While headed to Scandinavia this spring I had the chance to stop in Paris for one week! I can’t believe I hadn’t yet visited this iconic city. And spring in Paris is as romantic and beautiful as they say. We did most of our exploring of Paris in three days and spent the rest of our time checking items off of my bucket list in areas outside the city.
There is no way I could have experienced so much of the city in so little time without the generous sponsorship by the Paris Convention and Tourism Board. They provided my family Paris Museum Passes and Paris Transport Passes. Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world and the lines for everything were very long. The passes allowed us to bypass most of them and made taking the Metro a breeze. I will be sure to buy them again next time I go. Here is a breakdown of how we spent our whole 7 days around Paris. Our Paris Museum Passes were for 3 days, day 1-3 were devoted to spending three days in Paris.
Table of Contents
Arrive in Paris.
We arrived from our overnight flight in the late afternoon. I am a firm believer in dealing with jet lag by getting right out the day I arrive in Europe and start exploring.
Drop bags off at hotel
I wanted to stay in a hotel that had room for my family of four, is convenient to the Metro, moderately priced and would let me experience the life of an everyday Parisian. We did not want to be in the middle of the main tourist area. I tend to explore while my family is still asleep, so I want to be walking distance from interesting things. Hôtel des Bains perfectly fit the bill for us. The whole family loved all the nearby fruit markets and cafes. It is close to the Luxembourg Gardens and is in the neighborhood of Montparnasse. Twice weekly there is a street market one block away. Also in the area is the super cute Hotel Delambre.
Part of my inspiration to visit Paris was the quirky movie of Amelie set in Montmartre. A tour of this area was hosted by Pierre of Paris Walking Tours of this gorgeous village on a hill, overlooking all of Paris. This was the absolute best way to start our trip. Pierre met us at our hotel and explained how to use the Métro. Montmartre is lovely and the tour was relaxed and informal, but full of information. We walked through cute alley ways, seeing Paris’ spring flowers and took the funicular and had our first French meal. Pierre also writes the website French Moments which has inspiring information no matter where you are visiting in France. Visit his Instagram above. The views from the Sacré-Coeur church will get you excited to explore the city over the next few days.
Immerse yourself in Paris’ Museums.
We made perfect use of our Paris Museum Passes on our second day. My youngest son has a short attention span with art, so we did a lot of fluttering around and walked over 30,000 steps. It was one of my favorite days.
Walk through the Luxembourg Gardens.
The large, calm gardens were once home to Napoleon and Josephine. It now houses the French senate, but also formal French and English gardens and fountains. The park is perfect for a picnic or a leisurely walk with our morning café.
Visit the Musée de l’Orangerie.
Most of the art I search out around the globe is Impressionism. I may be a bit obsessed with the relationship between art and nature. That is part of why I love photography too. This small, simple museum has large paintings from Monet’s Water Lilies, as well as many other treasures. I also found the visiting collections from Tokyo quite interesting.
Have lunch in the Jardin des Tuileries while walking from the Musée de l”Orangerie to the Louvre.
Here we saw sculptures, ponds, a carnival and French formal gardens, even goats tending the grass in this large park which used to be tile factories. In the middle of the park is an open-air restaurant whose croque-monsieur sandwich and atmosphere is worth enjoying during a leisurely lunch.
Scratch the surface at the Louvre.
I don’t think you can visit Paris without visiting the world’s largest museum, which was a palace. It is huge and it would take days to explore the whole thing. There are multiple entrances so it can be confusing to meet people here. The busiest and most famous entrance is under the large glass pyramid. My best advice is to use the pass to get in. Eat and drink before you enter as the queues for the food are long. Be sure to make a plan before you enter. We wanted to see the Mona Lisa and Napoleon’s apartments, so saw things based on routes to those things.
Explore the Île de la Cité.
