I have a friend that is visiting her daughter in England and they are planning a four day trip to Paris. I told her I would let her know what I think are fun things to do in Paris if they had the time. Some are free and some are not but all are a lot of fun and give you an idea of what Paris is like.
1. Have an Ice Cream at Publicis Drugstore
Having a huge ice cream sundae at Publicis Drugstore on the Champs-Élysées was one of the first things that my brother did with me when I first got to Paris. He took me out for a big, delicious and decadent dessert at this iconic restaurant. Located at 133 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris, it is at the base of the Arc de Triomphe. One of my favourite stops was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the museum in the Arc de Triomphe. So if you managed to climb all the stairs to the look out, treat yourself for a job well done and go to Publicis Drugstore.
2. Take in the view from Les Galleries Lafayettes
You need to visit the Galleries Lafayette rooftop deck. Located on the 7th floor of the store, you take the escalator to the 5th or 6th floor and then walk up the last floor. It is a very easy trek but it is one of the best-kept secrets of the store. You will be directly across from The Opera and also have a panoramic view of Paris. It opens at 9:30 am and closes at dusk or during increment weather. The best part about this is that it is FREE. All you have to do is go into the main store (not the Men or Women’s location but the main store). I made a short video just so you could see the view.
3. Shoe Shopping Paradise
While you are in Les Galeries Lafayette go to the women’s shoe department and GO NUTS. It is the most amazing part of the store as an entire floor is dedicated to shoes. You can not possibly imagine what it is like to be surrounded by every shoe manufacturer in the world (or at least that is what it seemed like to me). You can buy Louis Vitton, Louboutins or Birkenstocks. You can choose from the highest of heels to the lowest of flats. Are boots more your style? No problem. There is bound to be a sandal, pump, wedge, slip-on, sling-back, peek-a-boo toe or high-top that will suit your fancy. Honestly, going shoe shopping in this store is marvelous.
4. Take a Jump to the Left
Ever watched the Rocky Horror Picture Show? Have you ever been to a live screening? Why not go to the longest running live screening run in Paris. Since 1980, every Friday and Saturday, you can watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio Galande (42 Rue Galande, 75005 Paris, 01 43 54 72 71). You can also pre-pay your ticket by going to the box office or emailing them at email@example.com. This interactive show will have you laughing, cheering and wondering why you’ve never done this before. Don’t forget your toast and rice.
5. Tour the City Like a Parisian
Ride around the city on a bus (you can read a full post here)… not a tour bus but use public transport. When I lived in France, I did not drive. I took public transport wherever I went. I lived in the 16th arrondissement on avenue de Versailles but I went to school at the University of Paris IV. Although sometimes it would take longer, taking the bus is something I enjoyed very much because you got to see the city. I would take the #72 bus that takes you from Hotel de Ville to just past Maison de la Radio France. On the way you get to see the Hotel de Ville (city hall), Chatelet, Pont Alexandre lll, travel down rue Rivoli and see the Louvre, Les Tuileries, the Palais Royal, le Musee d’Orsay, Les Invalides, the Champs de Mars and of course the Eiffel Tower and Palais Trocadero. This is one of the most scenic bus routes.
The majority of the route is on the right bank of the Seine river. If you want a tour of the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank, take bus # 63. It commences at Gare de Lyon in the east and makes its way through the university area, past the Cluny Museum, the iconic corner of St. Michel and St. Germain des Pres (where you can hop off and go to Shakespeare & Co. bookstore) or continue on to Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides, then crosses over the Seine to Place Trocadero (across from the Eiffel Tower) and ends at Porte de Muette in the swanky 16th arrondissement.
Maybe you just want to ride one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world. Take the #73 which will take you from Musee d’Orsay around the Place de la Concorde up to the infamous Champs Elysee. See the most prestigious French retailers in the world and then loop around L’Etoile (or the Arc de Triomphe). The route will continue towards La Defence and the modern Grande Arche. If you get there you go to the viewing area, you will see a straight line through all the important archways of Paris all the way to the small Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in front of the Louvre.
