This guide is to help you navigate your way through Paris. But if you only read as far as these words, let me tell you one thing: there is nowhere in the world like Paris. Take in every sight, every smell, every taste, every sound, and every feeling. And appreciate every moment as I’m somewhere else envying you, because anywhere I am in the world, if it’s not Paris, it’s too far from Paris.
The Girl Who Jumped/La Fille Qui A Sauté
- Check hours and days of museums and wherever you want to visit. Many museums are closed on Mondays. (exception: Louvre)
- Visit the Louvre on a Wednesday night; there won’t be a line, the museum will be almost empty, and it stays open until 9:45 on Wednesdays.
- You don’t need to tip, service is always included.
- Paris’ arrondissements spiral outward in the shape of a snail from 1 being in the center to 20 being in the northeast. The postal code for Paris is 750– where the last two numbers indicate the arrondissement.
- When calling a French number from a foreign phone: +33 1 23 45 67 89. When calling a French number from a French phone: 01 23 45 67 89
- If you don’t have a specific restaurant in mind, try using the app/website LaFourchette (aka “The Fork”) where you can find deals for up to 50%.
- Never – I repeat NEVER – ask for a bottle of water at a restaurant. Always ask for “une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît.” A bottle is way overpriced, a carafe is just a pitcher of tap water and it’s free J
- the metro closes around midnight on weekdays and around 1:30 on weekends, then reopens around 5:30 in the morning, check times. If the metro is closed, take a night bus, an uber, or a taxi!
- While most tourists migrate to the Eiffel Tower for a view of Paris, I suggest not. Definitely go see the Eiffel Tower, and if the weather is great, buy a bottle of wine, a baguette, and some cheese, and have a picnic on the lawn below. But the line is horrendous and the tickets are overpriced. I prefer the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe (shorter line, cheaper ticket, and you have the Eiffel tower in your view as well as the entire Champs-Elysées.) Also, the roof of Galeries Lafayette, the roof of Centre Pompidou, or the base of Sacre Coeur all have incredible views overlooking Paris that are free and you don’t have to wait in any line at all.
- You must fulfill the clichés:
- have a crepe with nutella in the street (either by the Eiffel tower or in Montmartre)
- sit at a café and drink a coffee and eat a croissant while people-watching. (note: when you order simply a coffee (café), it is an espresso. If you want the milk and sugar, ask for either a cappuccino or a café crème.)
- If the weather permits, buy a bottle of wine and share it with a friend while sitting along the banks of the Seine.
- When you enter a store or restaurant or bar or really any place at all, it’s extremely rude not to say bonjour to the person working there. The same thing goes when you leave the store; you must say merci, au revoir. I’m really serious, it’s awkward and impolite if you don’t say these things, and not only will you stand out as an ignorant tourist, but you’ll actually really insult the vendor.
- Key phrases:
- Bonjour = hello (when entering)
- Bonne journée = have a good day (when leaving)
- Bonsoir = good evening (when entering)
- Bonne soirée = have a good evening (when leaving)
- Au revoir = goodbye
- Pardon! = pardon (when you bump into someone or try to get by someone)
- Excusez-moi = excuse me (to get someone’s attention)
- Merci (beaucoup) = Thank you (very much)
- S’il vous plaît (pronounced seal voo play) = please
- Où est ____ ? (pronounced oo eh ___) = Where is _____ ?
- ***ABOVE ALL: You’re in Paris, the most romantic, magical city of the world. You won’t possibly see or do everything, so if your plans don’t go the right way or if you find yourself rushing to complete a checklist, stop and take in where you are. Simply walking through the streets admiring the architecture, the language, and the atmosphere is enough. Whenever people ask me what my favorite part of Paris is, it’s just that: walking and looking around. This is a walking city. So don’t worry if you don’t cover everything; it’s more important to take in every moment to appreciate that you are in fact in Paris, and I’m somewhere else envying you.
If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.-Ernest Hemingway
- Louvre (metro: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre): Paris’ most famous art museum, used to be the royal palace, closed Mondays, go on a Wednesday night when it’s open until 9:45 and no lines.
- Centre Pompidou (Place Georges-Pompidou 75004, metro: Rambuteau): modern art museum with as much of an interesting architecture as the artwork inside. The view from the top is a must – free and no line! (For the view, you can skip the museum and just ride the escalator to the top floor for this view, and even have a drink up there…although that won’t be too cheap.)
- L’Orangérie (Jardin Tuileries 75001, metro: Concorde or Tuileries): my personal favorite museum in Paris. Home to Monet’s famous water lilies, the room was actually specifically created for this masterpiece. Of course, the downstairs exhibit is just as breathtaking. (suggestion: a walk through the Tuileries is a perfect accompaniment to a trip to this museum)
- Musée d’Orsay (1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur 75007, metro: Solferino or Assemblée Nationale): another one of my favorites, this museum boasts impressionist and post-impressionist artwork. Orsay used to be a railway station, which you can see from the grand interior. Another incredible view of Paris from the giant clocks on the top floor.
