Last week, I went to Paris for Paris Fashion Week with a couple of New York based blogger boos! My first visit to Paris was when I was a junior in high school on a class trip, so I was incredibly excited to visit the city of lights as an adult! I had an AMAZING time, so here is what I would suggest you do if you plan to spend three days in Paris!
Getting to Paris
The whole reason I decided to go to Paris was because I saw a $400 flight deal that coincided with fashion week! I’ve talked about finding flight deals before, and I flew Norwegian Airlines which went direct from Newark Airport to Orly Airport. They also have a JFK-CDG route, but I avoid JFK at all costs and Orly is actually closer to the city than Charles de Gaulle. I traveled with a group of four other girls, so our accommodation costs came out to around $200 per person. I spent another $300 or so on Ubers, museums, and food, so Paris can definitely be a trip under $1000.
Day 1: Palais-Royal, Louvre, Musee D’Orsay
When I travel, I like to frontload my sightseeing while I still have excitement and adrenaline. These three must-see sights are close to one another in the 1st arrondisement and are totally doable in one day. Grab a quick breakfast of pastries wherever you’re staying, then head to the Palais-Royal first thing in the morning. This former royal palace has both a garden and a courtyard that are beautiful for pictures, and also for pretending like you’re royalty. It’s easily accessible by metro (the M1 and M7 lines stop right by it), and it opens at 7am so the earlier you arrive, the fewer crowds you’ll have to deal with.
Once you’re done with the Palais-Royal, walk over to the Louvre, the famous museum with the Mona Lisa and a giant pyramid in front. Most people don’t realize that the pyramid itself is not the Louvre, it’s simply the entrance! The museum is actually HUGE and you’ll spend a good chunk of your afternoon here. Don’t worry there’s a cafe inside with reasonably priced snacks (I had a mushroom and cheese quiche like thing that was AMAZING), as well as WiFi! Before heading into the Louvre, take pictures outside – to capture the entire pyramid, consider taking pictures on the Place du Carousel – it’s a road a slight distance from the museum. Keep in mind that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, but is open late on Wednesdays and Fridays.
You’ll likely be ready for a real meal after the museum! While I didn’t eat at either of these places, both Cafe Marly and Angelina Tea House come highly recommended. Cafe Marly is right outside of the Louvre, while Angelina Tea House is a bit further. Between the two, I’d recommend Angelina Tea House if you’re looking for a royal lunch experience, as it’s interior is absolutely gorgeous and ornate. To make your walk there more scenic, cut through the Tuileries Gardens for more greenery and statues. But I’ve also heard that Cafe Marly has AMAZING cheesecakes. Maybe do both? You’re on vacation, it’s allowed.
Once you’ve rested your feet and eaten a bit, it’s time to head to the Musee D’Orsay, a smaller museum that contains an impressive collection of French impressionist artwork. I had to write an essay about French impressionism in high school, so seeing the works of Degas, Monet, Cezzane, Renoir, Manet, and Van Gogh in person were unbelievable. To get to the Musee D’Orsay from the Tuileries Gardens, simply walk across the Seine River – another gorgeous sight to behold – over one of its bridges. The Musee D’Orsay is open late on Thursdays, but otherwise closes at 6pm.
You’ll likely be tired by the end of the day, so head back to your hotel to rest. If you’re up for going out again, I’d recommend Waly-Fay for an authentic but hip Senegalese meal. I had the Beef Maffe which is beef in a peanut stew, but I’d recommend the Yassa Poulet!
Day 2: Montmartre, Eiffel Tower
Since you were around a ton of crowds yesterday, sleep in and then head to Montmartre for a quiet immersion in Paris’ beautiful architecture. The area has a ton of cute cafes, perfect for eating outside when the weather is cooperating, cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and gorgeous views of the main part of Paris. We ended up walking around Montmartre for an hour or so with our tour guide La Vie Locale (a black woman from LA!) and every. single. street. was adorable. If you need some help with your love life, find the Dalida statue – I’ve heard if you rub her golden breasts it’ll give you some luck!
