Allons à Paris! Let’s go to Paris! Music to my ears whenever my husband suggests a Parisian holiday! I love Paris any time of year. The City of Lights conjures up images of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, and other iconic landmarks. Of course a trip to Paris would be incomplete without seeing its famous sights, but do you just want to see Paris or would you rather Experience Paris?
I remember our first trip to Paris, so busy rushing from sight to sight and not really experiencing this great city. Sure we saw all the “must see” landmarks, gawked at the Mona Lisa (I think that’s required!), enjoyed a crêpe or two, drove down the Champs-Élysées, and bought the regular tourist souvenirs; I was exhausted, but not completely satisfied. To be fair we had 3 days to “do” Paris with my aunt and uncle, not enough time to really experience the city. I vowed to return, and return we did, many times!
On that first trip we hired a car and driver, it was great! He took us to all the sights, minimal walking involved. But to really Experience Paris you need to get off the tour bus so to speak and wander the magical streets on your own. Yes your wanderings will take you to the popular tourist attractions, but when you get there don’t just stop for a few photos and move on, wander in, have a meal or snack at the local cafés or picnic at one of the parks, window shop the fabulous stores, and immerse yourself in the culture, art, cuisine, and people.
Don’t just “do” Paris! Here’re some great ways to experience Paris. I hope they inspire you to find the Paris of your dreams!
1. I think most first time visitors make the Eiffel Tower there first stop. It’s definitely a must see! But don’t just peer at it from a far, go ahead climb it! I know the lines can be daunting, but there are a couple of ways to go up the tower without too much hassle.
You can buy your tickets online . Lift tickets with access to 1 & 2 floors are €11 per adult. Access to the top including first 2 floors are €17 per adult. You can’t buy stair tickets online, they must be purchased from the ticket booth for €7 per adult)
Or my favorite way, reserve a table at one of the restaurants in the tower!
58 Tour Eiffel located on the first floor is a trendy restaurant with a menu designed by Chef Alain Soulard. He was one of the chefs on Master Chef’s Alain Ducasse’s team.
Believe me it’s an amazing way to experience the Eiffel Tower!
Lunch starts at €41.50 per person. That includes a starter, main, dessert, and beverage. Dinner starts at €85 per person. It includes a glass of champagne, starter, main, and dessert.
Your reservation includes a lift ticket to the first floor. Pick-up your lift ticket at the restaurant’s kiosk at the foot of the tower. After your meal walk up to the second floor or purchase a ticket to the top from the kiosk on the second floor.
Located on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, Le Jules Verne is a restaurant owned by Master Chef Alain Ducasse. They’re a bit pricier than 58 Tour Eiffel, but it’s well worth it. Alain Ducasse is one of my favorite chefs, in fact my daughter’s wedding reception was at Mix, his Las Vegas restaurant. The food was amazing!
Lunch at Le Jules Verne starts at €105 per person. It includes an appetizer, main, and dessert. Dinner begins at €190 per person for 5 dishes. These prices don’t include beverage, but they have an awesome wine list!
Your reservation includes a ticket to the second floor on the restaurant’s private elevator. Present your confirmation number and ID at the restaurant’s office at the south pillar of the tower, you will be escorted to the private elevator. After your meal you can purchase a lift ticket to the top from the ticket office on the second floor.
Should you decide to reserve a table at one of these restaurants try and reserve a window table overlooking the Trocadéro, the view is awesome!
If you’re not interested in dining at either restaurant just purchase your lift ticket online. You can change your mind and walk in for lunch or dinner at either restaurant as long as there’s availability. Or if you get hungry grab a snack at self service buffets on the first and second floor.
Toast your trip to Paris and ascent up the tower at the Champagne Bar at the tower’s top floor. A glass of bubbly starts at €13. What a wonderful way to Experience Paris!
2. To really experience the tower don’t take the lift, WALK! If climbing 700+ steps isn’t for you consider walking down, at least part way. You’ll get amazing views of the inner tower!
3. Experience Paris and get a unique Eiffel Tower vies; grab an outdoor table at Le Bistro Parisien. Located quayside at the foot of the tower along the Seine this popular bistro is a great place for a gourmet snack or meal anytime of day.
My husband and I spend hours sipping wine and munching snacks here. It’s a great place to people watch, there’s lots going on at the quay! And you get terrific shots of the tower looming just above you!
