I have visited Paris many, many times. Each time borders close and reopen due to COVID it is the first place I go to. And to be honest, that is why I have put off creating this Paris guide for so long. There are so many great spots in Paris and I have so many beautiful pictures, that putting together this guide seemed too overwhelming. But, I have started the year super fresh and was finally able to finish it! So in this blogpost you will find all my Paris recommendations for museums, boroughs, shopping, food, sights & activities and daytrips!
Paris is one of the best places in the world when it comes to art museums. I am a big art lover, especially impressions, and Paris caters perfectly to that. Make sure to reserve a few days ahead of time, as the timeslots sometimes sell out. If you are visiting with children, you often get a discount yourself as well. These are your must visits in Paris:
Musee d’Orsay: This is my favorite museum in Paris, the collection of Impressionist art and art deco is really great. But you must visit for the beautiful building. Musee d’Orsay is situated in a former train station and the remains of that are still very visible. Don’t forget to take a look at the beautiful old clocks.
Musee d’Orangerie: This is the museum where you will find the water lillies (nympheas) by Monet. I have seen the water lillies in real life, in Monet’s garden in Giverny and I have a print of them hanging in my house. However, nothing beats seeing the paintings in Musee d’Orangerie. The details of the paintings are exquisit and the grandness is impressive. Usually, there is an interesting temporary exhibition as well. During my last visit there was a super cool exhibition of iPad paintings by David Hockney.
Fondacion Louis Vuitton: One of the lesser known museums in Paris, but definitely worth a visit is Fondacion Louis Vuitton. If you follow the blog for a while, you must know that I love the architect Frank Gehry and he designed this museum. So again, it is worth visiting for the building alone. I find the exhibitions a bit hit and miss, but you might be lucky with a cool modern artist. The views of Paris from the rooftop are amazing as well. I wrote a separte blogpost about my visit here.
The Louvre: Of course the Louvre is included in this list. If you have never been it is a must visit, but I find it too daunting for another visit due to its grandness. The Louvre is absolutely gigantic and you can spend many days inside of it. Before you visit you should make a plan of which wings you’d prefer to visit, otherwise you are going to miss out on the art that you’d like to see most. The pyramids of I.M. Pei are a great photo location if you visit early in the morning, or at night when they light up. During the day you will find an enormous queue in front of them.
Le Centre Pompidou: This is my least favorite of this list, but still a good visit. The building is super interesting (though not very pretty) and the views from the escalators are great. It is also situated in a good neighborhood to continue exploring after your visit.
I have a few favorite areas in Paris, which I think are great for staying the night and finding fun restaurants. Paris is divided into boroughs (arrondisements) and it is a lot of fun to take a full day to really experience a borough. These are my personal favorites:
Montmartre: Montmartre is incredibly touristy, but that is exactly why it is perfect to stay there. By staying in Montmartre you have the opportunity to stroll through it before the other tourists arrive. I have stayed in ibis Styles Montmartre Nord several times and found the location perfect for exploring Montmartre. It is located just outside of the busiest streets of Montmartre, but closeby enough for exploring. La Maison Rose, metro station Lamarck-Caulaincourt, Rue de l’Abreuvoir, cafe Le Consulat and the Sacre Coeur are among my favorite spots in Montmartre.
Le Marais: Le Marais is that quintessential Parisian area, where you will find all the cool cafes and shops. Le Marais is located in the 3rd and 4th arrondisement, which is close enough for walking to the main sights. Definitely bring a visit to the romantic Place des Vosges, which is the oldest square in Paris, where Victor Hugo used to live. If you are into antiques and art galleries, this is the area for you.
Saint-Germain-des-Pres: Saint-Germain is located in the 6th and 7th arondisement and I find it the best area for shopping and having lunch. You will find cute bistros on each corner, local specialty shops and the great department store Le Bon Marche. Near the Seine Saint-Germain can be really crowded, but the farther away from the Seine you go, the more relaxed it becomes.
Sights and activities
The Eiffel Tower: I love the Eiffel Tower, I love how it pops up randomly around a corner and how it keeps changing colors everytime I visit. I love the Eiffel Tower so much that I created a walk with the best Eiffel Tower views, you can read it here.
Notre Dame: I shed a little tear when the Notre Dame was on fire. Unfortunately, the restoration is going to take a very long time. The front of the Notre Dame is still as beautiful as before, but I was shocked at how much the backside was ruined. Near the Notre Dame the houses at the Seine are exceptionally beautiful, so I always love walking around in this area.
