When I think of Paris, I think of bread. It’s funny because I spent so much time there, and my fondest/saddest memory there is being lonely after class and going to the same boulangerie every day to buy a baguette tradition and eating it with the best camembert. There was always a certain joy in that moment, and I discovered that there is nothing in the world some crusty bread and good cheese can’t cure.
I have been to Paris four times now, and I lived there for a summer, so you could say I like Paris a lot. It’s my favorite place in the whole world. There’s something magical about it, even in the rain. Even when you’re lonely and your brain hurts from speaking French and thinking in French all day long. Paris is magical even then. This was Sam’s first trip to Europe, not even thinking it was a place he’d want to visit, and he ended up really loving it. We talked about how we wished we could stay there forever.
It’s such a beautiful city with the very best art and architecture, so it’s a great first stop if you’ve never been to Europe before. Plus most people in Paris speak English, so it’s not terrible getting around. Still I encourage you to try speaking French! It’s the polite thing to do, even if you’re no good at it.
I’ve compiled a list of the best things to see and my favorite places in Paris by area. I hope this helps you on your journey!
Sacre Coeur, Montmartre Van Gogh’s house, Montmartre Montmartre
Walk up the beautiful hill and sit on the steps of Sacre Coeur for the best view of the city. Then walk back down via the Rue Lepic see the house where Van Gogh lived at 54 Rue Lepic and the Moulin de la Galette, one of the two remaining windmills that were used to grind gypsum into plaster of Paris by monks. This famous windmill is featured in the painting by Renoir, Bal du Moulin de la Galette. Click here to see the map of each spot for walking.
Jeanne B– a delightful restaurant away from the madness of Sacre Coeur with the very best food we had on our whole trip. They have a charming bake case full of delicious items that they feature on the menu like a vegetable torte and a roast chicken. They had the most beautiful fresh vegetables that they were using that day all lined up in the window of the kitchen. Be warned, as the menu changes daily, and they place the chalkboard on the street in front of you, all handwritten and in French. Some of the waiters speak English, but not everyone, though they were kind enough to try and explain the dishes as best they could. 61 Rue Lepic
Maison Rose– one of Pablo Picasso’s old haunts is a beautiful pink restaurant covered in vines. Stop here for a photo if anything.
Sacre Coeur– this Basilica was built in 1875 and boasts the best views of Paris. The interior mosaics are almost Art Noveau and worth a look. Sit on the steps outside and watch the sunset.
Montmartre Cemetery– The history of burial in Paris is so interesting to me. Due to the unsanitary conditions of underground burial and risk of bodies entering the cellars of nearby homes, Paris constructed above ground cemeteries. Montmartre Cemetery houses many famous people such as Emile Zola. This is a beautiful quiet place to walk
Maison Rose, Montmartre Pont Neuf
This lively district has the best food and nightlife in my opinion. And when I say nightlife, I just mean cool bars and amazing restaurants with lots of locals and young people.
Candelaria– This is my absolute favorite bar in Paris. The front of the shop is an Authentic Mexican Taqueria with the best margaritas. Through a door in the back of the restaurant, nearly hidden in the wall, there’s an underground bar with a cave-like speakeasy appearance. You must go here! 52 rue de Saintonge
L’as du Falafel– This falafel is the bomb! You have got to go! I’m not a fan of tzaziki sauce but everything on this falafel was different. The falafel has fresh cabbage and all kinds of delicious and surprising elements. It’s hidden on a back street in the marais, and the wait is a bit long but worth it. 34 Rue des Rosiers
Musee Carnavalet– one of my favorite less visited museums in Paris, this museum is dedicated to the history of Paris. There’s all kinds of fun exhibits about Art Nouveau and the French Revolution, complete with the replica of the room where Marie Antoinette stayed before going to the guillotine. The architecture of the building is stunning, as it’s built into a Renaissance hotel. Definitely make time for this one. It’s closed for renovations until 2019, so I was really disappointed we didn’t get to go. 16 Rue des Francs Bourgeois
Maison de Victor Hugo– If you’re a fan of Les Miserables, you must go to Victor Hugo’s home, now a museum dedicated to one of my favorite writers. The furnishings are stunning, and it’s fun to imagine the course of his writings happening here. Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée 6, place des Vosges
Notre Dame Cathedral
Ile de la Cite
Notre Dame Cathedral– I have a tradition. Whenever I come to Paris, this is my first stop. This beautiful cathedral never ceases to amaze me. It’s huge! Walking into the cathedral is free, and I like to sit on the Seine and get a nice view of the outside afterward. It’s my favorite thing in Paris. St. Michel Metro stop
Shakespeare and Company– an expat bookstore full of charm is my kind of destination. Here you can buy books in English, and make sure you get the Shakespeare and Co stamp on the inside cover as a reminder of your trip. I have a copy of Rebecca I bought from my travels on my coffee table, and I keep a poppy from Giverny pressed inside. 37 rue de la Bucherie
Sainte Chapelle Cathedral– This pretty little Cathedral is hidden but inside is covered floor to ceiling in stained glass. It’s a small and beautiful sight if you have extra time.