- Musée Picasso (5 Rue de Thorigny 75003, metro: Saint-Sébastien-Froissart or Chemin Vert): although this museum was criticized for its lack of thematic clarity, I found it breathtaking. The building itself is a work of art, but moreover it is an entire museum dedicated to Picasso’s life works, an enormous output of which approx. 5,000 are housed here. (side note: located in the North Marais, a really supah cool neighborhood.)
- Le Petit Palais/Le Grand Palais: more expensive and long lines, but beautiful buildings, check the exhibitions and buy tickets ahead of time
- Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (metro: Alma-Marceau): right by the Eiffel Tower, much quieter than the Pompidou but still a very cool modern art museum
- Carnavalet (16 Rue des Francs Bourgeois 75003, metro: Saint-Paul or Chemin Vert): also located in the Marais and close to the gorgeous Place des Vosges, this is the museum of the history of Paris. Best if there is a special exhibit, because the permanent exhibit could be a little dry.
- Musée Marmottan (2 Rue Louis Boilly 75016, metro: La Muette): a bit out of the way but a calmer and smaller museum with a specific emphasis on its Monet collection. Not recommended for a short or first-time visit to Paris, but if it’s your third or fourth and you feel you’ve seen everything else, then it’s a good detour.
That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me. -Marion Cotillard as Adriana in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris
- Eiffel Tower
- Arc de Triomphe/Les Champs-Elysees (this grand boulevard is something you should see once and never return to again)
- Opéra Garnier (beautiful opera house but not recommended if its your first time in Paris and don’t have too much time)
- Père Lachaise Cemetery (16 Rue du Repos 75020, metro: Père Lachaise, and like 3 others): cemetery with many famous people, (fun fact: living in a grave here is more expensive than living in some apartments in Paris!)
- Canal Saint-Martin: one of my absolute favorite spots in Paris, this canal is calmer than the Seine and absolutely gorgeous. Plus, it’s a short walk from Place de la Republique, and the area includes some very, very cool cafés and bars. Continue walking higher in the direction of La Villette, and it’s really really beautiful.
- gardens/parks: Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg (smaller but still beautiful: Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Jardin des Plantes, Place des Vosges →epitome of “Romantic Paris”)
- La Grande Mosquée de Paris (2bis Place du Puit de l’Ermite, metro: Jussieu or Place Monge): gorgeous, serene, exotic building. When I went to its café around the corner, we had no menu but instead were served Moroccan mint tea served by a speedy waiter carrying a tray with only glasses of tea, but I’d check out the sweet treats inside too and if you want a meal, the couscous is amazing amazing. Also, the terrace is beautiful to sit out on and drink this tea on a fresh spring day! Right next to the Jardin des Plantes
- Marché Bastille: amazing market every Sunday, super busy, fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, cheeses, breads.
- Marché des Enfants Rouges: the only food market in Paris that I’ve encountered that resembles anything like Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. Come here just for Chez Alain Miam Miam (his socca or his sandwiches), but if you do, be prepared to wait in his line for a while – although Chef Alain does offer some funny entertainment while he prepares your food.
- Versailles (1/2 day trip)
- Monet’s house at Giverny (go early to arrive when it opens or expect long lines)
- Panthéon (and its tombs, including those of Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo)
- les grands magasins (equivalent to French department stores): Galeries Lafayette (most famous and upscale, check out the food in the basement of Lafayette Maison!), Printemps (next door to Lafayette), Au Bon Marché (this one is amazing to me, the inside is all white, and it includes Le Grand Epicerie de Paris with amazing displays of food from all over the world, also the restaurant always looked good to me even though I never ate there), Le BHV (not really a tourist place to visit since you’d really just go there as a Parisian to shop)
- I don’t see what the big hype in visiting these are, especially if you only have a weekend in Paris, but if you’re in the neighbourhood, you could check one of them out.
- La Promenade Plantée (metro: Bel-Air or Daumesnil): obsolete railway tracks turned into a beautiful promenade (the highline of Paris). La Petite Ceinture is also old railway tracks, but that is more out of the way and pretty small. Only visit if in the area or if you’re staying close by.
