A First Timer’s Guide to Paris

Paris has been at the top of my travel bucket list for years, so Zack and I knew we were going to make time for a trip while we were living abroad. We decided pretty early on to make it the finale to our grand adventure. Zack’s work schedule was pretty unpredictable, and we wanted to be sure we had enough time to really enjoy ourselves. 

We saw, did, and ate A LOT in the 3.5 days we were in Paris. If you’re planning to visit the city for the first time, here’s a few recommendations and tips for your visit.

EIFFEL TOWER

An obvious MUST for any first timer (although, I’d probably go every time!).
• Arrive early (before 9am) for less crowds.
• Prepay for your ticket to avoid lines
• After sunset the tower sparkles every hour, on the hour.
• Get a great view from the Trocadéro, across the River Seine.

ARC DE TRIOMPHE

Enjoy the view from the top by purchasing tickets in advance to skip the line.

THE LOUVRE

There are so many museums in Paris, but we settled on the Louvre. Here’s some advice:

• Buy tickets online for faster entry.

• Make a game plan. The museum is too big to see everything in one go, but don’t miss some of the big attractions like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory.

• Make sure you check the hours: The museum is closed on Tuesdays but is open late on Wednesdays and Fridays.

• Be prepared for crowds no matter what time or day you visit.

NOTRE DAME

• You can tour the interior of the Cathedral for free! There’s usually a security line, but it moves quickly.

• For a small fee you can climb the towers, BUT you must book a time slot the day of (no advance bookings). This can be done at the tower OR using the JeFile app. I highly recommend using the app to book first thing in the morning because the time slots do fill up!

MONTAMARTE

As the highest point in Paris, you’ll have another great view of the city. We visited on our last day in Paris, and it actually snowed which made it a little foggy, BUT it was still magical looking.

• Climb the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur.

• Wander through the small little neighborhood of Montamarte.

RESTAURANT GUIDE

We went to some great restaurants and tried some incredible food. Below are some of the ones I HIGHLY recommend:

Bar Hemingway
Hidden inside the Ritz Hotel is the most incredible bar. The atmosphere is charming and sophisticated, the drinks (while VERY expensive) were strong and delicious, and the service was above and beyond.

Bouillon Racine
An Art Nouveau style French restaurant located in the Latin Quarter serves up some great French cuisine. We dined on razor clams, melt in your mouth steak, a bottle of wine, and even tried escargot!

Ladureé
This upscale bakery specializes in macarons, so we picked out an assortment of flavors to try.

Maison Sauvage
We stopped here for lunch and it was delicious. The restaurant is lively and vibrant and the food was delicious.

Of course, sometimes the best food is simply stumbled upon by accident. Grab a baguette or croissant at a bakery for a quick snack, stop by a street vendor and enjoy a fresh crepe, or step into a wine bar for a quick wine + cheese pairing.

TIPS

• Be extremely cautious of pickpockets. Unfortunately I was a victim BUT I didn’t let it ruin my trip. If it happens to you, try to stay positive!

• Paris is a big city, and while I do encourage walking around, the metro is a great way option for getting to those farther away places.

• Paris is also an expensive city. It’s better to just expect it, accept it, and enjoy it while you are there.

Would I visit again? Absolutely. The city was beautiful, the food was incredible, and the people were all so kind. If you’ve ever been to Paris, what did you love most? 

– Courtney


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