7 Day Travel Diary and Complete Guide to Paris- Part 2
Oh, Pariiiiiiis, my absolute hands-down favorite city on earth. I just sigh and dream every time I think of this stunning city. I’m a hopeless romantic, a lover of picnics, a dream chaser, and a fashion, culture and food fanatic. Paris gets me; this city embodies everything I am. The only thing missing from Paris to make it my PERFECT travel destination is the ocean, and well you can travel to other areas of France to experience that. If you haven’t read Part 1 of my Paris Blog (read it here), please do, promise you’ll like it. This time I will go more into detail of what I personally did in Paris and how I managed to do so. Read on to find out about my seven-day itinerary, how to get around, where to stay, challenges in Paris, what to pack, travel tips, and budget details on flights, hotels, and activities. My complete itinerary of how I approached my trip to Paris is further to the bottom of the page, at the beginning you’ll find all the important info you need to plan a trip there. You could probably explore Paris at your leisure, without an itinerary, and I’m sure you’d still stumble upon all the amazing sights. But for me, I like to control my travels and at least have a plan for every day; it’s just the way I am, and what makes me happy. So, if you’re the type of traveler who likes to wander the streets without a plan, this is a great city to do just that!
P.S. Don’t be fooled by the misconception that traveling to Paris is expensive and that you can’t do it! If you’re okay with budget-friendly options (i.e. traveling off-season in the winter, staying at hostels or air bnbs, cheap eats, etc) so long as you get to see Paris, then you can do it!
*When to go:
The best time to visit Paris is from June to August and September to October. Both summer and fall have its positives and negatives. From June to August the weather is just about the best you’ll get in Paris. Averaging temperatures in the mid to high 70s and days are really long so you get lots of daylight (sun sets at around 10 pm on most days); giving you the advantage of gained time to do more fun discoveries in the city. Unfortunately, summer is also the most crowded time and the most expensive. For lower travel rates and significantly shorter lines at attractions, plan a visit in the fall. The seasonal foliage will sure be delightful and you won’t encounter heaps of tourists. The spring blooms are pretty famous too, so April is also a great time to go to see cherry blossoms (although prepare for the cold). If a travel deal is all that you seek, then a winter trip will keep your wallet happy. Fun fact: Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, seeing often up to 30 million travelers yearly. So no matter what time you choose to visit, there will always be tourists and crowds. Bottom line, you should visit Paris anytime you can, and this will be the best time.
*Booking Flights and Activities:
After you’ve decided when to take your trip, it’s time to find your flights! This is a lot of times the most exciting part for me because it usually means the trip is a done deal! You can find great flight discounts on Hopper (free app) and on Expedia. You can also use Google flights to find the cheapest option depending on the differing days. Be careful to read the baggage notes on each airline, because although it may seem cheaper, if you check-in a bag and it’s not covered on your ticket, be prepared to pay extra upwards to 100$. For this particular trip, I used Tripmasters.com since I was going to several other destinations and wanted convenience and affordability. Tripmasters is really a great website and I did not have any issues with my trip. We were in Europe for about 25 days and for the whole trip (flights and accommodations + transfers) we spent 6500$. If your dates are flexible, you can also select different days and see how the price changes (Not Sponsored, but I WISH). I’m currently planning another trip to Paris and I did not use Tripmasters, for the mere fact that they did not have all the hotels I wanted to stay in on their site. Upon comparison, I’ve definitely spent more money than if I would have booked through them (hotel choices matter). So if you’re looking for an affordable trip, whether to Paris or anywhere, try their website! You can change hotels, flights, and tailor the trip to your liking.
To schedule your activities, you can use a planning app (i.e. visitAcity). If you want to purchase tours or skip the line tickets either Viator or Tripadvisor is a good place to start your search. Make sure to do thorough research so you don’t waste your money and time on a tour you could have very well done yourself (guilty of this one). There is so much to do in Paris, but a start would be the 3 main museums (Louvre, Orsay, Pompidou), the Eiffel tower, the gardens (Tuileries, Luxembourg, Des Plantes, Parc Monceau, etc), Montmartre, Latin Quarter, Arc de Triomphe, Seine River cruise, Notre Dame, the Palaces, and the bridges (Alexander III, Pont Neuf, Pont de Bir-Hakeim, Pont des Arts, etc).
