It all began with a battered Junior Cert French book.
A mere few weeks into beginning to study French, I was sold. It wasn’t for the love of “être” or “avoir.” Neither was it for the desire to master the concept of pronouns or adjectives.
Instead, it was the pictures of Paris that were enough to grab my attention from the latest Westlife CD or Dream Matte Mousse shade. While others in my class failed to fully comprehend my obsession with the images of the winding streets, the majestic architecture or the inviting pastries one thing was for sure- I was in love with Paris. And I’d never been.
Sadly, it wasn’t until after secondary school that I managed to visit Paris. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the luxurious city break that I had myself envisaged- instead, it was a getaway mission from a failed au pairing experience. My few hours that day in Paris were reduced to trying desperately to find the way to Charles de Gaulle airport, but I snatched a glimpse of the stunning Notre Dame on my flustered way and vowed to come back.
Since this, I’ve been lucky enough to visit in different seasons and it always remains as magical as ever. In this post I’ll attempt to give you the “must sees” of Paris if you’re planning on visiting soon.
- The Eiffel Tower
As clichéd as it is, I make a point of going on the Eiffel Tower every single time. It is spectacular. My personal favourite times to go on the tower have been at either sunset or night-time as the views really are something else. I would urge you to buy your tickets in advance here -this will save you hours of queuing. They do sell out extremely quick so do try to book them as soon as you know you’re going. You can either buy tickets to the 2nd or 3rd floor, with the 2nd floor tickets slightly cheaper. The views from the 3rd floor are exactly the same and I personally don’t think it’s really worth the extra effort. If you’re feeling particularly athletic, there’s also the option to walk up it. I did it once for the “experience”. The “walking” option is cheaper and the queues will be significantly smaller. 674 steps of sheer beauty…. and exhaustion! If you’re not going to the Eiffel Tower soon, click here and pretend you’re there.
- Notre Dame
Notre Dame is extremely famous and almost always has a large number of queues outside it. However, don’t let this put you off- the queue tends to move really quickly and it’s free to visit. It is stunning and is really centrally located. You can also climb to the top of the towers- this costs around €9, or free for under 25s if you have a European passport with you. Unfortunately, I’ve never done it because the queues have always been monstrous, but if you arrive early in the morning you’ll probably have a better chance. If you are in anyway religious I recommend finding time to go to a short Mass- the times are listed here.
- Champs Élysées
OOOH, Champs Élysées! Shopping heaven! There is a great mix of affordable and more expensive shops here- there’s H&M, Sephora, the flagship shop of Paris St Germain and many more. It does tend to get extremely packed but it’s a great way to spend an afternoon (and half of your life savings). The Arc de Triomphe, located at the top of the huge street, is also worth a visit. You can climb to the top of this, but what I find particularly interesting about it is the “flame” burning at the base of it. It’s known as the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” and is dedicated to the unknown deceased of WW1. Les Champs Élysées is probably the most commercialised area of Paris but is well worth a visit. If you love macarons like myself, the famous Ladurée patisserie has a branch there. It is extremely expensive to eat in the restaurant and you’ll face large queues to get a table, but you can (kind of) beat the system by simply ordering something small, like a few macarons. Worth it for people watching and feeling like a millionaire.
Although this isn’t located in central Paris, it’s definitely worth a short metro trip out to visit. Montmartre is home to many artists, the beautiful Sacre Coeur cathedral and of course Moulin Rouge. The café from the “Amelie” movie is located here- it’s called “Café des Deux Moulins” and actually serves nice enough food despite its tourist trap nature. If you’re a cheese lover like myself, there is a dedicated fondue restaurant in the area. It’s called “Le Refuge des Fondus” and despite extremely ignorant staff is worth a visit- wine is served in baby bottles and the cheese fondue offerings will provide you with a decade’s worth of calcium allowance. The area of Montmartre itself is an enchanting mélange of all sorts-artists, poets, tourists and locals. A word of warning- Montmartre is particularly known for being a haven for pickpockets. A common scam in Paris involves getting approached by a young girl pretending to be blind or deaf, inviting you to sign a “petition” to help her- while her friend empties your pockets. Another scam involves a young person approaching you holding a ring, enquiring if you’ve lost it- you are then distracted and pick pocketed. Soyez sage!
I’ll do another post soon with my other must visits.
“Paris is always a good idea. -Audrey Hepburn”