I first visited Paris many moons ago and instantly fell in love (with the city). I’ve been fortunate to have visited Paris five or six time since – for a romantic getaway, for a girl’s weekend with friends and also with my family (visiting Disneyland Paris with the children). The city is so easy to get around, surprisingly it’s not too big and benefits from cheap public transport too. Paris is so versatile, there something for everyone and you won’t be disappointed. You might think that this is an expensive city, but there are plenty of things to do that are free and food and drink can be quite reasonable if you step aside from the main tourist traps. Here’s my top tips for a great long weekend in Paris:
I’ve flown from both Newcastle and Leeds Bradford into Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport. Forget expensive taxi rides and waiting for the bus – instead mingle with the locals on the RER train direct from the airport right in to the heart of the city. The RER blue liner runs from the airport right through the city. It takes about half an hour and costs around 10 euros. Easy! We got off at the Saint Michel/ Notre Dame stop, headed up the escalator and came out looking straight onto…
Notre-Dame de Paris
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris (translated as Our Lady of Paris) is a medieval church dating back to 1160 and took over 100 years to build. It’s famous for its beautiful French Gothic architecture and the stunning Rose Window. Notre Dame is located in the 4th Arrondissement of Paris on the islands right in the middle of the River Seine, close to the Latin Quarter. It’s a beautiful spot to stop and catch a boat ride along the Seine. (After the fire in 2019, the Church of Notre Dame is currently undergoing building work to the roof and spire and full access is not available).
Bateaux Mouches – boat trips
You seriously can’t come to Paris without trying a ride on one of the famous Bateaux Mouches. These are tourist boats with glass roofs so you get an excellent view of all the Paris tourist hot spots (Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower…etc). The boats offer a variety of trips including one-hour short rides, brunch, lunch and dinner cruises and of course, romantic moonlight cruises. Tickets can be bought in advance or from the quayside and are a reasonable 14 euros for adults.
No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the iconic Eiffel Tower – a landmark that can be seen throughout the whole of Paris. Started in 1887 and towering above the city, it is a feat of engineering! You can take trip to different viewing platforms of the tower – you might want to book early as tickets sell well in advance. You have lots of options to choose from – including climbing the stairs if you’re feeling energetic. For others, it’s a quick trip up a lift for some awe-inspiring views – you can see for miles!!
The Louvre Museum and Tuileries Gardens
The Louvre is home to the Mona Lisa and is the largest and most visited Museum in the World. Housed in the Louvre Palace it was opened in 1793 and has over 38,000 artefacts and paintings. We decided to pass on the Museum itself, and instead spent time in a lovely little cafe where the rich & famous go in the Louvre courtyard. We were lucky enough to get a table next to Jean Paul Gautier no less! The cafe looks out onto the spectacular glass pyramids. We people watched for a while and headed of for a wander through the magnificent formal gardens of the Tuileries which lead from the Louvre to the end of the Champs Elysee.
At almost 2 miles long, it a good walk down the champs Elysee – the most famous road in Paris and where the Tour de France finishes. Stroll along the most beautiful avenue in the world, there’s lots of small restaurants and cafes for a quick coffee stop. The avenue used to be dedicated to luxury shopping and the most famous stores are still Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Longchamp. There are also more affordable brands like Zara, H&M and Gap. At the top of the Champs Elysee, you’ll find…
The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the western end of the Champs Elysee. It’s surrounded by a busy roundabout, so take the underpass right into the centre and then you can climb the 50 metres to the very top – for a birds eye view down the Champs Elysee and over towards the Louvre. At the bottom of the Arc is France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the light of which is re-kindled every evening at 6.30pm. This monument plays a part in many of France’s major national events and is a must see when in Paris.
The Left Bank/Latin Quarter
Don’t miss the Latin Quarter, you must visit this part of Paris – it’s on the left bank of the Seine, not too far from Notre Dame Cathedral. Known for the famous Sorbonne University, this area takes its name from the Latin that used to be spoken here in times gone by. Its’s quaint, imagine beautiful neighbourhoods and old cobbled streets – but it’s very busy!! It’s one of the liveliest areas to stay in Paris – so hotel prices can be more expensive. That said, it’s also one of the most beautiful areas. I’ve stayed elsewhere in Paris – but now, I would always book a hotel in this area or nearby St Germain de Pres. It’s at the heart of the action. There are lots of small independent boutiques, galleries and tourist shops – and of course, great street cafe culture, plenty of bars and some great jazz clubs too!
Pont des Arts (Love Lock Bridge)
If you’re strolling around the left bank and along the River Seine, don’t miss the beautiful wooden/ pedestrian bridge The Pont des Arts – otherwise known as Love Lock Bridge – it’s quite near to the Louvre. Some of the locks remain (as often the council removes the locks from the bridge). It has incredible views of the Seine (especially at sun set) and is a great place to sit and watch the world go by.
Just on the edge of the Latin Quarter lies the Luxembourg Gardens. Not typically touristy, here you can find the locals enjoying their time playing chess or a game of boules in the beautiful park, there’s even pony rides for the kids. Beautifully landscaped and full of flowers in the Spring and Summer, this is a gorgeous, relaxed place to stop. Grab a freshly baked baguette from the local boulangerie and make yourself a picnic to enjoy in the grounds.
Montmartre and the Sacre Couer
Head to the north of the city (best travel by Metro – it’s really easy to use and quite cheap too)and visit the quaint Place du Teatre (Artists Square) which is considered to be the heart of the old Montmartre district. The Square is surrounded by typical cafes and restaurants and in the Square local portrait artists and caricaturist ply their trade. Just along the road is the beautiful Sacre Coeur Basilica which sits high atop a hill – and has fantastic views of Paris beneath.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading my top tips on Paris. It really is an amazing city to visit – and so versatile – suiting couples, friends and families alike. Having stayed in Paris many times, I love this city – and I’m sure that you’ll love it too. Many of our fantastic staff here at Tate’s Travel have also visited Paris, so please do get in touch with us if you’d like us to help you plan your weekend away to this gorgeous city.