You can just imagine how amazing the Thrift and vintage clothes Shopping would be in Paris. With so much great fashion at every turn and a large population, you can discover all sorts of great fines if you look hard enough. One thing is for sure, it’s not thrifty so much as classic/vintage. Around the Centre George Pompidou, you will find all sorts of eclectic stores and thrift shops. If you go directly to Pompidou, you will find a shop directly across the square. It had some great Burberry trench coats and a lot of variety. We were on a quest for a pair of Convers sneakers or Dr. Martens boots but alas none fit! Here is a list of a few thrift stores that you might want to try: The Kilo Shop, The Free”P” Star, La Petite Fripe, Espace Kiliwatch or You may also want to try the flea markets: Marché aux Puces de Vanves, Marché aux puces de la Porte de Montreuil or the largest flea market in Paris the Marche aux Puces St. Ouen
7. Treat yourself to Fine Dining
There is no bad food in Paris. This may or may not be true but you can certainly enjoy a good meal. It might cost you a fortune or it might be reasonable. You just never know. One of the best ways to appreciate the dining experience in Paris is to have a Prix Fixe meal. This is a meal that has a set price and you will have an appetizer, entree and dessert all for one low price. My father was a Chef (yes, in a restaurant) and he always suggested getting the special of the day. Why? because that is usually the freshest items. Even though each week a chef will set his meal plan, there may be old standards that everyone wants to try and then there are new items on the menu that can also be good. How do you find a good restaurant in Paris?
Well, we overheard a conversation at breakfast. As it was, we were hoping to treat ourselves to a nice meal on the last night of our travels. There were two women from New York that were traveling and they mentioned that they really liked one restaurant over another. The hotel concierge had made a suggestion but it was not as good they said. I immediately leaned over and asked, what is the name of the restaurant that you love? It was called Le Hide. Located near l’Etoile (the Arc de Triomphe) off of the Rue de la Grand Armee (I had to post the map so you don’t get lost). I cannot say enough about this recommendation and I would suggest you make a reservation because it was a very small place –BUT OH SO WORTH IT. If I had known, we would have gone back again and again. Very reasonable and delicious.
8. Let them Eat Cake Visit the Marie Antoinette Estate
Without a doubt, you need to go to Versailles. There are no words to express how extravagant this palace is. You need to see the magnitude of the folly that is Versailles. The Hall of Mirrors, the Gardens, the King’s Chambers… everything, it is just amazing. It is not until you see it that you will truly understand why the French Revolution occurred. An easy train ride from Paris, you must make a day of it. This is not a short excursion that you can do in three hours. You need to make the time to get out to Versailles early and plan to stay late. On that day alone, we walked 19 kilometers (or just under 12 miles). There is so much to see but there is a lot of waiting if you do not get there first thing. Best advice is to buy the entrance tickets in advance. Buy the ticket that includes the Petite Trianon. This is the smaller palace where Marie Antoinette lived when she wanted to ‘get away from it all’. It is also where she had an entire ‘peasant’ village built so she could play like the commoners. There are no words to express how outrageous this must have been to the average French citizen.
The visit was one of my favourite stops on our trip.
9. People Watch
I know you can do this just about anywhere in the world but there is something so very interesting about watching people as they go about their business in Paris. There are so many tourists in Paris that at times, one wonders where all the Parisians are. So the best thing to do is to sit at a cafe and people watch. You may want to go to the Luxembourg Gardens or Les Tuilleries. You may decide that you want to sit in Notre Dame Cathedral just to see the different nationalities and faiths that come to this church. Maybe you will just hang out at the statue of St. Michel where the street of the same name meets St. Germain de Pres. It is a meeting place like no other. I cannot image how many first dates started here. By the fountain. One of my dates was not far off the square. It was funny because in a miscommunication I thought he meant in front of the fountain and what he meant was opposite (or across the street) from the fountain.
10. Visit one of the Oldest Universities in the World
Once again, this is one of those things that may be lost to you if you don’t look around. The University of Paris – Sorbonne was founded in 1150. Recognized by King Philippe II in 1200 and the Pope in 1215. This remains one of the bastions of post-secondary education in the world. I was fortunate enough but too young to understand, the significance of this in 1981 when I attended the University of Paris IV – Department of Language and Literature. It was a program (primarily for foreign students) to study French language, culture and history. I spent a year attending lectures and making friends from all over the world. I decided to return on my last visit to Paris to show my daughter where I had gone to school. It was so pleasant to see the old buildings, the classrooms and the familiar wooden desks. Honestly, it did not seem that much has changed in 33 years. Make sure to find Paris IV and enter the courtyard. Go up a flight of stairs or two and look out through the windows to the courtyard. Take in the murals on the walls and soak it as much knowledge as your little head can take.
Whatever you decide to do when you are in Paris, have fun with it. Don’t’ worry about the crowds, the language or the grumpy people. You will always be able to find a beauty that cannot be found anywhere else in the world but Paris. You will see that I will be posting all sorts of pictures to my new Instagram account: DPROtravel. Make sure to follow along and lastly…When you go, send me a postcard, will ya?