There’s something about Paris – isn’t there?
Perhaps it’s the scent of just-baked crispy baguettes wafting through the air, the faultlessly fashion-conscious locals or because it’s home to the world’s most iconic man-made structure of romance, la tour Eiffel. I’ve visited twice now and each time I’ve been sucked into a whirlwind of romantic adventure, like someone that just met the love of her life for the first time. There’s romance practically oozing out from between the cracks in the cobblestone streets and the narrow boutique-lined back alleys. I’ve heard some people say it’s just like any old ‘big dirty’ city, but the hardcore romantic inside of me refuses to believe that. Here are 10 must-have Parisian experiences and adventures that will convince you that Paris is worth a golden spot at the top of your European itinerary. Don’t listen to the cynics!
1. Discover ‘Secret Paris’ with Intrepid
If you really want to get off-the-beaten-path, behind the front stage scenes of this world-famous city, book yourself on a tour that will let you know its best-kept secrets straight from the lips of a local. Intrepid’s ‘Secret Paris’ tour starts early in the morning at Place de la Concorde. Over 3 hours you will traipse through the charismatic back-streets of Paris and sample macaroons from a world-class food shop, become a cheese connoisseur at a fromagerie and bump shoulder to shoulder with the locals at a bustling market. ‘Secret Paris’ is ideal for anyone seeking to take a step off the well-worn tourist path into the heart of truly local Parisian life and was designed by a local Parisian that studied in Melbourne. Oh, and the macaroons are the best I’ve ever had.
2. Pick a candle-lit restaurant with cosy romantic corners
Paris is overflowing with cosy candle-lit corners perfect for a romantic night out with that special someone (or someones!) Bring out your travel wardrobe’s finest and be ready to be wined and dined on the finest of French cuisine. For a true French encounter don’t miss the traditional favourites of escargo, soupe a l’oignan, salade nicoise, creme brulee and mille-feuille. My favourite night in Paris was spent at Le Coupe Chou in the charming suburb of St Germain. Highly recommended!
3. Get lost in the Gardens of Versailles
Just a short train ride from the centre of Paris you will discover a true Garden of Eden and one of my favourite destinations in the world, the breathtaking Gardens of Versailles situated to the west of the Palace of Versailles and covering an impressive 800 hectares of land. These stunningly landscaped gardens are a pleasure to wander through and are even more impressive on the days where the fountains are in full swing – enjoy!
4. Experience spectacular metropolitan views from Arc de Triomphe
A first-time visit to Paris wouldn’t be complete without experiencing Arc de Triomphe, one of the city’s most famous monuments. It’s definitely worth purchasing a ticket to the top where you will encounter majestic vistas of the city including the magnetic Eiffel Tower. Here you will see the 12 avenues stretching out before you in all their glorious symmetry. Afterwards wander at your leisure down the Champs-Elysees for some luxury window-shopping and the odd indulgence or two!
5. Absorb the wonder of Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde is Paris’ largest public square and offers a beautiful fountain and an impressive view of the Eiffel Tower. This square is located at the eastern end of the Champs-Elysees and is surrounded by streets boasting boutique bag stores and local coffee shops. Travellers tip: avoid sitting down in the cafes, drink like a local at the bar where the espressos are just a quarter of the price.
6. Get lost in the Louvre and explore Jardin des Tuileries
This may be a crime to admit but exploring Jardin des Tuileries is almost more exciting than experiencing inside the Louvre itself. Of course any inaugural visit to Paree simply must include a day spent at the Louvre (if only to marvel at how small the Mona Lisa painting really is in reality!) Afterwards, spend some time lounging on the iconic green chairs in Jardin des Tuileries people watching and admiring the fare of local artists lining the pavement.
7. Treat your taste-buds to the world’s best hot chocolate at Angelina’s
Located just a hop, skip and a jump from Jardin des Tuileries you will discover one of the city’s most famous institutions: The House Angelina, a cafe dating back to 1903. Save an hour of your day to drink out of quaint china cups and admire the impeccably dressed waiters and absolutely beautiful decor of the restaurant. Do your taste-buds a favour and savour the hot chocolate for as long as you can.
8. Set your eyes upon the Notre Dam
Whether you visit day or night, the Notre Dam Cathedral is an iconic Parisian attraction that should at least be seen during your visit (if even from a distance!) To see the cathedral lit up in all its glory, take a short stroll to one of the iconic lock bridges for an unforgettable photo.
9. Spend some time just staring at the Eiffel Tower
You know for sure that you are in Paris when your eyes lock with the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Whether you see it as an ugly structure ruining the city skyline or the world’s greatest symbol of romance, it surely is something. Climb the tower for great city views or grab yourself the most indulgent nutella crepe in the world and indulge while you admire it from Place de Trocadéro (night is a great time for viewings here as you can see the structure lit up in all its flashing glory!)
10. Wander, wander, wander
Paris is one of my favourite city’s to explore by foot thanks to its amazing boutique fashion stores, idyllic arcades, tree-lined streets, old-world architecture, charismatic locals and enticing local eateries. One of my favourite strolls is along the River Seine where you can absorb the magic of being in Paris.
I have somehow managed to get it down to 10 but Paris is full of charms and surprises aplenty. Some other highlights include the renowned Moulin Rouge, Sacre Cour and Le Marais. Whatever you choose to do during your stay, it is for sure that you’ll over-indulge in macaroons, be awe-struck by the architecture and learn a thing or two from the confidence of the locals.