Paris has a ton to offer. I’ve been twice and it would be no problem to find fun and interesting things to explore. Of all the things I’ve done there are a few things that I think are really worth it for everyone to check out. Continue on to read about My 3 Favorite things to do in Paris.
Climb Montmartre Hill:
Located in the 18th arrondissement, Montmartre is definitely worth a visit. Montmartre is a large hill and the surrounding neighborhood. The hill climbs 427 feet and you can reach the top by foot, or by funicular. The breathtaking views are worth the climb alone, but once at the top you will find a pleasant artist town with small cafes and shops. Something interesting to note is that some very famous artists had studios in Montmartre, at one time. These include artists like Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh.
Also located at the top of Montmartre Hill are two churches. The Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur, and Saint Pierre de Montmartre. Saint Pierre de Montmartre is the oldest surviving church in Paris. After visiting these historic monuments, exploring the quaint cobble-stone streets, purchasing some macaroons, crepes, and other French delicacies, I recommend taking a moment to sit on the hill and take in your surroundings. There is something very peaceful about taking in scenery and observing both other travelers and the locals just relaxing and taking in the day.
Explore the Palace of Versailles:
It takes about 45 minutes to reach the Palace of Versailles from Paris, using the RER C. It is a straight shot to the last stop. As you may know The Palace of Versailles housed the French government during the reigns of Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI. The palace and the grounds are overwhelmingly large. You can easily spend the entire day exploring the palace and the grounds.
The level of detail and craftsmanship both in the palace and in the gardens is astonishing. If you have never visited a Royal Palace before (or even if you have), I highly recommend visiting Versailles. The inside is lavishly decorated with fine details, as one might expect in a Palace. You are able to see the quarters in which royalty lived their lives, and many of their possessions displayed.
Perhaps a bit more unexpected were the grounds. Everywhere you turn is something new to be discovered. From the carefully sculpted hedges, detailed statues, and impressive fountains. If time is on your side, I highly recommend paying the extra fee for the fountain show and musical gardens. The fountain show is large, explosive and extremely awe inducing. You should also visit the “park”. The park has a massive canal. You can rent a boat, have a picnic, hike, walk your dog, enjoy a sandwich and some gelato, the possibilities are endless.
Then, don’t forget to check out the Grand Trianon (Trianon Palaces) and the Estate of Marie Antoinette.
While everything about the Palace of Versailles was beautiful, intricate, and interesting, my favorite part was hiking through the grounds and the Queens Hamelet, located in the far back of the gardens. This little village looks like it came straight from a storybook, with quiet little cottages, ponds, and even farm animals. The Queens Hamelet was used as a retreat for Marie Antoinette, and it served as a retreat for us as well. The palace is typically full of tourists and long lines. The Queens Hamelet was relatively empty and allowed us the freedom to go off and explore. My fitbit tells me I hiked 12 miles that day.
We fed adorable baby farm animals grass, we climbed trees, we hiked up hills that led nowhere and across fields that seemed endless. It is the unplanned, unexpected moments of discovery that I loved best about Versailles!
If you do visit, make sure you really visit!
Watch the Eiffel Tower Turn Off:
I’ve visited Paris twice now, and by far my favorite thing to do is still to grab some wine and snacks from a local grocery store and a blanket, and head to the Eiffel Tower around dusk. (There will be guys walking around selling bottles of wine at the Tower for 40 Euro a bottle. Don’t fall for this! You can get a bottle for 5 Euro at the grocery store. In my experience, bring more than one bottle.)
Walk through Champ de Mars and pick out a spot that isn’t too crowded, but provides a nice view. My favorite spot is to the left side of the tower. (Your left if you are facing the tower and the Seine.) There are no gates to walk through, and there are less people here since it is not directly in the middle, but you can get much closer.
Once the sun sets, the Tower’s lights will turn on. There is something very peaceful and perfect about hanging out there and just enjoying the atmosphere, the scenery, the people. Then, every hour on the hour, the Tower will glitter and sparkle for 5 minutes. It’s a beautiful sight.
Here is the secret, though. Don’t hang out for 10 minutes or an hour. Stay there until the tower turns off. The tower will turn off at 1am (2 am during the three months of summer.) It may seem like a long night, but I promise it is worth it. The later it gets, the more the crowds clear, and soon only a few groups of people will be left. These people will be hanging out, laughing, enjoying Paris, and life in general. I have met so many wonderful people, from all over the world – just by hanging out at the Eiffel Tower, after most people would have left. There is something you all have in common at the moment, and you’re all thrilled to have each others company. It’s a pretty magical experience, when everyone around you at a given moment, has no where else they would rather be than where you all are.
The last time I was there with a friend, the evening began with just two of us – and ended with about 20 people who stemmed from 2 different groups. We laughed, got to know each other, talked about where we were from, where we were going. Groups of girls who had never met before became adventure seekers with one common goal – an open restroom, and people you had only known for a few hours were offering to host you in their home country, which you of course promised to visit. All with the glow of the Tower in the background and a bottle of wine in your hand. I still have contacts for a lot of these people and I really hope to see them all again!
Doing this the first time I visited is what made me fall in love with Paris. I did it when I returned, and I will continue to each time I visit in the future.
All glory aside, one thing that is important to remember – is that during the week the Metro stops running at 12:30am M-F, and 2:15am on Saturday and Sunday. Have the time of your life, but do not leave yourself without a way home! If you do stay too late and realize you’ve missed the last train, there is a spot for cabs to line up right in front of the Tower. So just make sure you bring a little cash in case you end up having to do that!
Have you ever seen the tower turn off?