What to do in Paris, France
Going to Paris? Yay! Here is what I recommend. I will highlight (1) day trips (2) museums (3) food (4) sights (5) practical information like transportation, cost, people. Feel free to read the whole article or skip to sections that are relevant to you.
All headers that are underlined are attached links of the recommended places on Google Maps. Click on the underlined text to find the exact address, see pictures from others, and read reviews. I also have links throughout the article to other useful websites when relevant. Of course my recommendations are only from my research and what I was able to experience when I went to Paris. If you want to read my travel log of what I did for each day in Paris, read here.
If you are spending a couple of days in Paris, the two trips out of Paris I would recommend is Versailles and Monet’s Garden. You cannot see both places in the same day. It sounds silly but I thought I could just check off both in one day. They will definitely take two separate days. Both will only take half the day so you can still enjoy Paris in the afternoon.
How to Get Here: The best way is to take the train. Navigate your way to the the Montparnasse station. At the station, use the kiosk to buy tickets to Versailles. Buy round trip tickets and keep both tickets. Hop on the train with other tourists. Once you arrive at the station, you will walk a bit to Versailles. Just follow the crowd. Refer to the Versailles website here.
Bring Food: I would recommend bringing food into the park. I bought a sandwich at the station but there are grocery stores once you step outside the station. There is a Carrefour Market so you could buy food there.
What Should I Pay For? There was some days where Versailles is free. Check the conditions here. However, if you do need to pay, I would only pay for the gardens. If you plan on seeing the actual chateau, see the chateau before the garden before the line gets longer.
Take the Garden Map: The map was really useful by showing the best routes around the garden in the day vs. afternoon and which fountain turns on when. It was a useful map so I would recommend taking it.
Step Outside the Garden: If you are facing the Grand Canal, take a right toward Marie Antoinette’s Estate. There, you will see people cycling, running, hiking. I thought this area was prettier than the gardens and peaceful to just walk around without other tourists.
How to Get Here: Buy your ticket from Paris to Giverny in advance using Trainline here. After purchasing, download your pass on your phone. You will leave Paris from the Saint Lazare Train Station. Once you arrive in Giverny, there is a bus from the station to Monet’s Garden. The bus round trip should cost you about 10 euros.
Check the Timing: The garden is not open all year round so check here. In addition, the garden opens at 9:30AM and the bus from the station to Giverny’s garden operates at 9:20AM. So my advice would be is to come later to match the time the bus operates. I booked an early train to Giverny because it was cheaper but when I arrived, the bus did not operate. As a result, I rented a bike which was nice but I felt rushed. I would arrive in Giverny around 10AM and then leave around 2PM. The later trains were not that more expensive than the early train I took to Giverny. Also, there were so many tourists by the time I was leaving so you can travel, get lost together, and have the transportation to and back from the station if you arrive a little later.
See the Water Lilies First: There are many people from organized tours exploring the water lilies. In addition, the walking path is very narrow so it is a bit hard to enjoy with many people in the way. Pass through the first garden area and find the water lilies to see them and then go back to the remainder of Monet’s garden to enjoy.
Enjoy Giverny: Try to look around Giverny if time permits. It is a small village and the landscape is beautiful.
A really big perk if you are an EU affiliated student is that many museums are free for you :) So if you are a student, go to all the museums! If you are not a student and have to pay for the museums, I would pay for the Louvre because it is the biggest museum.
Musee de l’Orangerie: Monet’s Water Lilies in 360 panorama rooms
If you are a fan of Monet, I would recommend the Musée de l’Orangerie. It is a touristy place so just take your time even though you feel like you should move and be out of the way. Sit for awhile and look at his paintings before leaving. Beware that there is not much else besides the two rooms with Monet’s water lilies.
Musse d’Orsay: sculptures, paintings, Monet’s works
Check out the top floor for a clock silhouette and Monet’s paintings. I was stunned by Monet’s painting of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
Louvre: Mona Lisa and many more
Don’t frustrate the staff by asking where the Mona Lisa is. Just follow the flow of the crowd. I recommend seeing the Mona Lisa first and then explore the rest of the museum. I enjoyed the castle area, the Egyptian art, and the room with the tiles on the floor.
