What feels like only yesterday, but in fact was this time last year, was an experience I will never forget. My sister and I embarked on a one month trip around Europe.
We had a stopover in Tokyo, and a week in London (where unfortunately I was unwell), Paris, Barcelona and Berlin. We wanted to get a real feel of each city, and spending a week in each place meant that we could do a lot, and re-visit places that we became to love.
Starting with Paris, I will share our top things to do, along with photos and in a subsequent post, our favourite eats and recommendations on what to order…because obviously food is the most important!
[That tiny frame in the above picture (and below) is the Mona Lisa…]
Top 10 Highlights:
Paris is predominantly flat, so being able to get to places by foot was ideal for us. We loved putting on our walking shoes, filling a backpack with necessities and walking out of our apartment, with no plan for the day. The best part was strolling down tiny side streets, and discovering hidden shops (mainly patisseries) along the way.
Relax in the Jardin du Luxembourg
Our first day in Paris was spent exploring the area we were staying in and the Luxembourg Gardens happened to be very close by. This lovely public park is filled with beautiful gardens, flowers, statues and lined pathways. A great place to people watch and to also enjoy an eclair or two. It is a magical place!
Admire / walk along the Pont Alexandre II bridge and the River Seine
It was terribly cloudy and grey the day we walked across the Pont Alexandre II bridge, but it still looked grand nonetheless! This bridge spans the whole of the Siene and is very extravagant – note the decorative gold and statues! You can also do river cruises along the Siene, which would be great at night time.
Visit the Louvre
Surprisingly, we only had to wait 20 minutes in line for the Louvre, but once we got inside, the crowds were craaaaaazy. Also be prepared to enter a mosh pit once you are near the Mona Lisa…(see photo below). We also checked out the Egyptian section (recommend) and all up, this took 3 hours! If you want to see it all, I think you would have to set aside at least two or three days. Definitely head to the gift shop afterwards as you will be amazed! I wanted to purchase one of everything, but instead settled on a glasses cleaner – with the face of Mona Lisa.
Wander through the Jardin des Tuileries
After experiencing the crazy crowds at the Louvre, we headed to the Jardin des Tuileries, another beautiful public park situated between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde. I loved all the statues, fountains, flowers, and the many places to sit and relax. And don’t forget to walk down the tree lined paths – you will feel like you are in a French film.
Château de Versailles
Just an hour train ride away, lies a beautiful palace, namely the Château de Versailles. It was everything I imagined it to be, except all the gold decorating the palace, the entrance gates and ornaments is real – be prepared to be wowed! This was the grand home of the king and queen we all know about – Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Every room you visit is filled with gold, luxurious ornaments and extravagant furniture. And don’t forget to admire the paintings, literally works of art! This is a great day trip and I highly recommend visiting the Château de Versailles if you are in Paris.
Tip: Definitely bring a good camera as you will want to take a billion pictures! Side note: After visiting the palace, head outside to the immaculate gardens, or opt to do a walking tour (as below).
Do a Fat Tire bike or walking tour
We opted to do a guided walking tour around the Château de Versailles’ surrounding gardens (which are a highlight – think the most immaculate, spectacular, amazing and beautiful gardens you will ever see in your life!).
Bonus points about doing a tour: meeting our guide at a designated spot, with everything organised including our train ride out to Versailles, not waiting in line (mega highlight), and learning a lot about the history of Versailles, as opposed to just wandering around and not having a clue what you are admiring!
We loved the tour, and Christine, our guide, was great. She gave us the low down on the history of Versailles, she talked about the four kings of France (funnily all named Louie) and pointed out to us the many statues, fountains and monuments. She was very humorous and kept us all interested. We were then given an audio guide to wander through the Château at our own leisure. Highly recommend!
Climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe
Yes, the Arc de Triomphe may be a little pricey (12€ – about NZD$18) and super crowded, but it has the best views of Paris, hands down. You will see the Eiffel Tower, the beautiful lined streets, rooftop gardens, the Notre-Dame, the Sacre Coeur up on the hill and all the crazy traffic below! There is also a great gift shop at the end (I love gift shops).
Climb the 222 steps up to the Sacré-Cœur…
Or you could drive (as we did). Again, the views are stunning up here and the Sacré-Cœur is the most beautiful church I have ever visited. Note: you cannot take photos inside the church.
Spend your last night at the Eiffel Tower
An absolute must do when visiting Paris! We didn’t actually climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower, instead we visited it every day and on our last night, we purchased food and drinks from the market below and had a picnic underneath it. The place is particularly buzzing at night and the tower is lit up beautifully. What could be more perfect than dinner, sunset and lights? Absolutely nothing.