My mom and I took a long anticipated trip to Europe in May 2019. We tacked Paris, Nice, Rome, and Florence, plus a few other stops along the way. This was my first time in France and my mom’s first visit to Europe, so we were both pretty wide-eyed when we arrived in Paris (despite the overnight flight that neither of us were able to sleep on).
Let’s kick this blog post off with a major understatement: Paris is big. When we first arrived we immediately ditched my highly-detailed itinerary and just took half the day to get our bearings in the city and test our luck with the subway system.
Here are some of my general tips and suggestions for visiting Paris:
The Marais is a great neighborhood to stay in. It feels very Paris and chances are there’s a great restaurant or shop right outside of your airbnb. It’s a relatively affordable spot (the closer you get to the Eiffel Tower the more expensive things get) and housing some great attractions like Notre Dame and the extremely underrated Sainte Chapelle.
Walk when you can because the streets of Paris are beautiful and the architecture is unlike that of any other city.
We visited in mid-May and it was COLD. We were definitely not prepared for the weather. The locals had the right idea with long wool coats, nice pants and cute boots. The streets are mostly shaded and the city is built like a wind tunnel so if you’re visiting any season other than summer be prepared.
Don’t let travel snobs bully you out of doing touristy things. You are a tourist. One of the best things my mom and I did was a dinner cruise on the Siene. Was is something a local would do? No, but it was a great way to see several highlights of the city. Balance the touristy things out with some down time spent meandering or people watching.
The French aren’t big breakfast eating folks, but they make up for it with L'Aperitif, aka Happy Hour. It begins around 6 PM and is exactly what you need after a long afternoon spent walking. Split a bottle of wine and sit outside at a pretty cafe for some people-watching, a serious French pass time.
Because it’s such a historical city, France is not the most accessible. There are stairs everywhere and elevators are not always promised. Our AirBnb was at the top of a beautiful 5 story building with no way up except by means of a very narrow spiral staircase, so pack light!
Google maps is great for navigating the subway system. Get a subway pass if you’re going to be staying a couple days.
You have to see the Eiffel tower at night. You just gotta. It sparkles every hour on the hour once it gets dark and it’s really worth it.
Ask for the house wine.
Getting food to-go is not a thing. Neither is free water.