American Gal’s Guide to Paris

Growing up in the US, a trip to Paris always seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one that I never thought would become a reality. One of the greatest parts about living in the UK is the ability to travel to some of these places I’d always dreamed of going as a kid because they are now so much closer and easier to travel to.

paris-graphicWhen Ciaran surprised me with a trip to Paris for my birthday last month, I was so incredibly happy and couldn’t wait to explore as much of it as possible. Paris is, without a doubt, one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever visited and there is so much to do. We were there for two and a half days and did so much sightseeing, which was great, but we didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all that Paris has to offer. I want to share all that we did with you and hopefully it will help any first-time travellers map out their itineraries.

1.Visit the Eiffel Tower 

_r015534Kick off your trip to Paris with a walk along the Seine over to the Eiffel Tower. You’ll be giddy with excitement the first time you see the beautiful landmark. It is truly spectacular and one of the most breathtaking structures I’ve ever seen. You can take a tour up to the top, but be prepared to wait in some serious queues. Tip: You can either take the elevator or you can walk all the way up, the latter having a shorter line, but tougher on your legs!

2. Walk Over to the Arc de Triomphe  

Arc de triomphe The Arc de Triomphe is the most monumental of all triumphal arches in the world. It is a Paris landmark that must be seen while you’re visiting. After visiting the Eiffel Tower in all its glory, we walked over to the Place Charles de Gualle, located really close to the Champs-Élysées to see the beautiful building. The architecture of the Arc de Triomphe is remarkable and it was built to honour all of those who fought for France.

3. Walk down the Champs-Élysées

_r015544-2The Champs-Elysees is one of the most famous streets in the world. If you love to shop, be sure to take a stroll down this beautiful avenue, filled with luxury flagship stores such as Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, etc. We went into the Cartier shop to have a look at some of the watches and jewellery and it is one of the most elegantly decorated shops I’ve been in. Swoonworthy doesn’t even begin to describe it. I must note that the Champs-Elysees is very crowded and whilst I thought it was stunning, I couldn’t spend long periods of time walking around. If you’re like me, and aren’t a fan of big, touristy crowds, make a plan to go into a few shops, call it a day and go grab a glass of wine and fromage to unwind!

4. Aperitivo Hour on the Seine 

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_r015563-2After a long day of sightseeing, there is nothing better than a crisp glass of wine to relax and unwind. The weather was marvellous during our time in Paris – sunny and hot, with temperatures reaching up to 30C (90F). After walking down the Champs Elysees, we crossed the bridge Pont Alexandre III, which connects the Champs Elysees quarter with the Invalides quarter. Once we got to the other side of the bridge, we found a really cute boat to have a few libations on before our dinner reservation. In Paris, everyone seems to flock to the banks of the Seine for picnics and drinks, so we decided to do the same! There are quite a few great boat bars along the Seine, so just pick one that takes your fancy, have a seat and enjoy!

5. Dine with a View 

_r015568-2 For my birthday and our anniversary, Ciaran made reservations at Chez Francis, a fantastic brasserie with breathtaking views of the Eiffel Tower. Chez Francis has a marvellous terrace, which we were lucky enough to sit in and enjoy our dinner with a beautiful view. The food was lovely, but if you go to Chez Francis, you are paying for the stunning view. It’s worth it, trust me. If you go to Paris, definitely book a restaurant with a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower. There is nothing like clinking glasses as the day comes to a close and the Eiffel Tower is lit up and twinkling.

Chez Francis | 7 Place de l’Alma | 75008 | Paris | France

6. Eat a Crepe (lots of them) 

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_r015566-2I fell in love with crepes while we were in Paris. They are delectable and the ideal snack to have whilst traipsing around the city. There are creperies nearly on every corner and there’s all different types to choose from – lemon and sugar, ham and cheese, Nutella, berries, peanut butter, jam, whatever takes your fancy! They’re great to grab while on the go for a little pick me up. Try one – you’ll love them.

7. Visit The Notre Dame Cathedral 

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_r015715-2It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, the Notre Dame Cathedral should be on your Paris bucket list. Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) is located in the fourth arrondissement of Paris and is one of the most gorgeous cathedrals I’ve ever seen. Building began in the 12th century and it took more than 300 years to finish. The architecture is French Gothic and is stunning – you could honestly marvel at its beauty all day. You can go inside the Cathedral but photos are prohibited and there is usually a very long queue to get in, so it’s worth getting there early. You can also climb all 387 steps to the top of the Cathedral,but again, the line for this is also really long. If this is the ONLY time you are likely to travel to Paris, then by all means, brave the queues and see it all, it’s definitely worth seeing.

