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 explored Paris in three days and spent the rest of our time checking items off 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 with 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 seven days around Paris. Our Paris Museum Passes were for three days. Days 1-3 were devoted to spending three days in Paris.
Arrive in Paris.
We arrived from our overnight flight in the late afternoon. I firmly believe in dealing with jet lag by getting out the day I arrive in Europe and start exploring.
Drop bags off at the hotel.
I wanted to stay in a hotel with room for my family of four that was convenient to the Metro, was moderately priced, and 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 like to be within walking distance of 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 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 alleyways, saw Paris’ spring flowers, took the funicular, and had our first French meal. Pierre also writes the website French Moments, which has inspiring information no matter where you visit France. Visit his Instagram above. The Sacré-Coeur church’s views will excite you 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 extensive, 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 museum has large paintings from Monet’s Water Lilies and 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, French formal gardens, and even goats tending the grass in this large park, which used to contain tile factories. In the middle of the park is an open-air restaurant whose croque-monsieur sandwich and atmosphere are 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 used to be a palace. It is vast and 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 giant 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 we 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 many of the city’s oldest parts 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 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, and I mean really colossal, 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.
Please read 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! Please 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 Paris Foods
Something I didn’t have a chance to do but I would love to return to do is a 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 wild as it tends to do. Many people were questioning my decision to go, especially with my kids. I went anyway, not because I am a risk taker. 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 wrong decision? The short answer is no. Life is scary. While I was traveling, people died in car accidents in my home state. There is ultimately danger everywhere, but the likelihood is that we won’t be directly affected 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 intend to expose them to a world bigger than themselves. My husband and I hope to give them an understanding of other people, cultures, and beliefs, which, I expect, 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 adore it! It is a trilogy so that it can last a while! The books are written in diary form and tell the epic story of Josephine Bonaparte, who eventually became empress of France when she married Napoleon. It will immerse you into not only the life and history of the period in Paris but also the 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 Montmartre, 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.