This was my second visit to the “City of Lights” and AK’s first. Although it didn’t leave a great impression the first time around, I decided to give it another chance, since AK had never been. Paris is one of those places that everyone has to go to at least once, and after being twice, I have concluded – Paris is not for me. There’s something about the over-romanticized image portrayed by media that left Paris very underwhelming for me (however, I did enjoy Montmartre). But, this is all personal opinion and I know many people that would easily rank Paris amongst their favourite cities in the world.
From Lisbon to Paris, it was an easy 2.5 hours flight. If you are on a budget, compare flights on Momondo to find the best value. We ended up going with Easyjet. You can also choose to travel via train or bus, which both take over 20 hours.
If you know you will be catching public transport quite a lot, consider purchasing a Navigo Découverte pass…
Once in Paris, we caught the RER train into the city. TIP: If you know you will be catching public transport quite a lot, consider purchasing a Navigo Découverte pass (22.15€ unlimited travel for a week for all zones which covers Paris and surrounding suburbs + 5€ fee). Considering a single journey from the airport to the Gare Du Nord is already 10€, this could work out much cheaper. NOTE: Weekly pass validity starts on Monday morning, first service, and ends the following Sunday at last service. So if you arrive in Paris towards the end of the week, you will not have much time to use your pass and it won’t be worth it. We arrived on a Tuesday and left on Thursday, so it was perfect for us. For more info, check out this guide.
WHO WE STAYED WITH
Airbnb – Apartment
Near Notre-Dame-De-Lorette Station
Entire Studio apartment from AUD$113/night
Again, as with previous cities, it was easier and more affordable to book an apartment through Airbnb as we had 3 people. We quickly discovered that Paris gets booked out very quickly in summer, so we ended up booking this apartment even though it wasn’t ideal. At the time, we paid close to AUD$145/night, which was definitely not worth it for what we got.
…this turned out to be the worst stay in our entire Europe trip.
The apartment was situated on street level and faced a fairly busy street so it wasn’t possible to open the shutters without losing complete privacy. This was a huge issue in summer as there was no air conditioning and we couldn’t even open the windows to let some air in. We unfortunately stayed during a heat wave and this turned out to be the worst stay in our entire Europe trip.
The only positives about this apartment were the location, which was near a main metro stop and within walking distance to the Sacre Coeur, and the friendly host. If you are staying in winter, it may be better as the apartment has heaters.
Check out my first video above for a room tour.
We definitely recommend booking early, especially if you are visiting during the peak season of summer as apartments get booked out really quickly. We had actually spotted better value apartments early on when we were doing our research, but by the time were ready to book, they were already gone.
ibis budget Paris Porte de Montmartre
45 rue du Docteur Babinski
Double Room from AUD$71/night
My sister and I first visited Paris with Contiki in 2012. From memory, this was where we stayed. I can’t remember much about it, but I thought I’d include it in case you want a cheap hotel or are curious about Contiki hotels.
Four Seasons Hotel George V
31 Av George V, 8th Arr.
If you have money, and aren’t afraid to use it – this is the place to go. With views of the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and the Grand Palais, there is no better place to soak in the opulence of Paris. The hotel houses a first-class spa, swimming pool, fitness center and a two-Michelin-star restaurant: Le Cinq. Located two blocks from Champs Elysees, in the famous shopping district of Paris, this is a great base for the shoppers.
WHAT WE DID
You can find plenty of information on what to do in Paris on TripAdvisor. But, these were our favourites:
Montmartre is a large hill in Paris which gives it’s name to the surrounding district. If you are after a romantic Parisian experience, I would suggest you stray away from Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower, and instead opt for a stroll through the neighbourhood of Montmartre. Catch the funicular car up to the Sacre Coeur Basilica to avoid any unwanted haggling from gypsies lining the stairs (the funicular is included on your Navigo pass if you have one) and enjoy a beautiful view from the top.
Once home to the studios of famous artists such as Dali, Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh, Montmartre is now an officially designated historic district with limited development allowed. Because of this, it has retained it’s old world charm.
Visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral
6 Parvis Notre-Dame, Place Jean-Paul II
Probably one of the most stunning pieces of French gothic architecture, expect a constant long line outside of this famous cathedral. We decided to skip going inside since we had seen so many other cathedrals before, but if you have time, many have said it is very beautiful inside, especially the rose windows. Make sure to make your way around to the back of the cathedral, as you really get to admire the spire from there. Also, keep an eye out for the famous gargoyles.
Obligatory visit to the Eiffel Tower
5 Avenue Anatole France
FREE to view from the ground
No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. We had some fun, by viewing it from different angles to try and get some unique photos. For one of the most famous views of the tower, go to Trocadero. You can also view the tower from directly below or climb to the top of the tower for a view of the city. Cost will vary depending on how high up the tower you want to go and whether you want to use the lift. For ticket information, visit this link.
Admiring art inside the Louvre
99 rue de Rivoli
Ticket prices vary. General advanced tickets 17€.
As beautiful as the iconic pyramid entrance, designed by I.M. Pei is, it is only a little taste of what the Louvre offers inside. Being the world’s largest museum housing approximately 38,000 objects, if you are only planning to visit one museum, this would be it. We pre-booked our tickets online and arrived at opening time. As soon as the doors opened, the crowd of people flooded in and quickly dispersed into different directions once inside. We ran straight for the Mona Lisa, hoping to avoid the crowds and got there with plenty of time to view it comfortably. We spent the rest of the day making our way slowly through the museum. We definitely recommend you do the same, as this was a great way to avoid the crowds and see the museum before the tour groups arrived.
It is humanly impossible to see all of the Louvre in one day. It is said, if you spend 30 seconds on each object, 24 hours a day, it would take you roughly 100 days to see everything. So, make sure to do your research beforehand to determine which are the must-see pieces.
WHERE WE ATE
We’ve all heard how refined and delicate French cuisine can be. If you want to find good French food, there’s plenty to offer in Paris. You can have a look at TripAdvisor for some recommendations. We were on a budget, so we decided to stay away from expensive fine dining restaurants and instead looked for affordable eateries. Here are the places we ate at:
If you are craving non-european food this could be a quick easy option for some american style steak or ribs. But, don’t expect amazing food. Food is quite average and service is not great. I thought I’d leave a quick review for you guys in case you are curious.
Au Pied Sacre Couer
85 rue Lamarck
If you are in the Montmartre area, this is a great little restaurant worth checking out. The food is really good value and they serve delicious French cuisine. We had frogs legs, rabbit, snail pie and salmon. All were cooked really well and didn’t cost too much.
75 avenue des Champs Elysees
If you want to have some macarons or enjoy a high tea, this is a beautiful setting to experience it. Situated on Champs Elysees, this branch of Laduree is always busy. If you can get a seat inside, it is beautiful, if not, you can choose to get takeaway. The packaging is gorgeous and great as a gift.
WHEN WE VISITED
We visited in July 2016. As it was summer, it was very hot, we were actually there during a heat wave. Make sure to always carry around a bottle of water as we found ourselves drinking endlessly. Paris is very busy during this time as many European countries are on vacation and Paris is a popular tourist destination. Be prepared for long queues. As with most European cities, always be wary of pickpockets.
They tried to force the necklaces onto us and held onto our arms so we couldn’t get past.
There are also lots of gypsies that try to sell you things or scam you, so always be aware of your surroundings. We were surrounded on the stairs at the Sacre Couer by a bunch of gypsies with bead necklaces. They tried to force the necklaces onto us and held onto our arms so we couldn’t get past. In the end we stood our ground and got past them. We can imagine those that are more vulnerable would be quite intimidated by this and would end up handing over their money.
WHY I DON’T EXPECT TO RETURN TO PARIS
Unless for work, I do not intend to return to Paris. There are so many other beautiful parts of France that I want to explore. Paris is too overrun by tourists and as a result locals can be fairly rude to tourists and crime is high. If I was into luxurious goods and fine dining, Paris would be great, but for backpackers or budget travelers, it’s not that enjoyable. Personally, I felt that once I saw the main sights, there wasn’t much left to offer.