Earlier this month, I spent a wonderful week in Paris. It was the first time I’d visited in spring – and after witnessing the pink blossoms, warm sunshine and al fresco dining, I see how ‘springtime in Paris’ has inspired so many songs and films.
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, it might seem like I’m in Paris all the bloody time, although it’s actually only once every one/two years. And I’m done for a while, now. It’s out of my system.
But with a few trips already under my belt, how should I present this blog post? What haven’t you seen here before? After some umm-ing and ahh-ing, I decided to write a mini-guide, just in case you fancy popping off to the fair city soon.
The best view
You know what I learnt? There’s isn’t a singular ‘perfect place’ to take in a panoramic view of Paris. I think the best spot depends on the time of day. Here’s what I learned:
If it’s a clear day, I’d highly recommend a visit to Printemps – a huge, high-end department store with an amazing rooftop terrace.
It took us a while to find the terrace, so, here’s what you do: ride the elevator to the 8th floor, head to the cafe, suck it up and buy a €5 soda and then head out onto the balcony.
You won’t regret it.
Slap-bang in the heart of Paris, you’ve got a 360 degree view of the city. Look left, and there’s the Eiffel Tower; and on your right is the Sacré Cœur in Montmartre. And directly in front of you? A refreshing beverage and some light patisserie. It was just so perfect that I decided this rooftop would be my ‘happy place’ from now on.
Dusk: Arc de Triomphe
Who knew you could climb up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe? Well, I did. But only ‘cos I looked it up.
It’s absolutely worth braving the 280 steps to get up there (which I definitely did…) because you’ll be rewarded with the best views of the city! I’m not exaggerating, I think this might have been my favourite part of the whole trip.
Oh, and once it gets dark, the Eiffel Tower switches it’s lights on: gorgeous, golden and glowing. It’s really something – don’t miss it.
Evening: Montparnasse Tower
When Paris is all dark skies and glittering lights, there’s only one place to be: Montparnasse Tower. Located in the south of the city, it’s kind of the Empire State Building of Paris – except this is the only skyscraper to be seen.
Once you clear the airport-style security (there’s never much of a line), you’ll get whizzed to the 56th floor observation deck in Europe’s fastest elevator. That’s an attraction in itself, no? No?
Once you get there, you can watch the dazzling golden lights of Paris dance. If you can, time it so you can see the Eiffel Tower’s light show (on the hour, every hour). Oh, and bring a coat – it’s chilly up there!
The best place to chill
Jardin du Luxembourg
The Promenade Plantée
Best photo stops
I’ve seen so many pictures taken directly in front of the Eiffel Tower – and I had no idea where this magical photostop was.
Turns out it was the Trocadero, where I’ve been so many times before! What I hadn’t realised was that if you go down the first half flight of stairs, there’s a wall you can sit on – no hedges or fences ruining your shot – just you and the tower. That’s really the only downside, y’know? If you slip, you’ll plunge to your death. Or at least, break a lot of bones. Being innately clumsy and inherently nervous, this was something of a tense photoshoot. Bleh. Worth it though, I think?
Side note: it’s also pretty good for Eiffel Tower spotting at night…
Carousels are everywhere in Paris. For a photogenic shot, my favourite carousel is just outside Hotel de Ville (top image). It’s surrounded by pink blossoms which gives it this very pleasing, Instgram-type look.
But in terms of fun factor, you’ve got to visit the carousel at the Trocadero (bottom image). Ride it at night, while the Eiffel Tower’s doing its hourly light show. And then get some ice cream or a crepe from the snack vendor nearby. Perfection.
Just behind it is the Place du Tertre, the artists’ district. It’s a smallish square absolutely crammed with amazing artists. It’s nice to have a wonder round, taking a look at what they’re a) selling and b) currently working on. There’s also plenty of artists eager to paint or sketch you – which is nice for the ole self-esteem. Becky and I went for a silhouette of ourselves.
And don’t miss the first-class graffiti – from a rainbow-coloured Gandalf, to pink flamingoes, to Shatters the mosaic seahorse.
Jardin du Palais Royale
This particular jardin felt like our very own secret garden. At one end, there’s these serene, tranquil, hidden courtyards where locals sit on benches and read, gossip and puzzle over crosswords. At the other end? These weird mint humbug-style columns and abstract fountains. It’s amazing how much fun you can have by trying to sit on the tallest columns and taking Boomerangs of yourself jumping off.
The best shopping
I’m going to assume you’re too poor for Prada.
Shakespeare and Company
- there are thousands of books (that aren’t too badly priced!)
- there’s a tortoiseshell cat that roams the place
- it has cool stairs
- it has a lonely hearts corner
- you can see books that are literally hundreds of years old.
I walked away with a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, after about a century of dithering. (Thanks for telling me which one to buy, Becky – what would I do without you?)
Maison Georges Larnicol
Most importantly, this is some seriously high quality stuff, it’s absolutely delicious! If you happen to visit, please bring me back a chocolate marshmallow lolly.
And that concludes this mini-guide to Paris – I hope you found it useful! If you have any hidden gems you’d like to share, please let me know in the comments! xx