This island in the middle of the Seine River was the center of the medieval city, so it is where the many of the oldest parts of the city are. You can see the Pont Neuf, Paris’ oldest bridge, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Conciergerie Prison which held Marie Antoinette and even the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore.
Jump on the Big Bus tour included with the Museum Pass and head to the Tour du Eiffel.
Entrance to the Eiffel Tour isn’t included, but you can’t miss going up this iconic landmark. The Eiffel Tower is located pretty far from most of Paris’ other tourist attractions. If you don’t want to wait in line for half of the day, book your tickets online as far ahead as possible. It will likely be sold out months before you visit.
Have lunch high atop Paris on the Eiffel Tower.
It was a huge, I mean really huge splurge to eat at the Le Jules Verne Restaurant. The meal was the most expensive my family has ever eaten, but also the nicest with the best view. The day we visited was cold and rainy, but our visit was perfect. No lines, a very unique semi-private elevator ride up to the restaurant and a memory that will stay with my family forever. You can book a reservation for any of the Eiffel Tower’s restaurants here.
Hop back on the bus and head to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
This main metropolitan shopping and dining street in Paris ends at the rotary that contains the Arc de Triomphe.
Use your pass to go up the Arc de Triomphe.
If you arrive before 18:30 you can see the rekindling of the flame to the unknown soldier at the tower’s base. We climbed the tower after dark to see Paris sparkling from the Eiffel Tower’s impressive light show and the city’s lights.
Take the train to Monet’s house and gardens at Giverny.
Read all about our relaxing bike ride in the Normandy countryside from Vernon to Giverny. This is definitely one of my best adventures yet!
Take the train to Bruges, Belgium.
What an incredible country Belgium is! Read all about our visit.
Head out to the Palace of Versailles.
Take a farewell dinner cruise on the Seine.
This is the perfect way to reminisce about your time in this incredible city and start planning your next visit. Because I know I will come back…. there is so much more to see!
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and fly home…
My favorite food I had in Paris
Something I didn’t have a chance to do, but would love to return to do it food tour. My friend Heather, from Trimm Travels, got to do one. Read on for her Paris food tour experience.
Is it safe to travel to Paris?
While I was planning my trip the world was going crazy as it tends to do. Many people were questioning my decision to go, especially with my kids. I went anyway, and not because I am a risk taker at all. Although I am adventurous, I am also moderately conservative.
While we were abroad there were bombings in London and a terrorism-motivated shooting nearby in Paris. Did they make me think I had made a bad decision? The short answer is no. Life is scary. While I was travelling people died in car accidents in my home state. There is ultimately danger everywhere, but the likelihood is that we won’t be directly effected by it anymore at home than abroad. We can’t completely control the universe.
These fears are what terrorists are taking advantage of. I don’t plan on letting these irrational people make my actions irrational nor do I plan on passing these fears on to my kids. I do plan on exposing them to a world that is bigger than themselves. My husband and I hope to give them an understanding of other people, cultures and beliefs which, I hope, will result in them being better world citizens.
Things to Read or Watch to Inspire Your Trip to Paris
- The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland- One of my best friends is a high school English teacher. For the first few years I knew her, I swore she was a history teacher because of how she wove the two subjects together. She recommended this book and I absolutely adore it! It is a trilogy, so it can last a while! The books are written in diary form and tells the epic story of Josephine Bonaparte who will eventually become empress of France when she marries Napoleon. It will immerse you into not only the life and history of the period in Paris, but also the French conquered Caribbean Martinique.
- The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure- Although books set in WWII can be very sad, ultimately this is an uplifting story of the good in some humans set in Nazi occupied Paris. It is a reminder of how much history Paris has experienced from its beginnings being settled by the Romans.
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens- A must-read classic set in the time of the French Revolution.
- Amelie– A very quirky movie set in the neighborhood of Montamarte subtitled in English.
- An American in Paris– This musical won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1951.
Have you been to Paris yet? What did you love that I missed? Please let me know in the comments. Feel free to ask any questions down there as well.