While the crowds in Paris will be quite a bit smaller this upcoming Valentine's Day, what better city to write about this time of year than the "City of Love" itself? Paris is an interesting place. While it can be mistaken at points for being just like any other major city, it has a certain energy to it. Many people idealise Paris, and end up being disappointed when they actually visit and realise that it's just like any other big city. I'm going to have to disagree. Paris is unique, and being my first time in Paris, it was just as magical as I expected.
It's a huge, dynamic city full of beautiful architecture, cute cafes, life, beauty and art. Each street is beautiful in its own way, and there are surprising and exciting places to discover around each corner. As cheesy as it seems, Paris really was such a beautiful, romantic city to me, and I didn't feel underwhelmed at all. Paris is what you expect it to be, full of unique architecture and charm, but also a large, global city. Probably one of the first stops on any Euro trip, Paris is pretty relevant, and most travellers will pass through here at some point in their life.
While these are just some of my own recommendations for the city, there are honestly endless amounts of things you can do here. Take a week to see it all if you can. Wander through the streets and get lost. Sit in a cafe for hours and people watch. Hangout in the park with your new friends you made at your hostel, drinking wine and eating cheese. Be open to new experiences, and the city will show you a good time.
I stayed in an Airbnb in the Grenelle neighbourhood, which is a great place to stay. It's right by the Eiffel Tower, and a great location since it's more residential and less full of tourists. The Airbnb was a 'chambre de bonne', which is a cheap way to stay in Paris if you're travelling by yourself or with your partner.
While I flew in from Madrid, there are numerous ways to get to Paris. Cheap flights run from the States daily, as well as from any other European capital. There's a high speed train from London that goes under the English Channel, as well as high-speed trains from Brussels and Amsterdam, among others. France has an excellent high-speed rail network as well, the TGV, which connects the entire country. There are buses too, of course. You can get here from just about anywhere fairly quickly and cheaply, especially if you're flexible with your dates. Once you're here, my advice is to just take the metro everywhere. Taxis can be expensive and Uber is iffy here, so the metro is probably your best option. If you're going to be sightseeing a lot, I recommend purchasing a Paris Pass, which includes a pre-loaded metro card.
Like I mentioned before, it's probably a good idea to purchase a Paris Pass, especially if you'll be there for awhile. There are different passes you can buy, and it's basically a fixed price for admission into the most popular sites around the city, as well as more cool experiences like dinner cruises and a trip to Versailles. If you plan to go to all of the places on the pass, you'll save a ton of money on ticket prices. If not, it may be a bit too much money to spend. Up to you and your priorities. Pretty much everything on here is included on it, but double-check the website before ordering it just to make sure.
The Louvre. I know you know what the Louvre is, but if you haven't visited yet, it's one of those must-see things in Paris that you just have to do. If you're coming here, don't make plans for the rest of your day and be prepared to spend the day here. This is where the Mona Lisa is, but my favourite exhibits were the ancient Egyptian and Greek artifacts. There truly is so much incredible art in here so take your time, wander around, and get lost. Price: 17€.
Musee D'Orsay. Another Parisian must-see, the Orsay is a cool, more modern museum in what I believe is an old train hall. There are many famous works of art in here that you can see, but it's much smaller than the Louvre, so you'll only need 2 hours max. Here you'll find Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh, among others. Price: 14€.
Centre Pompidou. One of my favourite museums, the Pompidou is full of modern, contemporary art. I visited at night and wasn't able to see the entire museum, but loved what I did see. I'm really into modern art, so this was a really cool experience for me. They have a more international variety of artists, rather than just the traditional European art you'll find in other Parisian museums. I highly recommend it! Price: 14€.
Bateaux River Cruise. Another really cool experience included in the Paris Pass is this Seine river cruise. It was one of my favourite things I did in the city, since I love boat rides and being on the water. It's a bit touristy with the audio guides, but they'll tell you the history of what you're looking at which is cool. You can move around the boat the whole time, and there's a deck that you can hangout on outside. Price: 7€.
Curiosity Collective Wine Cave Tasting. I signed up for this incredible wine and cheese tasting in an old, underground wine cave on Airbnb Experiences. This fun, interactive tasting was lead by a friendly, knowledgable guide, and everything we tried was delicious. Most of the wine and cheese came from different regions of France, which we learned a bit about as well. Also a great way to meet and chat with other travellers, one of my favourite parts of travelling. Price: $87.
