We arrived in the beautiful city of Paris, still buzzing as a newly engaged couple. Our first few hours were spent under the Eiffel Tower with a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. What a spectacular experience! This activity soon became our nightly ritual.
During our first day, we walked from our airbnb near the Eiffel Tower, to Arc de Triomphe and then continued down past many luxury shops.
Next, we headed to the Notre Dame Cathedral which is located on an island that is the birthplace of Paris. Construction of this incredible building started in 1163 and it continues to be the thing of legends. If you don’t want to pay (and wait) to go inside, you should still visit to admire the architecture.
A bridge near Notre Dame is home to the famous Paris Locks. We left our mark on this world heritage site.
The Louvre Museum in Paris is currently displaying about 35,000 pieces, which only accounts for 8% of it’s total collection. It also permanently displays the Mona Lisa, arguably the most famous artwork on Earth, estimated to be worth roughly $780,000,000. Yes, that’s 780 million dollars! While we didn’t cover all 14 kilometers of corridors in the the museum, we did enjoy our time here and recommend checking it out.
Afterwards, we treated ourselves to the best meal of our lives. The restaurant was suggested to us by a local and we jumped at the chance to try authentic French food. Flottes served us the best French onion soup and escargot I could imagine, and some fantastically tender beef in black pepper sauce. We loved it so much, we had dinner there two days later!
As a Valentine’s Day gift, my thoughtful girlfriend (now fiancée) bought us both tickets to take a behind the scenes tour of the Eiffel Tower. I had no idea there was a massive bunker under the tower. This is one of many bunkers that are strategically placed around Paris, in case of emergency. They also use this area to prepare food for the restaurants in the tower, freeing up space for tourists and staff. The view from the the middle level of the tower is incredible. We followed our sightseeing by sharing a lunch on the first level, and dancing around on the glass floor that provides intimidating perspective of the tower’s height.
Montmartre is the tallest hill in Paris. Here we were greeted with about 300 steps to reach the cathedral at the top. The view was well worth the climb! At the top we also spotted soldiers armed with assault rifles keeping guard. The security throughout Paris was noticeably heightened in the wake of the recent Manchester attack in the neighboring United Kingdom.
After crossing the biggest sites off the list, we reserved our last full day for exploration! We stumbled upon massive university and government buildings as well as ancient churches that did not charge for entry, which was a welcomed change of pace.
We broke the day up with a river cruise that was a nice, relaxing way to learn more about Paris and its incredible history.
Having gotten our fill of Paris, we were heading home. The city treated us well, but after a week we were ready to escape the tourists, merchants, and steep prices. I look forward to visiting again one day to enjoy the gorgeous City of Lights.
Tips for Paris
- It’s expensive: We found ourselves sharing a bottle of wine and a baguette for more than one “meal.” Keep this in mind when choosing how long to stay. The food is generally great, however, most places charges 15-20 EUR for a basic meal like a sandwich or simple pasta dish. Prices, of course, only go up from there. Additionally, the exchange rate for USD to EUR does not favor Americans, even though it is better than in some recent years.
- Table water: At restaurants they will offer bottled water, still or sparkling, and this will likely cost five or more EUR. If you order “table water” instead, they will bring you a jug or pitcher of tap water free of charge. This saved us roughly 100 EUR during our week in Paris.
- Flottes Restaurant: Treating yourself to a traditional French meal is well worth it! This restaurant quickly became our favorite. We spent 75 EUR on a dinner for two, and it was the best meal we have ever had! Budget for it and make it happen.
- Wine: Unless you are a wine connoisseur, you can find an enjoyable bottle for cheap!
- Cold beer: It might be worth getting a place with a fridge if you are planning to enjoy any cold beer outside of bars and restaurants. Most stores only had room temperature beer available, which can be a major buzz kill…literally.
- Sunset at the Eiffel Tower. We did this all but one night that we were in Paris. Grab a bottle of wine and a corkscrew, because you don’t want to miss this show!
- Eiffel Tower Lights: Every hour on the hour, from sunset until 1:00 am, the Eiffel Tower will be lit up with 20,000 sparkling lights for five minutes. This event always generates excitement from the masses of people that are laying in the parks around the Tower. It is truly captivating.
- Theft: As with any city, keep an eye on your valuables when you’re in crowded areas. It is also advised to have electronics and cash inside zipped pockets.
- Street merchants: You will be constantly bombarded with offers to buy Eiffel Tower figurines, artwork, and alcohol. Everything is negotiable, so if you would rather get a bottle of wine from a merchant than seek out a store, be sure to work him down on the price! We were able to get four paintings that were listed at 6 EUR each for 13 EUR total, a 45% discount. Prices are inflated substantially, since most people blindly pay the asking price.
- River cruise: We took a one-hour tour down the Seine River on our last day. It was informative, relaxing, and fun! Plus it was only 15 EUR/person which is cheap for Paris.
P.S.: My fiancée enjoyed the shopping district. If you are into designer wear, you will find an abundance of shops to fulfill that desire in Paris.
P.S.S.: When visiting be sure to check out the TripScout App for an offline guide of the city! You can even get your first guide free if you use my promo code: “hikeheaven”!
Once we got past the huge crowds and high prices, we learned to love this city! The architecture, attention to detail, and food make it one of the most iconic places on the planet.
Have an awesome trip!
-Michael J. Flora
TripScout Paris Guide – http://tripscout.co/paris-tour/
Paris River Cruise – https://www.seine-cruises.com/