Though I have many, Paris is one of my own personal most loved European cities.
There are many reasons that Paris is considered the epitome of romance. Where (and why) so many of the best romantic cliches are experienced here. Why Paris is called the City of Light. And why this city continues to top the list (and likely always will) as one of the "must visit" destinations in the world.
Because its an AWESOME place. Totally spectacular.
|My first time in Paris <3 and actually, first time seeing the Eiffel Tower. I am just 23 years old in this photo. See how THRILLED I am?? My enchantment with Paris filled me up then and hasn't left me since ;-)
Paris offers it all. Romantic ambiance and interesting varieties of activities galore, history, eye-catching architecture (from Gothic spired churches to museums housed in long-since-passed train stations, to ornate, stately building facades almost everywhere one looks), a majorly happening food scene, plethora's of museums, quiet corners and intriguing back alleys, picturesque parks, the list goes on and on and on.
I personally think Paris is best experienced during the autumn. This is when the hoardes of tourists have begun to taper off slightly. The temperature has dropped a bit, making experiencing this city on foot (which is how its best explored) that much more inviting, as opposed to within the grips of the stifling summer heat. Leaves rustling in grates, parks exploding in vibrant autumnal shades, cozy cafes beckon (and Paris is the ultimate romantic/inviting cafe city), sunsets along the Siene are that much more romantic, inviting couples to cuddle closer.
To me, Paris is at its best during the fall season. In some ways, Paris is autumn. Along with plaid scarves, boots, hot drinks in hand, woolen socks and blankets, movie marathons, thick books, and the reemergence of comfort foods (pancakes-though pancakes are always awesome, cheese, chocolate, tea) from the lighter fare of summer.
I have compiled below a list of my own personal favorite Paris activities. Yes, some of them make the list of Paris cliches. Others are different, as they are my own most loved experiences that I personally have had in the City of Light.
(I took all of these photos. All are from different trips, with different people, that I have taken to Paris throughout the years :-))
So, without further ado....
Cafe Marlette. One of the very best breakfasts I have ever eaten. And that is a bold statement coming from someone who is as passionate about breakfast as I am. The food was homey, down to earth and delicious. The spread was an expansive feast for the eyes (and stomach ;-)). We ate: soft boiled eggs, perfect crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside French baguette with jams and butter, gluten free banana bread, tea, hot chocolate, a spread of meats and cheeses, my god. The atmosphere: totally warm, inviting, cozy. Definitely worth going out of your way a bit to come eat here.
Montmartre. LOVE this district of Paris. Romantic, cobbled, artsy, worn, magical, bohemian. I could wander these narrow streets for hours. This area in Paris makes for not only fun explorations but easy imaginings and musings. Multiple times, I could clearly see myself, upon living in Paris, coming to this part of the city frequently, wandering the area with a notebook in hand, a camera slung across my body, wearing a long, stylish jacket, slouchy motorcycle chic boots and toting a warm drink in my other free hand. I would finally stumble into a slightly cramped, charming little cafe where I would wile away the day writing, reading and people watching.
|Also taken during my first visit to Paris, my first time ever in Europe actually. This was a visit to Paris with my Mom at the tail-end of my study abroad experience which was in Italy (July, 2008).
Place des Vosges. My very favorite square/outdoor spot to wile away an afternoon in Paris, by far. I could sit here for hours. I did sit here for hours, more then once. Reading. Writing. People watching. Thinking. Photographing. Chatting with the loved one I was there with. Playing cards or lounging on picnic blankets with past boyfriends.
This small swatch of park begs to be reveled in. The architecture is gorgeous. It has a stately, collegiate air to it. Ornate, eye catching, awesome. The park is cozy, clean, bubbling fountains and park benches are numerous. When the sun shines, oh man. Perfection.
Le Marais. This is my favorite district of Paris (with Montmartre as a close second). Le Marais used to be the swamp area of Paris. Some of this history still seems to seep into the present day atmosphere. Many of the buildings are worn, crumbling, faded, old. The streetlamps are antiquated, with curving bodies and dim scones casting pale light onto the sidewalks below them. The shops in this district are boutiques, too expensive for me unfortunately but great fun to window shop, as many of the goods on display are quite unique and eye-catching. Or, the other option, cafes. There are numerous inviting little cafes littered throughout Le Marais.
But that isn't why one comes here. You come to Le Marais to wander. You come here to get lost. To take photographs. The atmosphere is utterly romantic, steeped in charm, shabby-chic, like something in a long since faded photograph one pulls from an album, dust having collected on its cover from years on the shelf, the pictures yellowed at the corners.
Notre Dame at sunset. Notre Dame is spectacular as it is. Imposing, Gothic, awe-inspiring, its one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen, in terms of its exterior (however, for a FAR more beautiful church on the inside, visit Saint Chapelle. This is a MUST see. Floor to ceiling stained glass. Like being inside a life-sized jewelry box).
