Friday, 9 February 2018

A first-time visitor's guide to Paris | Our weekend in the French capital.

One thing I listed as part of my 2018 goals post was to travel more. I wanted to visit new places, experience and learn new things, and I wanted to do it with my favourite person by my side, so last weekend's trip to the beautiful city of Paris was the perfect way to kickstart the year.
I'd wanted to visit Paris for ages. It's been on my travel bucket list ever since I started blogging (nearly) five years ago and fell in love with photography. The streets looked beautiful, the architecture was fascinating. I wanted to visit all the tourist hot spots, to climb the Eiffel Tower and get a panoramic view of the city, to visit the old cathedrals and buildings, and to eat crepes and croissants galore along the way. And that's exactly what we did. 
We had the best weekend ticking everything off Dan's (neverending) itinerary, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. One of my favourite moments was watching the sky behind the Eiffel Tower turn from blue to pink to purple as the sun set over the city. We sat on a step watching the world go by and it was amazing how peaceful it felt when you were slap bang in the middle of this global cultural hub. The perfect way to end our time there. 
There really is so much to see and do, and we managed to squeeze in pretty much every iconic tourist hotspot over the weekend, even though it resulted in us covering 50km on foot over three days and taking over 81,000 steps! Definitely not a relaxing break, but so worth it! We took so many pictures, ate so much great food, and generally spent our time looking up at all the beauty there was to be had. 
I thought I would write today's post a little differently from my usual travel diaries, because a lot of people commented on my photographs on Twitter/Instagram saying they were heading to Paris at some point this year. Instead of sharing my stay with you, I thought I'd help to influence your trip to the French capital. I have to admit I'm seriously jealous of anyone who is jetting here in the next few months. 

FIVE PLACES YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST VISIT:

1. Climb the Eiffel Tower

On our first day we strolled from our hotel in Cambronne for about 25 minutes until we reached the Eiffel Tower, and it really is amazing. I showed my true tourist colours when we were travelling on the Metro from the airport that morning as I got really excited when I spotted the Eiffel Tower (yep, did a little scream) for the first time and a local French man looked at me as if I was on Mars, but nonetheless it really is something to be excited about. 
Standing at over 320 metres tall, about the height of an 80 storey building, climbing is definitely not for the feint-hearted, but it's something you absolutely must do if you can. We paid 10 euros to climb the steps to the two open floors and, although pretty scary while ascending, the views are absolutely stunning and so worth it. On each floor there is a little shop and a restaurant and cafe to explore (though it's super expensive) and there are lots of  There is an additional floor too, which is accessible via lift, but it was unfortunately closed so we couldn't go up any higher on our trip there. It's also worth mentioning that you can get elevators to the first and second floors, but they incur a higher charge and the queues are much longer. 
The views of the cityscape are really stunning. Everything about Paris is gorgeous. The Seine (which was pretty flooded on our weekend there, though we bypassed the crazy snow!) meanders its way through the city, and everywhere you look you can see beautiful cathedrals and churches popping up amongst the buildings. I also found it was really useful to do this on our first day as you could kind of pinpoint where the major attractions were, so it helped us to figure out which areas of the city to explore and when. 
There are also lots of little spots around the city to snap the Eiffel Tower, but if you walk across the river from the North entrance of the tower, you'll come to *those* steps where every Instagram influencer under the sun poses for the perfect shot (lol, we were so guilty of doing this too). It's a really stunning view of the tower and its surroundings, and it really puts the scale of the tower itself into perspective. Loads of people gather here, and we actually saw two proposals going on amongst the hundreds of tourists taking snapshots and the street performers and skateboarders. It's a really gorgeous scene. 

2. The Notre-Dame

I wanted to visit the Notre-Dame because I used to love the Disney film and even had an Esmerelda doll when I was little. I also just love the architecture of city cathedrals, and we have been to a few on our travels. We queued for about ten minutes or so to get in - it's free to enter - and just enjoyed walking around the building and seeing all the pretty stained glass windows and the candles flickering. There's a lovely sense of calm in the Notre-Dame, and it's worth a visit even if you're not religious. There's also the opportunity to climb to the top and have more views of the city, however it was pretty pricy and we'd already climbed the Eiffel Tower the day before so passed on this.

