Paris is one of my favorite cities in Europe and I couldn’t be happier to be back! It’s one of the few European cities where I actually enjoy all their attractions, from monuments to parks to cathedrals. I even enjoy the art museums! My boyfriend and I planned for 3.5 days in Paris and it was just not enough time to do everything on our list. I wish we had more time to simply wander the streets of Paris and take in the beautiful city. Needless to say, I’m already counting down the days until my next visit.
The Eiffel is my favorite monument in the whole world and even though I was visiting for a second time, the structure still amazed me. Since my last visit in 2016, a glass perimeter has been built around the monument for heightened security. It’s sad that these are the times we live in. You don’t need a ticket to enter the glass perimeter, but the line for security is much shorter if you do have one.
I love spotting familiar sites and attractions from above – kind of like Where’s Waldo! We went around 6:30pm so we could catch the sunset from the summit. Make sure to go to the summit before dark because it’s quite cold at the top.
My favorite part about the Eiffel experience is the light show! The monument lights up for five minutes every hour on the hour from sunset to 1am. The lights are a bit blinding if you’re on the tower but it’s magical from afar.
TIP: Make sure to purchase tickets online in advance.
For our first meal, we went to La Coïncidence for traditional French food. When we asked for a table without reservations, the waiters exchanged a look of annoyance. Something I didn’t understand because there were plenty of tables available… let’s just say customer experience is not a top priority here. We ordered the Duck Breast and Ribeye Steak entrees. The duck was perfectly cooked but there was an overwhelming amount of sauce that overpowered the meat. The best part of the dish was the mashed potatoes! The ribeye was dry and disappointing. Overall, not a place I’d come back to.
With our hotel a few blocks away, we decided to take a stroll towards Moulin Rouge before calling it a night. The street was lively and lined with plenty of sex shops and strip clubs.
There is a surprising number of ramen shops right by Palais Garnier and with hungry tummies, we chose the one with the shortest wait time. The restaurant may look small but there is additional seating in the back. The menu is in French and the waiters don’t speak much English – be prepared to download Google Translate! We ordered the Miso Rouge Royal and the fall special. My boyfriend eats enough for 2 people so we ordered the large and the portions did not disappoint. Make sure to get the gyoza too because it’s delicious! Overall, I liked the ramen for its rich broth and this is a place I can see myself coming back to.
Like most tourist spots in Paris, be prepared to wait in a long and disorganized security line. Some people claim that those with a ticket can go to the front… but I think they just pushed their way in. I’m not bitter about it… not at all.
We joined a guided tour and during the 90 minutes, we learned a lot about the history and details of the opera house. Did you know that the architect hid his name in the building? The tour was a bit too long (my boyfriend fell asleep in the auditorium), but the opera house is breathtakingly beautiful, especially the Grand Staircase and the Grand Foyer. After the tour, you can walk around the opera house on your own to take pictures.
TIP: To save time, I would recommend skipping the guided tour but still visit the Opera House on your own with the included audio guide.
We went to the Orsay on a Thursday because it’s open until 9:45pm. It was a great way to avoid the day crowds. We purchased an audio guide for €5 to better appreciate the artwork. I loved the Van Gogh, Monet, and Renoir paintings. There was also a special Picasso exhibition at the time. I was looking forward to taking a picture with the instafamous clock, but to my disappointment it was closed during my visit. So no instagram post for me.
Arc de Triomphe
Not only is the Arc de Triomphe a beautifully designed monument, it also provides a great view of the city. I love that the Arc provides a different vantage point than the Eiffel and Montparnasse at 162 feet. You are still close enough to the ground to notice the details of the buildings around you. Plus, it’s a great spot to watch the Eiffel light show. The only downside is the 284 steps to the top via a spiral staircase. It’s not too bad (and I have bad knees) but many were out of breath climbing to the top.
Ladurée Paris Champs Elysées
If a city has a Ladurée, I’ll be there! And there was no way I’d skip the flagship store in Paris. During this visit, I discovered a new flavor I love – Strawberry Vanilla! But Strawberry Candy Marshmallow is still my forever favorite.
Yes, we went to McDonald’s. We ordered a ton of food and to our surprise, there was no Sweet and Sour sauce for our chicken nuggets! We ended up with Creamy (like ranch but less sour) and Curry (like sweet and sour but with a spicy kick) instead. Not so fun side note, I’m pretty sure I got food poisoning from the Fish Filet here…
As I walked up the stairs to the upper chapel, the 1,113 stained glass windows came into sight and I was left speechless. I could’ve stayed in that room for hours just taking it all in (thank god there were chairs!). The glass panes depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments and you can learn more about them via the information cards available (located in a stand by the exit staircase). Don’t forget to step out onto the porch because the tympanum is a sight in itself with the detailed angels depicting the Last Judgement. Sainte-Chapelle is a must-do on every tourists’ list!