Before you leave Montmartre, go to Hardware Societe for lunch right by the Sacre Coeur Cathedral. It’s a delicious all day brunch spot, and it is absolutely worth the wait. Keep in mind they are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I had the pork belly and scrambled eggs – the pork belly was tasteless but my God those eggs were the MOST delicious eggs I’ve had in awhile!!
After you’re done with Montmartre, head back to your hotel or AirBnB for a nap, a glass of wine, and to research a dinner option. Most of the French dinner experiences we had could have been improved if we’d had reservations (waits were always long, and hostesses were often not willing to even let us wait), so try to make them in advance!
Leave the rest of your evening to experience the Eiffel Tower! Some of the best views of the tower are from Trocadero Gardens – which is across the river from the Eiffel Tower. If you’re traveling with children, consider visiting the Paris Aquarium by the Trocadero Gardens as well! When you get to the gardens, you’ll see tons of people snapping pictures of the tower on the terrace level. Those pictures are cool, but if you walk down either side of the stairs, there is a less obstructed view of the towers!
From Trocadero walk towards the Eiffel Tower and right after crossing the river you’ll come across a carousel. I didn’t ride on it but it would be SO cute to get pictures of children on the carousel with the tower in the background. If you can time this during golden hour (an hour before sunset), even better! Once you reach the Eiffel Tower, it’s up to you whether you want to climb up – just keep in mind that they turn on the lights at sunset so it would be a shame to miss them come on!
Day 3: Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysee, Galeries Lafayette
I like to save my shopping for last, and you’ll probably need to burn off some calories from all the delicious foods you’ve been eating, so conquer the Champs-Elysee and the Galeries Lafayette on your last day! Many people like shopping while traveling to Europe because of the VAT tax, which refunds non residents up to 20% of their purchase. Since many designer goods rarely go on sale, this is the perfect reason to pick them up while in Paris. Definitely compare the prices online ahead of time, but for the most part, luxury bags and shoes are slightly cheaper in Paris due to both the pricing structure and the VAT refund. Most of my purchases ended up being closer to 15% discounted – so definitely worth it!
Start at the Arc de Triomphe – an absolutely gorgeous monument and a must-see in Paris. From Arc de Triomphe, walk to the Louis Vuitton Champs Elysee. It’s the flagship store and is an absolutely stunning experience for people who are into fashion, even if you don’t plan on buying anything. Keep walking and you’ll reach Laduree Champs Elysee – grab a macaroon (or 5) from the famous bakery! You’ll also pass all kinds of stores, from Zara and Nike to Gucci and Chanel. By the time you reach Avenue de Winston Churchill, you’ll see the Grand Palais and Le Petit Palais, two gorgeous buildings (the Petit Palais is actually a museum) that exemplify French architecture.
From here you’ll want to eat lunch at a cafe – they’re literally all amazing – and if you haven’t had a crepe yet, make sure you do so! I love both sweet and savory crepes, so my favorite kind of lunch is a cheese and meaty crepe followed by a classic Nutella and banana crepe. I miss them already!
Next, find your way to the Galeries Lafayette, a gorgeous and huge department store/shopping mall easily accessible by the metro. Think of it as Macy’s Herald Square, except with an absolutely stunning interior. In case you can’t tell by now, the French are REALLY good at architecture and interior design! A lot of designer stores are also in here, so if you don’t have time to visit their flagship stores for a one of a kind experience, the Galeries Lafayette is a great way to get some shopping in as well.
Before you head back to your destination, make sure to stop by a patisserie and load up on croissants and other baked goods – they’re really infinitely better in France and you’ll miss them as soon as you’re home! I know I do.
Would I Go to Paris Again?
I was chatting with the girls about this on our last night, and I could definitely see Paris as a city that I visit every 3-5 years. There is so much to see and do, but if for anything, the food, shopping, and the beauty of the buildings is enough to draw me back. I would love to experience the city with Jonathan, but it also works just as well for a girls trip, a mother daughter trip, or even a solo adventure!