Here are our tips for romantic Paris; from where to stay, the top things to do, as well as the best shopping, bars, cafes, food and restaurants to check out!
Where to stay in Paris
Paris is divided into twenty neighbourhoods called arrondissements, and they’re arranged in an outward spiral beginning at the city’s centre. All of the neighbourhoods offer something different so it depends what you’re after.
Most first time visitors tend to make the mistake of staying right near the Eiffel Tower, which is nice if you’re there for a short stay (1-2 days) but there is much more to Paris than that area of town. You should consider staying in Saint Germain which is central to many areas or Pigalle which is a bit further north, on a slight hill and near the nightlife area of the red light district and the beautiful Montmartre area.
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Pigalle (near Moulin Rouge) and found it a perfect location to explore the city. Although it was a room in an Attic it was very affordable and other than to sleep we spent no time in the room.
Getting around Paris
Paris is big and quite spread out but it is possible to see a lot of it by walking. If you plan to walk get a map such as ‘Paris Pratique’ from any of the news stands. It will also have a map of the metro/bus. If you plan on using the reliable Metro a lot, get a 3-day pass or a ‘carnay’ of 10 tickets. Taxis are ridiculously expensive and not worth it.
What to do in Paris
We found ourselves grazing our way through Paris, stopping at bakeries, stores and shopping complexes to see what was on offer. There are temptations on every corner, and sometimes you just can’t say no… and that’s OK. Éclairs, baguettes, croissants, crepes, macaroons! Yum Yum Yum.
Here are the highlights of Paris, that we recommend visiting! If you plan to do all of the below activities, it may be worth getting the Paris Pass which will save you money and time.
- Eiffel Tower – A good time to visit the Eiffel Tower is at twilight so you see it in the day and night. If you’re wanting to go to the top, consider going in the evening when there are fewer lines, or pre-buy your ticket for your selected time and date online. Also, get off at the Trocadero metro stop for the best view of the Eiffel Tower, then walk up to it from there. If the weather is nice, grab a picnic from the Rue Cler nearby and sit out on the Champ de Mars.
- Moulin Rouge / Red Light District – Check out the risqué Moulin Rouge, Le Chat Noir, Lapin Agile cabaret shows along with an endless amount of sex stores. Most of the shows will have a ticket price including a dinner but it is possible to buy without the dinner. Note that they are in French but some of them will give you an English handbook to follow.
- Avenue des Champs-Elysees – High-end shopping and restaurants. After walking up this avenue, check out the Arc de Triomphe – Napoleon’s monument to himself and those who died fighting for France. You are able to go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for a view over the city also.
- Notre Dame Cathedral – A Roman Catholic cathedral of hunchback fame.
- Opera House – Beautiful interiors. If you’re not up to paying the entry fee, they have a great video inside that shows off the interiors without actually going all the way in.. cheating but you can still get an idea! 😉
- Louvre– A mecca of an art museum, housing the Mona Lisa. Great park and garden nearby which makes for a great stroll even if you are not going inside the museum. If you plan on going to the museum, you’ll take a least half the day so plan accordingly.
- Musee D’Orsay– French impressionist paintings, including a few Van Goghs. This is more manageable than the Louvre.
- Invalides – War & military relics.
- Montmarte / Sacre Coeur – The arty area of Montesarre is perched on the top of a hill overlooking all of Paris. In this quaint village town, you’ll find artists painting, touristy restaurants and a huge church.
- Pont de Arts – The romantic pedestrian bridge where couples staple locks with their names on it, near the Louvre museum. Yes, yes we did it, with our wedding logo written on it.
- Gardens – Check out the lovely Jardin du Luxemburg, Jardin des Tuileries and also the open green fields of Champ de Mars near the Eiffel Tower. All perfect for a picnic.
- Quartier Latin – The student quarter with many cafes and shops.
- Vedettes de Paris – Take a boat tour and see Paris’s major sites in a different way.
- Les Catacombs – Underground tunnels lined with skulls and bones.
Shopping in Paris
There are just so many options for shopping in Paris, with an emphasis on high-end fashion. It’s quite fun to window shop and it’s crazy how many of them have overt security guards hovering around – even for a Nespresso coffee store. Just about anything you need, you’ll find it in Paris.
- St Germain des Pres – Shopping, bistros, bars, cafes. Get an espresso at the Café de Flores but don’t be alarmed when you see the ice-cream for €14.
- Galeries Lafayette & Printemps – A huge shopping complex with an amazing (and expensive) boutique food section on the ground floor. A must visit.
- Le Bon Marche – Large department stores.
- Avenue des Champs-Elysees – High-end shopping and restaurants.
Where & What To Eat in Paris
When you’re in Paris, make it your mission to eat as many baguettes, croissants, crepes, macaroons and sweet treats as possible. One of the 2 days we spent in Paris was spent sampling something at almost every bakery we went in. Apart from grazing through all the stores, you can also enjoy the well known French cuisine at the thousands of restaurants lining the streets, although they are notoriously expensive. Be wary of sitting outside at some restaurants as you’re most likely going to have cigarette smoke blowing in your face.
We had one special night out in Paris and splurged for a 4-course meal. It was walking distance from our accommodation in Pigalle. The restaurant felt very local, the food was very French and it was only €34 a head for 4 courses. The menu was in French but we were able to have it translated.
Here are some recommendations we received from a local friend. They’re all walk in and very popular so you may need to wait ½ hour or so. Dinner starts at 7 pm usually.
- Le Relais de L’Entrecote (6th & 8th District) – only serves traditional French steak and fries with a secret sauce
- Cafe Constant – (7th District)
- Les Cocottes – ( 7th District)
- Le Comptoir – (6th District) – weekends only.
- L’as du Falafel (4th District) – Jewish Quartier in the Marais – lunch only, cheap shawarmas and falafels.
- Robert & Louise (4th) – the steak was awesome, “Cote de boeuf” charred over an open flame
- Breizh Cafe– savoury and sweet crepes
- Le Bon Accueil (7th) View of the Eiffel Tower if you get a table outside on the sidewalk.
- Le Troquet (15th) multi-course menu for under 50 euros
Make sure to avoid any place that has a multi-lingual menu as, like all cities, these are generally tourist traps. Most of the good restaurants will have menus only in French.
Chocolate Stores – Jeff de Bruges, Christian Constant, La Maison du Chocolat.
Pastries/Treats – Laduree, Pierre Herme, Angelinas, Patisserie des Reves, Jacques Genin, Jean-Paul Hevin. Definitely try a macaroon from Pierre Herme before leaving Paris, however, don’t put your bag on top of the counter because things may roll out and squash the macaroons below… yes this did happen, silly me!
Paris wasn’t on our favourite city list (a bit too ritzy for our liking) but it’s definitely a city with a lot to offer. We can’t believe it was the last European city we were to visit and how fast 7 months have gone! Our next post will summarise our 7 months in Europe so stay tuned!
Married days survived: 210