There is a long line to enter the cathedral, but don’t be afraid – it moves quickly! While I loved my first visit, I found it to be underwhelming this time around. It’s probably because I was still coming off the high from Sainte-Chapelle. It’s certainly worth a visit but maybe don’t visit Sainte-Chapelle first?
This French bistro is known for having delicious French food at a low cost. We arrived around 2pm on a Friday and there was luckily no wait. I ordered the Duck Confit and my first bite with the fatty skin was delicious! But as I ate on, the meat felt a bit dry. The potatoes were good though! The price really was low so can’t really complain.
Chanel – 31 Rue Cambon
I have a confession… Chanel may have been the main reason why I chose to visit Paris. I’ve been dying to buy a Chanel Boy bag and what better place than Chanel’s flagship store in Paris! This is the only location that provides specialized white packaging for your purchase. This might mean nothing to you, but I was giddy over it! I even took a picture on the iconic staircase for the full flagship experience.
I’m not a huge fan of museums but I loved my visit to the Louvre! It may be best known for housing the Mona Lisa but with a museum this big, you’re bound to stumble upon other great works of art. My favorites include Gallery of Views of Ancient Rome, The Coronation of Napoleon, and Liberty Leading the People. I now understand how my parents spent their whole day here, there’s everything from paintings to sculptures to crown jewels. Don’t forget to look up because even the ceilings are a work of art!
Trois Fois plus de Piment
I love Sichuan food and this place did not disappoint! We ordered the Soupe de Nouilles au Bœuf Sichuanaise (Spicy Beef Noodle Soup), Nouilles DanDan avec Soupe (Dan Dan Noodles), and Raviolis au Porc avec Soupe Pimentée (Pork Dumplings in Spicy Soup). All the dishes were very spicy (even for my Korean boyfriend) but damn was it good! We came around 9:30pm and waited about 30 minutes for a table. Even with the wait, it was worth it and I’ll definitely be coming back!
TIP: There are a lot of restaurants in this area. Take a metro to the stop Place du Châtelet and start exploring your options.
Place du Trocadéro
I decided to do what Instagram influencers do to get the perfect shot with the Eiffel Tower – wake up before sunrise. We found ourselves in great company at 8am. We met Mandalyn, a photographer (she took the photo of Bruce and I) and fellow blogger (check out her blog here), and saw one of my favorite travel influencers, @topolindra. Despite the early morning, my boyfriend and I had a blast taking photos around the area. Hopefully, I’ll be able to convince him to wake up this early again in the future!
Palace of Versailles
I remember learning about the extravagance and grandeur of Versailles in my AP European History class and I’ve wanted to visit ever since. I think my expectations were a little too high and I found myself disappointed as I walked through the chateau. The Hall of Mirrors may be beautiful, but it was similar to other places I’ve seen in Europe. On the other hand, the gardens really were impressive and well worth the trip to Versailles. The fountains aren’t always on so make sure to go on a day with the Musical Fountains Show. Next time, I want to ride the rowing boats on the grand canal!
TIP: I have a ton and they’re all in my Guide to Versailles.
Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise
The idea of seeing Paris from the Seine sounds magical, but in reality, it was quite disappointing. The boat we were on was enclosed which meant everything was viewed through dirty windows. Even though we got window seats on the right, it was still hard to see the attractions that were being pointed out to us. On top of that, it was impossible to hear the tour guide over our fellow riders (and we sat in the front). The ride lasted about an hour, with the cruise going down the river and circling back. I still think a river cruise could be a good idea in Paris, just not with this company.
They have lamen (hand-pulled noodles)! You can even watch them make the noodles at the front of the restaurant. We ordered Lamen with Spicy Beef, Lamen with Dumplings, Water Spinach, Mapo Tofu, and Cantonese Fried Rice. Yes, we ordered enough for a whole family and shocked everyone around us when we ate it all. In our defense, we were really hungry, the price was affordable, and the food was delicious! I would absolutely come back here on my next Paris trip.
This building offers yet another great view of the city, and most importantly, a direct shot of the Eiffel Tower. I love the design of the observation deck on the 59th floor. It has large glass windows with slits for you to peak out of. You have the safety of a closed deck but the view of an open one. There are also plastic chairs laying around so you can sit and enjoy the view!
Top Tourist Spots: Sainte-Chapelle, Palais Garnier, Eiffel Tower
For Next Time: Basilica of Sacre-Coeur, Galeries Lafayette
Must Eat Snack: Macarons from Ladurée
What to Skip: Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise
The Other Necessities
We stayed at Hotel Splendid and though it wasn’t memorable, it had the basic necessities. The staff was friendly, the hotel is close to multiple metro stops, and the room was reasonably sized for Paris. Plus, we could see the top of the Eiffel Tower from our window!
We purchased the Paris Pass for our trip so we got around using our unlimited transportation passes. For a full review of the Paris Pass, check out my blog post here.