A weekend in Paris? You lucky thing! Use our tips and tricks to get around like a local and get the most out of your time in the City of Lights.
By Rebecca Brennan
Charles de Gaulle is the easiest airport for access to the city. Flights to Beauvais or Orly may be cheaper but you’ll spend the balance getting from these airports and have twice the hassle. Bypass the taxis outside the CDG arrivals gate (we’ve seen Taken!) and head straight for the Métro. Hop on the RER B and sit tight for approx. 40 minutes until you reach the city centre.
How to Get Around:
The Métro is one of the easiest ways to navigate the city. You can buy single tickets for €1.80 or a carnet (book of 10 single journey tickets) for €14.10 from any of the machines in the station. These tickets will also work for buses within the city.
The best way to explore Paris however, is on foot. Some of the greatest discoveries are to be made after a few wrong turns, plus it will help balance out the croissant consumption!
Day 1: FRIDAY- Rive Gauche:
Begin your trip by tackling the Left Bank. The Latin Quarter in the 5ème Arrondissement is one of the oldest areas in Paris and is home to the Sorbonne University. During term time students fill cafes and bars around the neighbourhood, giving it a relaxed, bohemian feel.
The Luxembourg Gardens are a beautiful place to ease yourself into the city before strolling up Rue Soufflot to the Panthéon. Aside from the spectacular architecture of the church you will be in good company with Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie, amongst others in the crypt below.
Having worked up an appetite, take the side street to the left of Place de la Panthéon to Boulangerie Moderne. This little yellow bakery is a local favourite. We highly recommend the raspberry croissants. If you are lucky enough to time the bake correctly, they might still warm. Just make sure you get there before midday when they are sure to be sold out!
Next, walk straight down Boulevard Saint-Michel, past the Sorbonne and on towards the Seine. Pay Quasimodo a visit at the beautiful Notre Dame before crossing Pont de l'Archevêché to admire the love locks. Couples can write their name on a lock, declaring their love for one another in the world’s most romantic city, attach it to the bridge and throw the keys into the water below. If that isn’t your cup of tea, head directly for Shakespeare and Co., a literary institution of the Left Bank. Ask the friendly staff to stamp the inside cover of any purchases for a lovely souvenir or present.
Lunch is just across the water on Île Saint-Louis. Café Saint-Régis on the corner is a wonderful place to stop and catch your breath. On a sunny day a jazz band will often play on the bridge so sit outside under the striped awning and drink in your surroundings - along with a pichet of rosé. After all, you’re on your holidays!
For dessert join the queue at La Maison de Berthillon. Locals and tourists alike will wait patiently at the tiny wooden hole-in-the-wall for the city’s best ice-cream. It’s worth it, promise!
Hop on a metro to Montmartre and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the artist’s quarter. Visit Sacré-Coeur and appreciate the incredible vista of Paris that it offers. Then move away from the main thoroughfare which is touristy, over-priced and at night, can be seedy, particularly the nearby Pigalle, home to the famous Moulin Rouge. Instead, while away the hours meandering the hilly streets, shops and galleries.
DAY TWO: SATURDAY -Culture and Rive Droit:
There are so many wonderful exhibits and museums in Paris but you could spend years trawling through them and never see the rest of the city. We prefer to pick one or two of particular interest and rise bright and early before the rest of the hordes, and tourist buses, descend. Our choice for the morning would be to visit the pyramids in the courtyard of the Louvre and then stroll down through the Tuileries Garden to Musée de l'Orangerie. Home to Monet’s breathtaking 'Water Lilies', l’Orangerie is more manageable and peaceful than other museums.
Angelina’s on Rue de Rivoli is a must for a late breakfast. It was Coco Chanel’s favourite tea-room and with good reason. After eating, order a cup of their famous hot chocolate to go and head back to the Tuileries. Pull up a green chair by one of the fountains and watch the exquisitely dressed Parisian children play with toy boats on the surface of the water. Window-shop along the designer boutiques of Rue Saint-Honoré and Avenue Montaigne before making your way to the Musée Rodin to nod at The Thinker and ponder The Kiss. March up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and climb the Arc de Triomphe rather than the Eiffel Tower. This is one of our top tips as queues are much smaller and the views of the city are just as good. In fact, we would say better, as you can admire the Eiffel Tower in all of its glory fully from the Arc de Triomphe.
For the evening go to the area of Opéra for dinner and book tickets in advance for whatever is on in the Palais Garnier. Whether ballet, opera or orchestra, it will likely elicit a tear from even the hardiest of cynics. If you can manage to squeeze in a tour of the magnificent building earlier in the day, make sure to do so. You will appreciate your surroundings and the architecture so much more.
There is nowhere else to be in Paris on a Sunday other than Le Marais. The Jewish quarter comes alive while the remainder of Paris closes up for the day of rest. Walk or take the Métro to Saint-Paul and get lost wandering the maze of little streets packed with antique shops, vintage clothing stores and Jewish bakeries. For lunch follow the crowd to Rue des Rosiers and L’as du Fallafel. Don’t be put off by the queue or enticed to a less busy vendor, this is the best falafel in Paris and everyone knows it. Rather than sitting in, take your falafel to the nearby Place des Vosges, making a pitstop at Sacha Finkelsztajn for the most wonderful Jewish pastries. You’ll likely be able to smell them before seeing the yellow shop front.
Next head back towards Île de la Cité to visit the Palais de Justice and the exquisite stained glass of Sainte-Chapelle. Stay in the upmarket area of Saint-Germain-des-Prés for the afternoon, relaxing in style at either Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots. These cafes were a favourite haunt of the literary and artistic glitterati in the 1940’s and 50’s and are synonymous with their famous clientele of Picasso, Hemingway, Joyce and Simone de Beauvoir amongst many others.
Ralph’s at Ralph Lauren is excellent for a final blowout dinner before hopping back on the RER to the airport. As you take off from Charles de Gaulles, wave goodbye to the twinkling lights of the city.
Au revoir Paris, until next time!