Palais Royal: In the garden of Palais Royal you will find the art installation of Colonnes de Buren. Palais Royal usually is very crowded and if you want to take pictures of the black-and-white columns you have to come really early in the day, or have lots of patience. I find that over summertime it usually isn’t too bad.
Sacre Coeur: The Sacre Coeur is my favorite church of Paris, it is just such a beautiful symbol on top of the hill. Even when entering Paris, you can already spot it from miles away. The front of the Sacre Coeur is always incredibly overcrowded, but at the backside of the Sacre Coeur you can find a little park which gives you great photo opportunities in a relaxed setting.
Rue Cremieux: You know how much I love colorful houses and in Paris you can find the beautiful Rue Cremieux. It is a quiet residential street in which no cars are allowed, which makes this street even prettier than Notting Hill. There has been some talk that the inhabitants of this street are trying to close the street off to tourists. I did notice some houses with a no photography sign and everybody seemed to respect that. I can imagine that it is annoying when tourists are constantly taking pictures in front of your house, but I can only dream of living in such a beautiful spot in the middle of Paris! They can happily sell their house to me 😉
Stroll the Tuileries: The Tuileries gardens are a real oasis of relaxation in a busy city. Even in winter time they are quite stunning, but they are best in summer and spring when the flowers are in bloom. During Christmas time you can even find a Christmas market in the Tuileries.
Laduree: Laduree is the best place to get macarons. Besides having little macaron stores scattered all over Paris, they have some restaurants too, which are great to have breakfast/brunch. You can make a reservation on their website, but they save some spots for spontaneous visitors as well.
Cafe de Flore: Cafe de Flore is a coffee spot in Paris which has been famous over 100 years. It is situated in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, which is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Paris. Cafe de Flore used to be frequented by writers and poets and you can still sense that ambience now, even though it has become very touristy. You cannot make reservations at Cafe de Flore, so you must be lucky to not find a queue. The bill was € 65 for a light lunch for three, which is doable given the history of the place.
Cafe Marley: Cafe Marley is the cafe with the views of the Louvre and if you are looking for a place to splurge, this is a good option. Reserve ahead of time or you won’t get a seat in between the fashionable crowd.
Bistros: Paris is full of bistro restaurants, some with amazing quality and some with okay quality. I find that the looks of the chairs are usually a good representation of the quality of the food 😉 Then I search the menu for some typical French food such as tartiflette, magret de canard or a burger reblochon and take a seat.
Le Bon Marche: My favorite department store in the world! I always shop online, but I make exceptions for Le Bon Marche. They have an amazing collection of affordable luxury brands, I particularly love Rouje Paris and Sezane. Le Bon Marche is less overcrowded than the other department stores, because it is located a bit further away of the big tourist sights. The art deco elevators are a must see as well.
Galeries Lafayette: Galeries Lafayette is one of my favorite department store in Paris, because of the beautiful decorations, the colorful dome and the view from the rooftop. During Christmas they decorate the dome, which is an incredible sight! In the pictures below you can see that they also added a glass-walk to the dome, which is sometimes open for pictures.
Sezane: Visiting Sezane is a great experience as well. They don’t let too many people in at once, so sometime you must wait outside, but that creates a very enjoyable shopping experience. I highly recommend their knits as they have amazing colors and quality.
La Samaritaine: La Samaritaine recently reopened after a renovation of more than 10 years. The art deco ceiling and paintings are really beautiful, I must admit I didn’t do any shopping as the brands are too expensive for me, but I enjoyed the architecture a lot.
The Seine: At the riverbanks of the Seine you will find little market stands selling vintage books and prints. I love getting prints for our house at these stands and if you want to practice your negotation skills this is a fun stop!
Daytrips from Paris
If you are looking for a fun daytrip from Paris I recommend these unoriginal ones below:
Monet’s garden in Giverny: Monet’s gardens in Giverny are a true feast for the eyes. A pink villa, with green shutter doors surrounded by an unthinkable amount of seasonal flowers, what’s not to love? I wrote a blogpost about in which season to best visit the gardens here.
Chateau de Versailles: Chateau Versailles, and mainly the little palace of Marie Antoinette are a fun day visit. Just so much pink marble! It is a bit kitschy, but a great visit nonetheless.