Of all the places I’ve traveled, Paris has to be that one city where I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to be able to see everything I wanted to in such a short period of time. Thankfully, I was able to get through most of the things I wanted to see, largely due to good preplanning, and extra time that I had built into my days.
One of the biggest tips about Paris I can give you is to wear good walking shoes. I opted for style over comfort the first day (where most of my walking came in) and I largely regretted it the next day when my feet were aching. I’m not saying to toss aside your boots and throw on your running shoes in one of the most stylish European cities, but be prepared for all of the walking you will do, because it is much more than you think it will be. Bring shoes that are better for walking several miles in, or find shoe inserts that will make for much more comfortable walking.
Another must for transportation is to purchase the 2-day (in my case) tourist metro pass. It clocked in to be my most expensive purchase (36€) but I rode the metro at least that many times while I was in Paris, since I was doing all of the major sightseeing all over the city in such a short amount of time. I would highly recommend doing this over a 10-ride pass because those will simply turn out to be more expensive in the long run if you are staying in Paris for less than a few days. Be careful not to lose the metro pass. I cannot stress this enough, as Paris’ metro tickets are less than half the size of a credit card and very easy to misplace.
As for trying to pack all of the sights in two days, here is how I went about it:
Unfortunately since I was low both on time and money, I did not get to enter some of the sites I mention. Feel free to build time into your own travels.
Friday morning, I landed at Charles de Gaulle, and made it to my Airbnb in Pantin (best described as a “suburb” right outside of Paris) by 11am. After dropping off my luggage and greeting friends, we headed towards Notre-Dame Cathedral.
After walking around it (and getting a few selfies, of course) I made my way along the Seine for quite a while towards the Louvre. If you would prefer to take the subway, I don’t doubt there are routes to take that are very quick, but the walk was fairly pleasant and a good way to see the city.
Beware of pickpockets and people trying to sell things to you outside of the Louvre and Eiffel. These are presumably two of the biggest tourists destinations in Paris, so they will do anything to try to sell you the knick-knacks that they have. Otherwise it was a pleasant environment, and there aren’t so many people as to ruin any pictures you might want to take.
After the Louvre, we made our way Tuileries Garden and down Champs-Élysées (shopping destination, tourist central) to the Arc de Triomphe. There is a small median in the middle of the street here where you can stop for a quick second to take a picture head-on, but be careful and watch for reckless drivers. You quite literally are standing in the middle of the street, and the drivers in Paris are ruthless to say the least.
Afterwards, I made a quick stop for a late lunch at a crêperie about a 10 minute walk away. There are several places you can get crepes nearby, but unless you are okay with paying higher prices for the same food that is along Champs-Élysées, I recommend walking to a place out of the way.
My next stop was to Printemps department store, also on Champs-Élysées. This may sound like a weird stop, but the view from the open-air cafe on the top floor explains it all:
As I said before, there’s a small cafe up here that sells some cheap coffee and snacks. If you plan to sit up here for a bit (I did) it’s polite to purchase something.
After this we took the subway towards the 18th arr. to see The Love Wall of Paris. It’s not well known, and it’s in a secluded location right off the subway stop but it’s definitely a sight that was on my bucket list. On this wall, the phrase “I love you” is written in every documented language known.
After this, I headed back to the Louvre to actually go inside (and pay a visit to Mona Lisa herself!) The Louvre is free on Fridays after 6pm for those under 25, so if that is you, I recommend going at this time. The price to enter isn’t hefty normally, but it’s extra money in my pocket.
Today we started off bright and early at 8am to go see the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. It’s free to enter (all except climbing up to the top of the dome) so I highly recommend going as early as humanly possible. By the time we were leaving the crowds and lines to enter were extremely long, compared to basically just walking through the door at 830am. This is another location to be aware of scam artists, because they will block entire sidewalks so you have to talk to them. I even had one try to grab my arm in an attempt to stop me. The views both inside and outside the church are worth it though, but be prepared for a lot of stairs.
After soaking up some sunshine, we headed to go see the Moulin Rouge nightclub in Paris.
After a subway ride, we stopped in a small store and had a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. There are several places to do so but we chose a secluded area on concrete near a pool of water.
Afterwards, many of us split off to do our own things, but some of us decided to do one of the musts of Paris: shopping. After a half an hour walk past the right side of the Eiffel in the above pic and down a side street, we took the subway to Galeries Lafayette, a large, upscale shopping mall. Even if you’re not one for shopping, come to admire the ornate detailing on the ceiling and sides of the building, or snap a good picture on the bridge connecting one portion of the mall to the other.
For dinner, we stopped in the Jewish Quarter for some falafel, and headed back to the Eiffel to see the lights show at night. Fun fact- it’s actually illegal to film this…but tell that to the several thousand people around the city doing just that at the top of each hour.
The light show is quite simple and lasts only 5 minutes at the top of each hour at night, but it’s definitely something to be seen.
After talking to some girls I met from around the world in a hostel, they were quite surprised that I had been to Paris. They had heard it was dangerous, and they weren’t quite sure if they would go anytime soon or not.
To be fair, if you’re from the States, traveling abroad is another animal entirely from traveling in our own country. Here, we are more worried about violence and bad areas; there, they are more worried about petty theft. There aren’t many violent crimes, if any, that take place in Europe, but people will not hesitate to steal a loosely carried handbag or a stray phone. As long as you keep your wits about you and aren’t causing a scene, you’ll be safe. Just keep all of your belongings put away or out of sight of passersby.
Des voyages sûrs!