*Where to stay:
Paris has many great accommodations, some at a hefty price (i.e. Shangri La). But for a modest amount, expect a small room with a clean bed. The best way to know if you’ll be content with your accommodation is to look at pictures from other traveler’s beforehand (i.e. on trip advisor) from that you can determine if it’s reasonable for the price. The first thing for you to decide is what area of Paris to stay in based on the activities you’re planning to do. The city has districts called “arrondissements”; basically, this is the Parisian way of saying “neighborhoods”. Paris is divided into 20 neighborhoods and they are numbered in a spiral format, the center being Ile de la Cité, the island in the Seine where you can find Notre Dame. Neighborhoods with low numbers are close to the center, while higher numbers are on the outer edges. Where you’ll choose to stay depends a lot on your personal goals for the trip, as well as your budget. The 1st and 2nd arrondissements can be a good option because between the two of them you are in the center of Paris and can easily access the Seine River and many other attractions. The Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens are in the 1st arrondissement. The 2nd arrondissement is where a lot of Parisians work thus it’s where a lot of the metro lines reside and accommodations tend to be cheaper.
The Marais (3rd & 4th arrondissements) houses Centre Pompidou, Ile Saint-Louis, Place des Vosges, and the Hotel de Ville. This neighborhood has a lot of great shops in the midst of old village charm. It can be pricey to stay in this neighborhood but it is where you can experience the truest Parisian way of life. The 5th “Latin Quarter” is well known for its lively ambiance, and lots of bistros, as well as being home to the Pantheon. The 5th is actually where we stayed on this trip, at “Les Dames du Pantheon”. The 6th neighborhood (Saint-Germain) is filled with ample varieties of boutiques and cafes. The Jardin du Luxembourg is also located in this neighborhood. The 7th is home to the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, and Museum D’ Orsay. The 8th arrondissement is a great option as well; you can walk along the Rue de Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe and see the Grande Palais or Place de la Concorde. The 8th has a lot of shops and is also a pricey neighborhood to stay at, but even if you don’t stay there, make sure to take a stroll, it feels surreal. Paris is a walking city after all.
The 9th-12th arrondissements become gradually further away from the middle of Paris. In the 9th you can find the Opera and the 12th has a lot of hostel types of accommodations for those on a tight budget. The 14th arrondissement is the Montparnasse, and it has bohemian style with an artsy flare. Montmartre, the 18th, consists of the cabaret Moulin Rouge, Sacré Cœur basilica, Place du Tertre and other historic sites. Along with the cabaret, you’ll see lots of sex shops in this area, so I would not advise a family to stay here.
All in all, I would recommend staying in the 1-8th arrondissements, for ease of access to the major sightseeing spots.
*How to get around:
1. Uber: My favorite option because of the convenience and availability, but not the most affordable. There are Uber drivers all over the city. The greatest time I had to wait for a driver was 10 minutes. We didn’t take the metro until the photographer of our scheduled photo shoot said it was an easy and affordable way to get to the main attractions. But honestly, even after taking the metro, I still prefer Uber. But if you’re on a budget the metro is the way to go. I spent about 200$ on Uber for a week, because our schedule had a lot of sightseeing, averaging at about 20-30$ a day spent on several Uber rides.
2. Taxis: In some areas of Paris where it’s hard to get an Uber (ie. the airport) it’s better to take a taxi. Also, taxis will sometimes take you somewhere for a flat rate, which you’ll find out can be cheaper then Ubers’ quoted price, so make sure to shop around for prices especially if you’re on a budget. We used a Taxi twice on our 7 days stay, once from the airport to the hotel, and another from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe. It was more affordable both of these times (difference of about 10-15$). And at the airport, it’s very difficult to grab an Uber, especially if you don’t speak French. They are not allowed in the taxi queue area. The taxi from the airport to a hotel in central Paris will usually run from 50-85$.
3. Metro: I didn’t have much experience with the metro, but it’s very easy to access from the main areas in the city and it seemed very safe. Do not buy the Paris Pass it’s not worth it at all. You can buy a weekly pass or individual tickets. Basically to give you an estimate, with about 30$ you could probably easily have your transport covered for a week in Paris by using the metro. If you do opt for this option, get a Paris metro map app for your phone to help you.