Centre Pompidou: modern and interactive art
If you enjoy modern art, I would recommend the Centre Pompidou. I would also recommend visiting level 3 first. There are more photo opportunities and it is a bit more interactive than level 4 (more static but still interesting). I would also make sure you have a couple hours and not just come when it’s closing. I came to the museum at the time of sunset. The sunset was alright but not worth to rush through this museum because there are interesting stuff if you enjoy modern art. Furthermore, getting in does take a while since you need to go through a security line and a ticket line so plan accordingly.
Bread & Pastries! If there is one thing that France does best, I would have to testify it would be their bread. Buy a fresh baguette, croissants, pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant), brioche, etc.
There is one place I did save because they are known for their Choco Pistache Escargot (chocolate pistachio snail pastry). If you love chocolate and pistachio, try this pastry at Du Pain et des Idées. I saved this but sadly I did not have time to go. However, my mother and sister were able to try this when they were in Paris and they said it was good.
Another pastry place you could visit is Stohrer. It is is the oldest patisserie in Paris and I have only heard good things about this place!
Banh Mi: I also did not get to try a banh mi in Paris because I was busy seeing all the sites. However, I challenge you to try one.
Sanukiya: If you really need an Asian fix in Paris, try this. Sanukiya is a Japanese udon place. It’s not too far from the Louvre and the staff were very nice. I got the karaage udon (katsu chicken and omelette) which costs 14 euros. It was so good that I was genuinely sad when I finished my bowl. I definitely recommend.
Views of the Eiffel Tower
Trying to get a good picture of the Eiffel Tower? There are many spots but I recommend (1) Champs des Mars, (2) Arc de Triomphe, and (3) Trocadero Gardens.
Champs des Mars: Wake up early and head to Champs des Mars to see the Eiffel Tower shine in gold as the sun rises. A rare view.
Arc de Triomphe: Arc de Triomphe is also another viewpoint. You can clearly spot the Eiffel Tower and other main areas such as the Sacré-Coeur, Notre Dame, La Defense. The tour up was free for EU students. But, I think if you are going to pay for a view, I would pay to go up Arc de Triomphe.
Trocadéro Gardens: Trocadéro Gardens is probably the best way to take a picture of the Eiffel Tower. I would recommend this place during the day and at night.
Places That Make You Feel Like You’re in Paris
In a big touristy city it is hard to feel like you are actually in Paris. If you are looking for where you can go to feel the magic and beauty of Paris, keep reading.
Sacré-Coeur: The area near Sacré-Coeur is very lively. There’s music and artists painting. I would definitely not miss this spot. Spend the afternoon here.
Luxembourg Gardens: There are many gardens in Paris but seeing people drinking and relaxing here is exactly what I imaged Paris to be like.
Anywhere not so touristy: I challenge you to find something that is not so touristy. For me, I felt like I was in Paris when I visited the Petit Palais. I was surprised no one came to the Petit Palais because it is so beautiful and free to enter. I also felt like I was in Paris on Île de Saint-Louis. I was able to be next to the Seine, Notre Dame, and hear artists playing music.
Public Transport: If you are visiting Paris just for a couple of days, I would recommend just buying a carnet of T10 tickets for getting around the main city. You can always buy another carnet of 10 if you run out.
Uber: I arrived in Paris at the Massy TGV station which is a bit outside of the main city. Since I arrived late and left early, I had to Uber to my hostel. I thought that the Uber prices in Paris were pretty normal so if you need to use Uber, I think it is reasonable to use.
I would say the cost is moderate. It is not super cheap but also not super expensive. I bought train tickets from Bordeaux last minute which costed me 25 euros round trip. However, I got really lucky. Most of the train tickets to Paris from Bordeaux could easily be 100 euros round trip. The food was cheaper than in Bordeaux and I was able to find relatively cheap souvenirs.
I thought I would have bad encounters with French people in Paris however I found quite the opposite. Everyone I met were helpful and did not give me an attitude. I did know some French which helped but no one stopped talking to me if I spoke English. You can get by with English.
Hopefully, some of the information was useful for you. Have fun in in Paris!