3. Musee du Louvre

From the Notre-Dame you can stroll along the Seine to the Musee Du Louvre, the largest art museum in the world and a Parisian landmark in itself. It's situated just off the Seine, and to get to it we passed Pont Neuf and bought a love lock to add to the bridge (we also spent about ten minutes arguing over the best place to put it, but there was no love lost in the end). The pyramid-like glass roof looks amazing, and it's placed at the Louvre Palace which houses the museum. There are definitely lots of photo opps to be had there!

It costs 15 euro to visit the exhibitions in the Louvre, but you can get down into the main lobby area for the museum for free, and from there, there are lots of shops and foodie places to have a look at. We didn't end up paying to go in to see the exhibitions, due to being short on time and budget, but it's definitely something I would like to do when we next go to Paris.

4. Arc Du Triomphe and Champs-Elysees

If you continue West along the Seine, passing through the pretty square that makes up Place de la Concorde with its giant ferris wheel, you will get to Avenue des Champ-Elysees. It's frequently described as the "world's most beautiful avenue" and it is very pretty with beautiful buildings and shops filled with pretty treats. It's gorgeous in the day and night, and it's worth mentioning that when we visited there on the weekend the avenue was pedestrian-only and our bags were searched before entering the Avenue. It's like this in a lot of places around the city. You are searched and your bags are checked before entering any large landmarks or places where lots congregate, just because of France's current security threat. This is nothing to worry about and the guards who check your bags are mostly really friendly.

Avenue des Champ-Elysees has a huge array of shops, and I really surprised myself by going into Sephora and leaving empty handed. I guess my love of beauty has been taken over by a love of memory-making, but that's all for another post! However, if you really want to do some serious shopping then you must head to the Galeries Lafayette, which is the most gorgeous shopping mall. The stained glass roof is what dreams are made of.

Stood proudly at the Western-end of Champ-Elysees is the beautiful Arc de Triomphe. It stands at the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle, and is seen frequently in movies and television series about the city. It stands in honour of those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. It's really beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Again, you can climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe by using a pedestrian underpass located at the Champs Elysees and the Avenue de la Grande Amee. A lift takes visitors to the attic, where there is a small museum, and you can climb a further forty or so steps to the very top for panoramic views of the city. I believe this cost about 12 euros, but again due to timing we weren't able to do this this time.

5. Montmartre and Sacre-Couer

We went off the beaten track a little on our weekend in the city and explored Montmartre, which is situated on a large hill in Paris' 18th arrondissement. It's quite a way out, but definitely worth the visit as it has this beautifully "French feeling". The streets are cobbled, with beautifully painted buildings stood either side, and they wind their way up the hill to the striking Scare-Couer Basilica. It's known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, and is a Roman Catholic church boasting beautiful views of the city. We loved Montmartre. It had a cosy little square, where a lady was playing the Accordion and little children skipped amongst the puddles. It just had a different atmosphere to the centre of Paris and we really enjoyed grabbing a coffee and just chilling out there for a while. From Montmartre you can also walk down to the Moulin Rouge. It's pretty cool seeing it in the flesh, but this is a seedier part of the city and contrasts completely with the chic-ness of the rest of Paris, IMO. 

WHERE WE STAYED:

We stayed in Cambronne, in an Ibis which is a stone's throw away from Cambronne Metro station and close to a number of restaurants and shops. I wanted to choose a "branded" hotel for our first stay (if that makes sense), just because we hadn't visited the city before and we wanted an option that would be safe. It posed the perfect position as we were able to explore the city both by train and on foot very easily, and I'd definitely stay there again. 

FOOD AND DRINK: 

One of the best pieces of advice I had before going was to steer off the main streets in search of a bite to eat. The food, particularly on the Champs-Elysees, can be pretty expensive, but you can hunt out some amazing little places if you go slightly into the side streets and quieter areas. We had a delicious meal on our last night on a street corner just hidden away from the Eiffel Tower. It was the cheapest meal we'd had there, but the plates were filled with food and it was the most tasty. It's definitely worth searching off the beaten track a little and not settling for the first place you see.

