that later. The area is also famous for their cabaret shows, which will set you back around 100 Euro. There are some cheaper cabaret shows that apparently are just as good as Moulin Rouge.
Paris has a lot to offer especially when it comes to fashion. I did all my shopping at the outlets located a ways outside of the city center. The prices were still pretty good on some items, especially hand made silk neckties. Each designer store was hit or miss, but if you are looking to buy designer clothes this is the place to go to. If you don’t find anygood items at the outdoor outlet mall there is a pretty big indoor mall located right next it.
La Vallee Village is the name of the shopping outlet and is located about an hour outside of Paris central. Although the site claims it is 35 minutes, but getting to the RER took us a while. To get there take the RER A towards Marne-la-Vallee/Chessy (Paris Disneyland) but exit train at Val d’Europ. More information can be found here.
Paris has plenty of other shopping districts, but I didn’t spend much time shopping since I got it all done at the La Vallee Village.
Paris is a big party city and I wish I had more recommendations to provide, but the multiple times we went out were all a tad disappointing since the city is overwhelming with places to go.
Paris pub Crawl: I always recommend doing a pub-crawl since it is the easiest way to meet other travelers. The few nights we went were so massive that they had to split our group into two separate groups. The crawl takes you to bars all around Paris and then you end up at a nightclub. This is the easiest and best way to explore a new city at night.
Moulin Rouge: If pub crawls are not your thing, but you want to head to a few cool bars or clubs then Moulin Rouge is the spot to be. There is a lot of bars, cafes, and clubs surrounding the red light district.
Buddha Bar: Probably one of the nicest bars/restaurants in Paris. If you are looking to get fancy and spend 20 Euro for a Vodka Redbull then this is the place for you.
Paris can be overwhelming since there is so much to do and see, don’t try and rush through everything. This is the main root to my complication with Paris. I feel like after every trip I am just over sightseeing. Luckily each trip has provided a more intimate experience and fueled the ongoing love & hate relationship I have with Paris Enjoy and savior the beauty that is Paris. The Parisians sometimes get a bad reputation. Body language is often misenterpreted as rudeness, but my experience with the French has been overly positive. There are good and bad people everywhere in the world, but in my experience Parisians and French were all very welcoming (besides the occasional rude waiter). Remember “A bad day in Paris is still better than a good day anywhere else.”