4. Hop on the metro to the Trocadéro station for classic Eiffel Tower views.
From the metro station head to the Esplanade du Trocadéro which is actually the roof of the Chaillot Theater. There’s always a festive atmosphere there.
You’ll see people from around the world gather there to take photos of the tower.
But that’s not all going on, it’s a local favorite as well. The last time we were there we watched some talented kids doing tricks on their skateboards.
While you’re there you visit the museums, theaters, or restaurants nearby. Or walk down the steps and wander the Jardin du Trocadéro. The garden is famous for its fountains and statuary.
5. Stake out a spot on the grass at Place des Vosges, a popular open space in the heart of Paris’ trendy Marais district.
Built in the early 1600’s Place des Vosges is one of Paris’ oldest and most beautiful squares. Many famous people including Victor Hugo, Cardinal Richelieu, and Georges Dufrénoy once called the stately mansions that line the square home.
Today you can picnic or snooze on the grassy lawn in the middle of the square, stroll along the arcaded covered walkway lined with art galleries, shops, and cafés, or visit the home of Victor Hugo and the other museums there.
But this place is not just a tourist spot, it’s actually part of Parisian life. There’s an elementary school and synagogue located there.
The best thing is access to this square if free! It’s a relaxing way to spend a lazy afternoon!
6. Enjoy the cafe scene. Pick an area; Rive Gauche, Île de la Cité where Notre Dame de Paris is located, around the Place de la Bastille or Place de République, along the Champs-Élysées or the Rue des Rosiers, Montmartre, or anywhere Paris. You’ll find outdoor cafes lining the streets of this wonderful city.
Take a seat, sip some wine, and watch the world go by. You should be aware that enjoying a snack or drink sitting down is more expensive than grabbing that same snack or drink on the go. Cafe’s usually 2 list prices for each item, one price for take-away and a higher one for dine-in. The same cup of coffee is €2-3 if you take it to go and €6 if you sit down at a table.
7. Immerse yourself in art! Many of the world’s greatest works of art are housed in the museums around the city.
Of course the Louvre is a must see, after all you can’t leave the city without a glimpse of the Mona Lisa’s secretive smile. You and the thousands of tourists crushed in the room where the painting hangs! But there is much more to see at the Louvre, I still haven’t seen everything and I’ve been there 3 or 4 times already!
If you’re not liking crowds head to the Musée d’Orsay, it’s my favorite! Housed in a former Beaux-Arts railway station the d’Orsay is home to the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world.
It’s a lovely museum and not too crowded. You can take your time wandering thru the different exhibits.
Another less crowded museum is Les Invalides, a complex of museums dedicated to the military history of France. It is also the resting place of France’s war heroes including Napoleon.
After you’ve walked thru the museums and visited the church and the Tomb of Napoleon stroll thru the gardens, they’re delightful.
You can peek at the top of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
Avoid long lines and buy your tickets for these museums online!
8. Climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The Eiffel Tower isn’t the only monument you can climb! The Arc de Triomphe located at the top of the famed Champs-Élysées has panoramic views of the city.
You can start your day at the Arc then stroll down the boulevard for a truly Parisian experience. You’ll find most of the designer shops along the Champs-Élysées and the areas around it, including Vuitton and Channel’s flagship store. You’ll also find car showrooms along this famous street.
Take your time, stroll and shop! When you get hungry stop by for a pastry at Fauchon at Place de la Madeleine.
It’s a great way to experience Paris; shopping, eating, and sightseeing, what more can you ask for?
9. Sail down the Seine on a Bateaux Mouches or Bateaux Parisian river boat. Both companies offer scenic and lunch/dinner cruises.
See the city from the river for a different perspective! You’ll sail by the Île aux Cygnes an artificial island on the Seine where the smaller replica of the Statue of Liberty stands.
10. EAT! The best way to experience any place is by trying out local cuisine. This is specially true in Paris. From food trucks to fine dining Paris is a foodies’ dream. Home to many of the great chefs of the world Paris has no shortage of food establishments.
Whatever you’re craving you’ll find it in Paris. One of my favorite areas to find great food is the Jewish Quarter in the Marais district along the Rue des Rosiers.
There are many ways to experience Paris, there’s something for every budget! If picking up a suit at Channel and dining at Le Jules Verne is your thing or grabbing a pastrami sandwich from at the Rue de Rosiers and enjoying it on the lawn of Place des Vosges is more your style either way is a fabulous way to experience Paris!