4. Train (RER): It’s a convenient way to go to other cities, even those outside of France. The train makes it easy to explore and take day trips from Paris. You can easily access Versailles or even further to the lavender fields in Valensole, or maybe Nice? The options are endless. We booked a day trip to London for 2 people roundtrip it was roughly 200$, on the Eurostar fast train. One of the cheapest ways to get to Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport is to take the train. It will take you into the middle of the city; you can then use the metro to get to your hotel.
5. Walking/Biking: There are plenty of bike renting stations in the city. You can grab a bike from one location and return it at another; it’s rather easy and suitable for exploring the city. We rented 2 bikes for a whole day and had a lot of fun! Fun Fact: the first 30 minutes are free in “Velib” bike stations. Take a picture of the map on the bike station so you know where they are. It is also easy to walk to most of the popular places if you stay at a centralized hotel.
6. Car Rental: If you don’t mind driving, car rental is an option for you. France has similar driving regulations and they also drive on the right side like in the states. You can obtain an International Driving Permit, which basically translates your U.S driver’s license into the language of the country you’re driving in. Parking can be a difficult task in Paris because there are so many tourists and people who live here; it is also very pricey to park. That is one of the reasons why we shied away from renting a car. But honestly, there’s not too much traffic and it’s not difficult to drive here. I say if you wanted to have a France road trip and visit different areas of France this would be the perfect option. It will cost probably around 300$ for a week’s rental.
*What to pack:
– Universal converter
– Cardigan/Sweater/Coat duster
– Comfortable tops
– Walking shoes (flats, sandals, etc)
– Camara and other accessories
1. Use apps like visitACity to put your itinerary together ahead of time, and even if you don’t 100% adhere to it, at least it will serve as a guideline for the places you most want to visit. (I swear by this app and it helps me plan my trips so much! It even has a restaurant guide and you can also buy tours straight from the app, which can also be accessed on the web from a personal computer. I print out my itineraries and divide it into sections/folders for each place I’m visiting).
2. To book your trip the most affordable way, do research on several sites and see who offers the most competitive price. Also, exchange euros before you leave your country, and try to take a credit card that does not charge an international fee (i.e. capital one ventures).
3. Book at least 6+ months (I personally recommend a year) in advance to get the best flight deals and hotel room rates. Also, a lot of things sell out or get booked so make sure to reserve at least the things you want to do the most.
4. In Paris you have 2 options, either go to the famous attractions during offseason and lowest visit hours or get a skip the line ticket. If you don’t do this, be prepared to stand in line for a considerable amount of time.
5. The weather in Paris can be unpredictable, so pack accordingly and carry your umbrella with you at all times.
6. Free public bathrooms are rare. Public bathrooms, even those you have to pay for, can be tough to find. Always try to use the bathroom whenever you’re in a restaurant or while you’re at an attraction. Oh and along the lines of this is also that the French usually take baths, so don’t be shocked if your hotel has no shower; if a shower is important to you make sure to check the room description.
7. Parisians often dress in a tidy and chic way. If you want to become part of the Parisian crowd, you can do so by avoiding shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers. Instead go for stylish jeans, ballet flats, boots, a scarf, dresses, hats and other fashionable or elegant accessories. There are some great brands that offer comfortable flats that still look stylish (i.e. the walking company, cole haan, etc).
1. Service in France is not as speedy or as exquisite as it can be in the states. Tipping is often not required and even when suggested it runs 10%. Their culture is very leisurely and laid back, nothing like the American culture which usually prefers fast and immediate gratification. This really was not a negative for me, but I have heard for a lot of tourists it can be. I didn’t mind waiting for my dinner, or not being catered to every request I had. Because I understood their culture, and if they make a sandwich a certain way, trust them that’s the best way and there are no alterations, and if you don’t want that sandwich, well then they are sure there’s something else on the menu that fancies you.
2. Pit-pockets and thieves can be a problem in the city since it’s so populated and a lot of tourists tend to be absent-minded about their belongings, making it easy for opportunists. I didn’t personally encounter any of this, but we were very careful with our things, and my husband always had his wallet in his front pocket. Crime is probably targeted most on tourist so always be on the lookout and protect your valuables.
3. Opening hours may not be what most of us are used to in the states. You may fall in love with a local bakeries breakfast and when you go the next morning they are closed. Some places close for several hours midday and reopen later in the evening. So it will be smart to check opening times and plan your visits accordingly.
