Paris Travel Guide
Paris is known as the City of Lights and after spending a few nights there it’s pretty clear why. Paris comes alive at night. Paris is undoubtedly the most chic city you can visit. Understated elegance, fine dining, 19th century history, art and shopping is what it's all about.
When we visit Paris, we like to take our time to enjoy the city. We keep our daytime itinerary light with a few scheduled activities and we always book our meals in advance, so we don't have to worry about getting in to the best restaurants. We take the stance that there's always Paris. We don't feel the need to squeeze in every site or tourist attraction when we visit. Rather, we prefer a leisurely stroll through Saint Germaine or La Marais and have a long lunch while relaxing at a cafe. However you choose to experience Paris, this guide features some of the top spots that we keep going back on each trip we take to Paris. Keep reading for our recommendations for where to stay, what to do and where to dine.
WHERE TO STAY
Our favorite neighborhoods in Paris are La Marais, Saint Germaine, and the area near the royal gardens. On our most recent trip we stayed at the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal, which is the only hotel that overlooks the royal gardens. It's a luxury boutique hotel with an excellent concierge service and even better location. It's literally 30 steps from the Royal Gardens. You can walk to La Marais, Place Vendome, the Tuileries Gardens, and more. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants on the streets nearby. We love this hotel for its location, price and quality, and it has become our home away from home in Paris. We can't wait to return!
WHAT TO DO
Paris has something for everyone. From charming boutiques and modern art museums to 19th century palaces and historical monuments, there is no shortage of things to do and see. Naturally it can feel like you want to do and see everything in one trip, but its simply not possible unless you're visiting for 4 weeks. Instead we like to enjoy our time without the pressure of seeing it all, and try to plan a few major activities with plenty of free time in between to stroll, explore and enjoy all of the beauty that Paris has to offer. Below is a list of activities to do in Paris; check a few of these off of your list during your trip for a taste of Paris through our eyes.
Visit Traditional French Landmarks - if it's your first trip to Paris, visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame. The Louvre can take two full days to get through, so I suggest going with a tour guide to see the most famous pieces in a shorter time period.
Montmartre - Stroll this charming bohemian neighborhood perched on top of a hill in the 18th. Enjoy the local charming restaurants and shops.
Tour Hidden Passage Ways - Paris is dotted with secret hidden arcades that are home to vintage shops and brasseries. These arcades are truly like a time warp and most remain untouched from the times when they were used by French Aristocrats and royalty up to the French Revolution.
Visit Parisian Gardens
Luxembourg Gardens - Built by the former mother of King Louis XIII, the Luxembourg Gardens were inspired by Italian gardens of Florence, where the regent herself was born and raised. This garden is unique both in its Italian influence and its attention to activities. The Garden was intended to be a place for children to play and enjoy the outdoors, and this sentiment is still evident today. Come to the gardens to sit in the shade, or to play a match of tennis, ride a bike or rent a mini sail boat to race in the central pond.
Tuileries Garden - This garden maintains the formal French garden style, with well manicured trees and order throughout.
Royal Garden - The garden that sits within the former royal palace of the King of France, this is where the king and queen would take their strolls before Versailles was built by King Louis the fourteenth.
Visit Versailles - Just a short 30 minute drive, or 45 minute train, from central Paris, this once royal city was the home to the last King and Queen of France, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antionette. Come take a trip back in time and visit their former home and gardens on a half-day tour.
Day Trip to Burgundy or Champagne - Take an hour train to the nearby region to taste world famous Burgundy wines, as well as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. If you're more of a bubbly person, Champagne is another option for a day trip from Paris.
Shopping - see below for recommendations on where to shop.
Explore Paris by Foot - Strolling the cobblestone street of Paris is like walking in an outdoor museum. Approximately 90% of Paris is still original buildings from the 19th century and there's beauty to behold around every corner. I recommend strolling the neighborhoods of La Marais and/or Saint Germaine.
WHERE TO SHOP
Department Stores - Galleries Lafayette, Printempts, or Le Bon Marche.
Designer Shopping Areas - Place Vendome, Rue St Honoré or Champs-Élysées Avenue.
Boutique and Vintage Shopping Areas - La Marais, Saint Germaine, or Montmartre.
WHERE TO EAT
When in Paris, we eat like the locals and avoid touristy spots (with a few limited exceptions). Keep reading for our restaurant recommendations and reviews of out 5 stars.
Vivant Deux - 4/5 - Small local spot with gourmet sharing plates and sexy ambiance. Sit at the bar and enjoy the daily specials.
Parcelles - 5/5 - Modern french tavern with delicious food and wine. Not a traditional tourist spot and mostly locals.
L'Ami Jean - 4/5 - Classic French bistro
KGB - 4.5/5 - Contemporary French dishes with asian accents.
Clamato - 5/5 - Rustic-chic restaurant with a seafood focused menu. Walk-in only.
Petite Thai - 5/5 - Our favorite Thai spot in Paris. The food here is outstanding and it's centrally located.
Girafe - 3/5 - One of the best views of the Eiffel Tower, it's no surprise Girafe has become more popular with tourists over the years. The food is good, nothing special, but if you want a long lunch with a spectacular view, this is a great choice.
LouLou - 4/5 - Excellent lunch spot with a view of the Louvre Gardens.
L'As Du Fallafel - 5/5 - A falafel may not be what you think of when you think of Paris, but trust me when I say this is the best falafel i've ever had. We come here every time we're in Paris. L'As is located in La Marais, so we like to grab a Falafel to snack on street-side when we're taking a shopping break.
Cafe Breizh - 4.5/5 - A casual cafe that specializes in French pastries and crepes. Stop here for lunch and get the buckwheat crepe. Trust me.
Restaurant David Toutain - 5.5 - If you're looking for a Michelin star experience, David Toutain in Paris is the place to get it.