Paris is made up of 20 micro-cities (arrondissements) that at one point, or another, most people will visit. So, if you are willing to travel with an open mind, and a bohemian spirit, Paris will astound you and take your breath away.
Arriving in Paris
Paris is a well travelled city, this benefits all who visit it. The resources to plan a Parisian getaway are plentiful: guide books, Instagram, the Internet, word of mouth, free apps, the City of Paris website, the list goes on.
Parisian airports have several options to access the city, taxi, Uber, bus, etc. However, the most affordable and efficient method is the RER and its connections to one of Paris’ 303 Métro stations. Before your trip, memorize the route from the airport to your accommodations; after not sleeping for as many hours as your flight, arriving with a sense of where to go after landing is priceless.
Hotel or Apartment Rental
Paris accommodations are plentiful. If you are visiting for a day or two, it makes sense to book a hotel room but if you are staying longer, rent an apartment. A la Carte Paris Apartments offers elegant Parisian apartments throughout the city, Paris Autrement offers classic apartments starting from 2 nights in the Marais district. Both offer fully equipped accommodations that allow you the flexibility to experience Paris at your leisure.
Métro stations are strategically placed throughout the city, making it easy to zip to your destination. However, if you have the time, walk. Sure, walking in Paris is delightfully maddening, even the streets are a maze to residents but this is where serendipity and adventure starts. It is your imperative as a tourist to get properly lost and to see more than the usual tourist spots. So, if you choose to follow this advice, the best place to get lost, is in the Marais district (arrondissements 3 & 4).
Every corner and hidden passageway will surprise you. The Saint-Paul area is located just off the Seine, on the right bank. Its quaint streets and stunning architecture will make you believe you are in another century. If lucky, you may stumble upon an unadorned passageway that leads you into a remarkable church, complete with music and the lingering scent of frankincense and myrrh. These are the romantic unknowns and unexpected mysteries of Paris that can never be planned.
A must do – stroll alongside the Seine and absorb its majestic power. If you are an early riser and the sun is up, grab your café au lait and croissant, then walk along the right bank to admire the crystal clear reflections of buildings dancing on the Seine. One of the best ways to relax at the end of a busy tourist day, grab a blanket, a baguette, a sinfully creamy double cream cheese and champagne, then stroll the Seine to find the perfect spot to savour your picnic and watch the dazzling glow of the sunset as it reflects off the water and nearby buildings.
Another must do, cross Paris’ 37 bridges starting from Île Saint-Louis and hop-scotch to Île de la Cîte, back and forth, then make your way down the Seine, browsing the historical bouquinistes (second hand book sellers) while admiring beautiful bridges and capturing great photos.
What to Wear
If you are walking and standing most of the day, then comfort is your friend. For most seasons, an easy uncomplicated wardrobe will go a long way to keeping you happy and in style: jeans, light t-shirt, sweater or jacket, the perennial scarf, flat shoes, a cross-body purse, and pocket sized umbrella. However, during winter, the weather is finicky, sometimes sunny, sometimes grey with intermittent rain. The damp humidity makes it colder, therefore wear a waterproof jacket and thick soled shoes to chase away the cold.
Top 7 Paris Tips:
Travel mindfully to understand the quirkiness of Paris, understand regional customs and endear yourself to Parisians. For example, when entering an establishment, always smile and say, Bonjour! Upon leaving, say, Au revoir! This little gesture is much appreciated.
- Best patisserie? Well, there are several, but a fan favourite is near the funky district, Canal Saint-Martin (10th arrondissement). If you need a sugar rush, make your way to Du pain et des idees to get the pistachio and chocolate escargot (you are very welcome).
- Get a free Paris map from the epic Galeries Lafayette. Yes, GPS exists, but without WIFI, this map is a life saver. Lay it flat on your tiny Café table, mark it up, refold it to suit the area you are in, cross out the places you have visited, circle the places you want to see, and scribble notes. They are the perfect souvenirs. Back at home, when I see a well used map, I smile instantly.
- A favourite spot for some downtime away from the crowds, the under visited Place Dauphine (tip of Île de la Cité). Its understated charm lies in the simple yet elegant building facades that surround a perfectly serene city park.
- Nôtre-Dame de Paris – free tours in several languages daily. You may have to visit this incredible Cathedral more than once to appreciate what it has to offer; every inch of this sanctuary both inside and out, is adorned with vaults, stained glass windows, gargoyles, flying buttresses, statues and so much more. Take the time to walk all around Nôtre-Dame; the backside is spectacular.
- Free city views:
- Ride the elevator or escalator to the top of Galeries Lafayette or Printemps Haussmann to access their outdoor patios.
- In Montmartre, burn those extra calories by walking towards Sacré-Coeur Basilica. Visit this stunning church with its incredible city views and experience the painters hangout, Place du Tertre, where famous artists such as, Van Gogh, Picasso, Modigliani spent time on their craft.
6. La Sainte-Chapelle, this spiritual kaleidoscope will forever change your opinion of stained glass windows. If you appreciate colour and gothic churches, this is the place to visit. The magic that radiates from such tiny pieces of glass will absolutely amaze you. If possible, visit on a sunny day to see its true beauty.
7. This page details information on free admission to museums and monuments
Make Paris your next destination for a wonderful adventure. Happy and safe travels to all!
Article and pictures by Caterina Salvatori: https://caterinasparis.wordpress.com