Most people who know me will know how Paris has a special place in my heart. I lived there for three years, whilst doing my undergraduate degree, and I simply fell in love with that city. What will make it even more special is the fact that my brother is getting married there in July. Many of our friends and family will be joining us to celebrate this exciting day so I decided to write up this post to make sure they visit my favourite spots. Most of them will have a couple of days to do so before the wedding so here is how I would visit Paris if I had 48 hours.
I always start my time in Paris near Ile St Louis. For those of you who don’t know, Paris has a couple of islands in the middle of the city: Ile St Louis and Ile de la Cité. The latter has one of the most famous tourist spots: the cathedral of Notre Dame. When I lived in Paris, I was blessed to find a room in a dorm on Ile St Louis so that part of town is where I always return whenever I go back. Ile St Louis has two main streets that cut the island both width and length wise. It is famous for the Bertillon ice cream house. To get to Ile St Louis, simply cross over at Pont Marie (line 7 on the metro). I personally love one of their cafés, called Le Flore en l’Ile, located on the tip of the island, which faces the back of the Notre Dame cathedral and serves the richest, smoothest and thickest hot chocolate I’ve ever had. From Ile St Louis, it’s easy to make your way to the Notre Dame which is definitely worth a visit from the inside. Once done, I would cross over to St Michel, another famous area of Paris, mostly known for the Saint Michel fountain – or gyros places open late at night, which most students would go to after a crazy night out in the area. It is definitely lively and busy at night. However, watch out for all the tourist traps around there, with lots of restaurants offering cheap set menus, with mediocre food. I wouldn’t recommend any of the restaurants around there. However, don’t feel disheartened because French cuisine is probably my favourite and there are many great restaurants in Paris.
I walk everywhere when I visit cities and from Saint Michel, the walk to Saint-Germain-des-Prés isn’t very long and rather pleasant. The architecture of the buildings, along with the Parisian cafés, boulangeries and patisseries are distracting enough to make you not realise how much you’re actually walking. Saint-Germain-des-Prés is where I go to lunch in a typical terrace. I personally like Les Deux Magots, but I also highly recommend L’Avant Comptoir for delicious typical French food, or even Eggs & Co if you’re really hungry and want a rich omelette for brunch. Otherwise, simply get lost in the area and choose from the many other restaurants you will walk past. Lunch in Saint-Germain-des-Prés is always followed by dessert from one of my favourite patissiers: Pierre Hermé. Not only is he famous for his incredibly delicious macarons, he is the world’s best Pastry chef. Did I convince you to pass by his boutique on Rue Bonaparte? The only inconvenient thing about his boutique is that it has no seating space so you’ll have to grab your patisserie – I highly recommend the 2000 feuilles if you love praline as much as I do – and go sit on a bench in the square right outside the boutique. Besides Pierre Hermé, I am a big fan of the Paris-Brest by Philippe Conticini found in La Patisserie des Rêves. He has a boutique on Rue du Bac, not too far from Saint-Germain-des-Prés and definitely worth a visit, if only to look at the display he offers. The pink interior is fun, original and a joy to the eyes.
With all this sugar in your system, surely you’ll want to walk it off to the next pretty site. I personally love le Jardin du Luxembourg, which isn’t too far from the patisseries I recommended but in order to pack more visits and touristic spots, I would walk towards Jardin des Tuileries, another one of my favourite parcs in Paris. For the art and culture lovers, the Louvre museum is right next to the parc and worth a visit. I would recommend pre-booking your tickets online and allowing at least 3 hours for the visit. If you aren’t in an arty mood then walk around the parc, enjoy the landscape and designs and even stop by Angelina for their super famous hot chocolate. The tea room is charming from the inside and worth passing by. I even recommend having lunch there if you’re ever hungry and in the area. Their food is delicious. I personally find their signature Mont-Blanc pastry horrendously sweet and tasteless. I know this seems harsh but I don’t think you should waste your time and stomach space when you only have two days to try everything. I’m sure others will disagree with me but feel free to try it and let me know what you think.
From the Jardin des Tuileries, I would pass by Place de la Concorde to see the giant Egyptian obelisk and from there, two options are available: either carry on walking west towards the Champs-Elysées or walk back towards Place Vendôme, Place de La Madeleine and finally Place de l’Opéra, all for more charming Parisian architecture and buildings. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Paris is the capital of fashion so anywhere you go, you will find high-end boutiques and shops. The Champs-Elysées, La Fayette, Printemps, BHV, are all known for their designer stores but many other streets will have designer shops too. For the fashion lovers, take some time out to visit your favourite designers on Rue Saint Honoré.
For dinner, you are spoilt with options in Paris. I would recommend looking up restaurants and offers on La Fourchette, depending on the area you want to dine in. If you’re really hungry and will happily eat 3 courses, then I suggest trying out Le Bistrot des Gastronomes. They operate on a set menu basis so you will have no choice but to order 3 courses when you get there. For €35 per person, I think it’s extremely good value for money. The restaurant isn’t very big so try booking a table in advance. Paris is packed with great restaurants so either walk around and stop in a place that catches your attention, or spend some time on the Michelin Guide for some inspiration before you go. However, many restaurants are very popular and require advance bookings so start looking to avoid getting disappointed.
A very good list of suggestions can be found on Rachel Khoo’s blog. I’ve tried many of them and can’t agree with her more 🙂