Paris – the city of love. It’s legendary for it’s art, fashion, food, and beauty. I went for the first time this spring, and fell in love! It’s a city you can literally spend months in, and still experience something new. Today I’m sharing my top 7 things to do in Paris – a beginner’s guide! This is NOT a comprehensive list, so if you’ve been and have something you’d recommend please comment!! I would love to hear!
Top 7 Things to Do in Paris
1. Eiffel Tower
To me, this is number one! The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. When you see it, you think of romantic proposals, clinking champagne glasses, and vogue fashion shoots. Wherever you go in this beautiful city, you’re likely to see it at least once! If not while walking through the neighborhoods, definitely on the shirts and mugs and in small statues that are sold everywhere. The best place to go for photos of the Eiffel Tower is the Trocadéro museum. This is where these photos were taken:
If you walk down towards the tower itself from the Trocadéro, there is a carousel that you can ride!
2. Museums to See
If you love art or history, Paris is the place to be for incredible museums! The must see museum is, of course, the Louvre. It’s most famous as the home of the Mona Lisa. It sometimes gets a bad rap as being very crowded, and if you go to see the most famous pieces, be prepared for a crowd! But this museum is absolutely incredible! The Louvre was originally a French palace, but was converted into an art museum during the French Revolution. Because of this, the rooms and architecture are exquisite. The rooms all together are bigger than 14 acres! It’s so huge that you can definitely find a quiet hall, where there are almost no people, to sit and think and enjoy the art. Whether you’re an art lover or novice, this is unquestionably a must see while in Paris!
The second best museum (in my humble opinion) is the Musée d’Orsay. If you love Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, you will LOVE this museum! They had some of the most famous works of Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and more. The architecture of the museum itself is also incredible! You just really have to go!
Musée de l’Orangerie
My personal favorite museum of the entire trip was the Musée de l’Orangerie. Ever since I was a little girl, I loved Monet’s work. His Woman with a Parasol painting was on the cover of my journal in like 3rd grade! Chris bought me a canvas of his Argenteuil (Red Sailboats) painting while we were dating. He is one of the most loved painters of all time! So when I came into this museum, it was like a dream come true! The Musée de l’Orangerie was specifically built for his Waterlilies paintings. It’s such a beautiful place, perfect for meditating and thinking. I always left feeling inspired! This is definitely a must see while you are there!
Another favorite museum is the Musée Rodin. Rodin was the famous sculpture who created “The Thinker”. The museum was his home during his lifetime, and today has beautiful gardens and rooms to see his sculptures. They were so full of movement and emotion – it’s such a gorgeous place to be!
3. Arc de Triomphe
My favorite part of the Arc de Triomphe was climbing to the top! It’s a long, slightly claustrophobic climb, but it’s worth it for the most BEAUTIFUL view of the city! We climbed up during sunset, and I created this beautiful panorama. It was such a beautiful moment! We stayed at the top all evening, until 9 o clock when – right on the dot – the Eiffel Tower lights up and sparkles! It is the most romantic, beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life! Simply magical! The tower does this every evening, at the start of the hour. You have to see it while you’re there!
4. Notre Dame
This cathedral is absolutely stunning! It’s famous for it’s incredible (and at the time it was built, innovative) architecture. There are tours that take you to the top – just make sure you reserve tickets in advance! They go quickly!
5. Sainte Chapelle Cathedral
This cathedral is absolutely breathtaking! Smaller than Notre Dame, it also feels more intimate and personal. It definitely feels as majestic and inspiring though! The stained glass windows here are some of the finest in the entire world. It’s also a definite must see!
Montmarte is a historic district of Paris that’s most well known for it’s artistic history. If you look across Paris and see what looks like a little white city on a hill, this is probably what you’re looking at! We walked up into this area during the day, and it was so charming! There were small boutiques where I bought the cutest coat, for a very good price too! The rolling hills, beautiful buildings, and small cafes and artist stands made for a charming, relaxing environment. It’s amazing to think that artists like Monet, Renoir, Degas, Picasso, and Van Gogh all had studios or worked around this area! Some of the most famous paintings in the world were painted here in this small part of Paris!
7. Wandering the City
This is a bit obvious, but one of my favorite parts of Paris was just wandering the city! There are gardens, fountains, statues, charming buildings, and intimate cafes everywhere you go! You’ll see locals walking with flowers and baguettes, and delicious smelling bakeries with dozens of macaroons and pastries and crepes. One thing I learned while in Paris was to enjoy a slower pace of life! People sit and eat in outdoor cafes, talking with their friends and family, people watching and sipping wine and enjoying the evening. I hardly saw anyone at restaurants on their phones, they all enjoyed their friends and the moment. I loved this attitude towards life, and it really changed me while I was there!
Day Trip Outside of Paris
There are SO many day trips outside the city, and it can be hard to choose where to go! I went to Fountainbleau and absolutely loved it!! If you love French history, and always think of Marie Antoinette and the royal’s insanely lavish lifestyle, you’ll want to see Fountainbleau or Versailles. Fountainbleau is very similar to Versailles, but is much less crowded! It’s a great place to see. The castle reminded me of Beauty and the Beast! It’s hard to believe that this was one (of many) homes for one family!
Things to Eat
French food is divine. Depending on your budget, I’d recommend eating at a cafe at least a few times – if not every day! The food is delicious, and the atmosphere is so cozy.
You have to try the gelato! There is a gelato stand between the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe, right by the Musée de l’Orangerie, that is so yummy! They shape the gelato in the form of a rose, and put a macaroon on top right in the middle. In this photo it’s a bit melted, but you can see how charming it is! It’s right by a large pond where there are lots of chairs to sit on, and watch the view of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe as the sun sets.
Of course, you have to try macaroons! There are plenty of pastry shops and bakeries around the city that have homemade macaroons and pastries that are to die for. My favorites were the chocolate eclairs and the apple tarts, too!
There are some things people have told me about France, that while I was there I didn’t experience, and didn’t find true. One of those was that people are generally not as warm or friendly as in the U.S. (totally depending on where you’re from in the U.S., by the way!) Everyone I met was very nice and respectful. When you make an effort to be respectful and try to speak the language, people usually are very appreciative and nice! Always say hello, please when asking a question or ordering something from a cafe, and thank you. If you do this you’ll come off as polite and nice, and people will reciprocate! Here are some important phrases for you to know while traveling.
Hello – Bonjour
Please – S’il vous plaît
Thank you – Merci
You’re welcome – Je vous en prie
Excuse Me – Pardon
Goodbye – Au revoir
There are more at this link on TripAdvisor here that helped me while I was there, too!
And, of course, there’s nothing more romantic than listening to French music while exploring. Here’s a playlist that I love that you can explore to!
As you can see, Paris is a magical city! The things to do and see are endless. I hope this blog post was helpful for your first time visiting!! Don’t forget to check out my print shop before you leave, where you can find gorgeous prints of Paris to decorate your home or give as gifts. Go see them here! Au revoir!