Visiting Paris 101: Where to Go

Hey, y’all! So, like I mentioned last week in Visiting Paris 101: Basic Tips, I’m writing a series of posts about one my favorite cities in the world. This week, I’m going to share with you the places that I would recommend to visitors who only have a couple days to explore Paris.

Notre-Dame

No matter how little time you have in the city, you must visit Notre-Dame. It’s breathtaking inside, with all the intricate stained glass windows, and the views from the top are nothing to scoff at either.

Bonus: In the square outside the cathedral, you can find “point zero,” the center of Paris.

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Liebaux

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Okay, so,  I was going to wait to put this on a list of “Where to Eat,” but I couldn’t bring myself to leave it off this one. Liebaux is home to the best macarons in Paris, with flavors that you can’t find in other stores, like orange, Oreo, and even mojito. Even the traditional flavors are better than the more famous stores, like Pierre Hermé and Laudrée.

It’s located at 30 Avenue de Friedland, on a street corner just off the busy main street that stretches down from the Arc de Triomphe. I found it by accident and it remains one of my best mistakes to date.

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe, which was built to celebrate Napoleon’s victories, is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. I highly recommend going towards the evening, so it’s easier to see the eternal flame, which has been burning since 1921, in honor of those who died in the first World War.

Fair warning, though: the Arc de Triomphe is now the center of a six-lane roundabout, so be careful when crossing the street. And don’t expect to get a photo without cars in them.

Bonus: The Champs-Elsyées, which stretches from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde (the square with the obelisk), is car-free one Sunday a month, generally the first one. This is a great time to stroll right up to the Arc de Triomphe.

The Seine

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Wandering along the Seine is one my favorite things to do in Paris. There are a lot of sellers on sidewalks, but be warned that you will be overpaying, especially if you want to buy any actual artwork or anything else that’s bigger than a postcard. And don’t be afraid to shop around. You can generally find the same small items at multiple stalls, for a different price at each one.

Bonus: There are several gorgeous, historical bridges along the Seine that you shouldn’t miss, like the Pont Neuf, Pont des Arts, and Pont Alexandre III.

Palais Garnier

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Disclaimer: I’m a Phantom of the Opera fan. So of course, I had to visit the building that inspired the original work. Even if you aren’t a POTO fan, I still recommend visiting it because it’s a stunning piece of architecture. It rivals anything that you might find in a royal palace, with marble and gold everywhere you look.

I also advise buying the audio guide to listen to while you walk around, because you get to hear a lot of cool stories about the building’s history.

Musée du Rodin
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This relatively unknown museum is one of my favorite ones that I visited in Europe. It’s run out of the home of Auguste Rodin (he did The Thinker) and showcases his work, both inside and in the gardens. I’m not an art person, something that even a semester in Paris won’t change, but I love sculpture. And Rodin’s work is just fascinating, in my opinion. He drew a lot of inspiration from things like Greek myths, historical events, and other works of art, like Dante’s Inferno.

Bonus: Many museums are free on the first Sunday of the month, this one included. Check the official website to confirm if your preferred museum is on that list.

Sacre-Coeur

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This basilica is gorgeous, especially on the outside. And it gives you a stunning view of the area of Montmarte, which you can see from the top of the hill.

Yes, you heard me correctly: Sacre Coeur sits atop a hill. 270 steps up, as a matter of fact. Don’t despair, though; there’s a shuttle that will take you to the base of the basilica.

Also, as with other tourist areas and Paris in general, be sure to watch out for pickpockets.

Catacombs

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This might sound weird, given that a catacomb is a place to store dead people, but trust me when I say that this is something you shouldn’t miss. It’s a unique way to experience the history of Paris. I also found it kind of touching when I learned about how the bones have been handled with care and when I saw how some of them had been arranged to form hearts and crosses.

Eiffel Tower

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No, I’m not going to leave this off my list of must-see places in Paris. However, I’m also not going to say that you have to go to the top of it. Yes, it’s cool, but you can get the same view (or better) from many other points in the city. So go, take your pictures, have fun, but don’t feel like you have to wait in line for a couple hours just to say that you went to the Eiffel Tower.

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