There is something about Paris. This capital city has everything a bon vivant would ever want from the most alluring architecture to the very best in style, art, and cuisine.
It’s a given that you’ll fall for the city’s most iconic destinations and will get seduced by the Seine. But don’t be surprised if you’re equally charmed by the quaint neighborhoods and nonchalant nature of the chic Parisians.
With so much to love, it’s no wonder that the City of Lights is everyone’s dream destination. Join the ranks of thousands of lovers and make your way to one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
Do and See
No trip to Paris is complete without a stop at the Eiffel Tower. You could brave the crowds of tourists making their way to the top or you could simply walk up to the base to take in this architectural wonder. Pro tip: Try to get in a view at nighttime to watch it light up. It shimmers for five minutes every hour on the hour!
Notre Dame Cathedral
Religious or not, you’ll want to see the facade of this medieval cathedral (the interior is currently close due to renovations following the fires of April 2019). Once you are done, wander around the rest of the Île de la Cité and the neighboring Île Saint-Louis.
Arc de Triomphe
Get one of the best views of Paris by climbing the stairs to the top of this military monument. Inspired by Roman arches, Napoleon ordered it to be built in the first part of the 1800s. It’s at the end of the Champs-Elysées, which is a beautiful avenue lined with high-end stores.
Place des Vosges
Built in the first part of 1600s by Henri IV, this is one of the oldest and prettiest plazas in Paris. It’s designed in classic French style with manicured lawns set within four pathways leading to a statue of King Louis XIII. Get out your book and pull up a chair in the shade of the trees lining the plaza or join the Parisians lounging on the grass in varying states of repose.
Jardin des Plantes
Spend a morning or afternoon wandering around the city’s main botanical garden that opened back in the 1600s. The impeccable grounds are home to more that 4,500 plants, flowers, and trees. Those traveling with little ones will also want to stop at the Natural History Museum or the Ménagerie (zoo in French), which are part of the property.
Head to the 10th arrondissement for a leisurely stroll along the canal. If it’s not too crowded, grab a bottle of wine and some accoutrements for an impromptu picnic. Otherwise, head to a nearby bistro or cafe for a bite to eat (we loved Le Verre Volé, a quaint bistro detailed below in the Food and Drink section).
Located near the Louvre at the end of the Rue Saint-Honoré, the courtyard of this former palace is definitely something to see with its neoclassical architecture and black and white modern art installation. Any fashion fan will instantly recognize the tree-lined plaza as its often featured in street style shots during fashion week.
Art and Museums
Originally a private mansion from the 17th century, this building now showcases a selection of more than 5,000 pieces of Picasso’s art. The flamboyant nature of the baroque-inspired architecture is the perfect compliment to the master’s eclectic, modern style.
Atelier des Lumières
Enter into the industrial space of this art center and prepare for an experience like no other. Watch art come alive as digital renditions are projected on almost every wall and surface. Make sure you walk around to check out the different areas of the space including a pool, mirror room, hidden bar, and staircase leading to to an indoor terrace.
Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris
Fashion lovers flock to this small museum, which was previously the label’s haute couture house. Each story of the building covers a different era of Yves Saint Laurent’s prolific career. The literal cherry on top is the light-filled atelier on the top floor where the designer created his stylish masterpieces.
Famous for its peculiar industrial architecture designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, this museum has the city’s most expansive displays of modern and contemporary art. One you’re done taking in the art, ride the iconic escalator along the outside of the building to see a panoramic view of Paris.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
Head to the edge of the city, to visit this hyper-modern art space set within the forest of the Bois de Boulogne. Everything about this place is huge. The building is massive and designed by a big name (Frank Gehry, if you’re wondering). Plus, the art is large in scale and made by big names in the art world (Yayoi Kusama, Ellsworth Kelly, and Yves Klein to name a few).
Palais de Tokyo
Located across the river from the Eiffel Tower, this “anti-museum” is known for pushing the envelope with its constantly rotating exhibitions. Prepare to feel some strong emotions as you wander the humongous space. It’s open from 12 pm until 12 am, which is great for anyone fighting jet lag or looking for some late night fun.