Head to Notre Dame as the setting sun is streaking the sky in golds, purples and blues. The setting is a magical one.
By the way, quick side note: THIS (photo directly below) is Saint Chapelle cathedral, which I mentioned above briefly. A MUST see when in Paris. Most people skip it in favor of Notre Dame. Do not skip this. The inside of this church is far more breathtaking and stunning than the inside of Notre Dame.
Climb Notre Dame to the top, to stand among the gargoyles and for the mind blowing view. But go inside the cathedral of Saint Chapelle.
Shakespeare and Co Bookstore & Cafe. Yes, its touristy. Yes, its packed. The bookstore is way cool though and worth a peek. The rooms wind together like the twisting and turning of a labyrinth in which any book lover would welcome getting lost. The cafe next door, while vastly overpriced, offers a great view of Notre Dame and the scene along the Siene of artists selling their work. I sat here for a couple of hours myself and enjoyed the sunshine and my book.
Picnic on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower. I know, I know, totally cliche. And yet, a must do. Despite being massively cliched, shockingly it isn't overrated. Its an outstanding Paris experience to have once.
Bring some bread, cheese, fruit and drinks. Set up a blanket. Chat away the hours with a loved one as the tower sparkles periodically in the background.
|The tower was blue back when I visited in summer of 2008, due to the Tour de France taking place.
|We had a perfect view of the tower over our dinner in this cafe. My Mom and me <3on my 23rd birthday in Paris.
Musee d Orsay. A train station in days past, now converted into one of the best impressionist museums in the world. I prefer this one far more than the Louvre. Not only is Musee de Orsay prettier on the inside but the art, to me, is better. Degas, Van Gough, Renoir, etc. This museum is easier to navigate (in my opinion) and far more charming.
Luxemborg Gardens. The gardens of Paris are all works of art. This one is no exception. In fact, its the crown jewel of Paris parks. During autumn especially (my very favorite season as it is), the colors seem to explode in fiery flame and embers. The benches beckon with a good book and blanket in hand. Come here and spend the afternoon walking, talking and lounging.
Walking around the area of Canal Saint Martin. To me, this is one of the best places to just wander and walk in Paris. Go to this area and get lost. It puts you away from the hordes of tourists and into an area thats actually incredibly charming, just as lovely as the rest of Paris, and yet, wonderfully serene.
|This Portuguese bakery I stumbled across was DELICIOUS, with pretty fair prices for Paris. Shockingly cheap for how yummy the cakes were. I would highly recommend it. For more information on this cafe in the area of Canal Saint Martin, check out here.
Climbing Notre Dame. This is different from merely coming to gaze upon the church during sunset. Climb the tower as well. And do that during the day. The view is spectacular, the tiny Eiffel Tower as one of the focal points in the outstanding panorama of Paris below. There is something special about standing about the gargoyles as you snap photos of one of the cities most fabulous views.
Giverny. This is a short train ride and then bicycle ride outside of Paris. Giverny is the city where Monet lived. Its where his incredibly famous, often painted, water lily garden is housed. I have visited this myself (during autumn, of course) and was mind-blown by the colors, the peacefulness of the gardens, the array of beauty tucked into this small space. The bicycle ride through the France countryside was equally as wonderful. Enchanting, peaceful, so much fun. I would highly recommend this as a day trip outside of Paris. I made this trek via Fat Bike Tours (would highly recommend them. I have done one of their tours nearly every time I have been to Paris and they are always one of the highlights of my trip). However I am sure if you prefer, you can find your way to Giverny and Monet's water lily garden via another route/method as well!
|One of Monet's ultra famous paintings of his water lily garden. This is where we went :-D I stood on this very bridge.
Crepes. Anywhere. Crepes are to Paris what fish & chips are to London, what pizza and pasta are to Italy and what a hotdog is to Fenway Park in Boston (aka "the Fenway Franks"). You get the idea. Crepes are pretty good nearly anywhere in Paris, though of course some places are better then others. Do some googling before visiting. Or just stop by any of the numerous crepe stalls sprinkled throughout the city and snag one. YUM!
|My first Parisian crepe ever. 23 years old. LOVED it.
Boat ride on the Siene River. Sure, this might seem like yet another Paris no-brainer/cliche, but its another good one for a reason.
One can opt for any of the following, whether just a no-frills boat ride down the Siene while gazing at the glowing monuments on either side, or a swanky five-course sit down feast doing the same. Its totally up to you, your price range and how much time you have.
Rue de Buci. This is a sweet little secret-of-a-street in Paris, located in Saint Germain des Pres. The street is narrow, cobbled, colored, lined with intriguing, charming, cozy little cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. This street has a small town, old time feel to it. One can totally imagine a French woman bicycling down the street with baguettes perched in the basket of her bike wrapped in crinkly paper bags, a mustached Frenchman strolling the street with his small dog trotting just ahead of him, a couple, holding hands, entwined with one another as the stroll leisurely down the alleyway together.