4. Make reservations whenever you can as places book up fast and long wait lines can arise. Because Paris is such a popular destination for tourists (for good reason); it can be a turnoff to wait in long lines for restaurants or attractions. But with some planning ahead you can try to avoid this as much as possible.
5. Terrorist attacks often scare people from traveling, and to be honest I feel like these can happen anywhere, and it would never stop me from travel. Granted I can see why a terrorist would target Paris since it’s such a populated place, but I did not encounter any of this on my trip. The government has although taken precautions and placed medians on the streets (which can take away from the beauty of the city). If you go you’ll see what I mean, there’s a beautiful street lined with flowers and jaw-dropping architecture and then there are cement medians in shapes to deter a car from trampling the walking crowd in case of an attack. So yes, terrorism is real in Paris, but it’s not a reason not to go since anything can happen anywhere.
6. Weather can be a bit hormonal in Paris. So be prepared for zero sunshine and gloom, to blazing hot sun rays; all within the same day.
7. The French culture is often very formal and reserved when it comes to strangers. So do not take it personally or as rude when they only speak minimally to you. Always say “bonjour” when you first enter any French establishment and “au revoir” when you exit, as it is proper manners for the French culture.
*Where to eat:
Some of my recommendations:
– Pierre Herme/Laduree for macaroons
– Le Cinq (Four Seasons restaurant $$$$)
– Desvouges Bistro
– L’Hôtel Particulier Montmartre (for brunch)
– Breizh Café (for crepes, although the street ones are yum too)
– Le Souffle
– Sacree Fleur
*Budget: You could probably spend a whole week in Paris, comfortably, with 4000$, including airfare for 2 people. You won’t be in a luxury hotel, but where you stay will have the basic amenities and you definitely have to book in advance. I can’t break down exactly how much I spent on this trip because this trip involved more places and I used a service that did not separate the price for me (tripmasters). For the next trip I’m taking to Paris I will be able to have a better budget breakdown because I’ve booked everything myself. If you need any help with anything travel related, don’t hesitate to email me and I’ll do my best to help you.
*A summary of my personal itinerary:
I always wanted to visit Paris ever since I was a little girl and saw photos of the Eiffel tower. French culture, including their food and fashion, had always inspired and intrigued me. So for our honeymoon, I took the opportunity and decided to book Paris as our first destination! We were there for 7 full days (July 10-17), and did not feel like it was enough time.
Day 1:After arrival at the airport we took a taxi to our hotel and checked in at “Les Dames Du Pantheon”. This is a great hotel in a convenient location, right in front of the Pantheon, and at a pretty good price. We were upgraded rooms and provided champagne service since we were celebrating our anniversary. Once we unloaded our luggage and drank coffee to kick away the serious jetlag, we made our way out to explore the city. Of course, immediately, we went to see the Eiffel Tower. I had purchased skip the line tickets and access to the summit (top floor) for this day. After spending the afternoon atop the Eiffel tower taking in the outstanding views, we made our way to the Seine River for a dinner cruise. I booked the sunset cruise on “Bateaux Parisiens” through Viator and it did not disappoint. The 4-course dinner was decent but it really wasn’t the highlight, the atmosphere and live entertainment (band, including a violinist and singer) were (plus an added bonus of 3 bottles of wine, a red, white, and dessert). Honestly, this is one of the best and most unique ways to see Paris, you won’t regret it, and it’s really a one of a kind experience. The night flew by as went to the Eiffel tower and marveled upon its splendor whilst sipping on a bottle of Rosè. Back to the hotel, we went for a romantic bath (rose petals and all, yes).
Day 2: Recouping from a long day of exploring and jetlag we started the day later than I normally like to, 10 am. On the table for this day were all the bridges and making sure we locked our love in 2 of them (because yes I’m an overachiever and bought 2 locks)! We rented bikes and rode each bridge once from the bottom and once from the top. There is a really nice bike path underneath the bridges as well as above. This took most of our day because apart from riding the bikes through the bridges we spent about 10-15 minutes in each stop (kissing underneath because you already know I’m a hopeless romantic), for a total of 37 bridges (which happens to be a combination of my 2 favorite numbers, talk about meant to be). This surprisingly, was my husband’s idea, love him to death (although he did get pretty quick at the kisses after several bridges). Side note, I did half this biking trip on heels, my hubby had to stop at a shoe store to purchase sneakers because I was dying. We ended the day by treating ourselves to a well-deserved gelato from Amorino and a night leisurely walk along the Latin Quarter.
