Paris - Where to Eat, What to See and What to Skip
I want to preface this post by saying this is by no means a comprehensive or beginner's guide to Paris. When I was in high school I went to Paris on a very quick two day trip with a student tour group. We went to Versailles, the top of the Eiffel Tower, and saw the Mona Lisa, Notre Dame, and Montmartre. I knew when we went back for my graduation trip I wanted to see more of the city, not just the same old same old, so we skipped basically all of those sites. Unfortunately, there were flight complications so we left a day earlier than planned and didn't even get to see everything we wanted (I would've loved to go back to Versailles) but we made the most of it.
Going into the trip I was a little nervous because I was so excited to be back in Paris. I had high hopes but it honestly met every single one of my high expectations. It was beautiful, we had perfect weather and it was an amazing few days in the city. There's no where in the U.S. I'd rather be than New York but when you throw Paris into the mix it's a toss up. I can't wait to go back and experience more of it. In the meantime, I'll have to do with looking at pictures and thinking about all we saw and did there.
Where to Eat:
Our best meal in Paris was our first dinner at Café Sud. It was our first night in Paris and I wanted an authentic French meal. We stumbled along this little restaurant that looked nice and decided to try it. It was amazing - probably our best meal there. We started with the escargot (the first of many orders of it) then I had the filet mignon and Max had the veal. It was a great meal and is perfect for a date night.
Even though I live in New York and get macarons from Ladurée constantly, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat outside at Ladurée on Champs Elysees. The food was good but it’s definitely more about the experience. Don't forget to order macs for dessert!
I didn't do a great job planning meals in advance so we ate wherever it was convenient for most of the trip. Next time I'm there I definitely want to spend more time in the 18th Arrondissement (home to Moulin Rouge and close to Montmartre)! It seemed like there were a lot more food options there which we were definitely lacking where we stayed in the 8th.
What to Do:
Bateaux Mouche: Based on a recommendation from my friend, Lily, we decided to do the river cruise down the Seine at night. It was AMAZING. We did it the last night of the trip and it was easily my favorite part of the few days we spent there. I wish we had been able to get there an hour earlier to go at sunset but the views are amazing and it’s so relaxing. Definitely make time to experience it, you’ll get the best views of the Eiffel Tower during its top-of-the-hour light shows.
Jardin des Tuileries: This is what I would call the Central Park of Paris. It's smaller but beautiful and perfect for an afternoon stroll, lunch in the park or to people watch. Pro-tip: bring a bottle of wine and snag seats by the fountain for a relaxed afternoon. It’s also connected to the Louvre and L’Orangerie so it’s the perfect place for an outdoor break between museum visits.
Museums: We got a two museum pass for Museé D’Orsay and L’Orangerie. At D’Orsay definitely go straight for the 5th floor to see Degas, Monet and more. I didn’t spend too much time looking at the Monet paintings there because I knew we were headed to L’Orangerie next to see the water lilies, but in hindsight I probably should’ve gone slower and spent more time looking at those as well as the Picasso pieces and sculptures on the second floor. The water lilies at L'Orangerie were just as amazing as I'd hoped they'd be. That's all there really is to the museum but its definitely worth the visit.
Walk along the Seine: We spent what felt like half our time in Paris walking on the banks of the Seine (and yes, I had 'Our Last Summer' from Mamma Mia stuck in my head the entire time). Bring comfy shoes because it’s not the fastest way to get to the Eiffel Tower, but definitely the most scenic.
Explore Montmartre: Montmartre is an amazing area of the city with tons of corner cafes, cobblestone streets and great photo ops. Check out the love wall, the carousel at the bottom of the hill, the views from the top, and walk along the side streets.
What to Skip:
Bouillon Chartier: I had seen a ton of people post about this restaurant saying you had to go while you were in Paris, but honestly it felt like the Parisian version of going to Applebee’s in Times Square. The food was not overly impressive and the place was mobbed. Skip it and find a more local spot if you’re looking for authentic French cuisine!
Palais Royal: The palace has beautiful gardens but other than that it’s mostly just a photo op. I wanted to get a picture with the columns, which turned out to be an art exhibit totally unrelated to the palace itself.
Champs Elysees: If you’re looking for some real luxury shopping Avenue Montaigne is the way to go. I wasn’t really impressed with anything on Champs Elysees so I dragged my entire family into YSL on Montaigne to look at the Kate bag. To no one’s surprise, we ended up making a few detours along the way at Gucci and Louis Vuitton but didn’t make any other major purchases. If you are looking to make a big purchase make sure you bring your passport with you so they can take care of the VAT refund in store!