8. Walk to Hotel de Ville Quay

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_r015733-2After visiting Notre Dame, we walked across a small bridge over to Hotel de Ville Quay, also in the fourth arrondissement. We grabbed a couple of beers and more crepes (yes, we ate a lot of crepes), sat by the river and took in the gorgeous views. All of Paris is stunning and there is charm everywhere you go. I’ve never been to such an all-around beautiful city before. It was so nice to relax for an hour and take it all in. It was one of my favourite areas we visited.

9. Visit the Tuileries Gardens & The Louvre 

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_r015663-2Like I previously mentioned, everywhere you walk in Paris, you will be swept away by its sheer beauty. Walk through the Tuileries and Carousel Gardens and check out the Louvre. We opted not to go inside the Louvre this time around as we wanted to make sure we had enough time to spend a whole day there. Wake up early and go to avoid the queues. If you don’t decide to go in, the entire area around the Louvre is incredible. Walk around, grab some lunch or instead go to Musee D’Orsay nearby.

10. Buy a Love Lock and Throw Away the Key 

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_r015673-2The official “Love Lock Bridge” had all of its locks sadly taken down last year but there are a few other bridges that you can still put a love lock on and throw the key into the Seine. It’s completely cheesy, but one of those things I always wanted to do in Paris. It is really romantic looking at so many locks on the bridge and it’s a great celebration of love and friendship. If you have time and see a bridge with love locks on it, go for it.

12. Visit Sacre Coeur 

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A trip to Montmartre is a must for any Paris first-timer. It’s a super charming and artsy area of Paris and is also home to Sacre-Coeur, the Basillica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. It’s a Roman Catholic Church that sits at the top of the hill in Montmartre and it is remarkable. The church itself is stunning and the views from up top are breathtaking. This spot has some of the best views of Paris, it is very touristy though and usually packed so definitely get there early on in the day to avoid the crowds!

13. Get Lost in Montmartre 

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_r015795Montmartre can be very touristy, but if you walk around the back streets it’ll be much less so. As I said before, it’s a really charming area of Paris and was one of my favourites to walk around. There are so many cute cafes, bars and restaurants, we had such a great time exploring and even found an amazing rooftop hotel bar called Terrass Hotel, which I wrote about a few days ago. Definitely check it out if you are in the area. Also, be sure to pop into some of the art galleries – you’ll find really fantastic pieces from local artists.

14. See Moulin Rouge 

_r015860Moulin Rouge is the world-famous cabaret club in Paris founded in 1889. It is the birth place of the modern can-can dance and was notorious for seductive dancing and promiscuity. At one point, a huge wooden elephant was installed in the gardens and private dances would take place inside for men only. If you’ve seen Moulin Rouge the movie, then you’ll know what I’m talking about! Anyways, Moulin Rouge still exists today and you can go see shows there, though I don’t think it’s as wild as it once was!

It is super close to Montmartre on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement. I was happy we got to see the outside of this iconic club and if you have time, then definitely go see a show! Truth be told, I wasn’t a huge fan of the area as it’s a bit seedy, so we hopped on the metro and headed for the Eiffel Tower one last time.

15. See the Eiffel Tower Twinkling at Night 

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There is nothing like seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkling and all lit up at night! If I could see that view every night of my life, I’d be one happy gal. As the sun sets, the Eiffel Tower slowly lights up and once it gets completely dark, it begins twinkling every fifteen minutes or so. It’s a spectacular show and so exciting the first time you see it. There’s nothing more romantic than having a glass of wine or champagne with your partner as the Eiffel Tower starts sparkling. It was one of my favourite parts about our trip to Paris. The best part is, you don’t have to be at a restaurant with a view to see it, you can see the Eiffel Tower from thousands of spots in the city so no matter where you are, you’re likely to get a great show! I recommend getting as close as possible for the best view though. There is truly nothing  like it.

These are my top recommendations for any first-timer in Paris! We were only there for two and a half days and packed so much in. Bring great walking shoes and walk all over the city. Map out a few things you really want to do and make a plan for where to start your day and where to end your day so you can see and do things that are close to each other. Also, the Metro can be a little bit confusing at first, but I highly recommend it. It is so cost-effective and super quick to get from place to place.

The next time we go to Paris, I’d like to spend a whole day at The Louvre, visit Musee D’Orsay (which we were going to do on this trip, but they require you to have a passport to get in and I left mine at the hotel – so be sure to bring yours) and actually climb the Eiffel Tower.

What are your favourite things to do and see in Paris? I’d love to hear any recommendations you have.