- Filmotheque Cinéma (simply a very cool, artsy, 2 room, noncommercial cinema)
Paris is always a good idea. -Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina
- Sacre Coeur (amazing view + walk around Montmartre after, which has a cool mix of touristy and local shops/restaurants/bars)
- Notre Dame (view from the roof)
- Sainte-Chapelle (go on a sunny day to best experience the famous stain-glassed windows)
In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language. -Mark Twain
- *The Parisian café is completely unique, and an absolute must in Paris. No matter how much Parisians rush around, they still find time for a café and a cigarette. No matter what hour of the day, there will always be retired, big-stomached French men drinking an espresso at the counter of these cafes. And no matter how classy les garcons look wearing traditional black and white waistcoats, they’ll always prefer to take a smoking break than your order. Best of all, these are cafes are the magical home to some of history’s most celebrated authors and artists. Choose a famous one or a random one, sit with a coffee, and people-watch. [Most of these suggestions are the famous ones, so naturally they aren’t the cheapest, but if you’re willing, then these are worth it.]
- Les Deux Magots (6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés 75006, metro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés): classic French café, may be a bit pricey for a coffee and pastry, but still a must if you want the feel of traditional Paris. (right next door is Café de Flore, I have yet to find a significant difference between the two)
- La Closerie des Lilas (171 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006, metro: Vavin): if you’re going here, it’s because you love Hemingway (he spent a lot of time writing in this café, as he talked about in A Moveable Feast). It’s more expensive, but very classy and very beautiful, and if you’re a history nerd like me you wouldn’t mind spending 6 euros on a coffee if it means sitting amongst literary ghosts.
- Angelina’s: famous for their hot chocolate, which is liquid chocolate and the closest you’ll come to tasting heaven. Yes, a bit pricey. If you go for the hot chocolate, I recommend only getting the hot chocolate and not a pastry on the side because the drink is already incredibly sweet, and too much sugar will kill the experience.
- Le Pré aux Clercs (alternative to the 2 more famous Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore, and right around the corner)
- Café Carette (one with a view of the Eiffel Tower, the other with a view of Place des Vosges in the marais…I choose the second, but maybe a first time tourist would want the first.)
In Paris, everybody wants to be an actor; nobody is content to be a spectator. -Jean Cocteau
Non-Traditional Cafés (mostly owned and run by young, hipster, anglophone expats intent on bringing high quality, fresh ground coffee to Paris):
- Lily of the Valley
- La Caféothéque
- KB Cafeshop
- The Broken Arm
- Boot Cafe
When spring comes to Paris the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise. -Henry Miller
Restaurants/Eateries (I love Parisian cafes and patisseries, but being a vegetarian, French cuisine isn’t my favorite)
- Marcel: right on Canal St. Martin, cool vibe, modern indian food, definitely suggested. Head to Le Comptoir General for a drink afterwards.
- Le Bichat (11 Rue Bichat, 75010): bio, delicious bowls with an Asian twist, (rice, curry, vegetables, yum), good vegetarians options, good area (2 streets from Canal St. Martin)
- Ibaji (13 Rue du Vertbois, 75003): this street is actually known as “La Jeune Rue” (the young street) because just this year one man bought out many properties and completely renovated them. This restaurant is Korean food, I got a vegetarian rice dish in a hot bowl where the egg cooked right there in the bowl with a Korean liquor to start!
- l’Entrecôte de Paris (29 Rue de Marignan, 75008): once went here before I became vegetarians, famous for its amazing steak
- Café Med (77 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île 75004, metro: Pont Marie): I love this place. I really love this place. It’s a small creperie; the kitchen is downstairs and the food is sent up by a dumbwaiter. (PS a galette is a savory crepe, and both galettes and crepes, savory and sweet, are made at this restaurant.)
- L’As du Falafel: best falafel in Paris and located in the heart of the Jewish quarter of Paris
- L’Ebouillanté (6 Rue des Barres 75004, metro: ): homey and comfortable creperie. Take a walk along the Seine after this lunch spot.
- Le Germain: cool vibe, not the cheapest, but also a cool neighbourhood (Saint-Germain des Près)
- 404: delicious Moroccan cuisine. When I went it was someone’s birthday, and they turned the music up really loud and the waiters starting dancing and then a random woman having dinner stood up and danced with the waiter. Please say it’s your birthday so you can have this experience!
- Mary Celeste: cool and chic dinner spot in the Marais
- Chez Janou: never been, but I’ve heard such good things about this place that I thought I should include it
Paris is not a city, it’s a world.
Vegetarian Restaurants (too many, tried to put in my favorite order):
- Soya: vegetarian, make a reservation in advance, most expensive and legit restaurant of this list. The Saturday and Sunday brunch buffet is 27 euros, but omggggg. I spent more than 3 hours here one Sunday with a friend, laughing and eating and it was my only meal of the day.