Day 3: We booked a walking tour to Notre Dame that started at 9 am, which was a waste of money. There was a group of about 15 of us on the tour and the guide met us at Pont Neuf. We then started walking towards Notre Dame as the guide explained the surroundings (about a 15-20 minute walk). When we got to Notre Dame, the line went quickly and the entrance was free, once inside there are audible tours as well. Summing it up, it was a waste of money since we could have done this on our own, free of charge, and I currently do not remember anything the guide said. After this mishap, we went back to the hotel room to cool off and recharge for some more adventuring. Palace De La Concorde, Tuileries Garden, the Louvre, Galleries Lafayette and Arc de Triomphe were on the schedule for the remainder of the day (we didn’t actually go inside the museum on this visit, just toured the outside). After we explored these areas we made our way back to, of course, the Eiffel tower, for another spectacular sparkle show and crepe eating night.
Day 4:This was the day I scheduled a photoshoot with the amazing Lucia Rubio, reasonably priced and beautiful work. I wanted unforgettable pictures with my wedding dress in Paris, and this is what I got. After the shoot was over we went to the Pantheon and climbed the 276 steps to the top for the amazing views. On this day we actually went inside the Louvre and spent about 3 hours there. We concluded our evening by visiting Sacre-Coeur Basilica and Moulin Rouge. We didn’t book a show because the area looked a little skeptical, but maybe in the future, a cabaret show may be in line.
Day 5:One of my favorite days, Versailles day trip. We spent the whole day in Versailles, touring the Palace outer quarters by bike and later in the evening the inside of the Palace. I purchased this tour on Viator and it was worth every dime. It included a visit to a local market where you could purchase what you wanted for a later picnic along the Grand Canal. We toured all the grounds of the Palace including Marie Antoinette’s estate and the Trianons. It was magical. There’s no other place in the world like the Palace of Versailles. If you don’t opt for a tour, you can always do this on your own by buying a train ticket from Paris to Versailles, and renting a bike once you get to the garden. You will have to pay to access the Palace, the Gardens, and the other parts. But the outside grounds are free to travel by bike. When we returned from Versailles I happened to leave my phone inside an Uber driver’s car, and he took off with it, not returning our calls or the phone. This was devastating and almost ruined our Versailles day, but we didn’t let it. I was obviously hysterically crying and my husband was upset at me for being so forgetful, buttttt he planned to buy me another phone the next day and this made me feel better, although I was still crying over pictures I would lose.
Day 6:Bastille Day in Paris, this is their independence day (July 14th). And also the day we had booked a train ride to London, which we had to forgo in order to buy my new phone (waste of 200$ on train tickets, and an expense of 900$ for a new iPhone). Nonetheless, life continued and we tried to make the best of the rest of the trip. We viewed the Bastille Day fireworks later that evening which were breathtaking. If you have a chance to go see these, please do, it was one of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen; they even have a live band under the Eiffel tower.
Day 7:This day we went to the Luxembourg Gardens. The gardens are free to tour and they are really well kept. We sat by the fountain “De Marie De Medicis” and enjoyed a chapter of a book I picked up that was left behind for me to read (a culture I really loved in Paris) which happened to be a twilight book. After spending the day in the garden it was time to finish our last day with a bang by spending it at yet another Eiffel tour picnic. We picked up several goodies and wine from the market. Of course, no true Parisian picnic is complete without macaroons, so we went to Laduree to pick some up.
Although we had a busy schedule, there were many things we did not get to do, and on my upcoming trip this year, I hope to do them. I’ll write a blog about my second trip to Paris, so stay tuned for that one. If you read all the way here, thank you for your time, and I really hope this will help you love Paris as much as I do.
Disclaimer: Prices are approximate. Recommendations are my personal opinion and do not guarantee positive results. Travel bug may be contracted and trip results may vary.
“I love Paris in the springtime
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh why do I love Paris
Because my love is here
She’s there, she’s everywhere
But she’s really here”
Au revoir mis amis,