There are also bakeries and crepe stands dotted all along the streets and in the larger parks, so we used to find somewhere to sit down and eat for breakfast, and would grab something on the go for lunch as we were in full tourist mode by then. Food can be pretty expensive but you can get Nutella crepes for 3 euro, and in some of the bakeries croissants and bread is rather cheap, so definitely worth doing that if you're on a tight budget like we were. Additionally, look in the mini markets instead of the street stalls if you're after drinks or a bottle of water. We found things were much cheaper there. 

GETTING AROUND:

We mostly walked, but one day we did decide to get a Metro day pass for Zones 1 to 3, which I think cost us about 12 euros each. The Metro is set up in a similar way to the London Underground, although we did get a little confused at first when trying to find our way around. Google Maps can show you exactly which Metro line and stations you need to start/stop at in order to find your chosen destination, however. Most of the city, though, is accessible easily on foot. You can just walk along the Seine and see most of the sights, which we discovered on our last day after zooming around everywhere in the most backwards fashion for the rest of the weekend... No wonder we covered so many steps! 

All in all, Paris is absolutely amazing and I wish I could rewind to last weekend so I could jet off there again. They call Paris the city of love, and it's safe to say I fell in love with the city. 

Have you been to Paris? 
Do you have any recommendations?
Lots of love. xoxo
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22 comments:

  1. Gorgeous photos, I love your pink coat! I've been to Paris before and it really is a dream, I did the standard tourist stuff like visiting the Eiffel Tower and going to Notre Dame but I'd love to go back and explore it a little more.

    Yasmin 💗
    The Sweet Seven Five

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    1. Thank you so much Yasmin :) It's a beautiful place isn't it? I really love it! xx

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  2. LOVE this guide! I can't wait to go back to PAris. Looks like you had an amazing time

    www.petiteelliee.com

    Ellie xx

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  3. Absolutely loved this Jessie!

    Followed your journey on Insta and was so jelly!

    Have a good night out ;)


    Hannah Silvey
    H x

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    1. Thanks lovely! Haha, it was a great night thank you! xx

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  4. I’m so happy you loved Paris. It’s just so perfect. I’m already planning my next trip x

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    1. It was amazing - I can't wait to go back! Hopefully we get to do the river cruise next time. xx

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  5. Fabulous post! I've been to Paris 3 times but you've made me want to go back again a.s.a.p. xx

    Beautylymin| CharlotteTilburyBlush&BronzeGiveaway

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    1. Oh I'm so jealous - I can't wait to visit the city again! xx

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  6. Love these photos! I've been to Paris once, but we didn't really get to experience much (we were in Disney on the Saturday) and had about 3-4 hours to dash about and see the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. I'd love to go back again and properly explore!!

    Suitcase and Sandals Blog XX

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    1. Ahh we decided not to go to Disney as we didn't have enough time, but would like to go back there and go to Disney again. I went as a child but can't remember a lot of it! xx

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  7. absolutely OBSESSED with your pink coat. WHERE is that from?!

    so glad you had an amazing time in paris, ahhh the city of dreams. makes me miss living there so so so much :(((

    katie. xx lacoconoire.com

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    1. It's from River Island hun, and it's the warmest coat EVER. It's amazing! I bet it was such a cool place to live. xx

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  8. Thanks for the tips! I'm planning on going to Paris this year (I hope!!) and will definitely keep these tips in mind. Your photos are beautiful!

    Rachael at broomfie.blogspot.com

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  9. Gorgeous photos! This post has really made me want to visit Paris again! XXX

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  10. This is a great post, Paris is on my list of places to visit this year!

    Caz | thisiscaz.com

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  11. Such stunning photographs! Paris is such an amazing city - every time I see photographs I want to book another trip there pronto! :-)

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    1. Ahh I know it's so beautiful :) Thank you! xx

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