Ile De La Cite Pont Neuf, Ile de la Cite View from the Seine, Ile de la Cite Sainte Chapelle, Ile de la Cite
I have to admit, this area is great, and I love the Tuileries but it can be a bit touristy and overwhelming on the rue de Rivoli. It was tough to find a really good restaurant closeby, but I’ve put a couple of nearby options.
Pizza Sant’Antonio– I loved this sweet little pizza place after a long day of standing at the Louvre. The waiters are friendly, and the food is great. It’s also very affordable. 1 rue de la Verrerrie
The Louvre– As much time as you think you need for the Louvre, add two weeks. The architecture of the palace almost outweighs the beauty of the artworks. Every ceiling is decorated with some fabulous mural. This is one of my favorite places to go in Paris, but there are secrets to making your visit enjoyable. The Mona Lisa is overrated. All the other DaVinci paintings right outside the Mona Lisa room are underrated. There’s an out of the way 2nd floor Richelieu wing with the most beautiful small paintings. No one is ever there, and it’s by far my favorite gallery. Enter through the side at the Carrousel du Louvre and buy tickets in the tobacco shop inside. There’s never a line to enter here, so it’s much easier than standing outside by the pyramid.
The Tuileries– beautiful gardens directly in front of the Louvre complete with statues and perfectly trimmed hedges. It’s a fun place to soak in a little sun and sit by the pond in a chair. Place de la Concorde
Cafe de la Regence– A slightly fancy restaurant. One night we couldn’t find the restaurant we were looking for and popped in here for dinner instead. Everything was delicious! 167 Rue Saint Honoré
Saint Germain des Pres
I love this area! It’s perfect for wandering around and just relishing Paris.
Musee D’Orsay– The best paintings in Paris are here. Exhibiting only paintings from the 1860s until the turn of the century, the Musee D’orsay’s assets in Impressionism are astonishing. The Van Gogh and Monet rooms are usually very crowded, but there are so many other great works here, too! 62 rue de Lille
Luxembourg Gardens– This is a great place to relax and have lunch or walk around and just enjoy. We saw little kids in gym class doing races in the gardens, which was fun to watch. Rue de Médicis – Rue de Vaugirard
Cluny Museum– This is a great little museum dedicated to the middle ages. It’s a beautiful old building, and it holds the famous Unicorn Tapestries. 6 place Paul Painlevé
Cluny Museum, Saint Germain des Pres Luxembourg Gardens
This area is close to the Eiffel Tower and some quaint little streets. I didn’t spend much time over here, but if you’re really itching to see the Eiffel Tower, then you should check it out. Another great option is to do a bateaumouches tour and take a boat all around the Seine to see the Eiffel Tower. It also will familiarize you with how the city is laid out.
Rue Cler– I’m about to go all Rick Steves on you. This is one of a handful of no-traffic streets in Paris. Tucked away near the Eiffel Tower, it’s a great place to have dinner and also to stop by the shops and buy cheeses, wine, and produce for dinner if that’s more your speed.
Musee Rodin– This beautiful sculpture garden of the late Auguste Rodin is astounding, but the interior of his home is equally amazing. It includes a vast collection of his works, so if you’re a fan, this is a must see. 77 Rue de Varenne
Cast from the Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin The Louvre
I hope you enjoyed reading! What are your Paris suggestions? I have so many more, but not enough space here to list it all.