Eiffel Tower. I don't really feel like this needs an introduction, and it's probably on your must-see list for Paris as well. If you're trying to go, buy your tickets online 1-2 months in advance. They do close the top part of the tower when it's raining, which happened during my visit, but I was refunded half of my ticket automatically and was still able to go halfway up. The neighbourhood surrounding the Eiffel Tower is one of the nicest in Paris (that I've been to), and I'd definitely recommend hanging out there for the great views of the tower. Price: 16-26€.
Montmartre. This neighbourhood on the top of a hill overlooking the city is a bit touristy, but also really cute. Despite being a bit crowded, there is still a bit of magic to it. It's a bit of a hike to get up here, but it feels kind of relaxed and artistic, sort of like the "old town" of Paris.
I ate some great food in Paris, and this isn't an exhaustive list of everywhere I tried as well. Most food in Paris outside of the tourist trap places are quite good, and you really can't go wrong with most cafes and bars around the city. These were just a few of my favourites, and I'd recommend checking them out if you're also vegetarian/vegan or just curious.
Maceo. I made a reservation here for Valentine's Day dinner well ahead of time. It's essentially a modern, French vegetarian restaurant with veggie versions of many gourmet French dishes. It's definitely a bit of a splurge, but if this sounds like your vibe I'd recommend it for a special occasion. *Make a res*.
Creperies. Not a specific place, but I just wanted to add this. If you're in Paris, you have to try a crepe! There are plenty of creperies around the city, and I don't recommend any particular one. Get a sweet and a savoury, and share them with a friend!
Kong. This cool Asian-fusion restaurant is in a rooftop dome with great views of Paris. Their dining room is pretty tiny, so make a reservation in advance. It's not too expensive for what you're getting. The food and drinks are awesome, but come for the view. *Make a res*.
Marlon. Great place to stop for breakfast before visiting the Eiffel Tower. Great spot for coffee and California-style brunch food.
La Maison Rose. This is the iconic pink house that lots of people like to take pictures of in Montmartre. It's pretty cute, and the food is genuinely really good. It's a great place to grab food before exploring Montmartre. They serve some traditional French food. They also have tons of great local ciders!
Maison Sauvage. This popular brunch spot is in the middle of lots of sites, but you'll probably order a lot of food, and it's super filling, so probably best for your hangover brunch (lol). French people don't really do brunch, so it's mainly study abroad kids, but it's genuinely good food and the staff are really nice.
Paris has lots of different and unique nightlife, and being such a big city you can really find whatever you want here. I was here for Valentine's Day, so my partner and I decided to go to a few nicer, more romantic places. I definitely recommend most of these for that kinda vibe if that's what you're looking for! All of these places are great for dates. I'll hopefully be coming back to the city in 2021, so I'll make a more thorough guide to the nightlife then.
Bar Hemingway. The famous bar that Hemingway once frequented to write is a bit hidden, it's actually in the back of the Ritz Hotel. It's a very cozy and intimate atmosphere, but definitely more upscale than I was expecting. If you'd like to check it out, put your name down on a list first.
Ritz Bar. At the front of the Ritz Hotel is their bar. Also pretty upscale, but I was going for Valentine's Day so it was a pretty incredible way to celebrate. They have awesome wine and great craft cocktails, and your drinks come with a plate of truffle-flavoured snacks and olives, super delicious. Go here if you're looking for something fancy for a special occasion, but don't want to have to worry about not getting in somewhere (just dress up a little bit!).
Buddha Bar. This bar is kind of like a nightclub meets restaurant. If you make a reservation you can get a table, but I'm not sure how their food is, most people come for the bar. They have good drinks and good house music, but it can get pretty crowded. I definitely recommend checking it out though, it's pretty fun!
Gravity Bar. This small spot was sort of hidden in the 10th arrondissement, close to the trendy Marais neighbourhood. The cocktails are great, and it's pretty lowkey and chill.
Little Red Door. This famous bar is also semi-hidden in the 10th arrondissement. While it's on a quiet, residential street, you'll probably see a massive line outside, which is how you know you're in the right place. Try this place on a Sunday or weeknight, otherwise the line will take hours. The menu is a beautiful book, and each cocktail the bar serves is inspired by a different country. The name of each cocktail is a specific word in that country's language, like 'hygge' in Danish or 'passegiatta' in Italian. The cocktails are incredible, but as you may expect, they're on the pricier side. The staff and atmosphere are amazing, but if the wait time is longer than 45 minutes I'd try again another day.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and have a happy Valentine's Day! Paris is an incredible city, and it's somewhere every traveller should visit at some point. If you'd like to see more pictures from my trip, check out my Paris album on Flickr!