- Bob’s Kitchen (74 Rue des Gravilliers, 75003): great area, great food, saw Natalie Portman here (Bob’s Juice Bar: 15 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 75010, Bob’s Bake Shop: 12 esplanade Nathalie Sarraute, 75018)
- Hank (55 Rue des Archives, 75003): situated in a really great area and serving really great vegetarian hamburgers
- Krishna Bhavan (24 Rue Cail, 75010): let’s be real this area is sketchy, but this indian restaurant is cheap and the food is amazing
- POB: similar to Hank, also vegetarians burgers
- Juice It: not a restaurant, only a bench outside, but if you’re craving an acai bowl or healthy veggie food, very good!
- others: Pinson, Fee Nature, Pousse Pousse, Sol Semilla, Loving Hut, Soul Kitchen (never tried, in Montmartre)
A final reminder. Whenever you are in Paris at twilight in the early summer, return to the Seine and watch the evening sky close slowly on a last strand of daylight fading quietly, like a sigh. -Kate Simon
Brunch (bc duh):
- Le Pavillon des Canaux: beautiful walk along the canals, this restaurant looks like a quaint house, have brunch (24 euros) in a bathtub, bed, or comfy couch!
- Merci Used Book Café: really cool concept store with several cafés linked
- Soya: the Saturday and Sunday brunch buffet is 27 euros, but omggggg. I spent more than 3 hours here one Sunday with a friend, laughing and eating and it was my only meal of the day.
- Breizh (111 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003): this one I’m still iffy about, it’s famous for its crepes and the one time I went the crepe was very good, but I wonder if the price and wait is just for the name…(personally can’t complete about 3 euros street crepes)
- Buvette: ridiculous (in every amazing way) drink menu, start your day drinking here bc y nawt
- Holybelly: overrated
- Claus (14 Jean-Jacques Rousseau 75001, metro: Louvre-Rivoli): Paris meets New York style brunch, yummy but pricey.
- Breakfast in America: obviously only if you’re in Paris long-term and really missing some pancakes, amazing milkshakes, omelet was disappointing
We’ll always have Paris. -Howard Koch
Not restaurants but still food:
- Thé des Mariage Frères: expensive but impressive
- Du Pain et Des Idées (34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010): one step inside and you’ll want to eat everything in this boulangerie
- Berthillon: ice cream on Île Saint-Louis, the only ice cream you should eat in Paris
- Aux Péches Normands (metro: Republique): get the chouquettes!
- Patisserie Viennoise (tiny!)
- Fauchon: upscale, world-food shop. Even if you don’t buy anything (good luck with that), just looking at the displays is amazing!
- Sugar Daze: cupcakery owned by a New Yorker, if you’re feeling homesick for a good American cupcake
- Speakeasies: They are cool because they’re speakeasies (and finding the entrance is half the fun), but on the downside the majority of the crowd isn’t French and the drinks are more expensive (you pay for the experience, cocktails = about 10-12 euros).
- The Little Red Door
- Mezcaleria (behind 1K Hotel)
- Le Comptoir Général: Francophone Africa and Caribbean themed, the concept store is open from 11am-7pm and the bar at night. It’s just really different from a lot of what you’d find in Paris. [P.S. if there’s a line, it usually goes quickly]
- Wanderlust (32 Quai d’Austerlitz, 75013): club on the edge of the Seine, best in spring and summer when the outside is open!
- Lockwood: the downstairs bar is really cool! you’ll feel like you’re in a cave
- Zéro de Conduite (14 Rue Jacob, 75006): cocktails served in baby bottles! Sounds childish, but so fun. Each drink has a name of a cartoon character and to order you must draw on a white board that character. You can also play board games while there. (It might look closed from the outside, but it’s open!)
- Rosa Bonheur sur Seine (by Pont Alexandre III): boat bar on the Seine
- le Pantalon: this is a special one. Cheap drinks and young crowd. Perfect if you want to have conversations with locals and don’t mind that it’s not the cleanest or classiest of places (although, in my opinion, that’s what gives it its charm!)
- Dirty Dick: cool drinks, cool atmosphere, luau themed! [Don’t be so deterred by the neighborhood around Pigalle.]
- Le Germain
- Le Perchoir and NUBA: 2 rooftop bars I never went to‼ Go for me J
- most bars close after 2am → where to next?
- Café Mabillon (164 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006): open until 6am, say hi from the American girl and her Norwegian friend!
- there’s a bar on a corner to the east of Centre Pompidou…trying to find the name but failing
So what are my favorite favorites?
- walking! from the Eiffel tower all the way along the seine
- Canal Saint Martin (metro: Republique)
- Le Marais (metro: Hotel de Ville, Rambuteau,, the north marais is great, around Musée Picasso → metro: Arts et Métiers, Saint-Sébastien-Froissart)
- Saint Germain des Près (metro: Sèvres-Babylone, Saint Germain des Près, Odéon)