Musée du Louvre
Home to the Mona Lisa, this is likely the second most popular destination in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. You’ll be hard-pressed to fit in the vast collection of ancient and classical art into one single visit, but it’s enough to wander down one of the wings just to feel like you’re on the set of the Da Vinci Code.
Food and Drink
Aux 2 Anges
Admire the angel murals painted on the ceiling and colorful glass lamps as you wait to order a pastry for breakfast and an award-winning traditional baguette for later.
Well-known for it’s authentic atmosphere and delicious food, the dishes are très français (try the duck confit or steak tartare), the decor is stylish yet well worn-in, and the waitstaff are warm yet stand-offish. It’s the epitome of effortless dining, which is just the way the Parisians want it.
Café Kitsuné Palais Royal
Order an espresso and one of the Japanese-influenced pastries from this tiny yet chic coffee shop. Then, enjoy at one of the tables on the edge the Palais Royale garden. You’ll feel just like a local as you watch the stylish Parisians walk by.
Le Verre Volé
Just a stone’s throw from Canal Saint-Martin, this quaint bistro serves up deliciously straightforward French dishes like côte de boeuf with frites and boudin noir with mashed potatoes. Be sure to select one of the many natural wines from the shelves lining the restaurant to enjoy with your meal.
Any restaurant by the Big Mamma Group will deliver but this just happened to be the one we tried and loved. All of the Italian dishes are made from the very best ingredients and local produce. The beautifully decorated space and undeniably Italian waiters are just the cherry (tomato) on top.
Since more than 80 outdoor markets pop up around Paris every week, you’re bound to stumble across at least one of them during your trip. Wander among the fresh produce stalls and pick up some seasonal ingredients.
What I thought would be Instagram bait turned out to be the best shopping experience of our trip. Take your time and make your way through the three floors of stylish, quirky, and affordable goods in this store. Most of the items are very French without being obviously French, making it the perfect place to purchase chic vintage clothing, unique home goods, and beauty products. Plan to spend at least an hour shopping and then stop for a quick coffee or snack at the in-house café.
Any aspiring French Girl worth her salt will make the journey to this fashionable mecca. Check out their famously feminine line with floral dresses, easygoing denim, and pretty leather high heels and boots. The hardest part will be figuring out how you’re going to take it all home.
If the price point at the L’Appartement Sezane is too high, walk down the block to Demain where they sell pieces from prior seasons at a discount. Sizes are sometimes limited but you may be lucky and find a gem at a great price!
Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche
Venture to this high-end mall only when you are ready to die and go to fashion heaven. All the fanciest French lines and global brands are housed under one chic roof. It’s worth the trip just to browse the beautiful clothing and get a pic of the Wes Anderson-like escalators.
Cuisse de Grenouille
Mix equal parts French style with California cool and you’ll get the vibe of this concept store. It’s mainly for men but the women’s rack on the side will give you major chic Madewell vibes.
What was originally a famous blog documenting families and their stylish homes has now turned into a full-blown brand complete with this brick-and-mortar store. You’ll find a curated selection of mid-century modern furniture, Italian-influenced decor, and boldly-colored ceramics.
Led by designer Elsa Pous, this store offers scarves, bags, and textiles with modern patterns that are made using traditional methods. Most designs are colorful yet understated and will be the perfectly unique addition to your wardrobe.
Tips and Tricks
Paris is a popular destination all year long but summer is by far the most popular time for travelers. The major landmarks and museums can get quite busy so plan to go during off-hours (early in the morning or late in the evening) and purchase tickets ahead of time whenever possible.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must in a city like Paris where you’ll want to wander around. Sneakers were once a faux pas but are totally acceptable now. I’d suggest a pair of white canvas kicks or some easygoing Adidas Stan Smiths. When you’re tired of walking, head to the metro. It’s easy to get around and the people watching is tops.
Though the Parisians have a reputation for being snooty, times have changed and we found the locals quite pleasant. Still, remember to say bonjour whenever you enter a place and then say au revoir when you leave. Polite gestures like this will help the French warm up quicker.